Tag: books

Book Review: How to Walk Away, by Katherine Center

how to walk away
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   How to Walk Away
Author:   Katherine Center
Genre:   Fiction, romance
Rating:   4 out of 5

Margaret Jacobsen was on the cusp of everything she’d dreamed of:  her dream job, a fiancé who’s absolutely perfect, and her wonderful life about to start. Until a plane crash leaves her burned and paralyzed, and that wonderful life disappears from view.

In the hospital, Margaret has six weeks of healing time; after that, she must go home, and the optimal healing time has passed, meaning if she can’t walk by then, she never will. So Margaret throws herself into her efforts to heal, with the help of a surly physical therapist who pushes her to do her best—and whose bad attitude is a challenge.

Along the way, Margaret must deal with heartbreak, family secrets, and the realization that life sometimes doesn’t turn out like we plan—and that’s okay.

I enjoyed this so much that I read it straight through in just a couple of hours! Margaret is an inspiring person I’d love to hang out with. What she goes through after the plane crash is captured in blistering detail, and I can relate to the mental reevaluation that’s necessary when you wake up in the hospital with your whole world changed. If you like smart fiction with a bit of romance, a heroine whose determination will inspire you, and a quirky family, this book is for you!

Katherine Center lives and writes in Houston, Texas. How to Walk Away is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

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Book Review: The Crossing, by Jason Mott

the crossing
Image belongs to Harlequin/Park Row.

Title:  The Crossing
Author:   Jason Mott
Genre:   YA/dystopian
Rating:   3.5 out of 5

At first, the disease only took those over age 90, putting them into a sleep they never awoke from. Gradually, the victims grew younger, and the world realized eventually no one of childbearing age would be left awake—or alive. Accusations of blame arose, followed by the war.

Virginia and Tommy have spent most of their lives in the foster care system, fighting to stay together. But now the draft threatens to keep them apart forever. So they run away, headed for Florida and a space shuttle lunch that could be the last hope of mankind.

In a world gone mad, people try desperately to forget the truth, but Virginia remembers everything:  ever single detail of everything she’s ever seen or heard. The Memory Gospel brings the past alive for her, but it makes her blind to some things. As Tommy and Virginia flee across the country, they have only themselves to depend on, but can they bear the cost of the truth?

This was an intriguing novel, with a premise unique in the dystopian books I’ve read. The world, filled with war and the Disease, is frankly terrifying. Virginia and Tommy’s history is sad, yet their love for each other remains strong.

I found Virginal pretty unlikable. Her perfect memory makes her think she’s smarter than everyone around her, and, while that may be true in some cases, she only remembers her memories, not necessarily the truth. She’s a selfish person whose intellect makes her push people away. Despite that, this was an engrossing read.

Jason Mott is a New York Times bestselling author. The Crossing is his newest novel.

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

 

Book Review: The Way You Make Me Feel, by Maurene Goo

the way you make me feel
Image belongs to Farrar, Straus, and Giroux (BYR).

Title:   The Way You Make Me Feel
Author:   Maurene Goo
Genre:   YA
Rating:   4 out of 5

Clara Shin and her friends are rebellious and anti-anything-too-trendy-and-popular. Clara is always pulling pranks and cracking jokes to keep people at arm’s length, but when a school prank goes too far, Clara ends up sentenced to work her dad’s food truck with her enemy all summer long.

Rose Carver is an uptight goody-two-shoes, but as Clara is forced to spend time with her, she realizes Rose is really just from a family of overachievers and she is scared to fail. She’s never had a friend, and she and Clara work to figure out their relationship while working the KoBra.

When Clara meets Hamlet, the boy who works the coffee shop near one of their stops, she’s intrigued, but he’s not her usual type at all; Hamlet is much too nice and polite for that. Then Clara realizes the way things have always been may not be all there is out there, and who she’s always been may not be based on the truth.

I loved this book! Clara’s relationship with her single dad is funny, open, and absolutely perfect. She’s always thought her social influencer mother was the thoughtful parent, but she learns that things aren’t always what they seem.

Clara’s sarcasm and biting humor were over-the-top in the beginning, but as her summer “punishment” opened her eyes to the truth, she truly changes as a person. Hamlet is almost too good to be true, and he serves as a great foil for Clara’s pessimistic worldview. Lots of humor and social commentary in this one, making it a fun, enjoyable read.

Maurene Goo is a young adult author who lives in California. The Way You Make Me Feel is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Elektra’s Adventures in Tragedy, by Douglas Rees

elektra's
Image belongs to Running Press Kids.

