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.)
Lena’s father is the chief of their Viking clan, but he’s always gone raiding, leaving Lena, her sister Fressa, and their mother behind to lead the clan. When Fressa dies suddenly and mysteriously, Lena is devasted, but after the clan mourns, it seems like she’s the only one still missing Fressa.
Determined to find out what happened to her sister and bring her back, Lena takes a dangerous journey to make a deal with Hela, the goddess of death. There’s a chance to save Fressa but fulfilling her end of the bargain will take Lena deeper into darkness than she can even imagine. For Fressa’s death is the start of a plan to cause Ragnarök—events leading to the destruction of the world. And Hela isn’t the only god involved.
The Weight of a Soul is vividly realized, with the setting coming to life and breathing on the page. The culture is fascinating and utterly believable. I loved the writing itself. I did not love Lena, though. I didn’t find her likable at all, and, while I sympathized with her grief over Fressa, her descent into darkness and willingness to ignore the grief and destruction she was causing made the book hard to read. Obviously, this is my own personal opinion, and I would recommend this to anyone looking for a read based in Norse mythology, Vikings, and…Loki.
Elizabeth Tammi was born in California, raised in Florida, and now attends journalism school in Georgia. The Weight of a Soul is her new novel.
(Galley courtesy of Flux via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Quinn Bellandini just wants to enjoy her quiet life with her new boyfriend, Tucker, running her family’s B&B—and staying away from murder investigations. But when Quinn finds bones in Tucker’s Aunt Lela’s yard and Lela is accused of the 33-year-old murder of a homecoming queen, she and her sister Delilah end up on the case again.
Tucker is devastated by his aunt’s arrest, so Quinn wants to help. Soon she and Delilah are asking questions, talking to everyone from busybody neighbors to old high school teachers to society matrons. The case is cold, and people don’t want to talk, but Quinn keeps asking questions, and turns up answers that seem to lead to the least likely of suspects—including her own parents!
I enjoyed the second novel in the Southern B&B Mystery series. Fardig’s novels are always so enjoyable: light, funny, and charming, with quirky, likable characters. There’s a lot of family drama in this one—we are talking about the South, after all—and even the secondary characters are excellent. Lela is especially memorable, but so are the rest of this delightful cast.
Caroline Fardig is a bestselling author. Southern Harm is her newest novel, the second book in the Southern B&B Mystery series.
(Galley courtesy of Alibi via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
A group of friends in Mason, Missouri start a supper club to talk, share recipes, and have dinner and wine. Except one night one of the ladies confesses something startling—and soon the weekly get-togethers are called The Confession Club, with all the ladies sharing misdeeds, regrets, and secrets.
Like one of the ladies is dating a charming new man…but he’s homeless. And another ran away from New York hiding a secret so big she doesn’t even know what to do with it. The Confession Club gives them a chance to talk about these things, but it’s also a place for love and support.
The Confession Club is a charming read. I haven’t read any of the other Mason books, but had no problems jumping in with book three. Despite being about a big group of women, I had no problems keeping them sorted out, and I was completely invested in their secrets and confessions. Thoroughly enjoyed this!
Elizabeth Berg is an award-winning author. The Confession Club is her newest novel, the third book in the Mason series.
(Galley courtesy of Random House via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
When Libby Jones turned 25, she received the letter she’d been waiting on her whole life, the letter telling her who she really was and who her parents were. She wasn’t expecting to find out she is the sole inheritor of an abandoned mansion on the banks of the Thames worth millions of dollars. She wasn’t expecting the story of how she was found, either.
Twenty-five years ago, neighbors called the cops to report a crying baby. The officers found Libby—called Serenity then—a happy, healthy 10-month old, in her crib. In the kitchen they found three dead bodies starting to decay and a hasty note. There was no trace of the other two adults, or the four kids rumored to live there. Nor was there any trace of whoever had been caring for the baby.
Libby has been waiting her whole life find out who she is—but she’s not the only one who’s been waiting. And asking questions about the past just might draw more than answers out of the dark.
This was a creepy tale of family suspense—not to mention dark manipulation and the growth of a cult. Weird family. Weird kids. Weird situation. But I was completely intrigued with the tale and finished it in one sitting.
Lisa Jewell is a New York Times-bestselling author. The Family Upstairs is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Atria Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Bea Crenshaw has lived in the Austin suburbs for years, watching the world go to pieces around her. So she starts prepping—doomsday prepping—secretly, letting no one in her family know just how prepared she is. When calamity strikes in the form of a solar pulse, maybe, Bea is ready. But she never imagined how hard the end of the world would be when taking care of her four grandchildren.
Bea knows if they are to survive, they must work together with their neighbors, but that’s easier said than done. Some boys would rather watch the world burn than help the community. Bea just wants her family safe—but will she be able to make that happen, no matter how prepared she thought she was?
