Book Review: To Be Honest, by Maggie Ann Martin

To Be Honest
Image belongs to Swoon Reads.

Title:   To Be Honest
Author:   Maggie Ann Martin
Genre:   YA
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

Savannah’s sister is her best friend, but she’s going away to college and leaving Savannah alone with their mom, who’s become overbearing and food-and-exercise-obsessed since her stint on an extreme weight-loss reality show. She’s especially obsessed with Savannah’s food choices and weight, but Savannah just wants to get through her senior year and join her sister at college.

Savvy isn’t worried about her weight. She’s worried about her classes, the journalistic expose she’s working on about some questionable athletic recruiting practices at school, and George.

George is the cute new guy who has some problems of his own. As Savvy tries to help him, they grow closer, and George stands by her even when her mom’s helicoptering gets out of control. But more than their families stand in the way of George and Savvy, and they’ll have to figure things out on their own if they stand a chance together.

I enjoyed the body positivity message of To Be Honest. It’s great that Savvy is happy in her own skin and sees the dangers in her mom’s “health” obsession. George’s cute-but-dorky persona is charming and lovable, but the misunderstandings these two go through! Really enjoyed reading this.

Maggie Ann Martin is from Iowa but lives in New York. To Be Honest is her new book.

(Galley provided by Macmillan/Swoon Reads in exchange for an honest review.)

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Book Review: Brave Enough, by Kati Gardner

brave enough
Image belongs to Flux Books.

Title:   Brave Enough
Author:   Kati Gardner
Genre:   YA
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

Cason Martin is the youngest dancer at the Atlanta Ballet Conservatory. She’s driven and determined, and she’s never really even considered if she wanted to dance. She never had a choice:  her mother is the demanding artistic director at the conservatory and will not accept Cason being anything less than the best.

On the day of Cason’s injury, that ceases to matter, as an injury she’s been hiding turns out to be cancer. Now she finds herself in a children’s cancer ward, fighting to live and to come to terms with her new normal. Davis Channing knows how that feels. He survived cancer, and then beat drug addiction, although he lives with the temptation to use again every day. Volunteering at the cancer ward is his way to give back.

Cason and Davis’s friendship is tenuous, but what they both need, until his ex-girlfriend appears in his life, eager to lure him down old roads again, while the unthinkable happens to Cason. Turning their backs on each other is easiest, but is it what they really need?

Let me first say that I’ve never read The Fault in Our Stars, so I can’t make any comparisons to that novel (and I have no intention of reading it, because almost never will I choose to read a book that I know will make me cry. #sorrynotsorry). I found Brave Enough to be one of the most touching and inspiring books I’ve read this year. I felt for Cason on a deep level, and truly experienced her grief and other emotions along with her. Davis’s struggle was so well-done and brought an addict’s struggle to gut-wrenching life. Highly recommend!

Katie Gardner is a childhood cancer survivor, amputee, and a recovering actor. Brave Enough is her debut novel.

(Galley provided by North Star Editions/Flux in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: That Secret You Keep, by Brenda Benny

thatsecretyoukeep
Image belongs to Liddle Book Press.

Title:  That Secret You Keep
Author:  Brenda Benny
Genre:   YA
Rating:   4 out of 5

Max is seventeen, taller than everyone else, and trying to keep a few secrets from his dads. Like the fact that he wants to seek out his biological parents. And he’s not gay. But sometimes it’s easier to just keep secrets…secret. Like his longtime crush on Serena.

Serena was a shining star at their performing arts high school, until her famous mother died tragically. Now she sits in the back of the chorus, wrestling with her debilitating anxiety and panic attacks, avoiding the spotlight.

But together, Max and Serena find both happiness and understanding. They can tell each other anything. Except the one secret Serena has kept from Max, a secret that might tear them apart.

I really enjoyed That Secret You Keep. Max is awkward and adorable, and his struggles are so realistically portrayed. Serena is deeply scarred from her loss and doesn’t think she’ll ever get better, but in Max she finds hope. A wonderful story of healing and love.

Brenda Benny lives in Canada with her family. That Secret You Keep is her new novel.

(Galley provided by Liddle Book Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: #murdertrending, by Gretchen McNeil

murdertrending_LowRes
Image belongs to Disney/Freeform.

