Saturday, August 29, 2015

Earmuffs for Everyone by Meghan McCarthy

Release Date - January 2015

Meghan McCarthy
Paula Wiseman Books

Book Review by Bob Walch

If you live in earmuff country and use them to keep warm during cold winters, this book may be of interest. You’ll learn more than you probably wish to know about these ear protectors and their supposed inventor (Chester Greenwood).

Of course, you will also discover that Charles Greenwood really didn’t invent earmuffs (but that’s another story), but the folks up in Maine pretend he did, so they have a special day in his honor. Oh well, what else is there to do in Maine? Right?

This picture book is rather bizarre but still fun if you are looking for a rambling tale about ear warmers and how they came to pass. While most adults would probably elect to “pass” on this volume, many youngsters like silly stories; hence they find this book appealing. It certainly is silly (some might actually call it dumb), but if it gets a child to read and laugh a bit, it can’t be all bad now, can it?

So, if earmuffs are your thing or you like very odd stories that have a ring of truth to them, this book might be a satisfying read. 

Friday, August 28, 2015

What Doesn't Kill Her by Carla Norton

Release Date - July 2015

Carla Norton
Minotaur Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

It's been years since Reeve LeClaire was kidnapped and held captive by Daryl Wayne Flint. She's now in her early 20s and in college, but her world is shaken when she learns Flint escaped. She's certain he'll soon stalk his next victim, and after being his captive for so long, she's convinced she's the only one who knows his patterns enough to be able to stop him.

Thus begins a chase to find and put an end to Flint. With the support of the FBI and the former FBI agent who investigated her case, Reeve has a solid support team backing her, but they still lack the insight Reeve has into Flint's mind.

What Doesn't Kill Her is mostly a suspense novel, but there is a touch of romance that I'm pretty sure will be a little more prevalent in future Reeve LeClaire novels. I actually was hooked from the start. Reeve is tough, takes no grief, and though she's young and has some to learn, I can see her series becoming a favorite of mine.

This is apparently the second book in the Reeve LeClaire series, something I never knew until now. It stands alone well, but I'm eager to read the first and then continue on with future novels as they are released.

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Bones of You by Debbie Howells

Release Date - July 30, 2015

Debbie Howells

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Many years ago, I sat down with a copy of book that was coming out later that summer and I fell completely in love. That book was Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones.  Having a murder mystery told from the deceased victim's POV was a new and refreshing take for me. Enter The Bones of You, a new book by British author Debbie Howells. This had that same poignancy.

The story begins with Rosie Anderson, a teen who vanishes, reflecting on her final moments. It then flips to a family friend, Kate, whose daughter is the same age as Rosie. Kate is shocked and becomes wrapped up in Rosie's disappearance and murder. The more Kate spends time with Rosie's mother, the more she becomes involved in solving this horrific crime.

Along the way, there are other characters and voices. Rosie's younger sister has a few chapters. There are also characters like Rosie's abusive father, the boy she'd fallen in love with, Rosie's mother, Kate's husband and daughter, and then Kate's childhood friend, a journalist who comes back to town to write a story on Rosie.

I hate to say it, but I pegged the killer pretty early on. I had the reasoning as to why she was killed wrong, but I did have the killer figured out. Normally, this becomes kind of a let down, but I was so absorbed in the story that I didn't care.

I won't say The Bones of You grabbed me as intensely as The Lovely Bones, but it was pretty close. I'm pretty sure this book will be getting a lot of buzz in the weeks and months to come.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

If You Only Knew by Kristan Higgins

Release Date - August 25, 2015

Kristan Higgins

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Now that her ex-husband has become a father, Jenny Tate is tired of being his and his new wife's buddy. Packing up and leaving the city to open her bridal boutique in her hometown is exactly what she needs. Maybe her hunky neighbor Leo is another thing she needs. A fling with no strings sounds perfect.

While Jenny is starting over, her sister Rachel is in a state of turmoil. Having her sister back is wonderful, but learning her husband is having an affair while Rachel stays at home with their triplets shatters Rachel's world. She might also need to take a step back and examine what she really wants from her life and her marriage.

