Sunday, May 31, 2015

Rude Cakes by Rowboat Watkins

Release Date - June 2, 2015

Rowboat Watkins
Chronicle Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Rude Cakes don't say please or thank you. They never say sorry. They do not do as their parents ask. They certainly do not go to bed on time. What happens when a rude cake captures the attention of something even more horrifying than a rude cake? You're about to find out.

This is a very charming picture book that explains the benefits of using your manners. It's an ideal way to teach a child about manners and the illustrations and narrative draw you in.  I snickered a lot while viewing the illustrations, and if my kids were still younger, this would be one for the keeper shelf. If you like the No, David! book series, I think you'll really love Rude Cakes.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Beard on Birds by James Beard

Release Date - March 2015 (Revised Version)

James Beard
Open Road Media

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

I've always been a huge fan of James Beard and am thrilled that his legacy lives on. That said, I am saddened that those who revised this classic James Beard cookbook (1944's Fowl and Game Cookery) felt the need to make Beard's classic recipes "healthier." I remember my grandmother making her pie crusts with lard, she used butter, and she did not feel any shame over it. As she said, every now and then a little richness is good for the soul.

Within the cookbook, Beard on Birds, are a number of poultry recipes. Chicken has the starring role in this culinary collection, with recipes that cover just about every method possible - frying, roasting, braising, poaching, creaming, etc. Then come recipes for turkey, duck, squab/pigeon, goose, pheasant, quail, partridge, snipe/woodcock, and dove. There's even recipes for stuffings, soups, salads, and sauces.

I found some of my favorite recipes within, such as 40 Cloves of Garlic Chicken, and others I want to try, such as Virginia Fried Chicken with Browned Gravy (though I'm going to guess that whole wheat flour was not used in the classic version of this recipe.)

Beard on Birds is really a comprehensive book packed with poultry recipes, but somehow I feel that I personally would enjoy the original a whole lot more.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Night is the Hunter: A Harlan Donnally Novel by Stephen Gore

Release Date - February 2015

Stephen Gore
William Morrow

Book Review by Bob Walch

It has been 20 years since Judge Ray McMullin sentenced Israel Dominguez to the death penalty. The San Francisco judge wanted to prove he could be tough on gang bangers who commit murder but now he’s not so sure he handed down the right decision.

As the execution date nears, the judge shares his doubts with former homicide detective Harlan Donnally and asks him to do a little informal digging into the case.

Immersing himself into the gang culture of California isn’t a task Donnally really wants to engage in, but he accepts the challenge. What he comes up with casts doubt not only on the judge’s decision but also on the nature of true justice.

Not your typical thriller or crime novel, this is a story that asks some difficult questions about the legal system and the how justice is sometimes served in a manner that raises serious moral and legal questions.   

The World on a Plate by Mina Holland

Release Date - May 26, 2015

Mina Holland

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

When I was younger, we lived in city outside of San Francisco. I grew up in a home where we were asked to eat something and decide for ourselves if we liked it. There are very few things I will not eat. In fact, I've heard that the owners of a San Francisco Japanese restaurant loved when my parents would come in, because they could put any food in front of me and I'd generally love it. With that background, it's not surprising that I would absolutely love The World on a Plate. This is part travel guide, part cookbook, part memoir. It's amazing.

Throughout Mina Holland's book, she picks different countries around the world and talks about their culture, the foods they eat, the wines they drink, and the recipes that they use in their kitchens. The tour starts with France, probably my least favorite (though I still like French food) area in terms of cuisine. She moves on to places like Spain, Portugal, and even my Mom's home country of England. Some of these recipes I already have family favorites, but there are others, like the very easy Simple Tomato Sauce, that I can't wait to try.

There are so many other recipes that I can't wait to test out. Homemade Beef Pho (Vietnam), sign me up! I'd never heard of Africa's Gomen Stew, but once I read over the recipe, it went onto my list of foods that are being cooked this week. For Germany, I happened to make Braised Red Cabbage earlier this week, only the recipe I found uses a few slices of bacon diced up instead of olive oil and having cooked it, I don't think I would ever make it another way. For Sicily, the Peaches in White Wine caught my eye.