Title:   Elektra’s Adventures in Tragedy
Author:   Douglas Rees
Genre:   YA
Rating:   4 out of 5

Elektra is happily becoming a Southern belle in a small Mississippi college town where here father is a professor—and an expert on Greek mythology—and her mother is a struggling wannabe writer. Then, without warning, her mom packs Elektra and her sister in the car to move to California.

They end up in Guadalupe Slough, a tiny community outside of San Jose that’s filled with a lot of colorful people. Home is a decrepit houseboat on a mudflat, complete with a pet tarantula. Elektra will do anything to get back to Mississippi and her father, even if it means stealing, but she soon finds out there’s more to what’s going on than meets the eye.

So…I enjoyed this book. For one thing, because it’s one of the few YA books I’ve read without a strong romance plot. Elektra is an interesting character. She starts off pretty self-centered and kind of a spoiled brat but being in a different environment and learning new things is good for her, as are the interesting people she meets. She ends up being much more aware of what’s going on around her, and much more caring as well.

The setting and secondary characters are a little flat, without a lot of details or description. I never had a clear picture of Guadalupe Slough apart from dusty and dry. There’s an interesting mix of secondary characters, but they’re a little one-dimensional. Even so, this was a quick, pleasant read.

Douglas Rees is a children’s librarian and the author of 15 children’s books. Elektra’s Adventures in Tragedy is his newest novel.

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

Book Review: The Girl and the Grove, by Eric Smith

the girl and the grove
Image belongs to Flux Books.

Title:   The Girl and the Grove
Author:   Eric Smith
Genre:   YA
Rating:   3.5 out of 5

Leila hasn’t had an easy life. Bounced from foster home to group home, the only constant she’s had is her best friend Sarika. Now Leila is adopted, and she loves her new home, even if she’s still waiting on the other shoe to drop and her new parents to decide they don’t want her.

To make new friends, Leila joins an environmental group at a local high school, and soon finds herself chatting with the cute leader of the group, whose ex-girlfriend is determined to make trouble for Leila and Sarika.

Then the voice in Leila’s head starts demanding her attention, and her coping methods no longer work. On impulse, she follows the voice’s direction to a grove deep in the local park. The grove is a place of old magic, and Leila discovers the truth about herself, and a danger that threatens the entire city.

A YA book about environmental issues? Yes, please. Throw in a diverse cast of characters who also fight against racism, and that upped my interest even more. I loved the premise of this novel, and the magical element made it even more promising. With Leila’s fears and insecurities from being adopted front and center, there was a lot going on in this book.

However, Leila and Sarika weren’t consistent enough to make them completely believable to me. Leila had a wonderful strength, was very outspoken and strong-willed, yet sometimes she seemed so naïve and childish in her thoughts and actions. Sarika was brazen towards others, although she showed her softer side to Leila. Their friendship was amazing, but then they’d throw in an f-bomb or two, and it seemed totally out-of-character, as if the cussing was just to make them seem more adult. Gratuitous profanity just didn’t fit the rest of their character. Actually, all of the teenagers had this dichotomy of personality, so their actions and personality were never cohesive. I never got a good sense of the why behind this erratic behavior.

Eric Smith is an author and literary agent. The Girl and the Grove is his newest novel.

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

@ericsmithrocks #thegirlandthegrove

Book Review: The Stars at Oktober Bend, by Glenda Millard

the stars at oktober bend
Image belongs to Candlewick Press.

Title:  The Stars at Oktober Bend
Author:   Glenda Millard
Genre:   YA
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

Alice is fifteen but to everyone else, she is forever twelve:  she has acquired brain injury as the result of an assault she can’t remember, and now her electrics don’t work. She can speak, but her words don’t always come out right. Instead, she writes poetry; beautiful, haunting, anonymous poetry that she leaves all over town, hoping that someday, someone will read her words.

Alice lives with her brother, Joey, and her grandmother, in a house that’s mostly hidden from the rest of the world. Alice doesn’t go to school. Instead, she writes, ties fishing flies, and takes care of her grandmother. Her family is her world, and she wants things to stay the same forever.

Then Alice meets Manny, a boy who reads her poems and wants to hear her speak. Manny was forced to become a boy soldier, and he still suffers from PTSD. In Alice he finds comfort. But not everyone in town wants Alice, her family, or Manny to be happy, and as Alice finds out more of the truth surrounding her life, she will be faced with her greatest fears.

I’m not a fan of stream-of-consciousness writing, nor with lack of proper punctuation or capitalization. The parts of this novel from Alice’s point-of-view employed this, and I initially considered not finishing this. However, I got so drawn into Alice’s tale that I stopped noticing these things—they absolutely made sense for Alice, and by the end of the book, I had forgotten they existed.