There's a bit of a romantic aspect to If You Only Knew, but it goes far beyond that. It's really two women's looks at their pasts, their presents, and their futures. I immediately liked Jenny, and her pairing with Leo was ideal. He has his own past to come to terms with and that makes him the delightful tortured hero that I always root for. I like him paired with Jenny, who also clearly has her own issues where it comes to her husband and his ex-wife.

I felt a little less enthusiastic about Rachel. As soon as she learned her husband was having an affair, her naivety became an annoyance. Maybe it's just me, but I would have kicked a cheating husband to the curb and not trusted a word he said. It took time for me to really appreciate her, but when I did, I found myself cheering her on, too.

In the end, this is a sweet story, kind of a coming to terms with both their own and their parents' relationships. I found it highly enjoyable.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Book News: Library of Congress National Book Festival Announcement

More Than 175 Authors to Participate
in Library of Congress National Book Festival

The 2015 Library of Congress National Book Festival will be the most expansive one in its 15-year history, with more than 175 authors, poets and illustrators in its 18 pavilions and programs.
The festival is Saturday, Sept. 5, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. (doors open at 9). The event is free and open to the public.

The theme of the festival is “I cannot live without books,” which is a quote from a letter that Thomas Jefferson wrote to his friend John Adams in 1815 following the third president’s sale of his personal library to the Library of Congress. Jefferson sold his 6,487 books to replenish the Library that was burned by the British during the War of 1812.

The festival website is Author schedules and other information can be found there.

Following are the pavilions and presenters in each of them:


Buzz Aldrin, Mac Barnett, Cece Bell, Gennifer Choldenko, National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Kate DiCamillo, U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, Jennifer Holm, Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Naomi Shihab Nye, Lin Oliver, Lynne Rae Perkins, Trevor Pryce, Rachel Renee Russell, Jon Scieszka

Kwame Alexander, David Baldacci, Libba Bray, Michael Buckley, Jenny Han, Phillip Hoose, Cynthia Levinson, Sonia Manzano, Ellen Oh,  Laura Amy Schlitz, Sabaa Tahir, Meg Wolitzer,  “Letters About Literature” and the “A Book That Shaped Me” contest winners

Picture Books
Tom Angleberger, Cale Atkinson, Tad Hills, William Joyce, Tom Lichtenheld,  Steve Light, Diane Muldrow, Elise Parsley, Jean Reagan, Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Dan Santat, Stephen Savage, Peter Sís, Hervé Tullet, Audrey Wood, Don Wood


Biography & Memoir
Maureen Corrigan, Harlyn Geronimo, Walter Isaacson, Mary Jordan, David McCullough, John Riordan, Bryan Stevenson, Kevin Sullivan, Jeanne Theoharis, Evan Thomas, Amy Wilentz, Richard Zoglin

Contemporary Life
Manuel Castells, Yochi Dreazen, Robin Givhan, Tom Gjelten, Morton Kondracke,  Nicholas Kristof, Erika Lee, David Maraniss, Shelia P. Moses, Al Roker, Lisa Scottoline, Francesca Serritella, Ray Suarez, Barry Svrluga, Héctor Tobar, Sheryl WuDunn, Julia G. Young

Najmieh Batmanglij, Bridget Lancaster, Patrick O’Connell, Nora Pouillon, Bryan Roof

Danielle Allen, Joseph Ellis, Elizabeth A. Fenn, Edward J. Larson, Anne-Marie O’Connor, Evan Osnos, Cokie Roberts, Jan Jarboe Russell, Jay Winik, Lawrence Wright

Norman Doidge, Judy Foreman, Paul Halpern, Terrence Holt, David Quammen, Jeffrey D. Sachs, Casey Schwartz, Rachel Swaby, Edward O. Wilson, Andrea Wulf


Stephen L. Carter, Library of Congress Fiction Prize winner Louise Erdrich, Ha Jin, Ward Just, Phil Klay, Thomas Mallon, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Marilynne Robinson, Jane Smiley, Lalita Tademy

