Readers' Favorite

April 29, 2017

Y is for Young Adult Books

by Donna Huber

I enjoy a good young adult novel every once in awhile. I'm not sure what the draw is, but they can be as well written as any adult novel. And even though it has been a while since I was considered a young adult, I can still relate to the characters, or at least root for them. There are some genres, like fantasy, that I'm more likely to read in young adult than in adult. I think it is because there's usually more description or less complicated universe building, which I appreciate it. I also have a teenage niece that is an avid reader and it gives us something in common. I always like taking a look at Goodreads Best of Month in YA. Below is what is on their list. Do you like reading young adult?

Amazon affiliate links are used in this post.

Alex Approximately
In this charming spin on You’ve Got Mail, two teen film buffs fall for each other online…while annoying each other in person. During a sun-soaked summer in a small surfing town, they discover real life is so much messier than in the movies.

Buy Alex, Approximately at Amazon

Meet 14-year-old Maud. Like the beloved main character of Anne of Green Gables, she grows up on Prince Edward Island, an imaginative misfit who dreams of one day sharing her stories with the world.

Buy Maud at Amazon

With no fairy godmothers or helpful mice in sight, proud geek Elle has to rely on her Magic Pumpkin food truck to get her to a cosplay contest—and to Darien Freeman, the dreamy star of an upcoming sci-fi show.

Buy Geekerella at Amazon

Given to the Sea
Khosa is Given, a girl born to be fed to the water. In the Kingdom of Stille, such sacrifices are the only way to appease the deadly waves. But as the sea calls for her, Khosa rebels, ready to change the tides once and for all.

Buy Given to the Sea at Amazon

Between Two Skies
Evangeline’s old life was sailing and fishing in the tiny town of Bayou Perdu. Her new life, one forced upon her by Hurricane Katrina, is characterized by absence. Without a home, she searches for a sense of place with fellow refugee Tru.

Buy Between Two Skies at Amazon

The Takedown
When a scandalous (and completely fake) video of Kyla and her English teacher goes viral, the once-popular high school girl dives into a world of hackers, haters, and stalkers to expose the culprit and clear her name.

Buy The Takedown at Amazon

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April 28, 2017

Don't be Xenophobic! A Guide to International Authors

by Donna Huber

When I think of reading internationally I often harken back to my World Lit class with Bronte, Flaubert, and Dostoyevsky. But the truth is, self-publishing has made it easier than ever to read contemporary authors from around the world. With self-publishing (and to some extent indie/small presses) there are not foreign rights that need to be negotiated to make a novel available worldwide. And if English isn't the author's language, they can hire a translator much like they hire an editor or formatter.

I like reading international authors because of the different world views that people from other countries have. I will never visit every country or even a small percentage of the world and reading, at least, gives me a glimpse into how other people think about justice, freedom, love, family, etc.

Amazon affiliate links are used in this post.

Susan and Alison have already highlighted some international authors this month for the A to Z Challenge. Susan shared a favorite Irish writer and Alison discussed her love of Japanese writers.

I mostly stick with authors who write primarily in English. Here's just a few that I recommend if you need a starting point:
  • If you enjoy crime fiction, then you should check out Irish author Tana French. 
  • For mysteries and thrillers, try South African author Lisa Gordon. 
  • For romance readers, I highly recommend Canadian author Sylvain Reynard and his Gabriel's Inferno series. He also has a supernatural series. 
  • While I don't personally read horror or books about zombies, but I've heard great things about Australian author Rachel Tsoumbakos.
  • I loved Jennifer Worth's memoirs on being a midwife in 1950s east-end London. If you are a fan of the show Call the Midwife I highly recommend you pick up the book by the same name.
  • I read the British version of middle grades detective novel Knightly & Son by UK author Rohan Gavin and loved it. 
  • One of my favorite RomCom authors is UK author Michele Gorman. 

Speaking of romantic comedies and Michele Gorman, I just finished up her newest novel which she published under the pen name Lilly Bartlett. I was provided a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

The Big Little Wedding in Carleton Square
April 2017; HarperImpulse
ebook (339 pages); romance
The Big Little Wedding in Carlton Square is a cute read. It was a bit predictable in places, but I tend to think most romcoms are predictable (that's part of their charm). It starts off with east London resident Emma being proposed to by west London boyfriend. (For those who don't know, west London is posh, and east London is economical). While it doesn't appear that Daniel has a trust fund, he hasn't quite figured out what living on a budget really means. This leaves Emma trying to figure out how to throw a fancy wedding on half a shoestring budget as her father is too proud to accept Daniel's families offer of paying for the wedding.

