Prepublication Reviews and Expertly Selected Title Lists

I Text Dead People by Rose Cooper

I Text Dead PeopleMeet Annabel Craven, a young girl who does not believe in ghosts. Recently, Annabel and her mother moved to a new town and into a new home that was inherited from an estranged uncle. With the move to a new town comes a new school. Anna is excited to start and hopes to make new friends since she was friendless at her last school.

Events suddenly change when Anna finds an abandoned cell phone in the woods near the cemetery.  Anna, never having owned a cell phone, is extremely excited to find it. Thinking perhaps things are starting go her way; she’s even making new friends at the Academy. Suddenly one day at school, Anna receives a text on the new phone. The strangest thing is, Anna hasn’t charged the phone yet, the battery is dead.

The text is just one simple word: “Help”.

The story then introduces us to Lucy, a non-popular girl at the Academy who has a boyfriend named John. One day, Lucy receives a text from John’s number to meet him in the graveyard. She goes, and then mysteriously disappears. Could Lucy be the one sending the texts?

As the story continues, we’re introduced to a handful of new characters. Valerie (Anna’s mother), the Asbury twins (Olivia and Eden), John, and Millie.  Olivia, we find out, is rather mean to her classmates and her sister Eden, whose hobby is practicing witchcraft, is an ‘outsider’. Could any of these characters be the one sending the strange texts to Anna’s new found phone?

Throughout the book we learn a lot about Anna through the texts she receives and the interactions she has with her friends. In the end, we learn that sometimes things are not always what they seem to be and there are many types of abilities that we inherit from our family.

This is a book that I would recommend for ages 9 to 14.  With today’s technology, anything that has to do with cell phones is going to pop out to tween readers. It was a quick read and my daughter finished it in just two days.

– Jodi

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Love May Fail by Matthew Quick

Love May FailThe celebrated author of The Silver Linings Playbook returns with the equally quirky Love May Fail. Portia Kane is a self-declared feminist who embarks on a journey to find the meaning of life after she catches her no-good husband cheating on her. Disgusted with living the high life in Florida, Portia heads back to South Jersey to reconnect with her mother, a lonely hoarder. During the plane ride home, Portia chats with a mysterious nun whose interest in Portia’s hard luck story turns out to be the divine intervention she is looking for. Little does Portia realize that this chance meeting will set her on a path to personal redemption.

It is shortly thereafter that Portia discovers her favorite high school teacher Mr. Vernon has gone into hiding after a horrendous classroom incident. Considering this to be the epiphany she has been waiting for, Portia decides her life’s mission is to become his savior. While on this quest she enlists the help of some former high school friends that produces touching and surprising results.

Anyone growing up in the eighties will enjoy this novel full of nostalgia and cultural references. With its offbeat characters and at times improbable plot twists, the story may be a little long-winded and over the top for some, but for those readers that are Matthew Quick fans, they will certainly not be disappointed.

– Susan

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Make it Messy: My Perfectly Imperfect Life by Marcus Samuelsson

Make it MessyThis book was quite an interesting read as, to be honest, I had never heard of the world-famous chef and author before this. Mr. Samuelsson delivers an impactful and inspiring autobiography for teen readers with this new book based on his adult memoir, “Yes, Chef”. It is a story about overcoming incredible life challenges and rising to the top of one’s profession. Certainly there are mistakes made along the way, but that makes his story all the more encouraging and relatable.

Marcus was just a toddler in his native Ethiopia when a terrible tuberculosis epidemic swept through his village. Orphaned, but alive, he and his sister were adopted by a loving couple from Sweden, where they could escape the ravages of disease and hardship. Marcus quickly developed a fondness for food and cooking thanks to his new grandmother who helped him develop the skill and passion that would eventually become his life’s work.

Although briefly sidetracked with dreams of becoming a professional soccer player, Marcus never truly veers from his true calling as he trains and cooks in many of the finest kitchens in Europe. Eventually his ambitions bring him to New York City, where his work ethic and culinary skills quickly get him noticed by elite and important restaurants. Marcus goes on to many outstanding accomplishments, including being the youngest chef to ever receive two three-star ratings from the New York Times. He is the owner of the famed Red Rooster restaurant in Harlem and has also starred on Discovery Home Channel’s “Inner Chef” television series as well as many other achievements.

