Category: reading

Book Review: Olympian Challenger, by Astrid Arditi

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Image belongs to Astrid Arditi.

Title:   Olympian Challenger
Author:   Astrid Arditi
Genre:   YA, fantasy
Rating:   3.5 out of 5

Hope Diaz lives in New York City. She spends her time swimming, studying, and caring for her mother, who has dementia. She doesn’t have time for parties, so when she receives a mysterious invitation to one, she doesn’t really care. It seems like every other senior in the city got one, so it can’t be all that special. Until she realizes that everyone else can only see a single sentence on the invitation…and she sees more.

Soon, Hope finds herself on Mount Olympus, a guest of the gods, as she and other challengers prepare for a competition that will grant them their greatest wish. Hope doesn’t want immortality. She just wants to go home and take care of her mother.

But leaving Olympus isn’t an option and Hope soon finds out that not everything—or everyone—is as it seems.

Olympian Challenger isn’t a completely unique concept. I’ve seen lots of comparisons to Percy Jackson and Hunger Games. Sure, there are similarities. It’s difficult to write anything that has nothing in common with any other book ever written. But Olympian Challenger is its own story.

Hope is an interesting character, and the friendships she forges on Olympus are intriguing and inspiring. I enjoyed seeing the gods and the heroes through her less-than-impressed eyes. While the plot lags in places and does skimp on details at times, the writing is solid, and I’m interested in reading the second book.

Astrid Arditi lives and writes in Brooklyn. Olympian Challenger is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.)

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Book Review: The Museum of Us, by Tara Wilson Redd

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Image belongs to Random House Children’s/Wendy Lamb Books.

Title:   The Museum of Us
Author:   Tara Wilson Redd
Genre:   YA
Rating:   4 out of 5

Sadie has a boyfriend she loves, Henry, who plays in a band and loves her even though she can’t understand why. Her best friend, Lucie, runs Cross Country and is a secret nerd, but still loves to hang out with Sadie. Then there’s George. George just gets her. They talk for hours. They go on adventures. They explore the world around them. Together, they are magic.

George is a secret. He’s imaginary. But when a car accident leaves Sadie calling out his name, she ends up in a hospital for people with issues like hers.

Life with George is more extraordinary than anything Sadie has experienced without him. But, while trying to keep her secret, she starts to yearn for something more, for something real. Can she give up George and the magical lives she leads with him?

At first, I wasn’t too sure about this book. I mean, daydreaming is one thing, but Sadie takes it to a whole other level. Her adventures with George are fantastic, but she just can’t see how great her real life is, too. I just didn’t get it at first, but then it all started to make sense, and I really felt for Sadie and all she’d been through. This is an exploration of mental illness from the inside—and it is very, very well done and vivid.

Tara Wilson Redd lives in Washington D.C. The Museum of Us is her debut novel.

(Galley provided by Random House Children’s/Wendy Lamb Books in exchange for an honest review.)

What I Read in June (2018)

This post will not be as detailed as my monthly re-cap normally is. June was a crazy month for me, with lots of family stuff going on. My dad had major surgery. My grandmother is on hospice. I’m just not up to it right now.

Books Read in June: 11

Books Read for the Year: 83/150

Topical Books/Monthly Goal Books:

Never Stop Walking, by Christina Rickardsson (cultural). Interesting read about a Brazilian girl, adopted to a Swiss couple, who goes back to the poverty-ridden neighborhoods she grew up in in search of her mother.

A Swiftly Tilting Planet, by Madeleine L’Engle (classic). Hard to go wrong with a L’Engle book.

Station 11, by Emily St. John Mandel (TBR). Um…turns out I’d already read this. I found the resolution a bit anti-climatic.

Unexpected, by Christine Caine (spiritual). Excellent, inspiring read.

Cast in Chaos, by Michelle Sagara (TBR). Love this series. Kaylin is such a flawed but likable character.

For Review:

 

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The Emperor of Shoes, by Spence Wise. This was…slightly more than so-so. The father was completely unlikable.

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Little Do We Know, by Tamara Ireland Stone. I enjoyed this story of a girl struggling to make sense of her beliefs.

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The Bookshop of Yesterdays, by Amy Meyerson. Loved this one!

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Convenience Store Woman, by Sayaka Murata. Meh. I couldn’t relate to this on ANY level.

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The Love Letter, by Rachel Hauck. I enjoyed this Christian romance that tells the story of two couples, in different centuries.

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Not the Girls You’re Looking For, by Aminah Mae Safi. 

So, honestly, this was lacking a plot. And the main character—and her three best friends—were not nice. Basically unlikable. I liked the diversity and the writing was solid, but the main character looked for things to be offended about.

Left Unfinished:

Harry’s Trees, by Jon Cohen. Just couldn’t get into it.

L’s Precarious Reality, by Layla J. Silver. This was a case of me not being the right reader.

Redeeming How We Talk, by Ken Wytsma. I liked the idea behind the book, but got bogged down in the analysis. I was looking for more concrete suggestions.

Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy for Quick Lit.