Needless to say, hilarity ensues as Emma juggle's her future mother-in-law's suggestions of chocolate fountains, butterfly releases, engraved silver picture frames for all the guests (which is much more than the 60 on Emma's guest list) not to mention fancy invitations (with gifts) and fine linen napkins. Oh, and then there is excuses she comes up with as she goes behind her finance and cancels the limo drivers and other "helpful" arrangements. But along the way, we learn what it really means to be family and a part of a community. I think by the end of the novel everyone will want to live in a place like east London (I know I do). I really loved all the characters, even the posh ones, and I hope we get to see more of them in future novels.

Buy The Big Little Wedding in Carlton Square at Amazon

If you want to try some translated literature, I recommend checking out the titles from Le French Book, a publisher who translates bestselling French mysteries, thrillers, and crime fiction novels.

Recently MK French reviewed a women's fiction novel by an author from Slovenia and translated by a UK resident.

None Like Her
December 2016; Peter Owen Publishers
9780720619157; ebook, print (288 pages)
women;s fiction
None Like Her by Jela Krecic, translated by Olivia Hellewell

A free copy of this book was provided in exchange for a fair review.

Newly single after a long relationship ended, Matias spends his time trying to date other women in Ljubljana, Slovenia. He often complains of his difficulties with his best friends and follows their advice to date other women. Initially, he compares them all to Sara, but meeting up with Sara again lets him see that his memories of her don't quite live up to the reality.

Matias often comes across as a misogynist, and even calls himself that on several occasions throughout the novel. At the same time, he can be very charming and uses his hurtful and sarcastic comments to hold others at length. This is a slice of life kind of novel and is an interesting look at the twentysomething crowd in Slovenia. Matias has a series of interesting dates, some of which end in disaster, and there is often a lot of drinking involved. I don't know if that's common for the age group in Slovenia, or if that is really the only place for young adults to congregate and talk to each other. As in the United States, that much drunkenness also leads to a lot of stupid decisions. It makes for interesting reading, but also a little secondhand embarrassment, especially surrounding the sequence with the wedding that Matias will photograph. Still, he's content at the close of the book, and it was nice to see him really grow over the course of the book.

Buy None Like Her at Amazon

Who are some of your favorite international authors?

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and golden retriever.

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April 27, 2017

War is Wavering in Windsinger: A Review

By Elisabeth Scherer

Today I am traveling back to the land of Mirrorvale with A.F.E Smith's Windsinger (Darkhaven #3). I have had the pleasure of reading the first two books in the series and I am a big fan. This book does not disappoint. It is filled with action, mystery, airships, and this wonderfully unique city structure I have come to really like.

Amazon affiliate links are used in this post.
Windsinger by A.F.E. Smith
February 2017; Harper Voyager; ebook (400 pages)

As we begin this book, Ayla, Overlord of Darkhaven, is sitting down to sign a peace treaty with the Kardise ambassador. Unfortunately, before the papers can be signed the Kardise official is found dead, poisoned and Ayla is the only suspect. Tomas Caraway and the Helmsmen must rush to find the real murder before war breaks out between the two countries. To add more complexity to this story a huge Parovian airship, the Windsinger, is heading towards Ayla with the intent to capture the heart of Mirrorvale.

Smith created another wonderfully twisted mystery which kept me trying to pinpoint the murder throughout the entire book. Each book has gotten a bit darker but I think with the subject of the impending war in the plotline it is something that must happen.

She also does an excellent job developing the supporting roles in her books. Ree, the first female Helmsman, finding out she is about to be given in an arranged marriage; Xander, Karise-born son of a wealthy man insisting his return home as part of the peace treaty; Miles partner to the Weaponsmaster who has a terrible moral dilemma, Naeve Sorrow, the former sellsword, must choose to return to her sellsword ways or aid Ayla's Helmsmen in search of the murderer.

The book is told from a multiple person point-of-view which only adds to the layers of storytelling by sending the reader to different parts of the world she has created. It gives the story depth and helps us readers identify with the world as we see different angles of the story unfolding. I could feel the screws tightening as time was running out to find the real murder, skirmishes started breaking out near the border of the two countries, and Ayla finds herself having to rely on her changeling form to help protect her people, friends, and family before something devastating happens.

I would definitely recommend this series to fantasy book lovers. A.F.E. Smith is a master juggler of the elements that make up a fantastic read.

