Category: book review

Book Review: The Knockout, by Sajni Patel

Image belongs to Flux.

Title:  The Knockout
Author:  Sajni Patel
Genre:  YA
Rating:  5 out of 5

If seventeen-year-old Kareena Thakkar is going to alienate herself from the entire Indian community, she might as well do it gloriously. She’s landed the chance of a lifetime, an invitation to the US Muay Thai Open, which could lead to a spot on the first-ever Olympic team. If only her sport wasn’t seen as something too rough for girls, something she’s afraid to share with anyone outside of her family. Despite pleasing her parents, exceling at school, and making plans to get her family out of debt, Kareena’s never felt quite Indian enough, and her training is only making it worse.

Which is inconvenient, since she’s starting to fall for Amit Patel, who just might be the world’s most perfect Indian. Admitting her feelings for Amit will cost Kareena more than just her pride–she’ll have to face his parents’ disapproval, battle her own insecurities, and remain focused for the big fight. Kareena’s bid for the Olympics could very well make history–if she has the courage to go for it.

I thoroughly enjoyed this read! Kareena is a fantastic character:  she’s tough, determined, loves her family, and is dealing with problems on all sides with strength and courage. Kareena has always been both a rebel against her community and set on making her parents proud, so this conflict is a theme in the story, as is her finding the courage to trust people with her secrets. This is a well-written book set in a vibrant community and is an excellent read!

Sajni Patel was born in India and grew up in Texas. The Knockout is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: At the Edge of the Haight, by Katherine Seligman

Image belongs to Algonquin Books.

Title:  At the Edge of the Haight
Author:  Katherine Seligman
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

Maddy Donaldo, homeless at twenty, has made a family of sorts in the dangerous spaces of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. She knows whom to trust, where to eat, when to move locations, and how to take care of her dog. It’s the only home she has. When she unwittingly witnesses the murder of a young homeless boy and is seen by the perpetrator, her relatively stable life is upended. Suddenly, everyone from the police to the dead boys’ parents want to talk to Maddy about what she saw. As adults pressure her to give up her secrets and reunite with her own family before she meets a similar fate, Maddy must decide whether she wants to stay lost or be found. Against the backdrop of a radically changing San Francisco, a city which embraces a booming tech economy while struggling to maintain its culture of tolerance, At the Edge of the Haight follows the lives of those who depend on makeshift homes and communities.

Things I wish I’d known before reading this (as I might have chosen to not read it): the murder victim is not a “young” homeless boy, but a guy around Maddy’s age; and the main plot of this story is Maddy herself, not her struggle to stay safe from the perpetrator (because that’s an aside at best). This is also a new adult book, not a young adult book, as I’ve seen it called in some reviews.

Maddy herself is a fascinating character and the reader is very much involved in her life. However, this is a very slow read without a lot of character growth. Some of Maddy’s friends are homeless by choice—they have families and places to go but choose not to—some are not, and their family unit struggles together. This isn’t a fun or uplifting read, so if that’s what you’re expecting, it’s probably best to give this a pass.

Katherine Seligman is a journalist and author. At the Edge of the Haight is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Algonquin Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: A Pairing to Die For, by Kate Lansing

Image belongs to Berkley.

Title:  A Pairing to Die For
Author:  Kate Lansing
Genre:  Cozy mystery
Rating:  4 out of 5

It’s fall in Boulder, Colorado, and the leaves aren’t the only things changing. Parker Valentine, owner of Vino Valentine, is finally settling in to her winery and her new relationship with Reid Wallace, a local chef. But their delicate pairing is endangered when Reid’s estranged family comes into town to celebrate the opening of his new restaurant.

Reid and his family are immediately at loggerheads, given their often acidic temperaments, but Parker still wants to make a good first impression. However, her efforts might be in vain when Reid’s sous chef is found dead in the alley behind the restaurant, and Reid is implicated in the murder. In order to save Reid, Parker will have to find the real killer, even if the truth is difficult to swallow.

I haven’t read the first book in the Colorado Wine Mystery series, but that wasn’t a problem. This was a quick, easy read. To be honest, my main issue was with how quickly they arrested Reid—within a couple of hours—and with no physical evidence to link him to the crime. I need the books I read to make sense, and this didn’t. Apart from that, this was an entertaining read.

Kate Lansing lives in Colorado. A Pairing to Die For is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: Aftershock, by Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell

Image belongs to Harlequin/Hanover Square Press.

Title:  Aftershock
Author:  Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell
Genre:  Mystery
Rating:  4 out of 5

There’s a body crushed under a load of pipes on a San Francisco construction site, and medical examiner Dr. Jessie Teska is on call. So it’s her job to figure out who it is—and her headache when the autopsy reveals that the death is a homicide staged as an accident.

