Tag: family

Book Review: The Immortalists, by Chloe Benjamin

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Image belongs to Penguin/Putnam.

In 1969, the Gold family lives on the Lower East Side in New York City. Life is normal, boring even, until the four children hear a neighborhood rumor that a local gypsy can tell you the exact date you will die, and decide to see for themselves. After all, what could it hurt? It takes some time, but they finally track down where the woman lives. They must see her alone, so one by one, they enter her shadowy apartment and listen to her words. They never tell each other what she says, but they never forget their dates.

Simon escapes the trap of familial expectations to find love as a dancer in San Francisco. Klara, who has dreamed of magic her whole life, finds reality overpowering, and becomes a magician in Las Vegas. Daniel has a steady future as an Army doctor, but finds the expectations of his job may be more than he’s willing to give. And Varya becomes a researcher in longevity, seeking to unlock the key to a long life, despite the dreariness of her own.

All of them are shaped by the gypsy’s words, and seek to prove her prediction wrong, but sometimes fate is inescapable.

Let me say, first of all, that I think The Immortalists simply wasn’t a good fit for me. I was very intrigued by the premise, and I love family-saga stories, so it seemed a good match. However, the book is told in four segments, one for each character, and I never felt like I really connected with any of them. Briefly, yes, but not enough to truly enjoy the novel.

Benjamin’s writing is lovely and evocative; I could practically smell the streets of San Francisco and feel the heat of the spotlights, but I never connected emotionally with the characters. I did read this quickly, so perhaps, in a different frame of mind, my experience would have been different.

Chloe Benjamin is an award-winning author from San Francisco, California. The Immortalists is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Putnam/Penguin Random House via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

#TheImmortalists

 

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Book Review: Rules of Rain, by Leah Scheier

 

rules of rain
Image belongs to Sourcebooks Fire.

Rain has always been the one to take care of Ethan, her autistic twin brother. It’s always been her job…when their father left, when their mother gets sick, when school bullies pick on Ethan, Rain is there, with her rules to keep Ethan stable and functioning. Then her best friend falls in love with Ethan, and Rain’s own long-time crush falls in love with her, and suddenly everything changes.

Rain discovers secrets she never imagined Ethan could hide, and secrets her mother has hidden for years. Amid this upheaval, Rain makes a mistake she can’t undo, and life goes from predictable and routine to scary and unexpected all at once, as Rain struggles to figure out who she really is and what she wants, for the first time in her life.

Rules of Rain is about the bond between a girl and her autistic brother, but it’s also about finding out who you are and sorting out your life. Rain loves routine and stability to get her through life, but sometimes life gives you things you never expected. This is a moving read that shows one girl’s search for herself when the one person who has always needed her suddenly doesn’t anymore. A very good read!

Leah Scheier is a pediatrician by day, and a writer by night. Rules of Rain is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Sourcebooks Fire via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

 

Book Review: Little Broken Things, by Nicole Baart

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Image belongs to Atria Books.

Quinn Cruz hasn’t had much to do with her family for years, until she and her husband moved back to her hometown a few months ago. Her brother is too busy. Her mother is too intrusive. And her sister has been aloof for years. So, when Quinn receives a text from Nora one night, “I have something for you,” she jumps at the chance to meet up with her sister.

That “something” is a frightened little girl named Lucy, whom Nora begs Quinn not to speak a word about to anyone before Nora vanishes into the night. Lucy’s haunted eyes trouble Quinn, and she struggles to connect with the girl who is terrified of “him.” Quinn doesn’t know the evil that Nora is facing, but the two of them are desperate to keep one little girl safe, and find out the truth of who she is.

Little Broken Things is extremely well-written, with a pace that builds slow momentum to a breakneck finish. Lucy is so innocent and so broken the reader will immediately care for her, and want to know her truths. Quinn and Nora’s family is broken, and has been for years. The sisters are united in their desire to keep Lucy safe, but the secrets still lurking in the dark may tear the family apart.

Nicole Baart’s books have been nominated for awards, and she is the co-founder of One Body One Hope. Little Broken Things is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Hanna Who Fell from the Sky, by Christopher Meades

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Image belongs to Harlequin/Park Row.

Life in Clearhaven is all Hanna has ever known, so her father’s four wives and her fourteen siblings are normal to her. In Clearhaven, all the young men leave town, and the girls, at age 18, marry men old enough to be their fathers. In one week, Hanna will be 18, and she’ll take her place as the fifth wife of a wealthy man.

