Secrets of Closing the Sale by Zig Ziglar with Kevin Harrington

Publication Date: May 21st, 2019

Rating: 3 Stars

Secrets of Closing the Sale has sold millions of copies with this latest iteration revamped to include “modernized” additions to Ziglar’s classic techniques. Kevin Harrington, of the original cast of Shark Tank, injects several boxes of commentary in his attempt to zap Ziglar’s techniques into the modern age. Author, Zig Ziglar, came to a career in sales at a time when door-to-door sales was still wide spread. The techniques he’s developed for selling are applied throughout the book in illustrations given during his time selling cookware the old-fashioned way, via demonstrations to groups in people’s houses. Now, in the age of heighted security and advancing technology, this type of selling has gone to the wayside. Making many of Ziglar’s literal stories irrelevant.

However, there is still much of Ziglar’s technique that can still be useful. Secrets of Closing the Sale begins with an extremely relevant piece of knowledge – we are ALL salespeople. Whether we are selling ourselves to potential future employers (looking at you recent graduates), to selling our coworkers on a solution or customers on a product, we are all practicing the art of closing sales. Some of our closes are more successful, like ending up with our dream job, or selling our spouse on that new pair of shoes, but Ziglar highlights our rejections too.

I chose to read this book to give myself a better understanding of the day-to-day life of the “sales” teams I support in banking, but I ended up gaining a few key tips and tricks for myself. However, I could have done without Kevin Harrington’s brief and seemingly irrelevant interjections throughout. And I CERTAINLY could have gained just as much from this book without being reminded of Harrington’s five billion in global sales every other chapter (eye roll).

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

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All Manner of Things by Susie Finkbeiner

Rating: 4 ¼ Stars

Publication Date: June 4th, 2019

Annie is the middle child with one older and one younger brother. Her mom has raised them alone for the last 12 years after their father, a Korean War veteran with his own demons disappeared. As the Vietnam draft starts, Annie’s oldest brother enlists hoping to be saved from the worst of the front. All Manner of Things is Annie’s story of growing up, loving and persevering.

Author, Susie Finkbeiner, does an incredible job of placing the reader in the thick of the times. From the diner Annie works at, to the newscasts on Vietnam the reader feels like one of their own family members is off fighting. This story is further captivating as we are enticed every few chapters by correspondence from the soldiers in Annie’s life. Finkbeiner expertly uses Annie’s first-person narrative to drop you in to the Jacobson family, from their estranged relationship with their dad, to their grandparents and even their boss, the reader never lacks in feeling fully submerged in this story.

*Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Candlewick Press: Weird Little Robots by Carolyn Crimi & On Snowden Mountain by Jerri Watts

Weird Little Robots by Carolyn Crimi

Publication Date: October 1st, 2019

Rating: 3 ½ Stars

Penny Rose is new to town, lacking in friends she spends her time creating robots in the family shed out back. So, when she discovers Lark, also friendless and never without her sunglasses, they quickly become best friends. Penny Rose and Lark are perfect compliments – Penny Rose in her creation of robots from “junk,” and Lark in her artistic love for making bird houses. Together they create the perfect Robot Town.

Author, Carolyn Crimi, gives readers a heartwarming read of friendship, trust and forgiveness with so many lessons handpicked for readers young and old. Especially enduring is Crimi’s nod to female scientists and engineers throughout, a great reminder that girls can do anything! The illustrations dispersed within further add to the marvel and imagery Penny Rose’s robots spark in the reader’s mind.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.


On Snowden Mountain by Jerri Watts

Publication Date: September 10th, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

With her father off fighting in WWII Ellen doesn’t know how to care for her sunken, depressed mother. Upon reaching out to her estranged Aunt Pearl, Ellen and her mother are whisked off to Snowden, Virginia, a small town lacking in Baltimore’s comforts. In her newly simple life, a life without electricity and indoor plumbing, Ellen meets an unlikely friend, Russell. Like Ellen, Russell hides his family life from prying eyes. This is a story of friendship, healing and finding home where you least expect, but is it enough to save her mother from her all-consuming darkness?

On Snowden Mountain places WWII so far on the fringe you forget the book is set in the 1940’s, this could have easily been a current day story not unlike the non-fiction Hillbilly Elegy and while Ellen’s story of tough times and resilience are fiction, the lessons and themes enraptured within are far from it. Heartwarming, heartbreaking and heart stopping, this is a read for all ages.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Wooing Cadie McCaffrey by Bethany Turner

Publication Date: May 21st, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

All Cadie wants is for Will to propose to her. So, after his increasingly late nights and hesitant attitude she decides it isn’t worth waiting for a future that isn’t there and makes a clean break. However, Will has other plans and hopes to woo her back using every romantic movie you’ve ever loved to do it! Will even goes as far as to try to work in the Thriller scene from 13 Going on 30 (LOVE). But is it too little too late?

Bethany Turner creates an incredible romantic story that appeals to all rom-com and sports lovers alike…did I forget to mention Cadie and Will work at a ESPN-esque company that includes “guest appearances” from Venus and Serena Williams, Lebron James, Joe Montana and Willie Mayes to name a few. I was swooning all over the place as I fell in love first with Cadie’s job and second with Will, then I was further roped in with all the movie references! From the moment Will and Cadie first meet and every year thereafter, Turner creates a whirlwind of a love affair, begging to be made into its own movie rom-com.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

It’s a Love Story: From Happily to Ever After by Lincee Ray

Publication Date: April 30th, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

I LOVED Lincee Ray’s first book Why I Hate Green Beans. Throughout her first book I found myself laughing until I cried as her gut-wrenching humor caused me to FLY through the pages. So, when I saw that she had written another book, this one on the topic of love, I immediately jumped at the opportunity to read it.

Lincee shows us her 80’s roots in this love story to music, crushes, celebrities, pets and much more. I love that Lincee took a non-traditional approach to giving us a love story and injected her famous humor while remaining vulnerable and down-to-earth. This entertaining book continues to appeal to a wide audience, and while not quite as hilarious as her first (the music references were lost on me) her hilarious personality continues to shine through in her easy to read, enjoyable writing style.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

From Monk to Money Manager: A Former Monk’s Financial Guide to Becoming a Little Bit Wealthy-and Why That’s Okay by Doug Lynam

Publication Date: March 26th, 2019

Rating: 3 Stars

Author, Doug Lynam, went from living in a monastery to a full-time job of providing financial guidance. Lynam tells of his transition, what led him to his new calling, and advice for many monetary choices in his new book, From Monk to Money Manager.

