Tell Me Lies by Carola Lovering

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Originally appeared in Library Journal, May 2018.

Since the Unforgivable Thing, Lucy Albright refers to her mother as CJ, refusing to forgive or forget the scandalous act. Readers first meet 25 year old Lucy, who gave up a dream of being a travel journalist, settling as an account executive for an online publication in New York City. A bridesmaid in her best friend’s upcoming wedding, Lucy is hesitant to be entangled or seduced by Stephen yet again. Lucy’s toxic, heated relationship with Stephen DeMarco is revealed in alternating points of view spanning four years of college at Baird in southern California. First meeting during Lucy’s freshman year, a time of heavy recreational drug use and sexual exploration, Lucy falls hard for Stephen, despite unbearable pain and betrayal. Regularly depriving herself of food, Lucy struggles with body image. Confident, narcissistic Stephen makes her feel beautiful and loved, stringing her along in his warped view of a real relationship. Will Lucy finally rip off the Band-Aid of Stephen for good, or let herself fall back into the dangerous spiral of her past? VERDICT: Fans of Colleen Hoover will devour Lovering’s new adult debut full of toxic love, secrets, and intense romance.

 

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Till it Stops Beating by Hannah R. Goodman

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Librarian Laura’s Review

Till it Stops Beating, a young adult realistic fiction from author Hannah R. Goodman tackles some very heavy themes including mental illness, alcoholism, sickness (cancer), and loss. The language and scenes are very mature, so I would not recommend it for readers under the age of 16. It is, however, a great book for teens to relate to for a variety of tough situations that may come up during high school or teenage years. 

Maddie Hickman, a 17 year old senior can not stop thinking about the boy who got away. No matter who she dates or that it’s been years since she’s laid eyes on him, Justin is the one for her. Her best friends, fun-loving Susan and handsome, gay Peter attempt to keep her mind off of Justin, to no avail. Added to her constant anxiety about Justin is the fact that Maddie has a major Senior Project due soon, which involves writing a book about the one that got away…Justin. Her older sister, Barb, has battled alcohol addiction for most of her adult life, which ultimately led to her marriage falling apart. To complicate matters, Barb starts bringing around her new beau, who is a bit overbearing for Maddie’s taste. And then, Maddie receives a phone call from Bubbie, her beloved grandmother who lives in Florida, to let her know that she has cancer. This announcement sends Maddie over the edge into a full-blown anxiety attack, which leaves her feeling unmoored and shaken. Come to find out, her father has suffered from a similar mental illness, so Maddie begrudgingly sees a therapist at her parents’ request. 

In the midst of all of these issues surrounding her, Maddie ends up taking a life-altering road trip with her friend Peter and his current boyfriend. On the way, she decides to take a risk and really start living her life the way she wants to live it. I won’t give you any more plot details because you’ll have to read it yourselves. The author does a great job of bringing the characters to life, in a way that readers can identify with them. 

My favorite quote from this book: Bubbie tells Maddie “Never worry about your heart, honey, till it stops beating.” (Good grandmotherly advice.)

Thank you to the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.

About the Book

Seventeen-year-old Maddie Hickman’s senior year begins with the good (the reemergence of The One That Got Away), the bad (a cancer diagnosis, not hers, but it might as well be) and the WTF (an anxiety attack that renders her writhing on the floor like an upside down crab).

Adding to her spiraling anxiety is Senior Project, in the form of I’ve Decided To Write A Book about The Other One That Got Away (And Crushed My Heart). Compounding it all is applying to college and keeping up with her friends. The ever mounting stress eventually rips her tight grip on all that she holds dear.

Her break down leads to an unexpected road trip where she is forced to listen to her wildly beating heart. It is only in the back of a convertible with pop music blasting, that she discovers she must risk everything in order to really live.

Amazon.com https://www.amazon.com/dp/1684330807/‬‬

About the Author

Often referred to as “the teenage whisperer”, Hannah R. Goodman’s twenty-year career working with teenagers includes the titles teacher, tutor, coach, and, more recently, mental health counselor. Hannah has written essays about mental health for various online publications. Her work has appeared on MindBodyGreen, OC87 Recovery Diaries, Zencare.co, and The Mighty. Though she has previously earned the title author with her first three books, the last was released in 2009 and all were self-published. This time around, indie publisher Black Rose Writing released her novel Till It Stops Beating this summer.

