Prepublication Reviews and Expertly Selected Title Lists

The Year My Mother Came Back by Alice Eve Cohen

The Year My Mother Came BackIn this quirky memoir, Alice Eve Cohen claims that her mother Louise, dead thirty years, is making “visits” in the author’s daily life. While you may approach this with raised eyebrow (as I did) don’t let that stop you from enjoying this little gem. The author’s writing is fun and personable, even though the premise of the story is just a little hokey.

Cohen is having a No Good, Very Bad year when her daughter Julia decides to find her birth mother, her other daughter Eliana must endure painful leg surgeries, and Cohen herself is diagnosed with breast cancer. Channeling her mother (who also had breast cancer) to help comfort and console her seems to be Cohen’s only recourse. Through various mother-daughter interactions we discover the author’s painful past and what drives her to become Uber-Mother, taking up the slack of Louise’s own dubious parenting skills.

All in all, this memoir will no doubt warm the cockles of your heart and will most certainly make a nice addition to your Mother’s Day reading fare.

– Susan

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The Fifth Gospel by Ian Caldwell

The Fifth GospelI can honestly say that I was leery in reading this novel for a couple of reasons.  First being that I didn’t read the author’s first novel, The Rule of Four, and second, I’m not very big on religious reads.  The outcome was pleasantly surprising.

Alex Andreou is a Greek Catholic priest who lives inside the Vatican as a single parent with his five-year-old son.  Simon, Alex’s brother, has moved into the main Catholic Church and is a priest in the Vatican Secretariat.

Simon calls Alex and begs him to pick him up at the Castel Gandolfo.  When Alex arrives, he sees his friend Ugo, curator of a groundbreaking exhibit, dead.    Ugo was set to disprove the scientific evidence based on scriptural and historical documentation of the Shroud of Turin, which has been a symbol of Christianity for centuries, but it was recently proven to be a fake dating back to the Middle Ages.

Simon is being implicated in Ugo’s murder and Alex’s only hope to save him is to reconstruct Ugo’s secret.    This secret is about the four Christian gospels and the fifth gospel named the Diatessaron, which reveals information about the Church’s most controversial holy relic.

Can Alex uncover the mystery and save his brother?  Pick up a copy and find out for yourself.

  • Amanda

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The League of Beastly Dreadfuls by Holly Grant

The League of Beastly DreadfulsAnastasia McCrumpet is a 5th grade student at Mooselick Elementary where she’s a completely average almost eleven-year-old girl.  She lives with her parents (and a grudge-holding, revenge-pooping guinea pig named Muffy) in an ordinary house, in an ordinary town. And as you may have guessed, she feels very ordinary too. But there’s more to the story after Anastasia finds out that her parents may have suddenly died in a tragic vacuum cleaner accident. After hearing the news, she’s whisked away by two “great aunts” who she doesn’t recall ever meeting and quickly turn out to be not so great. Aunts Prudence and Primrose take Anastasia to their home – the former St. Agony’s Asylum for the Criminally Insane.

Soon the mystery deepens as she discovers strange goings on at the creepy castle-like residence. Anastasia quickly realizes that her aunties may not be who they claim to be and that she’s being held against her will. While exploring the asylum, she meets mysterious brothers Quentin and Ollie and the trio begin to plan their escape. This book tells a fantastical account and is filled with shapeshifters, shadow dwellers and other oddities as well. Who will come to the rescue for Anastasia and expose the sinister “aunties” for who they really are? You will be surprised by the ending.

– Mark

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Someone is Watching by Joy Fielding

Someone is WatchingBailey Carpenter is a private investigator who is very good at her job. But late one night, while watching a house, she is brutally beaten and raped. Devastated, and with her whole life turned upside down, Bailey refuses to leave her apartment and is suffering from PTSD and panic attacks. When her estranged half-sister, Claire, and her daughter start coming around to help take care of her, Bailey begins to get her strength back and decides to start investigating the attack herself.

After several false alarms thinking she’s seen her rapist the cops are not taking her seriously anymore. When Bailey begins spying on her male neighbor and sees alarming things happening, she reports them to the police who are threatening to arrest her for harassment and stalking. Is Bailey losing her mind or is someone close to her messing with her head? Her attacker may be closer than she thinks.

I really enjoyed this suspense thriller by Fielding. It moved along at a fast pace and keeps you guessing right to the very last page.

– Tina

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The Future of the Catholic Church with Pope Francis by Gary Wills

The Future of the Catholic ChurchHighly respected journalist and Catholic Church observer Gary Wills once again puts his beloved institution under the proverbial microscope, this time focusing his attention on cultural icon Pope Francis.

With all the well-deserved attention and brouhaha this pope has elicited it’s no surprise we are being exposed to a glut of opinions and advice on how he should change the church. Francis’ behavior and refreshing attitude about running  the 2,000 year old establishment has gotten many a Catholic excited (and a few disgruntled).

Using several key touch points in Catholic history, Wills gives fine argument as to why the church needs to update its practices and doctrines to survive. A good percentage of his viewpoint stresses the imperative need to bury the senseless cronyism and patriarchal attitudes that have managed to thrive under many a popedom.

While the writing style may be a little dry for some readers, I did enjoy Wills’ amusing anecdotes and opinions peppered throughout the book. Those who are interested in juxtaposing church history with contemporary hot-button issues (Latin Mass, contraception, and confession, to name a few) will find this absorbing and relevant reading.