From Monk to Money Manager encompassed a WIDE breadth of topics. From lessons on filing bankruptcy, which Lynam has done, to socially responsible investing this book struggles to find its niche. Had I picked up this book for help paying off my student loans, I would have found it in a few brief pages of advice. Similarly, had I picked up this book for advice for retirement, it also would have been in there. Any friends struggling to pay off credit card debt, wallowing in financial stressors or contemplating the need to admit relief via bankruptcy – ALL of it is covered. Because so many topics are touched on, this book fails to provide any sort of detail towards really accomplishing the financial freedoms one likely hopes to gain by picking it up.

Conversely, if you were intrigued at how someone may go from being a Monk to managing another’s money like I was, that story is certainly in here. However, be warned you will have to trek through many topics to get there, but on the way you will be graced with several entertaining stories of clients, practitioners and brothers’ financial woes.

Regardless, there were some very overarching ideas that were both intriguing and useful. Some useful tips picked up within surrounded the mindset of money and the need to both be careful who you marry and set thresholds on your money.   First and foremost, Lynam discusses the rate of divorces linked to money, spoiler: it is high. Understand your partner, their financial habits, debt levels and history BEFORE marrying them. Secondly, Lynam provides stellar advice regarding your “lava level.” This is the idea that when your account hits a certain threshold you need to be wary of touching the “lava.” For some people this threshold may be $10,000, others it may be $100, understand your own level and monitor your spending to ensure you are not engulfed. Lastly, Lynam has come up with several hilariously accurate references to different money habits, names such as blinger, hole in pocket, poor me and dreamer. You will not lack for entertainment in this read, but you may lack for sound, sustainable money advice.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Rise of the Mystics (Beyond the Circle #2) by Ted Dekker

Publication Date: October 2nd, 2018

Rating: 3 ½ Stars

Rise of the Mystics is the second and likely final book in the Beyond the Circle series from author Ted Dekker. In this second book, Rachelle returns as she seeks the fourth and fifth seals that will give her the power to defeat Vlad Smith and obtain peace in “other earth.”

This book REQUIRES readers to have read book one. A short synopsis is given on the opening page of this book, but references to Project Eden, DARPA and the events on “Other Earth” are necessary to understanding this read, all of which are obtained from book one, The 49th Mystic.

While both books were published in 2018 the growth and maturity of Dekker’s writing and story progression are evident. The action within Rise of the Mystics is FAR more gripping and the political events on Earth were more relatable. This series played heavily into biblical references, but otherwise could be described as a biblical fantasy similar to The Maze Runner series. The battle between Rachelle and Vlad continues, but as we are introduced to new characters the plot thickens and excites. I felt myself reading with anticipation as Rachelle inched closer to finding the fourth and fifth seals in her fight to restore peace.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

The 49th Mystic (Beyond the Circle #1) by Ted Dekker

Rating: 3 Stars

Publication Date: May 15th, 2019

Rachelle is blind, but dreams in vivid nightmares until one day when her father attempts to cure her blindness via an advanced DNA treatment. On this day a mysterious man appears, and Rachelle begins to live in two worlds – the world she knows in Utah and “Other World.” When she falls asleep in either world she awakes in the opposite. As her home in Eden, Utah falls apart she must save them through the power she gains in “Other World.”

From the name of Eden, Utah to the biblical references in which Rachelle gains her power, this book is ripe with biblical themes. The underlying messages of God become distracting, but I LOVED the blind, strong, female lead Dekker gives us in this two-part series Beyond the Circle. Ultimately, The 49th Mystic provides us a look at Eden and Christ in a fantastical universe that gives us a new perspective and shows us there is strength in every individual, we just have to find it when the time is right.

*Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

The Next Right Thing: A Simple, Soulful Practice for Making Life Decisions by Emily P. Freeman

Rating: 3 Stars

Publication Date: April 2nd, 2019

We all know someone we’d describe as indecisive, maybe you are an indecisive person yourself, but author Emily P. Freemen seeks to help cure this indecisive-ness in her newest book The Next Right Thing. Named after her podcast, The Next Right Thing provides readers 24 chapters of strategies and insights to aid in making decisions.

“It’s estimated that adults make over 35,000 decisions every day” (p. 14). It is for this reason a book such as this is necessary. Freeman provides many useful tips and tactics for making the right decisions, some that seem rather common sense in theory but difficult in practice and others that take deeper soul searching. For instance, in one story Freemen discusses a time when she made a decision based on fear. Her lesson in this chapter is to name the underlying fear. By naming fear, you strip it of power, so rather than letting the fear push her around she took control over her own decisions and ultimately made the choice right for her at the time.

While this story houses some crucial lessons, it is important to point out the author’s spouse is a former pastor. Her religious background is on full display in this read as each chapter consistently ends both with a prayer and a practice. These small devotionals and exercises aid in moving Freeman’s teachings from the page to our real lives.

*Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Bad Ideas by Missy Marston

Publication Date: April 23rd, 2019

Rating: 2 Stars

Trudy shares the care of her niece with her mother, Claire, after her sister takes off under the pressures of motherhood. Trudy has sworn off men, while her mother continues to wait for her kid’s father to return after a 20-year absence. But, when aspiring daredevil, Jules, appears in their small town, Trudy begins to rethink her decision to avoid all men.

Written in alternative perspectives and alternating events, the layout is unique and enticing, but the dull, small town setting blurs any excitement from rippling off the page. Adding to the scene, the characters seem stuck in their lackluster ways only becoming stimulating as the final event begins to unfold. Drawn into this read by the daredevil stunt man promised to ensue, Bad Ideas told the story of factory towns on the outskirts of civilization and the population stuck in their folds.

*Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters by Balli Kaur Jaswal

Publication Date: April 30th, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Shirina, Jezmeen and Rajni could not be more different. Ages apart from the eldest sister (Rajni) and a childhood fraught with fighting, their mother’s last dying wish is that they complete a pilgrimage through India together. Their itinerary, provided by their mother, is PACKED with “togetherness” and many religiously dictated stops, what could go wrong? Only everything!

I won’t spoil the plot, but this is my favorite book of 2019 so far! What their mother hoped for with her last dying wish and itinerary were not what she got from the Shergill Sisters.

Not your average “feel good story,” and far beyond the bounds of your stereotypical “cultural journey” The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters packs the drama, tears and laughs. Author, Balli Kaur Jaswal returns with this new release just on the heels of her 2017 book, Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows, a Reese Witherspoon Book Club Selection with this fiery read. Buckle up for the late nights as you travel to India with an unlikely cast of females.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

The Memory House by Rachel Hauck

Publication Date: April 2nd, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Beck is an NYPD cop with a father lost in 9/11, a trauma that has caused her to lose many of her memories. Bruno is a sports agent struggling to start his own business and rid himself of the greed he previously endured at the larger agencies. And finally, Everleigh, her world was ripped apart in a tornado in Waco, TX in 1953. The house at 7 Memory Lane brings all these individuals together through a story of their triumphs, road to forgiveness, and family.

