Prepublication Reviews and Expertly Selected Title Lists

Archive for the tag “Book Reviews”

The Furies by Mark Alpert

The FuriesWhen I first picked up this book, looked at the cover and read the description I, for some reason thought it was going to be a book about fairies or witches even though it was being called a thriller.  I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I was wrong on both counts and it truly was a thriller (and a great one at that!).

John Rogers lives a very lonely life. He is divorced and doesn’t have any family. On a job hunting trip to New York he meets a beautiful woman in a bar and they spend the next few hours talking about life in general. As the night inevitably comes to an end he takes her back to her hotel. After only being there for about 10 minutes, they are attacked by a gang of men and John has no idea what is going on. He soon finds out that his new friend, Ariel, has more secrets than he could have ever imagined.

As they fight for their lives he begins to see that Ariel is not just a beautiful woman, but a strong, rebellious woman whose family and secrets go back hundreds of years. When they finally escape, Ariel has no choice but to take him to ‘Haven’ to meet her family, The Furies. With his future unknown and wondering whether he will live or die, John decides that Ariel is worth fighting for and he will do whatever he can to be a part of her life.

I really enjoyed this book and I did not want it to end. I will admit that the ending was a bit disappointing because I felt it was cut short, but I am holding out hope for another book about the Furies to continue the story.

– Tina

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Until You’re Mine by Samantha Hayes

Until You're MineClaudia has always wanted to have a baby, but has never been able to successfully carry to term.

Pregnant again, after many losses, she has finally reached the end of her pregnancy and is due to deliver in a few weeks. Overwhelmed with stress from her job as a social worker and helping her husband raise his twin sons, she puts out an ad to hire a live-in nanny. Zoe comes with glowing recommendations and seems to bond with the children instantly so Claudia hires her to start right away. Zoe seems to blend in with the family very well, but there is something about her that Claudia doesn’t trust.

Meanwhile, there have been vicious attacks on pregnant women in the area and a murderer is on the loose. Claudia and her pregnant friend Pip are on high alert and are scared for their lives. Will they be next?

This book was riveting from the very beginning. The shocking twist at the end blew my mind. I never saw it coming! This author has been added to my watch list.


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New Life, No Instructions by Gail Caldwell

New LifeIn this quiet testimony, Gail Caldwell shares her story of physical and emotional reclamation, as she begins to heal after the death of her best friend Caroline (their story was eloquently told in the author’s previous memoir Let’s Take the Long Way Home).  The power of the human spirit and the healing powers of a pet dog are remarkable.

Living alone and feeling the need for canine comfort, Gail decides on a whim to get a Samoyed puppy. She has an affinity for the breed, having raised and enjoyed many of them over the years. Bringing Tula into her life may have been a rash decision but as soon as Gail lay eyes on her there was no turning back.

As they become swiftly and irrevocable attached, Gail notices that the demands of such an active dog aggravates her leg that has bothered her for many years. In her childhood she suffered from polio and always figured it was the aftermath of the disease that caused her leg to hurt. After seeing a variety of specialists, a comprehensive exam finally revealed that the problem was not her leg but her hip. The years had taken their toll and now it was time for a hip replacement.

How Gail resolved the problem of her physical recovery from hip surgery and the caretaking of her beloved Samoyed during this time is truly an inspiring story of grit, determination, and the importance of community. If you loved Gail’s previous works or are a fan of writers like Anne Lamott and Sue Monk Kidd this courageous memoir is one you are sure to treasure.

– Susan

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Children’s Book Week: May 12-18, 2014: Cover to Cover, Coast to Coast

Let’s get kids reading during Children’s Book Week, May 12-18th, 2014!  The Cover to Cover, Coast to Coast theme encompasses both fiction and nonfiction titles that explore the United States and their unique cities.  Kids and teens can “travel” from coast to coast and learn about history, sights, sounds, plants, animals, haunted places, as well as stories about or that take place in famous American cities. Readers will be transported to places they’ve never been!  View the entire list here.

