Posts by LibrarianLaura

MLS Librarian and Book Blogger. Wife, Mom of boys & dogs, lover of books, baking, running, and strong coffee. SLJ/LJ Reviewer. Cross Country Coach.

The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand

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Bring on the Summer! Elin Hilderbrand, the queen of Summer beach reads, has created yet another fast-paced, intriguing, and highly addictive Nantucket-based beach novel full of secrets and romance. The Perfect Couple will be released on June 19th, and I highly suggest it!

Some popular characters from some of Elin’s previous novels make an appearance, including police chief Ed Kapenash.  The Chief and Nick, a state policeman known as “the Greek” and known by his movie-star good looks, are tasked with investigating the death of 29 year old Merritt Monaco, who was found floating on the each in the wee hours of the morning by Celeste Otis, the bride-to-be, on the day of the wedding. Merritt was Celeste’s best friend and maid of honor. As Ed and Nick begin to question those who were with Merritt up until her very last hour, more and more secrets will be exposed. The story flashes back to when Celeste, an assistant zoo director, first met her husband-to-be, Benji Winbury. The Winbury’s are extremely wealthy and have more money than they even know what to do with, a lifestyle which causes Celeste to feel uncomfortable and question her own upbringing at times. Benji’s mother, Greer, a mystery novelist, has made it her mission to hold the most lavish, memorable wedding Nantucket has seen in a while. Celeste is preoccupied by her mother’s declining health, as she is in the final battle with stage 4 cancer. Celeste wants to make her parents proud, and Benji is a perfect gentleman who will be able to provide for her every need and whim.  But is that more important than love? On the outside, Benji and Celeste appear to be the perfect couple. So, why did Celeste have a bag packed ready to leave the island hours before the wedding, when she was interrupted by the tragic discovery of her best friend’s body on the beach. Why would a happy bride-to-be be planning to leave her groom at the altar? And, perhaps the more intriguing question, with whom was she planning to leave the island with? Readers won’t find out the truth about Merritt’s untimely death until the final chapter.

This is one of my favorites from Hilderband, and I’ve read them all.  There is quite a bit more mystery involved in this novel than in her previous books. As with all of Elin’s stories, the paradise-like setting of Nantucket in all its island splendor is reverently portrayed, causing readers to be transported into the story and really get to know the characters. The beaches, night life, farmer’s markets, seafood, lavish homes, and the ferry rides all combine for a sensory overload. I’ve got to travel to Nantucket some day so that I can see it all with my own eyes. I can’t say enough good things about this book. I promise you’ll love it!

 

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Love Songs & Other Lies by Jessica Pennington – Author Interview

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About the Book

Title: Love Songs & Other Lies

Author: Jessica Pennington

Publisher: Tor Teen

Release Date: April 24th, 2018

Genre: YA Contemporary Romance

Synopsis: It’s summer romance and second chances, the songs that stay in your head, and the boy you’ll never forget.

Two years after rock-song-worthy heartbreak, Virginia Miller is looking forward to a fun, carefree summer. Her friends just landed a spot on a battling bands reality show, and Vee is joining them for her dream internship on tour. Three months with future rockstars seems like an epic summer plan. Until she learns she’ll also be sharing the bus with Cam. Her first love, and her first heartbreak. Now Vee has more than just cameras to dodge, and Cam’s determination to win her forgiveness is causing TMZ-worthy problems for both of them. With cameras rolling, she’ll have to decide if her favorite breakup anthem deserves a new ending. And if she’s brave enough to expose her own secrets to keep Cam’s under wraps.