At the end of The World on a Plate are recommendations for cookbooks one should own. I was surprised not to see Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management listed. My Mom and her sisters all rely on this book for some standard recipes like Crumpets. If you've never had crumpets, you really need to try them. Think English Muffins with tiny craters to collect your melted butter and jam. As that is the only trivial thing I found disappointing with Mina Holland's cookbook/travel guide/memoir, I'd say it's a must-have for your kitchen.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Dark Screams Volume III

Release Date - May 2015

Random House

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Dark Screams Volume III contains five stories by authors Peter Straub, Jack Ketchum, Darynda Jones, Brian Hodge, and Jacquelyn Frank.

I Love You, Charlie Pearson by Jacquelyn Frank

Stacey Wheeler is the object of Charlie Pearson's affections, and he'll do anything to make her love him too. I loved getting into Charlie's head with this one.

The Lone One and Level Sands Stretch Far Away by Brian Hodge

Tara and her husband seem quite happy until they get a new, sexy neighbor. The characters in this short story were probably fleshed out the best of all of them, but I simply couldn't get hooked in the story for some reason. I think it wasn't as spooky/creepy as the others and that's where I lost interest.

Nancy by Darynda Jones

Nancy is being haunted by a ghost. A new student in her school decides it's time to figure out what's going on. The truth is quite surprising. I really liked this short story and would put this as my favorite of the five. It's not horribly creepy, but the characters and backstory ended up working well for me.

Group of Thirty by Jack Ketchum

I really enjoyed this creepy tale. It's probably my second favorite in the collection. The author of The Neighborhood has been invited to speak to a group of aspiring writers. He really doesn't want to, but he also knows his fans come first. What they have in mind is nothing like what he imagined.

The Collected Stories of Freddie Prothero by Peter Straub

I grew up in a household where if my Mom was not holding a Stephen King book, she certainly had Peter Straub, F. Paul Wilson, or Dean Koontz. I've read plenty of Peter Straub's novels, but nothing other than Ghost Story has ever wowed me. I hoped The Collected Stories of Freddie Prothero would do it. I struggled with the pages of Freddie's journal that mimic a child's spelling and grammar and were just too much of a struggle to try to read.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Ladies of Managua by Eleni Gage

Release Date - May 2015

Eleni Gage
St. Martin's Press

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Ladies of Managua is told from three points of view. First is Mariana. She was four months old when her father died in Nicaragua's revolution. Second is Isabela. As Mariana's grandmother, Bela ended up leaving Nicaragua and raising Mariana in Key Biscayne. Finally, there is Ninexin, Mariana's mother. She fought hard for her country, even if it meant making decisions that not everyone agreed with. Over the years, each woman has gone her own way, but now the death of Mariana's grandfather has drawn them together, and they have secrets of their own that are bubbling up and coming to the surface.

I loved the premise of Ladies of Managua, but the writing just never appealed to me. I had a hard time keeping track of who was speaking. Though they are of different generations, without the beginning of the chapter announcing who was leading the chapter, I was lost. So many times, I would read and have to back track to see if I'd missed a switch or if it was the same character.

As a result, I started and stopped this novel a few times and finally had to force myself to read through it. After a number of chapters, I did finally find a flow with the story, but I fear it came too late for me to ever find true enjoyment.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Ellie's Story: A Dog's Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron

Release Date - April 2015

W. Bruce Cameron

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Let it be said that Ellie's Story is spun from another W. Bruce Cameron novel. I never read A Dog's Purpose, so this was my introduction to Ellie and her handler Jakob.

She's just a puppy when Elleya meets her new "father." Soon, she's devoting her days and nights learning all of Jakob's commands as part of her "work." While her job finding lost people is important, she also feels compelled to help her owners, Jakob and later Maya, who need her just as much as any lost person.

Ellie's Story is told from the dog's point of view. That makes for a change of pace that I think many younger readers will love. The details into the dog training sessions, which are part of what makes Ellie, Ellie, are handled carefully and never become boring. In fact, I could see my own dog having many of Ellie's thoughts as he learned "sit," "stay," "leave it," "come," "down," etc.

Ellie's Story is geared to a much younger reader, which I am not. At that age, I was crazy for The Incredible Journey, however, so kids who like animal stories may really enjoy this one.

