Tag: family

Book Review: Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me, by Gae Polisner

jack kerouac
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press/Wednesday Books.

Title:  Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me
AuthorGae Polisner
Genre:  YA
Rating:  4.5 out of 5 

Fifteen-year-old JL Markham’s life used to be filled with carnival nights and hot summer days spent giggling with her forever best friend Aubrey about their families and boys. Together, they were unstoppable. But they aren’t the friends they once were.

With JL’s father gone on long term business, and her mother struggling with her mental illness, JL takes solace in the tropical butterflies she raises, and in her new, older boyfriend, Max Gordon. Max may be rough on the outside, but he has the soul of a poet (something Aubrey will never understand). Only, Max is about to graduate, and he’s going to hit the road – with or without JL.

JL can’t bear being left behind again. But what if devoting herself to Max not only means betraying her parents, but permanently losing the love of her best friend? What becomes of loyalty, when no one is loyal to you?

This book. Seriously. I am not even sure what to say about it. It broke my heart—not because it was bad, but because it was so good! I felt for JL so much. She’s lost her best friend to whatever came between them, she’s lost her dad to business, her mom to dissociative disorder, her grandmother who seems to be in denial…she’s basically lost everyone in her life. Except Max, her new, older boyfriend…that everyone at school says horrible things about, including her in the rumors, too.

JL is on the verge of growing up. She wants to grow up—at least she thinks so—but she has no one to show her the way. She can’t even sort out what she wants in her own mind, she just knows she wants more. I was right there with her, experiencing everything—even the horrible stuff—and I loved every page. Even when it broke my heart.

GAE POLISNER is the award-winning author of In Sight of Stars, The Memory of Things, The Summer of Letting Go, The Pull of Gravity, and Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me. She lives on Long Island with her husband, two sons, and a suspiciously-fictional looking dog. When Gae isn’t writing, you can find her in a pool or the open waters off Long Island. She’s still hoping that one day her wetsuit will turn her into a superhero.

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

Book Review: The Darkness We Hide, by Debra Webb

the darkness we hid
Image belongs to Harlequin/MIRA.

Title:  The Darkness We Hide
AuthorDebra Webb
Genre:  Suspense, thriller
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

For months, Doctor Rowan Dupont has been staring death in the face. It followed her back to her hometown of Winchester, Tennessee, ten months ago, cloaking the walls of her family’s Victorian funeral home like a shroud. In investigating the mysterious deaths of her loved ones, Rowan has unearthed enough family secrets to bury everything she’d previously thought true. But each shocking discovery has only led to more bodies and more questions; the rabbit hole is deeper than she ever imagined.

Despite settling into a comfortable life with Police Chief Billy Brannigan, Rowan knows dangerous serial killer Julian Addington is still out there. She can’t let her guard down now. Not when she’s this close to ending it once and for all. But with a storm brewing on the horizon, she’ll get only one shot before the impending darkness takes hold, threatening to wipe away every truth she’s uncovered—and everything she holds dear.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading the story of Rowan and the secrets she’s discovered about her life—and her family. In this novel, some of those secrets are finally revealed giving faithful readers a resolution. Rowan’s sometimes-blind loyalty drives her to take risks, but it’s for the right reasons, making her motivations understandable.

As always, I was drawn into the story from the very first page, and the action kept me reading straight through the entire novel, eager to find out how thing would play out. This book did not disappoint!

Debra Webb is the award-winning, USA Today bestselling author of more than 130 novels, including reader favorites the Faces of Evil, the Colby Agency, and the Shades of Death series. With more than four million books sold in numerous languages and countries, Debra’s love of storytelling goes back to her childhood on a farm in Alabama.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Sea Glass Cottage, by RaeAnne Thayne

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the sea glass cottage
Image belongs to Harlequin/HQN.

Title:  The Sea Glass Cottage
AuthorRaeAnne Thayne
Genre:  Romance
Rating:  4 out of 5

The life Olivia Harper always dreamed of isn’t so dreamy these days. The 16-hour work days are unfulfilling and so are things with her on-again, off-again boyfriend. But when she hears that her estranged mother, Juliet, has been seriously injured in a car accident, Liv has no choice but to pack up her life and head home to beautiful Cape Sanctuary on the Northern California coast.

