Prepublication Reviews and Expertly Selected Title Lists

Thomas Jefferson: President and Philosopher by Jon Meacham

91kBUxNIxKL._SL1500_The author’s intended audience is young adult and offers all the facts in a readable comprehensive way. He follows Jefferson from childhood, as he watched his father care for their Virginia home, and was taught the importance of manners and of living well.

Losing his father at the age of 14, Jefferson had to mind the estate, and became interested in learning politics and meeting the various authority figures in Virginia. It’s interesting to see the early years, because by the time he shows up in most history books, he’s already in the Continental Congress.

We get to see how he interacted with the other members of the Continental Congress. Jefferson didn’t like confrontation, nor did he care for being criticized or ridiculed. He preferred to bide his time and wait for the opportune moment, putting his argument on the table, or in writing, and persuading others to his way of thinking. He had great skill for eloquence, conveying his point without being crass or rude.

As the book progresses, it describes how he lived during the Revolutionary War. This, the author tells us, inspires Jefferson’s decision to run for President. He became fearful of the direction the nation was taking as a whole, and felt that if he could be President, he would have a better chance at keeping the newly formed United States free of British rule.

He ran again at the end of Adams’ term, and succeeded. He did his best to rectify what he saw as any overtly Federalist notions, and bring the nation ‘back on track’. After his Presidency ended, Jefferson retired to Monticello, where he died on July 4th, 1826.

Overall, the book was enjoyable, and gave me a better grasp of the history of Jefferson’s life and the events around him.

- Lana

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Five Days Left by Julie Lawson Timmer

download (1)Four years ago, Mara, a successful lawyer and devoted wife and mother, was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease. She made a promise to herself that when she started displaying symptoms that meant the disease was progressing she would take her own life to spare her family the pain of watching her degenerate and having to take care of her.

Four years later, Mara has been forced to retire from her job and she can no longer drive due to her disease. She has decided on the date when she will take her life and it’s now five days away.

Scott, an online friend she met on a forum, has been fostering a young boy for the past year while his drug addicted mother is in jail. He has bonded and become extremely close to the boy, but now he only has five days left to say goodbye before the boy is returned to his mother.  He has never meet Mara, but they often chat at night about their lives. He does not know that Mara has a fatal disease.

In the 5 days leading up to her planned death Mara goes through a million different emotions and changes her mind over and over again about her plan. Will she decide to wait and see how much longer she can last before becoming totally dependent on others and thus have more time with her family? Or, will she go through with her plan?

I will admit that this book made me cry more than once. I can’t imagine going through this type of pain especially when you have young children. Make sure you have lots of tissues nearby when you read this one.

The Lost Key by Catherine Coulter

downloadNicholas Drummond has just left his job in London and come to New York as a new FBI agent. His new partner is Mike Caine and on his first day they are called out to a stabbing on Wall Street. They track down the murderer only to have him commit suicide as soon as they have him in their custody.

As they start investigating the victim, John Pearce, they find connections to a very old and secretive group called the Highest Order that dates back to the early 1900’s. Pearce’s dying words ‘the key is in the lock’ sends Drummond and Caine on a race around the world to try to solve the riddle of what the key is and where to find the lock.

Up against a madman, Manfred Havelock, they must solve the puzzle before Havelock gets to it first. Havelock will do anything, including murder, to find the lock and key because he knows what it contains and he will use it to rule the world.

Pearce’s son, Adam, is the only other person who has figured out the riddle, but he has disappeared along with his sister Sophie. If Drummond and Caine, with Sophie’s and Adam’s help, don’t stop Havelock the world will be forever changed.

This was one of the best Catherine Coulter books I have read. It was a very fast paced thriller with non-stop action.

- Tina

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We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas

We Are Not OurselvesWe Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas

This is the story of Eileen Tumulty. When we first meet Eileen she is nine years old and sitting in a bar doing her homework. Her father would pick her up from school and together they would go to the bar where he worked. They would stay there until they left together to go home for supper.

