Category: reading

Book Review:  Three Sisters, by Heather Morris

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   Three Sisters
Author:   Heather Morris
Genre:   Historical fiction
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

When they are girls, Cibi, Magda and Livia make a promise to their father – that they will stay together, no matter what.

 Years later, at just 15 years old, Livia is ordered to Auschwitz by the Nazis. Cibi, only 19 herself, remembers their promise and follows Livia, determined to protect her sister, or die with her.

 In their hometown in Slovakia, 17-year-old Magda hides, desperate to evade the barbaric Nazi forces. But it is not long before she is captured and condemned to Auschwitz.

 In the horror of the death camp, these three beautiful sisters are reunited. Though traumatised by their experiences, they are together. 

They make another promise: that they will live. Their fight for survival takes them from the hell of Auschwitz, to a death march across war-torn Europe and eventually home to Slovakia, now under iron Communist rule. Determined to begin again, they embark on a voyage of renewal, to the new Jewish homeland, Israel.

This was an incredible read! I haven’t read any of the other books, but that isn’t necessary to enjoy this one. This story. It’s so unbelievable—and it’s true! The strength of these sisters is amazing and inspiring, and I was completely enthralled with what was happening to them. This is a powerful, moving story that showcases strength and determination, love and family.

Heather Morris is from New Zealand. Three Sisters is her newest novel.

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

Book Review:  Sankofa, by Chibundu Onuzo

Image belongs to Catapult.

Title:   Sankofa
Author:   Chibundu Onuzo
Genre:   Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

Anna is at a stage of her life when she’s beginning to wonder who she really is. She has separated from her husband, her daughter is all grown up, and her mother—the only parent who raised her—is dead.

 Searching through her mother’s belongings one day, Anna finds clues about the African father she never knew. His student diaries chronicle his involvement in radical politics in 1970s London. Anna discovers that he eventually became the president—some would say dictator—of a small nation in West Africa. And he is still alive . . .

 When Anna decides to track her father down, a journey begins that is disarmingly moving, funny, and fascinating. Like the metaphorical bird that gives the novel its name, Sankofa expresses the importance of reaching back to knowledge gained in the past and bringing it into the present to address universal questions of race and belonging, the overseas experience for the African diaspora, and the search for a family’s hidden roots.

I enjoyed this more than I thought I would. Anna has spent most of her life stagnating, so it was good to see her finally take some sort of action. But, Anna still lets life happen to her, going along with a lot of things instead of speaking up or standing up for herself. Her father was kind of awful, a far cry from the man she got to know from his diary.

Chibundu Onuzo is from Nigeria. Sankofa is her new novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour:  Lies My Memory Told Me, by Sacha Wunsch

Image belongs to Inkyard Press.

Title:   Lies My Memory Told Me
Author:   Sacha Wunsch
Genre:   YA
Rating:  3.0

Enhanced Memory changed everything. By sharing someone else’s memory, you can experience anything and everything with no risk at all: learn any skill instantly, travel the world from home, and safeguard all your most treasured secrets forever. Nova’s parents invented this technology, and it’s slowly taking over their lives. Nova doesn’t mind—mostly. She knows Enhanced Memory is a gift. 

But Kade says Nova doesn’t know the costs of this technology that’s taken the world by storm. Kade runs a secret vlog cataloging real experiences, is always on the move, and is strangely afraid of Nova—even though she feels more comfortable with him than she ever has with anyone. Suddenly there are things Nova can’t stop noticing: the way her parents don’t meet her eyes anymore, the questions no one wants her to ask, and the relentless feeling that there’s something she’s forgotten…

This was just a meh read for me. Nova never felt like a real person to me at all. She just let things happen to her, and then was astonished. The other characters, especially Kade, felt like mere shadows of people, and there was just so much that felt unfinished. Even the ending was…lackluster.

Sacha Wunsch is a bestselling author. Lies My Memory Told Me is her newest novel.

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

 

 

Book Review:  I Am Not Who You Think I Am, by Eric Rickstad

Image belongs to Blackstone Publishing.

Title:   I Am Not Who You Think I Am
Author:   Eric Rickstad
Genre:   Mystery/thriller
Rating:  3.0

Wayland Maynard is just eight years old when he sees his father kill himself, finds a note that reads I am not who you think I am, and is left reeling with grief and shock. Who was his father if not the loving man Wayland knew? Terrified, Wayland keeps the note a secret, but his reasons for being afraid are just beginning.

 Eight years later, Wayland makes a shocking discovery and becomes certain the note is the key to unlocking a past his mother and others in his town want to keep buried. 

