Category: book review

Book Review: Chasing the Shadows, by Maria V. Snyder

chasing the shadows
Image courtesy of the author.

Title:  Chasing the Shadows
Author:    Maria V. Snyder
Genre:  YA, sci-fi
Rating:  5 out of 5

Lyra Daniels is dead. To be fair, she was only dead for sixty-six seconds, but now she has a new name (Ara), a new job—and the rest of the world has to continue to believe she’s dead, so murdering looter Jarren won’t know she’s still alive and out to get him. Because he’s blocked their planet from communicating with the rest of the galaxy, and now everyone thinks they’re dead, which is what going dark like that usually means.

A spaceship is coming to check it out, but it will be almost two years before they arrive. And Jarren isn’t the only threat Ara and her team face:  they still have a deadly alien race to contend with and figuring out what exactly the Terra Cotta Warriors do—along with how they got there and why—is also at the top of the list.

It’s all in a day’s work for Ara. Good thing she got crazy good at worming through the Q-net after she died. Because that may be the biggest mystery—and the most important to figure out—of all.

Just like Navigating the Stars, I was hooked from the first of this. Ara grows up a lot in this book—dying will do that to you—as she starts to look beyond herself and her own wants. And everything isn’t easy for her. The rest of the security team doesn’t always listen to her or respect her opinions, which is hard to swallow for someone used to doing what she wants and asking forgiveness after. The growths of all her relationships was well-done and compelling. And I love the mystery of the Terra Cotta Warriors!

Maria V. Snyder is a bestselling author. Chasing the Shadows, the second book in the Sentinels of the Galaxy series, is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Tracking Game, by Margaret Mizushima

tracking game
Image belongs to Crooked Lane Books.

Title:  Tracking Game
Author: Margaret Mizushima
Genre:  Mystery/thriller
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

Mattie Cobb is a K-9 officer in Timber Creek, Cole Walker is the town veterinarian. Their romance may be blossoming, but secrets still threaten to keep them apart. When an explosion outside a community dance send them racing outside, they find a burning van and the dead body of Nate Fletcher, a local outfitter. But it wasn’t the explosion that killed Nate, it was two gunshots to the head.

When their only suspect winds up dead and Mattie searches for his body, she hears the growl of a predator—but not one of the cougars native to the area. Soon she realizes that they know nothing of what Nate Fletcher was truly up to—and what they’re up against.

Tracking Game wasn’t a bad read. I was interested enough to keep reading, but some of the details of Robo (Mattie’s K-9), instead of being worked seamlessly into the story, were highlighted to the reader, as if the author were pointing out her knowledge. I’m not really a fan of author intrusion, so that was a detractor for me. This is the first book I’ve read in this series, and Mattie’s reactions to things felt a little…unrealistic to me as well.

Margaret Mizushima  is an award-winning author. Tracking Game is her newest novel, Number five in the Timber Creek K-9 Mystery series.

(Galley courtesy of Crooked Lane Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

 

Book Review: Navigating the Stars, by Maria V. Snyder

navigating the stars
I do not own this image.

Title:  Navigating the Stars
AuthorMaria V. Snyder
Genre:  YA, sci-fi
Rating:   5 out of 5

Lyra Daniels just wants to stay in one place and finish school with her friends. But her parents, the leading experts on the Terra Cotta Warriors found on twenty-two planets, refused to leave her behind when they set off to study a new discovery—and the time dilation leaves decades between Lyra and her best friends.

Lyra spends her days worming into the Q-net, which made traveling the vast distances of space a reality. The only person on board the ship near her own age is a security officer who keeps poking his nose into her business and threatening to throw her in the brig.

But when the planet they just left goes silent, Lyra’s not the only thing capturing the attention of security—missing data files and looters—and soon Lyra realizes there’s far more going on that two parents trying to ruin her social life.

I love Maria V. Snyder’s books, and this one was no exception. The concept was fascinating, and the details were even more interesting. Lyra’s attitude made me laugh frequently, and her escapades kept me shaking my head, but I could not put this book down!

Maria V. Snyder was a meteorologist before she became an author. Navigating the Stars is the first book in the Sentinels of the Galaxy series.

Blog Tour: Day Zero, by Kelly deVos

9781335008480.indd
Image belongs to Harlequin TEEN/Inkyard Press.