The Memory House promises an exciting and powerful read as Beck and Bruno’s budding love draws you in, and Everleigh’s devastating loss keeps you grasping for more. Filled with remembrance and strength, Hauck enchants readers through her powerful storytelling and gripping characters. Never was there a dull moment as readers are wound through Bruno’s agency woes and left praying for Beck to gain her memories and come out all right. But, even more was the anticipation of figuring out why this otherwise stranger, Everleigh, left Beck a house in Florida upon her death.

*Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Justice Delivered (Memphis Cold Case #4) by Patricia Bradley

Publication Date: April 2nd, 2019

Rating: 3 Stars

Carly Smith has escaped human trafficking after eight years. Carly finally works up the courage to reach out to her sister, but shortly after meeting her sister ends up dead. Now, another trafficked female turns up from her home town and she must decide if it is time to break the chain, but will she be able to trust the police force after years of insecurities? Her past quickly catches up to her and wreaks havoc on those she encounters.

Several parts of this read felt extremely forced and awkward. For instance, David Raines has never said “I love you” to Maggie and yet is suddenly proposing. Also unusual for this genre, is the absence of consistent POV from key character, Detective Donovan. The relationships between the characters felt unnatural but Bradley did an excellent job capturing the insecurities, trust issues and precautions of a formerly trafficked Carly Smith. However, Carly’s character development was broken when after several hours of meeting, Carly was opening up to Dr. Adams and Maggie after years of trust issues.

I love that author, Patricia Bradley brought human trafficking into the spotlight. This is an issue extremely prevalent today. Bradley captured the horrors and fear surrounding this industry and succeeded in giving us improbable villains, but she just missed the mark on character development.  But, I assure you this is not my first Patricia Bradley read and it will NOT be my last.

*Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Listen Up!: Recording Music with Bob Dylan, Neil Young, U2, the Tragically Hip, Rem, Iggy Pop, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tom Waits by Mark Howard, Chris Howard

Publication Date: May 14th, 2019

Rating: 3 Stars

Listen Up! gives readers an inside look at the incredible world of music engineering, producing and studio installations. Mark Howard has had the privilege of working through the decades with some talented musicians. This book provides Howard a great opportunity to share his stories and knowledge with a broader audience.

Despite not knowing MANY of the artists (I know, I know how lame am I not to know the classics), or ANY of the equipment he mentions in detail throughout this book, I still found myself breezing through the oversized pages. I was intrigued and captivated by Mark’s lifestyle and frame of mind, from his “mobile studio” to being planted in new cities and expected to find the perfect recording location, his ability to adapt was commendable. Howard ensnares a world that many only dream of working in and invites readers in to view the hard work, flexibility and hours it took for him to be successful.

Hats off to an extraordinary career full of talent and hard work. While we may be lucky to have artists such as Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan, we are equally (if not more) lucky to have talent like Mark Howard to capture their gift to share with the masses.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

A Shift a Day for Your Best Year Yet: 365 Ways to Improve Your Life, Career, and Relationships by Dean Del Sesto

Publication Date: March 5th, 2019

Rating: 4 ½ Stars

I have previously read Del Sesto’s work via his last release, Shift Your Thinking for Success: 77 Ways to Win at Work and in Life and was rather unimpressed. However, I am constantly open to reads that shift the negative thinking out and improve mindsets for personal and professional life. When we spend so much of our day surrounded by other people at work, it is important to remind yourself to stay true to who you are and the values you possess. Not letting others’ negativity infiltrate my attitude is a constant struggle.

This was the first book I’d read that was structured in a devotional type of format. Del Sesto provided 366 sayings to be read daily to provide a little “pick me up” or reminder. Sayings such as “every day we put on our closes; the bling is optional, as is taking a moment to choose our attitude.” While this is such a simple statement, it is powerful and rings true. The other 365 devotionals are just as strong as each one leaves you feeling ready to take on the world and be a better person while doing it.

Author, Del Sesto, really packs the power in this short read. He has definitely proven the value of daily devotionals as my copy is now dog eared, written in and read multiple times already.

*Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Breaking the Power of Negative Words: How Positive Words Can Heal by Mary C. Busha

Publication Date: February 19th, 2019

Rating: 2 Stars

Organized into three parts, Breaking the Power of Negative Words read like a religious education book on messages from God and quotes of the scripture.

I started this year with the goal of reading, at least quarterly, a book that could be applied to the workplace. Given the number of hours we spend within the concrete walls of office buildings, often forced to share space with those we wouldn’t otherwise seek out, can bring out negativity in everyone, so I was hoping a book on breaking negativity would help give me strategies in avoiding and overcoming the negative people in my own workplace.

While many of the book’s concepts were drowned in religious scripture there were still several passages I wholly related to and learned from. For instance, on page 116, Busha discusses the different types of complainers as defined by Dr. Robin Kowalski. These complainers are the venters, the sympathy seekers and the chronic complainers. All of these I have experienced at some point or another, I may have even contributed to them at one point, but the important lesson was that when you get sucked into this complaint spiral it can rewire your brain to only focus on the problem and never the solution, a trait many workplaces don’t seek in their ideal employee.

So, while there were certainly lessons to be taken from this read I had to wade through a lot of religious antidotes and the message of God to get to the meat of what I was hoping to achieve by picking up this book.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Glory Road by Lauren K. Denton

Publication Date: March 19th, 2019

Rating: 3 Stars

Jessie, Evan and Gus have a comfortable life on Glory Road. Nearly 10 years after her divorce, Jessie is content running her store, Twig, and spending her evenings with her daughter and mother. But then Jessie sees an all too familiar Jeep driving down Glory Road and her high school memories and the “old Jessie” she left behind come flooding back. At the same time, rich businessman Sumner Tate makes an unexpected stop at her shop and convinces her to enter the wedding business just in time for his daughter’s upcoming nuptials. Jessie’s comfort zone soon turns to chaos in this comfortably paced read.

Throughout this entire book I could see Jessie’s wheels spinning as she tried to make choices that were both best for her and for her family. Jessie learned relationships the hard way after marrying rich and living a “comfortable” life, so she’s decided to play by her own rules now.

The plot was comfortably paced and packed with development as my only hesitation arose in the author’s haphazard narration. From one chapter to the next the perspective was everchanging, flipping from Jessie to Gus and then back to Jessie for several sequential chapters. This changing point of view felt rather lazy as the book sought to condense the character development by conveniently offering the reader a view into the necessary mind to build up the story. Despite this, Glory Road conveniently transports us to a dirt road community of neighbors in a small, southern town, packed with desserts, gardening tips and relationship plight.

*Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Event Spotlight: Heroine by Mindy McGinnis & We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia

Tonight the Coralville, IA Barnes & Noble store, located within the Coralridge Mall is hosting an Epic Reads Meetup.  Join these authors and more as they talk books, YA and more!

RSVP for the event HERE and be sure to pick up a copy of these incredible new releases!


Heroine by Mindy McGinnis

Publication Date: March 12th, 2019

Rating: 4 ¾ Stars

While this book is classified as a work of fiction, it EASILY could be a story of any Midwestern high school athlete.

Mickey Catalan is the star catcher on her high school’s softball team. However, the winter before entering her senior season she finds herself severely injured in a car crash, causing her to undergo surgery to place three screws in her hip. The doctor provides her OxyContin and a recovery timeline that has her sitting out several games of the upcoming season. But Mickey isn’t one for sitting out, and the Oxy helps take any pain she’s feeling away, so when her prescription runs out she finds other methods to make sure she stays in the game.

This story is bone chilling. As someone who once identified themselves first as an athlete, then as a person this story was scary for me to read. I too suffered significant injuries during my time as a high school and then college athlete. I too was prescribed Opioids to help with the pain. And I too could have easily slipped into the world Mickey finds herself in within the pages of Heroine. As Opioid overdoses continue to rise this publication could not have come at a more pivotal moment, and the fact that this is a young adult read places it within the hands of the EXACT RIGHT audience. This threat is scary, and it is VERY REAL. Opioids are prescribed by trusted doctors to manage pain and while they make you feel looser and high, they also can cause significant dependence and ultimately lead to further bad decisions, addiction or overdose.

Heroine sparked many conversations between me and the healthcare professionals I surround myself with. We spoke of the truth within Mickey’s story and fears of any parent, player and doctor when Opioids are used. I consider myself lucky that my story wasn’t Mickey’s story, but I know many that can’t say the same. Thank you Mindy McGinnis, for keeping this conversation going, spreading awareness and writing a story so real you fall right into the pages of Mickey’s addictions.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.


We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia

Publication Date: February 26th, 2019

Rating: 4 ½ Stars

We Set the Dark on Fire is set on the fictional island of Medio. Medio is a community separated by land and sea, a wall boarders the land and protects it from the sea and as citizens move higher up the island and further from the boarder wall income and status rises. At birth, the women of pedigree in Medio are classified as Primeras or Segudas and trained by the Medio School for Girls. Upon graduation, young men purchase a Primera and Seguda bride to join them. A Primera to be their equal in intelligence, a Seguda to be their beauty.

Daniela Vargas may be the school’s top Primera, but her placement and suitor payment depend on her ability to keep her secret, a secret her forged identification papers hold. The life her parents sacrificed to make sure she had opportunities away from the boarder wall is quickly become compromised in the rising riots that begin to spill into her world up the hill. But, even after Daniela is placed within a prominent household her fears are not dispelled as the resistance seeks her out and threatens to expose her secret.

This plot attracted me as it resonates extremely well with the current events. While author, Tehlor Kay Mejia, could not have anticipated the current college admissions scandal plaguing the U.S. this read aligns well with both this and the border issues we face with immigrants in the United States. Mejia’s novel provides perspective on the challenges illegal immigrants and even DREAMers likely face every day. Additionally, the conflict and LGBTQ+ spin within this read set it apart. This is book one in the We Set the Dark on Fire series and if this book is any indication this could easily be a series as exciting as The Hunger Games or the Matched series.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Courting Mr. Emerson by Melody Carlson

Publication Date: March 5th, 2019

Rating: 3 ¼ Stars

Mr. Emerson is retiring from teaching, despite only being 55 years of age, he refuses to accept technology apart from his coffee maker and is sorely stuck in his ways. Meanwhile, newcomer to town, Willow West is the town’s newest art gallery owner and her “hippie” spunk seems to be just what Mr. Emerson needs to freshen up his ways, and his coffee. But will George Emerson keep pushing her away or will Willow give up on being friends with George before he gets the chance to? The dysfunction of Willow “Wild” West and the OCD schedule of George prove opposites may attract.

This “older” love story isn’t your everyday read. Sure, it’s a story line Hallmark may drool over, but it’s heartwarming effects and catchy characters felt more substantial and relatable despite their quirks than many Hallmark classics. In fact, it isn’t very often I pick up a book that features “advanced age romance,” but it was a great reminder that even after one’s “prime” love and friendship can still creep up on you. Courting Mr. Emerson has everything from 50+ year old characters to “lost” graduating seniors, flattering a broad demographic of readers.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Voyages in the Underworld of Orpheus Black by Julian Sedgwick, Alexis Deacon (Illustrations) & Marcus Sedgwick

Publication Date: August 13th, 2019

Rating: 2 Stars

Harry and Ellis are brothers; one a conscious objector, the other a soldier fighting the Germans. When bombs fall on the pub they both recently reconciled in, Harry is determined to stop at nothing to locate his brother, dead or alive.

This book is written from Harry and fictional character, Orpheus Black’s, point of view. Harry, in a state of confusion, journals his day and uses his artistic skill to sketch images, while Orpheus brings life to Harry’s disillusion by providing poetic verses not unlike brother, Ellis’, poetic talents. But, will Harry ever find his brother? Is Ellis even alive? This twisted tale of uncertainty will keep you confused until the very last note.

Julian and Marcus Sedgwick team up to transplant the reader directly into Harry’s delusional state, and, while Harry never strays far from the bomb site, the reader is captivated by his tales of the underworld. But, prepare to be just as confused as Harry throughout this read as one works to decipher reality from fiction.

*Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Rewired: An Unlikely Doctor, a Brave Amputee, and the Medical Miracle That Made History by Ajay K. Seth, Robert Suggs

Publication Date: January 8th, 2019

Rating: 4 ¾ Stars

I was a bit nervous after reading the book flap description that this read would be a bit “heavy” and procedural for the average consumer. While my family has an extensive medical background, I personally have NONE. Regardless, I was intrigued by the cover image (I will admit) and the prospect of reading a novel surrounding an amputee and the ground-breaking effects this would likely have on war veterans. What I didn’t expect, was walking away from this book wholly enjoying the story telling of authors, Dr. Seth and Robert Suggs, and feeling the profound effect of Melissa Loomis’ positive spirit throughout her ordeal.

Melissa Loomis is first introduced to us as an “average” homeowner, who happens to find herself suffering from a racoon bite. While this is a concerning encounter, it is certainly not worthy of an entire book. However, the battle the ensues within Melissa, and with the guidance and treatment of Dr. Seth the story becomes entirely engrossing for even the “average” reader.