A post-apocalyptic novel about a grandmother? That concept was unique enough to catch my attention. I enjoyed the idea and the story enough to finish reading the novel, but the novel did have some issues. The younger grandchildren—actually, all the grandchildren but Keno—seemed to be caricatures of “problem child” kids, not actual people. (Rebellious and defiant teenage girl, bratty little girl, angry pre-teen.) They annoyed me badly enough I didn’t actually care what happened to them. And Bea herself was oblivious to reality and real life—almost willfully so. If it fell outside the neat box she had prepared in her mind, she had no idea how to deal with it, so she went with denial. Not a healthy choice for anyone. I just wasn’t invested in these characters.
Brenda Marie Smith lives in Austin, Texas. If Darkness Takes Us is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Southern Fried Karma via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Darcy Wells is a literary genius. Her name is Darcy, after all. As long as she can remember, she’s found comfort and solace between the covers of her beloved books—and escape from her mom’s hoarding. But when a new property manager starts making changes at their apartment complex, Darcy is afraid the complex balancing act of her life will topple.
Darcy’s vibrant best friend is the only one she lets in—to her secrets, her life, and her apartment. But when Archer Fleet walks into the bookstore where Darcy works, she finds herself drawn to the wounded guy. He’s experienced a life-altering accident, and he’s struggling to make sense of his new reality, but he truly sees Darcy—who is, for once in her life, at a loss for words.
Darcy wants to let him in—but can she overcome her fears to take a chance on life and love?
I loved this book from the first page! Darcy is a wonderful character: flawed, struggling, and so strong it breaks my heart. Marisol’s and Darcy’s friendship made this book, but the rest of the characters were fantastic, too. From Mr. Winston (the bookstore owner) to Tess, Darcy’s mom, Archer’s best friend…I loved all these characters, and though the book’s portrayal of mental illness was spot-on. I could not put this book down!
Laura Taylor Ramey is a former teacher who writes young adult novels. The Library of Lost Things is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Harlequin TEEN/Inkyard Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Danger “Danny” Warren is nothing like her father, a popular survivalist TV star…but she used to be. And she wants to be again. Danny lost her eye in a childhood accident and had to re-learn how to move and relate to spatial relationships. Danny knows that if she’d just been enough, she’d have a relationship with her father now.
So when her dad calls with an offer to join him on the set of his next adventure in the Amazon, Danny is all for it. She’ll get to prove to her dad that she’s still the adventure-seeking girl she was—and getting to hang out with the hottest teen actor on the globe isn’t a bad thing, either. Until their plane crashes in the rainforest and Danny finds out a horrible secret about her father—while fighting to stay alive and find safety.
I enjoyed this book so much! Danny’s feeling of never being enough is something I think we can all relate to, so that made this book completely relatable. Her larger-than-life father is kind of a jerk, but Danny loves him anyway, although finding out who he really is was a tough experience. A movie star crush, a rainforest adventure, a strong female main character—this book had it all!
Nancy Richardson Fischer used to write sports biographs, but now she plans fun adventures and writes. The Speed of Falling Objects is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Harlequin Teen/Inkyard Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Dizzy Doucette lives with her brother and dad above their vintage record store. She’s learning how to spin records, and realizes she has talent. But the one thing that haunts her every day is thoughts of her mega-famous singer mother who abandoned them when she was a baby. And no one knows her mother’s identity, as keeping that secret has always been a part of Dizzy’s life.
Struggling to deal with thoughts of her mother, Dizzy incorporates some of her music into one of her own pieces, and the next thing she knows, it’s everywhere and her secret is out. Dizzy never expected people to react to the news of who her mom is like this. She just wanted her mom to acknowledge her.
I know nothing about DJing and spinning records, so this was a completely new world for me. Spin was a quick read, and, surprisingly for a YA, this isn’t a romance-influenced story (except a bit for Dizzy’s brother). The story is about Dizzy and her struggles to accept her mom and her actions as Dizzy reaches for her future and her identity.
Colleen Nelson is a writer, a runner, a mother, a librarian, and a teacher. Spin is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Dundurn via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Seventeen-year-old Alaine Beauparlant knows exactly what she wants to do with her life: follow in her famous mother’s journalist footsteps. She loves her dad—who’s been there for her through everything since her parents’ divorce—but journalism has her heart. And clearly her mother’s, since she never has time for Alaine.
Then her mother loses it on TV, and in the aftermath, Alaine has “the incident.” She knows she crossed the line, but she’s just grateful she gets to finish the year doing an “immersion project” in Haiti, working for her aunt and getting to spend some time with her mom. Learning about her heritage is great—until she discovers the family curse and realizes her family will never truly heal unless all the secrets are brought to light.
I have approximately zero in common with Alaine on the surface—my parents are still married, there’s no family curse I’m aware of, and I’m unlikely to let my temper make a public spectacle—but I did relate to her so much. She has these huge dreams and the drive to realize them, but she must deal with her issues and embrace who she is before she can reach for her dreams. She’s a vibrant, sympathetic character, and I loved learning about the culture and history of Haiti along with her.
Maika and Maritza Moulite are the daughters of Haitian immigrants. One has an MBA, the other a master’s in journalism. Dear Haiti, Love Alaine is their new novel.
(Galley courtesy of Harlequin TEEN/Inkyard Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)