Buy Windsinger on Amazon

Elisabeth Scherer grew up in a very small town in Minnesota but now lives in the lovely Pacific Northwest where she spends most of her time raising her two young children. She and her husband have a large collection of books that takes a good space of their small condo. When she's not reading she has a variety of hobbies that include crocheting, drawing, baking, cooking, and movie watching. She is currently obsessed with making French Macarons and other baked deliciousness! You can also find her blogging at

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April 26, 2017

V for Vigilante

by Ross Kitson

Modern society has an uneasy yet interesting relationship with vigilantism, and this is reflected nowhere better than in our literature and media. Indeed, the title of today’s ‘A to Z’ blog is paraphrased from the ground-breaking comic/graphic novel, V for Vendetta by Alan Moore.  The comic reflected Moore’s increasing dissatisfaction with the right wing government at the time and the evolution of a concept of a police state. It bore much resemblance to Orwell’s 1984, although with a rather more able and aggressive protagonist.

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Cover of V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd
Our relationship with vigilantism goes way back into the past of both UK and US history. If we regard a vigilante as an individual or individuals that act out with the law in order to prevent, capture, or punish someone who has committed a crime, then legendary outlaws begin to spring to mind. In English folklore, Robin Hood ‘robbed from the rich and gave to the poor’ rallying against the mean King John, and his taxmen. In the tales, Robin often fights for virtue and the ‘common good,’ regarding the establishment as corrupt and self-serving (a good job he never lived in Westeros, I suppose).

Robin Hood Statue, Nottingham Castle, England
(photo by David Telford) source: Wikimedia
Of course, the greatest pool of vigilantes arrives with the Wild West, where gunslingers would take law into their own hands to avenge wrongdoings, and lynch mobs would dish out their own version of justice with a rope and a tree. In this era, vigilantism was common in settlements where the law had yet to become established, but also occurred in towns where the law was considered ‘weak’ or ‘too soft.’ The 1851 San Francisco Vigilantes formed in response to the boom in crime rates that came with the Gold Rush in the city, and their perception of a weak government. Yet the history of the Wild West gives a sobering lesson in vigilantism getting out of control, as occurred with both Montana and Dodge City vigilante activity.

Despite this darker, uncontrolled edge, the idea of taking the law into your own hands has pervaded in popular culture. Indeed the crux of superhero comics, most famously in the form of DC’s Batman, and Marvel’s Spiderman, is that the crime fighter works outside the police force in the larger part, dealing their own perception of justice. In both universes we have anti-heroes who take the principle too far, dishing out more lethal justice than our more moral heroes enact. Marvel’s The Punisher is a prime example. A special-forces veteran driven to vigilantism by the murder of his family, he merrily massacres all villains he meets. That the recent Netflix depiction of the Punisher on Daredevil season 2 has earned him a spin-off series illustrates our ongoing fascination with the vigilante. Mark Millar’s remarkable and grisly comic, Kick Ass, provides a post-modern parody of the superhero genre having normal people donning masks and weapons to fight crime. The film achieved notoriety and popularity due to its language and violence, but once again showed our fascination with vigilante justice.

Batman in The Dark Knight Returns
In the cinema, vigilantism grew in prevalence during the 70s and 80s with films series such as Deathwish, and iconic movies such as Taxi Driver and Desperado, and the many works that attempted to emulate them. On the TV, we had the A-team and the Equaliser, all building on the tradition of black-and-white vigilantes such as Zorro and the Lone Ranger.

Why? What is our ongoing fascination with vigilantes? In many ways, our Western culture can trace this back to a biblical sense of justice, namely that a wrong committed against us should be balanced with a punishment of equivalent severity: ‘an eye for an eye’ (from Leviticus (Lev. 24:19–21)). Yet this earlier harsher teaching, which in truth probably refers more to appropriate compensation rather than gory vengeance, was often countered in New Testament teachings of ‘turning the other cheek’ (Matthew: 5:38-39). Our persistent sense of retribution, of lex talionis, relies on our lawmakers and guardians (the police) to enact an appropriate punishment for the crime. Yet in our modern lives, saturated by social media and more news than we can handle, we are given the impression that the law is somehow impotent. We see criminals apparently escaping justice; we see sentences handed down that seem (in our own perceptions), inadequate for the magnitude of crime; we see our police secretly filmed stepping beyond the constraints of their roles, acting like criminals. Ironically, the occurrence of any of these is very rare, yet each one is magnified by re-tweets, Youtube likes, Facebook re-posts, to give the erroneous impression that the entire police force of the First World are racist, fascist, corrupt, psychopaths. And when our faith in our guardians is falsely eroded, then acting outside of that system of guardianship becomes far more appealing. Snowed under by the tirade of miserable news, and doomsayers telling us that crime is out of control and every backpack is a bomb, we gradually feel more and more disempowered. These are things beyond the control of most of us in normal lives, where many as they grew up would rather back down or walk away than enter confrontation (turning the other cheek, I suppose).

