This is my monthly roundup of books that arrived on my shelves in July. I also share a bit of what’s been going on in our family’s lives as well. As I type this we are looking at one more week before our oldest leaves for college. It is bittersweet as I am so excited for his new adventure but sad that our family will be missing him dearly. We are spending these last few days shopping, packing, and enjoying each other’s company. Believe me when I say, they grow up so fast. Just 18 summers for us to spend as a family full of vacations, pool outings, lazy days, and family memories.

Lake Wisconsin

We had a blissful week on Lake Wisconsin in July. We rented a house in a quiet corner of the lake. It was between Wisconsin Dells and Madison so we spent a couple days in the Dells as well as one in a pontoon on the lake. Every night ended with a heated game of cards. It was wonderful!

I had a good month of reading and some favorites included HEART LAND, THE LOST FAMILY, ENDURANCE, and EDUCATED. I am planning to participate in the Bout of Books the week of August 20th. School starts August 23, so it isn’t an ideal week for me to focus on reading, but I’ll do my best. Check the Bout of Books website to sign up if you are interested!

Author Kimberly Stuart at Barnes and Noble

I also had an opportunity to meet an author I have admired for quite a while. She has written her 8th book, HEART LAND and I had the privilege of interviewing her and then attending one of her book events. Check out my interview with Kimberly Stuart, HERE. I have some really great books to tell you about this month. Be sure to let me know if you have read any of them! Happy Reading!



Currently Listening: US AGAINST YOU


If you would like to purchase any of the books in this post, click on the photo or title of the book to be directly taken to the product on Amazon. If you choose to purchase the book I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. 



By: Kimberly Stuart

Published: July 17, 2018

Publisher: Howard Books

Format: Paperback


Since I was sent an ARC, I gave the ARC to our library and I purchased my own copy and had the author autograph it. I’ve already reviewed this book, HERE.


Grace Klaren has finally made her dream of living in the Big Apple and working in the fashion industry a reality. But when she’s unexpectedly fired and can’t afford the next month’s rent, Grace does something she never thought she’d do: she moves back home.

Back in Silver Creek, Iowa, Grace is determined to hate it. She rails against the quiet of her small town, where everything closes early, where there’s no nightlife, where everyone knows each other. She’s saving her pennies and plotting her return to New York when she almost runs over a man who’s not paying attention at a crosswalk. It turns out to be Tucker, her high school sweetheart whose heart she broke when she left ten years ago. They reconnect, and Grace remembers why she fell for him in the first place.

And her career begins to turn around when she finds a gorgeous but tattered vintage dress at a flea market. She buys it, rips it apart seam by seam, and re-creates it with new fabric, updating the look with some of her own design ideas. She snaps a picture and lists the dress online, and within a day, it sells for nearly $200. Suddenly, Grace has her ticket out of here.

But Grace can’t fight her growing feelings for Tucker. Sometimes when they’re together, Tucker paints a picture of what their future could be like, and it feels so real. And when she finally gains the funding to move her new business back to New York, Grace must decide where home really is—will she chase her long-held New York dream, or find a new dream here in the heartland?



By: Kimberly Stuart

Published: February 17, 2016

Publisher: Blom Books (2nd edition)

Format: Paperback


I couldn’t resist buying all the copies of Stuart’s books at her event and having them autographed!


New Yorker Sadie Maddox is the toast of the classical-music world—and a bit of a diva. But lately her CD sales are sagging, not to mention parts of her anatomy. Maybe it’s time for a change. So when her agent suggests a professorship at a small liberal-arts college, Sadie decides to give it a go. Besides, she needs the money. 

But the college is in rural Iowa. Sadie’s colleagues are intimidated, her students aren’t impressed, and she has to live far too close to farm animals. When Sadie meets Mac, a veterinarian, she assumes they have nothing in common—he is, after all, a country music fan—and she’s counting the days until she moves back to New York. Yet, when Sadie is forced to spend time with Mac, she likes him. Her students really need her. And this quiet Midwest community begins to grow on her. 

When the semester ends, Sadie packs up and decamps for the city that never sleeps…and finds she can’t either. Will she find the courage and grace she needs to embrace her Act Two?



By: Kimberly Stuart

Published: February 18, 2016, 2nd edition (Feb 1, 2011, 1st edition)

Publisher: Blom Books

Format: Paperback


The last book I purchased at Stuart’s author event. I already had a copy of her book SUGAR, so I had her autograph that as well.


