The More the Merrier by Linda Byler

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Pages: 200

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

Published: October 1, 2019

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

NetGalley: A Heartwarming Christmas Romance Set During the Great Depression

It’s 1931, and times are tough for the Miller family, who are raising eight children in the midst of the Great Depression. When Eli Miller passes away unexpectedly, and then a fire destroys their barn, Annie has no idea how she’ll make ends meet. The Amish community rallies around her and the children, as is their custom, but as days turn into weeks and then into months, Annie’s friends and neighbors return to their own routines and seem to expect Annie to do the same. Annie knows she needs to stay strong for the children and figure out a way to keep everyone warm and clothed and fed, but she is heartbroken and exhausted. She reminds herself that God will provide, but every day feels like an uphill battle.

When Annie receives a letter from a widower with six children of his own, she tries to put it out of her mind. Her critical mother reminds her that it’s too soon to start a new friendship with a man, and warns her that blending a family will be complicated. In the weeks and months to follow, Annie must learn to make her own decisions—and accept the consequences, good and bad—face her past, and embark on a new journey that will transform her and her large, complicated family. When life seems especially complicated one summer, she finds herself saying that by Christmas everything will start to come together, but she has no idea the challenges—and ultimately blessings—headed her way.

My review: My dad was born in the depression and the stories he tells of growing up with little to nothing is heartbreaking but the love his family had was beautiful. Annie’s story is one of heartache and despair but also one of resilience and love.

This is a beautiful Christmas read that is worthy to read no matter the season. An Amish love story from a real Amish author.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, Skyhorse Publishing, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

Roll with It by Jamie Sumner

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Pages: 256

Publisher: Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing

Published: October 1, 2019

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

NetGalley: In the tradition of Wonder and Out of My Mind, this big-hearted middle-grade debut tells the story of an irrepressible girl with cerebral palsy whose life takes an unexpected turn when she moves to a new town.

Ellie’s a girl who tells it like it is. That surprises some people, who see a kid in a wheelchair and think she’s going to be all sunshine and cuddles. The thing is, Ellie has big dreams: She might be eating Stouffer’s for dinner, but one day she’s going to be a professional baker. If she’s not writing fan letters to her favorite celebrity chefs, she’s practicing recipes on her well-meaning, if overworked, mother.

But when Ellie and her mom move so they can help take care of her ailing grandpa, Ellie has to start all over again in a new town at a new school. Except she’s not just the new kid—she’s the new kid in the wheelchair who lives in the trailer park on the wrong side of town. It all feels like one challenge too many until Ellie starts to make her first-ever friends. Now she just has to convince her mom that this town might just be the best thing that ever happened to them!

My Review: A beautiful read. If you like Wonder than you will love Roll with It.

Ellie is an inspiration that will stick with you. I couldn’t put this book down and I was hooked from page one. Yes, at times Ellie could be a tad whiny and smart-mouthed but what pre-teen isn’t and sometimes she had a right to be whiny. It made her character seem believable.

I definitely will be buying a copy or five for some local elementary schools in my area. I want to share Ellie’s story with as many as I can.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

Killer in the Carriage House(Victorian Village Mysteries #2) by Sheila Connolly

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Pages: 288

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Published: July 9, 2019

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

NetGalley:

Welcome back to Asheboro, Maryland, where real estate can be a matter of life and death. Killer in the Carriage House is the second book in the Victorian Village Mystery series from New York Times bestselling author Sheila Connolly.

Coming back to her hometown was never on the agenda for hotelier Katherine Hamilton. But when she’s offered a chance to lead the charge of transforming the landscape into a Victorian village and tourist attraction, Kate can’t quite refuse. The only problem? Nobody in Asheboro has the passion, nor the funds, to get plans off the ground…until Kate teams up with handsome historian Joshua Wainwright, who has ambitious ideas of his own involving an old mansion and a treasure-trove of documents that could attract investors and help seal the deal.

Then, just as Kate and Josh seem ready to pull the trigger, a dead body turns up in the town library. Do these mysterious papers spell danger instead of dollars? That’s what Kate intends to find out before all bets are off…and someone else ends up six feet under.

My Review:

I love the idea of turning a town into what it looked like in the past. Honestly, though, I wasn’t sure how this series was going to progress after the first book and still stay interesting. I was pleasantly surprised. The premise of Thomas Edison selling his electricity patents and Henry Barton buying them was a joy to read. I’m ashamed to say I have not taken the time to look this up and see if there is a smudge of truth to this or if creative artistic license was used. Either way, it made for interesting reading.

I am eagerly anticipating the third book in this series to see where we go next in the development in the town.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

Beverly, Right Here by Kate DiCamillo

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Pages: 256

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Published: September 24, 2019

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

NetGalley:

Revisiting once again the world of Raymie Nightingale, two-time Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo turns her focus to the tough-talking, inescapably tenderhearted Beverly.

Beverly put her foot down on the gas. They went faster still.
This was what Beverly wanted — what she always wanted. To get away. To get away as fast as she could. To stay away.