So perhaps we live our lives vicariously, through our films, our comics, and our books. Batman, or Spiderman, or Daredevil, or whichever superhero we choose, acts how we’d want to—faced with a system we are being told lets us down. In a way we need our heroes as mythic entities, arising in time of crisis, like a King Arthur returning from Avalon in Britain’s darkest hour (he’d better hurry up).
As a last note, of course, all vigilantism isn’t Charles Bronsen and a big gun. The Internet activists Anonymous provide their own brand of vigilantism, depending on our views of them, and ironically are depicted wearing Guy Fawkes masks, as the lead character in Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta did. And, as you’d expect from the UK, we have our very own Grammar Vigilante. For the last 13 years, this mysterious individual has been correcting grammatical mistakes on signs in the city of Bristol, most usually apostrophes.

So perhaps the best place to leave this topic/ can of worms is a quote from V:
‘Because while the truncheon may be used in lieu of conversation, words will always retain their power. Words offer the means to meaning, and for those who will listen, the enunciation of truth. And the truth is, there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn't there? Cruelty and injustice, intolerance and oppression. And where once you had the freedom to object, to think and speak as you saw fit, you now have censors and systems of surveillance coercing your conformity and soliciting your submission. How did this happen? Who's to blame? Well certainly there are those more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable, but again truth be told, if you're looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror. I know why you did it. I know you were afraid. Who wouldn't be? War, terror, disease. There were a myriad of problems which conspired to corrupt your reason and rob you of your common sense.’

Image from V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd

Ross Kitson is a doctor, occasional blogger, full-time geek, and sporadic author of fantasy and YA sci-fi. Connect with Ross on Twitter.

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April 25, 2017

Upcoming Beach Reads

by Susan Roberts

May is my favorite time of the year to go the beach in South Carolina.  The weather is warm and the beaches aren't crowded yet.  You can walk on the beach and enjoy the sun and the surf and think about the beauty that surrounds you.  Several of my favorite Southern authors have books releasing soon that take place at the beach - usually in the SC Lowcountry - and they always help to remind me of how much I enjoy my time at the beach.  How about you have a beach that you enjoy somewhere in the world?  I'd love to hear about your favorite beach in the comments below.  I'm always ready to take a road trip so I need some good suggestions.

Amazon affiliate links are used in this post. Advance Readers Copies were provided for honest reviews.

Slightly South of Simple
April 2017; Gallery Books; 9781501158056
ebook & print (400 pages); women's fiction
Slightly South of Simple by Kristy Woodson Harvey

Kristy Woodson Harvey has done it again!! She has written a book that has fantastic characters, wonderful setting and an engaging plot. This is book one of a new trilogy and I can't wait to read the rest of the story.

Three very different type of sisters end up living with their mom at her home in Peachtree Bluff, Georgia for various reasons: Caroline lives in NYC and her husband is having a very public affair, Emerson, an actress, has a new role that is shooting in Georgia and Sloane's husband has been deployed to the Middle East. Ansley, their mom, has spent a lot of years living on her own and having all of her daughters plus three grandchildren (with one on the way) at her home, wrecks havoc with her quiet life. I really don't want to tell you much about the story, I just want to say that this book is Caroline's story and focuses most on her life. What I do want to write about are the best parts of this book:

SETTING - as with Kristy's other books, this one is at the ocean. You can smell the salt air and feel the ocean breezes as you read the book. The setting is practically one of the characters.

PLOT - there is a lot going on in this book but it is well told and so much fun to read. Yes, I will admit that there were several laugh out loud moments as well as a few tears.

CHARACTERS - to me this is the strongest part of this novel. I loved these characters. I feel like they are people that I know and that I could sit down at the table and have a cup of coffee with them. The sisters are so different from each other but the bond between them is unbreakable.

SUMMARY - READ THIS BOOK! It's a wonderful story about growing up and overcoming adversity. It's a story about love and family - the sisters are wonderful and that bond between them and their mother, though tenuous at times, continues to grow. It's a wonderful book about love and family and isn't that what life is all about?

Buy Slightly South of Simple at Amazon

Same Beach, Next Year
May 2017; William Morrow; 9780062390783
ebook, audio, print (384 pages)
women's fiction
Same Beach, Next Year by Dorothea Benton Frank

Dorothea Benton Frank returns to her magical Lowcountry of South Carolina in this bewitching story of marriage, love, family, and friendship that is infused with her warm and engaging earthy humor and generous heart.

One enchanted summer, two couples begin a friendship that will last more than twenty years and transform their lives. A chance meeting on the Isle of Palms, one of Charleston’s most stunning barrier islands, brings former sweethearts, Adam Stanley and Eve Landers together again. Their respective spouses, Eliza and Carl, fight sparks of jealousy flaring from their imagined rekindling of old flames. As Adam and Eve get caught up on their lives, their partners strike up a deep friendship—and flirt with an unexpected attraction—of their own.