This book is filled with encouragement to young people about overcoming obstacles and pursuing their dreams.

– Mark

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The Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows

The Truth According to UsFans of the charming bestseller, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, will certainly want to get their hands on Annie Barrows’ latest novel. It’s as luscious and satisfying as an iced tea on a lazy summer afternoon! Harkening back to the simpler times of 1938 America, we are introduced to Miss Layla Beck, a spoiled southern belle who gets a wake-up call when her own father boots her out of the lap of luxury and forces her to go to work.

Sent to the sleepy town of Macedonia, West Virginia to write a dissertation on the town’s history for the Federal Writers’ Project, Layla initially balks at the idea. Soon enough, she finds herself becoming deeply attached to the Romeyn family, the household in which she is boarding during her stay. She starts to uncover all sorts of fascinating and titillating family secrets and is even more surprised to discover her own burgeoning attraction to notorious black sheep Felix Romeyn.

If you love family sagas, served up southern style, then you will love this book as much as I did. There are all sorts of characters, storylines, and plot twists to keep you reading into the wee hours. I highly recommend this as the perfect beach read, book group pick, Mother’s Day gift … well, you don’t even need a good reason to devour this one! Pick up a copy and see for yourself.

– Susan

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The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker

The Witch Hunter

The Witch Hunter is a fantastic story following the chaotic life of Elizabeth Gray. She is orphaned at a young age because of a plague believed to have been started by witches and wizards unknown. The direct result is the immediate eradication of witchcraft. Anyone found reading books associated with witchcraft, using herbs or practicing magic of any form will be sentenced to death.

Alone and starving, Elizabeth is saved by Caleb, who is also an orphan, and together they survive by becoming servants at the palace. Unhappy as a servant, Caleb aspires to be more, so he asks Elizabeth to join the elite team of witch hunters with him. Afraid to be left alone, but unsure this is the right choice for her, she blindly follows him.

They become the most fierce witch hunters the land has ever seen, bringing countless witches and wizards to justice. She is soon betrayed, imprisoned, and sentenced to death. With little hope, Elizabeth is rescued by a wizard and is forced to reevaluate everything she has ever believed. She finds friends and allies in the most unlikely places.

This is a fast paced book that keeps you on the edge of your seat. I genuinely look forward to reading the sequel.

– Renee

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Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave

Eight Hundred GrapesEight Hundred Grapes is Laura Dave’s fourth book and my first experience with this author.  It’s set in the beautiful Sonoma wine country with characters I hated to say good-bye to.

Georgia Ford and her fiancé Ben are days away from getting married when Georgia suddenly learns that Ben has been keeping a secret, one that will change their future.  Georgia runs to her safe haven, her family’s vineyard, only to find that her family is coming apart in unexpected ways.

Dan and Jen Ford’s marriage has been the kind of relationship that has set the standard for Georgia, but now it’s on the brink of dissolving. Georgia’s brothers, Bobby and Finn are suddenly at odds over a woman, Bobby’s wife no less.

The vineyard is also a member of the family in its own way. The work is risky; a bad harvest or two can rock your financial stability, but ultimately it’s fulfilling and meaningful work.

Through flashbacks we see Georgia and Ben’s idyllic relationship blossom and grow, but now everything is changing with the discovery of a daughter Ben never knew he had, a daughter whose mother clearly still has feelings for him. And worst of all, Ben kept it a secret from Georgia.

Can this family sort out their relationships?  Or will everything conspire against them to ruin Georgia and Ben’s big day?

I highly recommend this title to anyone who loves a good, satisfying book that slowly reveals its layers.  It’s worth getting to know these characters despite their very human flaws.  Ultimately, this story is about the choices we make in life and how our family influences those choices.

– Amy

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Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones

Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poutry FarmerSophie Brown and her family have just moved from Los Angeles to an old farm. The farm belonged to her great uncle that passed away.  While exploring the farm, she comes across a catalog for the Redwood Farm Supply in the barn.  To pass the time, she writes letters to her grandmother, uncle and to Redwood Farm Supply.  In her letters, she describes her adventures and her feelings.