Then Hanna meets Daniel, a boy her age who makes her question her life in Clearhaven and what she wants for herself, and her mother tells her a secret—one that Hanna can scarcely believe. Hanna doesn’t want the life she sees around her, but is she strong enough to leave behind the sister she adores and the only life she’s ever known?

Clearhaven and its customs creeped me out on a lot of levels. I know there are communities/cultures like this, but I don’t want to have anything to do with them. However, they are vividly portrayed in the book, and the characters leap off the page with startling intensity. Hanna is both easy to relate to—her love for her sister, her confusion over what she wants from her life—and mysterious. I rooted for Hanna for the entire novel, eager for her to escape the future laid out for her and grasp her fate in both hands.

Christopher Meades is an award-winning author from Vancouver. Hanna Who Fell from the Sky is his newest novel.

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

Book Review: Emma in the Night, by Wendy Walker

emma
Galley provided by St. Martin’s Press.

Three years ago, sisters Emma and Cass disappeared one night, leaving no trace of where they’d gone—or why they left. Then Cass shows up at the family home, alone. She tells a story of kidnapping and being held on a mysterious island against her will, and is desperate for the police to find Emma.

But forensic psychologist Abby Winter sees holes in Cass’s story, and it will take delving into her own past to uncover the truth hidden behind a narcissistic mother who twisted the lives of her daughters until they no longer knew the truth. Only Abby can find Emma, because even Cass doesn’t know the true story.

Emma in the Night is not a happy family tale. Not in the least. Cass and Emma’s family is troubled, controlled by their narcissistic mother, an expert at twisting things to get what she wants. There are so many twists in this story! While I knew Cass wasn’t telling the whole truth—there are little signs of that—I had no idea what the truth actually was. The author does a great job of drawing the reader in and bringing them along for a ride filled with unexpected twists and turns.

Wendy Walker is a former lawyer who now writes psychological thrillers. Emma in the Night is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Kissing Max Holden, by Katy Upperman

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Image belongs to Swoon Reads.

Jillian Eldridge has lived next door to Max Holden for years. They grew up together, going through life as friends who just happened to live close. But lately, they haven’t been so close. Not since Max’s dad had a stroke, and Max took a dark detour as he struggled to deal with the way his life has changed. When Max climbs through her window one night, lost and looking for a friend, Jill just can’t turn her back on him, and her dad catches them kissing.

Jillian knew it was a terrible idea even before her dad caught them. Max has issues. And a girlfriend. But the lost look in her friend’s eyes made her forget all of that. Her parents are fighting all the time and she has a new sibling on the way, so Jillian needs someone she can turn to. She’s not sure Max is the right person for that, but she’s not sure she can resist finding out.

A lot of people think YA books just deal with romance and popularity contests, but that just isn’t the case. Kissing Max Holden does have romance, of course, but it deals with deep issues:  family tragedy, troubled marriages, hard decisions. Jillian is a great character, driven and determined, who faces obstacles to her dreams that she never imagined. Max is struggling with almost losing his father and the immense changes in his family, and he copes by turning to things he knows he shouldn’t. Max and Jillian help each other with the battles they face, as their friendship turns to something more. Sweet with the spice of adversity, Kissing Max Holden is a great read that will keep you turning the pages long after you should be sleeping (ask me how I know).

Katy Upperman is a writer who loves country music and Instagram. Her debut novel is Kissing Max Holden.

(Galley provided by Swoon Reads via NetGalley.)

Book Review: The Nearest Faraway Place, by Hayley Long

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Image belongs to Hot Key Books.

Griff and Dylan—Thomas, like the poet—are almost back from vacation with their parents when the unthinkable happens: a horrible car wreck kills their parents and injures Griff. Now the two boys are alone in the world and struggling with grief and tragedy. Dylan is just worried about Griff, who’s not dealing well with their reality, and Dylan must make sure his brother gets through this in one piece.

When an aunt and uncle they’ve never met offer them a home in Wales, the boys end up in a world they’re not used to, still reeling from the loss of their parents. Griff bravely starts to adjust to their new reality, but he’s not the only who needs to be brave:  Dylan has to face up to something if he’s ever going to embrace his own reality.