Graphic Novels
Lalo Alcaraz, Keith Knight, Miss Lasko-Gross, Diane Noomin, Stephan Pastis, Trina Robbins, Scott Stantis

Mysteries, Thrillers & Science Fiction
David Baldacci, Jeffery Deaver, David Ignatius,  Marlon James, Jane Lindskold, Laura Lippman, Walter Mosley, Lisa Scottoline, David Weber, Dan Wells

Poetry & Prose
Daniel Alarcón, Jerome Charyn, Marilyn Chin, Lynn Freed, Jane Hirshfield, Azar Nafisi, Eric Pankey, Claudia Rankine, Ishmael Reed, Kevin Young, Poetry Out Loud

Poetry Slam featuring young poets from Houston, Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington, D.C.

Romance Fiction
Sarah MacLean, Beverly Jenkins, Paige Tyler


Homero Aridjis, Álvaro Enrigue, Cristina Rivera Garza, David Good, John Hemming,  Donald S. Lopez Jr., Valeria Luiselli, Jane McAuliffe, Jack Miles, María José Navia, Andrés Neuman, Mark  Plotkin, Santiago Roncagliolo, Juan Gabriel Vásquez, Alejandro Zambra

First Nations Authors of Australia
Tony Birch, Jeanine Leane, Dub Leffler, Melissa Lucashenko, Bruce Pascoe, Jared Thomas,  Ellen van Neerven

The Human Side of War
Elliot Ackerman, Christian G. Appy, Rick Atkinson, Tom Brokaw, Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Joseph Ellis, Annette Gordon-Reed, Phil Klay, Jon Meacham, Roxana Robinson, Elizabeth D. Samet, Henry Wiencek

Books to Movies
A. Scott Berg, Anne-Marie O’Connor, Lawrence Wright

Eight authors will launch books at the festival: Tom Gjelten, “A Nation of Nations”; Erika Lee, “The Making of Asian America”; Thomas Mallon, “Finale”; David Maraniss, “Once in a Great City”; Stephen Pastis, “Pearls Get Sacrificed”; Casey Schwartz, “In the Mind Fields: Exploring the New Science of Neuropsychoanalysis”; Jay Winik, “1944: FDR and the Year That Changed History”; and Andrea Wulf, “The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World.”

The National Book Festival ( is funded by private donors and corporate sponsors who share the Library’s commitment to reading and literacy. Since 2010, National Book Festival Board Co-Chairman David M. Rubenstein has been the festival’s lead benefactor and has pledged funding for the festival for five more years. Charter Sponsors are AARP, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, The Washington Post and Wells Fargo; Patron sponsors, The James Madison Council and the  National Endowment for the Arts; the Contributor-level sponsors are C-SPAN2 Book TV, The Junior League of Washington, Jacqueline B. Mars, National Geographic, Scholastic Inc. and WAMU 88.5 FM; and, in the Friends category, Australia Council for the Arts, the Marshall B. Coyne Foundation Inc., The Embassy of Peru in the United States of America, Georgetown University’s Department of Spanish and Portuguese, the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction, The Hay-Adams, the Inter-American Development Bank, The Jefferson Hotel, Susan Carmel Lehrman, the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute with support from board chair Roger A. Strauch, the Mensa Education & Research Foundation, the Mexican Cultural Institute, Lissa Muscatine and Bradley Graham, the National Endowment for the Humanities, NPR, Small Press Expo and Split This Rock. Those interested in supporting the National Book Festival can contact the Library at

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress ( is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world. The Library seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs, publications and exhibitions.

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Sunday, August 16, 2015

One Among Us by Paige Dearth

Release Date - December 2014

Paige Dearth
Amazon Digital Services

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

I'll start by saying I hated so many characters in One Among Us. In a story that seems ripped from the headlines, this book had me wanting to climb into the pages and castrate many of the characters found in the book.

Maggie Clarke is just 11 years old when she's kidnapped and thrown into a sex trafficking ring. The innocent young girl is brutally raped by numerous men, kept prisoner with a number of other girls and boys, and badly abused, both mentally and physically. As weeks turn into months and months turn into years, Maggie fears she may never return to her loving family.

