Prepublication Reviews and Expertly Selected Title Lists

Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

BittersweetNot to be missed, this wonderfully ambitious novel infused with mystery, danger, secrets, and gothically surreal environs will be the one people are reading on the beach this summer.  With writing reminiscent of authors such as Donna Tartt, Beverly-Whittemore shines in her third novel about a young, plain college girl and her longing to belong to the glamorous upper crust society enjoyed by her ethereal roommate.

Mabel Dagmar narrates the story of how she essentially worms her way into the glamorous Winslow family one fateful summer. Mabel and Genevra (Ev) Winslow are roommates who spend their vacation at Ev’s family estate in Vermont, a romantic and mysterious place that has as many secrets as it does ancestors. Smitten, soon Mabel finds herself enmeshed in a sordid family history and discovers forbidden knowledge that she must keep to herself if she wants to be accepted into this enigmatic clan.

Mabel shines as she leads us through her blooming transformation from quiet wallflower to assertive heroine. As the summer unfolds and Mabel and Ev, formerly inseparable, find themselves growing apart Mabel takes it upon herself to solve the mystery of Ev’s increasingly disturbing behavior. She soon discovers a most shocking and unbelievable truth.

A strange yet colorful cast of Winslow family characters are woven throughout the story and each adds their own element of danger and mystique. As the drama unfolds you’ll find yourself reading faster and faster until you reach its feverish and surprising conclusion. It’s been a long time since I relished a book of this nature. Beverly-Whittemore has found her niche—let’s hope it continues in the future.

- Susan

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Tuesday Tucks Me In by Luis Carlos Montalván

Tuesday Tucks Me InThis is the story of how a special dog was paired up with a war veteran to make him feel complete.

The dog, Tuesday, is a specially trained dog that helps Luis with everyday activities from reminding him to take his medicine to getting him his cane. Tuesday even sleeps beside Luis to help control the nightmares, called flashbacks, which he has from his time in the war.

Luis takes care of Tuesday every day also, he brushes him from the top of his head to the end of his tail. Luis also brushes Tuesday’s teeth and takes him to the park where he gets to be with other dogs.

There are service dogs for all kinds of people. They help them to live more independent lives. And although becoming a service dog is a lot of hard work, the human-animal relationship is very strong and rewarding.  What a beautiful story.

- Ellen

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Magnificent Vibration by Rick Springfield

Magnificent VibrationHoratio Cotton, aka Bobby Cotton, doesn’t have much going for him.  He’s alone, going through a divorce, and has a boring job.  Things take a turn for the weird when he steals a self-help book entitled Magnificent Vibration: Discover Your True Purpose from a local bookstore.  He decides to call the 1-800 number that’s on the inside cover and finds out that it’s God on the other end of the line!  I know pretty unbelievable, right?  Bobby thinks so too but comes to believe that it really is true. 

After a crazy turn of events, Bobby sets out on a kind of spiritual journey in hopes to find out what it all means and what God wants him to do.  He’s accompanied by his new friends Alice and Lexington, who are all connected by the Magnificent Vibration book.  The three deal with some big life questions like why did God want to speak with them?  Why are we here?  What is our purpose on Earth? And even the crazy question of is there a Loch Ness Monster?!

This is definitely a bit over-the-top and seems like a mix of science fiction and spiritual fiction.  It’s well-written with good character development.  The story is told from Bobby’s perspective and he is definitely an interesting and flawed character.  If you want to read something that’s fresh and unique, definitely pick this one up.

- Janell

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Resistant by Michael Palmer

ResistantDr. Lou Welcome is a recovering drug and alcohol addict who is now an ER doctor in D.C. His best friend and sponsor, Cap, is a longtime friend who has helped him through the worst times of his life.

Lou and Cap are at a medical conference in Atlanta and they decide to go trail running. When Cap is hurt during the run, Lou draws upon all of his medical experience to try to save him. After safely getting Cap to the hospital and on his way to recovery Lou must go back to D.C. to try to save his job.

While fighting for his job, and trying to raise money to take care of Cap’s medical bills, Lou gets a phone call that Cap has developed a serious infection in his leg. Lou immediately flies back to Atlanta and finds out that the news is worse than he thought. Cap has the newly dubbed flesh eating ‘Doomsday Germ’ that has infection specialists in a panic since the virus has mutated and is now resistant to all antibiotic treatments.

