Abby is 17, new to town, and she and her family are living on the streets as a result of her mother’s bad decision. They had to leave Omaha behind because of the backlash—and the friends who abandoned them.
Now they’re ready to make a fresh start. Abby dreams of having a boyfriend, going to college, and a career in music, but the winter is bad, and they never know where their next meal is coming from. Her stepfather is having trouble finding a job. Her mother is similarly out of luck. Abby’s family needs help, but she’s afraid to tell her new friends the truth, after the devastation of losing all her friends at her old school.
Roam was a difficult book to read. The subject matter is heavy—and sad. I cannot imagine being homeless, much less homeless with two kids. Abby is a strong person, but guarded, after everything she’s been through. Sometimes, asking for help is the hardest thing to do.
C.H. Armstrong holds a B.A. in Journalism, and lives in Minnesota. Roam is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Central Avenue Publishing via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Rosie Cook wakes up in a hospital, having been hit by a bus, but no one knows she’s awake. Everyone thinks she’s in a coma, on the verge of death. Rosie can’t remember anything: who she is, what her life is like, or how she got hit by a bus. She just knows she wants to live.
Then Rosie starts remembering things: a fight with her sister, a walk on a beach, the day her brother was born. But why these memories? And what do they mean? Rosie has trouble facing what the memories reveal about who she was before she woke up, but if she doesn’t make sense of them and figure out who she really is and what she wants, she may never get the chance to try.
The Inbetween Days is touted as emotional and comic, but I wouldn’t really say it’s a comic novel. There are some funny moments, and every page is full of emotion, but it’s not a humorous book. Rosie wasn’t a very happy person—or a nice one—and her memories are not usually happy ones. However, the story follows Rosie’s change from a person she can’t stand, to one filled with hope and promise, and this is truly an excellent read, although Rosie’s sister, Daisy was the one I really related to.
Eva Woods is a writer and lecturer. The Inbetween Days is her newest novel.
(Galley provided by Graydon House/Harlequin in exchange for an honest review.)
Mallory’s step-father is so controlling her mother can’t breathe without him knowing about it, and Mallory is afraid his control will turn violent. She’s sure something sinister lurks in his past, and she’s desperate to get her pregnant mother out of danger. But her mother refuses to leave, and Mallory finds herself staying with a friend for a few days, then out on the streets. The local library is her only refuge: a warm place to get her online schooling completed while she searches for a more permanent solution.
After a stunt gone wrong, Spencer is doing community service at the library. He likes the peace and quiet there—until a body is discovered in the stacks—and he likes Mallory. He’s sure she’s hiding something, and he’s desperate to help her. It takes his mind off his own problems: his parents have certain expectations for him, expectations that make him miserable.
Mallory doesn’t want to trust Spencer, but there’s no one she can turn to, so she slowly accepts his help. But there’s more going on at the library than they imagine. Black fingerprints. Footprints that lead nowhere. Mysterious cries. And the messages left scrawled on the walls. Mallory realizes her secrets are no the only things hidden in the library.
This is billed as a thriller, but I wouldn’t necessarily agree with that. Mallory’s storyline is tough and frustrating: her mother’s refusal to leave a bad situation, Mallory’s inability to find help, her struggles while homeless. She has major trust issues, but she starts to work through them with Spencer’s help. Spencer has his own issues—while they may not seem like a big deal to everyone, they’re huge for him, but he still wants to help Mallory. Mallory and Spencer both learn a great deal about who they are—and who they want to be.
Natalie D. Richards lives and writes in Ohio. What You Hide is her newest novel.
(Galley provided by Sourcebooks Fire in exchange for an honest review.)
Ty and Cory Bic are running away from the danger and drama in their lives when they come upon a dying deer in the middle of the road, and tire tracks swerving off the road beside it. Though they need to disappear without a trace, they follow the tracks and find an empty car. The banging from the trunk reveals Astrid, so traumatized she doesn’t speak, and they realize they’ve stumbled into something bad. Something that might be linked to their past—and the death of their father.
