Thursday, September 28, 2017

Berserker by Emmy Laybourne

Genre: Teen Fiction
Publisher: Macmillan
Release Date: October 10, 2017

Hanne Hemsted's special powers make her feel ashamed. When someone she loves is threatened, she becomes a cunning and brutal killer. Hanne's brother insists their powers are a gift from their gods. When her father's attacked and Hanne uses her powers in a futile attempt to save him, the family goes on the run.

To avoid a murder charge, the siblings head from Norway to the U.S. to start anew in the west. The government is practically giving away land to anyone willing to create a homestead. While they have a guide to help them navigate this unexplored land, Hanne hopes to find the one man who might be able to teach her how to control her skills as a Berserker and keep from killing others.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Berserker doesn't start out slow. It starts in a flurry of action that holds your attention. Even after discovering Hanne's powers, the sibling's quest to get out of Norway keeps you on the edge of your seat. It delves into the past, when settlers left their homeland for the chance to settle in territory west of the Mississippi River, and has you hooked with all they endure. From weather to the bounty hunters that want to claim the bounty, this story never slowed down.

RTR's Bottom Line

The writing is crisp and so vivid. I am not big into mythology and the likes, so I wasn't sure how well I'd like this story. I loved it. There are action and adventure, but there is a strong family bond and touches of romance that round out the teen fiction novel. If you're looking for something that hasn't been overdone in fiction, pick up Berserker.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

In the Light of the Garden by Heather Burch

Setting: Gaslamp Island, Florida
Genre: Women's Fiction
Release Date: January 10, 2017

Charity Baxter's mother was never really the ideal mother. While Charity grew up wanting her mother's attention, she was thrilled to spend her summer's with her grandparents on Gaslamp Island. There, Charity experienced the magic of the island and the true meaning of family. That all ended with her grandmother's unexpected death.

Now an adult, Charity returns to the island after her grandfather dies. She now owns the large house and his life savings. What she wants more than anything is to return to a time when the island didn't hold bad memories.

Dalton Reynolds needs time away. He's on Gaslamp Island to renovate a cottage. While there, he is able to hide from the realities he faces. When he meets Charity, he soon realizes that maybe his time for hiding is over.

Charity and Dalton form a friendship that has the potential to blossom into more. That's just the start of this book as Charity's elderly uncle returns harboring his own secrets. Plus, Charity takes in a runaway who is looking for a chance to start anew. For once, Charity finds herself surrounded by a family of sorts that seems to be exactly what she needs, providing she can get past her own guilt and shame.

Strengths and Weaknesses

In the Light of the Garden is part women's fiction, part romance, and part mystery. There's also the weeping willow that adds a bit of fantasy to the story of love, forgiveness, and family. While there are a few different storylines, it's easy to keep up with each one.

I loved the setting. It came to life. I could smell the salt air, feel the breeze, and wanted to be the one walking to the town for fresh seafood, coffee, and conversation. The setting was almost as appealing as the characters. I was sad when my time in Gaslamp Island came to an end.

RTR's Bottom Line

Pick up In the Light of the Garden and embrace a story that looks at lives and loves of several island residents or visitors. I have to say that while this is a complete novel, I do have hopes that the author will return readers to this charming community. Maybe bring us back to see Daisy as an adult? I'd love that.

Monday, September 25, 2017

A List of Cages by Robin Roe

Genre: Teen Fiction
Publisher: Disney - Hyperion
Release Date: January 2017

Five years ago, Adam Blake and his mother took a young foster child into their home. To Adam, Julian was the brother he never had. His mother loved Julian like her own. Everything was great until a distant uncle was found. He pulled Julian from their home and cut off any hope of staying in touch.

Adam is a senior in high school now. He's assigned to aide the school counselor. His first duty is to make sure a freshman actually shows up for meetings with the counselor. Adam is surprised to find Julian is that freshman.

Julian's school performance is pathetic at best. He does poorly on assignments, skips classes regularly, and has no friends. The counselor hopes that Adam may be key to reaching Julian. Adam takes Julian under his wing and starts to transform Julian's life. Those transformations, though, could cost the boys dearly.

Strengths and Weaknesses

The detail that went into the writing is amazing. The scenes with Julian tugged at my heart. Adam is a character I loved. Watching Julian and Adam reunite and form such a deep bond had me tearing up. The end of the novel was tough but gripping.