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Powell’s

| Book Depository | Macmillan

About the Author

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Jessica Pennington is no stranger to the combination of love and drama. She’s a wedding planner, after all. A writer since the age of ten—when she sought publication for her poem about a tree—Jessica likes the challenge of finding the humor in a sad situation or highlighting the awkwardness in a romantic one. She lives in a Michigan beach town suspiciously similar to the one in her books, where she’s currently finishing her second novel, WHEN SUMMER ENDS, out April 2019.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads

 

Interview with Jessica Pennington

1. How did you get started as a writer?

I wrote poetry in elementary school and always dabbled with it, even through high school, but I really didn’t attempt fiction until about five years ago. I’ve always loved to write, I just never felt like I had a story to tell. Until I did!

2. What is your favorite under-appreciated novel?

I feel like romance in general can be sort of underappreciated, and that’s mainly what I like to read. I think books that are fun and let you escape have a lot of value, especially for teens, and I’d really love to see it stop being a genre targeted just to girls, when the stories are really relevant to anyone discovering love for the first time. Boys fall in love too. I maybe didn’t answer this question, but I’m sticking with it!

3. What is your favorite childhood book?

I don’t tend to have favorites of anything—or if I do, it’s just my most recent favorite—but for childhood books a few of my favorites were anything by Roald Dahl and Shel Siverstein, Island of the Blue Dolphin, Graeme Base books, and I was obsessed with non-fiction books about animals as a kid!

4. Do you have a special room or place that you prefer to write?

I can write just about anywhere if I have headphones, but I do have a writing space in my house. It’s new—I recently claimed my dining room as my office/study—so it’s lacking the ambiance I would normally like, but it has a giant picture window and the best natural light in my whole house. My dad just built me a huge barn door so I can close it off from the kitchen, and I’m excited to fill it with plants this summer. It has so much potential! But I also really love writing at one of my local libraries—there’s something awesome about being surrounded by books while writing one.

5. Tell us about your typical process for starting a new book.

I only attempted one book before Love Songs & Other Lies, so in a lot of ways I feel very unqualified to talk about processes, but for the most part I just start with a kernel of an idea. With Love Songs, it started with the breakup scene. And as much as I love to plot, and sort of obsess over having things worked out before I start writing, I almost always abandon my plotting or seriously change things along the way, as I get to know my characters. It’s all a bit haphazard, I suppose, but I like the organic way my stories tend to come together. Things build off of little details, and the story usually ends up better than I could have planned! I also have to kick things off with a writing playlist that sets the mood, because I can’t write without music on.

6. How do you select the names of your characters?

Sometimes I base them on something meaningful—like in Love Songs & Other Lies, Virginia is named (by her parents) after the song ‘Meet Virginia’ by Train. But in real life, Train is one of my favorite bands, and one of the first concerts I saw on my own while in high school. But very often I just look up what names were popular when the character would have been born, and go from there!

7. What is the most difficult part of being a writer?

Since I’ve become an author, I think the most difficult part is writing on deadline. It’s much different from writing something at your own pace, and there’s a lot of pressure attached to producing something creative on a fixed timeline. It’s definitely been an adjustment to get into that headspace!

8. Are you working on any new novels at this time? If so, can you share a little about them?

Speaking of deadlines! I wrote my second novel, When Summer Ends, this winter, and I just finished up copy-edits. It’s about Olivia, a cautious girl who decides to live summer by chance – dice rolls, coin flips and all – after her longtime boyfriend dumps her right before break; and Aiden, the former star pitcher who gets swept up in her plan while trying to find a new passion, after learning he’s losing his vision. It’s dual POV, which I love to write (and to read) and for anyone who thought Cam was swoony in Love Songs, just wait until you meet Aiden.

9. What is your favorite/most valued work that you have written?

I plead the fifth! Love Songs & Other Lies and When Summer Ends feel like my babies, and it’s too hard to pick. But it would definitely be one of those two, because the novel I wrote before Love Songs was pretty horrid. It was a paranormal romance, and the first story I ever attempted, and just very out of my wheelhouse. Love Songs and When Summer Ends both have big pieces of me in them, so each is my favorite in its own way, but I think my debut will always feel really special to me.