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Release Date - January 2015

Paula Hawkins
Riverhead Books

After a chapter or so of The Girl on the Train, my first impression was: "Who cares?" I honestly did not like the main character, Rachel. She's a mopey divorcee who's lost her job and does little more than drink till she blacks out and annoys her ex-husband's new wife.

Rachel spends her days traveling into London on the train so that her roommate doesn't figure out that she is unemployed. During the trip, the train almost always ends up stopping near a the home of Jess and Jason, a couple about whom Rachel has made up elaborate stories about them being the ideal couple. They also happen to live near Rachel's ex-husband and his new wife.

One day, Jess, whose real name is Megan, disappears. She happens to have gone missing at the same time Rachel was spotted near her ex-husband's home. Rachel was drunk and feels she knows something, but the events of the evening are all part of Rachel's latest drunken blackout. Rachel's determined to know what happened, even if it means ticking the investigators off and becoming close to Jason, whose real name is Scott. For all Rachel knows, Scott could have killed his wife, and Rachel could be putting herself within arm's length of a killer.

I really didn't like Rachel, yet I found myself hooked in this story. It's one of the rare books that drew me into story, despite my dislike of many of the characters. The setting is brilliantly portrayed. I've been on the trains in and out of London, and they can be tediously long rides, so I get the boredom that leads to creating stories for the strangers you see outside the window. I know my kids and I have done that while waiting in traffic or in a parking lot waiting for someone to come out of the bank or store.

The murder mystery probably ended up being the most disappointing part, unfortunately. I figured out the killer far too early. It simply seemed obvious to me. That said, the trip getting to the conclusion was still worth every minute.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Mindful Diet by Ruth Wolever PhD, Beth Reardon MS RD LDN, and Tania Hannan

Release Date - April 2015


Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Many diet books focus on getting you to change the foods you eat. Drop any items with sugar. Stop eating fats. Cut out all white flour. Stop eating meat. No eating carbs anymore. The Mindful Diet is so different. Instead, it looks at why you eat and gets to work focusing on the bad habits that many of us have. No more thinking a cup of coffee is breakfast. Stop wolfing down a meal in a record number of minutes. Don't let your emotions dictate what and how much you eat.

Within The Mindful Diet are a number of self-assessments you'll use to help understand where your dietary weaknesses lie and what you can do to change them. It then takes these issues and helps you overcome them so that you can develop better eating habits and avoid the pitfalls that lead to failed diet attempts and the gloom and depression that comes with that failure.

I found much of the information within to be incredibly helpful, though it's still hard for me to incorporate some of it. I work at least 10 hours a day, usually more like 12. When you add in the housework, meal preparation, getting my kids to and from school, exercising the dog, and trying to have time to myself while still getting the 8 hours a night of sleep that my body require, it's really tough not to rush meals. I see though, that that is the thing I need to work on changing, and with the tips in this book, that's my goal.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Penalty Kick by Terence O'Leary

Release Date - May 2014

Terence O'Leary

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

I read and loved John Green's A Fault in Our Stars. I think part of me was expecting something along those lines. Yet, that's not really a fair estimation as Penalty Kick came out sounding like it was for a slightly younger crowd.

Brooke Avery is 16, able to drive herself places, and is just finishing rounds of chemo. Her hair loss led to her nickname of Hat Girl at school. She had surgery that caused her to lose some function in her leg and left her with horrible scars. However, her oncologist has just told her that her bloodwork looks good and he's guardedly optimistic that she's in remission.

Josh Connelly is a star soccer player for his school. He's 15, about to go for his license, and has a great family. All of that changes when he talks his mom into letting him drive home. The sun temporarily blinds him, he pulls out into the path of an oncoming car, and his mom is killed in the accident.

Both of these teens are facing some of the hardest events imaginable. They're both "freaks" in the school setting and soon forge a friendship where they can be honest about their feelings. It's a short read, one that builds up the characters well, but not being a sports fan, the scenes involving all of the soccer games and the very descriptive detail were lost on me. I simply don't care enough about soccer to get drawn into the game.

I had a friend in school who died from a brain tumor. Granted I was younger than 15/16, but I found myself thinking how much like Brooke she was with the positive attitude. As this is a book based on true events, I think the author did a good job building Brooke's character.

