Tag: family

Book Review: Fire and Heist, by Sarah Beth Durst

fire & heist
Image belongs to Random House Children’s/Crown Books for Young Readers.

Title:  Fire and Heist
Author:   Sarah Beth Durst
Genre:   YA, fantasy
Rating:   4 out of 5

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.)

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Book Review: The Lying Woods, by Ashley Elston

the lying woods
Image belongs to Disney-Hyperion.

Title:   The Lying Woods
Author:   Ashley Elston
Genre:   YA
Rating:   5 out of 5

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.)

Book Review: Salt, by Hannah Moskowitz

salt
Image belongs to Chronicle Books.

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.)

Book Review: The Boneless Mercies, by April Genevieve Tucholke

thebonelessmercies
Image belongs to Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group/Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Title:   The Boneless Mercies
Author:  April Genevieve Tucholke
Genre:   Fantasy, young adult
Rating:   5 out of 5

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.)

Book Review: Season of Wonder, by RaeAnne Thayne

seasonofwonder
Image belongs to Harlequin.

Title:  Season of Wonder
Author:  RaeAnne Thayne
Genre:   Romance
Rating:   4 out of 5

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.)

Book Review: After the Fire, by Will Hill

after the fire
Image belongs to Sourcebooks Fire.

Title:   After the Fire
Author:   Will Hill
Genre:   YA
Rating:   5 out of 5

Before

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.

After

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.)

Book Review: Confessions of a Teenage Leper, by Ashley Little

confessions
Image belongs to Penguin Random House.

Title:   Confessions of a Teenage Leper
Author:   Ashley Little
Genre:   YA
Rating:   3 out of 5

Abby Furlowe is determined that this will be her year. She’ll make the cheerleading team again—she’d better, all her plans for a future as an actor hinge on a prestigious cheerleading scholarship—enjoy parties with her two besties and continue to rule the school as one of the most beautiful and popular girls. Maybe even be named prom queen!

She doesn’t have time for her brother Dean and his secret life and drama. She doesn’t have time for her boyfriend’s sudden distance or the losers at school. And she certainly doesn’t have time for the weird numbness and spots that keep showing up on her skin. Until the numbness gets worse and she takes a fall while cheering, waking up to find her whole life has changed.

That weird numbness means she has Hansen’s Disease, or leprosy, and the diagnosis is now all Abby has time for. She’ll have to go away to a treatment center if she’s to get better—or have any hope of reclaiming her old life. But time away from everything gives Abby plenty of time to think, and she comes to realize what a horrible person she is. But who she was isn’t the person she has to be now, and some of the new people she meets at the treatment center help her come to terms with her new reality.

Based on the title, I sort of thought this book would be a funny read about a girl who ends up a social outcast, not a person who actually had the disease. It wasn’t. At all. For most of the book, Abby is a horrible person. Totally unlikable. Her mean-girl persona really made me want to put the book down, but she had a few bright spots, like saving her brother’s life, so I kept reading. Abby learns a lot, about the power of words, about family, about being a better person.

Ashley Little is an award-winning author. Confessions of a Teenage Leper is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Things I’d Rather Do Than Die, by Christine Hurley Deriso

things I'd rather do than die
Image belongs to Flux Books.

Title:   Things I’d Rather Do Than Die
Author:   Christine Hurley Deriso
Genre:   YA
Rating:   4 out of 5

Jade Fulton is a senior in high school who only hangs out with her best friend. She spends time with her family:  her brother, half-sister, stepmom, and her dad. She watches high school drama from the outside and can’t wait to go away to college. Until her father is diagnosed with aggressive cancer, and her world just doesn’t make sense anymore. Then she’s held hostage in the gym where she works, locked in a dressing room with Ethan Garrett.

Ethan is the star quarterback, popular, high-achieving, and a Christian. He has his life planned out:  a scholarship to prove he’s not like his abusive, alcoholic father, life with his cheerleader girlfriend, and growing in his faith. But when he’s locked in the dressing room with agnostic Jade, he soon starts to ask himself questions he thought he already knew the answers to.