Sixteen months before, the twins’ father took them on a hike to show them a secret—and to tell them they were leaving their old lives behind. He moved them hours away, where he soon became involved with some frightening men, while the boys struggled to make a life and clean up the abandoned crack house they found themselves living in. When their father is murdered, they end up in a foster house with a powerful man hiding a secret. When the twins decide to reveal his secret, running away is their only option.
This is a pretty dark book, with lots of heavy topics: drug use, abuse, human trafficking, murder…it’s not for the faint of heart. I liked Cory; he struggled with people accepting him, but he is such a strong person, he just has to realize it. Ty was less likable for me, but the two of them together make a formidable team.
Stephen Wallenfels lives in Washington. Deadfall is his newest novel.
(Galley provided by Disney-Hyperion in exchange for an honest review.)
Sky Hawkins’s family fell from grace and lost some of their wealth and most of their good name when her mother disappeared after a heist gone bad. Sky lost her mom, her friends, and her boyfriend all at the same time, as well as becoming a social media and paparazzi pariah. Sky is a wyvern (a were dragon), after all, and the media is fascinated by her family and culture.
No one will talk about her mother’s disappearance, and Sky wants to know what really went down, so she starts to plan her first heist to find out. The first heist is a coming-of-age for wyverns, and Sky is determined to succeed at hers, and save her family’s good name, her mother, and her relationship at one time. Until she learns more about the mysterious jewel her mother was after—and realizes someone has been hiding dark secrets about wyvern history for years.
This is a clean read, and suitable for even younger YA readers. The wyvern society is intriguing and well-thought-out. It makes sense for were-dragons, and I loved how it tied in historical figures to the wyvern worldbuilding. Sky is kind of an innocent about life, so I’d say this is skewed a bit towards younger readers, and a few things seemed a little too easy, but it was a an entertaining and fun read.
Sarah Beth Durst writes fantasy books for all ages. Fire and Heist is her newest novel.
(Galley provided by Random House Children’s/Crown Books for Young Readers in exchange for an honest review.)
Owen Foster is in the middle of a prank war with his best friend Jack when his mom shows up at his fancy New Orleans boarding school. Owen knows it can’t be good news, and it’s not—his dad has disappeared with millions of dollars from the family business that supports most of their small town.
Owen and his mom are the most hated people in town. Most people think they knew what his dad was up to, or at least where he is now, and the threats soon turn to violence. To escape all the anger, Owen finds himself working for Gus on a practically-abandoned pecan farm outside of town.
Owen doesn’t want to believe his father stole the money, but all the evidence points towards him. Soon Owen realizes that someone must have helped his dad, and he’s determined to unravel the mystery and keep his mother safe.
The Lying Woods is told in alternate viewpoints between Owen now, and his father in the past, the year he first came to work for Gus. I’m not generally a fan of male POV characters in YA, but I loved this one. Owen is complex: everything he thinks he knows gets upended in this book, and he has to figure out the new world he inhabits now. He’s hurting from his dad’s betrayal, worried about his mom, and missing his friends, but he learns to see things from other people’s point-of-view as he struggles to right the wrongs he encounters. Definitely read this! I realized after reading this that I’d also read Elston’s The Rules for Disappearing, and it was a great read as well, so she just moved to my must-read list.
Ashley Elston lives and writes in Louisiana. The Lying Woods is her newest novel.
(Galley provided by Disney-Hyperion in exchange for an honest review.)
Title: Salt Author: Hannah Moskowitz Genre: YA, fantasy Rating: 4 out of 5
Seventeen-year-old Indi has only ever known one life: roaming the oceans with his parents, his older sister, his younger brother, and his younger sister as they seek out and destroy the sea monsters plaguing the seas. Their life is spent in secret, trying to keep others outside their calling from knowing about the monsters. Indi grew up thinking it was normal, until his parents disappeared while on the trail of a huge monster, leaving he and his sister Beleza to take care of their younger siblings.
Beleza wants revenge on the monster that killed their parents and will stop at nothing to track it down. Oscar seems intent on becoming a pirate, or at least a very adept thief. Six-year-old Zulu is brilliant but has no chance at an education on the ocean. Indi just wants to take care of his family—and maybe, just maybe, do something for himself just once.
