Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Simplicity of Cider by Amy E. Reichart

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 24, 2017

Someone Else's Summer by Rachel Bateman

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

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

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

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

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

I Found You by Lisa Jewell

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Sunbaked by Junie Coffey

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

RTR News: As I Catch Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brew or Die by Caroline Fardig

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Curious Constructions by Michael Hearst and Matt Johnstone (Illustrator)

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

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

Within Curious Constructions are things like:

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Mine! by Jeff Mack

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

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

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

Monday, April 10, 2017

This is How We Do It by Matt Lamothe

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

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

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

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

On Second Thought by Kristan Higgins

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 3, 2017

Daddy Dreams and Mommy Snuggles by Anne Gutman

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

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

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

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

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Close Enough to Touch by Colleen Oakley

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, April 1, 2017

You and Me, Me and You by Miguel Tanco

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

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

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

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

You Can Go Your Own Way by Eric Smith

 Release Date - October 25, 2022 After his dad's death, Adam Stillwater and his mom do everything in their power to keep the family...