Jessie is hot on the murderer’s trail, then an earthquake sends her and her whole city reeling. When the dust clears, her case has fallen apart and an innocent man is being framed. Jessie knows she’s the only one who can prove it, and she races to piece together the truth—before it gets buried and brings her down in the rubble.

I enjoyed this second entry into the Dr. Jessie Teska Mystery series, although I have to say, for a smart person, Jessie does some really stupid stuff. Although I don’t understand some of her choices, she’s a vivid character and one I enjoy reading. There are a lot of quirky things that make this series unique and enjoyable, from where Jessie lives to her background and family. This is a solid mystery read.

Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell are New York Times bestselling authors. Aftershock is their newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/Hanover Square Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Deep into the Dark, by P. J. Tracy

Image belongs to Minotaur Books.

Title:  Deep into the Dark
Author:  P. J. Tracy
Genre:  Mystery
Rating:  4 out of 5

Sam Easton—a true survivor—is home from Afghanistan, trying to rebuild a life in his hometown of LA. Separated from his wife, bartending and therapy sessions are what occupy his days and nights. When friend and colleague Melody Traeger is beaten by her boyfriend, she turns to Sam for help. When the boyfriend turns up dead the next day, a hard case like Sam is the perfect suspect.

But LAPD Detective Margaret Nolan, whose brother recently died serving overseas, is sympathetic to Sam’s troubles, and can’t quite see him as a killer. She’s more interested in the secrets Melody might be keeping and the developments in another murder case on the other side of town.

I haven’t read anything from this author, but I enjoyed this read. Excellent writing, fascinating characters, and a realistic setting all made this an engrossing book. Sam proves to be an unreliable narrator, which is hard to pull-off, but it’s well-done here. I didn’t figure out who the killer was until just before the characters did, and it wasn’t what I was expecting at all. I’d definitely read more of this series.

P.J. Tracy is an award-winning author. Deep into the Dark is her newest novel, the start of a new series.

(Galley courtesy of Minotaur Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Shipped, by Angie Hockman

Image belongs to Gallery Books.

Title:  Shipped
Author:  Angie Hockman
Genre:  Romance
Rating:  4 out of 5

Between taking night classes for her MBA and her demanding day job at a cruise line, marketing manager Henley Evans barely has time for herself, let alone family, friends, or dating. But when she’s shortlisted for the promotion of her dreams, all her sacrifices finally seem worth it.

The only problem? Graeme Crawford-Collins, the remote social media manager and the bane of her existence, is also up for the position. Although they’ve never met in person, their epic email battles are the stuff of office legend.

Their boss tasks each of them with drafting a proposal on how to boost bookings in the Galápagos—best proposal wins the promotion. There’s just one catch: they have to go on a company cruise to the Galápagos Islands…together. But when the two meet on the ship, Henley is shocked to discover that the real Graeme is nothing like she imagined. As they explore the Islands together, she soon finds the line between loathing and liking thinner than a postcard.

With her career dreams in her sights and a growing attraction to the competition, Henley begins questioning her life choices. Because what’s the point of working all the time if you never actually live?

This was a quick, fun read. I loved the ecotourism aspects and the descriptions of the Galápagos, although the two main characters were just kind of “meh” for me. I thought they were both fairly predictable, but that may just be me. Solid writing and a fun premise made up for some of this, so this would be a fun vacation read.

Angie Hockman lives in Ohio. Shipped is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Gallery Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: What’s Worth Keeping, by Kaya McLaren

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:  What’s Worth Keeping
Author:  Kaya McLaren
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

The day her doctor says the one word that no one wants to hear, Amy Bergstrom discovers a secret that her husband of 25 years has been keeping from her. Now that the months of treatment and surgeries are behind her, she escapes her claustrophobic life seeking healing, peace and clarity in an ancient forest in Washington State, a forest that holds memories of her childhood summers.

After dropping off his daughter at Amy’s Aunt Rae’s horse ranch in the mountains of New Mexico, Officer Paul Bergstrom visits the fixer-upper he had bought years ago as a place to retire with his family. Although it appears fine on the outside, the inside is a disaster–just like his marriage. When he finds himself with more off-duty time than he expected, he lovingly repairs his dream home, building the future he so desperately wants.

Witnessing her mother’s health crisis had been terrifying enough, but learning the cause was genetic leaves Carly with the sense that all of her dreams are pointless. With the help of her eccentric great aunt and a Clydesdale named T. Rex, Carly just may find her faith in her future again.