Although she believes the farm to be animal free, she wakes up one morning and discovers a little white chicken hanging around the old chicken coop.  This chicken is far from ordinary.  She cares for the chicken and swears it has super powers and isn’t sure what to do.  After several letters, Agnes at the Redwood Farm Supply replies and advises her to keep the chicken a secret.

As the weeks pass, more chickens begin making appearances.  These chickens also have their own special traits. Sophie learns that the neighbor boy has information on three more chickens that belonged to Sophie’s great uncle.  However, they’re being held captive by a local farmer who wants the chickens for their unique abilities.

Will Sophie be able to rescue the missing chickens or will the farmer succeed in stealing all the unusual chickens?

  • Amanda

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The Disappearance of Emily H. by Barrie Summy

The Disappearance of Emily HHaving just moved from Detroit to New York, we meet Raine as she is preparing to register for 8th grade.  Raine has a special gift; she collects people’s sparkles, which is a glimpse of a person’s memory.

Growing up, Raine lived with her grandmother, but after she died, Raine’s mother began taking care of her.  Raine’s grandmother also had the ability to read sparkles.

Raine is quick to learn who the mean girls in the school are, but unfortunately two of them are in cross-country with her.  While walking her dog, Raine sees a missing sign for Emily Huvar.  Emily is a 13-year-old girl who disappeared a few months ago.  Raine learns that she and her mother moved into Emily’s house.

As Raine delves into people’s memories, she learns enough to make her want to solve the case of Emily’s disappearance.  Will she get to the bottom of the mystery or is there more to this case than just a missing girl?

I highly recommend this book.  I was immediately drawn in and was enthralled until the end.  This was a great mystery with plenty of twists and turns.  The bullying throughout broke my heart a little, but unfortunately, it’s a harsh reality of what people go through in today’s society.

– Amanda

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The Cage by Megan Shephard

The CageWhat would you do if you woke up in a desert on an alien world with six other teens and learned that every road brought you right back to where you started? As exhibits in a human zoo, observed by unseen aliens lurking behind black observation windows, six teen captives fail to escape and begin to accept their new lives…all except Cora, whose unique relationship with the alien Caretaker will leave her changed in ways she could not have imagined.

Cora Mason may be the daughter of a senator, but her life of privilege vanished the night she took the fall for her father and pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide. Joined by four fellow captives and the boy who was secretly responsible for the car accident that killed his mother and sent Cora to juvenile detention, Cora learns that they have been trapped by a race of aliens.

Cora is eventually forced to face her greatest fear if she hopes to escape the ‘cage’. Betrayal changes her motivations at book’s end, when she vows to make the aliens, known as the Kindred, pay for ‘rescuing’ humans from an Earth that may or may not still exist.

The execution of the Twilight Zone-esque hook keeps the plot moving, which is no small feat when you realize this is the first book of a series. As a Twilight Zone and alien story fan, I was eager to read this story. Shepherd even gives a clever nod to The Twilight Zone in the novel’s opening pages.

Overall, I enjoyed the quick pacing and plot twists enough to read the second book of this series. I recommend this book to Shepherd fans looking for a mysterious alien story and readers who like a little more mystery with their young adult love triangles.

– Travis

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The Sweetheart Deal by Polly Dugan

The Sweetheart DealWould you honor a spontaneous pact made with your best friend a dozen years ago knowing that the outcome could seal your fate forever?

This is the question that haunts Garrett.  He and pal Leo created an agreement which stated that Garrett must marry Leo’s widow Audrey in the event of his death. Although this request took him by surprise at the time, Garrett signs the paper after Leo won’t take no for an answer.

Fast forward twelve years when Leo dies in a skiing accident. Garrett, still a bachelor, cannot forget the promise he made but has no idea if Audrey knows about the pact. At the time of his death, Leo was in the middle of renovating his home and Garrett sees this as the perfect opportunity to begin honoring the deal. Moving in with Audrey and her three sons to finish the task seems like an honest way to launch their friendship into something more. But when Audrey finds out Garrett’s true intentions, all hope seems lost.

More than your typical romance novel, the story exposes what happens to the family dynamic amid loss and change. Feelings between Audrey and Garrett are explored as well as the effect of their relationship on her grieving sons. This multi-faceted and tender story is sure to have you reaching for your nearest tissue box as well as inspiring many a discussion in a book club setting.

– Susan

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