“Younger” Suzanne Munshower

Rated 4 stars **** Ebook. 2015. Thomas & Mercer.

YoungerAnna hated her life. She was 56, had just gotten fired from a job she loved, and knew no one would hire her because of her age. Just when things started to look bad, she was offered a contract with Pierre Barton, owner of BarPharm, a huge pharmaceutical company. The contract offered her millions, relocation to London, and a new identity. It didn’t take Anna long to decide, and blissfully headed off to London and her new life.

At first, working for BarPharm seemed absurdly easy. All she had to do was become a human guinea pig for a skincare line, which promised to take 30 years off her life in a few weeks. Anna loved looking and feeling young, but soon realized things at BarPharm weren’t as they seemed. As people disappeared, and she began to feel as if she was being followed, more than the fountain of youth seemed to be at stake. The closer Anna gets to the truth, the closer she comes to meeting the fate of those who recently had mysterious deaths. Will she be able to figure out what’s going on before it’s too late?

Russian spies, murder, intrigue and romance all come to a head in Munshower’s tale, which will keep readers on the edges of their seats. I couldn’t put it down, and neither will you.

Recommended for Adults.

“The dead key” D.M. Pulley

Rated 3 stars *** Ebook. 2015. Thomas & Mercer.

TheDeadKeyIris’ first engineering job was to create plans for each floor in the old Bank of Cleveland building, which had been empty for 20 years, ever since it closed in 1978 for embezzlement and fraud. Though creeped out at the thought of working there alone, except for a security guard, Iris was ecstatic to have landed her first real engineering gig. Soon, Iris began to notice strange things about the bank. Not only did it have a secret entrance via an underground tunnel system, but each of the almost 1200 safe deposit boxes still contained their treasures, and all of the bank’s files were still in place.

When Iris finds a strange little key in a desk drawer, and finds out that the safe deposit boxes were never emptied due to a set of missing keys, her interest in the bank’s old secrets is piqued. However when she discovers a body and begins to gets closer to the events that caused the Bank to close, she soon finds out there are people willing to kill to keep their secrets uncovered.

Through the use of flashbacks to events from 1978 that led to 1998, Pulley keeps readers on the edge of their seats, as each puzzle piece of the mystery is unraveled. The surprise ending will be a shocker.

Recommended for Adults.

“Flirting with Felicity” Gerri Russell

Rated 3 stars *** Ebook. 2015. Montlake Romance.

FlirtingWithFelicityAfter a car accident when she was 16 years old, which killed her mother and caused her father to become brain damaged, Felicity was left to raise herself. Over the years she worked hard to educate herself as a chef, and became head chef at The Bancroft, a fancy Seattle hotel. There she befriended Vern, a lonely old man, who, a few years later, chose to gift the hotel and restaurant to her in his will.

As the new owner, Felicity thought all her money worries were over. Unfortunately Blake Bancroft, Vern’s billionaire nephew, is upset that his uncle gave away part of his successful hotel chain to a her, and is determined to wrest it from her at all costs. The two soon begin a battle over the hotel, which pits each against the other. Neither is willing to compromise on the hotel’s ownership but, in time, begin to develop feelings for each other which leads to even more confusion as they’ve both been sure that love and business don’t mix. Or do they?

Russell’s extremely steamy love scenes will make a sailor blush as she tells Felicity and Blake’s stories. Though not a sailor, I did a lot of blushing. I liked their battle of wills and the drama between them, but thought Russell rushed too much to tie things up in a neat bow at the end – especially between Destiny and Felicity. However, despite this, I will recommend it to Adult readers.

Recommended for Adults.

“In the country we love: My family divided” Diane Guerrero

Rated 5 stars ***** 2016. Henry Holt and Co. 247 p.

InTheCountryWe LoveWanting a better life for their young son, and unable to make a living in Colombia, Diane’s parents obtained a four-year visitor visa and left for the United States. A few years later, Diane was born. Knowing they’d overstayed their visas her parents worked hard at various menial labor jobs, paying people who promised to help with citizenship papers but who ran off with their hard earned money.