 

Contest: Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage Giveaway

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Baby Teeth, by Zoje Stage, goes on sale on July 17th.

To read an excerpt and see the trailer, go here.

This psychological thriller about a battle of wills between a mother and her seven-year-old daughter who’s defiant, manipulative, deceitful—and determined to turn her father against her mother—will keep readers riveted to the page.

I’ll be reviewing the book on the 18th, but right now, I have three copies to give away!

To enter, comment on this post and tell me why you want to read this book. I’ll pick three readers randomly to send a copy to. The contest will run today, July 1st through Thursday, July 5th.

Book Review: Not the Girls You’re Looking For, by Aminah Mae Safi

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Image belongs to Macmillan/Feiwel & Friends.

Title: Not the Girls You’re Looking For
Author: Aminah Mae Safi
Genre: YA
Rating: 3 out of 5

Lulu Saad has her squad, her family, and a huge chip on her shoulder. She doesn’t need anything else. She’s fasting for Ramadan, which she does every year, and her squad still doesn’t get it, but Lulu is determined to make it through this time.

Except Lulu and her friends have a falling out. And she alienates half of her extended family. And she can’t quite figure out why everything in her life is going wrong…

Okay. I didn’t realize quite how…plotless this book was until I tried to write a synopsis. And now it’s all so clear to me…Lulu and her friends aren’t very likeable. Scratch that. They aren’t likable at all. They do stupid stuff, knowingly. They talk about people. They sabotage people. They’re judgmental. Basically, this book is all angst and anger, with a lot of cultural diversity thrown in.

Now, that part was very well done, and executed so well that I caught all the nuances of Lulu’s struggle to fit in when she feels like she doesn’t belong in either culture. But she’s also touchy to the point of looking for things to take offense at. Have some respect for yourself. Guys should absolutely respect women, and women should be able to wear whatever they want without having to be afraid of guys’ reactions…but, it’s not okay to sexualize men for their bodies, either. Lulu doesn’t get this, and she thinks it’s okay for her to be focused on the guys and for her to react inappropriately towards them. So…all the stars for diversity, but no stars for plot or character likability.

Aminah Mae Safi has studied art History, but now writes fiction. Not the Girls You’re Looking For is her debut novel.

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

 

Book Review: The Love Letter, by Rachel Hauck

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Title: The Love Letter
Author: Rachel Hauck
Genre: Historical, Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5

Chloe Daschle is known in Hollywood for being the actress to play a convincing death scene. But she’s tired of dying. She wants to live. When she hears about the role of Esther Kingsley in a historical film, she decides to go for it.

The script is based on a one-page love letter written by screenwriter Jesse Gates’ ancestor, Hamilton Lightfoot, but Jesse would far rather write about romance than try his hand at it…again. When Jesse and Chloe meet, they both must re-think their views on love—and their pasts.

During the Revolutionary War, Esther longs to be with Hamilton, her friend from childhood, but Hamilton is torn between his love of peace, and his desire to fight for the land he calls home. He’s afraid his thirst for revenge over the death of his father will motivate him—not the cause he wishes to fight for. And Esther must choose between her beloved father, a British Loyalist, and the rebel Hamilton, the man she loves.

I expected a light romance in The Love Letter but got so much more than that. Chloe is an intriguing character: she grew up in Hollywood and has a past as one of those behaving-badly starlets caught on tape to live down. She’s changed, and now she wants so much more out of life, but Hollywood has her in a tidy box she’s not sure she can escape. Until she meets Jesse, who does things his way, not buckling to threats or even friendly advice. With Esther and Hamilton’s story woven throughout, The Love Letter was an engrossing, lovely read.

Rachel Hauck is an award-winning and best-selling author. Her newest novel is The Love Letter.

(Galley provided by Thomas Nelson in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Bookshop of Yesterdays, by Amy Meyerson

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Image belongs to Park Row Books.

Title:   The Bookshop of Yesterdays
Author:   Amy Meyerson
Genre:   Fiction
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

Miranda Brooks loves her job as a teacher in Philadelphia. She loves her boyfriend, Jay, whom she just moved in with, and she’s looking forward to their first summer together. Until she receives a package in the mail and a clue and knows that one of her uncle Billy’s scavenger hunts has started. Except the clue is closely followed by a call from her mother:  Billy is dead.

Growing up, Miranda loved her uncle, a seismologist. He taught her so many things using scavenger hunts, and she always loved the adventure. But when she turned 12, her mom and Billy had a fight, and she never saw him again. When she returns to California for the funeral, she finds that Billy has left her Prospero Books—his beloved bookstore, now teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.

Her mother will barely mention Billy—she didn’t even go to his funeral—and Miranda knows the scavenger hunt will lead her to the truth about the fight when she was twelve, the truth her mother doesn’t want her to know. Miranda works to untangle Billy’s clues while she searches for a way to save Prospero Books, the legacy Billy left her. Soon she realizes just how deep the secret her family has hidden for years goes—and wonders if happiness looks different than it did at the beginning of summer.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that I love a book about a bookstore, a book filled with literary clues and references. I enjoyed everything about this novel:  the setting (Can I just move into Prospero Books?), the clues, the mystery, and especially Miranda herself. I loved how her mind works, and how determined she is to unearth her family’s secrets. An excellent, engrossing read!

