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Review: Those Girls by Chevy Stevens

[ 1 ] August 31, 2015

those girls book coverReviewed by Meg Massey

The Campbell sisters have raised themselves after the death of their mother and the absence and drunken behavior of their father. When their father returns from his most recent stint at work drunk and angry, a fight with one of the girls turns ugly. Suddenly the girls must leave their home on a ranch in Canada and make new lives for themselves. But their nightmare has only just begun when their vehicle breaks down in a small town of Cash Creek.

Eighteen years later, Jess, Courtney and Dani, now Jamie, Crystal and Dallas, have struggled to forget about what happened to them in Cash Creek, and to make new lives for themselves. But a horrific experience in Crystal’s new life leads her to the self-destructive behavior of her youth, and ultimately to seek payback in Cash Creek. Only this time, her niece follows her, hoping to help her aunt. When Jamie and Dallas realize where the two of them have gone, they realize they must follow and end this nightmare once and for all.

Chevy Stevens’ most recent book is an intense thriller, with detailed and vivid descriptions of violence and fear. Just when you think the girls have escaped and made a new life for themselves, they are sucked back in to a cycle of violence they have struggled to escape since they were teenagers. At times, this book was incredibly difficult to read, as its descriptions were violent and very graphic. But many times I couldn’t put it down; I had to know what would happen next. The ending brought some surprises that I wasn’t expecting. If you’re looking for an engaging and intense read, Those Girls is the one for you.

Warning: This book contains graphic language and intensely violent scenes.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Meg lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, Ryan. Library professional by day, freelance writer by night, Meg writes about life, entertainment and everything in between.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by St. Martin’s Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Mailbox Monday

[ 6 ] August 31, 2015

Welcome to Mailbox MondayMailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at the Mailbox Monday blog.

Here are the books that made their way into my physical and digital mailboxes last week:

Paper Review Copies

dishing the dirt book coverdebt of tamar book coverkilling maine book cover

Digital Review Copies

the lake house book cover

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Review: Let’s Chat About Economics! by Michelle Balconi & Dr. Arthur Laffer

[ 2 ] August 28, 2015

let's chat about economics book coverReviewed by Alyssa Katanic

It seems as if more and more families are working hard to pay off debt and to establish healthier financial habits. Many of us didn’t receive much financial instruction, if any, during our growing up years, and often have to face a few struggles before we recognize our need to learn more about it. As parents and caregivers we desire to protect our children from having to learn things “the hard way”, and this includes lessons having to do with finances, but where do we start when it comes to teaching our children how to make good financial decisions?

Let’s Chat About Economics! by Michelle Balconi and Dr. Arthur Laffer is a four chapter picture book aimed at intermediate school aged children. Teamed with Dr. Laffer’s economics wisdom, Balconi does an excellent job using the vehicle of storytelling to communicate economic principles and how they effect everyday decisions. The four chapters cover such subjects as supply and demand, costs and trade-offs, savings, and making thoughtful purchases. There is also an excellent glossary which makes Let’s Chat About Economics! a great starting point for learning specific terms, as well as their applications.

Often a story is lost when trying to teach a more academic lesson, or the lesson becomes lost in the distraction of a fun story. Balconi has done a good job of balancing both the learning and the stories in Let’s Chat About Economics! It is best to use it as a read aloud so that you can discuss the lesson with your child as you read, but the stories are interesting enough that my daughter walked off and finished the book without me when I had to set it aside to make dinner.

There are many lessons that we all must learn in order to experience the successes in life, but each of us have our own ideas of what those successes look like. I love that Balconi calls attention to this fact with her highlighted quote, “You are a unique and scarce resource with tremendous value – make choices that serve you!” For some people, that may mean buying the latest technology, and for others, that may mean a fun day of garage sale shopping.

Let’s Chat About Economics! introduces children to the ideas and terms of economics which effect our everyday lives, making children mindful of such things. It is very helpful in starting a financial conversation with the children in your life and may just show them how to think through whether or not a new toy or a fun trip is the best decision to make in the moment.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Alyssa Katanic is a wife and homeschooling mother of 7 children under 11 years old. She loves reading and collecting great books to share with others and knows that one can never have too many!

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Gichigami Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

[ 4 ] August 28, 2015

everything i never told you book coverReviewed by Neriza Alba

This is such a captivating and pleasurable read. Everything I Never Told You is about a family in a small Ohio town in the 70s. It all starts with the disappearance and death of Lydia, one of the daughters, giving the impression of a typical whodunit story line. But there is more to it than meets the eye. Lydia was a product of an interracial marriage and had always felt that she was different, even more so in their small town. Her parents came from backgrounds that were polar opposites.  Her mother fell in love with her father because he was different; her father came to love her mother because she blended in perfectly. Both parents wanted their kids, especially Lydia, to fit in. They wanted her to achieve what they did not, molding her into what they thought she had to be to in order to become what they aspired for themselves.