Twenty-year-old Nellie Monroe has a perfect college GPA, a job that’s beneath her, and a restless brilliance that makes her a bit of an odd duck. Oh, and she wants to be a private investigator, even though her tiny Ohio hometown offers no hope of clients. Until she meets Amos Shetler, a refugee from the local Amish community who’s carrying a torch for the girl he left behind. So Nellie straps on her bonnet and goes undercover to get the dish. Literally, since she’s talked her way into Amish cooking lessons. But though she’s brainy, Nellie is clueless when it comes to real life and real relationships. In short order, she has alienated her best friend and angered her college professor-and appears to have botched her case. Will the boy still get the girl? Can Nellie save her career in criminal science? And more importantly, will she ever learn how to make a decent piecrust?



By: Liv Constantine

Published: July 3, 2018

Publisher: Harper Paperback, reprint

Format: Paperback


This is the Target Book Club pick for this month.


Amber Patterson is fed up. She’s tired of being a nobody: a plain, invisible woman who blends into the background. She deserves more—a life of money and power like the one blond-haired, blue-eyed goddess Daphne Parrish takes for granted.

To everyone in the exclusive town of Bishops Harbor, Connecticut, Daphne—a socialite and philanthropist—and her real-estate mogul husband, Jackson, are a couple straight out of a fairy tale.

Amber’s envy could eat her alive . . . if she didn’t have a plan. Amber uses Daphne’s compassion and caring to insinuate herself into the family’s life—the first step in a meticulous scheme to undermine her. Before long, Amber is Daphne’s closest confidante, traveling to Europe with the Parrishes and their lovely young daughters, and growing closer to Jackson. But a skeleton from her past may undermine everything that Amber has worked towards, and if it is discovered, her well-laid plan may fall to pieces. 

With shocking turns and dark secrets that will keep you guessing until the very end, The Last Mrs. Parrish is a fresh, juicy, and utterly addictive thriller from a diabolically imaginative talent.



The Secret Struggles and Tragic Death of an All-American Teen

By: Kate Fagan

Published: July 17, 2018 Paperback reprint

Publisher: Back Bay Books

Format: Paperback


I’ve been wanting to read this book even though I know it will be painful to read.


From noted ESPN commentator and journalist Kate Fagan, the heartbreaking and vital story of college athlete Madison Holleran, whose death by suicide rocked the University of Pennsylvania campus and whose life reveals with haunting detail and uncommon understanding the struggle of young people suffering from mental illness today.

If you scrolled through the Instagram feed of 19-year-old Maddy Holleran, you would see a perfect life: a freshman at an Ivy League school, recruited for the track team, who was also beautiful, popular, and fiercely intelligent. This was a girl who succeeded at everything she tried, and who was only getting started.

But when Maddy began her long-awaited college career, her parents noticed something changed. Previously indefatigable Maddy became withdrawn, and her thoughts centered on how she could change her life. In spite of thousands of hours of practice and study, she contemplated transferring from the school that had once been her dream. When Maddy’s dad, Jim, dropped her off for the first day of spring semester, she held him a second longer than usual. That would be the last time Jim would see his daughter.

What Made Maddy Run began as a piece that Kate Fagan, a columnist for espnW, wrote about Maddy’s life. What started as a profile of a successful young athlete whose life ended in suicide became so much larger when Fagan started to hear from other college athletes also struggling with mental illness. This is the story of Maddy Holleran’s life, and her struggle with depression, which also reveals the mounting pressures young people, and college athletes, in particular, face to be perfect, especially in an age of relentless connectivity and social media saturation.



A Novel

By: Sarah Maine

Published: July 24. 2018

Publisher: Atria Books

Format: Paperback


This is one I received for review. I haven’t read anything by this author before, but the synopsis intrigued me.


Libby Snow has always felt the pull of Ullanessm a lush Scottish island enshrouded in myth and deeply important to her family. Her great-great-grandmother Ellen was obsessed with the strange legend of Ulla, a Viking maiden who washed up on shore with the nearly lifeless body of her husband—and who inspired countless epic poems and the island’s name.

Central to the mystery is an ornate chalice and Libby, an archaeologist, finally has permission to excavate the site where Ulla is believed to have lived. But what Libby finds in the ancient dunes is a body from the Victorian era, clearly murdered…and potentially connected to Ellen.

What unfolds is an epic story that spans centuries, with Libby mining Ellen and Ulla’s stories for clues about the body, and in doing so, discovering the darker threads that bind all three women together across history.



A Thriller

The Shroud Series Book 2

By: John Heubusch

Published: August 14, 2018

Publisher: Howard Books

Format: Hardcover


This one arrived in my mailbox unsolicited. It is something I really am not interested in reading, so I’m sharing it here and then donating it to my library.


In this thrilling sequel to The Shroud Conspiracy, a child cloned from the blood on the Shroud of Turin has the potential to save the world—or destroy it for good.