Hannah’s first YA novel, My Sister’s Wedding, won the first place award for The Writer’s Digest International Self-Publishing Contest, 2004, children’s book division. She published the follow-up, My Summer Vacation, in May 2006, which went on to win a bronze IPPY in 2007. The third Maddie book, Fear of Falling, was released in the fall of 2009 and was praised by teachers and readers for tackling subjects like homophobia and coming out. She’s published young adult short stories on Amazon’s Shorts, in an anthology entitled Bound Is The Bewitching Lilith, and in the journal Balancing The Tides. She also has written columns for The Jewish Voice & Herald. Recent, previous projects include Sucker Literary, which features emerging YA authors and All The Way YA, a group blog of writers telling the real deal about writing and publishing YA fiction.

Hannah is a member of ARIA (Association of Rhode Island Authors) as well as a graduate of Pine Manor College’s Solstice Program in Creative Writing where she earned an MFA in Writing For Young People. She resides in Bristol, RI with her husband, two daughters, and black and white cat named Zoe

You can find Hannah:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/969127.Hannah_R_Goodman

Twitter: @hannahrgoodman

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tillitstopsbeatingnovel/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tillitstopsbeating/

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/hannah-goodman-76b9596/

Amazon Author Central: https://www.amazon.com/Hannah-R.-Goodman/e/B002BLU56K

Website: https://www.hannahrgoodman.com

Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce

9781501170065_ef2c3Originally appeared in Library Journal, April 2018.

In 1940’s wartime London, 22 year old Emmy applies for a job at what she assumes will be the London Evening Chronicle, which would fulfill her lifelong dream to be a journalist. With her fiance Edmund away at war, Emmy does her part at home, volunteering evenings at the firehouse call center during air raids. To her initial dismay, her position is a junior typist at Women’s Friend magazine. Her primary role is to type responses for Mrs. Bird’s Problem Page, much like a modern-day Dear Abby. Overbearing and rude, Mrs. Bird refuses letters deemed unpleasant, only allowing Emmy to answer the most mundane with unhelpful responses. After an upsetting telegram from Edmund, Emmy boldly begins answering the poor women whose real problems Mrs. Bird would ignore, keeping it secret from even her best friend, Bunty. Emmy bravely commutes home in the evenings, keeping a positive outlook, but when tragedy strikes too close to home, she is filled with guilt and loss. VERDICT: Fans of  JoJo Moyes will enjoy Pearce’s debut with its plucky female characters and unique picture of women’s life in wartime Britain.

Holly Jolly Summer by Tiffany Stewart

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Originally appeared in School Library Journal, April 2018.

Gr 7 & up – The summer tourist season is bustling in the stifling hot town of Christmas, Kentucky, as 15 year old First Daughter, Darby causes a very public disaster at the annual Snow Globe unveiling. Her single father, Mayor Peacher, encourages her to get a job and be a regular kid, replacing her unofficial position in his office with Marianne, an attractive city-girl type sent by the Governor’s office to help Christmas become an even greater tourist destination. Darby goes to work at Holly Jolly Land, a local amusement park full of promise, but in need of a little TLC. Despite being the lowest on the maintenance crew, having to use the infamous M.O.P, and her reputation that precedes her, Darby gets to know the owner, Nick, a Vietnam vet, and the “Misfits,” feeling a sense of belonging. Her new supervisor turns out to be Calvin, a cute boy from the not so distant past, who causes her crush on Roy, the class heart-breaker, to fizzle. Will Calvin stand by Darby when the future of Holly Jolly Land is in the balance? Lacking any mature scenes or language, this squeaky clean young adult romance is suitable for middle grade readers as well. VERDICT: Recommended for strictly additional purchase, Stewart’s debut beach read is full of holiday flavor and humor, but also predictability.

Winter in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand

9780316435512_a7bb1Winter in Paradise will be released on October 9, 2018.

The start to her new Winter series, Winter in Paradise is a not a Holiday novel (like the Winter Street series), but it takes place in January, hence the “Winter” series. Most of the novel takes place on the island of St. John in the Virgin Islands, a much loved vacation and writing destination of the author, Elin Hilderbrand. All of her previous books take place on her beloved home of Nantucket. Readers will love the rich setting details Elin writes into each scene, allowing them to feel like they are experiencing St. John, right along with the characters.

Irene Steele lives in an immaculately restored Victorian home in Iowa City, Iowa. She has been happily married to Russ, a business man who travels frequently, for many years. They have raised two sons, Baker and Cash, who are both adults making their own decisions, both good and bad. Baker is a stay-at-home dad to his 4-year old son Floyd. He dabbles in day trading while his wife Anna, a cardiac surgeon, mostly supports the household. The younger son, Cash, lives in Colorado where he manages two outdoor supply stores (handed to him by his father), both of which he has run into bankruptcy. The only thing he has left to his name is his beautiful golden retriever, Winnie.