Josh's dad, well I wanted to smack him upside the head during some of the book. If you went back to the very first details before the accident, his mom was checking her cell phone rather than watching what Josh was doing. While the relationship between Josh and his father changed drastically, I kept thinking that had she done what every parent/teen driving manual says and watched everything her son did, the accident might well have been avoided in the first place. That I could see that and no one else in the book seemed to, that bugged me a bit. That Josh's younger sister seemed to be more reasonable than the father was a little tragic.

In the end, Penalty Kick is a good read. I don't think it's one I'd put on my keeper shelf because of my issues with Josh's dad, but it's a gentler look at tragedy and rising above it.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Whole Body Reboot: The Peruvian Superfoods Diet to Detoxify, Energize, and Supercharge Fat Loss by Manuel Villacorta MS RD

Release Date - December 30, 2014

Manuel Villacorta MS RD

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

With a slew of diet books on the market and more hitting the shelves every month, I always look for one thing when looking at a book - who is the author? In this case, I am happy to say that the author is a registered dietitian, something I feel is important. That said, as much as I found the advice and recipes in Whole Body Reboot: The Peruvian Superfoods Diet to Detoxify, Energize, and Supercharge Fat Loss to be easy to make and appealing, the cost of the superfoods might be a deterrent for some.

The recipes and diet you follow in Whole Body Reboot relies on a handful of superfoods. Some are easy to obtain:

  • Artichokes
  • Avocados
  • Beans
  • Cacao nibs
  • Chia seeds
  • Cilantro
  • Papaya
  • Purple potatoes
  • Quinoa

Others are definitely not as easy. It's likely for these that you're going to have to order them online, with shipping costs adding to the expense.

  • Aji
  • Amaranth
  • Camu Camu
  • Lucuma
  • Maca
  • Pichuberries
  • Purple corn (might be easier to find in other areas, but I asked my local supermarket and they do not carry it)
  • Sacha Inchi
  • Yacon syrup

There's also the recommendation to buy and use YouthH20. I checked Amazon and a month's supply is just under $32, plus shipping costs if you do not order something else to bring your total to $35 or more.

Following it may also be a challenge. The first five days involves smoothies of every color under the rainbow. You drink a smoothie for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and usually follow it with a half-cup or cup of plain oatmeal that's been cooked. There are tips for what you can have for a snack if you get hungry, which is likely for many. Another issue is going to be for those with food allergies. I cannot eat tomatoes, so that automatically rules out one of the smoothies from the start.

That said, I did try some of the recipes, but stuck to those that I could make from ingredients in my house. The scones made with oat flour and dried cranberries were excellent. The blue/purple smoothie made with yellow squash, blueberries, blackberries, chia, and protein powder was good. I skipped the Chicha Tisane as I could not find it locally and when I looked in the glossary for where to find it, it wasn't listed. A search of Amazon led to nothing.

In the end, I'd love to give this diet a shot, but the difficulty finding ingredients locally makes it impossible.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Pool by Jihyeon Lee

Release Date - May 5, 2015

Chronicle Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Pool tells a story without using any words. This entire book is told solely through the illustrations, and they are gorgeous illustrations.

A shy young boy is at the edge of a community pool that's filled with far too many people. He's uncertain this kind of crowd will lead to any form of fun, but what he discovers below the pool's surface is amazing. It's there that he meets a girl who is just as shy as he is. Together, they'll have the adventure of a lifetime.

Parents will find this to be an invaluable tool for getting children ready to tell stories. As there are no words, children and their parents can make up their own dialogue, while also discussing the artwork within. I wish this book had been around when I was teaching my children to read!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Change of Heart by Jeanne Bishop

Release Date - March 2015

Jeanne Bishop
Westminster John Knox Press

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Change of Heart is a powerful story that marks the sometimes unimaginable journey as one woman takes steps to forgive her sister's murderer.

Jeanne Bishop never expects to get a call that her younger sister, Nancy, and her brother-in-law are both dead. The family had just celebrated the news that Nancy was pregnant. It's therefore even more unbelievable to learn that they were not the victims of a car accident. They went home, entered their home, and were killed by someone who had broken into their home. Even after begging for their lives, the young man shot Richard first and then shot Nancy a couple of times. Three lives ended in one horrific incident.