10. Can you give us a sneak peek about your upcoming novel?

It’s set in the same town as Love Songs & Other Lies, but while Love Songs only took place partly in Riverton, When Summer Ends spends all of its time in the Michigan beach town. And it’s a bit of a love letter to how amazing Michigan is in the summer—canoe trips, dune hikes, nights under the stars—it was really fun to get to delve further into my love of beach towns! I seriously can’t wait to share more about this one—it will be out April 2019 (but you can add it to Goodreads now!)

Excerpts from the Book

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Where I Live by Brenda Rufener

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Originally published in School Library Journal, November 2017.

Grade 9 & Up – Secretly living in Hinderwood High, teenager Linden is homeless and working two jobs to afford living essentials. After her mother was killed, she ended up in Oregon at her grandmother’s nursing home, before she died too. Linden, white and homeless, and her best friends, Korean American Seung, and gay, fun-loving Ham make up the Triangle. Linden’s goal is to graduate and go to college with the Triangle, her only family and support. While reporting for the school blog and trying to keep her homelessness a secret, Linden uncovers perfect, mean-girl Bea’s secret – an abusive boyfriend. Not wanting to draw attention to herself, Linden worries for Bea, but does not expose her secret. When Seung becomes more than a best friend, Linden inadvertently lets her guard down, starting a new chapter in her life. When the truth is revealed, reactions of her friends and community prove that family is where your heart is, regardless of blood relation. Rufener’s cast of diverse characters and genuine dialogue helps balance the unlikely premise that a teenager could be living in a high school undetected. Readers will empathize with Linden, because her matter-of-fact attitude and bravery, never wallowing in self-pity. VERDICT: Recommended for strictly additional purchase for older teens due to mature language. Fans of Jennifer Niven and Nicola Yoon will enjoy this debut realistic fiction novel which brings to light heavy topics of homelessness and abuse.

One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus

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This is such a cool book. It’s like a modern-day Breakfast Club with a twist – a murder investigation! Five students from Bayview High go into to detention and only four students make it out. There’s Bronwyn, the brainiac who only has time to be successful, Addy, the beauty queen who prefers to be treated as a princess, Nate, the criminal who sells pills and tries to fly under the radar, and Cooper, the star baseball player who is being scouted by the pros, but isn’t quite telling the truth about his stellar performance on the field. After a strange fender-bender outside the school draws their teacher out of the room for a moment, Simon ends up dead. Simon, the social outcast who runs a gossip blog, and as such, he is known but not necessarily liked by many. The other four students, who are as different as can be, are targets in Simon’s blog post set to be released the day after his death, exposing their deepest, darkest secrets and making them all murder suspects. What looked like an accidental death due to a severe peanut allergy at first turns out to be a murder with serious planning and consequences.

As the investigation unfolds, the story pacing gets quicker and quicker, each chapter switching point-of-view between Bronwyn, Addy, Nate, and Cooper. Readers will try to figure out which of the four students is lying and who really knows what happened to Simon. This is an addictive, can’t-put-down-until-it’s-over kind of thriller which will appeal to both adults and teens. I highly recommend it. Can you figure out which one is lying?

Have You Seen the Sleep Fairy by T.K.R.

My Review

Have you Seen the Sleep Fairy is a whimsical children’s bedtime story. The story has 24 pages of colorful illustrations with detailed expressions on the characters faces. Many of the illustrations are shown at odd angles, like a view looking up a stairway in the middle of the night. The author dedicates the story to his four children, and readers can easily imagine the author himself telling his children about a sleep fairy coming to visit at night and leave them a treasure under their bed.  This could be a great book to help with youngsters who are resistant to stay in their rooms or go to bed when they are told. As a parent, I can appreciate any sort of help with the crazy bedtime routine that I can get. TKR’s illustrated bedtime storybook is an asset to family bookshelves everywhere.