Title:  Day Zero
Author:    Kelly deVos
Genre:  YA, dystopian
Rating:  3.8 out of 5

Jinx Marshall grew up preparing for the end of the world—because her doomsday-prepper dad made her. Krav Magna, survival skills, and drills filled her days, but she thought all that was over when her parents divorced. Until the end of the world happened, and her father is accused of starting it all.

Now Jinx must take care of her little brother, her opinionated stepsister, and her cute stepbrother as she struggles to locate her vanished father, all while evading the law. But she can’t stay more than half a step ahead of the people after her, and safety seems even farther away with every step she takes.

I’m…undecided about this read. I loved the premise, but a few things were a little hard to believe:  the black-and-white nature of the politics (everyone’s either one thing or the other, with no shades of grey), Jinx’s trusting nature (which seems implausible, considering how she was raised), and her propensity to stick to a plan…even if it’s going down in flames. This was intriguing at times, eye-rolling at others, but I’d probably read the second book in the duology.

Kelly deVos is from Gilbert, Arizona. Day Zero is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin TEEN/Inkyard Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Bake Shop, by Amy Clipston

the bake shop
Image belongs to Zondervan.

Title:  The Bake Shop
Author:    Amy Clipston
Genre:  Christian, romance
Rating:  4 out of 5

Christiana Kurtz loves to bake but using her family’s kitchen to run her roadside bake stand is a bit hectic—and customers stop by the house even when the bake stand is closed. When her mother encourages her to move her stand to the local marketplace, Christiana agrees. She’s eager to spend time with her cousins, have more room—and a little bit of freedom.

Jeffrey Stoltzfus has the leather and woodcraft shop next to Christiana’s bake shop. He opened his shop while still reeling from a personal tragedy, and he knows he’ll never get over it. Now his shop is failing, and the crowds for the bake shop are blocking him even more. Jeffrey’s never been good with words, and everything comes out all wrong when he tries to talk to Christiana about a solution.

Eventually the two become friends, but when Christiana’s father makes a surprise visit to the marketplace one day and realizes Jeff uses electricity for his personalization machine, he forbids Christiana from speaking to Jeff again. Between that and the fire in the marketplace, there are far too many obstacles for Jeff and Christy to overcome on their own.

I enjoyed The Bake Shop so much and can’t wait to read more stories in the series. I’m fascinated by Amish romances—and this one was sweet, simple, yet complex. The characters struggle with their pasts, their families, their insecurities, and their culture, resulting in a compelling and uplifting story.

Amy Clipston was born in New Jersey but has lived in Virginia Beach and North Carolina. The Bake Shop is her newest novel, the first in the Amish Marketplace series.

(Galley courtesy of Zondervan via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Family Upstairs, by Lisa Jewell

the family upstairs
Image belongs to Atria Books.

Title:  The Family Upstairs
AuthorLisa Jewell
Genre:  Mystery/Thriller
Rating:  4 out of 5

When Libby Jones turned 25, she received the letter she’d been waiting on her whole life, the letter telling her who she really was and who her parents were. She wasn’t expecting to find out she is the sole inheritor of an abandoned mansion on the banks of the Thames worth millions of dollars. She wasn’t expecting the story of how she was found, either.

Twenty-five years ago, neighbors called the cops to report a crying baby. The officers found Libby—called Serenity then—a happy, healthy 10-month old, in her crib. In the kitchen they found three dead bodies starting to decay and a hasty note. There was no trace of the other two adults, or the four kids rumored to live there. Nor was there any trace of whoever had been caring for the baby.

Libby has been waiting her whole life find out who she is—but she’s not the only one who’s been waiting. And asking questions about the past just might draw more than answers out of the dark.

This was a creepy tale of family suspense—not to mention dark manipulation and the growth of a cult. Weird family. Weird kids. Weird situation. But I was completely intrigued with the tale and finished it in one sitting.

Lisa Jewell is a New York Times-bestselling author. The Family Upstairs is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Atria Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: We Met in December, by Rosie Curtis

we met in december
Image belongs to HarperCollins.