The entire family is reeling from this murder, and it's only made worse when they learn the killer is someone the family knew. Through the trial, the anger continues to build, but what happens next is shocking. Jeanne begins working against the death penalty and begins a path to forgiveness. That journey is shared from beginning to end in Change of Heart.

Clearly, from the subject matter, Change of Heart is a very personal story. In her shoes, I'm not sure I ever would have forgiven, especially given the murderer's attitude. If you like true crime stories, this one is likely one you'll want to read and then ask yourself if you could do what the author did when she opted to choose forgiveness. I see this book being a great way to start some very interesting conversations in reading groups.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Crossing the Horizon by Deanna Emberley Bailey

Release Date - February 2015

Deanna Emberley Bailey

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

In 2009, I remember turning on my computer, reading the headline news with WCAX and The Burlington Free Press and seeing a story that seemed almost unreal. A local family was impacted by a horrific fire on Christmas morning. A fire that would take the lives of both of their children. As a mother of two myself, I couldn't even begin to imagine how Deanna Emberley Bailey and her husband would be able to move on.

Crossing the Horizon is a very personal story that Deanna Emberley Bailey used to help with the grieving process. The story details the boys final moments and their journey into their new existence. It's a journey where they will meet others who left the earth before them, discover the danger of trying to communicate with their parents, and the new powers they have in the afterlife.

I think if you know the story of these boys and their parents, which you will from the moment Katherine Paterson gives the introduction and from the very opening of the story, you'll likely shed a few tears. It's hard not to.  It's a powerful story that I truly hope helps others who are in Ms. Bailey's shoes.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Killer Come Home by Louis Begley

Release Date - April 2015

Louis Begley
Nan A. Talese

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

I'll admit that the writing style used in Killer Come Home took me a bit to adjust to. It's very personal and felt a little more like a memoir than a fiction book. The story begins with Jack Dana stating: "This is a true story. I have changed the names of certain persons in order to protect them from harm." It is a fictional story, however, though it still seems as though it could have been ripped from the headlines.

Jack's mother died of ovarian cancer and his dad had a stroke and went into a vegetative state shortly after. The only person left in Jack's life is his Uncle Harry. Harry is there when Jack opts to enlist after 9-11, and he's there when Jack is recovering at Walter Reed following pelvic injuries received during a sniper attack. It's Harry that urges Jack to write about his experiences.

After Jack's book is released, he heads off to South America for three months. It's there that Jack gets the devastating phone call. Harry hung himself. Not only that, Harry's secretary was killed by a subway train just a day later. Jack is not convinced. There's no way Harry would have committed suicide, and the death of Harry's secretary a day later is just too coincidental for it to not be suspicious.

Jack returns home and starts looking into his uncle's death. He soon has the evidence he needs to prove that his uncle stumbled across a very dangerous man's secrets. With that knowledge, Jack sets off to right a wrong, even if it means taking the law into his own hands.

This isn't normally my cup of tea as the saying goes. I like mysteries, which I mistakenly thought I was reading, but it didn't take long before I knew this was a, international thriller with military/espionage-type leanings. It's pretty apparent from the start who killed Harry and why,  so that's not going to be a big surprise.

In the end, it was the gritty writing that kept me involved in the story. Agree or disagree with Jack's tactics, but there's no doubt where his loyalties lie. For that, I grew to really respect and like his character.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A Kiss to Build a Dream On by Kim Amos

Release Date - April 2015

Kim Amos
Hatchette Book Group

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

After learning that her boyfriend had lost almost every penny she owned, Willa Masterson is back in White Pine, Minnesota. This small town is far from New York City, but Willa hopes to restore her family's home and turn it into a thriving bed and breakfast. There's a problem though. Before she'd left the town, she'd hurt a large number of people, including Burk Olmstead.

When Willa learns that Burk owns the contracting firm she's about to deal with, she's a little stunned. She cannot give up her dream though, as there is nothing left in New York for her. Meanwhile, Burk's been maintaining the house for so long that he planned to eventually buy it for himself. Having Willa back in town is not what he expected or even wanted to happen.

While Burk is hoping she can scare Willa away, Willa realizes that the feelings she had for Burk years ago have not abated. Entering into a fling with the man is dangerous, especially when she starts to think a fling may not be enough.

A Kiss to Build a Dream on is a fiery romance with plenty of passion between the two main characters. It did take a weird twist that I didn't see coming, and I'm still not sure how I feel about that.