With the help of two friends, Wayland searches for the truth. Together they uncover strange messages scribbled in his father’s old books, a sinister history behind the town’s most powerful family, and a bizarre tragedy possibly linked to Wayland’s birth. Each revelation raises more questions and deepens Wayland’s suspicions of everyone around him. Soon, he’ll regret he ever found the note, trusted his friends, or believed in such a thing as the truth.

Wayland…ended up being a horrible person. Completely self-absorbed, selfish, and prone to jumping to conclusions, I never felt any sympathy for him. Later in the book, I actively disliked him and found him even less sympathetic. While the writing was solid, I found the premise—and the truth—outside my realm of belief.

Eric Rickstad lives in Vermont. I Am Not Who You Think I Am is his newest novel.

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

Book Review:  Little Thieves, by Margaret Owen

Image belongs to Macmillan.

Title:   Little Thieves
Author:   Margaret Owen
Genre:   Fantasy
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Vanja Schmidt knows that no gift is freely given, not even a mother’s love–and she’s on the hook for one hell of a debt. Vanja, the adopted goddaughter of Death and Fortune, was Princess Gisele’s dutiful servant up until a year ago. That was when Vanja’s otherworldly mothers demanded a terrible price for their care, and Vanja decided to steal her future back… by stealing Gisele’s life for herself. 

The real Gisele is left a penniless nobody while Vanja uses an enchanted string of pearls to take her place. Now, Vanja leads a lonely but lucrative double life as princess and jewel thief, charming nobility while emptying their coffers to fund her great escape. Then, one heist away from freedom, Vanja crosses the wrong god and is cursed to an untimely end: turning into jewels, stone by stone, for her greed. 

Vanja has just two weeks to figure out how to break her curse and make her getaway. And with a feral guardian half-god, Gisele’s sinister fiancé, and an overeager junior detective on Vanja’s tail, she’ll have to pull the biggest grift yet to save her own life.

Confession: I almost stopped reading this about 15 times in the first 20%. It just started out so slow, and Vanja just wasn’t a very likable person at all. Fortunately, she started learning and changing after that, so she became more tolerable. After that, I enjoyed this story immensely.

The setting was vividly wrought, and the culture was fascinating to me, with the mythology woven seamlessly in, adding depth and nuance to the story. In the end, this ended up being a fantastic read filled with magic, danger, and romance.

Margaret Owen grew up in Portland, Oregon. Little Thieves is her newest novel.

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

Book Review:  The Mother Next Door, by Tara Laskowski

Image belongs to Harlequin/Graydon House.

Title:   The Mother Next Door
Author:   Tara Laskowski
Genre:   Mystery/thriller
Rating:  DNF

GOOD MOTHERS…

Never show their feelings.
Never spill their secrets.
Never admit to murder.

 The annual Halloween block party is the pinnacle of the year on idyllic suburban cul-de-sac Ivy Woods Drive. An influential group of neighborhood moms—known as the Ivy Five—plans the event for months.

 Except the Ivy Five has been four for a long time.

 When a new mother moves to town, eager to fit in, the moms see it as an opportunity to make the group whole again. This year’s block party should be the best yet… until the women start receiving anonymous messages threatening to expose the quiet neighborhood’s dark past—and the lengths they’ve gone to hide it.

 As secrets seep out and the threats intensify, the Ivy Five must sort the loyal from the disloyal, the good from the bad. They’ll do anything to protect their families. But when a twisted plot is revealed, with dangerous consequences, their steady foundation begins to crumble, leaving only one certainty: after this year’s block party, Ivy Woods Drive will never be the same.

This was just a case of the book not being a good fit for me right now. I read about 20% of it before I stopped reading, and the writing was strong, the characters realistic. I just didn’t like the characters. I thought they were petty, vapid, and superficial, and I didn’t care about them in the slightest—or their secrets.

Tara Laskowski is an award-winning author. The Mother Next Door is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/Graydon House in exchange for an honest review.)

 

Book Review and Blog Tour:  The Keeper of Night, by Kylie Lee Baker

Image belongs to Inkyard Press.

Title:   The Keeper of Night
Author:   Kylie Lee Baker
Genre:   Fantasy, YA
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

Death is her destiny.

Half British Reaper, half Japanese Shinigami, Ren Scarborough has been collecting souls in the London streets for centuries. Expected to obey the harsh hierarchy of the Reapers who despise her, Ren conceals her emotions and avoids her tormentors as best she can.

 When her failure to control her Shinigami abilities drives Ren out of London, she flees to Japan to seek the acceptance she’s never gotten from her fellow Reapers. Accompanied by her younger brother, the only being on earth to care for her, Ren enters the Japanese underworld to serve the Goddess of Death… only to learn that here, too, she must prove herself worthy. Determined to earn respect, Ren accepts an impossible task—find and eliminate three dangerous Yokai demons—and learns how far she’ll go to claim her place at Death’s side.

