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.)
A handful of those were great reads, but three of the truly excellent reads included a book about three older women who changed their lives and found their dreams, a fantasy that started off with a girl who had never set foot on land, and a girl who has never really thought about her ethnicity and is forced to not just confront it but decide how it will shape her life.
Women in Sunlight, by Frances Mayes (she also wrote Under the Tuscan Sun) is about three older, single American women who become friends and defy expectations to move to Italy. While there, they truly embrace themselves and who they are as they create their best lives yet.
Crown of Coral and Pearl, by Mara Rutherford. Nor and her twin sister are the most beautiful girls in Varenia, so they know one of them will be chosen to marry the prince of Ilara. Nor longs to see the mainland, but when her sister is chosen, she knows that will never happen. Until her sister is injured and she’s chosen to replace her—finding Ilara a land of treachery, murder, and darkness.
Color Me In, by Natasha Diaz. Nevaeh has never really thought about her ethnicity, but when her Jewish father and her black mother separate, she and her mother go to live with her family in Harlem. One of Nevaeh’s cousins is angry because Nevaeh can pass as white and is oblivious to struggles of those around her in Harlem. Then Nevaeh’s dad decides she needs to embrace her Jewish roots, leaving Nevaeh struggling between two identities.
Their entire lives, Nor and her twin sister Zadie knew one of them would be chosen to wed the Crown Prince of Ilara, who ruled Varenia, where their people lived. When Nor was scarred years ago, she knew that honor would fall to Zadie, but Nor still dreams of seeing a city, a castle, and everything that happens on land.
Then Zadie is injured, and Nor is chosen to replace her. Now she’ll live her dreams of seeing far places. But Ilara isn’t the place she imagined. Instead, it’s cold and dark and locked in the heart of a mountain. And the Crown Prince is cruel and dangerous—and intent on destroying the Varenian way of life for his own ends.
Nor must learn to navigate the intrigues at court if she is to save her people and unravel the mysteries of Ilara—a murdered queen, a failing royal bloodline—and the prince’s half-brother, Talin, is the only one she can trust.
Crown of Coral and Pearl was entrancing from the very first page. I cannot imagine never setting foot on land, but the culture of Varenia is so vividly drawn that I felt comfortable there. Nor and Zadie’s love for each other, despite their mother’s hatefulness, is so loving and uplifting, and I rooted for everything to work out for them. Ilara is completely different, yet just as vividly realized, and, while I had no desire to visit there, the setting was just as much a part of the story as the characters. An excellent read!
Mara Rutherford is a journalist turned author. Crown of Coral and Pearl is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Inkyard Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Sixteen-year-old Nevaeh Levitz never really thought much about her roots or her racial identity, but when her black mother and Jewish father split up and she and her mom move in with her mother’s family in Harlem, she comes face-to-face with it. Nevaeh loves this family and wants to be a part of them, but one of her cousins hates that she passes for white and doesn’t understand the injustices their family has to face.
When she spends time with her dad—and his new girlfriend—her dad pushes for her to embrace her Jewish side—the side he never gave much attention to himself, guaranteeing her life at her posh private school becomes even tougher. She doesn’t know which side of her heritage is really her.
Then Nevaeh falls in love and starts to realize she has a voice, a voice she can use to speak out against the hate and oppression she encounters every day, as she embraces her newfound identity and all the joy—and sorrow—it brings with it.
The journey of self-discovery and realization Nevaeh experiences is riveting and the opposition and prejudice she experiences is infuriating. Her entire world has been turned upside down, and she just wants to find where she belongs, but everyone opposes her, making her more confused than ever. The power and strength she uncovers when she embraces her true identity is inspiring and uplifting. This is a fantastic read!
Natasha Diaz was born in New York and lives there still. Color Me In is her debut novel.
(Galley courtesy of Delacorte Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Amy Whey is happy with her life: professor husband, fifteen-year-old stepdaughter, baby son, best friend Charlotte. Sure, she doesn’t get to dive as much as she used to since the baby was born, but she wouldn’t trade her family for anything. She’s helping Charlotte with the neighborhood book club when new neighbor Roux shows up.
Roux charms the neighborhood women, and soon they’re drinking wine and spilling secrets. They all think it’s innocent fun, but Amy knows better. She sees the darkness in Roux’s eyes and sees the first tiny ripples of hurt she causes. When Roux tells Amy she knows the truth about what Amy did years ago—and she’ll tell that horrible secret if Amy doesn’t give her exactly what she wants—Amy wonders if she can beat the devil at her own game.