Title:  We Met in December
Author:   Rosie Curtis
Genre:  Romance
Rating:  5 out of 5

At 29, Jess has finally gathered the courage to leave her safety net behind and move to London to chase her dreams. She misses her grandmother, but she’s scored a fantastic deal on a flatshare in Notting Hill, and she’s eager to start her new life. At a dinner thrown by her new landlord, she meets Alex, the guy she’ll be sharing her floor with, and there’s a definite connection.

Jess daydreams of growing closer to Alex and of love blooming between them, but when she returns from a holiday with friends, she finds Alex has started seeing the beautiful Emma, another of their flatmates. Now Jess is forced to watch the man of her dreams chase someone else—from the room next door.

This was such a cute read! I think we can all relate to Jess and her high hopes and dreams for the future, which get bludgeoned with reality. The interactions between all the flatmates were fun to read about, and Jess and Alex have such a great friendship, with both struggling with their feelings for one another while trying to keep said feelings a secret.

Rosie Curtis grew up in the Scottish Highlands and now lives in England by way of Melbourne. We Met in December is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of HarperCollins via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Middle Matters, by Lisa-Jo Baker

the middle matters
Image belongs to WaterBrook & Multnomah.

Title:  The Middle Matters
Author:    Lisa-Jo Baker
Genre:  Christian, Self-Help
Rating:  4 out of 5

The best-selling author of Never Unfriended opens up about midlife and what it feels like to have outgrown those teenage jeans, but finally grown into the shape of our souls.

For everyone who is still caught off-guard when someone calls you ma’am—even though you don’t recognize the newest tween celebrities or have a prayer of fitting into those old jeans. You’re an adult now. You’d think you’d be used to that…

The Middle Matters is a look at an “ordinary” life—from the inside—and just how extraordinary it can be. Because a life well-lived is where the beauty is. No matter how ordinary you think your life is.

The stories and anecdotes made this book so relatable! I enjoyed every single page, even the ones I truly couldn’t relate to (not having kids will do that to you sometimes). This book is like your best friend or your older sister giving you solid advice as she talks about the realities of life.

Lisa-Jo Baker is a former attorney and an author. The Middle Matters is her newest book.

(Galley courtesy of WaterBrook & Multnomah via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

The Best Books I Read in October (2019)

This was a tough one. I read 21 books in October, bringing my total for the year to 186. And, while several were just “meh,” several of them were really excellent. The best of these:

the library of lost things

The Library of Lost Things, by Laura Taylor Namey.  This is about mental illness, friendship (and SUCH an awesome friendship!), love, and figuring out the future. I loved all of it!

the grace year

The Grace Year, by Kim Liggett.  This book was unusual. Dystopian setting where women have no rights and are treated as nothing (that’s clearly not the unusual part…), and they spend their entire seventeenth year banished outside the town…and not all of them come back. But no one talks about that Grace Year. Completely compelling read.

the curious heart of ailsa rae

The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae, by Stephanie Butland. This was a cute, sweet read that I immensely enjoyed. Ailsa is such a likable and lovely character, and her transition from on the verge of death and needing a heart transplant to a determined survivor was engrossing from the first page.

What I Read in October (2019)

Books Read in October:  21

Books Read for the Year: 186/175

Topical Books/Monthly Goal Books:

The Anatomist’s Wife, by Anna Lee Huber(cultural). Okay, “cultural” might be stretching it a bit…but I loved this take on a female Sherlock Holmes. (I’ve already procured the second one, too.)

Every Exquisite Thing, by Matthew Quick (TBR).  I’m just going to say “eh” on this one. I was not impressed.

More than a Good Bible Study Girl, by Lisa TerKeurst (spiritual). An excellent read!

The Beauty and the Damned (classic). Honestly…I thought this book kinda sucked. I don’t like selfish, self-absorbed people, and the two main characters were nothing if not that, so this was not the right choice for me.

The Obesity Code, by Jason Fung (nonfiction). Interesting reading, but a little dense and repetitive at times.