Some of the scenes are so ugly that it's hard to praise them. That said, the key topic is child abuse. That's pretty clear from the start. I hated one character in the book and, sadly, know that there are so many out there that are like him. It breaks my heart that while this is a work of fiction, it could just as easily been taken from the headlines.

RTR's Bottom Line

Pick up A List of Cages. If you can get through this novel without tearing up and feeling outraged, I'll be surprised. I was emotionally invested and wanted to hug so many teens in this story. What an emotional powerhouse of a story.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Deck the Halls by Donna Alward

Setting: Darling, VT
Genre: Holiday Romance Novella
Publisher: Macmillan
Release Date: October 3, 2017

He used to be homeless, but thanks to the help of his friends, George now has a place to live, a modest income, and a job he enjoys. He's stunned when his friend and fellow soldier's twin sister shows up with questions. Amy feels it's high time she gets answers explaining exactly how her brother died in the Middle East.

George knows he's responsible for her brother's death. He wants to leave the past in the past. At the same time, he knows Amy deserves answers. Fifteen years have passed, is the magic of the holidays enough for both battered hearts to find what they need?

Strengths and Weaknesses

As this is a novella and not a full-length romance, things did seem really hurried. I liked catching up with other characters, and I was happy to see George get his own book, but I wasn't as thrilled with it being so short.

Deck the Halls returns readers to Darling, VT. As a Vermonter, I do spend time trying to figure out what town Darling is patterned after. In all honesty, I can't think of one. There are a couple that may be close, but none are exact. I can't think of a small town where everyone knows each other, has a main street filled with stores, and that's near some of the box stores. It's always left me guessing.

That's the funny part. I'd love to find a town like that. Darling sounds amazing!

RTR's Bottom Line

You don't have to spend a lot to get this novella. It's a very quick, very satisfying holiday romance. While I think I would have preferred a longer novel, one where things didn't feel as rushed, I still enjoyed seeing more of George and finding him happy.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Hanna Who Fell From the Sky by Christopher Meades

Setting: Clearhaven
Genre: General Fiction
Publisher: Park Row Books
Release Date: September 26, 2017

Hanna's grown up sheltered in a community where the men are required to marry multiple women. At 17, Hanna's own wedding to a man her father's age is days away. She's uncomfortable being forced to marry a man of her dad's choosing, especially when that man is so much older. She can't help but wonder what life is like in the outside world.

Enter Daniel. Daniel's also part of the community. He and his family have returned after exploring the outside world. Daniel's brothers will be sent out of the community to seek new experiences, but Daniel's chosen to remain as the man who will follow in his father's shoes. Daniel's not sure he wants the life being chosen for him.

Daniel wants to show Hanna that there is life outside of their community. Hanna's both intrigued and scared. If she leaves, she's leaving her handicapped sister behind, and she simply cannot do that to the girl she loves like a daughter. Can Hanna leave it all behind or will she follow her father's wishes?

Strengths and Weaknesses

The strong protagonist in Hanna Who Fell From the Sky told such an amazing, real, and often heartbreaking story. I felt her indecision and cheered her on as each chapter pulled me further into her world. I just can't imagine going back to days when you had no say in who you married.

The title actually plays a part in the story. As Hanna's wedding day nears, you experience more of her mother's past and relationship within the family that is a blend of sister-wives, children, and the patriarch ruling them all. As this story took a stronger part in the book, I started struggling with it. It had more of a fantasy leaning at that point than the general fiction I'd grown fond of. I started to find myself feeling a little disillusioned and definitely less interested.

RTR's Bottom Line

I kept reading because I needed to see how things ended for Hanna. I did really enjoy the first two-thirds or so, and then I found myself uncertain. Having finished it, I'm still not sure I loved how it played out. Part of me wishes that the author had stuck to the gripping reality of life in a cult and bypassed the magical aspect that played a big part in the rest of the book.

That puts my bottom line at how you feel about magic/fantasy novels. I'm not a fan. I'm certain that's what makes me feel so mixed on how everything ended. If you like them, you'll love Hanna Who Fell From the Sky.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Hope for Christmas by Stacy Finz

Setting: Nugget, California
Genre: Holiday Romance
Publisher: Kensington
Release Date: October 10, 2017

While she still misses her missing daughter dearly, Emily McCreedy is happily married to Clay, enjoying being a step-mom to his two sons, and loves her newborn daughter. Christmas is quickly approaching. Emily's busy getting set up for the town's cookie swap, caring for her two-month-old, and getting holiday shopping completed.

