Bethany's Readers' Advisory

The place to go for readers' advisory on books for children, teens, and adults

The Steep & Thorny Way by Cat Winters March 11, 2016

Steep and Thorny WayThe story begins as Hanalee Denney, the daughter of a white woman and a black man, sets out with a small handgun hidden under her skirt to kill her father’s murderer. It’s almost too easy- Joe Adder is naked, bathing in the small pond behind the shed where he’s been hiding out since getting out of prison. But before she can pull the trigger, Joe tells her he’s innocent… and the true killer is closer to her than she might think. Hanalee needs answers and finds surprising friends and foes along the way. The Steep and Thorny Way is an atmospheric tale of racism, fear, intolerance, and friendship set in rural Oregon in the early 1920s.

This is my third Cat Winters book, and it’s been my favorite so far. Her books have all featured a strong female character who defies social norms and are historical fiction with a spooky supernatural twist. This book tackles some big issues (bigotry, the KKK, eugenics, homosexuality) in an interesting and engaging way. I appreciate historical background and author’s note at the end; they added context and acted as a springboard for further research on the subject. I also appreciated that story was romance-free. Yay, no stupid love triangles! I could see this as a good book club choice- lots of good discussion points. I would recommend this to teens and adults.

5 out of 5 stars


The Night Sister by Jennifer McMahon December 27, 2015

Filed under: adult fiction,adult mystery,Uncategorized — Bethany @ 11:50 pm
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Night SisterIt’s 2013. Piper gets a phone call in the middle of the night. At first she’s worried it’s bad news about her very pregnant sister, Margot. But the news is about her childhood friend, Amy, whom she’s barely talked to since the summer of 1989. Amy has allegedly killed her family and then herself in her childhood home at the Tower Motel in London, Vermont. Margot called Piper to tell her about the one clue left behind, a photo scrawled with the words 29 ROOMS, a message only Margot and Piper understand.

What follows is an eerie tale that passes along the dark secrets of the Tower Motel from sisters Rose and Sylvie in 1955 to Amy, Piper, and Margot’s grisly discovery in 1989 to the horror in 2013.

This was a page-turner! The story was creepy but not terribly scary. The transitions between the different timelines were smooth and easy to follow. I was impressed with the writing and plan to check out other stories by this author. I would recommend this to adults who like mysteries. Just don’t read it alone at night.

5 out of 5 stars


We Were Liars By E. Lockhart August 11, 2015

We Were LiarsFor years, Cadence and her cousins, the Liars, have spent their summers on the private family island. During summer fifteen, however, there is a mysterious accident. When Cadence wakes up afterward, she doesn’t remember what happened. No one will talk to her, no one will explain. The next two years are a haze of amnesia and debilitating headaches. She tries to piece together what happened that summer and thinks going back to the island will bring back memories. And it does…

The ending was so stunning that I literally gasped out loud. This book will haunt me for a long time to come. I would recommend this to older teens and adults.

5 out of 5 stars


The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson July 19, 2015

Filed under: adult fiction,adult mystery — Bethany @ 11:59 am
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Kind Worth KillingHave you ever had someone in your life you wish would just disappear? Ted Severson is drinking in an airport bar when he is approached by a beautiful stranger. In a drunken attempt to flirt, he tells this woman he just discovered his wife is cheating on him with the contractor building their new home. In a story reminiscent of Patricia Highsmith’s classic Strangers on a Train, the stranger, Lily, suggests he kill his wife and even volunteers to help him. At first Ted laughs off the idea as a joke, but the more he thinks about it, the more he likes the idea. As the plot thickens, it becomes apparent Ted’s wife is not the only one whose life is on the line.

Wow. This was one of those “stay up all night, have to finish my book” books. I blew through this book in two days and haven’t stopped thinking about it since. The Kind Worth Killing is a dark tale of lies, murder, and revenge. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who likes murder mysteries.

5 out of 5 stars


The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes April 22, 2014

Filed under: drama,mystery — Bethany @ 8:57 pm
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NaturalsSeventeen-year-old Cassie works at a cafe and amuses herself by guessing what each customer will order. She’s always right; she is a natural at reading people. One day at the cafe, an unusual customer gives her a message. The FBI wants to use Cassie’s talent for a greater purpose. She is brought into a special program for talented teenagers to solve cold cases, crimes by serial killers that were never solved.

Cassie moves into a house with the other Naturals. Soon she is training to review and solve old cases. But her entry into the program has attracted attention. Soon she is in danger and her only hope is that the Naturals’ talents are enough to save her.

This was a unique premise for a book. I liked the characters, their witty banter, and the bits of teenage drama and romance mixed into the story. The ending was surprising and was a bit of a stretch. This book is the first in what will be a series about the Naturals. Recommended for teens who like crime drama.