Beverly Tapinski has run away from home plenty of times, but that was when she was just a kid. By now, she figures, it’s not running away. It’s leaving. Determined to make it on her own, Beverly finds a job and a place to live and tries to forget about her dog, Buddy, now buried underneath the orange trees back home; her friend Raymie, whom she left without a word; and her mom, Rhonda, who has never cared about anyone but herself. Beverly doesn’t want to depend on anyone, and she definitely doesn’t want anyone to depend on her. But despite her best efforts, she can’t help forming connections with the people around her — and gradually, she learns to see herself through their eyes. In a touching, funny, and fearless conclusion to her sequence of novels about the beloved Three Rancheros, #1 New York Times best-selling author Kate DiCamillo tells the story of a character who will break your heart and put it back together again.

My Review:

I had never read Kate DiCamillo until a year and a half ago when several of my students had to read Because of Winn-Dixie for their third-grade class. I have been hooked since.

I’m a huge fan of coming of age literature. DiCamillo does an outstanding job in showing us how sometimes we have to choose our family whether that includes a favorite pet or an elderly woman who is fighting to live on her own. It is ok for family to be those friends you pick up on the way during your life’s journey. Love comes in many different forms and sometimes when we least expect it.

Beverly, Right Here is another perfect read-aloud book to promote discussion with the middle-graders in your life. I enjoy how DiCamillo left the story open-ended as we have the hope to visit the Three Rancheros again.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, Candlewick Press, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

Strands of Truth by Colleen Coble

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Pages: 337

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Published: September 10, 2019

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

NetGalley:

Strands of Harper Taylor’s childhood are resurfacing—but will the truth save her . . . or pull her under?

Harper Taylor is used to being alone—after all, she grew up in one foster home after another. Oliver Jackson finally took her under his wing when she was a runaway teenager, and now Harper pours her marine biology knowledge into Oliver’s pen shell research. But she’s never stopped wishing for a family of her own.
So when a DNA test reveals a half-sister living just two hours away, Harper is both hopeful and nervous. Over warm cinnamon rolls, Harper and Annabelle find striking similarities in their stories. Is it just a coincidence that both their mothers died tragically, without revealing Harper and Annabelle’s father’s name?

Oliver’s son Ridge still sees Harper as a troubled teen even all these years later. But when Oliver is attacked, Ridge and Harper find themselves working together to uncover dangerous secrets that threaten to destroy them all. They must unravel her past before they can have any hope for the future.

My Review:

Wow, Coble has made me think twice about doing a DNA test to see my ancestry. I never thought about it being used maliciously. I’m a little scared now.

The mystery is a page-turner and interesting. I appreciate how Coble keeps the romance and the language clean.

There are many characters and some may find that a tad confusing but if you think about it when half-siblings come into play families get large very quickly. I would have loved to know more about Annabelle and Harper’s newfound sisterhood. Maybe someday we will see them in a future book as side characters.

If you are looking for a good mystery with family at the core Strands of Truth is a perfect read.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, Thomas Nelson, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

The Humiliations of Pipi McGee by Beth Vrabel

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Pages: 384

Publisher: Running Press Kids

Published: September 17, 2019

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

NetGalley:

The first eight years of Penelope McGee’s education have been a curriculum in humiliation. Now she is on a quest for redemption and a little bit of revenge.

From her kindergarten self-portrait as a bacon with boobs to fourth grade when she peed her pants in the library thanks to a stuck zipper to seventh grade where…well, she doesn’t talk about seventh grade. Ever.

After hearing the guidance counselor lecturing them on how high school will be a clean slate for everyone, Pipi–fearing that her eight humiliations will follow her into the halls of Northbrook High School–decides to use her last year in middle school to right the wrongs of her early education and save other innocents from the same picked-on, laughed-at fate. Pipi McGee is seeking redemption, but she’ll take revenge, too.

My Review:

A perfect read for middle schoolers or about to be middle schoolers.

I hated middle school. I felt awkward with who I was and who I wanted to be. Luckily though I did not have the experiences Pipi did kindergarten through 7th grade. I felt embarrassed for her as I was reading.

Lesson one learned: Revenge is never as satisfying as you think it will be. If only adults would learn this as well. Kids need to learn this lesson early on and a lot of unnecessary heartache and drama would be avoided. The author handles this so perfectly with Pipi and Vile Kate.

Lesson two learned: Everyone is fighting something inside themselves you don’t know about. Being kind to even the nastiest person will make you feel better in the long run. My favorite line in the entire book: “hurt people hurt people.” Oh, how true is this statement. Once we understand that it is much easier to overlook the nasty in others.

Parents, aunts, grandmothers buy this book for the tween in your life. Read together and let it open up a world of discussions between you. I think you’ll be happy you did.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, Perseus Books, Running Press, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

Christmas in Winter Hill by Melody Carlson

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Pages: 162

Publisher: Revell

Published: September 3, 2019

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

NetGalley:

Krista Galloway is not a fan of Christmas. After her rough childhood in multiple foster homes, the holiday season just brings too many bad memories to the surface. But when she accepts a job as a city manager in the mountain town of Winter Hill, Washington, Christmas is part of the deal. The small town is famous for its Christmasville celebration, something that the city manager . . . well, manages.