When you start to see the town's reactions to Willa, you get why she was so hated. And, I do see that the situation in New York City was probably the best comeuppance that she could have gotten. That aside, I ended up really liking her character.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Love and Miss Communication by Elyssa Friedland

Release Date - May 12, 2015

Elyssa Friedland
William Morrow

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Corporate attorney Evie Rosen decides to quit the Internet. Losing her job with a prominent law firm is one of the triggers, but it's finding the wedding announcement for a man who broke up with her because he never wanted to get married that really pushes Evie over the edge. Now that she's done, she no longer is tied to emails, Facebook posts, Twitter, or constant searches.

This new page in Evie's life has her seeing life from a new point of view. Without the Internet, she's shut off from much of the world, and while face to face connections are far more appealing, learning that she's been excluded from another friends' events due to her lack of email is getting disheartening. Can she really survive in today's world without any connection to emails, social media, and websites?

Love and Miss Communication is so much fun. I think many of us have been there. In fact, I only have my Facebook account now to get the notifications that many local businesses use to share coupon deals or daily specials. I am happy without it. I have Twitter, but I rarely use it. The only thing that Evie gave up that I don't think I ever could is email. I think we all can understand her struggles as she adjusts to life without.

The characters are all enjoyable, minus Evie's ex who was a bit of a pompous jerk. I loved Evie's Jewish grandmother, even if she spent the majority of her time meddling. But Evie's social circle, the new man on Evie's horizon, and Evie were all entertaining. With the story moving swiftly along, I ended up reading this in one siting and definitely feeling like it was time well spent.

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Sound of Glass by Karen White

Release Date - May 12, 2015

Karen White

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

I feel completely honored to have gotten to read a copy of The Sound of Glass prior to its release. Summed up in just a few words - what a delightful, emotional story. It's a real gem.

Merritt Heyward's husband died two years ago. She blames herself and has been living a pretty lonely life since his death. When she learns that his grandmother died and left him her South Carolina home, Merritt takes this as a chance to start again. Merritt packs up and leaves her home in Maine and heads to South Carolina, where the humidity is the only thing that is messing with her plans. She never expects to discover that in addition to his grandmother, her late husband also had a brother who is very much alive and just as surprised to learn his brother had married.

That's only the start of the changes Merritt is going to face. Her very young stepmother also shows up on her doorstep, with a 10-year-old son that Merritt does not know. It's clear from the start that her stepmother is not leaving. The last thing Merritt wants is to be surrounded by anyone, but it's clear that her new life is going to mean facing her demons and figuring out what her past, present, and future have in store.

From the start, the characters grab you. There's Edith Heyward who in 1955 lives near where a plane crashes. A suitcase that falls from the sky into her yard may hold the clues to this mystery. Merritt is distance, but as you learn more about her, it makes sense. There is Gibbes, the brother-in-law Merritt never knew, a man who is nothing like his brother. There is the very precocious Owen, Merritt's younger brother. Finally, Loralee who is the stepmother Merritt does not want to get to know. First, Loralee is pretty close to Merritt's age, second she's as Southern Belle-sweet as one could possibly get and she keeps trying to teach Merritt southern ways.

Much of the story is told from a third-person point of view. Merritt's chapters, however, are first person and at first that was a little jarring. I found myself getting into the flow quickly and couldn't put the story down. It had me laughing, crying, and knowing that The Sound of Glass was a story for the keeper shelf.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Beach House by Deanna Caswell and Amy June Bates (Illustrations)

Release Date - May 12, 2015

Deanna Caswell
Amy June Bates
Chronicle Kids

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

You know the excitement of going to the beach? That's exactly what's captured in the book Beach House. After the long trip, the kids are anxious, but first there are things to do. Emptying the car, unpacking the luggage, how much longer are these kids going to have to wait?

Going to the beaches in Maine is something we've tried to do yearly since our kids were born. Whether we're in York, Wells Beach, Ogunquit, Camp Ellis, or farther north on Bailey Island, the excitement of the departure, the four-hour ride, reaching our destination, and then arriving to check out the rental home, unpacking, and making beds -are all part of the fun. I've been there, both as a kid and as an adult, so I get the kids' eagerness in Beach House.