This is a book with a lot of sadness, but there is joy and hope as well. I found this very lyrical and compelling, and Alice and her family broke my heart, as did Manny and his story. The other people in town were infuriating, but typical for society, making this a highly believable book to read (even if it made me angry). A very good read, and one I highly recommend.

Glenda Millard is an award-winning author from Australia. The Stars at Oktober Bend is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Paper Ghosts, by Julia Heaberlin

paper-ghosts-400h
Image belongs to Random House/Ballantine Books.

Title:   Paper Ghosts
Author:  Julia Heaberlin
Genre:   Thriller
Rating:   4 out of 5

Carl Louis Feldman was once a famous photographer who took eerie pictures. Then he was charged with the murder of a young woman, acquitted, and disappeared from the public eye. Now he’s in a halfway house for those with dementia and he doesn’t remember killing anyone. Or so he claims.

But his daughter is visiting him, and she doesn’t believe him. She’s planning to take him on a trip to see if she can jog his memory. Except she’s not really his daughter.

She’s spent years getting ready for this day. Years looking for clues to her sister Rachel’s disappearance, even after the cops gave up. Years of painstaking research finding Carl and tracking him down. Years of training to see to it that he doesn’t come back from their little trip. Is Carl telling the truth, or are they both lying? The middle of the Texas wilderness is no place to be with a serial killer.

You know that little thrill you get when you read a book and it’s set someplace you’re familiar with? I got that on the first page of this book, with the mention of the cemetery in Weatherford, Texas and Mary Martin’s grave. I grew up in Weatherford, after all, so I was hooked from that sentence.

But I stayed hooked throughout the book by the twists and turns the story kept taking, and my curiosity to find out what was going to happen. This is an accurate look at dementia—and the way some dementia patients are sometimes self-aware enough to pretend they don’t remember things (I saw my grandmother do that). It’s an unsettling, creepy read, but the characters are intriguing. And how can you beat Texas as a setting? (You can’t.) Those pictures of the little twin girls were also creepy enough for me to keep reading.

Julia Heaberlin grew up in Texas before becoming a journalist, then an international bestselling author. Paper Ghosts is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Random House/Ballantine Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Song of Blood and Stone, by L. Penelope

song
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   Song of Blood and Stone
Author:  L. Penelope
Genre:    Fantasy
Rating:   4.5/5

Jasminda lives in an isolated cabin in Elsira, where her Earthsong, though weak, makes her an outcast—as does her being half Elsiran and half Lagrimaran. She has no one, and she prefers it that way, as too many people have always treated her like trash. When a dangerous group of soldiers from nearby Lagrimar invade her home to escape a storm, she must convince them she’s not a danger—and that she’s one of them.

Their prisoner, Jack, captures her attention. His mission to prove that the Mantle between Elsira and Lagrimar is about to fall at the hands of the True Father almost cost him his life. Only Jasminda’s power kept him alive, and now he needs her help to escape, and to save all Elsira.

As the power of the True Father grows stronger, Jasminda and Jack must uncover the secrets of The Queen Who Sleeps if they are to stop his despotic power from overwhelming their land. But the enemies they face are not just outsiders, and they must choose between what they want and what they must do if they are to survive.

Because I choose to read books on whether the plot is appealing to me (okay, and depending on how much I like the cover), I didn’t realize going in that this book is, as the author says, “a fantasy romance about brown people.” I also didn’t really pay attention to this fact while reading it, and only noticed while reading some of the publicity surrounding it, and the author’s site. However, the truth of what it is lent the story some incredible nuances and layers that brought the entire world to vibrant, shimmering life.

I was hooked from the very first page. Jasminda is a strong character, but she’s hiding her hurts behind many protective layers because society just isn’t receptive to her existence. So, she lives alone, survives on her own, and is determined to continue living life the way she sees fit. Until fate steps in and turns her world upside down, when she meets—and saves—Jack, a soldier on an undercover mission, pursued by enemy soldiers, who turns himself in to keep Jasminda safe.

The worldbuilding is complex, and I love how the history is layered in with flashbacks. This helps to give a very real feel to the setting. I loved the diverse cast of characters and read this straight through in one sitting. Can’t wait for the second book!

Leslye (L.) Penelope is an award-winning writer. Song of Blood and Stone is her debut novel.

(Galley provided by St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

What I Read in April (2018)

Books Read in April:  15

Books Read for the Year:  57/150

Topical Books/Monthly Goal Books:

(I added a couple of categories for my monthly reading).

Cultural Book:  Finding Fraser, by K.C. Dyer. Okay. so this wasn’t strictly a different culture…but it was set in Scotland, so I counted it. A fun, light read that I really enjoyed.

Spiritual Book:  God’s Not Dead, by Rice Broocks. I really enjoyed this evidence-based look at a spiritual subject–the historical Jesus.