Irene is feeling blue, spending New Year’s Eve along with Russ away on yet another business trip. She has surrounded herself with luxury in her spare-no-expense home, but with no one else to share it with, she is sort of lost. Out of the blue she receives a phone call from the secretary of Russ’s mysterious business partner, Todd, whom Irene has never even met. She is told that Russ was involved in a helicopter crash in the Virgin Islands and that Russ, the pilot, and a local woman were all killed. Reeling from this news, she is then thrown for another loop when she is told that Russ has concerns there and owns a property. Irene decides that she must go to the Virgin Islands to tie up any loose ends with the property and figure out why Russ had a home thousands of miles away that she knew nothing about. What and who she uncovers in the Virgin Islands will change her life forever.

I won’t give away any more plot, because you’ll have to read it yourselves. Irene and Russ aren’t the only ones with drama in this family. Just wait until you read about Baker and Cash – like father, like son, as they say. Written in alternating points of view between five characters, the story unfolds over the course of just a few days. This book was fabulous. I couldn’t put it down! The story line has just the right amount of romance, betrayal, suspense, humor, and rich details of the Virgin Islands.  And, of course, it ends on a bit of a cliffhanger. I can’t wait for the next installment to come out (do I have to wait another whole year!?).

A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult

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A Spark of Light will be released on October 2, 2018.

A Spark of Light is packed with fact-based research on both sides of the abortion debate. Readers will be absorbed into the impossible situations the characters on both side of the hotly debated issue are facing. This novel is thought-provoking and beautifully written. It really made me stop to consider both sides of the issue, even if I have always had my own personal opinion.

The book is written in a unique format, starting with the hostage standoff in terrifying full-swing and then each chapter thereafter going backward an hour in time, as readers see what each person in the abortion clinic at the time it was attacked was doing prior to coming to the clinic for various reasons. The Center is the only abortion clinic in the state of Mississippi, so many women drive for hours just to make their choice. Some (receptionists, nurses, doctor) were there working; some had come for mandated abortion counseling before their surgery.  Fifteen -year old, Wren, was taken there by her Aunt Bex to get on birth control without having to tell her single father, hostage negotiator Hugh McElroy. Olive, an older woman with stage 4 cervical cancer, was there for support, so that she wouldn’t have to receive the diagnosis alone before she went home to tell her beloved wife, Peg.

On his 40th birthday, Hugh McElroy, receives a call of an active shooter at The Center, the abortion clinic known for controversial and tense situations with protesters. He thinks its just another typical day on the job, until he checks his cell phone to find text messages from his panicked 15 year old daughter, Wren, who is inside the clinic with Hugh’s older sister, Bex. Hugh should take himself off the case, but he knows he won’t be able to trust the safety of the two people he loves the most to anyone else. So, he begins speaking to the gunman, George Goddard.

The point of view switches between Hugh, Bex, Wren, Olive, Joy (who has just had an abortion), Janine (a protestor who came to the clinic to spy), Izzy (a nurse who is pregnant and considering abortion), and the doctor who performs the abortions safely and responsibly, all the while comforting the young mothers in unthinkable situations, even though he considers himself pro-life. As the hours wind down, the characters are humanized with their many faults, but also highlighted by their bravery and love in the face of a terrifying situation.

Readers will encounter a few surprises by the end of the book which I didn’t see coming. I flew through this book and loved every page. Jodi Picoult never lets me down with her stories. They always have a hotly debated issue at their core, and she does a fabulous job of giving information for both sides and remaining unbiased. I very highly recommend this novel, as I do with all of Picoult’s novels. Can’t wait for her next one!

Thanks for reading! Be well.

Librarian Laura

Little Big Love by Katy Regan

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Originally published in Library Journal, March 2018

A modern family drama unfolds in alternating points of view of authentic voices between a 10 year old named Zac who likes to collect facts and cook, his single mother, Juliet, and her father, Mick.  Juliet and Zac live on Harlequin Estate in Grimsby, a seaside town in England which was a major fishing port. Zac’s father, Liam, left under mysterious circumstances after the tragic death of Juliet’s brother, Jamie, ten years ago. Only Mick, a recovering alcoholic and retired fisherman, knows the truth, but he hides behind grief, guilt, and his opinionated wife. Juliet drowns her sorrow with alcohol and food, and she and Zac have become overweight, causing Zac to be bullied. When the bullying at school escalates, Juliet is determined to get Zac healthy and happy. Convinced it will please his mom, Zac’s mission, a secret with best friend Teagan, is to find Liam. Soon, finding Liam becomes Zac’s top priority, but when the truth is revealed, there’s no going back, no matter the pain it brings. VERDICT: Fans of Jane Green and Susan Wiggs will enjoy Regan’s debut novel with strong family bond that explores the age-old question of what if and the aftermath of one poor decision.