Dr. Seth has a way with words. He so effortlessly guides the reader on this journey and enraptures us in his, and Melissa’s, life post-bite. The authors display talent in their tone and writing, ensuring their “doctor-speak” is toned down to be understood and visualized by anyone who happens to pick up this book. And picking up this book is exactly what you should be doing! Be prepared for the buoyancy of Melissa’s optimism and harrowing promises of Dr. Ajay Seth in this quick read.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

The Sounds and the Glory: How the Seattle Sounders Showed Major League Soccer How to Win Over America by Matt Pentz

Publication Date: March 5th, 2019

Rating: 3 ½ Stars

I thought my love for soccer would propel me through this read. Doubly, I figured my connection to the professional soccer world of the Pacific Northwest, through my own collegiate coach’s player days on the Tacoma Stars (picture below), would solidify my engagement to this book.   But, The Sounds of the Glory: How Seattle Sounders Showed Major League Soccer How to Win Over America would have even the most super fans on their heels.

Homer Screws Pro Soccer

The depth of history and knowledge on the creation and success of the Seattle Sounders’ MLS team is immensely detailed in the 200+ pages of this read. Each chapter offers glimpses into key members of the team and staff, from the young Morris, to the veteran Dempsey and many of the staff in between, this book cumulates it all. Regardless of whether you are a seasoned soccer fan or know nothing about the sport, this read will leave you a Sounders fan for sure!

*Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Character Carved in Stone: The 12 Core Virtues of West Point that Build Leaders and Produce Success by Pat Williams, Jim Denney, Mike Krzyzewski (Foreword)

Publication Date: February 5th, 2019

Rating: 3 Stars

Authors, Pat Williams and Jim Denney, have paired up to write several leadership based books, including Coach Wooden’s Forgotten Teams: Stories and Lessons from John Wooden’s Summer Basketball Camps. In this, the second book read by author duo, I continue to be amazed by the niche in which they are able to theme their book, but the broad audience in which the lessons apply.

Character Carved in Stone: The 12 Core Virtues of West Point that Build Leaders and Produce Success provides engaging military history with valuable and applicable leadership lessons. For instance, determination is important to achieve your goals whether one is a business leader, coach or military general. Similarly, like military leaders, when you let employees or soldiers make their own decisions and stand back without interference, you show your subordinates that you trust them and simultaneously earn their trust right back.

These lessons are just a few of what you can expect to uncover through an extensive dive into the history and traditions of the West Point Military Academy. Each chapter does a great job following a military hero that stood out in portraying the values and virtues of West Point. This intriguing read of war history and insight shows the steadfast leadership characteristics applicable to both the battle field and board room.

*Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

The Sky Above Us (Sunrise at Normandy #2) by Sarah Sundin

Publication Date: February 5th, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

The Paxton brothers all find themselves deployed by the U.S. Military Services during WWII. Oldest brother, Wyatt Paxton finds himself in the Navy in book one, The Sea Before Us. But in this, The Sky Above Us, book two of the Sunrise in Normandy Series, Sundin continues to show her talent. The Sky Above Us, follows middle brother, Adler Paxton as he takes to the sky as a fighter pilot.

Both novels detail the lead up to the invasion of Normandy’s beaches, best known as D-Day. While book two provides minimal overlap with Wyatt’s story, these books can easily be read as standalone. Sundin provides the perfect amount of detail to connect readers to the Paxton brothers’ family fallout as we navigate forgiveness and reconciliation in the face of war. This heartwarming series is great for lovers of romance, historical fiction. WWII is often an overdone historical fiction genre, but Sundin brings much to love in her build up to D-Day through her creation of characters and drama both on the Homefront and abroad.

*Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

10 Choices Successful Couples Make: The Secret to Love That Lasts a Lifetime by Ron Welch

Publication Date: February 5th, 2019

Rating: 2 Stars

We applauded business professionals when they read “business-minded” books throughout the year. These reads are praised as boosting business acumen and relished as a sign of leadership. But, as I read this book I noticed the MANY stares from others, skeptical of my reading choices and likely questioning the strength of my own marriage, because it would seem, rarely do couples read marriage books and god forbid they do so in a public space.

Often partners do not seek counselling advice unless something “bad” has happened or their “spark” has diminished. However, I feel it is extremely important we break these stereotypes. Like business, it is good practice to “check-up” on your marriage, whether this occur through reading, counseling or scheduled couples time. As an avid reader, I enjoy reading diverse topics, including one such as this and while I would classify my own marriage as happy and healthy, I still had a few great takeaways from this read I hope to incorporate with my own spouse.

One of my favorite topics was Welch’s chapter on communication. I found his ideas are not limited to marriage communication, but the examples within were understandably tied to couples. The idea of brevity in speech resonated with me. My personality type is well studied and prefers a “get to the point” type of presentation in the workplace, I like to stay on topic, am driven by deadlines and am very analytical. Obviously, this personality does not stop when I arrive home, and my husband is well known for his “long-windedness,” so this was a great reminder to the two of us in communication styles.

Unfortunately, at times this book was rather dull and was organized like an intense therapy session. It lacked stories and examples and required the reader/couple to really dig DEEP and analyze EVERY flaw. One really needs to know their self, and their spouse, to do many of the exercises, and while few chapters had some immediate takeaways, many required deep reflection. Additionally, the title was specific to 10 Choices, but the book had 15 chapters, this made it hard to really understand the 10 items I was supposed to grasp, and the organization certainly could have been paired down, (the arrows by some headers and not others was distracting and made sections seem “less important” than the arrowed sections). While I 100% believe that marriage books should become a routine part of every couple’s reading list, I would not necessarily recommend adding this one to this year’s list.

*Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

In the Shadow of Croft Towers by Abigail Wilson

Publication Date: January 15th, 2019

Rating: 3 Stars

A family full of secrets hires Sybil Delafield to be Mrs. Chalcroft’s companion, as an aging Mrs. Chalcroft has but a few months left to live. But, the secrets, letters and family tangles quickly ensnare her. Sybil, agreed to work at Croft Towers in hope of finding answers to her orphaned upbringing, but what she finds is so much more.

In the Shadow of Croft Towers transports you firmly back in time as Sybil navigates the elite societal family in which she’s employed. Author, Abigail Wilson, delivers on historical relevance and strong female characters as Mrs. Chalcroft remains secretive, independent and strong willed despite her ailing condition. From parties, highway thefts and charm, the adventures of Sybil Delafield keep readers engaged as she settles into her new life. I would love to see Wilson give us a follow up novel on several of the other key players in this book, such as Sinclair or even Mrs. Cantrell, as they seemed to be hiding many undisclosed secrets of their own.

*Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Blog Tour: An Improbable Pairing by Gary Dickson

An Improbable Pairing [January 8, 2019] by historical romance novelist Gary Dickson chronicles the enduring themes of a young man’s coming of age and the rebellious love with a mismatched European high society Countess. Set in the golden years of 1960s Paris, Geneva, Gstaad, and Cannes, An Improbable Pairing provides an inside look into the worlds of haute couture, three-star gourmet restaurants, and lavish hotel suites—the domains of rank and privilege. But society’s privileged resist when an interloper threatens to upset their cozy structure.

In September of 1963, Scott Stoddard, an American graduate student, is traveling to Switzerland when he meets the Countess de Rovere, a French divorcee—he is smitten, and she is intrigued. What begins as a little coquetry soon becomes a serious love affair, much to the consternation of the Countess’s ex-husband and mother, not to mention the Countess’s friends of European high society. A meeting of equals poses problems enough, but what about one between two people who seem to have so many differences? And when a man of traditional attitudes couples with an independent and self-confident woman, something’s got to give. It won’t be the countess. As their liaison transcends an affair that cannot be dismissed, they all agree that something must be done.

An Improbable Pairing proves that love will prevail even when family and society are against the couple’s will. “Those of us fortunate enough to have been in love or to be in love remember or know the intensity and deliciousness of being infatuated with another person,” says Dickson. “Troubles and cares melt away and being with that person of our desire overtakes all reason. A kind of trance develops where we see no wrong, disregard any blemish, deny any fault. This is the feeling I hope to invoke with readers of An Improbable Pairing.

Gary Dickson is an inveterate traveler and a Francophile, sans merci. Educated in the United States and Switzerland in history, literature, and the classics, Gary lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Susie. Follow him on GoodreadsInstagram and Facebook.

An Improbable Pairing is now available on Amazon and other retailers.


Question: What do you want readers to take away from Scott and Desirée’s connection and relationship in the story?

Gary Dickson: I want readers to understand and remember the architecture of the relationship between Scott and the Countess, Desirée. While built on the chemistry of attraction and love, it is buttressed by affection, intelligence and humor. To be in love is often chemistry, but to stay in love the relationship must be of such importance that the couple is willing to make the necessary modifications to their pre-conceived desires and attitudes in order for their love to survive and blossom.

Q: What makes An Improbable Pairing so different from other historical romance novels?

Dickson: Most historical fiction is heavy with obvious research piling on specifics sometimes not pertinent to the story. In the case of An Improbably Pairing, no research was necessary since the scenes and the culture of this period are so very familiar to me. As a result, the descriptions have the authenticity of first-hand experience rather than a ponderous factual approach. This story is light-hearted, fast-paced yet packed with accurate detail, as one reviewer remarked, “an almost cinematic description.”

Q: Do you have additional stories or books you are working on?

Dickson: Yes, many in the works! I have already written a sequel but with an espionage and thriller flavor called A Spy with Scruples, a continuation of the Scott and Desirée story. I also have an idea for a sequel to this novel, which is a continuation of the spy motif that takes place in Switzerland, New York, and Palm Beach, FL. I have also completed another novel, a melange of a fantasy, a mystery, and a romance within the speculative fiction genre. Additionally, I have written and will shortly publish a book of poetry, La Poesie De Bonne Bouffe/The Poetry of Good Eats. A series of 25 poems in French with English translations, celebrating French food specialties, a French and English recipe for each, and an acknowledgement page which details the places I’ve frequented and learned about these delicacies.


About the Author:

Gary Dickson is an inveterate traveler and a Francophile, sans merci. Educated in the United States and Switzerland in history, literature, and the classics, Gary lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Susie.


An Improbable Pairing is available January 8, 2019 on Amazon and other retailers.

Coming Soon: Where the Heart Is by Jo Knowles & Secret Soldiers: How the U.S. Twenty-Third Special Troops Fooled the Nazis by Paul B. Janeczko

Where the Heart Is by Jo Knowles

Release Date: April 2nd, 2019

Rating: 3 Stars

Where the Heart Is tells the story of an adolescent, Rachel, in her summer between middle school and high school. While this is often a terrifying time for anyone, full of excitement and unknowns, Rachel’s summer is increasingly stressful as her family life unravels in front of her.

This read began to drag on in the day-to-day of Rachel’s life. The author successfully captured the friendship and relationships with Rachel’s sister, Ivy, and best friend, Micah, but failed to keep attention through the backdrop of financial strain. There was a lot happening, and while the themes themselves seemed to promise an engaging read the execution failed to grip.

As children, Micah proposed to Rachel. Their friends and family think of them as a couple but as Rachel struggles with her own identity, their relationship begins to erode. Meanwhile, amidst her own anxieties, Rachel’s parents begin to fight more and more about money, their house never seems to have any food and everything has fallen into disrepair.

This read has many sobering lessons as we are reminded that everyone has their own unique story. However, it takes MANY pages and many weeks of Rachel’s daily life before these messages fully unravel.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.


Secret Soldiers: How the U.S. Twenty-Third Special Troops Fooled the Nazis by Paul B. Janeczko

Release Date: April 23rd, 2019

Rating: 2 ½ Stars

In 1944 the U.S. military began using soldiers of deception to fool the Germans. These soldiers used inflatable tanks, sonic sounds and theatrics to deceive the German Army into thinking there were larger battalions than there actually was, forcing them to concede ground or shift positions for the “real army” to invade. This unit was comprised of radio men, artists, designers and actors, recruited for the purpose of theatrical deception. One of their Captains was directly out of Hollywood and several members went on to become successful artists and fashion designers. All in all, this team served 21 missions and given the nature of their work it was often hard to classify their missions as “success” or “failure,” but regardless, the secret of their unit remained hidden within them for 50 years until the U.S. declassified it. Their stories are told here.

This book enlightened me with an entirely new aspect of WWII. I had not previously been aware of the U.S.’s attempt at deception in several key advances. That said, I would have liked to see more on the background, history and futures of the men who served in this unit. Much of the story was densely packed with military terminology and movement patterns. For the average reader, the excitement was too frequently lost in the descriptive language and mission objectives. Throughout the book, the author rewarded us with stories highlighting a technique (bridges), member of the unit or famous battle. These provided much needed respite from the lengthy and long-winded mission details and were deliberately placed within chapters.

