‘See Her Die’ by Melinda Leigh is the second in the Bree Taggert series

See Her Die by Melinda Leigh

“See Her Die” is the second book in Melinda Leigh’s Bree Taggert series that started with “Cross Her Heart.” I had not read any of Leigh’s previous mysteries (which I plan to rectify), but I knew from the first page of the first book in this series that I was hooked. This second book is no different. While it works better to have read the first book to understand completely the family dynamics, this does work as a stand alone novel. But I enjoy seeing how relationships change and mature, so I’m glad I started the series at the beginning.

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‘Bluebird’ by Sharon Cameron is a stunning work of fiction based on real events that are shocking

Bluebird by Sharon Cameron

Sharon Cameron demonstrated her ability to write engrossing historical fiction based on real events in her masterful book, “The Light in Hidden Places.” In some ways, “Bluebird,” based on real, shocking events, is the antithesis of that story. As a contrast to the first story that focuses on heroes that appeared in unlikely places during WWII, “Bluebird” unveils true villains who masqueraded as heroes. The main character, Eva, is a veritable hero, but we meet many of the truly evil beings whose bigotry, arrogance, and racial prejudice stoked the fires of hate during that time.

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‘Pony’ by R. J. Palacio is a superb new novel about devotion

Pony by R.J. Palacio

While the plot of “Pony” by R. J. Palacio reminded me a bit of another middle grade book about a pony, “Some Kind of Courage” by Dan Gemeinhart, the stories are quite different apart from being historical fiction with both boys having a horse that they love dearly. Each story is beautiful in its own right, and “Pony” is one that will not be quickly forgotten. In “Pony,” Palacio forces us to think about love, loss, and the connections that bind us to each other.

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‘Spy School at Sea’ by Stuart Gibbs is the latest in the middle grade series for lovers of espionage and good writing

Spy School at Sea by Stuart Gibbs

I asked a student who was a huge fan of the Spy School series if I could jump into the Stuart Gibbs Spy School series without having read the first few novels. He said that I’d be too confused. I believed him. Shame on me. I jumped into the series with “Spy School at Sea,” and I was not confused. At all. To the contrary, I was charmed and engaged in the fabulous writing, clever plot, and absurdly silly and yet deadly events that befall our main character. Granted, Gibbs does reference past exploits of main character Benjamin Ripley, and we know that he has a past with his nemesis, Murray Hill, but the fast-paced action and the witty dialogue, not to mention the teenage foibles, all make for a story that is funny, clever, and exciting. No preparation necessary.

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‘Defending Britta Stein’ by Ronald H. Balson: thrilling courtroom drama and history about how the Danish saved the Jews in WWII

Defending Britta Stein by Ronald H. Balson

In “Defending Britta Stein” by Ronald H. Balson, attorney Catherine Lockhart and her husband, private investigator Liam Taggert, are the actors whose actions bring about justice in an unlikely manner. Through these two characters, both well known to Balson fans, we are privy to the history of a family of Danish Jews during WWII. As is standard in Balson’s novels, there is a story-within-a-story, and Lockhart and Taggert are the vehicles through which the Holocaust story is told. The storytelling is gripping, and this courtroom drama showcases the unity and bravery of the Danish people in saving most of their population of Jews during WWII when the Germans decided to implement their final solution on the Jews of Denmark.

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Spidey stories will entertain your kids and teach them something, too

It’s not often that superhero books are more than light entertainment. I’ll be honest in that I was pleasantly surprised that the Spidey Amazing Friends series of books that I read with my grandson had life lessons in addition to the entertainment value. He’s almost five, and he loves superheroes, so when he saw the Marvel board book and early readers on my coffee table, he excitedly asked me to read them to him. We now read them each time he comes to visit.