About the Book

Published January 30, 2018 by Clink Street. This is the story of a sleep deprived mother and father who are rescued by this shyest of fairies, who only comes out at night when all the children in the home are asleep. She helps children get into the habit of sleeping through the night by leaving tiny items of interest under their beds for a around four days until she can trust them to sleep all on their own. Of course she’ll check in from time to time to make sure the family are sleeping soundly, however, you probably won’t ever see her.

After welcoming four children into the world within thirty-two months, the author and his wife are no strangers to the nightly struggle of getting their little ones all to sleep. After doing research into habits, they discovered that if they could get all their children into the same bedtime pattern for at least four consecutive nights then the battle might just be won. As a result, the helpful Sleep Fairy was born and has today been developed into a beautiful illustrated children’s book in order to help other families all finally get a good night’s sleep.

About the Author

Living in Chelsea, London with his wife and four children (aged 6,5,5 and 3 and a half) author Tod Kingsley Ridgway (a.k.a. T.K.R.) is no stranger to sleepless nights. When not writing children’s books, he runs his own business, Captivate Marketing (Pty) Ltd, an advertising and marketing firm specializing in corporate branding, collateral, advertising and marketing collateral. He is passionate about marketing, and building and developing brands. In his spare time Tod enjoys spending time with his wife and four children, trout fishing and plays golf off a low single figure handicap. He is an avid reader and enjoys reading marketing and innovation books, as well as biographies about great entrepreneurs like Phil Knight’s The Shoe Dog.  He has a Bachelor of Arts undergraduate degree majoring in Psychology and English, and an MBA specializing in global business strategy.

 

Thank you to Authoright Marketing & Publicity for the early review copy of this book.

Broken Beautiful Hearts by Kami Garcia

Holy Romance Novel, B9781250079206_b9a41atman! This one is going to the top of my YA romance favorites list! This is the first of Kami Garcia’s novels that I have read, but I am now kicking myself for not reading her other ones already! You probably hear this a lot, but I literally couldn’t put this book down. I started it at 7:30 PM after the kids went to bed and finished the last page at 11:45 PM. It was THAT GOOD! It reminded me a little bit of the Abbi Glines Field Party series because of the small town where football is life. (That is also a really good series, by the way.) Garcia’s characters are beautifully crafted, but also very real – readers will be able to identify them to people in their own lives.

Here’s the rundown: Things are going well for high school senior Peyton Rios, a star soccer player who just received admittance and a starting soccer position at her college of choice, UNC. About a year prior to the story, Peyon’s father was killed in Iraq. She has had a tough road, but she is not alone. She has a best friend named Tess and a boyfriend of 7 months, Tess’s older brother, Reed. Reed is an MMA fighter who has been there for Peyton, but lately he seems a little distant and moody.

During a typical weekend house party, Peyton discovers a secret about Reed the she doesn’t want to believe, but knows she has to distance herself from his lies. When she confronts him, he gets violent and pushes her down the stairs, shattering her knee and her heart at the same time. After extensive surgery, Peyton worries she will lose her spot on the team at UNC, and wonders if she will ever be able to play soccer again? An even bigger problem is that Reed claims she fell and no one (other than her own mother) believes her, not even her best friend Tess. Soon she begins getting threats and Reed will no stop calling her, trying to see her as if nothing bad has happened.

Needing a change of scenery so that she can focus on rehab for the next few months, Peyton moves to a small town in Tennessee to live with her Uncle Hawk and the Twins, Christian and Cameron. Hawk was the only survivor of the military attack which killed her father, but having to dredge up painful memories even seems better than her current situation of constant fear and threats. She learns quickly that football is life in her Uncle’s family, her new school, and the whole town. Still reeling from the heartbreak of her last relationship, Peyton makes it clear to everyone that she is not interested in dating. Her muscle-head, tender-hearted, football star cousins, the Twins, watch her every move, determined to keep her safe, even from their own teammates. At first endearing and sweet, Peyton appreciates them, but really she just wants to be left alone and treated like everyone else. Until she (literally) runs into Owen Law, a mysterious, sexy guy who she instantly feels attracted to for some reason. Even so, she refuses to be swayed by his charm.