This read exposes readers to the secrets of WWII, but unless you are a serious “history buff,” the long-winded details may wear you down.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Brunch at Bittersweet Café by Carla Laureano

Publication Date: February 5th, 2019

Rating: 4 ¼ Stars

Maybe it is the recent home renovation I just did, or my addiction to Top Chef, but this read was exactly what I needed to get me through the snowy days. Set in Colorado, on a blizzardy night, Justin becomes stranded in his “project car,” a recently restored Mustang GT. Melody hesitantly rescues him by allowing him a warm place to wait out his tow. But, as they begin chatting about each other’s careers, Melody’s late hours as a baker, and Justin’s hectic flying schedule, they start to see something more in this chance encounter. Over the ensuing few weeks they begin to find excuses to see each other, but will their bubbling careers pull them in opposite directions, or is faith in God and love enough to make it work?

This deliciously heartwarming and “bittersweet” read is perfect for cozying up by the fire. Author, Carla Laureano, shows off her talent in this, book two of the Supper Club Series. From Melody’s delicious pastry concoctions to the banter amongst friends, Bruch at Bittersweet Café sweeps you into a sugary delight. And, while this certainly reads as a perfect standalone novel, the friendships between Rachel, Melody and Ana will draw you in to adding the entire series to your TBR pile.

*Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

The Escape Room by Megan Goldin

Publication Date: May 28th, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

The Escape Room offers a look inside the powerful world of New York’s investment banking. This book could be described as similar to The Wolf of Wall Street, however the author artfully weaves in a story of loss between the contrasting present day escape room and the events that led up to that very elevator.

I could not put down this electrocharged and exciting read in a powerful story of greed and how far those will go for money. Sara Hall is the epitome of very MBA graduate, a load of student loan debt and no job prospects on the horizon. Until she meets Vincent on the elevator at Stanhope. Stanhope & Sons offers the ideal backdrop into the lucrative NY Investment scene – ludicrous amounts of money, insanely high standards and best of all reputation.

Megan Goldin’s sophomore novel, proves she’s an author to follow. The Escape Room blew my expectations out of the water…or should I say elevator.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Cover Reveal: The Path Keeper by N.J. Simmonds

Title:                                      The Path Keeper

Series:                                   The Indigo Chronicles, Book 1

Author:                                 N.J. Simmonds

Genre:                                  Young Adult/Urban Fantasy

Publication date:              May 28, 2019

Publisher:                            BHC Press

Formats:                              Hardcover, 978-1-947727-80-9, $26.95, 416 pages

Trade Softcover, 978-1-947727-81-6, $15.95, 392 pages

Ebook, 978-1-947727-82-3, $7.99

LCCN:                                    2018948480


ABOUT THE BOOK
What if all our lives were mapped out before birth? Does anyone have the power to change our destiny?
Ella hates London. She misses her old life in Spain and is struggling to get over her past—until she meets Zac. He’s always loved her but isn’t meant to be part of her story. Not this time. Not ever. Little does she know that his secret is the one thing that will tear them apart and force her to live in a world that no longer makes sense. A world full of danger, lies and magic.
The Path Keeper is a passionate tale of first loves, second chances and the invisible threads that bind us. Can love ever be stronger than fate?

feather

This special edition hardcover includes the exclusive short story “One Day I’ll Fly Away”

circle

The trade softcover and ebook cover


A NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:

Writing The Path Keeper, and the other subsequent books in the series, has been a tumultuous journey. I first had the idea in 2012 and seven years later I’m incredibly moved that Ella and Zac’s story is going to be read worldwide. The themes of fate, past lives, love in all its guises and being a teenager in London and Spain are all very close to my heart. I can’t wait to hear what others think.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Natali Drake, who writes under the pen name of N.J. Simmonds, is an accredited member of the Society of Authors and the Romantic Novelists’ Association. When she’s not busy working on her YA fantasy romance series she is also a freelance writer and brand consultant. She has written articles for various UK newspapers and online publications with two of her essays appearing in The Mother Book published by Selfish Mother. In 2015 she co-founded the online magazine The Glass House Girls and is a regular contributor.

Originally from north London, Natali studied Feature Writing at City University and began her career in corporate publishing and marketing before moving to Spain to write, and to raise her family. She now divides her time between her two homes in the Netherlands and Spain with her husband and two daughters.


DIGITAL ARCs OF THE PATH KEEPER

Book reviewers and bloggers interested in reviewing the book may request a digital ARC of The Path Keeper. ARCs are available through NetGalley and at the publisher’s website.


SPECIAL PROMOTIONS & MORE!

Look for exclusive digital content, including free downloadable posters and exclusive content, as we lead up to release day of The Path Keeper.

Visit the book’s page to learn more.

Indivisible by Travis Thrasher

Publication Date: October 23rd, 2018

Rating: 3 ¼ Stars

Often war movies are focused around a “famous” battle or event, such is the case with Dunkirk and Hacksaw Ridge, or full of blood and gore. However, refreshingly, that is not the case with Indivisible. Rarely are readers, or viewers, exposed to the battles soldiers are facing within.

Darren Turner is a Chaplain in the U.S. Army. Shortly after 9/11 he is deployed to Iraq for a 15-month tour. During his tour, he spreads the word of God and offers support, advice and guidance to his fellow comrades. But, while Chaplains are tasked with being there for others, who is there to help the Chaplains?

Meanwhile, Darren’s wife, Heather, is on the home front caring for their three children as they anxiously await their fathers return. But, when Darren finally returns home, like many soldiers, he isn’t the same man. Their marriage nearly falls apart, and the same man that helped put others’ marriages together struggles to maintain his own.

Written with the actual CaringBridge entries of Heather and Darren Turner and via a first-person point of view, the reader is offered exclusive access to the mind of a solider and his family. Indivisible is sectioned into three parts: the pre-deployment, deployment, and post-deployment. Each part offers enough detail to familiarize the reader with the process each solider must face. Through this layout, those unfamiliar with the armed forces begin to understand the hardships both soldiers and their families face. I especially loved that the deployment section is laid out month by month, each beginning and ending with Darren’s actual CaringBridge entries. By laying out the book in such fashion, I found myself counting down the months until Darren’s return home, making one feel extremely connected to the characters both near and far.

This extraordinary story developed for the big screen captures what is often not visible, the internal battles we endure to show strength and support on the exterior while hiding our own anger, fear and pain. This captivating novel reminds us to live and let God.

Be sure to pick up a copy of the book, and then watch the story unfold in the comfort of your own living room as the DVD releases January 29th, 2018.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Coming Soon: Candlewick Press – Starworld by Audrey Coulthurst and Paula Garner & Mother Tongue by Julie Mayhew

As we welcome the new year, be sure to start your 2019 reading list off with some Candlewick Press releases coming soon!