Their shared ordeal creates a bond between Ethan and Jade that lingers back in their regular lives. But those questions—and answers—they shared while locked in the dressing room cause them both to realize that what they always had in life is no longer good enough.

I’ve seen a lot of complaints and people marking this book as DNF…because it’s Christian, and they think Christians are too judgmental and close-minded. Which seems a bit hypocritical, considering they automatically refused to read it. And Christians are the ones who are judgmental? Right. Sure, some Christians are judgmental. Just like some people who aren’t Christians are judgmental. Judging an entire group by the actions of a few is never the right choice.

I was impressed that Ethan is a teenage boy with a strong faith. You don’t see that much. Here’s the thing:  Ethan actually listens to Jade and starts asking himself and others questions as he learns from her remarks. He realizes he needs to make some changes to the way he thinks, especially about non-believers. I found his wishy-washiness with his girlfriend and the way he kept taking her back pretty annoying, but he’s a teenager. He’s still learning.

Jade has a sizable chip on her shoulder because of her family history, her experiences with racism, her feelings about religion, and her dad’s illness. She’s plenty judgmental, but she’s too close-minded to see it. She does some stupid things during the story, but she learns and attempts to grow from them.

Christine Hurley Deriso is a YA author. Things I’d Rather Do than Die is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Someone I Used to Know,by Patty Blount

someone i used to know
Image belongs to Sourcebooks Fire.

Title:   Someone I Used to Know
Author:   Patty Blount
Genre:   YA
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

Boys will be boys is never an excuse.

Ashley was fourteen, a freshman, when she was raped by the senior star for points in the traditional football team scavenger hunt. That was two years ago. A year ago, her rapist was sentenced to a paltry year in prison as the community, the team, and her brother supported him.

Ashley still suffers from debilitating panic attacks that make her wonder if she’ll ever get better. She’s a pariah at school—for getting football thrown out—but when the team is reinstated, she’s desperate to prevent the scavenger hunt that changed her life forever from hurting anyone else. Though scared and afraid, Ashley decides to speak up one more time.

Her brother Derek, away at school, blames himself for what happened to his sister—and how he reacted. What he once saw as normal behavior, he now sees as rape culture, but he doesn’t know how to communicate with Ashley—or anyone else—his remorse and determination to be part of a change. At Thanksgiving, with their entire family falling apart, Derek and Ashley must decide if their relationship is worth the effort it will take to repair.

Patty Blount loves chocolate, cars, and reading. Someone I Used to Know is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Fawkes, by Nadine Brandes

FAWKES-Rollover-Plain-e1513549653551
Image belongs to Thomas Nelson.

Title:   Fawkes
Author:   Nadine Brandes
Genre:   YA, fantasy
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

The Stone Plague has tormented England for years. There is no cure. In most cases, it means death. For a lucky few, it means a life of despair and being shunned and beaten. Thomas Fawkes has the plague, but it’s dormant, hidden behind his eye patch, and almost no one knows.

Except his father, the legendary Guy Fawkes, known for his bravery and courage. But he abandoned Thomas after his son got the plague, and all Thomas wants from him is his own mask—so he can graduate and make his way in the world using his color power as a Keeper, one who bonds with a single color power. Keepers are beaten and killed now that an Igniter king is on the throne, so Thomas trusts no one.

When his father doesn’t show up, Thomas is kicked out and abandoned. Angry, he makes his way to London, and finds his father embroiled in a plot to kill the king and Parliament, destroying Igniter power forever and putting a Keeper on the throne. But Thomas starts to see that things aren’t as his father believes, and with the help of a classmate, an Igniter girl with more power than he’s ever seen, he learns the truth. Now Thomas must decide between his father and the girl he loves—and his choice is a death sentence for one.

I found the magic system in Fawkes fascinating and unique. Thomas is a troubled character searching for the truth amid many obstacles. His relationship with his father—the notorious Guy Fawkes—is complex and nuanced, and the exploration of English culture is vivid and probably uncomfortably accurate. I highly enjoyed reading this adventure.

Nadine Brandes loves Harry Potter and Oreos. Fawkes is her newest novel.

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