When she shows up for her first therapy session, however, she is forced into even closer contact with Owen. He is interning with the therapist and Peyton is his new patient. Side note: If I were her, I would be milking that knee injury for a very long time. The longer it hurts, the more therapy you need, right? But, I digress…

To complicate matters, it turns out that Owen is an MMA fighter, and he is GOOD. Though she knows of the risks of getting involved with another fighter, Peyton can’t help thinking that Owen is different. He’s nothing like Reed, and she is finding it hard to think about anything but Owen. But then she finds out Owen is hiding something. Something too big to ignore. And even though Peyton claims they are just friends, the something could shatter her heart all over again. Both Peyton and Owen must ask themselves how far they are willing to go for themselves and for each other. Is love worth really fighting for?

The story moves along rather quickly with just the right amount of romance, mystery, and humor. And fighting, lots of fighting. And not always in the ring. Hallways, parking lots, abandoned buildings, you name it. These small town Tennessee boys are quick to throw punches and protect their own. I loved this book and the characters. I can’t wait for her next book!

 

The Masterpiece by Francine Rivers

978-1-4964-0790-0The Masterpiece is contemporary Christian fiction at its best. Having read and loved Redeeming Love, one of Rivers’s previous novels, I had an inkling that I would enjoy her newest work, fittingly titled The Masterpiece.

Many times Christian fiction can become a little too squeaky clean, which distracts from an exciting or enticing story line and pace. Being a Christian myself, I know that no one is perfect and Christians have just as many faults as everyone else. Therefore, Christian fiction should be real and not put on an act, pretending to be completely wholesome and pure. This is one of the reasons that I love Francine Rivers’s novels. Her characters all have major flaws and pasts that haunt them. Many times they feel like or even try giving up, but God is not done with them yet. Rivers has a knack for writing long books with unique plot lines and memorable characters, and The Masterpiece is no exception.

The Masterpiece is a story of survival, grief, forgiveness, family, and love. Famous LA artist, Roman Velasco has a very checkered past, even though his future looks bright to those who don’t really know him. The only person he lets get a little closer to him turns out to be a young, single mother named Grace, who becomes his personal assistant. Grace has been through many a tragedy and trial in her young life, but she knows and loves the Lord and leans on him in everything. Her parents died when she was a little girl, and God has become her one true father. Because of all the pain and bad relationships in her past, Grace keeps her distance and doesn’t have any interest in becoming romantically involved with anyone. Her only goal is to be able to support herself and her infant, Samuel, so that they can be together full time and she can be a devoted mother to him. She is determined not to let her past dictate her future. Roman, on the other hand, is distrusting and unstable. He doesn’t know the Lord. He lets his past mistakes and pain eat at him daily, unable to forgive or forget the horrible things he has done and seen in his young life. In and out of foster care during his childhood, running from the authorities, and tagging with graffiti in a gang, he is no stranger to the streets. No one knows his real name or the circumstances of his upbringing.

As Roman gets to know Grace, he starts to open up and question her about her devotion to God. When a new tragedy strikes, will Roman be strong enough to survive it?

Though this is a very long book, do not be intimidated. It only took me two days to read it, and I loved it. The story takes place in California and many of the landscapes and settings that are described are beautiful and breathtaking. The plot reads quickly, because it switches back and forth from present day back to the time when both Roman and Grace were children and teenagers. It is through the flashbacks that readers are able to get a better picture of the horrible things that Roman and Grace have both endured in their lives. I would highly recommend this novel for fans of Christian fiction, contemporary fiction, women’s fiction, romance, and even mainstream fiction. It has a little bit of everything between its covers. The ending was a tad bit predictable, but that was to be expected with the kind of story it is. Even so, it was rather enjoyable all the way to the last page.

Thank you to Tyndale House Publishers for the complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.