Title:  #murdertrending
Author:  Gretchen McNeil
Genre:   YA/horror
Rating:   3.5 out of 5

In a near-future where society is obsessed with social media, followers, and apps, The Postman app is the newest big thing. Alcatraz 2.0 takes convicted killers and puts them in a suburbia setting on Alcatraz, where serial killers hunt them down and kill them in graphic, theatrical detail for those watching on the app.

Dee’s sister, Monica, was obsessed with the app, so when Dee wakes up in a deserted warehouse, she knows immediately she’s been sent to Alcatraz 2.0 for the murder of her sister. With social media buzzing with bets on the quickness of her demise, Dee decides she’s not going to just roll over and die.

Instead, Dee takes on the notorious serial killers, determined that this princess is going to rescue herself—and prove her innocence. She just has to survive the worst the island has to offer.

#murdertrending was, to me, a scary look at a future that wouldn’t surprise me at all if it came true, considering how our culture is changing. The characters were a bit underdeveloped, and the identity of The Postman didn’t surprise me at all—the foreshadowing was a little heavy-handed—but it was a quick, easy read. If you’re squeamish, you might want to give this a pass, as it’s pretty graphic.

Gretchen McNeil is a trained opera singer, former circus performer and voice over artist, and current author. Her newest novel is #murdertrending.

(Galley provided by Disney/Freeform in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: How to Grow: Applying the Gospel to All Your Life, by Darryl Dash

how to grow
Image belongs to Moody Publishers.

Title:   How to Grow: Applying the Gospel to All of Your Life
Author:   Darryl Dash
Genre:   Christian
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

I want to call you to do ordinary things that will make an extraordinary difference, not just in your life but in the lives of others.

This quotation sums up the entire book in one simple sentence. This isn’t a complex book, full of convoluted to-do lists. Instead, the author offers simple, basic tenets of faith—praying, reading the Bible, involvement in a church—to build a foundation on, followed by “extra” things that can be added on after the basics are mastered. (Hint:  the basics are never completely mastered.) The conversational tone and examples from the author’s life make this easy to read and apply. I highly recommend it.

Darryl Dash is an author, pastor, and church planter in Toronto. How to Grow is his new book.

(Galley provided by Moody Publishers in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Someone I Used to Know,by Patty Blount

someone i used to know
Image belongs to Sourcebooks Fire.

Title:   Someone I Used to Know
Author:   Patty Blount
Genre:   YA
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

Boys will be boys is never an excuse.

Ashley was fourteen, a freshman, when she was raped by the senior star for points in the traditional football team scavenger hunt. That was two years ago. A year ago, her rapist was sentenced to a paltry year in prison as the community, the team, and her brother supported him.

Ashley still suffers from debilitating panic attacks that make her wonder if she’ll ever get better. She’s a pariah at school—for getting football thrown out—but when the team is reinstated, she’s desperate to prevent the scavenger hunt that changed her life forever from hurting anyone else. Though scared and afraid, Ashley decides to speak up one more time.

Her brother Derek, away at school, blames himself for what happened to his sister—and how he reacted. What he once saw as normal behavior, he now sees as rape culture, but he doesn’t know how to communicate with Ashley—or anyone else—his remorse and determination to be part of a change. At Thanksgiving, with their entire family falling apart, Derek and Ashley must decide if their relationship is worth the effort it will take to repair.

Patty Blount loves chocolate, cars, and reading. Someone I Used to Know is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Sourcebooks Fire in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Dark Beneath the Ice, by Amelinda Berube

the dark beneath the ice
Image belongs to Sourcebooks Fire.

Title:  The Dark Beneath the Ice
Author:   Amelinda Berube
Genre:   YA, thriller
Rating:   3 out of 5

Marianne’s parents have split up—she doesn’t know why—and her mother won’t stop crying before dropping her off to stay with her aunt. Her aunt won’t say, either. So, Marianne tries to make sense of the world, which hasn’t felt right since she stopped dancing.

But Marianne’s losing time. She does things but doesn’t remember doing them. Her mom is in the hospital because of something that happened on a night Marianna can’t remember. Things break around her, and she’s drawn to the cold, dark, icy river that threatens to overflow its banks.