For a story that explores a lot of issues, – race, identity, aspirations, love, grief and a sense of belonging – it manages to communicate each one clearly while at the same time keeping a tightly knit plot. Even the switching timelines contributes to the increasing tautness of the story.

Ng writes in a profoundly light manner and gives you the feeling that you are floating in the air and just watching everything happen below. She has also managed to create characters that are authentically relatable, albeit fully flawed. Each one of them will stay with you long after you’ve finished the book.

It is quite remarkable that this is Ng’s debut work. The writing, the flow of the story and the complex characterizations are exceptional. She handled all like a seasoned novelist.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Neriza Alba works a regular 9-to-5 job in Stockholm where she resides with her husband. In addition to reading, she enjoys travelling and curling up with a glass of good wine.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Penguin Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Lady Maybe by Julie Klassen

[ 1 ] August 27, 2015

lady maybe book coverReviewed by Christen Krumm

New story. New publisher. Same Julie Klassen.

Julie Klassen’s newest offering to the world of regency, Lady Maybe, throws you into the danger and romance from the first page. A husband trying to pull his wife away from an affair. A lady’s maid trying to run from scandal. A violently deadly carriage accident. And three people’s lives are changed forever. Our main character awakens from the accident in a place she’s never seen and with people she’s never met. She only remembers fragments of her life before the accident and the lie she has found herself in.

With the start of an affair, I was honestly wondering where Klassen was taking us. Was this going to be a typical  “clean” Klassen novel? No worries. Klassen twists and turns everything to keep you guessing, and, in the end, Lady Maybe has turned out to be maybe my favorite Klassen novel to date.

This is one of the first books I can remember where I truly didn’t know who the main character was going to end up with, and to tell you the truth, I wasn’t ever sure which hero I was routing for.  A nod to Sweet Home Alabama, where both heroes are great guys and you really don’t know who you want her to end up with (although I’m pretty sure I knew which guy Reese Witherspoon was going to pick, and loved her choice in the end).

I also felt like Lady Maybe had touches from While You Were Sleeping–with a regency twist. Everyone waking up from a horrible accident and an innocent lie that turns way more complicated as it goes on.

While the main twist is revealed (and I figured it out fairly quickly anyways) almost up front, there are enough questions to keep you reading–late into the night, might I add. The biggest twist coming towards the end will make your jaw drop, and I did a little giggling happy dance when it was finally revealed who our loveable main character was whisked off her feet by. This is a book I did not want to put down! I even found myself picking it up in between stoplights on my commute!

Two thumbs way up and standing applause for Julie Klassen’s Lady Maybe.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Christen is a ravenous reader, wanna be author, Litfuse Nester, and slightly addicted to coffee. Lives in Arkansas with her husband and three mini people. Connect with her at her blog: http://ChristenKrumm.com or Twitter @ChristenKrumm.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Berkley. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Blog Tour: A Pattern of Lies by Charles Todd

[ 5 ] August 25, 2015

a pattern of lies book coverPlease join the mother and son writing team, Charles Todd, as they tour the blogosphere with their new book, A Pattern of Lies!

Reviewed by Caleb Shadis

A Pattern of Lies is the seventh book in the Bess Crawford Mystery series and it does not disappoint. I continue to enjoy reading these mysteries and I learn a bit about the Great War each time.

Bess has just escorted some patients back to England and while waiting for a train to take her to London, meets an old patient who is recovering again from a new injury. Since it looks like the train may be late to never, he offers her a room for the night in the family home and a chance to take his mother’s mind off recent unpleasantness. Bess met his mother when he was wounded and she came to help nurse him back to health.

The family ran a gunpowder plant for over 100 years, without incident. Two years prior, an accident caused the destruction of the mill and the loss of a 100 men. This was a terrible blow to the community on all fronts. Now whispers are going around blaming Mr. Ashton for starting the explosion and causing the subsequent fire, out of spite to the Army. These rumors are causing the family to be ostracized and making their property a prime target for vandals.

Things are continuing to escalate and someone tries to start a fire in house in the middle of the night. Shortly after, Mr. Ashton is arrested for the murder of the 100 men in the explosion. To Bess, it’s pretty obvious that this is nothing more than a witch hunt started by a vicious rumor. But who would do such a thing two years after the incident? Bess does what she can but her duties keep calling her back to the front to nurse more injured back to health.

Things get more serious when a witness is shot at and shortly after that another nurse is assaulted in her room–the same room originally assigned to Sister Crawford. It looks suspiciously like someone doesn’t want the truth to come out back in Kent.

Sister Crawford is an excellent sleuth and fun to read about. I started reading the series with book three and have enjoyed every single one since. They are mostly cozy mysteries but have slightly more danger than the average cozy–often simply because they have WWI as the backdrop.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Caleb is a software engineer and amateur woodworker living in southern Minnesota. He has more hobbies than he has time or money for, and enjoys his quiet time reading.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by William Morrow. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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