For Review:

the lies we tell

The Lies We Tell, by Debra Webb. this was the second book in The Undertaker’s Daughter series—I haven’t read the first one—but I had no issues catching up or following along. Kind of a dark family drama/murder mystery, and a solid, enjoyable read.

the speed of falling objects

The Speed of Falling Objects, by Nancy Richardson Fischer. I loved When Elephants Fly, by this author, and this novel was excellent as well. Family angst and a catastrophic rainstorm adventure with a hot movie star? Yep, I’m there. I truly enjoyed this entire novel, and read it straight through in one sitting.

one night gone

One Night Gone, by Tara Laskowski. Sometimes, books with dual timelines just don’t work for me. This one, however, did. Mystery in a seaside town, a girl missing for 30 years…

trinity sight

Book Review: Trinity Sight, by Jennifer Givhan. A dystopian novel with Zuni mythology… When Calliope wakes up and finds all the people are gone, she sets out to find her family. Along the way, she finds creatures from myth and legend. This was an oddly compelling read.

whispers of shadow & flame

Whispers of Shadow & Flame, by L. Penelope. Another excellent read in the Earthsinger Chronicles! I love the different cultures in these books, and the magic system. Can’t wait to read the next one!

a spell of murder

A Spell of Murder, by Kennedy Kerr. Temerity Love runs Love’s Curiosities—and is renowned for her expertise with antiques. When a murder happens in her tiny Scottish town, her services will be needed to solve the crime. I loved this cozy mystery mixed with magic, and look forward to reading more!

the widow of rose house

The Widow of Rose Harbor, by Dina Biller. Fantastic read! The love interest, Sam, is just so…lovable. Alva has been tarred and feathered in the press thanks to her horrible husband after she left him. Now that she’s a widow, she wants to come home to New York, but the rumors have followed her and her efforts to restore an abandoned mansion are thwarted by a ghost. Enter Sam, the eccentric genius professor (I really wanted to say “playboy billionaire” there and go of on an Avengers tangent…) obsessed with studying ghosts.

the library of lost things

The Library of Lost Things, by Laura Taylor Namey. Darcy is named for one of literature’s most beloved characters, which satisfies her book-loving soul. Now she’s trying to keep her carefully orchestrated life—and her hoarding mother—from falling apart. When Darcy meets Asher, she yearns to get to know him better, but trust has never been her strong point. Darcy’s BFF Marisol makes this book! (Actually, ALL the supporting characters are marvelous.)

the grace year

The Grace Year, by Kim Liggett. This had the feel of The Handmaid’s Tale…except I didn’t care for that book, and I LOVED this one. In a male-dominated society, when they turn sixteen, girls have to get rid of their magic so they don’t have power over men, so they are banished for one year, The Grace Year. Not all of them will come back. And those that do will be changed.

oracle

The Oracle of Cumae, by Melissa Hardy. It’s possible that reading three books right before this one that were amazing made this less-than-amazing book seem even worse, but…honestly, I liked the premise, but the plot was meandering at best, and really more like pointless.

girls like us

Girls Like Us, by Randi Pink.  This is set in the 70s and is about teenage girls dealing with unplanned pregnancies. It was supposed to be about defying conventions and standing up for yourself…except none of them really did that.

christmas angels

Christmas Angles, by Nancy Naigle. This was a sweet Christmas romance about Liz, who buys the deserted inn that belonged to her grandparents and sets out to restore it.

the middle matters

The Middle Matters, by Lisa-Jo Baker (review forthcoming). A solid, relatable, and inspirational read.

bound in flame

Bound in Flame, by Katherine Kayne. I don’t think I’d ever read anything set in historical Hawaii, so I was excited to read this. But…the writing was shaky at best, and felt very bare-bones (Not in a clean, sparse way, but in an this-is-practically-an-outline-without-details-or-connections way).

if darkness takes us

If Darkness Takes Us, by Brenda Marie Smith. This was a unique concept to me:  secret doomsday-prepper granny left to take care of her four grandchildren after something knocks out all power and the government. Some of the characters seemed more like caricatures than actual people (rebellious teenager, angry pre-teen, verbally abusive husband) and the POV felt more distant than I would have liked, but it was an interesting read.

the curious heart of ailsa rae

The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae, by Stephanie Butland. This was a fantastic read! It’s about a girl who gets a heart transplant after a lifetime of being sick, and how she learns to live again.

Left Unfinished:

I Have No Secrets, by Penny Joelson. I made it about 20% of the way through this, and decided to stop. It was interesting, I just don’t think it was a good fit for me now.