It’s just for a few months—that’s what Liv keeps telling herself. But the closer she gets to Cape Sanctuary, the painful memories start flooding back: Natalie, her vibrant, passionate older sister who downward-spiraled into addiction. The fights with her mother who enabled her sister at every turn. The overdose that took Natalie, leaving her now-teenaged daughter, Caitlin, an orphan.

As Liv tries to balance her own needs with those of her injured mother and an obstinate, resentful fifteen-year-old, it becomes clear that all three Harper women have been keeping heartbreaking secrets from one another. And as those secrets are revealed, Liv, Juliet, and Caitlin will see that it’s never too late—or too early—to heal family wounds and find forgiveness.

I don’t read much in the romance genre—it’s not that I’m against it, I just burned myself out on years ago—but RaeAnne Thayne is one author I’ll definitely pick up without question (along with Nora Roberts sometimes and Debbie Macomber always). And I’m certainly glad I picked this up.The Sea Glass Cottage takes us back to Cape Sanctuary—this is a small town I’d love to visit—with Liv, who moved away years ago to start a life in the city. But city life isn’t all she thought it would be, with her anxiety almost overpowering her. When she heads back home to take care of her life. Everything comes back to her.

Liv’s struggles with the past—the death of her father, memories of her addict sister, her lonely childhood—are relatable and well-drawn, making it easy to put myself into her shoes. I loved how all three women’s struggles are woven together—and how they find their way through. I definitely recommend reading this!

New York Times bestselling author RaeAnne Thayne finds inspiration in the beautiful northern Utah mountains where she lives with her family. Her books have won numerous honors, including six RITA Award nominations from Romance Writers of America and Career Achievement and Romance Pioneer awards from RT Book Reviews. She loves to hear from readers and can be reached through her website at http://www.raeannethayne.com.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: Tigers Not Daughters, by Samantha Mabry

tigers not daughters
Image belongs to Algonquin Young Readers.

Title:  Tigers Not Daughters
AuthorSamantha Mabry
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

There are four Torres sisters: the oldest, Ana, is determined to live life her way. Jessica, flouts convention and puts walls around her heart. Iridian clings to words. And Rosa is free spirited and drawn to the wild. The girls live with their father, a widower who relishes his control of every aspect of their lives, but after Anna falls to her death from her bedroom window at the age of eighteen, the family splinters.

Jessica, now the oldest, tries to keep her family together while subsuming as much of Ana as possible into her own life. Iridian withdraws from the world. And Rosa becomes obsessed with an urban myth. But when mysterious things start happening around the Torres house, the girls start to wonder if Ana is haunting them. And if she is, what is she trying to tell them?

Tigers Not Daughters was a little hard for me to get into, but I’m glad I did. I didn’t like all the characters—Jessica in particular seemed particularly selfish and not in the least self-aware—but it was wonderful to see them come into their identities as sisters and family and women who could stand on their own two feet. I’ve seen this touted as a cultural  lodestone, but, honestly, I’ve read much more vibrant novels on the Latin-American culture. It was secondary at best in this novel, with the focus being on the girls themselves.

Samantha Mabry credits her tendency toward magical thinking to her Grandmother Garcia, who would wash money in the kitchen sink to rinse off any bad spirits. She teaches writing and Latino literature at a community college in Dallas, where she lives with her husband, a historian, and a cat named Mouse. She is the author of A Fierce and Subtle Poison and All the Wind in the World. Visit her online at samanthamabry.com or on Twitter: @samanthamabry.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Amish Teacher’s Dilemma, by Patricia Davids

the amish teacher's dilemma
Image belongs to Harlequin/Love Inspired.

Title:  The Amish Teacher’s Dilemma
AuthorPatricia Davids
Genre:  Inspirational fiction, romance
Rating:  4 out of 5

Taking a schoolteacher position in another district is just the change Amish spinster Eva Coblentz needs. And with her new neighbor, blacksmith Willis Gingrich, struggling to raise his three orphaned siblings, Eva is determined to help them heal. But when her relatives insist she come home, Eva must choose between the life she left…and the one she’s growing to love.