– Susan

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Lacy Eye by Jessica Treadway

Lacy EyeHanna and Joe are an average married couple with two daughters. They’ve always known that their youngest daughter, Dawn, was different, but were never overly concerned about her other than by the bullying she received from her peers due to a lazy eye and seeming to be mentally “off”.

When Dawn brings home her new boyfriend, Rud, both Hanna and Joe can’t help but wonder about his intentions with their daughter.  When they are burglarized, while Dawn’s boyfriend is the only one home, Joe accuses Rud of stealing from them and Dawn and Rud take off.

Later that night, Joe and Hanna are brutally attacked and Joe is killed while Hanna is left for dead. Miraculously, Hanna survives, but she doesn’t remember anything that happened that night. Rud is convicted of the attack and sent to prison while Dawn is never charged with any crime and has an alibi for the night of the attack.

Three years later, Dawn lives across the country and only speaks to her mother by phone. Rud wins an appeal to have a new trial without some of the damaging testimony that helped put him away. When Hanna hears the news, she is determined to try anything to bring back her memory from that night so she can testify against him.

When Dawn suddenly decides she needs to come home to be with her mom Hanna is thrilled and hopes to rebuild their relationship. Things don’t go the way that Hanna imagined and she may have to face some very hard truths about her family.

This book did not end as I expected, but it was very well written and fast paced and I couldn’t put it down. I’ll be watching for more novels by this author.

– Tina

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Forgiveness 4 You by Ann Bauer

Forgiveness for YouAnn Bauer’s latest offering is a guilty pleasure of a novel which will either delight you or… offend you. Given my inherent interest in the cultural hub-bub generated by our current “rock-star” Pope, I was immediately lured by the intriguing title.

Gabe McKenna is a former priest with a deep secret. We are left to wonder what this Big Secret is and the author has fun teasing us along as we try to decipher the mysterious loner. Selling books in a downtown Mom-and-Pop bookstore after he abruptly quits the priesthood is Gabe’s immediate plan. Seems to be working too, that is, until Madeline Murray stumbles in and breaks down with a sobbing confession.

It’s not long afterward that a “Light bulb Moment” takes place:  Madeline happens to be an ad exec looking to save her floundering agency and Gabe inspires her to come up with the brilliant idea of “selling” confessions to the general public. All the forgiveness with none of the work! Even though Gabe is a little skeptical about the idea he is quickly swept away into the fast-paced environs of Madeline’s agency. Having a taste of the secular life he seldom knew, Gabe soon finds himself attracted not only to the CEO but all the worldly trappings that come along with the brand Forgiveness 4 You.

It’s a crazy ride for Gabe & Co. and the surprise ending will have you thinking about this kaleidoscopic cast of characters long after the last page is read. An irreverent, original, and highly entertaining book that will no doubt be chatted up at the local water cooler. It will also make an outstanding book club discussion involving Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials.

– Susan

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The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten

The Unlikely Hero of Room 13BThis book centers on a boy named Adam Spencer Ross. Within the first three pages we learn he is almost 15-years-old, has OCD and has fallen madly in love with a girl he’s just seen for the first time. We also learn that he would like to be taller and older and normal which is hard enough for anyone at that age. Room 13B is where a group of fellow teens meet as part of the Young Adult OCD Support Group. The girl that just entered Adam’s world is named Robyn and she is all he can think about – for the most part. His parents are divorced. Adam’s dad is remarried and stays at work as much as possible so he doesn’t have to deal with things. His young step brother is annoying but completely devoted and adoring of Adam. Adam’s mother has some troubling challenges of her own that only compound his difficulties in life. She’s begun to receive some threatening letters but it’s not clear who the sender is.

This book does a superb job of giving the reader some insight into the challenges and struggles of OCD while mixing in romance, suspense and real life dilemmas we all have faced.

– Mark

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Nightbird by Alice Hoffman

NightbirdNightbird is a wonderfully enchanting tale about acceptance, friendship and love.  The story is narrated by a little girl named Twig that has a secret that she can share with no one.   Twig’s family has been living with a 200 year old curse that affects only the men in their family and they will do anything to keep their secret. Everyone in town believes that they are being terrorized by monsters but in reality it’s far less mystical.  Twig and the rest of her family have kept themselves separate from the town folk in order to keep their curse a secret and everything is going fine until someone moves into the house next to their orchards. This is a beautiful story about friendship and love with just enough fantasy to keep you guessing.  All becomes clear as the story unfolds into a surprising ending!

I would think this book is targeted towards middle school age children but it’s interesting enough to keep adults entertained. Very good book!

– Renee

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Bettyville by George Hodgman

BettyvilleA crowd pleaser that speaks to many different audiences, Bettyville is a wonderfully tender, honest, and heartfelt memoir about a man and his mother as she enters her golden years.

Unemployed and struggling to cope with the turn his life has now taken, George Hodgman finds himself leaving New York City and returning home to Paris, Missouri to care for his ailing mother, Betty. Their relationship can be described as tempestuous at best, but George is bound and determined to do the right thing and take full responsibility for his caregiving duties.

George describes his curmudgeonly mother with both sarcasm and loving humor but at the end of the day we know they share an unbreakable bond of affection. The author’s witty dialogue and self-deprecating humor barely masks his deep seated longing to be loved for who he is. Growing up gay in a small town was a painful experience for George and the hurt still runs deep. His parents never accepted this part of their son’s life and mostly looked the other way. While George clamors for validation of his inner feelings he resigns himself to the fact that Betty, who is now 90 years old, will never fully accept him for who he is.

Both an ode to caregivers and the people they care for, this book will surely resonate and inspire a wide range of library patrons.

– Susan

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