The Kid’s Guide to Washington, DC by Eileen OgintzKids Guide

This is the perfect guide to planning a family trip to our nation’s capital! Kids will be engaged with fun facts, travel tips, and games that are included in the book, and will love exploring the city when you visit the kid-approved sights and restaurants. Learn more and order here.

Larry Gets Lost in Boston by John SkewesLarry Gets Lost in Boston

Larry the dog always seems to get separated from his owner Pete, and this time it’s in the city of Boston. The adorable pup goes on quite an adventure, visiting historic landmarks and learning fun facts about the city, before being reunited with his family. Learn more and order here.

National Geographic Kids National Parks Guide U.S.A.: The Most Amazing Sights, Scenes, and Cool Activities from Coast to Coast by The National Geographic SocietyNational Geographic Kids

Get kids excited about visiting the national parks!  This is an informative and fun guide to 24 national parks within the United States. It includes information on history and wildlife, as well as family-friendly attractions. Also included are activities and games so the kids will never get bored!  Learn more and order here.

Lone Wolves by John E. SmelcerLone Wolves   

16-year-old Deneena wants to learn all she can about her Native Alaskan language, history, and folklore from her grandfather.  No one understands her connection to her heritage or nature and they ridicule her desire to participate in the Great Race or Iditarod, a seminal 1,000-mile dog-sled competition. She enters with an outcast wolf as her lead dog, in hopes to prove her worth and win the prize.  Learn more and order here.

Living With a Wild God by Barbara Ehrenreich

living with a wild godAnyone familiar with Barbara Ehrenreich knows that she has a strong opinion or two…or three. If you have read any of her previous works then you know what I mean. But none of her former heavy hitters prepared me for her latest zeitgeist.

While on a mission to organize her papers for storage in a university library she discovers a long-forgotten journal she wrote in her teenage years. At the tender age of 14, when most girls spend their time thinking about boys and makeup, Ehrenreich’s biggest concern was to find The Meaning of Life. While this may be somewhat unsettling it was not at all surprising considering how she was raised. The daughter of two very outspoken atheists was groomed to be a staunch non-believer and rely on scientific data rather than the religious “hogwash” that surrounded them in Butte, Montana. Barbara spent her teenage years ruminating on the age-old questions of “Why are we here?” and “Do we really exist?”

Then when she turned 17 she experienced a kind of “mystical experience” during a visit to the desert. Hard pressed to put this event into words and alarmed that this might contradict her allegiance to atheism Ehrenreich tried to put this episode out of her mind. She subscribed to the philosophical idea of solipsism, which states that only one’s mind is sure to exist and the existence of anything or anyone outside one’s own existence does not ring true. Yes, it’s pretty heavy stuff, and if this isn’t your cup of tea then I suggest you jump ship early. The rest of the book follows the author’s political and philosophical musings of her adult years. Every life decision and person she interacts with becomes a complex problem that needs to be analyzed and solved. Sure, it IS an exhausting way to live, which is why Ehrenreich wonders more often than not if she really has some sort of mental illness.

Suffice it to say this won’t be on everyone’s Must Read list but it would make for some very interesting and weighty book group discussions. It is definitely trademark Ehrenreich and true to form, she makes no apologies for that.

– Susan

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Driving Lessons by Zoe Fishman

driving lessonsIn this charming novel about how life can take unexpected turns we meet Sarah, a former New York City marketing executive, and her husband Josh as they take a leap of faith and leave the Big Apple to pursue a quieter existence in rural Virginia.

Sarah takes the move as a sign to explore new options as city life has left a bad taste in her mouth. However, looking for encouragement in this new setting seems impossible, not to mention the fact that nothing is in walking distance. This normally wouldn’t be a big problem but Sarah suffers from a severe driving phobia. Determined to overcome this fear Sarah signs up for driving lessons and this in turn opens up a whole new world for her.

I love how this novel touches upon many different aspects of modern womanhood: career changes, impending motherhood, the scariness of cancer, and how it is sometimes just too darn hard to get up in the morning and face it all head on. The author’s writing is very authentic and contains the right amount of quirky characters, modern plot twists, and peppery language. Not your run-of-the-mill chick lit story readers will be thoroughly charmed with this lovable heroine as she figures out that it is not the destination but the journey that truly matters.