Year after year, Adam, Eliza, Eve, and Carl eagerly await their reunion at Wild Dunes, a condominium complex at the island’s tip end, where they grow closer with each passing day, building a friendship that will withstand financial catastrophe, family tragedy, and devastating heartbreak. The devotion and love they share will help them weather the vagaries of time and enrich their lives as circumstances change, their children grow up and leave home, and their twilight years approach.

Bursting with the intoxicating richness of Dorothea Benton Frank’s beloved Lowcountry—the sultry sunshine, cool ocean breezes, icy cocktails, and starry velvet skies—Same Beach, Next Year is a dazzling celebration of the power of friendship, the enduring promise of summer, and the indelible bonds of love.

Available May 16
Buy Same Beach, Next Year at Amazon 

Beach House for Rent
June 2017; Gallery Books; 9781501125461
ebook, audio, print (416 pages)
women's fiction
Beach House for Rent by Mary Alice Monroe

When Cara Rutledge rents out her quaint beach house on Isle of Palms to Heather Fordham for the entire summer, it’s a win-win by any standard: Cara’s generating income necessary to keep husband Brett’s ecotourism boat business afloat, and anxiety-prone Heather, a young artist who’s been given a commission to paint birds on postage stamps, has a quiet space in which to work and tend to her pet canaries uninterrupted.

It isn’t long, however, before both women’s idyllic summers are altered irrevocably: the alluring shorebirds—and the man who rescues them—begin to draw Heather out of the shell she’s cultivated toward a world of adventure, and maybe even love; at the same time, Cara’s life reels with sudden tragedy, and she wishes only to return to the beach house that had once been her port amidst life’s storms. When Heather refuses to budge from her newfound sanctuary, so begins the unlikeliest of rooming situations. While they start out as strangers, as everything around the women falls apart they learn that the only thing they can really rely on is each other.

And, like the migrating shorebirds that come to the island for the summer, these two women of different generations must rediscover their unique strengths so by summer’s end they, too, can take flight in ways they never imagined possible.

Available June 20
Buy Beach House for Rent at Amazon

The Bookshopt at Water's End
July 2017; Berkley; 978-0399583117
ebook & print (352 pages)
women's fiction
The Bookshop at Water's End by Patti Callahan Henry

Bonny Blankenship's most treasured memories are of idyllic summers spent in Watersend, South Carolina, with her best friend, Lainey McKay. Amid the sand dunes and oak trees draped with Spanish moss, they swam and wished for happy-ever-afters, then escaped to the local bookshop to read and whisper in the glorious cool silence. Until the night that changed everything, the night that Lainey's mother disappeared.

Now, in her early fifties, Bonny is desperate to clear her head after a tragic mistake threatens her career as an emergency room doctor, and her marriage crumbles around her. With her troubled teenage daughter, Piper, in tow, she goes back to the beloved river house, where she is soon joined by Lainey and her two young children. During lazy summer days and magical nights, they reunite with bookshop owner Mimi, who is tangled with the past and its mysteries. As the three women cling to a fragile peace, buried secrets and long ago loves return like the tide.

Available July 11
Buy The Bookshop at Water's End at Amazon

Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina when she isn't traveling.  She and her husband enjoy traveling, gardening and spending time with their grandson.  Susan reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction, and thrillers. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on Facebook.

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April 24, 2017

Tackling the TBR Pile

by Donna Huber
My to review shelf of print and audio books
For today's A to Z Challenge post I'm taking a look at a problem that most avid readers have - how to tackle the towering and often toppling to be read (TBR) pile. When I first started blogging I was so tickled that authors and publishers wanted me to read their book that I accepted just about everything. I'm kind of a slow reader. Sometimes I only get one to two books read in a month. My lack of discernment when it came to accepting these review copies led to an overwhelming number of books on my to-read list. I still have books from that first year waiting to be read (that was 6 years ago!).

For the past year and a half, I've been trying to tackle my to be read pile and get to those long waiting books. First, I added a couple of reviewers that could help with the ever present review requests in my inbox. And then I all but stopped accepting review copies myself (I still take those from authors I love or in series that I'm reading and then a few other books that sound too good to pass up).

Now that my review pile isn't growing at alarming rates, I had to get organized. The print copies are easy to keep track of as I have a physical reminder that they are waiting. My ebooks were another story. They get lost in my email, never to be downloaded (I have a Nook so they aren't automatically sent to my e-reader like for Kindle).