Amy Meyerson lives in Los Angeles. The Bookshop of Yesterdays is her first novel.

(Galley provided by Harlequin/Park Row in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Emperor of Shoes, by Spencer Wise

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Image belongs to Harlequin/Hanover Square Press.

Title:  The Emperor of Shoes
Author:   Spencer Wise
Genre:   Fiction
Rating:   4 out of 5

Alex Cohen is a 26-year-old from Boston who lives in China. His father, Fedor, runs their shoe-making business with an iron first; profit is everything and Fedor isn’t about to change a thing. Until Alex gets involved with a Chinese seamstress named Ivy—at the same time his father names him heir to the company and places him in charge—at least in name.

Now Alex finds out the truths kept hidden by his father:  the obsession with productivity—workers’ times are assessed and anyone wasting even 8 minutes a week is a problem—as well as the cruel conditions the workers live in—hot water only at 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., no safety measures in place to protect the workers. And Ivy is determined to start a movement for change.

Alex learns a lot from Ivy, but is the change she seeks really based on truth? The more Alex discovers, the more he wonders, until ideas meet action in a showdown at the shoe factory.

This is not a fast-paced novel. Instead, it moves at a slow, languorous pace, taking time to explore the nuances of culture as it exposes the ugliness behind business and commerce in China. Alex becomes a completely different person through the course of the book, and his relationship with his father is at the core of that. A book to sip and savor, taking in all the flavors of the culture it’s set in.

Spencer Wise was born and raised in Massachusetts but now lives in Florida. The Emperor of Shoes is his new novel.

(Galley provided by Harlequin/Hanover Square Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Little Do We Know, by Tamara Ireland Stone

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Image belongs to Disney-Hyperion.

Title:   Little Do We Know
Author:   Tamara Ireland Stone
Genre:   YA
Rating:   5 out of 5

Hannah and Emory are next-door-neighbors and best friends. Until a few months ago, when they had a fight and said some things they can never take back. Hannah’s life at the Christian school her father runs is great, but is her faith really her own, or is it something she just picked up from her family? These questions become even harder when she realizes she may never get the chance to live out her dreams and gets involved with someone she should never have been involved with.

Emory is preparing for her UCLA performing arts audition and enjoying every moment she has left with her boyfriend, Luke. They’ll be going off to separate colleges, and she knows they don’t have much time left. Emory just wants to avoid her memories of the fight with Hannah—and what caused them.

The distance between the two girls seems unsurpassable, until the night Hannah finds Luke in his car outside Emory’s house, doubled over and on the verge of death. In the aftermath of that ordeal, the girls seek to sort out their differences, and realize their friendship is the strength that keeps them both afloat.

I loved this book. I could relate to Hannah so much, and the way she struggles with defining her own faith, while fighting for the chance to chase her dreams, was both poignant and uplifting. She makes some bad decisions, but learns from them, and changes as a result. Emory is a vibrant girl who practically dances across the pages. Her outgoing personality hides a secret—and a fear of the future. The two of them are drawn back together because of Luke, but their friendship is the backbone of this wonderful novel.

Tamara Ireland Stone is a New York Times-bestselling author and her novels have won several awards. Little Do We Know is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Disney-Hyperion in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Us Against You, by Fredrik Backman

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Image belongs to Atria Books.

Title:   Us Against You
Author:   Fredrik Backman
Genre:   Fiction
Rating:   5 out of 5

Beartown lives and breathes hockey. Always has, always will. Last year, after the unthinkable happened and tore the town apart, the team split, with most of the players leaving Beartown for neighboring Hed. The rivalry is real—and vicious.

Peter Andersson, GM of the Bears, spends his days—and his nights—focused on the team. Word that the club is closing rips his world apart, but when a new sponsor steps in, Peter will do anything—even risk the support of those who have always been by his side—to keep his team alive.

Now a new coach is in town, putting together a team of misfits in an effort to rise to greatness—again. Beartown residents might not support an outsider—especially a woman—coaching their team, but they do support the team. No matter what. As conflict with Hed grows from harmless pranks to malicious acts, tensions rise in the two towns, until one person dies and the entire community trembles on the brink of bursting into flames.

Us Against You is the sequel to Beartown, and takes readers back to that hockey-obsessed, small town home of bitter rivalries. This is a continuation of the story, an answer to what-happened-next-? Just as well-written, engrossing, and immersive as the first novel, Us Against You will leave the reader flying through the pages to find out which beloved character will die. I loved this—and Beartown—and I’m not even a hockey fan! If you love realistic, flawed characters and compelling storylines, this one’s for you!

Fredrik Backman is a New York Times-bestselling author. Us Against You is his newest novel.

(Galley provided by Atria Books in exchange for an honest review.)

 

More reviews at <a href=” https://tamaramorning.com/”>Tomorrow is Another Day</a>