I haven’t read the first two novels in The North Country Amish series, and that wasn’t a problem at all. I liked Eva from the first paragraph and admired her strength and determination to make a life for herself. Willis’s little sister, Maddie, and her imaginary friend, Bubble, were wonderful, and I enjoyed every scene the little girl was in. She definitely has a way of saying things that should not be said! I felt very sorry for Willis, who has struggled with dyslexia his whole life—and never knew it—and only realizes there’s hope for him when his youngest brother faces the same struggle. This is a lovely, feel-good read that’s both inspiring and uplifting.

Patricia Davids is a bestselling author. The Amish Teacher’s Dilemma, the third novel in her The North Country Amish series, is now available.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/Love Inspired in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Grace Kelly Dress, by Brenda Janowitz

the grace kelly dress
Image belongs to Harlequin/Graydon House.

Title:  The Grace Kelly Dress
AuthorBrenda Janowitz
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  5 out of 5

Two years after Grace Kelly’s royal wedding, her iconic dress is still all the rage in Paris—and one replica, and the secrets it carries, will inspire three generations of women to forge their own paths in life and in love.

Paris, 1958: Rose, a seamstress at a fashionable atelier, has been entrusted with sewing a Grace Kelly—look-alike gown for a wealthy bride-to-be. But when, against better judgment, she finds herself falling in love with the bride’s handsome brother, Rose must make an impossible choice, one that could put all she’s worked for at risk: love, security and of course, the dress.

Sixty years later, tech CEO Rachel, who goes by the childhood nickname “Rocky,” has inherited the dress for her upcoming wedding in New York City. But there’s just one problem: Rocky doesn’t want to wear it. A family heirloom dating back to the 1950s, the dress just isn’t her. Rocky knows this admission will break her mother Joan’s heart. But what she doesn’t know is why Joan insists on the dress—or the heartbreaking secret that changed her mother’s life decades before, as she herself prepared to wear it.

As the lives of these three women come together in surprising ways, the revelation of the dress’s history collides with long-buried family heartaches. And in the lead-up to Rocky’s wedding, they’ll have to confront the past before they can embrace the beautiful possibilities of the future.

I enjoyed every page of this novel! Usually, when reading a book with alternating points-of-view like this, I have a favorite viewpoint character, but not this time. Rose’s story was absolutely fascinating, and I loved her strength and determination to do the right thing, no matter how painful. Joan’s story was also interesting, set amidst the contrasting worlds of doing what everyone expects you to do and doing what you want to do. And Rocky was an awesome character! She’s so sure of herself and who she is—until faced with planning a wedding and the dress. I loved how these three women grew in the course of the novel, and their stories laced together to form the history of the dress and their family.

Brenda Janowitz is an author and the Books Correspondent for PopSugar. The Grace Kelly Dress is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Children of the Stars, by Mario Escobar

children of the stars
Image belongs to Thomas Nelson.

Title:  Children of the Stars
AuthorMario Escobar
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

Paris, 1942.

Jacob and Moses Stein are staying with their aunt amidst the Nazi occupation, while their parents search for a safe place for the family to be reunited. Before they can, the French gendarmes round up the Jews and detain them in the massive Vélodrome d’Hiver. Jacob and Moses are determined to escape and find their parents, but all they have is a handful of letters to lead them across the Nazi-filled countryside. Along the way they cross paths with many people who are determined to help them find their parents—no matter the cost.

Children of the Stars was a good historical read, but it was a little too…nice to be believable for me. Despite the harrowing time period, I never felt the boys were truly in danger, and I always knew they would find their parents in the end. Don’t get me wrong, I like happy endings, but this tone felt wrong for the story. These boys are alone in the midst of atrocities and horror, but those stakes never seemed to touch them, making this much less believable for me, although I enjoyed the characters themselves. This felt like a book aimed at a younger audience, with its characters who were never truly in danger.

Mario Escobar loves history. Children of the Stars is his new novel.