As I get older I find myself making myself more notes throughout the day. The problem was keeping up with the notes. This year I decided to start a Bullet Journal. Mine isn't all pretty like those found on Pinterest, but it is practical and most important makes me more productive as all my lists and notes are in one place. Several of the first pages is a list of all the ebooks in my TBR ebook pile. I organized them by genre so when I feel like reading fantasy or romance, I can quickly scan my options. I also listed the year it was published to encourage me to whittle down the backlog.

I have a monthly page that I list bills and other monthly tasks. When I accept a book for review, I put it on there so at least by the end of the month I will make sure it has been downloaded and added to my Nook.

It's been a slow progress, but so far the most successful method I have found for tackling my TBR pile. Do you have a way to keep track of what is in your TBR pile?

I also link up once a month with Book Date's meme "It's Monday! What are you reading?" to reflect on what I read each month. Here's my April list:

Amazon affiliate links are used in this post.


In audio...

Pretty Girls
Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter is the first book I've read by this author. I knew of her because she participated in my Big Book Giveaway last summer. So when I saw this title available at the digital library I decided it was beyond time to give her a try. I loved the book. I don't often read books set in my small college town so it was interesting, but kind of weird too, to listen to things happening in areas of town that I'm familiar with. If you are a thriller fan definitely pick up this book.

About the book: More than twenty years ago, Claire and Lydia's sister Julia vanished without a trace. The two women have not spoken since, and now their lives could not be more different. Claire is the glamorous trophy wife of an Atlanta millionaire. Lydia, a single mother, dates an ex-con and struggles to make ends meet. But neither has recovered from the horror and heartbreak of their shared loss - a devastating wound that's cruelly ripped open when Claire's husband is killed. The disappearance of a teenage girl and the murder of a middle-aged man, almost a quarter-century apart: what could connect them? Forming a wary truce, the surviving sisters look to the past to find the truth, unearthing the secrets that destroyed their family all those years ago ... and uncovering the possibility of redemption- and revenge- where they least expect it.

Buy Pretty Girls at Amazon

My Name is Lucy Barton
My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout is a complex novella. There is so much more going on below the surface of a story about a woman reflecting on life as she recovers in the hospital. Each word and phrase tells a rich story and should be examined closely to fully appreciate the author's talents. This would make a lovely summer read.

About the book: Lucy Barton is recovering slowly from what should have been a simple operation. Her mother, to whom she hasn't spoken for many years, comes to see her. Gentle gossip about people from Lucy s childhood in Amgash, Illinois, seems to reconnect them, but just below the surface lie the tension and longing that have informed every aspect of Lucy s life: her escape from her troubled family, her desire to become a writer, her marriage, her love for her two daughters. Knitting this powerful narrative together is the brilliant storytelling voice of Lucy herself: keenly observant, deeply human, and truly unforgettable.

Buy My Name is Lucy Barton at Amazon

Death Cloud
Death Cloud by Andrew Lane is a young adult adventure story featuring a young Sherlock Holmes. I'm not a huge Sherlock fan, but I enjoyed the PBS series so I thought I would give this a try. I preface my thoughts with that statement because it let me appreciate the story as an adventure novel instead of as a derivative work within the Sherlock Holmes universe. I thoroughly enjoyed the adventure and it was a fun listen. Have wondered if Sherlock's powers of deduction was an odd personality trait or a learned ability? Lane sheds light on the question with a look into the life of young Sherlock Holmes.

It is the summer of 1868, and Sherlock Holmes is fourteen. On break from boarding school, he is staying with eccentric strangers—his uncle and aunt—in their vast house in Hampshire. When two local people die from symptoms that resemble the plague, Holmes begins to investigate what really killed them, helped by his new tutor, an American named Amyus Crowe. So begins Sherlock's true education in detection, as he discovers the dastardly crimes of a brilliantly sinister villain of exquisitely malign intent.

Buy Death Cloud at Amazon

In print...

Women in the Castle
I won a copy of The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck in a Goodreads giveaway. I absolutely loved it. The characters are well developed and their names are as much a part the development as are their manners and background. Marianne von Lingenfels is every bit of the strong, take charge aristocrat that her name implies. Though the story begins at a crucial moment in both Germany's history and Marianne's life, it is really about what happens after the war. It reminded me of Chris Bohjanlin's Skeletons at the Feast (the reason I started this blog in the first place). It is a must read for fans of WWII era historical fiction and well-written women's fiction.

Amid the ashes of Nazi Germany’s defeat, Marianne von Lingenfels returns to the once grand castle of her husband’s ancestors, an imposing stone fortress now fallen into ruin following years of war. The widow of a resistor murdered in the failed July 20, 1944, plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, Marianne plans to uphold the promise she made to her husband’s brave conspirators: to find and protect their wives, her fellow resistance widows.