Though Diane’s older brother became increasingly disillusioned at the lack of job prospects due to his immigration status, her parents were hopeful. They were sure that if they didn’t get into trouble, stayed below the radar, and kept paying the “lawyer” who’d promised to help, that they’d become legal citizens.

When Diane was fourteen years old, her parents were arrested by ICE for being in the country illegally and deported to Colombia. Left alone, and forgotten by the government, Diane had to figure out how to live without her family. “In the country we love” is the story of people who helped her survive, and the long road of pain and sorrow she endured on her way to becoming a famous television star.

According to the Migration Policy Institute 2016 study, “5 million children under the age 18 have at least one parent who is in the United States illegally. Out of that number, 79 percent are U.S. citizens.” Guerrero puts a face to one of those children. Her story is a must read.

Highly recommended for Adults.

“The loose ends list” Carrie Firestone

Rated 4 stars **** ARC. Published June 7, 2017. Little Brown Books for Young Readers.     343 p.

TheLooseEndsListMaddie’s rich and eccentric grandmother is dying of cancer, and has planned out a bucket list of how she wants to live her last days. So, instead of spending the final summer before college hanging out with her best friends, seventeen-year-old Maggie finds herself on a cruise where everyone is dying and wanting to end their lives with dignity.

Maddie hates the thought of death and of losing her beloved grandmother, expecting the cruise to be the worst time of her life. Instead she finds herself learning to look beyond debilitating diseases to see the person behind the sickness, and finding a strength of character within herself she’d never known existed.

The right for the terminally ill to die with dignity, is a theme that’s brought to the forefront in this book. It will leave readers thinking long after they’ve turned the last page.

Recommended for ages 18 and older.

“Code name Verity” (Verity #1) Elizabeth Wein

Rated 5 stars ***** 2013. Hyperion. 339 p. (Includes a “Brief Bibliography.”)

CodeNameVerityThe story opens with Verity, a secret agent sent to Occupied France by the British, being held prisoner by the Gestapo during World War II. After being tortured for weeks, Verity struck a deal which allowed her to regain a modicum of civility but which also included having her write all she knew about the Royal Air Force (RAF) and her role with the British.

As Verity’s story unfolds we meet Maddie, a rare female pilot in the RAF who became Verity’s best friend. As their stories of bravery, friendship, and survival in the midst of fear and the unknown are revealed, readers will be hard pressed to keep their tears and emotions in check.

“Code Name Verity” won the Michael L. Printz Honor Award in 2013, given by YALSA (the Young Adult Library Services Association). It also was listed on the 2013 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults Top Ten list, and won numerous other awards. All are well deserved.

Highly recommended for ages 16 and older, including Adults.

“Belle epoque” Elizabeth Ross

Rated 4 stars **** 2013. Delacorte. 327 p. (Includes “Author’s Note.”)

BelleEpoqueUnwilling to submit to an arranged marriage to a 40-year-old man, sixteen-year-old Maude Pichon runs away from her small, seaside village. Adrift in the large city of Paris and with her limited money running out, she seeks work at the Durandeau Agency where she reluctantly becomes a repoussoir – a person who is so ugly she repels others to makes her client look beautiful.

The Agency is filled with poor women and girls who have no money, but who Durandeau deems ugly enough to earn him a few francs. Maude becomes the repoussoir for Isabelle, a Countess’ rich daughter she plans to marry off during her upcoming debutante season. The only catch to her job is Maude must gain Isabelle’s confidence and report back to the Countess, but not let Isabelle know her true role. As months go by and the Countess transforms Maude’s life, she finds herself drifting into fantasies where she has become the debutante and finds herself a rich husband.

As she begins to befriend Isabelle, she looks down on her former life and friends at the Agency in favor of a new, imagined life with the Countess. However, the more time she spends with them, the more she will have to come to terms with her true self and decide if the rich life is really where she’s meant to be.

I enjoyed reading “Belle Epoque,” and learning about life in 1800’s France. Though based on a fictional story about repoussoirs written in 1866, it’s a shame that we still judge others by appearances rather than by what they offer society.

Recommended for ages 16 and older, including Adults.