The Winemaker’s Wife by Kristin Harmel

9781982112295_7b330Review originally appeared in Library Journal, July 2019.

Alternating between the vineyards of war-torn 1940s France and present day, the lives of Ines and Michel, newlywed owners of the famed champagne house, Maison Chauveau, and the head winemaker’s Jewish wife, Celine Laurent, are forever altered. As Germans are pillaging homes and sending Jews to prison camps, a frightened Celine draws nearer to Michel for protection, thereby pushing Ines into the arms of another and setting off a chain of dangerous betrayal. The labyrinths of wine cellars beneath Chauveau conceal not only champagne from the Germans, but resistance weapons, Jewish refugees, and forbidden love affairs. Presently, Liv, 41, unemployed and newly divorced after 12 years and many unsuccessful attempts at pregnancy, abruptly departs for Paris with her 99-year old Grandmother Edith, a loving woman, both stylish and eccentric. Unsure of Edith’s motives, Liv questions Edith’s connection to Chauveau and Reims. Readers learn Edith’s painful secrets, and will appreciate the importance of family legacy and the passionate venture of champagne making. Unfolding in multiple viewpoints, the writing is atmospheric and rich, showcasing heavily researched topics of champagne making and French resistance efforts. VERDICT: Harmel’s touching story of love and loss in World War II France will appeal to fans of Pam Jenoff and Kate Quinn.

Queen Anne’s Lace by Dawn Gardner

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Gardner’s debut, coming-of-age novel is set in the 1970s and she shed light on some very tough issues which teenagers face, including physical and sexual abuse, homelessness, and alcoholism. Fourteen-year-old Lacy has been hurt by and seen her mother hurt by her father too many times. In a quick act of bravery, she packs a bag and makes a break for it, after finding a photo and note from a man named Tommy in her mother’s closet. Believing that Tommy could be her real father, Lacy decides to try to find him, hoping he will allow her to stay with him. She accepts a ride with a kind truck driver, Butch, and spends a few days with he and his wife Betty, allowing them to feed her and provide her with a safe, warm bed. But when she overhears them talking about calling social services, she knows he has to leave rather than risk being sent back home to her mother and “father,” Samuel. The only thing she left behind at home is a shell of the woman her mother once was, a violently abusive, hateful man, and plenty of alcohol being consumed by both of them. After leaving Butch and Betty, she lives on the streets for a while, a scary situation where she is almost raped after trusting a drug-addicted, homeless woman who offers her helpful information about where to sleep at night. From there, she ends up hiding in a church closet. She catches a lucky break when she crosses paths with Annie at an AA meeting, after she’s been sober for 11 years. Annie provides her with a job, a safe home, and loving care, things she’s never had before. With Annie’s help, Lacy is able to face the hard truth about her mother and real father. The story doesn’t end with a tied in a bow happy ending, which I really appreciate. Lacy’s life continues to have ups and downs and there are some horrible things that happen toward the end of the story. I won’t tell you what they are, because I don’t want to spoil it for you. However, I do recommend that you read this book. It is gritty and real and it will have readers rooting for Lacy to have a brighter future ahead of her. Not recommended for younger teens due to the maturity of the content. Thank you to the author for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Voice in My Head by Dana L. Davis

imagesOriginally published in School Library Journal, May 2019.

Gr. 9 & Up: Davis’s second YA novel set in Seattle, follows 18 year old black twins Indigo and Violet and their chaotic family on an unlikely road trip. While attempting suicide, Indigo hears a voice say that her terminally ill twin Violet will live if she hikes the Wave, a 2 ½ mile scenic rock formation in the Arizona desert. Unsure whether the voice is God or a symptom of a concussion, Indigo bravely pleads to her family before Violet’s medically assisted death plans unfold. Thanks to a resourceful Pastor, Jeb, everything falls in place allowing the family to set off in a rainbow-colored paratransport bus covered in eyeballs. Pastor, the twins, their retired parents, a 16 year old brother Alfred, and 33 year old nurse practitioner sister Michelle and her husband and biracial children are a motley group of passengers, seeking healing for Violet’s pulmonary fibrosis. From kidney stones to an attempted robbery with a paintball gun, there is never a dull moment for the Phillips family. Indigo’s perspective of herself and her family changes along the way, allowing her acceptance and hope. The writing is refreshing and characters relatable. Though the novel tackles heavy subject matter of terminal illness, mental health, and death; light-hearted, comical scenes make for a heartfelt, yet entertaining read. VERDICT: Readers of diverse realistic fiction will enjoy the sibling banter, unique characters and authentic dialogue.

 

A Lie for a Lie by Helena Hunting

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Librarian Laura’s Review

A Lie for a Lie is the first book in the new All In series by Helena Hunting. A remote cabin setting in Kodiak Island, Alaska. A sexy, alpha male hockey player on a solo fishing trip. An anxious, beautiful young woman working on her thesis.  Chicago based, professional hockey star and team captain, Rook “Rookie” Bowman wants to just be a normal guy for a few weeks, away from the media and the ladies throwing themselves at his feet. While he enjoyed it for a while, a few quiet weeks to be himself is really tempting. He flies out to Alaska for an annual fishing trip with his brother, but this year his brother’s wife is expecting a baby and Rook ends up solo. It would have been the first trip to the cabin with his brother since their father passed away. His plans of actually being alone change dramatically when a beautiful woman literally falls into his lap on the plane. And the best part of all, she has no idea who he is. He doesn’t want Lainey to know about his drama-filled past, or to be starstruck for his wealth, so he tells a little white lie about his background, using his parent’s alpaca farm as inspiration. It’s only a matter of time, however, before the truth comes out.