When a fallen angel is mistakenly resurrected from the blood of an evil “Watcher” taken from the Shroud of Turin, the fiend’s first gift to the world is an unstoppable plague. Dr. Jon Bondurant, the forensic anthropologist and avowed atheist, joins with devout Domenika Josef to bring another child of the Shroud into the world to save it, this one borne of DNA believed to be that of Jesus Christ. Can this child be the answer to their—and mankind’s—prayers?

His parents are uncertain just who the child is or what he will become, but when he starts demonstrating remarkable powers to heal, they begin to understand that whatever he is, he is not of this world. Might he bring miracles to the world when it needs them the most? Or has science given mankind a tool with which it will destroy itself as the tempting power of the Watcher unfolds?

This globe-spanning chase to uncover the truth and stop a pandemic that just may wipe out humanity once and for all is a fast-paced, explosive thriller.



By: Donna Levin

Published: October 1, 2018

Publisher: Chickadee Prince Books

Format: Paperback


I haven’t read any of Levin’s books, but she seems to have quite a following. This story of a single mom and a child with disabilities piqued my interest.


Anna Kagen had her heart broken five years ago–so badly that she can’t imagine ever having another man in her life. Her ex-husband, Alex, would like her to stay single: that would ensure that he has control of their children, Jack, a 16-year-old on the autism spectrum, and five-year-old Marissa, whose “giftedness” might be wishful thinking on his part since he needs someone to achieve his own unfulfilled ambitions.

As for Jack, he’s ready to open his heart: to the lissome redhead and high school queen bee, Ashleigh. And she’s taking an interest in him!

When Anna reconnects with Jason, a man from her past who was once kind to her and who has a special needs son of his own, they seem destined to become a new family. But not if their ex-spouses have anything to say about it.



Behind Every Bite

By: Susan Futrell

Published: September 1, 2017

Publisher: University of Iowa Press

Format: Paperback


Many well-known books have come out of the University of Iowa Press. I’m thrilled to begin reviewing for them. Futrell is planning to come to talk about her book at our library this fall, so I’ll be reading and reviewing to promote her book and visit for The Gazette.  My favorite part of reviewing books is promoting our very own Iowa authors.


Apples are so ordinary and so ubiquitous that we often take them for granted. Yet it is surprisingly challenging to grow and sell such a common fruit. In fact, producing diverse, tasty apples for the market requires almost as much ingenuity and interdependence as building and maintaining a vibrant democracy. Understanding the geographic, ecological, and economic forces shaping the choices of apple growers, apple pickers, and apple buyers illuminate what’s at stake in the way we organize our food system.

Good Apples is for anyone who wants to go beyond the kitchen and backyard into the orchards, packing sheds, and cold storage rooms; into the laboratories and experiment stations; and into the warehouses, stockrooms, and marketing meetings, to better understand how we as citizens and eaters can sustain the farms that provide food for our communities. Susan Futrell has spent years working in sustainable food distribution, including more than a decade with apple growers. She shows us why sustaining family orchards, like family farms, may be essential to the soul of our nation. 



By: Kate Morton

Published: October 9, 2018

Publisher: Atria Books

Format: Paperback


I have been wanting to read a Kate Morton book. In fact, I own THE HOUSE AT RIVERTON but haven’t read it yet. I’m thrilled to read and review her newest book.


In the summer of 1862, a group of young artists led by the passionate and talented Edward Radcliffe descends upon Birchwood Manor on the banks of the Upper Thames. Their plan: to spend a secluded summer month in a haze of inspiration and creativity. But by the time their stay is over, one woman has been shot dead while another has disappeared; a priceless heirloom is missing, and Edward Radcliffe’s life is in ruins.

Over one hundred and fifty years later, Elodie Winslow, a young archivist in London, uncovers a leather satchel containing two seemingly unrelated items: a sepia photograph of an arresting-looking woman in Victorian clothing, and an artist’s sketchbook containing a drawing of a twin-gabled house on the bend of a river.

Why does Birchwood Manor feel so familiar to Elodie? And who is the beautiful woman in the photograph? Will she ever give up her secrets?




A Dexter T. Rexter Series Book 2

By: Lindsay Ward

Published: July 17, 2018

Publisher: Two Lions

Format: Hardcover


A great book to ease kids’ concerns about the first day of school!


Dexter T. Rexter is going to school. But will anyone like him?

Tomorrow is the biggest event ever in Dexter’s life: his best friend, Jack, is taking him to school for Show and Tell Day! Dexter has been getting ready for weeks. But now he’s a little nervous. What if the other kids don’t like him? So Dexter decides to come up with a plan. He’ll wear a costume. Dinosaurs in bunny ears look good, right? He’ll recite state capitals starting with…uh…ah…er. Then he realizes something. He can’t dance. He can’t recite things. He doesn’t have ANY skills. What’s a dino to do?

This comical, interactive tale of belonging, friendship, anticipation, and first-day-at-school jitters lets readers experience the excitement and nervousness along with Dexter—and even offer him a little advice along the way.