Emily's world takes a sudden spiral when she and her ex-husband both receive letters that Hope is alive. Could their missing daughter, a girl who has been gone for seven years, really be out there?

There have been too many hoaxes over the years, so she dares not believe in another one. It leads both her and Clay to wonder how they put an end to this madness and really get on with their lives. However, this person is persistent and may finally have the answers Emily needs.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Since reading the story where Emily and Clay met, I've been wanting closure. You finally get it in Hope for Christmas. I wasn't disappointed. The issue here is that I can't give spoilers.

Catch up with all of the characters in the A Nugget Romance series. I loved seeing where they are now and seeing them prepare for Christmas. Nugget is a charming fictional town that I'd love to be part of.

RTR's Bottom Line

If you haven't ready Finding Hope, I really recommend starting there. That builds up Emily and Clay's story.

I loved the story, but one thing niggled at me. That's where the spoiler issue comes in. Part of the resolution, while appreciated, seemed to be rushed and lacking what I know is a key step. That it felt rushed made me feel a little cheated.

With that in mind, I still really enjoyed the conclusion to the mystery surrounding Hope's disappearance and would recommend this if you've read Emily and Clay's introduction.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Visitors by Catherine Burns

Genre: Psychological Suspense
Release Date: September 26, 2017

Marion and her brother, John, live together in a home that was once well cared for but has now seen years of neglect taking its toll. In her 50s, Marion has never truly been seen as her own person. She's bossed around, verbally abused by peers and loved ones, and spends most of her day lurking in the home, ignoring the cries she hears coming from the basement, and sleeping with her collection of teddy bears each night.

Marion's neighbor only socializes with Marion when she wants something. John wants Marion to realize the neighbor only uses her. He also wants Marion to keep out of his things and do as he says. When he suffers a heart attack, Marion finds herself finally by herself in a house where John still wants to control what she does and says.

Strengths and Weaknesses

The atmosphere in The Visitors is chilling. It's creepy. It's one eerie family and that comes true from the very minute you start meeting the mother, father, and children in the past to the children who are now adults.

It was slow to build, however. I was far more than halfway through the book before the brother has his heart attack. That's when the action really picks up. By that point, I knew what was coming even if the main character was seemingly blind to it. I also found myself no longer interested in what Marion would do next. It was too late.

RTR's Bottom Line

If you look at The Visitors as a disturbing look into a woman who never truly grew up, the book works. If you're, like me, expecting a surprise in the basement, well I'm sad to say it just was never surprising. I wanted to love all of the story, but when I was halfway through and Marion was still muddling along and nothing had changed, I didn't really feel compelled to finish the story. It was a struggle from that point.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Single Malt Murder: A Whisky Business Mystery by Melinda Mullet

Setting: Scotland
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Publisher: Alibi
Release Date: March 21, 2017

Her parents died in a car crash when she was young. Abi Logan's uncle raised her, and she's always been incredibly close to him. When he loses his battle with lung cancer, Abi is shattered. She heads up to Scotland to decide what to do with Abbey Glen, the whisky distillery he owned.

Abi's an award-winning photojournalist who really has no interest in the business, but it was her uncle's pride and joy so she will do right by him. When threatening messages find their way to her, she's cautious but not dissuaded. When a body's found in one of the distillery's vats, Abi decides that she may be a little more diligent about getting to the truth behind the murder and the person that is so eager to get Abi to leave.

Strengths and Weaknesses

I liked Abi from the start. She's shrewd and having been all over the world in dangerous situations, she's not one to scare easily. It takes a little time to get each of the Abbey Glen characters down. There are a few of them.

I do appreciate the author knowing that whisky is the correct spelling in Scotland and that the "e" shouldn't be there. That was nice to see, as it doesn't always happen. I also liked reading about the process that goes into making whisky and the differences between blends and single malts.

I'm used to cozy mysteries having a touch of romance. That's hinted at in this book, but it's never the main focus. I appreciate that. I also have my own hopes on where things go in future novels and plan to keep reading to see if I'm right. I like that the story wrapped up but left me with an eagerness to read the next book.