Something is after her, and now she has its full attention—and its rage. It wants back what she stole from it, but Marianna has no idea what that is.

This book creeped me out a bit—in a bad-horror-movie-way (Why yes, I know something is chasing me, but I think I’ll go out into the night all alone!)—but that was its strong point. I wasn’t too invested in any of the characters, or what was going on. It was a decent read, but not something I’d pick up again. (I don’t really read horror much anymore, though, so my reaction could have been linked to that.)

Amelinda Berube lives and writes in Canada. The Dark Beneath the Ice is her new novel.

(Galley provided by Sourcebooks Fire in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Impossibility of Us, by Katy Upperman

the impossibility of us
Image belongs to Swoon Reads.

Title:   The Impossibility of Us
Author:   Katy Upperman
Genre:   YA
Rating:   4 out of 5

Elise doesn’t want to leave the city and start over in a new town, but since the death of her brother in Afghanistan, her mom has checked out, and her sister-in-law and niece need help. So, they move to a small coastal town, but Elise just longs to get back to the city.

Until she meets Mati on the beach one day. He’s Afghan, and Elise must put that aside and get to know him. She discovers a kind, quiet, caring boy who she has so much in common with.

But his religion and culture—and both their families—are huge obstacles. Not to mention the looming date of Mati’s return home. Is there any way to make things work out?

Katy Upperman is a YA author. The Impossibility of Us is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Swoon Reads in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Late Bloomers’ Club, by Louise Miller

lbc
Image belongs to Penguin Group Viking/Pamela Dorman Books.

Title:   The Late Bloomers’ Club
Author:   Louise Miller
Genre:   Fictions
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

Nora owns the Miss Guthrie Diner and is happy with serving up tasty food and knowing her regulars’ orders. But when she and her rebellious sister Kit, an aspiring filmmaker, inherit Peggy the Cake Lady’s home and land unexpectedly, the diner isn’t the only thing on her plate.

Kit is happy when she finds out Peggy was in talks to sell to a big developer, but Nora’s not so sure, and the small town is divided over the issues, voicing their opinions to Nora everywhere she goes. The developer’s representative, Elliot, isn’t what she expected either, and soon Nora is torn between the good of the town, Peggy’s hidden secrets, and her own wishes. Finding Freckles, Peggy’s missing dog, is the one thing she can solve.

I enjoyed The Late Bloomers’ Club quite a bit. It’s not a face-paced novel, but the gradually unfolding storyline is so fitting for this small-town drama. The setting is very well-done and felt like small towns I’ve known. Nora and Kit are great characters, and the contrast between them is vibrant and vivid. This is a lovely read. Oh, and maybe don’t read it while you’re hungry or cake-less.

Louise Miller loves baking and writing and is an art school dropout. The Late Bloomers’ Club is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Penguin Group Viking/Pamela Dorman Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Darkwater Secrets, by Robin Caroll

darkwater secrets
Image belongs to Gilead Publishing.

Title:   Darkwater Secrets
Author:   Robin Caroll
Genre:   Southern fiction, suspense
Rating:   4 out of 5

Managing the Darkwater Inn in the heart of the French Quarter is a dream job for Adelaide Fountaine. The job is demanding and busy, but she loves the hectic pace. The owner, not so much. But the owner’s son, Dimitri, has become her friend, over late-night meals in the quiet kitchen.

Detective Beau Savoie has been friends with Adelaide since childhood, but when a murder in the Darkwater brings up secrets from her past and leaves Adelaide a suspect, Beau starts to wonder if he really knows her at all. With the murder investigation pushing her into Dimitri’s arms, Beau wants to be mad at Adelaide, but he’s hiding secrets of his own.

I love suspense novels, Southern fiction, and New Orleans, so I was eager to read this novel. And I was not disappointed. The author captures the feel of the French Quarter—and the boutique hotels found there—with style and charm. I was so caught up in the drama between the characters, I didn’t even really care who the murderer was!

Robin Caroll is the best-selling author of almost 30 novels. Darkwater Secrets has just been released in paperback.

(Galley provided by Gilead Publishing in exchange for an honest review.)