After she graduates from high school she decides to go to school for nursing. She soon after meets her future husband. He seems to be a respectable man and is putting himself through college. Eileen’s husband, Ed Leary, eventually gets his PhD and becomes an expert on the brain. He becomes a professor, while continuing to do research, and much to Eileen’s disappointment, he continually refuses the promotions that come his way.

They decide the time is right to have a child and Eileen wants to move up so they buy an expensive house in a well-to-do neighborhood. It is here that their son Connell grows up. Unfortunately sadness will enter Eileen’s life. She must make some life altering decisions that will affect her family forever.

We see Eileen as a very strong woman, as she works to overcome the hardships that life has thrown at her. In reading this book I can see what is put in front of all women. It’s what we do with these struggles that define us and makes us who we are.

- Ellen

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The Perfect Witness

The Perfect Witness

The Perfect Witness by Iris Johansen

As a child, Teresa Casali discovered that she has a strange psychic gift –  she can read other people’s memories. After growing up with abusive parents who used her abilities for their own gains she trusts no one. Her gift is a curse to her in many ways. At sixteen, her stepfather tries to have her killed because he feels threatened by her and she is rescued by a man named Mandak. Although she doesn’t trust Mandak she has no other choice but to go on the run with him.

Mandak has his own special psychic gifts and he trains Teresa to control her own before she loses her sanity. But, he also has his own agenda that he refuses to reveal to her.  After months of physical and mental training he puts her into a Witness protection program with a new name and she goes to live with friends of his, although he visits every few months to make sure she is ok and to reinforce her mental blocks.

Seven years later, under her new name of Allie, she has finally learned to completely control her gift and to block out most people’s memories. She has grown to love the elderly couple that she has lived with the past 7 years and she is about to graduate college.

Then, her cover is blown and the very people she loves the most are in great danger. Once the truth comes out, Allie decides that she needs to use her gift to help Mandak put an end to a man who has been slaughtering his family for years even while putting her own life at risk.

I mostly enjoy Iris Johansen’s books and she has great story lines, however, I wish she would develop some unique characters. Since her Eve series, every book has a very strong willed, in your face, woman character that doesn’t trust anyone and they all have the same personalities. I would like to see a new type of character in her future books.

- Tina

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The Wonder of All Things by Jason Mott

The Wonder of All ThingsA North Carolina airshow turns into a nightmare when a plane crashes into the crowd killing and injuring dozens of people.

 Thirteen-year-old Ava is a healer, but this talent has been kept a well-guarded secret all her life. When she heals her critically injured friend, Wash, in front of dozens of people, her life takes a very dangerous turn. After making headlines, she is inundated with people who want her to heal them or their loved ones and Ava’s life changes very quickly. She desperately wants to help, but every time she uses her gift she is drained and her own health is affected.

 Ava must decide whether her own health is more important than the ones she loves. Will she sacrifice herself to save others?

 This was the first book I’ve read by Jason Mott and I look forward to reading more.

 – Tina

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Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

jpegI will start off by saying that this book is not for the faint at heart. The murders are gruesome. That being said, if you love murder mysteries that are full of suspense you will love this book.

Detective Gabriella Versado is not new to the murder scene. This case, however, has disturbed her more than any other. Not only has the victim been horrifyingly mutilated and fused together with an animal, but the victim is an 11 year old child. Soon more victims follow, all left in similar fashion to the first one.

Meanwhile, Detective Versado’s teenage daughter, Layla, is playing with fire of her own with her best friend Cas. They have targeted an online child sex predator and have decided to try to lure him in on their own. But have they bitten off more than they can chew? When they lure him to a public meeting place things get out of hand and they realize that they may have invited a monster’s anger on to them.

Enter Jonno, a freelance writer who will do whatever it takes to get the story. When videos and a blog of the murders go viral on the internet the perpetrator of the crimes seems to thrive on this as does Jonno.

I will say that by the end of the book, the story line takes a very bizarre turn. There is definitely a touch of Stephen King and Dean Koontz in this book, from the gory crime scenes to the supernatural touch in the end. Overall I enjoyed it and would definitely read more from this author.