RTR's Bottom Line

Single Malt Murder is an intriguing start to a series. I'm not a big whiskey drinker, but I have discovered a taste for Irish whiskey over the years. It was fun reading about the process that goes into making a Scottish whisky and meeting the characters, some of whom still remain a bit of a mystery. I can't wait to get to know their characters in future A Whisky Business mystery novels.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Christmas at Two Love Lane by Kieran Kramer

Setting: Charleston, South Carolina
Genre: Holiday Romance
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
Release Date: October 3, 2017

As one of the owners of Two Love Lane, Macy Frost is uncertain the matchmaking service's latest prospect is worth their time. They find people's true loves. They arrange quick flings, and that's exactly what Deacon Banks is after. He wants to make his aunt happy by seeing a number of women before Christmas arrives. He has no interest in finding the love of his life.

Macy ends up taking on the project if only to prove to him that he just hasn't found the right woman yet. She's out there, and Macy knows it. What Macy never plans on is that she's the perfect match. He's her client, and that means she cannot possibly have what every algorithm finds or what her heart truly wants.

Strengths and Weaknesses

I know it's all part of the romance conflict, but I've never understood why people opt to ignore what's right in front of their face. That's exactly what Macy does. Even though she knows he's the one, she continues to make excuses. It was somewhat maddening at times. Life's too short to ignore what's right in front of you.

With that, the conflict in Christmas at Two Love Lane also kept me hooked. I couldn't get enough of Deacon. What a charmer. I also loved the feel-good story that was so uplifting. It's a big part of why I look forward to holiday romance season.

After a tough year, some feel-good fiction is exactly what I need. Kieran Kramer certainly delivered. With that in mind, I really hope that poor George gets his own special someone. I loved his character and wanted to see him find the right person, too.

RTR's Bottom Line

If you want emotional and lighthearted, Christmas at Two Love Lane delivers on many levels. I snickered, smiled, and was left with that warm cozy feeling that a solid romance offers. I'm kind of sad it's over, but so happy I took the time to read it.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Setting: Portland, Oregon
Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: Graydon House
Release Date: October 3, 2017

Dr. Dylan Michels has a gorgeous home, a loving boyfriend, and a job that keeps her busy. She's an OB/GYN in a thriving practice, but it's not enough. Dylan is desperate for forgiveness for a deadly mistake she made as a teenager.

Dylan lives her days and nights trying to make amends for the role she played in her older sister's death. Until that happens, Dylan will never be happy.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Perfectly Undone is an upcoming release in Harlequin's Graydon House line of novels. It's a strong example of everything I love with women's fiction. Dylan has it all, yet she harbors a secret that keeps her from happiness. As the secret is revealed, I felt for her and found the tears falling.

Given that, it is hard to get into Dylan's mindset when you're still trying to figure out her past. I struggled to see how a smart woman could be so blind. Stick with her. When the truth comes out, it will break your heart.

RTR's Bottom Line

I loved everything about Perfectly Undone. The setting made me wish I was there. Dylan's work is presented as many doctors have detailed to me during my own OB/GYN appointments in the past. It's hectic, fascinating, crushing, and rewarding at the same time and in different ways.

This is a tear-jerker that proved to be the perfect end of summer choice. I loved it.

When We Were Worthy by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen

Setting: Worthy, Georgia
Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Release Date: September 12, 2017

Lake Union Publishing releases another gripping novel. This time, Marybeth Mayhew Whalen is the author that kept me hooked for a few hours.

It's mere hours after Worthy's high school team landed another victory. In those moments, a number of lives will change forever. Three cheerleaders are killed in a devastating crash that also leaves a football player fighting for his life in the hospital.

Fingers point at him as the cause of the crash. He and another friend were racing. At the same time, the girls had been drinking and their designated driver didn't have a driver's license. It's a crash that changes the town and pits neighbor against neighbor and friend against friend.

Strengths and Weaknesses

In When We Were Worthy, it's hard not to get pulled in. The story is told from multiple perspectives. You have the cheerleaders. You have their fourth member who doesn't get in the car and is mysteriously absent from the evening's events.

You have the mother of the football player. She was already the victim of gossip after her husband left her for the town floozy. Her son's involvement in the accident only makes things worse, and she's not about to turn her back on her son.

There's a long-term substitute teacher who's hiding her own secret. Finally, there's Marglyn whose generosity led to a fight with her the daughter she'll never get to see again.

All of these perspectives create a very thorough portrait of a town where secrets and lies run rampant. It adds to the intrigue and makes you glad you don't live there!