Secrets upon secrets unravel as Amy races to find out the truth about Roux before the women spills Amy’s secrets and ruins her life for good.
I do love Joshilyn Jackson’s writing, and, while I’m disappointed this one isn’t Southern fiction (my favorite), Never Have I Ever is an excellent, engrossing book. Amy’s been running from the truth for a long time, and she’s desperate to keep her secret and the life she loves safe. Roux is a terrifying kind of evil—if only she’d used her powers for good!—and Amy will do whatever is necessary to keep her family—and her secret—safe. Highly readable, and I cannot recommend this enough.
Joshilyn Jackson is an award-winning author. Never Have I Ever is her newest novel.
Annaleigh Thaumus lives a sheltered life at Highmore. Once there were 12 Thaumus girls, but since her mother died and then four of her sisters, things are grim in the home. Even more grim are the whispers from surrounding villages that the family is cursed by the gods.
Her sisters sneak out every night to attend secret balls, but what is the glitz and glamour hiding? When Annaleigh starts seeing ghostly visions and a handsome stranger arrives, she starts to wonder if her sisters’ tragic deaths were really accidents—or something more.
The culture in House of Salt and Sorrows is vivid and imaginative, with hints of fairy tales and legends sprinkled about. I liked Annaleigh, but I didn’t connect with her as well as I could’ve. Some parts of this book were very creepy, and the myths and the gods were intriguing. I’d have to say I liked the culture itself—and the hints of the cultures of surrounding lands—the most.
Erin A. Craig lives in Memphis, Tennessee. House of Salt and Sorrows is her debut novel.
(Galley provided by Delacorte Press in exchange for an honest review.)
So…normally, I pick the top three books I read in a month. This time, that’s just not possible. Because I read some really good books in July.
The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck, by Bethany Turner. This was from my TBR pile, so I didn’t review it. What happens when a steamy romance writer gets saved and falls in love with a preacher? This made me laugh so much, as, apparently, Sarah and I were separated at birth.
Ayesha at Last, by Uzma Jalaluddin. This also didn’t get a review, as it was my cultural book of the month. Pride and Prejudice in a Muslim community? Yes, please! I enjoyed this immensely, and I loved the look at a Muslim community. And, of course, a good Pride and Prejudice retelling does not go amiss.
The Book Charmer, by Karen Hawkins. If i could physically give you a copy of this book—I would! I don’t even like small towns, and I’d move to Dove Pond. A librarian who hears books talk to her, a town in trouble, and the outsider who’s the only one who can save it. Please do yourself a favor and read this!
The Merciful Crow, by Margaret Owen. Have you ever read a fantasy novel that sucked you in from the very first page, that made the culture come alive, and had characters that lived and breathed on the page? This is that book. I’d have read this straight through except work. I could NOT put it down!
Legend has it that when the Dove family has seven daughters, something special happens. Sarah Dove is that seventh daughter, and since she was seven years old, books have whispered to her. They tell her which person in town needs them—and the books are always right. So when a cranky old book tells Sarah who is going to save Dove Pond, she listens.
Grace Wheeler moved to Dove Pond because dementia is encroaching on her beloved mother, and she hopes that returning to her mother’s hometown might slow its progress. She also has her niece to care for and giving up her high-powered financial job to move to a small town and take care of family wasn’t in Grace’s plans.
The town of Dove Pond is in trouble, and Grace may be the only one who can save it. But she’ll need the help of Sarah, Travis—her gruff neighbor—and everyone else in Dove Pond if she’s to pull it off.
I loved this book! I grew up in a small town (much smaller than Dove Pond) and have always been grateful that I no longer live there, but I’d move to Dove Pond. The town is such a character in this story. Its people are vibrant and quirky, and I wanted to hang out with all of them. Especially Sarah. As much as I love books and reading, she’s someone I could absolutely be friends with. And Grace is so strong. She’s like a force of nature. I cannot wait to read more of this series! This is labeled as romance, but that’s a secondary plot here, as the book is much more about friendship, family, and saving Dove Pond.
Karen Hawkins is a bestselling author. The Book Charmer, the first book in the Dove Pond series, is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Gallery Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)