Tag: family

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.)

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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

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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.)

Book Review: The Museum of Us, by Tara Wilson Redd

the museum of us
Image belongs to Random House Children’s/Wendy Lamb Books.

Title:   The Museum of Us
Author:   Tara Wilson Redd
Genre:   YA
Rating:   4 out of 5

Sadie has a boyfriend she loves, Henry, who plays in a band and loves her even though she can’t understand why. Her best friend, Lucie, runs Cross Country and is a secret nerd, but still loves to hang out with Sadie. Then there’s George. George just gets her. They talk for hours. They go on adventures. They explore the world around them. Together, they are magic.

George is a secret. He’s imaginary. But when a car accident leaves Sadie calling out his name, she ends up in a hospital for people with issues like hers.

Life with George is more extraordinary than anything Sadie has experienced without him. But, while trying to keep her secret, she starts to yearn for something more, for something real. Can she give up George and the magical lives she leads with him?

At first, I wasn’t too sure about this book. I mean, daydreaming is one thing, but Sadie takes it to a whole other level. Her adventures with George are fantastic, but she just can’t see how great her real life is, too. I just didn’t get it at first, but then it all started to make sense, and I really felt for Sadie and all she’d been through. This is an exploration of mental illness from the inside—and it is very, very well done and vivid.

Tara Wilson Redd lives in Washington D.C. The Museum of Us is her debut novel.

(Galley provided by Random House Children’s/Wendy Lamb Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Not the Girls You’re Looking For, by Aminah Mae Safi

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Image belongs to Macmillan/Feiwel & Friends.

Title: Not the Girls You’re Looking For
Author: Aminah Mae Safi
Genre: YA
Rating: 3 out of 5

Lulu Saad has her squad, her family, and a huge chip on her shoulder. She doesn’t need anything else. She’s fasting for Ramadan, which she does every year, and her squad still doesn’t get it, but Lulu is determined to make it through this time.

Except Lulu and her friends have a falling out. And she alienates half of her extended family. And she can’t quite figure out why everything in her life is going wrong…

Okay. I didn’t realize quite how…plotless this book was until I tried to write a synopsis. And now it’s all so clear to me…Lulu and her friends aren’t very likeable. Scratch that. They aren’t likable at all. They do stupid stuff, knowingly. They talk about people. They sabotage people. They’re judgmental. Basically, this book is all angst and anger, with a lot of cultural diversity thrown in.

Now, that part was very well done, and executed so well that I caught all the nuances of Lulu’s struggle to fit in when she feels like she doesn’t belong in either culture. But she’s also touchy to the point of looking for things to take offense at. Have some respect for yourself. Guys should absolutely respect women, and women should be able to wear whatever they want without having to be afraid of guys’ reactions…but, it’s not okay to sexualize men for their bodies, either. Lulu doesn’t get this, and she thinks it’s okay for her to be focused on the guys and for her to react inappropriately towards them. So…all the stars for diversity, but no stars for plot or character likability.

Aminah Mae Safi has studied art History, but now writes fiction. Not the Girls You’re Looking For is her debut novel.

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

 

Book Review: The Bookshop of Yesterdays, by Amy Meyerson

bookshop
Image belongs to Park Row Books.

Title:   The Bookshop of Yesterdays
Author:   Amy Meyerson
Genre:   Fiction
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

Miranda Brooks loves her job as a teacher in Philadelphia. She loves her boyfriend, Jay, whom she just moved in with, and she’s looking forward to their first summer together. Until she receives a package in the mail and a clue and knows that one of her uncle Billy’s scavenger hunts has started. Except the clue is closely followed by a call from her mother:  Billy is dead.

Growing up, Miranda loved her uncle, a seismologist. He taught her so many things using scavenger hunts, and she always loved the adventure. But when she turned 12, her mom and Billy had a fight, and she never saw him again. When she returns to California for the funeral, she finds that Billy has left her Prospero Books—his beloved bookstore, now teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.

Her mother will barely mention Billy—she didn’t even go to his funeral—and Miranda knows the scavenger hunt will lead her to the truth about the fight when she was twelve, the truth her mother doesn’t want her to know. Miranda works to untangle Billy’s clues while she searches for a way to save Prospero Books, the legacy Billy left her. Soon she realizes just how deep the secret her family has hidden for years goes—and wonders if happiness looks different than it did at the beginning of summer.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that I love a book about a bookstore, a book filled with literary clues and references. I enjoyed everything about this novel:  the setting (Can I just move into Prospero Books?), the clues, the mystery, and especially Miranda herself. I loved how her mind works, and how determined she is to unearth her family’s secrets. An excellent, engrossing read!

Amy Meyerson lives in Los Angeles. The Bookshop of Yesterdays is her first novel.

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

Book Review: Little Do We Know, by Tamara Ireland Stone

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Image belongs to Disney-Hyperion.

Title:   Little Do We Know
Author:   Tamara Ireland Stone
Genre:   YA
Rating:   5 out of 5

Hannah and Emory are next-door-neighbors and best friends. Until a few months ago, when they had a fight and said some things they can never take back. Hannah’s life at the Christian school her father runs is great, but is her faith really her own, or is it something she just picked up from her family? These questions become even harder when she realizes she may never get the chance to live out her dreams and gets involved with someone she should never have been involved with.

Emory is preparing for her UCLA performing arts audition and enjoying every moment she has left with her boyfriend, Luke. They’ll be going off to separate colleges, and she knows they don’t have much time left. Emory just wants to avoid her memories of the fight with Hannah—and what caused them.

The distance between the two girls seems unsurpassable, until the night Hannah finds Luke in his car outside Emory’s house, doubled over and on the verge of death. In the aftermath of that ordeal, the girls seek to sort out their differences, and realize their friendship is the strength that keeps them both afloat.

I loved this book. I could relate to Hannah so much, and the way she struggles with defining her own faith, while fighting for the chance to chase her dreams, was both poignant and uplifting. She makes some bad decisions, but learns from them, and changes as a result. Emory is a vibrant girl who practically dances across the pages. Her outgoing personality hides a secret—and a fear of the future. The two of them are drawn back together because of Luke, but their friendship is the backbone of this wonderful novel.

Tamara Ireland Stone is a New York Times-bestselling author and her novels have won several awards. Little Do We Know is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Disney-Hyperion in exchange for an honest review.)