RTR's Bottom Line

This multi-layered, highly emotional story kept me hooked. The parent in me just can't imagine. The former teen in me is glad I dodged behavior like that. If you like shows like Gossip Girl or Pretty Little Liars, don't miss When We Were Worthy.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Good Sam by Dete Meserve

Setting: Los Angeles
Genre: Women's Fiction/Mystery
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Release Date: June 20, 2017

Kate Bradley is less than thrilled when her boss puts her on the feel-good story of a woman finding cash on her front porch. The anonymous gift turns into a great assignment when Kate learns other people also found that cash. Plus, the cash amount in each case is $100,000. That's quite a gift!

As Kate delves into the case, she quickly learns that the benefactor does not want to be revealed. She ends up getting the chance for an exclusive interview, but her boss wants the story passed on to a more veteran reporter. Kate's not sure she's ready to give up the story that she broke. She's also not really prepared when Good Sam reveals himself to her. This has Kate questioning a lot of her own choices.

Strengths and Weaknesses

I read a lot of books and many of them are mysteries. While there are red herrings tossed your way, I never found them that tricky. I knew who Good Sam was way before the surprise revelation came out. That ended up being the only downfall.

It's clear that this is going to be a series. I want to return to Kate's life and see what happens next. She's a strong heroine, despite her flaws, and one that I enjoyed getting to know. That's part of why I liked her so much. She has flaws like we all do, and they only make her stronger when she learns from her mistakes.

RTR's Bottom Line

Good Sam has plenty of action, a bit of romance, and a plot that had me hooked. The world would be a better place if there were more good Sams out there. I ended up with the same emotional pull that I had after reading Pay It Forward.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Setting: New Jersey
Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: Kensington
Release Date: September 26, 2017

Lizzie Glass once had it all. She was a rising star on Food Network with her own show. Eventually, it all came crashing down. Since then, she's worked as a personal chef and magazine columnist, but she's currently unemployed and desperate for a job.

Enter the chance to spend her summer at the beach home of the Silvester family. Lizzie just needs to cook meals that meet the differing needs of the family members. Kathryn is currently on the Paleo diet, while her daughter, Zoe, is a health nut and blogger, requires only clean foods. The patriarch, Jim, needs low-fat foods. It isn't long before Lizzie realizes that there's something fishy about Zoe's site. However, the Silvesters seem to have Zoe on a pedestal, so Lizzie needs to watch what she does or says or she could be jobless again.

Strengths and Weaknesses

My biggest issue with Virtually Perfect was the big secret that Zoe tried to hold over Lizzie's head. I just never understood why that was such an issue. It didn't seem that huge a deal to me. The rest of the story, however, kept me hooked.

I loved the setting and wished I was the one in the big beach home. I enjoyed Lizzie's encounters with Jim's black sheep son. I even enjoyed the periodic interruptions as Lizzie's mom's story and Lizzie's stories started to meld.

RTR's Bottom Line

I liked Virtually Perfect. The setting made me long to be there. I was never fond of the Silvesters, short of the son. The rest of them were as fake as can be. That didn't matter though, the descriptions of the foods Lizzie made, the hintings of romance, and the pacing were enough to make me happy I picked this book up.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Half Past by Victoria Helen Stone

Setting: Iowa and California
Genre: Women's Fiction/Mystery
Publisher: Lake Union
Release Date: September 19, 2017

Facing a divorce and having been laid off from her job, Hannah Smith has to start anew. She leaves her Chicago home and heads to Iowa to help care for her mother, a woman diagnosed with Lewy Body Disease, a form of dementia. Her mother's cries of "You're not my daughter" do not hit until Hannah finds evidence that she truly isn't her mother's daughter.

Feeling lost, Hannah heads to the address listed on her birth certificate. She's determined to unravel the truth about her parents' past and who her mother really is.

Strengths and Weaknesses

By now it's no secret that Lake Union Publishing is a favorite of mine. While a few books haven't grabbed me, the majority have. I've loved the pace, the characters, and the plots. Half Past is another strong novel that drew me in and held my interest until the final page.

Hannah's a little weaker, but it's her weakness that makes her shine. She's never felt like she really fits in. She doesn't look like her sisters, and she doesn't seem to connect with her mom as well as they have. Once she's out in California, she starts investigating her parents' past and things really pick up the pace. I never found the revelations to be shocking, but it was still engrossing.