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

Book Review: Light Changes Everything, by Nancy E. Turner

light changes everything
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:  Light Changes Everything
Author:  Nancy  E. Turner
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

In the summer of 1907, Mary Pearl enjoys her life in the Arizona Territory, but she longs for something more. Her parents agreed to her studying art at Wheaton College—but when handsome and rich Aubrey Hanna starts courting her, Mary Pearl wonders if college is what she really wants.  Soon enough, she’s learning about life in an eastern town, studying, and writing letters to Aubrey—who soon shows his true colors.

Mary Pearl is learning about more than art. She’s also learning how to act and look like a lady. She’s happy with her new skills, but a trip back to Arizona Territory will change her life—and her family—forever.

I haven’t read any of the author’s other books, but I enjoyed the setting and Mary Pearl’s story immensely. The setting is vibrantly alive, and Mary Pearl and her family are all colorful characters. What happened to Mary Pearl was no surprise, but how she dealt with it was handled with deft hands that showed her strength, and I found this to be an enjoyable historical fiction read.

Nancy E. Turner was born in Texas but now lives in Arizona. Light Changes  Everything is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Echoes Between Us, by Katie McGarry

echoes between us
Image belongs to Tor Teen.

Title:  Echoes Between Us
AuthorKatie McGarry
Genre:  YA
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Veronica is the weird girl at school. Before, she had her small circle of friends to keep her grounded, but this year, she’s alone. Veronica sees ghosts. Well, she sees her mother’s ghost. With the blinding headaches—a symptom of her benign brain tumor—she’s afraid to tell anyone she sees ghosts. She doesn’t want to speak the possibility the ghosts are something more into existence—even when the ghosts start bothering the downstairs tenants.

Sawyer is a golden boy at school:  handsome and the star swimmer on the school team. But Sawyer is hiding dark secrets. His mom is an alcoholic, so Sawyer takes care of everything at home and his little sister. And Sawyer is addicted to thrill-seeking. That’s how he broke his arm—although he’s never told anyone the truth. But when Sawyer gets to know Veronica, he realizes that maybe he’s not the only one with demons to conquer.

Veronica is such a great character! I mean, denial is clearly her modus operandi, but I can’t really blame her for that. She’s strong and feisty, yet she struggles with what she’s lost and is afraid to let anyone else in. Sawyer is just as good at keeping others out, but his secrets affect more than himself. And I love the secondary characters and their friendships with Veronica and Sawyer. I’d love to read more about these characters!

Katie McGarry is a writer and a mom. Echoes Between Us is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: All That’s Bright and Gone, by Eliza Nellums

all that's bright and gone
Image belongs to Crooked Lane Books.

Title:  All That’s Bright and Gone
AuthorEliza Nellums
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

There’s a lot that six-year-old Aoife doesn’t know. She doesn’t know why it’s not okay to talk to her friend Teddy around other people—Mama says he’s imaginary, but he’s not. She doesn’t know why Momma stopped the car in the middle of an intersection crying and screaming and talking to Aoife’s brother Theo—he’s dead, even Aoife knows that. She doesn’t know if Momma will be home from the hospital in time for the Fourth of July fireworks. But Aoife does know that if she can figure out who killed Theo, Momma will come home.

Uncle Donny takes Aoife home and says he’ll stay with her until Momma comes home, but she’s not sure she believes him. She has to figure out who killed Theo, but no one will even talk to her about him, so the only help she has is her eight-year-old neighbor. And Teddy—but sometimes he’s more interested in getting Aoife in trouble than anything. Finding out who killed Theo will bring Momma home, so Aoife is determined—even if she has to do it all by herself.

All That’s Bright and Gone was an interesting read. I’m not sure I’ve read anything from a six-year-old’s point-of-view, so that was novel. And Aoife is definitely special. The way she sees the world is both charming and terrifying, but her determination to save her family is inspiring. I actually saw things as Aoife saw them—not an adult looking through a child’s eyes—and the writing brought her world to life.

Eliza Nellums Lives in Washington D.C. All That’s Bright and Gone is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Crooked Lane Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)