The premise of this was excellent, and the writing was solid, too. The characters, however, didn’t really work for me. Ren herself was distant and cold—not human, I get it, but almost impossible to relate to—and I didn’t really care for her. Her brother just came across as weak 99.5% of the time. And Hiro, well, obviously he had secrets. Why on earth was Ren so surprised to find that out? The culture and mythology were rich and detailed, and I enjoyed that very much, but the characters just detracted so much for me.

Kylie Lee Baker grew up in Boston. The Keeper of Night is her debut novel.

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

Book Review: When Sparks Fly, by Helena Hunting

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   When Sparks Fly
Author:   Helena Hunting
Genre:   Romance
Rating:  3 out of 5

Running the Spark House, a hotel/event space that has been in her family for years, has been Avery Spark’s lifelong dream. After years of working hard and making personal sacrifices, Avery and her two younger sisters have turned the Spark House into the premier destination in Colorado Springs. Avery is living her best life—she works with her sisters and loves every minute of it, she has a great group of friends, and she lives in a fantastic condo with her best friend Declan. She might not have any love in her life, but she’s happy.

 But everything comes to a screeching halt when Avery is in a car accident, leaving her immobile for weeks. After nearly losing Avery, Declan insists that he will be the one to take care of her while she recovers. However, as Declan becomes Avery’s caretaker, lines begin to blur. 

Avery and Declan have been best friends since college and always had an attraction to one another, but when she ended up dating his best friend, Sam, they successfully stamped down any feelings they may have ever had for one another. Now, as Declan and Avery spend more time together, they each begin to wonder what would’ve happened if she’d dated him instead of Sam. What starts as a friend helping out another friend turns into foreplay and, before they realize it, they recognize how deeply they care for one another. But when things get serious their past threatens to destroy everything they have built.

Either I’m just too old for this book (I’m not that old!) or this just wasn’t a good fit for me. I enjoy the friends-to-lovers trope, but both of these characters had the self-awareness of a pet rock and what Avery needed help with—the inciting incident if you will—was so overdone and ludicrous I almost stopped reading right then.

Helena Hunting is a bestselling author. When Sparks Fly is her newest novel.

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

Book Review:  Aria’s Travelling Book Shop, by Rebecca Raisin

Image belongs to Harper 360.

Title: Aria’s Travelling Book Shop  
Author Rebecca Raisin
Genre:   Fiction
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

This summer will change everything! 

Aria Summers knows what she wants. 

A life on the road with best friend Rosie and her beloved camper-van-cum-book-shop, and definitely, definitely, no romance.

 But when Aria finds herself falling – after one too many glasses of wine, from a karaoke stage – into the arms of Jonathan, a part of her comes back to life for the first time in years. 

Since her beloved husband died Aria has sworn off love, unless it’s the kind you can find in the pages of a book. One love of her life is quite enough.

 And so Aria tries to forget Jonathan and sets off for a summer to remember in France. But could this trip change Aria’s life forever…?

This was such a fun read! I enjoyed Rosie’s story before this, and Aria’s story was just as enjoyable. Tea and books:  my favorites. I relished all the literary references, and Aria has such a knack for landing herself in scrapes that it made me laugh. A quick read that’s just pure pleasure.

Rebecca Raisin loves books. Aria’s Travelling Book Shop is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harper 360 in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour:  Luminous, by Mara Rutherford

Image belongs to Inkyard Press.

Title:   Luminous
Author:   Mara Rutherford
Genre:   Fantasy, YA
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

A witch who must learn to harness her power–or risk losing her loved ones forever. 

Liora has spent her life in hiding, knowing discovery could mean falling prey to the king’s warlock, Darius, who uses mages’ magic to grow his own power. But when her worst nightmare comes to pass, Darius doesn’t take her. Instead, he demands that her younger sister return to the capital with him. To make matters worse, Evran, Liora’s childhood friend and the only one who knows her secret, goes missing following Darius’s visit, leaving her without anyone to turn to.

 To find Evran and to save her sister, Liora must embrace the power she has always feared. But the greatest danger she’ll face is yet to come, for Darius has plans in motion that will cause the world to fall into chaos–and Liora and Evran may be the only ones who can stop him.

I really loved Rutherford’s previous duology, but this just didn’t quite measure up for me. So many layers of lies and misinformation that I was never quite sure of the truth about core concepts from the world itself. I liked Liora herself, but the other main characters were inconsistent at best. Some bits felt clunky and uneven, and there was a bit of deus ex machina thrown in for good measure.

Mara Rutherford is from California. Luminous is her newest novel.

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