RTR's Bottom Line

Half Past is a complete story, yet I found myself flying through it. It took no time at all, it seemed, to finish the entire novel. I started it at 7 p.m. and by 8:45 I was done. I enjoyed the characters and the mystery enough that I couldn't put it down. While I'm not sure it's a book I'd read over and over, it was engrossing while it lasted and that's always a plus.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

The Little Bakery on Rosemary Lane by Ellen Berry

Setting: Yorkshire, England
Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: September 7, 2017

Roxanne couldn't wait to escape the quiet lifestyle Burley Bridge offered. She's made quite a success of herself in London. When a new editor takes over the fashion magazine and announces Roxanne is being shifted to a new role, a role that Roxanne doesn't want, she decides to take her new boss up on the idea of a country sabbatical.

Back in her hometown, Roxanne's helping her sister with her sister's bookshop. She's also enjoying quieter mornings walking the hillside with her sister's scrappy little terrier. What Roxanne soon finds is that London may not be all she thought. She needs to decide if being a high-powered magazine fashionista is really for her or if the quiet charm of Burley Bridge, and the charming bakery owner, are what she needs now that she's older.

Strengths and Weaknesses

The atmosphere created by Ellen Berry really drew me in. If you've ever been to a  village in Yorkshire, you'll know. She's done a marvelous job creating a village and its quaint shops. I wanted to be part of the town.

I like Roxanne's character. She's feisty and smart. I loved when she started to realize that the guy back in London may not be what she really needs. In a sense, this story becomes her later-in-life coming of age story. It made me really enjoy The Little Bakery on Rosemary Lane.

I did have one issue. It's trivial, but I wasn't ready for the story to end. I liked the town and people in it too much. I haven't looked yet, but I'm hoping this is going to be or maybe already is a series. I want to return.

RTR's Bottom Line

A lot of my mom's family live in East Yorkshire. It's where she grew up. I understand the quaint, homey feeling and found myself longing to get away as I read The Little Bakery on Rosemary Lane. Ellen Berry draws you into the lives and homes of her characters and makes you want to stay. What a light, enjoyable read.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Lies She Told by Cate Holahan

Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Release Date: September 12, 2017

Liza Cole is working on a thriller that she hopes will revive her career. At the same time, she's struggling with fertility treatments and a husband who seems to be devoting every hour to his work and not her. When her husband's business partner, Nick, vanishes, he becomes even more distracted.

With nothing to do but keep seeing her doctor and working on her novel, Liza focuses on Beth, her new character. Beth finally has the daughter she longed for, but her husband's cheating on her. Beth wants a happy family unit, she doesn't want anyone getting in the way, even if that means killing the competition and tossing her body in the river.

When Nick's body is found in East River and her husband is investigated for his murder, Liza must start to unravel the truth about those closest to her.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Lies She Told is told from two perspectives. First, there's Beth, the fictional character. Second, there's Liza. The distinctions between the two are kept very clear thanks to Beth never having time away from her child. Otherwise, some of the details around their lives could become very blurred given how alike they are, especially as the action picks up.

I found myself hooked from the start. I liked Beth and understood her frustration. I got Liza's frustration, too, though not as much from the new-mom-feeling-isolated angle. I liked as Beth started coming out more and more.

RTR's Bottom Line

I can't say the ending shocked me. That's really the only beef I had with this book. I found it a little predictable. Despite this, Lies She Told did keep you hooked. Told from both the author and her character's point of view, you got great insight into the fictional author's mindset.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Penguin Teen Releases to Watch For

Penguin Teen has a number of books coming out this fall. They sent out a teaser of five of them. I have to say, the first hooked me. Note that the brief review is based only on a couple of chapters.

A young woman can't pay her rent. To raise the cash, she hunts for people with a bounty on their heads. Why the bounty? The game Warcross is a phenomenon and people are happy to place illegal bets. She rounds them up. When she inadvertently finds herself hacking into the wrong place at the wrong time, she ends up experiencing the game from a new level.

From the publisher: Boundary-breaking fantasy. I couldn't get into it, but then I'm not a huge fantasy fan.

This one reminded me a bit of the 70s/80s teen horror When a Stranger Calls mixed with Scream.

If you need what shapes up to be a really good tearjerker, here you go.