– Susan

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The Ten Thousand Things by John Spurling

ten thousand things“Times are turning bad again. I have been arrested for going to see a private art collection.”

So opens John Spurling’s latest novel, which centers around the recollections of Wang Meng, a low-level bureaucrat in the Yuan Dynasty. The Yuan Dynasty was a tumultuous time that followed after China had been invaded and appropriated by the Mongols. What’s amazing about his story is that it doesn’t feel at all like a dry historical retelling of life in a faraway time and place, as I expected. Instead, it is a carefully measured study of what it is like to watch change destroy and reshape the world around you. The problems faced by Wang Meng and those he knows feel timeless.

In tidy, delicate prose which recalls the intricate details of a classic Chinese painting, Spurling journeys with Wang Meng through the landscape, meeting and befriending a colorful assortment of people who are, like him, trying to make sense of it all. The pacing of this novel demands that you read it attentively, but it is worth savoring. I found it a rewarding read on snowy afternoons.

– Stacey

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The Pilot and the Little Prince by Peter Sis

The Pilot and the Little PrincePeter Sis uses rich tones and thrilling plot points to depict the adventurous life of Antoine De Saint-Exupery. The story reads as a mini-biography of Antoine – the famous pilot and author of The Little Prince. While most of the story revolves around Antoine’s passion for flying, there are other elements of world history including Nazi Germany in World War II and the evolution of flying from its inception and its progress throughout the early 20th century.

Sis does not sugar coat the ups and downs of Antoine’s life. Instead, he portrays a very real synopsis of a man who refused to let his passion for flying fall to the wayside. While this story is intended for children, the text and informational subtexts read in a detailed and enticing manner. The child receives a history lesson as well as an intriguing story of a unique man’s life.

Besides plot, the illustrations are exquisite. Every page depicts a different texture and the exchange between warm and cool colors keeps the reader engaged. Furthermore, Sis includes facts throughout some of the images in order to read beyond the main plot.

Overall, I would highly recommend this story for a child who loves using his or her imagination. By taking readers on a wild ride in the sky through time, Sis truly connects with his reader by clearly conveying the purpose of this story.


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Notorious by Allison Brennan

notoriousThis was the first book by Allison Brennan that I have read and I enjoyed it.

In Notorious, Allison Brennan introduces a new heroine, Maxine Revere, who hosts a true crime type of television show where she investigates cold cases that have not been solved. When her old friend, Kevin, allegedly commits suicide, she returns to her home town for the funeral. Kevin’s little sister does not believe he committed suicide nor does she think he committed the murder of his high school girlfriend, and she begs Max to help her prove it. Kevin was acquitted of the murder, but a lot of people believed that he was guilty (including Max’s own family) and made his life very tough. Determined to prove once and for all that Kevin was innocent, Max finds an ally in a police detective who is willing to look at the case and help her find new evidence. But, someone will do anything to keep the truth buried.

With a mix of suspense and a little bit of romance, the story line kept me guessing right up to the very end.

– Tina

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Missing You by Harlan Coben

missing youI have read all of Harlan Coben’s books and really enjoyed them. Missing You is no exception.

When NYPD detective Kat Donovan’s best friend signs her up for an online dating site, she gets much more than she expected. She stumbles upon the profile of her ex-fiancé who left her 18 years ago right around the same time that her father was murdered. Kat has never had closure on either of these situations and is now more determined than ever to get to the bottom of things. While investigating her father’s murder, she meets up with a young man who insists that his mother is missing and something bad has happened to her. Kat starts looking into her disappearance and finds out that his mother has supposedly gone off to another country with Kat’s ex fiancé after meeting him on the same online dating site where Kat found him. Devastated that she has missed her chance to find out why her fiancé left her all those years ago, she continues to try to find both of them. What she ends up finding is way more than she bargained for.

This suspense thriller moves along at a very fast pace and keeps you guessing right up to the very end. A++


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