- Glenda

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Lug: Dawn of the Ice Age by David Zeltser

LugLug is not your typical caveboy.  He likes to draw on the walls of the cave and isn’t violent.  Imagine how well this goes over.

We meet Lug as he is waking up with a lump on his head.  He doesn’t remember much.  His father informs him that Boulder, aka Big Man, wants to banish Lug from the clan. 

 Like a flood, memories of what happened came rushing back.  Earlier that day, the cavemen gathered in the hunting cave.  The caveboys were preparing to catch wild macrauchenia (llama).  If they failed, they are banished from the clan but if they succeeded they became cavemen.  The captured llamas were used for the Big Game of Headstone against their neighboring rivals’ clan, the Boar Riders. 

 Lug was shoved out of the cave by Bonehead (Big Man’s son) and shortly thereafter the others raced out and began capturing llamas.  Lug ends up getting headbutted by a llama and blacks out.

Lug gets banished.  To make matters worse, he ends up getting Bonehead banished too and is now being hunted by him.

He and Stony, the other caveboy that was banished, end up in Boar Riders’ territory.  They are eventually thrown in a cave and sealed in.  Echo, a red-haired Boar Rider girl, helps them escape.

 She takes them to another cave where she bring outs a Woolly Mammoth. No one had ever seen one and she came up with a brilliant idea to get Lug and Stony accepted back into their clan.

Will they be accepted back?  Do they win the Big Game?  How exactly does Lug save our species?  You won’t regret reading this one to find out.

 – Amanda

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Marlene, Marlene, Queen of Mean by Jane Lynch

Marlene, Marlene, Queen of MeanMarlene is the mean girl.  She pinches, kicks, flicks, and scowls. She is queen of the sidewalk, playground and the school and you better watch out or she’ll trip you and hit you.

 Tired of her meanness, Freddy decides to stand up to her. He decides she’s not very tall and there’s no reason to be afraid of her. And even though Marlene attacks the kids, they still stand their ground and tell her she’s a bully. Marlene starts to cry and realizes she can’t be a bully anymore.  She becomes someone else, someone who is nice and helpful. Although she still occasionally slips and is mean, she has been made to see the error of her ways and decides this is a much better way to be.

 This comical rhyming picture book is great to read to a bully or to someone who is being bullied.  

 – Tina

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The $25,000 Flight by Lori Haskins Houran

The $25,000 Flight by Lori Haskins HouranAll achievements start with a dream.  Ten-year-old Charles Lindberg was no exception.  

 In the early 1900s, the airplane was invented.  Flying, however, at that time was only for risk takers.  Contests were set-up to push the limits of both the airplanes and the pilots.

 Raymond Orteig, a very successful businessman, decided to come up with a prize of his own.  In 1919, he offered a reward of $25,000 to the first pilot to fly nonstop from New York to Paris.  This was a huge undertaking at the time, as the most current challenge was to fly 1900 miles and this one was 3600!

 Enter Charles Lindberg.  After flight school, Lindberg had taken a job as a barnstormer.  He lived up to his nickname, Daredevil Lindbergh, with daring moves such as walking out onto a wing of a plane and staying on it while it flew a loop-de-loop.

 After a few years, Lindberg left his stunt days behind him.  He joined the army and eventually took a job with the airmail service.  Throughout his career, he dreamt of the Orteig Prize.  He started planning but wasn’t able to find a company to back him.

 Finally, he found a company to back him that exceeded his expectations.  He pored over charts of the Atlantic Ocean and read every book he could on navigation.  He charted his course and planned for other issues he may face – weight, fuel, etc.

 With his plane, Spirit of St. Louis, finished, tested, and ready, Lindbergh made his way to the starting line.  On May 20th, 1927, Lindbergh left New York.

 After roughly 33 hours, pressing through sleep deprivation, fog, ice clouds, storms, and more, Lindbergh landed in Paris.

 Charles Lindbergh was celebrated, praised, and rewarded throughout the world.

 What a legend and what a book!  I strongly recommend picking this one up.

 – Amanda


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