This one I just couldn't get into, yet the cover art was so gorgeous I really wanted to.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

Setting: East Rockport, Texas
Genre: Teen Fiction
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Release Date: September 19, 2017

In East Rockport, the high school's ruled by the jocks. Vivian Carter is sick and tired of the esteemed football team getting away with everything they want. With the star jock's father serving as the principal, nothing changes. From interrupting girls in class with stupid chants of "make me a sandwich" to girls getting pulled from class for wearing "suggestive" clothes and being forced to wear baggy everything, Vivian's done.

Tapping into some of her mom's old stuff, she creates a zine where Moxie Girls Fight Back. Soon, the revolution is sweeping the school. More girls are participating in the protests and new bonds are being formed. Will this be what it takes to get a male-dominated school to wake up and realize girls have far more power than the guys believe?

Strengths and Weaknesses

I'm not sure I can find a true weakness in this book. The writing in Moxie kept me engaged. However maddening the adults were, I realize that's how it is. It's what my daughter experienced, and it's what I experienced. Girls were told to cover up while guys were perfectly fine wearing tight gym shorts, pants falling down to their knees, and suggestive t-shirts. I can see it taking a Moxie revolution to make adults take notice.

That is really this book's strength. People are going to relate to the story. You'll be able to take those fictional characters and put names from your own high school days to match them up.

RTR's Bottom Line

Part of the reason I picked up Moxie to review was that Amy Poehler gave it a rave review. She's right. It did make me snicker. I also groaned and felt hope that someone would wake up and listen to the Moxie girls. It's a fun story that deserves the attention it's getting.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall

Setting: Connecticut
Genre: General Fiction
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Author: Zoe Whittall
Release Date: September 19, 2017 (Hardcover)

George Woodbury comes from a prominent Connecticut family. His wife, daughter, and son enjoy their life in the family estate where old money makes sure they're comfortable. George is also an honored member of the town thanks to his heroic actions when a shooter ended the school where he's a science teacher. He tackled the shooter right before the shooter shot Sadie, George's daughter.

Years later, the unbelievable happens. Four girls come forward and say George raped them or was sexually suggestive during a ski trip he chaperoned. He's arrested and held without bail until trial.

Sadie, his daughter, finds her life at school changes drastically. She's now scorned as the daughter of a pedophile. She goes from being the popular valedictorian prospect to hated by almost everyone. Her older brother escaped the town years ago, but now he's forced to return to a town where he never fit in. George's wife, a respected nurse, also finds herself the target of hatred. Many people can't understand how could she not have known.

The Best Kind of People looks at the case and the family that's now left behind to pick up the pieces as they struggle with the accusations being thrown at them.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Talk about a book that gets to the gritty details of how a family gets torn apart because of the media. The trial hadn't even taken place and the family was being threatened, insulted, harrassed, and more. I truly felt their pain each time a car was egged, another threat came in via cell phone or landline, and media hounded them at the end of their driveway. I became angry reading The Best Kind of People.

That said, I also found myself upset with some character's actions. The ending still niggles at me. I'm not sure I liked how it turns out. For a family that's being torn apart, the level of forgiveness is almost unbelievable at times. I don't want to go into details, but Sadie is one area where I got upset. Her actions at one point are no better than what she's been so angry about with her dad.

RTR's Bottom Line

The torment this family goes through was real. The pain each family member feels came through brilliantly. George really is a minor character. You don't get much input from him at all, so you don't know what really happened. That made the book unusual to me. You're kept in the dark in terms of what happened on that ski trip. The story is more about the impact of the impending trial.

The Best Kind of People isn't a bad read. I found it quite engrossing. There were aspects that bugged me, but I don't want to go into too much depth as spoilers are sure to happen. It really came down to me thinking the mom is the strongest character and the others bugged me.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Give Me Back My Book by Travis Foster and Ethan Long

Genre: Children's Picture Book
Publisher: Chronicle Kids
Release Date: September 5, 2017

Two creatures battle over a book in Give Me Back My Book. Redd is sitting near a stump enjoying the green book he's reading. Bloo shows up and demands that Redd give him back his book. The two begin arguing over whose book it is. When Book Worm shows up, what will happen next?

Travis Foster and Ethan Long have created a humorous look at both reading and the problem with arguments. I snickered a few times and found myself truly engaged. I can see children loving this book and wanting a copy for their shelves. It's easy to read, fun to look at, and has a great message.

Give Me Back My Book is a must for your family library, especially if you have kids who squabble over the same toy. Find out how Book Worm changes Redd and Bloo's focus and gets them to look twice at their actions.

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...