That's the plot. The story can be graphic at times, though with every page, I know how much truth there is to it, because I've seen the headlines and caught news stories involving abuse of very young girls and boys. It disgusts and horrifies me.

Paige Dearth is a survivor of molestation by a family member. Every detail she puts into her stories feels so real because she's lived it. I admit, this was a hard book to read. I was disgusted with the adults, horrified for the children, and angry that no one seemed able to save them. It's so realistic that it was tough to watch so much happen to Maggie. The writing is outstanding and definitely draws you in. It's just the subject matter that left me so angry for these fictional kids.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Doctor's Accidental Family by Jacqueline Diamond

Release Date - September 2015

Jacqueline Diamond

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Dr. Nick Davis, a single dad, is still adjusting to his new life in Safe Harbor, especially now that he's found his cousin is working in the same hospital. The two do not get along. When he sees Zady Moore, his cousin's nurse, he can't help but feel a spark. The problem is Zady's been burned and she's not about to fall for the womanizing charmer her boss has told her all about. Who would want a man who walked away from his son?

The truth is that Nick wants nothing more than to gain custody of his son, but his in-laws make it tough. When he's offered a chance to bring his young son home, he's determined to make it happen, but he needs help. Asking Zady to become his housemate seems like the perfect solution, especially after she's asked to care for her young god-daughter for a month. The two can work together to care for the children. Can their hearts, however, survive this very close living arrangement?

As is true with other Safe Harbor Medical Romance novels, you get to catch up with characters from other books. I like the glimpse into their lives and the growth of this hospital.

To be honest, Nick wasn't as strong a hero as others have been. He was likable enough, but he didn't stick in my mind as much as other characters, such as Lucky - how I adore Lucky. Zady is better, though I found myself a little perturbed by her steadfast belief in the office gossip, rather than just asking Nick for the truth.

All in all, The Doctor's Accidental Family is a nice entry into the Safe Harbor series, but it's not my favorite. As always, it does work well as a stand-alone novel, but I highly recommend reading the series in order to see the hospital and it's family of doctors, nurses, and administrators from the very beginning.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Back to School Giveaway

Preorder Never Said, a gripping new YA novel, and be entered to win a $200 gift card!

Never Said by Award-Winning Author Carol Lynch Williams
For as long as she can remember, Sarah’s family life has revolved around her twin sister, Annie—the pretty one, the social one, the girl who can do anything. The person everyone seems to wish Sarah—with her crippling shyness—could simply become.
When Annie suddenly chops off her hair, quits beauty pageants, and gains weight, the focus changes—Annie is still the star of the family, but for all the wrong reasons. Sarah knows something has happened, but she too is caught in her own spiral after her boyfriend breaks up with her and starts hanging out with one of Annie’s old friends.
Annie is intent on keeping her painful secret safe. But when she and Sarah start spending time together again for the first time in years, walls start to break on both sides … and words that had been left unsaid could change everything.

Preorder now and send your receipt to to enter! 

Get extra entries when you share the news about Never Said on social and tag @BookSparks!

Tweet this: “Can’t wait to read NEVER SAID a new YA read on the @BookSparks YA Summer Reading Challenge!

The giveaway ends August 24th, so preorder now for a chance to win a $200 Target gift card!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Weightless by Sarah Bannan

Release Date - July 2015

Sarah Bannan
St. Martin's Griffin

Release Date - July 2015

Face it. High school for the majority sucked. I remember one girl telling me she was going to kill me if I ever talked to her boyfriend again. I had another, a supposed best friend, create a secret vote for "pig of the year" after she got mad with me for whatever reason. With her it could have been anything from my parents were nicer to she was jealous that I was wearing name brands and she wasn't.

Fast forward 30 years and imagine what it would be like with Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and a myriad of other social media apps and sites. I cannot even begin to imagine. That's the topic in Weightless, the debut novel by Sarah Bannan.