As she tries to make her tiny new apartment feel like home for her and her eight-year-old daughter, Emily, Krista begins to wonder if this move was a mistake. She doesn’t always feel welcomed in the close-knit town, and Emily continually wonders, “Where’s the snow?” Can a friendly stranger and his family help restore Krista’s Christmas spirit before the big day?

My Review:

A sweet quick Christmas read filled with hope, warmth, and love. The perfect book to sit by a warm fire with a cup of peppermint cocoa and lose yourself in the joys of Winter Hill.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, Revell, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

The Sisters of Summit Avenue by Lynn Cullen

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Pages: 320

Publisher: Gallery Books

Published: September 10, 2019

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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NetGalley:

From Lynn Cullen, the bestselling author of Mrs. Poe and Twain’s End, comes a powerful novel set in the Midwest during the Great Depression, about two sisters bound together by love, duty, and pain.

Ruth has been single-handedly raising four young daughters and running her family’s Indiana farm for eight long years, ever since her husband, John, fell into a comatose state, infected by the infamous “sleeping sickness” devastating families across the country. If only she could trade places with her older sister, June, who is the envy of everyone she meets: blonde and beautiful, married to a wealthy doctor, living in a mansion in St. Paul. And June has a coveted job, too, as one of “the Bettys,” the perky recipe developers who populate General Mills’ famous Betty Crocker test kitchens. But these gilded trappings hide sorrows: she has borne no children. And the man she used to love more than anything belongs to Ruth.

When the two sisters reluctantly reunite after a long estrangement, June’s bitterness about her sister’s betrayal sets into motion a confrontation that’s been years in the making. And their mother, Dorothy, who’s brought the two of them together, has her own dark secrets, which might blow up the fragile peace she hopes to restore between her daughters.

An emotional journey of redemption, inner strength, and the ties that bind families together, for better or worse, The Sisters of Summit Avenue is a heartfelt love letter to mothers, daughters, and sisters everywhere.

My Review:

I enjoyed this book enough to give it four stars but I was not thrilled with the style of writing. The story jumps from past to present and between the sisters and Dorothy. Normally that does not bother me but in this book, I thought it took the punch of the story away. I would get really invested in the current storyline and then, bam, it would switch.

I knew going in, this was a work of fiction but I really thought I’d get to the end and be told it was loosely based on a true story. Alas, that did not occur. I have found myself reading what I can on the creation of Betty Crocker.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, Gallery, Pocket Books, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

Judy Moody Book Quiz Whiz (#15) by Megan McDonald

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Pages: 176

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Published: September 10, 2019

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

NetGalley:

Books, books, books! Judy’s got books on the brain as she prepares for a totally RARE trivia competition. Has reading always been this exciting?

Judy Moody is in it to win it. Win the Book Quiz Blowout, that is. Judy and her brother, Stink, are two-fifths of the Virginia Dare Bookworms, and they’ve been reading up a storm to prepare for Saturday’s face-off against second- and third-grade readers from the next town. Judy’s trying out all kinds of tactics, from hanging upside down like Pippi Longstocking to teaching herself to speed read The Princess in Black, and Stink has fashioned a cape of book trivia sticky notes to help him remember all the penguins in Mr. Popper’s Penguins. But when Judy, Stink, and their fellow teammates discover the other group has a fourth-grader (no lie!), they get a bit nervous. Are the Bookworms up to the challenge?

My Review:

I will definitely be buying this book for some kiddos in my life and me too. Since I learned to read I have been a bookworm. Reading about kids loving to read in a book for kids makes my heart sing.

I learned there are some pretty cool kids books that I need to read. I’m happy that the final copy will list the books mentioned in the back. What a great reference for parents.

The Judy Moody series continues with another fantastic installment.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, Candlewick Press, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

The Long Call (A Two Rivers #1) by Ann Cleeves

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Pages: 382

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Published: September 3, 2019

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

NetGalley:

In North Devon, where two rivers converge and run into the sea, Detective Matthew Venn stands outside the church as his estranged father’s funeral takes place. On the day Matthew left the strict evangelical community he grew up in, he lost his family too.

Now, as he turns and walks away again, he receives a call from one of his team. A body has been found on the beach nearby: a man with a tattoo of an albatross on his neck stabbed to death.

The case calls Matthew back to the people and places of his past, as deadly secrets hidden at their hearts are revealed, and his new life is forced into a collision course with the world he thought he’d left behind.

My Review:

The Long Call is my first Ann Cleeves book and the first in a new series. I admit the first 30% or so was so slow. Mainly because of the introduction of all the characters. Once I got that under my belt I flew through the book.

I get the same feeling I do when reading The Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny. A dark, brooding detective that is quietly processing the crime and when he speaks you listen. He doesn’t waste words on unimportant things.

Perfect for fans of mystery and suspense. No detailed sex scenes but there are talks of rape. If you prefer not to read about LGBTQ characters this probably is not the book for you. The main character is gay.

I’m looking forward to continuing The Two Rivers series.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.