The vocabulary isn't going to be challenging to a beginning reader. Sentences like "Summer's here. Doors fly open. End of the road." All of those short sentences are ideal for learning how to read. With summer just about to arrive, this is a great choice for parents and children to read together.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Slow and Steady Rush by Laura Trentham

Release Date - March 2015

Laura Trentham
St. Martins

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Slow and Steady Rush is the first release in Laura Trentham's Falcon Football series. Fans of sports-themed romances are going to have plenty to look forward to.

Darcy Wilde is back in Alabama to care for her grandmother, who is recuperating after breaking both hips. The librarian never intended to return to a town that assumed she'd end up just like her mother, but she's back to care for the woman who raised her. Once her grandmother's okay, she's out of here!

Robbie Dalton served in Afghanistan with Darcy's cousin, Little does Darcy know that her letters to her cousin Logan are what kept Robbie going. He's the new football coach for the high school team, and now that Darcy's in town, he's dying to get to know the woman behind those letters, but his upbringing has made him very hesitant about forming any attachment to anyone.

The two meet and decide maybe a fling is the best thing for them, but when unguarded hearts begin to yearn for something more, they both have concerns. Darcy has no intention on staying, and Robbie is not one to give his heart away. Can they keep up with this fling without facing an emotional toll?

I loved Robbie. He's the perfect hero. He's tough, yet soft enough to show some emotions when needed. Darcy is a little tougher. She's heard plenty of talk about her absentee mother, and the gossip always stung. She really doesn't want to be back in the midst of a town full of gossips, but she'll do anything for her grandmother.

Slow and Steady Rush was the perfect set up for what looks like it could be an exceptional series. Even one loathsome character had me wondering if she'll get her own story and a chance to prove she's not all that bad.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Interstellar Cinderella by Deborah Underwood and Meg Hunt

Release Date - May 5, 2015

Deborah Underwood
Meg Hunt
Chronicle Kids

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

"Once upon a planetroid..." That's how this space-age tale of Interstellar Cinderella begins. It may start like any other fairy tale, but this story is far from ordinary.

Cinderella's goal in life is to fix rockets. When she's not repairing household items, she secretly studies rocket repair. Her stepmother and stepsisters, however, are not about to let her steal their thunder at the upcoming Prince's Royal Galaxy Parade. They scoff and tell her when she fixes the broken rocket ship, she can use it to fly to the parade. They then take off with her toolbox, leaving Cinderella certain there's no hope. Murgatroyd the Mouse has other ideas. Will the mouse's idea work?

Following along the same theme as Cinderella, Interstellar Cinderella takes a new look at the classic theme. This independent young woman knows what she wants from life, and she's going to make it happen, that is if she can outwit her evil family.

The illustrations are whimsical and the themes of women being good at their jobs, even if it is a job traditionally thought of for men, was delightful. This is an empowering book that all little girls need on their shelves.

A Nest is Noisy by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long

Release Date - April 2015

Dianna Hutts Aston
Sylvia Long
Chronicle Kids

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

The very first page starts with a look at the kinds of nests that a number of birds, animals, insects, and sea creatures call home. It then moves into the story. Children and their parents will learn about these homes and how some of them are crafted. You learn about their size and shape, as well as some of the habits the inhabitants practice to stay safe while raising their young.

A Nest is Noisy is beautifully written with script and print. Some children may have a harder time reading the cursive, so expect to have to help. The illustrations are simply breathtaking with intricate detail put into each and every image.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Beautiful Daughters by Nicole Baart

Release Date - April 28, 2015

Nicole Baart
Atria Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Five years ago, Adrienne Vogt left her father, twin brother, and friends and fled her hometown. She's spent that time in Africa, serving as the nurse for remote communities. Now, Adri has been summoned back, and the news she's delivered is not something she can ignore.

Harper Penny left Blackhawk, Iowa, at the same time her best friend Adri left. Like Adri, she left with the knowledge that she killed a man and got away with it. Her life away isn't ideal, and when Adri beckons her to return to Blackhawk, Harper isn't sure it's the safest thing to do, but she cannot ignore the woman she loves like a sister.