The unnamed narrators are fascinated by the new girl, a New Jersey teen who's been uprooted to a small Alabama town. Carolyn is gorgeous, and it's not long before she captures the attention of the high school quarterback. The problem is that Shane already has a girlfriend, a cheerleader named Brooke, but soon he's being seen holding Carolyn's hand, not Brooke's. Brooke will not stand for that and makes it her goal to change Carolyn's golden girl image to that of a boyfriend-stealing slut. It's a goal that ends up changing everyone's lives.

The author states that it was the story of Phoebe Prince that helped her research this novel. Honestly, there are so many stories out there that this will seem ripped from the headlines. It's sad, it's frustrating, and it really just makes me angry that some kids still are not getting it.

Here's what was really different about Weightless. I read a lot of books, but I cannot recall ever reading a book written in first person plural. What you read is an account from Carolyn's peers, not her friends, just other students who knew her from the swim team. They're never identified by name. At first, it seemed a little jarring, but the more I read, the more I realized this was the perfect way to tell Carolyn's story. I was hooked.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Night Sister by Jennifer McMahon

Release Date - August 4, 2015

Jennifer McMahon

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Piper and her sister Margot spent much of their childhood hanging out at their friend Amy's family's motel. Their friendship abruptly ended when the girls discovered a dark secret at the Tower Motel. Each moved on, but now they're about to be thrown together with one simple message "29 Rooms."

When police find Amy, her husband, and her son dead, Margot calls Piper with the shocking news that Amy killed them all before killing herself. Only Amy's daughter managed to stay hidden and avoid being brutally murdered. Piper returns to her hometown to help Margot make sense of Amy's actions and deal with the secret that they've kept for far too many years.

The Night Sister is told from a number of viewpoints and eras. First, there is Rose, Amy's Mother, and aunt Sylvie, who also spent much time playing at the motel. They seemed to have a very happy childhood, until Sylvie vanished. Their chapters take the reader back to the 1950s. Some of the story is told in present day, such as those with Jason, Margot's husband, who finds the bodies. There's also Piper who seems to be the only adult Amy's daughter is comfortable talking to. Finally, there are chapters in the 1980s, with Amy, Piper, and Margot stumbling onto the truth surrounding Sylvie, Rose, and the motel itself. There are also the creepy letters Sylvie writes to Alfred Hitchcock.

The book definitely does have a creepy feel, and both the setting and characters were alluring. Part of the story was pretty easy to figure out. I had that pegged from very early on. I admit that there was a little disappointment for me that I could figure out relationships between a couple characters in the past, and I pegged the true "monster" very early on, Still, I couldn't stop reading. The Night Sister is pretty addicting.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Broken Promise: A Thriller by Linwood Barclay

Release Date - July 28, 2015

Linwood Barclay

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

I cannot think of a more intriguing premise from the number of books I've read this year. In Broken Promise, reporter/editor David Harwood returns to his childhood home after disliking his new life in Boston. He moved there to accept an editing job, but his long hours away from his son are wearing thin. Back in his hometown, he is back with the local paper, but soon has a lot of time on his hands when the company closes its doors.

While running an errand for his mother, David visits his cousin, a woman who lost her baby a year earlier, and finds her cradling a baby. She claims an angel in white brought this baby to her door. When the child's mother is found murdered, David agrees to investigate and find out if his cousin is a mentally imbalanced killer or if there is something far more sinister going on in Promise Falls.

Love the plot. I won't argue that. What I didn't love is how many other characters popped up, and how many other situations appeared that drew me away from the main plot. We have the dead squirrels, the Ferris wheel with mannequins and an ominous message, and a college campus rapist running loose. It became overkill. Each time the story switched from David and his investigations to the dieting detective whose battle to avoid eating doughnuts became almost a plot on its own or one of the other myriad of characters, I felt myself getting a little more disinterested.

Sadly, I soon grew too tired of keeping track of the different characters and was skimming chapters to get back to David. It wasn't long before I'd figured out the truth regarding his cousin. It's really not an ideal way to go through a book. I knew the solution to the mystery long before the book ended. I wish I could have found more enjoyment from Broken Promise, but in the end, for me, this mystery was a miss.

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...