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‘Blind Tiger’ by Sandra Brown is an action-packed historical fiction with a fascinating female main character

Blind Tiger by Sandra Brown

Exploring the bleak times during Prohibition becomes a thrill-ride in Sandra Brown’s “Blind Tiger.” The story is set right after the “Great War,” and is filled with nonstop action as we meet Laurel Plummer, who ends up in small-town Foley, Texas, after her husband abandons her in his father’s one-room shack. Laurel is left with her sickly, premature newborn, Pearl, in a drafty cabin with no running water or electricity. Laurel, as we come to find out, is a tough character and not one to let a desperate situation keep her down.

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‘Hostage’ by Clare Mackintosh is a seat-of-your-pants thriller about betrayal, love, and family

Hostage by Clare Mackintosh

With “Hostage,” Clare Mackintosh gives us a thriller with nonstop action and not one set of hostages, but two. The family at the center of these hostage situations is the Holbrook family: Adam, MIna and Sophia. Adam is a police inspector and Mina is a flight attendant. Sophia is their adopted daughter, and we learn a lot about the harmful effects of neglect in the first year of a child’s life. Sophia has an attachment disorder which makes her difficult at times, and she is also extremely bright. Mackintosh does a fabulous job introducing the three main characters, and we learn about them from the first person narratives Adam and Mina provide, each chapter detailing the time and the narrator.

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‘Dog Eat Dog’ by David Rosenfelt takes intrepid Andy Carpenter to Maine where he performs his legal/investigative magic

Dog Eat Dog by David Rosenfelt

Every Andy Carpenter mystery has a dog in it—usually more than one, and “Dog Eat Dog” is no different. The dog is often the device by which the main character, Andy Carpenter, gets dragged, kicking and screaming (figuratively, at least) into representing someone charged with murder. Someone we readers know is innocent. In this case, the accused murderer meets Andy when they see a dog being abused by its owner. The poor dog is being kicked and dragged on a leash, and before Andy’s intrepid wife Laurie can reach the abuser to stop the abuse (Andy allows her to be the enforcer as she is a former cop), another man steps in. After telling the abuser to stop, the abuser punches the would-be rescuer who then punches back. The police arrive and arrest both men. The dog savior tells Andy it’s not going to go well for him, and Andy doesn’t know why. It was clearly self-defense.

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‘Tender Is the Bite’ by Spencer Quinn is the latest lovable entry in the Chet and Bernie series

eTender is the Bite by Spencer Quinn

There’s a reason that in the title of this series, “Chet and Bernie,” the dog’s name comes first. As with all the other mysteries in the series, in “Tender is the Bite,” Chet, the almost-K9 shepherd, narrates the tale of his and Bernie’s adventures. Quinn presents this narration brilliantly, and it seems that with each new Chet and Bernie book, Chet’s narration gets better and better. Through Chet’s eyes (and ears and nose, which—no offense—are far superior to ours), we simultaneously know more and less that Bernie does. It’s a delicate balance, writing from the dog’s point of view, and Quinn has it nailed.

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‘Bad Moon Rising’ by John Galligan is part of the ‘Bad Axe County’ series about murder in rural Wisconsin

Bad Moon Rising by John Galligan

When we think of Wisconsin, we think of Milwaukee, or Madison, where the university creates its own college culture. We don’t think of the rural southeast corner where Wisconsin rubs shoulders with the Mississippi River, where there are Amish, and where folks can literally disappear into the countryside with no one the wiser. It’s in this place, Bad Axe County, where Sheriff Heidi Kick lives with her husband and three children.

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‘Choose Me’ by Tess Gerritsen and Gary Braver is a glimpse into the desperation abandonment can cause

Choose Me
by Tess Garritsen and Gary Braver

Abandonment and betrayal feature predominantly in “Choose Me,” specifically as we examine the cost to those who are left suffering. Authors Tess Gerritsen and Gary Braver examine how different people respond after experiencing betrayal and abandonment. How, for example, might a middle age police detective live her life after her husband dies in circumstances that can, at best, be seen as a betrayal of their marriage. How differently might a young college coed respond to being abandoned by her boyfriend after experiencing abandonment years before when her father left his family. We must also consider that the very act of having an affair, cheating on one’s wife, is certainly a kind of abandonment — an abandonment of sacred commitments, of promises, of moral values, and even of common human decency.

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