First, Marianne rescues six-year-old Martin, the son of her dearest childhood friend, from a Nazi reeducation home. Together, they make their way across the smoldering wreckage of their homeland to Berlin, where Martin’s mother, the beautiful and na├»ve Benita, has fallen into the hands of occupying Red Army soldiers. Then she locates Ania, another resistor’s wife, and her two boys, now refugees languishing in one of the many camps that house the millions displaced by the war.

As Marianne assembles this makeshift family from the ruins of her husband’s resistance movement, she is certain their shared pain and circumstances will hold them together. But she quickly discovers that the black-and-white, highly principled world of her privileged past has become infinitely more complicated, filled with secrets and dark passions that threaten to tear them apart. Eventually, all three women must come to terms with the choices that have defined their lives before, during, and after the war—each with their own unique share of challenges.

Buy The Women in the Castle at Amazon

In ebook...

Mercer Street
John Heldt's books are always an enjoyable read and I discovered in making my ebook review list that I have several of his books in my pile. They are sweet, simple reads about time-traveling adventures. Mercer Street would be a great addition to your beach bag this summer. The straightforward simplicity of the storytelling makes it a relaxing read. The charming characters and the intrigue of whether 3 women will screw up the timeline or just their lives as the become more and more attached to the people they meet in 1938 will immerse you in the story to point that you think you will be in 1938 when you look up from the page. 

Weeks after her husband dies in the midst of an affair in 2016, Chicago writer Susan Peterson, 48, seeks solace on a California vacation with her mother Elizabeth and daughter Amanda. The novelist, however, finds more than she bargained for when she meets a professor who possesses the secret of time travel. Within days, the women travel to 1938 and Princeton, New Jersey. Elizabeth begins a friendship with her refugee parents and infant self, while Susan and Amanda fall for a widowed admiral and a German researcher with troubling ties. Filled with poignancy, heartbreak, and intrigue, MERCER STREET gives new meaning to courage, sacrifice, and commitment as it follows three strong-willed souls on the adventure of a lifetime.

Buy Mercer Street at Amazon

The Big Little Wedding in Carlton Square
Another benefit of my Bullet Journaling is that I'm able to get to books a little closer to their release dates. Such is the case with The Big Little Wedding in Carlton Street that the publisher sent me recently. Before this might have been lost for months in the sea of books. It is a great romantic comedy about friends, family, and community. A great reminder that it's not about what you have, but who you have in your life.

When Emma’s boyfriend Daniel pops the question with a ring the size of a small country, she suddenly realizes just how different their worlds are. She wants a low-key wedding with close friends and family, while Daniel’s mother is expecting a society party that their high-brow guests won’t forget! While Emma is envisioning the town hall and Uncle Colin’s pub for the reception, future mother-in-law Philippa is talking chandeliers, silver wedding favors and chocolate fountains…

How on earth can Emma put together a vintage champagne-sodden celebration - fit for Lords and Ladies - on a beer pocketbook? Not to mention the fact her cross-dressing Uncle Barbara wants to be a bridesmaid, her best friend Kelly can’t stand Daniel’s best friend Cressida, and her dad is too proud to accept any help from Daniel’s family toward the costs.

There are three months to go until the big day. But will it be memorable for all the wrong reasons?

Buy The Big Little Wedding in Carlton Street at Amazon


In ebook...

The Brothers Three
I love Layton Green's writing, so when he offered me The Brothers Three for review I accepted even though the genre isn't one I'm too keen on. I'm only a few chapters in, but I'm loving it so far.

The Blackwood brothers from New Orleans are about to find out. Youngest brother Will dreams of escaping his mundane life as an apprentice contractor. Caleb is a bartender whose charm and good looks see him through life. Val, the eldest, is a high-powered attorney who hides the fact that he can perform parlor tricks with his mind.

The brothers' lives are changed forever when they receive a belated inheritance from their father: a staff with a mysterious stone on top, a pair of rogue's bracers, and a sword that Will can barely lift. Searching for an explanation, it is not until a strange key whisks the brothers across time and space, into a terrifying version of New Orleans ruled by wizards, that the brothers accept the truth and undergo a perilous journey home. With the help of an alluring but deadly adventuress, they must break into the keep of a sorcerer known for his love of diabolical games, find a trio of enchanted talismans, and somehow defeat an evil wizard who can raise legions of the undead to do his bidding.

It seems the brothers have found their adventure. But will they live to tell the tale?

Buy The Brothers Three at Amazon

In audio...

The Cinderella Murder
I enjoy Mary Higgins Clark's mysteries and this one is really good so far.