Classic Book: A Wind in the Door, by Madeline L’Engle. I LOVE this follow-up to A Wrinkle in Time.

Personal Development:  Write. Publish. Repeat.

From the TBR pile: The Casquette Girls, by Alys Arden. I’m so mad this has been sitting in my TBR pile for months! I enjoyed it so much. The setting—New Orleans right after the Storm—was magnificently done, and I love the interwoven timelines. The characters were fantastic as well.

For Review

10,000 hills

In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills, by Jennifer Haupt. Wow. This book is (mainly) set in Rwanda, after the genocide (which I knew basically nothing about), and is about an American woman, Rachel, who is searching for the father who abandoned her years ago. It’s also set in America during the Civil Rights movement, and is about Lillian and Henry, who fall in love in Atlanta. There are several different timelines at play here, and at first  I found the book slow-going, but it ended up being such a good read.

fairies

The Fairies of Sadieville, by Alex Bledsoe. I had not read any of this series about the mysterious Tufa, a clan of people in Appalachia who are searching for the way back home.

Lion-of-the-South-ebook-Cover-Large-200x300

The Lion of the South, by Jessica James. A clean romance set in the Civil War…but with no mention of the issues behind the war itself. Instead, this story focuses on the characters and their relationships, which was a nice change.

whispers

Whispers of the Dead, by Spencer Kope. I thoroughly enjoyed this forensic mystery about Steps, an FBI special investigator who can see “shine,” bright trails of color unique to every person and where they’ve been. The murder mystery itself was well done, but what made the book for me was the characters, especially Steps and Jimmy, his partner.

then-she-was-gone-9781501154645

Then She Was Gone, by Lisa Jewell. This tale of a mother whose daughter disappeared 10 years ago who finds herself involved with a man whose daughter looks eerily similar to her own missing child was just alright. The mystery intrigued me, but the characters weren’t my cup of tea.

shattered mirror

Shattered Mirror, by Iris Johansen. The newest Eve Duncan book, this is dependable reading, with everything readers expect from Johansen:  mystery, danger, murder.

skyinthedeep

Sky in the Deep, by Adrienne Young. Can I just tell you how much I loved this book? Seriously. I read it in one sitting, straight through. Seventeen-year-old Eelyn is a warrior, fighting with her clan against the Riki, their age-old enemies. Fight. Survive. Repeat. That’s what her life consists of, until one day she sees the brother she loved who died 5 years ago fighting with the Riki. Eelyn doesn’t know what to think, but she ends up in the home of the Riki as she struggles to understand. This was a magnificent book!

suitorsandsabotage

Suitors and Sabotage, by Cindy Anstey. A light, fun, Regency YA.

Circe

Circe, by Madeline Miller. This was a wonderful read that brought mythology to life.

song

Song of Blood and Stone, by L. Penelope (review forthcoming). I enjoyed this diverse fantasy tale, and was engrossed from the very first page. Nice to see something that handles race and prejudice in this way. Highly recommended! (Also a beautiful cover.)

 

Book Review: Circe, by Madeline Miller

Circe
Image belongs to Little, Brown, and Company.

Title:   Circe
Author:   Madeline Miller
Genre:   Fiction, literary fiction, mythology
Rating:   4.5/5

Circe is the daughter of Helios, god of the sun and the mightiest Titan. Her mother is both cruel and alluring. Circe is not like either of them. Nor is she like her three siblings, striving for power and fame.

Circe prefers the company of fragile mortals to that of the powerful—and cruel—gods. In her search for companionship, Circe discovers she does have power:  that of witchcraft. Her power to transform her rivals into monsters makes the gods fear her, and she is banished by Zeus himself to a deserted island.

There, Circe learns her craft, growing in power and knowledge as she comes to know some of the most famous individuals in mythology:  The Minotaur, Medea, Daedalus, and especially the mighty Odysseus. But Circe draws the anger of one of the most powerful god in existence, and it will take all of skills and cunning to survive—and to decide if she will be a god, or a mortal.

I’ve always loved mythology, and I knew a tiny bit about Circe from a year spent studying mythology in high school (Thank you, Mrs. Skidmore!), but this novel is a riveting and personal journey into Circe’s life. Her treatment at the hands of the gods made me sad—kind of like the behavior of a lot of society these days—and her fumbling attempts to find friends and figure out her own truths drew my sympathy.

I loved reading about mythology from an insiders’ view—I truly felt I was part of the tale, experiencing Circe’s pain, grief, horror, and happiness right along with her. Well-written and engrossing, this book is a journey readers will love to take!

Madeline Miller is the award-winning author of The Song of Achilles. Her newest novel is Circe.

(Galley provided by Little, Brown, and Company in exchange for an honest review.)