Lainey is researching dolphin mating behavior on Kodiak Island, Alaska, working on her third thesis. She is the youngest of 7 children and her parents treat her as such, questioning all of her decisions and sheltering her as much as possible. A comical mishap with a scarf propel Lainey right into the lap of a very handsome and charming Rook on the plane. He then acts as a security teddy bear for her anxiety during a turbulent ride out to Kodiak Island. As fate would have it, Lainey’s broken-down, cobweb-filled rental cabin turns out to be only a few miles from Rook’s Alaskan vacation home – a mansion as far as I’m concerned. After a pulse pounding storm and a leaky roof bring poor Lainey back to the safety of Rook’s arms and home, he encourages her to move in with him for the duration of her stay.  Thus begins a 4 week long, blissful honeymoon-esque trip for Lainey and Rook. Everything is roses for the young researcher and hockey megastar, until a family emergency calls Rook back to Chicago very abruptly. Unfortunately, Lainey knows him as “RJ”, an alpaca farmer, and is therefore unable to find him once she returns home. After Rook leaves, a huge storm cuts the power to the cabin, leaving him unable to call Lainey and get her number so they can reconnect.

Flash forward to a year down the road, after both Lainey and Rook have sulked and reminisced over one another, fate intervenes again. Rook is attending a birthday party for a teammate’s son at the aquarium where Lainey is working. He would recognize her voice from anywhere and can’t believe his luck for a second chance. But , how can he tell Lainey who he really is, a famous, filthy-rich hockey superstar, without losing all of her trust and a chance for a future together. To liven things up a little more, Lainey has a lie of her own, and it’s a big one. You’ll have to read it and find out. I promise you won’t be disappointed. I loved this book and can’t wait for the next book in the series. Helena Hunting is skilled at hitting readers right in the feels, and for that I thank her. H squared will always be one of my favorites!

Thank you to Montlake Romance for providing me with an early copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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A Lie for a Lie, an all-new sexy second chance romance from New York Times bestselling author Helena Hunting is available now!

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About Helena Hunting 

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of PUCKED, Helena Hunting lives on the outskirts of Toronto with her incredibly tolerant family and two moderately intolerant cats. She’s writes contemporary romance ranging from new adult angst to romantic sports comedy.

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Waiting for Fitz by Spencer Hyde

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Originally published in School Library Journal, March 2019.

Gr 9 & Up – Midway through her senior year, 17-year-old Addie Foster is sent for inpatient psychiatric therapy at Seattle Regional Hospital for OCD. Quick-witted and literary-minded, she dreams of being a playwright. Making some unlikely, but unique friends from the first day of group therapy, Addie accepts that she needs help, while handsome, mysterious Fitz is desperate to leave after two years of treatment. Grieving and guilt-ridden, Fitz, a schizophrenic, mentions San Juan Island and the name Quentin, but not offering any details to Addie. Unlike Addie, whose supportive mother visits, Fitz’s mother blames him and has never visited. Innocent romance sparks for Fitz and Addie, their shared passion for literature kindling their companionship. When the truth of Fitz’s past is revealed to Addie, she is forced to take a painful look at their relationship and her own future. The ending is hopeful, albeit a touch predictable. Author Spencer Hyde, having spent much of his high school years in inpatient therapy for severe OCD, provides an accurate, honest rendering of teenage mental illness. VERDICT: Fans of John Green and Jennifer Niven will enjoy this realistic, yet PG portrayal of some heavy subject matter.

Hide with Me by Sorboni Banerjee

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Recently released in November 2018 by Razorbill, Hide With Me, a debut novel by Sorboni Banerjee, is a captivating YA thrill ride which I could hardly put down once I had started. Clearly I’m not a young adult, and I would recommend this for both teens and adults.

This book has a bit of everything it it: romance, suspense, family issues, and thrills for days! The plot is gritty & compelling with vividly drawn characters, urging readers forward with breakneck speed. If it were a movie (which it would make a fabulous one, by the way), I would call it a “nail-biter.” Boy meets girl. Boy hides girl. Girl has just barely escaped with her life. Now boy and girl are being hunted.

17 year old Cade, star football quarterback in the small town of Tanner, Texas, has a lot to deal with. His sole focus is being the best he can be on the field so he can get out of Tanner and away from what’s left of his family. His mother left and his father has been drinking and smacking around Cade ever since. On his way home one evening, he and his dog Hunter stumble upon a young girl broken and bleeding in the cornfield. Cade’s instinct is to call for help, knowing she doesn’t have much time, but the two words she whispers, “hide me,” and terrified look in her eyes urge him to do as she asks. Someone hurt her and will be back to finish the job.

He brings Jane Doe, “Jane,” to an old barn on the far edges of his farm, one that hasn’t been used for years and a place he goes to escape when his father is using Cade as a punching bag. As Jane starts to heal and make a plan to escape North before those looking for her can find her, Cade is able to get only small details about her past. He wants to help her, but she’s like a scared rabbit, afraid to trust anyone. Jane has spent her life in foster homes. She got in with the wrong crowd, and ended up in Mexico with a boyfriend who was working with the drug cartel. Now she knows too much, and the leader of the drug cartel, vicious and ruthless Wolf Cub, wants her dead. She knows that Cade and anyone else who tries to help her is putting themselves in terrible danger. But something about the way Cade cares for her and spends time with her makes a tenderness stir in her that she’s never felt before. Talk about a predicament!

I promise you’ll love this book. The story moves along quickly, snowballing into a whopper of an ending. What an awesome debut novel; I look forward to future books by Sorboni. I can’t wait to share it with my students!

Thank you to Penguin Young Readers Group for providing me with a review copy of this title.

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