The premise of this novel is pretty incredible: sea monsters exist, and families that have hunted them for centuries continue to do so, keeping them secret from the rest of the world. I would have liked to have seen a bit more depth and fleshing-out of the characters, but the concept was unique. The final battle was a bit of a letdown, but I still enjoyed the adventure.
Hannah Moskowitz’s new novel is Salt.
(Galley provided by Chronicle Books in exchange for an honest review.)
Frey, Ovie, Juniper, and Runa are the Boneless Mercies. They have no homes, and no families but each other. They travel around dispensing death quickly, quietly, and mercifully when they are hired to. The sick wife with a lingering illness. The elderly man who feels he’s a burden on his children. The father with a child who is suffering and will never recover. The Mercies take care of them all and ease their way from this life.
But Frey and the others are tired of the death trade. When they hear of a ferocious monster rampaging a nearby region and killing everyone it meets, Frey decides it’s their one chance to make enough money to leave their old lives behind. The fame they will earn as well will give them a fresh start. But that monster isn’t the only obstacle they’ll face and ending up in the middle of a witches’ war might be the last thing they’ll do.
I loved this book! The concept was beyond unique, and the setting and mythology—reminiscent of the Norse—was compelling and detailed. There are layers in this story: layers of mythology, history, and culture that make it feel so vibrant and alive. l loved the characters as well. Their cohesiveness is wonderful, but their individuality really shines. Go read this!
April Genevieve Tucholke lives and writes in Oregon. The Boneless Mercies is her newest novel.
(Galley provided by Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group/Farrar, Straus and Giroux in exchange for an honest review.)
Dani Capelli desperately needed a chance to start over, so she took the job as a veterinarian at a clinic in the small town of Haven Point. With her two daughters, she leaves behind New York and the secrets of her past life. She just wants to make a safe home with no trouble.
But her oldest daughter has other ideas, and soon the deputy sheriff is knocking at her door. Dani didn’t want trouble, but she never really imagined trouble being quite so good looking, either.
Ruben never thought he’d fall for a big-city girl, but he’s attracted to Dani and her daughters. He wants to show them his family traditions to prove that life in Haven Point is all they need. No matter what secrets Dani is hiding.
Season of Wonder is a standard small-town romance. The writing is solid, and the characters are believable and likable. This is the first novel I’ve read by this author, but I would read more.
Raeanne Thayne is an award-winning author. Season of Wonder is her newest novel.
(Galley provided by Harlequin in exchange for an honest review.)
Moonbeam has lived inside the fence as long as she can remember. Her parents joined the Lord’s Legion when she was very young, and this is the only life she’s ever known. Her father died here. Her mother was banished. Now Moonbeam is alone, except for the rest of her “family,” and Father John, the leader of the Legion and her future husband.
Every day is filled with labor, a fight for the Legion to survive. Rules govern every action, every thought. Father John is the Lord’s voice, so his words are law. No matter what. Less food. Stricter punishments. New rules. More wives. Disagreeing means banishment: being forced to leave the safety of the fence for the dark world outside. Sometimes Moonbeam wonders if this is what life should really be like. But she can never let any of her family know she wonders.
Reeling from the destruction of the Lord’s Legion, Moonbeam struggles to stay true to Father John’s teaching: never speak to outsiders! They are servants of darkness and speaking to them gives them power. But Dr. Hernandez seems to really care what happens to her, and slowly her defenses come down. Then Agent Carlyle starts asking questions about life inside the fence—and what really happened the night of the fire. Moonbeam knows she shouldn’t tell, but some wounds will never heal without being exposed to the light. Even if the truth means she must pay for her sins.
This book. Wow. I was intrigued by a character raised by a cult, and I loved how Will Hill handled it. Moonbeam is a fantastic narrator. The story follows her growth from a fervent believer in the Legion to a tragedy survivor who realizes the truth. The subtle way Hill weaves this tale together had me hooked from the beginning, and this vivid look at life inside a cult was completely engrossing.
Will Hill lives in London and calls himself a creative procrastinator. After the Fire is his newest novel.
(Galley provided by Sourcebooks Fire in exchange for an honest review.)