By: Ellen Javernick

Illustrated by: Colleen Madden

Published: July 1, 2018

Publisher: Two Lions

Format: Hardcover


I actually heard about this book before I was asked to review it. It sounds like a book every elementary classroom and home library needs to have on their shelf!


If you tell someone that they can’t play with you, there’s no harm done, right? But what if everybody said that? What if everybody forgot to be kind…and made fun of other kids’ artwork at school, or told a fib, or refused to share with a person in need? The world wouldn’t be a very nice place to live. But what if everybody thought before they spoke, so the world would be a kinder place?



By: Britta Teckentrup

Published: June 5, 2018

Publisher: Prestel Junior

Format: Hardcover


This is a gorgeous book. I love birds and can’t wait to share this beautiful book with you.


Hailed as “a magnificent volume that offers hours of lingering pleasure… fertile ground for conversation and imagination,” (Midwest Book Review) Britta Teckentrup’s The Egg introduced children to one of nature’s most perfect creations. Now, employing the same earth-tone coloring and delicate illustrations that have made her an enormously popular children’s author, Teckentrup turns her gaze to the endlessly fascinating feather. What are they made of? Why do birds have so many of them? How do they help birds fly? And what other purpose do they serve? By providing accessible answers to these and other questions, this delightful book introduces young readers to the wonders of “plumology,” while also drawing them in with enchanting illustrations. An exquisitely rendered fusion of art and science, this marvelous book satisfies young readers’ natural curiosity about the world around them.




By: Isabel Otter and Barry Ross

Illustrated by: Maxime Lebrun

Published: January 2, 2018

Publisher: Silver Dolphin Books

Format: Paperback


This activity book focuses on nature as well as the animals in our backyard and animals far away. Activities, quizzes, and stickers will keep kids interested for hours!

Become an explorer and meet wild animals from all around the world in this action-packed activity book. There are seven different habitats to discover, from the rainforest to the polar ice, and a wide variety of activities to complete along the way, including coloring, dot-to-dots, doodles, and mazes—get ready for hours of wild animal fun! 



By: Lela Nargi

Published: August 21, 2018

Publisher: National Geographic Children’s Books

Format: Hardcover


This who new series of ABSOLUTE EXPERT books from National Geographic is quite interesting. With all the research, photography, and kid-friendly facts, they are sure to be a hit!

Plunge deep beneath Earth’s crust to find out how volcanoes form. Get up close to clouds of ash and molten lava. Learn about the biggest, most extreme volcanic eruptions to date. On the hunt for incredible volcanoes, you’ll travel around the globe, dive into the depths of the oceans, journey into space…and so much more!

History’s most famous volcanic eruptions are all included: Mount Vesuvus, Mauna Loa, Stromboli, Mount Etna, Olympus Mons, and more. With special features, sidebars, wacky trivia, and more, it’s the ultimate book to help YOU become an absolute expert on one of your favorite subjects.



By: Lela Nargi

Published: August 21, 2018

Publisher: National Geographic Children’s Books

Format: Hardcover


Have you met Pinocchio rex? Meet this fascinating dino along with favorites, such as Tyrannosaurus, Stegosaurus, Triceratops, Velociraptor, Apatosaurus, Ankylosaurus, and Giganotosaurus. Plus, check out some weird or newly discovered dinos you may not know about. See how fossils are formed. Learn about the epic, earth-shaking extinctions that paved the way for life today. Find out whether dinosaurs really had feathers, and so much more! All this, along with special features, awesome illustrations, sidebars, wacky trivia, and facts from experts in the field, make this the ultimate book to help YOU become an absolute expert on one of your favorite subjects.



By: Eric Zweig

Published: May 29, 2018

Publisher: National Geographic Children’s Books

Format: Hardcover


Score! Can’t get enough of your favorite supersport? This action-packed book is chock-full of awesome facts and fun for soccer fans! Join real-life Major League Soccer and Olympic referee Mark Geiger to get the latest, most up-to-date soccer intel around, plus fun facts and awesome trivia. Out just in time for the World Cup!



By: Jennifer Swanson

Published: May 29, 2018

Publisher: National Geographic Children’s Books

Format: Hardcover


Hey, dolphin fin-atics! Get ready to dive into the world of your favorite fabulous marine mammals in this action-packed book chock-full of awesome facts, photos, and fun! Join National Geographic explorer and dolphin expert Justine Jackson-Ricketts to get the latest, most up-to-date dolphin intel straight from the field, plus fun facts, in-depth info, and awesome trivia about every kind of dolphin under the sun (and beneath the waves). It’s the ultimate book to help YOU become an absolute expert on one of your favorite topics. 


So MANY books, so LITTLE time! Happy reading!

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