Starworld by Audrey Coulthurst and Paula Garner

Publication Date: April 16th, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

High school is a hard time, but having a mother with cancer and a disabled brother, or struggling to understand your sexuality while navigating your mother’s OCD makes high school even harder. So, when Zoe, a popular girl, and Sam, an art savant struggling to stay invisible, develop an unlikely friendship something extraordinary is bound to ensure.

Hold on to your heart as Starworld takes you to another galaxy, in this enchanting tale of friendship, love and finding one’s self. I don’t know that you will encounter a more enriching, engaging and heart wrenching book. I feel like a better friend and person for having read Sam and Zoe’s story.

Many authors set their books in a high school setting, but often fail to capture the essence of the struggle, or fail to create characters that are relatable. Coulthurst and Garner eloquently transmit the anxiety, stressors and high school friendships in their first pairing and after the beauty of this book, I certainly hope to see more from these two!

*A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher, Candlewick Press. All opinions are my own.


Mother Tongue by Julie Mayhew

Publication Date: August 13th, 2019

Rating: 2 Stars

When youngest sibling, Nika, is killed in a terrorist attack on the first day of school, Dasha is lost. She has lost her purpose after years of caring for her youngest sister. Trying to find comfort and love again this is a coming of age novel in the hardest sense.

Mother Tongue is a foreign story of sadness, loss and rising again. However, as a born and raised middle-class American I felt lost in the Russian references, settings and familiarity. Often books set in foreign lands, such as Exit West, A Place for Us or The Pearl That Broke Its Shell provide a balance between detail and landscape that allows “outsiders” to connect to the story without feeling lost or severed from the storyline. Unfortunately this book lacked that “connectedness,” as the balance in the descriptions and experiences was lacking for the general reader.

*A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher, Candlewick Press. All opinions are my own.

Code of Valor (Blue Justice #3) by Lynette Eason

Release Date: January 1st, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Never a dull moment in this heart pounding romantic suspense. Every page of this read will have you holding your breath, gripping your seat.

Emily Chastain would be dead if it weren’t for Brady St. John’s love of the water and need for a vacation. But, as soon as Brady saves Emily once he discovers she’s a magnet for trouble, and that those hunting her will stop at nothing to kill her and tie up their loose ends. Loose ends she didn’t even know she was tied up in. But Brady has fallen for her, and isn’t going to allow his law enforcement connections to let Emily down.

Each chapter ends with you wanting more, and before you know it your entire night has been spent chasing Emily, trying to figure out what she’s gotten involved in. This is certainly strong enough to be a standalone novel, but Brady’s references to Krystal leave you wondering what has crushed him so helplessly in the past.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson

Publication Date: March 5th, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

When Hen and Lloyd make friends with their new next door neighbors the last thing on their mind is that one of them may be a serial killer, but when Hen spots something suspicious during a dinner party, all friendliness is out the door. Is Hen’s suspicions her mental health acting up, or could the high school teacher next door really be what she thinks he is?

Before She Knew Him is a deeply twisted and disturbing tale of upbringing, mental health, friendships and the secrets we protect. This is sure to be a highly talked about suspense arriving early 2019. A perfect blend of The Wife Between Us and The Couple Next Door, this upcoming novel shows readers just how important paying attention may be.

*A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Daughter of Moloka’I by Alan Brennert

Publication Date: February 19th, 2019

Rating: 3 Stars

Fourteen years ago, we were introduced to Rachel Kalama in the book, Moloka’i. Rachel, diagnosed with leprosy was quarantined on Moloka’I island in Hawaii, where she birthed a beautiful baby girl, Ruth. Daughter of Moloka’I is Ruth’s story. This second book in the series, released over a decade later, is the life that Ruth leads after leaving Moloka’I, free of leprosy. This read is a sad reminder of the United States’ past, from Japanese internment camps during WWII to the harsh treatment of those that don’t “look like us.”

Moloka’I will always remain a favorite of mine, but this was a worthy follow up, even ending gracefully as the story is finally complete. While this read provides enough background to read as a standalone, I highly recommend picking up book one prior to reading this.

*A review copy of this book was provided by NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

New Every Day: Navigating Alzheimer’s with Grace and Compassion by Dave Meurer

Publication Date: November 20th, 2018

Rating: 3 ¾ Stars

I do not currently have a loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s, however given the number of people diagnosed with this disease every year I felt compelled to learn more about the stages, symptoms, family strain and resources available for those that do. Author, Dave Meurer, accomplishes this and much more through his injection of humor and stories of his mother-in-law, currently in moderate stage Alzheimer’s.

New Every Day provides readers light resources on how to navigate the treatment and support of loved ones with Alzheimer’s. From Medicare, Medicaid, assisted living facilities and personal respite care, Meurer covers all the bases. His stories are relatable to those who have encountered this disease and the knowledge he provides is critical for family members new to caring for individuals affected. While the internet and your own research can often provide in depth guidance, this book gives the necessary encouragement and humor for those immersed in the disease.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Lady of a Thousand Treasures (The Victorian Ladies #1) by Sandra Byrd

Publication Date: October 9th, 2018

Rating: 3 Stars

A Victorian love story of Eleanor and Harry as they learn to trust and love each other again.

Eleanor is tasked with undertaking a thousand-piece inventory of Lord Lydney. In doing so she faces the hardest decisions of her life. Facing financial peril and the struggle of being a single woman in Victorian times, the reader is left praying for Eleanor to succeed in making the right decision.

Byrd pens a powerful story of women helping women in an era of men – the mid-1800’s. Eleanor Sheffield hopes to break the glass ceilings with the help of fellow females, as every female can relate to her struggles of determining who to trust. The timeless profession of appraising art and jewelry takes on a new challenge in a time of female possession by men. Will Eleanor prove worthy of making a name for herself as a female? Will Eleanor trust the right people? Lady of a Thousand Treasures takes the reader back in time to answer these very questions and more. Unfortunately, despite the more than 100 years that separates Eleanor from today, the struggles she faces remain ever relevant.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Hidden Peril (Code of Honor #2) by Irene Hannon

Publication date: October 2nd, 2018

Rating: 3 Stars

Kristin Dan is content in her world, owning her own shop that sells fair trade products from around the world. But, when her part-time shop keeper is murdered her world is thrown into peril. Detective Luke Carter is determined to find the killer. But, he finds something more in the process.

This slowly building romantic suspense winds the reader through Kristin’s life of giving back and Luke’s procedural attempt to chase down a suspected terrorist. Will Luke find the killer or will his feelings for Kristin get in the way?

Reading like a standalone novel, the good natured-ness of Kristin’s life is overshadowed by the MANY concurrent events in both the investigations and familial life. While the interwoven first-person narrative of the terrorist, Luke and Kristin cause for some confusion throughout the chapters, Hannon proves to be on par with the authors of this, the romantic suspense genre.

*Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.