So. This book. This book. It’s sad, I’m not going to lie. I expected that, but I did not expect the wrenching sadness of both boys, and Griff’s horrible grief. The brothers are so different, and yet the same, and the memories threaded throughout the book—the nearest faraway places—are poignant and make the reader aware how great the boys’ parents were. The writing is strong and evocative, pulling the reader right into every single emotional moment. This is well-worth reading.

Hayley Long lives in Norwich with her husband and her rabbit. The Nearest Faraway Place, available July 13th, is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Hot Key Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Review: The Rules of Half, by Jenna Patrick

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Image belongs to SparkPress.

Jenna Patrick writes fiction from North Carolina. The Rules of Half is her debut novel.

Half Moon Hollow is your typical small town:  high school football on Friday nights, everybody knows everybody else, and the town crazy to torment just because. Will Fletcher used to be married, a father, and a veterinarian. Now he is none of those things. Instead, his severe bipolar disorder has him living with his sister and trying to forget the trauma of his past. But when a fifteen-year-old orphan shows up, claiming she’s his daughter, Will’s world is turned upside down.

Regan Whitmer is running away from her abusive stepfather and her mother’s suicide, looking for family. Will wasn’t quite what she had in mind, but Regan wants to put the shame of her past behind her, and forge a new life and a new family. Can Regan and Will overcome his mental illness as they learn what family truly is?

The Rules of Half deals with a tough topic—mental illness—in a way that makes it understandable and sympathetic, instead of eliciting judgment and disbelief, reactions that are far too common. The stigma of mental illness is alive and well in Half Moon Hollow, but Regan and Will move past that as they learn how to love themselves and those around them. This book is truly eye-opening, an up-close look at the experience of mental illness, that will draw sympathy from the reader, as well as more awareness. I highly recommend it!

(Galley provided by SparkPress.)

It Started with Goodbye, by Christina June

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Image belongs to Blink.

Christina June is a teacher who writes young adult contemporary fiction. It Started with Goodbye is her debut novel, out May 9th.

Tatum Elsea is not looking forward to summer. Accused of a crime—falsely—she’s under house-arrest with her less-than-loving stepmother while her father is out of the country. Tate is only allowed to be at home and her court-ordered community service, unless her stepmother approves it. Like that’s going to happen. So, Tatum starts a secret graphic design business, which leads to an email flirtation with a cello-playing client.

With her feisty step-grandmother in town, Tate starts to realize that maybe her way isn’t the only way, and soon she learns she’s not the only one in the family keeping secrets. Will Tate be able to use her new perspective to fix her relationship with her best friend and turn her family around? Then there’s the cello player…

I finished reading It Started with Goodbye in less than 24 hours. This is a fun, light read, but it delves into some deeper issues, like taking responsibility for your actions, healing relationships, and honesty. Tate grows a lot through the course of the book, and the author captures her growing pains vividly and emotionally, letting the reader see through Tate’s eyes and experience that awakening along with her. I loved how Tate’s relationship with her stepmother and stepsister evolved, and her step-grandmother is perfect; feisty and fun but not irresponsible. The email exchanges with the cello player are a cute finishing touch.

If you like young adult books, I highly recommend this one. It deals with some deep topics and isn’t just a fluffy romance.

(Galley provided by Blink via NetGalley.)

Book Review: All the Forever Things, by Jolene Perry

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All the Forever Things, by Jolene Perry. Image belongs to Albert Whitman & Company.

Jolene Perry lives in Alaska and writes young adult fiction. Her newest books is All the Forever Things.

Gabe’s family runs a funeral home, so she knows about death and the truth about life:  everything ends. Gabe has embraced her reputation and her Wednesday Addams-vibe, complete with vintage clothes and an I-don’t-care attitude. Her best friend, Bree, is all she needs, someone who understands the weirdness of her life and loves her anyway.

But when Bree starts dating a boy who is the epitome of everything Gabe—and Bree—has hated for years, she wonders if the really knows the truth, or if she knows Bree at all. The only one she can turn to is new boy Hartman, who doesn’t know quite what to make of Gabe, but who gets Gabe out of her shell anyway. Driving a hearse to prom will change Gabe’s life more than she ever imagined.

All the Forever Things is an enjoyable read. Gabe is a character I both loved and sympathized with, and her faux pas and missteps made me laugh and cringe at the same time. Her friendship with Bree broke my heart, and made me hope everything would work out for the two of them, and Hartman is a wonderful contrast for Gabe. If you love young adult books, definitely pick this one up.

(Galley provided by Albert Whitman & Company.)