People have started dying and they have not found a cure yet. Lou must do everything in his power to find a way to save his friend.

As expected, Palmer’s newest medical suspense thriller is a great one! The action is nonstop from beginning to end. I really enjoyed a lot of the characters in this book.  Highly recommended!

- Tina

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Make “Green” Your Favorite Color: Earth Day 2014

We celebrate Earth day on April 22, 2014 but every day should be Earth Day!  Preserving our environment should always be a priority. Browse this list of titles covering everything you need to know about sustainability, alternative energy, conservation, climate change, recycling, and going green.  We all need to do our part to save our wildlife, resources, and our planet. View the entire list here.

Plastic Purge by Michael SanClementsPlastic Purge

Ecologist Michael SanClements provides helpful and easy-to-follow advice on how to use less plastic every day.  Plastic is all around us and the author details the affects that it has on our bodies and health. He helps you to recognize the harmful, as well as the helpful, plastic products in your life. Learn more and order here.

Chasing Cheetahs by Sy MontgomeryChasing Cheetahs

As part of the Scientist in the Field series, this title takes readers on a journey to the Namibian Savanna where Laurie Marker founded the Cheetah Conservation Fund. You join an expedition to find and rescue cheetahs and learn of their vital role in the ecosystem.  Learn more and order here.

Blessing the Hands That Feed Us by Vicki RobinBlessing the Hands That Feed Us

Author Vicki Robin explains her challenge to eat only local foods from within 10 miles of her home. Her dedication to 100% sustainable eating taught her about food, community, and our place on Earth.  Includes recipes.  Learn more and order here.

Brilliant! by Michelle Mulder Brilliant

Check out this positive introduction to the world of alternate energy!  Our current uses of fossil fuels, and their disadvantages, are discussed and kids are encouraged to look around them and find new, sustainable ways to provide power to the world.  Cool, innovative examples of alternate sources of energy are provided like cars that run on French fry grease.  Learn more and order here.

To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris

To Rise Again at a Decent HourPaul O’Rourke is a dentist, a Red Sox fan, and confused, in that order. His identity’s been stolen – but not by your average hacker.  He’s been duplicated online as a mystic and part of an obscure sect.

Paul is a nice boy with a very well-regulated routine, a lovely ex-girlfriend who works for him, and a successful practice. He isn’t looking for more complication in his life. He barely tolerates technology – but then one day discovers that a website has been created for his practice. The website begins to change daily, posting religious quotations from obscure texts. Paul researches, complains, threatens lawsuits, but to no avail. Someone somewhere is pretending to be him and saying some very curious things…then that person begins to tweet. Paul starts receiving e-mails from unlikely places, and then things begin to get wilder.

Paul embarks on a journey questioning everything he thought he knew, the relationships he has with those around him, and ultimately, himself and his place in the world. Along the way, he meets some true characters – the billionaire who can’t stop looking for God, a curio dealer who knows everything, a hygienist who is a moral compass, and several people who really ought to floss more.

Although religion and identity theft don’t sound like they make for light reading, under Ferris’ deft touch, the absurdity in the situations he creates does ultimately lead to laughter.  I found this book amusing, a great read for traveling. The characters are cheerfully drawn, the action is mainly conversation-driven, and there are no off-puttingly preachy moments.

- Stacey

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The Keillor Reader by Garrison Keillor

The Keillor ReaderGarrison Keillor, the pulse of Midwest America, has long entertained us with his wry, folksy brand of storytelling.  Best known as the creator of A Prairie Home Companion, his range of talents is far-reaching. The Keillor Reader is a wonderful amalgamation of the author’s best and most well-loved pieces running the full gamut with stories, essays, poems, and general observations about everyday life—a true encapsulation of what makes this author a national treasure.

There is a wide assortment of his most famous works with a good majority of highlights from his radio show – pieces that have stood the test of time and are loved by audiences nationwide. I enjoyed many laugh-out-loud moments, especially My Life in Prison (aka Tomato Butt) and Pontoon Boat but my favorite passages are the ones where Keillor offers commentary on the simple joys of life, the love he has for his ancestors, and coming clean with his list of Useful Things I Can’t Do.