4 out of 5 stars



You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz April 20, 2014

You Should Have KnownGrace has an ideal life. She lives in New York City with her pediatric oncologist husband and her beloved son. Her son goes to the same private school she went to as a child. She has her own therapy practice and has just written a book. Her book, slated to be a best seller, is called You Should Have Known; it tells women they should recognize red flags in a partner before they commit to a life with him. So imagine Grace’s surprise when a number of things happen one day. First, she gets a message from her son’s school that a student’s parent has died. Second, another mother leaves her a message that the parent was murdered. Third, and most surprising, she realizes that she doesn’t know where her husband is and can’t find him, even when the police ask her to. As Grace’s life starts to fall apart, she realizes she should have taken the advice she thought should be so obvious to her clients.

I was really looking forward to this book. The mystery sounded so intriguing. The plot was interesting with many surprises along the way. I just didn’t really care about the main character. If Grace had been more likeable, I probably would have been crying alongside her. It was a decent book, but it was no Gone Girl.

3 out of 5 stars


The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

Husbands SecretCecelia Fitzpatrick, wife and mother of three, is digging around in the attic for something when she runs across a sealed envelope. The writing on the envelope is her husband’s, the contents to be read in the event of his death. What’s a good wife to do? Her husband’s bizarre reaction to her discovery eventually spurs her to read the letter and her orderly life spirals out of control as a result. Rachel and Tess, although they barely know Cecelia, find their lives affected as well. The reader must wonder, how well do you really know your spouse?

Okay, I am currently obsessed with this author. This book has been so popular that the waiting list to borrow it from the library was a mile long. I happened across another book by her and decided to read it in the meantime. The characters in her books are just so ordinary, so completely relatable, that I fell in love with them. That said, I thought this book was the weakest out of the three I’ve read by Moriarty. I still liked it, just not as much as the other two, The Hypnotist’s Love Story and What Alice Forgot. Still, it’s an enjoyable read and I would recommend it to adult females who like family drama with a little mystery.


In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

Shadow of BlackbirdsThe year is 1918. The county is at war both overseas and at home. The boys are fighting in the trenches in Europe and the citizens on the homefront are battling the deadly Spanish influenza. After her father is taken away to jail for  traitorous talk, sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black heads to San Francisco to stay with her aunt. What she finds is an atmosphere of fear, with faces covered in gauze masks and home remedies mean everyone reeks of onions and garlic. Mary Shelley seeks out news of her sweetheart, away at war, to find his brother running a bustling spirit photography business. She doesn’t believe in ghosts, until after an accident, she finds one in her bedroom. Will her skepticism about capturing the spirits of loved ones on film be overpowered by her desire to know the truth about her beloved Stephen?

While this story took place in a time period I enjoy and it piqued my interest about the devastation of influenza in the United States, I didn’t love this book. It was nominated for 2014 Teens’ Top Ten award, so it appears I’m in the minority. I could see this well-researched, historically accurate story paired nicely with some nonfiction titles about the era for teens.

3 out of 5 stars


Explosive Eighteen by Janet Evanovich July 11, 2013

Filed under: adult fiction — Bethany @ 11:54 am
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Explosive EighteenStephanie is on her way back from a Hawaiian vacation with a man snoring loud enough to shake the plane out of the sky and a seatmate who doesn’t return after their stop in L.A. When she gets back to Trenton, everyone wants to know what happened in Hawaii- why does she have a ring tan line and why did she come back alone? Stephanie doesn’t want to talk about it- it’s complicated.

She soon learns that her seatmate from the plane was found in a trashcan and the photo she found in her carry-on is very important to several people. Too bad she threw it away. Now she’s got fake FBI guys, real FBI guys, jealous girlfriends, and all the regular characters after her. Explosions, relationship drama, and FTA’s on the run ensue.

This was a typical fun, crazy Stephanie Plum adventure. Lula and Grandma Mazur are hilarious and I craved junk food for the next week.

4 out of 5 stars


Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight June 3, 2013

Reconstructing AmeliaKate is single mother who works long hours as an attorney. Her daughter, 15-year-old Amelia, is a good student and stays out of trouble. One day Kate receives a call at work saying that her daughter has been suspended from school. A bewildered Kate takes the train to the fancy private school but mechanical problems delay her for over an hour. When she arrives at the school, it is surrounded by police cars. When she makes her way through the crowd, she is told that Amelia jumped from the roof and is dead. Kate is filled with guilt and sorrow; if only she’d paid more attention to her daughter, she might have seen this coming. After the funeral, Kate receives an anonymous text: Amelia didn’t jump. With the help of the police, Kate begins to go through her daughter’s phone, emails, and Facebook messages and uncovers even more of a mystery as she searches for the truth of what happened to her daugther.

This was a page-turner. It had everything from mother-daughter relationships to friendship to bullying to the lies parents tell to “protect” their children. I would recommend this to adults and older teens who like a little mystery with their realistic fiction.

5 out of 5 stars


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