About the book: Television producer Laurie Moran is delighted when the pilot for her reality drama, Under Suspicion, is a success. Even more, the program -- a cold case series that revisits unsolved crimes by recreating them with those affected -- is off to a fantastic start when it helps solve an infamous murder in the very first episode.

Now Laurie has the ideal case to feature in the next episode of Under Suspicion: the Cinderella Murder. When Susan Dempsey, a beautiful and multi-talented UCLA student, was found dead, her murder raised numerous questions. Why was her car parked miles from her body? Had she ever shown up for the acting audition she was due to attend at the home of an up-and-coming director? Why does Susan’s boyfriend want to avoid questions about their relationship? Was her disappearance connected to a controversial church that was active on campus? Was she close to her computer science professor because of her technological brilliance, or something more? And why was Susan missing one of her shoes when her body was discovered?

With the help of lawyer and Under Suspicion host Alex Buckley, Laurie knows the case will attract great ratings, especially when the former suspects include Hollywood’s elite and tech billionaires. The suspense and drama are perfect for the silver screen -- but is Cinderella’s murderer ready for a close-up?

Buy The Cinderella Murder at Amazon


In print....

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley
The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti is another book I won in a Goodreads giveaway.

After years spent living on the run, Samuel Hawley moves with his teenage daughter, Loo, to Olympus, Massachusetts. There, in his late wife's hometown, Hawley finds work as a fisherman, while Loo struggles to fit in at school and grows curious about her mother's mysterious death. Haunting them both are twelve scars Hawley carries on his body, from twelve bullets in his criminal past; a past that eventually spills over into his daughter's present, until together they must face a reckoning yet to come. This father-daughter epic weaves back and forth through time and across America, from Alaska to the Adirondacks.

Buy The Twelve Lives of Samual Hawley at Amazon

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.

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April 23, 2017

Time-Traveling Adventure: Mercer Street by John A. Heldt

by Donna Huber
Mercer Street
October 2015; ebook (431 pages)
time travel, historical fiction

If you could travel to any time during the 19th century what year would you choose? That is the question facing the 3 women in John A. Heldt's time-traveling story Mercer Street.

Amazon affiliate links are used in this post. A free ebook was provided for an honest review.

Grandmother Elizabeth, mother Susan, and daughter Amanda are on vacation in California when they attend a lecture by a professor Bell on time traveling. Bell's interest in the women is piqued and their journey of a lifetime begins. The women travel back to 1938 when Elizabeth's family first arrived in the U.S., fleeing a Hitler controlled Austria, with one-year-old Elizabeth. In addition to traveling across the country in the post-depression era, the women face love and danger as the nation prepares for war.

Mercer Street is the second book in Heldt's American Journey series. Somehow I missed the first book in this series, but outside of a few references to the people who travel in September Sky, Mercer Street is a stand alone novel.

I have read Heldt's other series Northwest Passage and I assumed that the American Journey series would be similar. I was right and I was wrong. Unlike in the Northwest Passage were characters stumble upon doorways to the past, in American Journey the characters have an encounter with the professor who invites them on a journey of the lifetime.

Like the stories of the Northwest Passage series, Mercer Street is a simple story told in a straightforward manner. The beauty of Heldt's writing is in this simplicity as the stories aren't boring. I enjoyed every minute I spent in 1938 with Elisabeth, Susan, and Amanda. Without the complex plot and complicated character interactions, it was a relaxing read. I felt I should be rocking on the front porch with a glass of sweet tea, or perhaps lounging on the beach without a care in the world.

I love that the story is told in third person limited. In alternating chapters, I was able to see the world through the eyes of all three women without having to keep track of who's point of view it was. It provided depth to the story and richness to context.

While the plot isn't complicated, the approach of a world war does complicate the lives of the three women. Particularly when Amanda falls in love with the son of a German diplomat. Will she change the course history?

Then there is Elizabeth who babysits herself. Will the time-space continuum implode?

And not to mention they are 3 women with weak back stories visiting a time that national paranoia is increasing. Will they slip up and say something they shouldn't? Will someone dig a little deeper into who they really are?

And what about when it comes time to return to the 21st century?

Only one thing kind of irked me. A tiny detail really. When Amanda meets Dorothy Gale in 1938 she comments that she looks a lot like her college roommate. I kind of thought she would look up what happened to Dorothy when she returns to the present seeing how good of friends they became, but she doesn't. I know she has her hands full, but I would have liked to have that thread tied up.

I liked the winks to Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure and Back to the Future.

If you are looking for a book to accompany your next weekend of R&R, I highly recommend Mercer Streat.

Buy Mercer Street at Amazon

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.

Get even more book news in your inbox by signing up for our newsletter: Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.