These samplings whet my appetite to go forth and cull more gems from Keillor’s prolific back catalogue. I know I definitely want to spend some more time in Lake Wobegon with its quirky yet endearing cast of characters.

If you’ve never taken the opportunity before to enjoy Keillor, either via print or radio, now is a perfect opportunity to experience one of America’s finest writers and social commentators.

- Susan

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Flight School by Lita Judge

Flight SchoolI’m not sure what it is about me and being drawn to children’s books featuring animals that aren’t “normal”.  In my last review, I read about a crocodile who didn’t like to swim.  In Flight School, it features a penguin who longs to fly.  Maybe I just want the poor little things to succeed and never give up on their dreams, just like our children.

Penguin finds a flight school that teaches birds how to fly.  When told that he’s a penguin, he acknowledges it but says he has the soul of an eagle.  The teachers let him stay and flight class begins.  After several weeks of practicing, all the birdies were cleared for their first flight.  One by one the birds took to the sky.  Try as he might, penguin just can’t fly.

He leaves, head hung low.  As Penguin leaves, one of his teacher’s has an idea and hollers for him to wait.  They wrap Penguin in wire and feathers.  As he begins to flap his wings, he begins going up, up, up.  With a little help from his teacher, he was able to soar above the clouds like he always knew he could.

The end of the book especially made me chuckle.  I sincerely hope that there will be a follow up as I’m sure it will be just as enjoyable as this one.  Fans of Judge’s other works Red Sled and Red Hat, will surely love this book.

- Amanda

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Cutting Teeth by Julia Fierro

Cutting TeethLate in the summer, a group of “mommies’’ and a couple of the dads decide to take a trip to the beach together with their children. Each of them has issues, either in their personal lives or in their marriages, but they all put on a front.

Nicole suffers from severe anxiety. Her husband is not happy about her phobias (which are many!) and is constantly asking her if she needs to go back to the doctor or if she is taking her meds. She lies to him; she quit her medicine weeks ago, but struggles to keep it together for the sake of her son.

Susanna and Allie are the only two-mommy couple along on the trip. They have twin boys, are about to have a daughter, and should be extremely happy with their lives, but there are major issues brewing between them that are not being addressed.

Rip is the stay at home dad in the group. All the women love him and treat him just like another mommy. Rip is desperate to have another baby, but cannot get his cold as ice wife to agree.

Tiffany is the sanctimommy of the group, but is also the wildest and most outrageous of them all. After a few too many drinks, nobody knows what is going to come out of Tiffany’s mouth.

Leigh is the calm one of the group and Tiffany’s best friend. But, when they start fighting over Leigh’s nanny, things take a turn for the worst and the weekend is anything but pleasant.

The dynamics between the group will explode over their vacation weekend. Will they be able to push past the things that are said and done and stay friends or will their friendships end forever?

All in all, I really enjoyed this book and the characters. It’s a step away from the suspense thrillers I usually read, but I would recommend it to anyone.

- Tina

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A Season of Change by Lynette Sowell

A Season of ChangeAs the seasons change in life, the older you get, the more you realize things change. 

The Millers, Jacob, Zeke and Rebecca, are a young Amish family.  Reeling from the loss of his wife, Hannah, and child that died in child birth, Jacob takes the children to Pinecraft, Florida to visit Jacob’s grandparents.   While there, Rebecca is struck by a car.

While in the hospital recovering, Rebecca and her family meet Natalie Bennett, a former circus performer who is volunteering at the hospital as a clown to bring joy to the children.  Natalie has her own family drama.  Her father is remarried, living in California and is too busy for his oldest daughter.  Her mother, whom she just found out was raised Amish, recently passed away from cancer.

As Natalie finds herself with questions about her mother’s background, she also finds that this family has a hold on her heart.  As the young Miller family now takes up residence in Pinecraft as Rebecca heals, will their hearts heal as well?

While this is the first book in the Seasons in Pinecraft series and the first book I’ve read from Sowell, with the well-crafted, emotion filled story, this will certainly not be the last.  With Amish and Mennonite fiction being more popular than ever, I would add this new series to my shelf today.  Amish fiction fans will love this new story as much as I do.

- Becky

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