Kayla McLaren has been blessed with gorgeous book covers for her novels, and this is no exception. Her writing brings the beauty and magic of her settings to vibrant life and etches them in the reader’s mind—whether or not they’ve ever visited these places themselves. Each of these three characters are distinct and struggling with their own demons, but their stories twine together in this tale of a family facing their battles alone—and together. A lovely read!

Kayla McLaren is from Washington State. What’s Worth keeping is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Lost Manuscript, by Cathy Bonidan

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:  The Lost Manuscript
Author:  Cathy Bonidan
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

When Anne-Lise Briard books a room at the Beau Rivage Hotel for her vacation on the Brittany coast, she has no idea this trip will start her on the path to unearthing a mystery. In search of something to read, she opens up her bedside table drawer in her hotel room, and inside she finds an abandoned manuscript. Halfway through the pages, an address is written. She sends pages to the address, in hopes of potentially hearing a response from the unknown author. But not before she reads the story and falls in love with it. The response, which she receives a few days later, astonishes her…

Not only does the author write back, but he confesses that he lost the manuscript 30 years prior on a flight to Montreal. And then he reveals something even more shocking—that he was not the author of the second half of the book.

Anne-Lise can’t rest until she discovers who this second mystery author is, and in doing so tracks down every person who has held this manuscript in their hands. Through the letters exchanged by the people whose lives the manuscript has touched, she discovers long-lost love stories and intimate secrets. Romances blossom and new friends are made. Everyone’s lives are made better by this book—and isn’t that the point of reading? And finally, with a plot twist you don’t see coming, she uncovers the astonishing identity of the author who finished the story.

I really enjoyed this read! It’s told in a series of letters between the various characters, and at first, I had a little trouble keeping everyone straight, but that soon resolved. There are a lot of storylines woven together, past and present, but they make a seamless and engrossing tapestry, with vivid characters full of quirks and little adventures that draw the reader fully into the story. Definitely a recommended read.

Cathy Bonidan is a teacher. The Lost Manuscript is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Everything I Thought I Knew, by Shannon Takaoka

Image belongs to Candlewick Press.

Title:  Everything I Thought I Knew
Author:  Shannon Takaoka
Genre:  YA
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

Seventeen-year-old Chloe had a plan: work hard, get good grades, and attend a top-tier college. But after she collapses during cross-country practice and is told that she needs a new heart, all her careful preparations are laid to waste.

Eight months after her transplant, everything is different. Stuck in summer school with the underachievers, all she wants to do now is grab her surfboard and hit the waves—which is strange, because she wasn’t interested in surfing before her transplant. (It doesn’t hurt that her instructor, Kai, is seriously good-looking.)

And that’s not all that’s strange. There’s also the vivid recurring nightmare about crashing a motorcycle in a tunnel and memories of people and places she doesn’t recognize.

Is there something wrong with her head now, too, or is there another explanation for what she’s experiencing?

As she searches for answers, and as her attraction to Kai intensifies, what she learns will lead her to question everything she thought she knew—about life, death, love, identity, and the true nature of reality.

Solid writing here. I was drawn into the story from the very first page and I cared about Chloe and what she was going through. I loved how she went from an uptight, Type-A person obsessed with grades, achievements, and getting into college to just…not so much. I loved seeing how things with Kai developed. But, the twist towards the end of the book ruined the whole thing for me. Twists are generally a good thing, but I really wasn’t a fan of this one.

Shannon Takaoka is from Pennsylvania but now lives in California. Everything I Thought I Knew is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Candlewick Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Minus Me, by Mameve Medwed

Image belongs to Alcove Press.

Title:  Minus Me
Author:  Mameve Medwed
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

Annie and her devoted but comically incompetent childhood sweetheart Sam are the owners and operators of Annie’s, a gourmet sandwich shop, home to the legendary Paul Bunyan Special Sandwich–their “nutritionally challenged continual source of income and marital harmony and local fame.”

But into their mostly charmed marriage comes the scary medical diagnosis for Annie–and the overwhelming challenge of finding a way to help Sam go on without her. Annie decides to leave Sam step-by-step instructions for a future without her, and considers her own replacement in his heart and their bed. Her best-laid plans grind to a halt with the unexpected appearance of Ursula, Annie’s Manhattan diva of a mother, who brings her own brand of chaos and disruption into their lives.

I didn’t really care for these characters, and that made it hard to enjoy this book. Solid writing, so this is clearly just a “me” issue, but the characters just didn’t work for me. Sam was so incompetent as to be almost a farce and Annie was over-the-top take charge and let him be incompetent, which was frustrating to read. Their complete lack of communication was also irritating. So much pain could have been avoided if either of them had had the tiniest bit of bravery.

Mameve Medwed is from Bangor, Maine. Minus Me is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Alcove Press in exchange for an honest review.)