The Beautiful Daughters is a stunning story with lots of the proverbial skeletons in both Harper's and Adri's closets. There are two romances at play in the story, three I suppose if you want to count one of them. Adri's associate in Africa is one, and then Adri's twin brother has feelings for Harper. In that respect, you kind of get two romances in one. There's so much more to this story, however, that the romances really take a back seat.

The true enjoyment of this novel came with Adri and Harper reconnecting, facing their past, and trying to figure out how on earth they can mold a future with the things they've done, said, and experienced.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Nelson Mandela by Frances Ridley

Release Date - April 2015

ReadZone Books

Book Review by Bob Walch

This well illustrated biography of  Nelson Mandela is ideal for young readers who are seeking basic information about the President of South Africa’s life and overview of his experiences that include his childhood, political activism and time spent as a political prisoner. 

Since the author uses a magazine style format to tell Mandela’s story, this would be an ideal paperback to use with older, reluctant readers or middle school students who are not yet reading on grade level. 

Teachers, librarians, and home schooling parents will want to consider adding this book to their collection of titles that will hold the attention and interest of young readers who are just beginning their study of individuals who have changed the course of history. 

Sea Bones by Bob Barner

Release Date - April 2015

Bob Barner
Chronicle Kids

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Sea Bones takes everything kids would want or need to know about sea life and presents it in a very fun, friendly manner. Do all sea creatures have a skeleton? How long is the blue whale? What do jellyfish eat? Why do clown fish live with sea anemones?

For both parents and their children, Sea Bones answers a lot of questions and even includes a handy chart full if need-to-know facts about specific creatures. The illustrations are colorful and the writing is simple and to the point. This is a great book for any child who loves to talk about nature.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Far End of Happy by Kathryn Craft

Release Date - May 2015

Kathryn Craft
Sourcebooks Landmark

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

With the hard realization that her marriage is over, Ronnie Farnham is divorcing Jeffrey and he's supposed to be moving out. Things do not go as expected. Instead, Jeffrey drives to the house, incredibly intoxicated and not acting normally. With her young boys to protect, Ronnie rushes out to get the keys and notices the shotgun sitting in the passenger seat. What was already a tough morning now becomes Ronnie's own personal hell.

At this point of the year, The Far End of Happy is the best book I've read. I was glued to the pages, couldn't stop reading for any reason, even dinner got ignored so it's a good thing my son and husband cook! This has to be the most emotional, powerful, and poignant look at three women's relationship to Jeffrey, the situation that they're all facing, and the possibility for finding hope in the darkest of situations.

The story is told from three points of view. There's Ronnie, the woman who's loved Jeffrey for 12 years and has two sons with him. There's Janet, Jeffrey's mother who has her own skeletons and regrets. Finally, there is Beverly, Ronnie's mother and Janet's close friend, who is torn by her love for both her daughter and her friend and the situation they're both facing.

I ended up reading The Far End of Happy late into the night and woke up very early to finish it. It was that powerful and that good.

Monday, May 4, 2015

How To Read a Story by Kate Messner and Mark Siegel (Illustrations)

Release Date - May 5, 2015

Kate Messner
Mark Siegel
Chronicle Kids

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

How To Read a Story is a very simplistic, easy-to-follow guide for youngsters. It covers tips for reading that range from sounding out words to finding a comfortable spot, regardless if that spot is inside or outside. There's also a story within a story. As the reader learns tips for reading a story, he or she also enjoys a story about a princess and dragon that the boy within the story is reading.

With colorful images, simple vocabulary, and shorter sentences, this is a great book for a beginning reader. I think many parents will find it to be a beneficial read.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Stella Brings the Family by Miriam B. Schiffer and Holly Clifton-Brown

Release Date - May 5, 2015

Miriam B. Schiffer
Holly Clifton-Brown
Chronicle Kids

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Miriam doesn't know what to do. Everyone is supposed to bring their mom to school for Mother's Day, but she can't. She doesn't have a mom she can invite. What on earth can she do?

Stella Brings the Family takes a look at one young girl's struggle with family structure. It's a touching look and I love the solution Stella's friends come up with. It's a touching tribute to children who are growing up with same-sex parents.

The Road to Christmas: A Sweet Holiday Romance Novel by Sheila Roberts

Release Date - September 20, 2022  Sit down and explore the holiday season through four sets of eyes in Sheila Roberts' latest holiday...