Tag: fiction

Book Review: The Impossibility of Us, by Katy Upperman

the impossibility of us
Image belongs to Swoon Reads.

Title:   The Impossibility of Us
Author:   Katy Upperman
Genre:   YA
Rating:   4 out of 5

Elise doesn’t want to leave the city and start over in a new town, but since the death of her brother in Afghanistan, her mom has checked out, and her sister-in-law and niece need help. So, they move to a small coastal town, but Elise just longs to get back to the city.

Until she meets Mati on the beach one day. He’s Afghan, and Elise must put that aside and get to know him. She discovers a kind, quiet, caring boy who she has so much in common with.

But his religion and culture—and both their families—are huge obstacles. Not to mention the looming date of Mati’s return home. Is there any way to make things work out?

Katy Upperman is a YA author. The Impossibility of Us is her newest novel.

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

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Book Review: The Late Bloomers’ Club, by Louise Miller

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Image belongs to Penguin Group Viking/Pamela Dorman Books.

Title:   The Late Bloomers’ Club
Author:   Louise Miller
Genre:   Fictions
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

Nora owns the Miss Guthrie Diner and is happy with serving up tasty food and knowing her regulars’ orders. But when she and her rebellious sister Kit, an aspiring filmmaker, inherit Peggy the Cake Lady’s home and land unexpectedly, the diner isn’t the only thing on her plate.

Kit is happy when she finds out Peggy was in talks to sell to a big developer, but Nora’s not so sure, and the small town is divided over the issues, voicing their opinions to Nora everywhere she goes. The developer’s representative, Elliot, isn’t what she expected either, and soon Nora is torn between the good of the town, Peggy’s hidden secrets, and her own wishes. Finding Freckles, Peggy’s missing dog, is the one thing she can solve.

I enjoyed The Late Bloomers’ Club quite a bit. It’s not a face-paced novel, but the gradually unfolding storyline is so fitting for this small-town drama. The setting is very well-done and felt like small towns I’ve known. Nora and Kit are great characters, and the contrast between them is vibrant and vivid. This is a lovely read. Oh, and maybe don’t read it while you’re hungry or cake-less.

Louise Miller loves baking and writing and is an art school dropout. The Late Bloomers’ Club is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Penguin Group Viking/Pamela Dorman Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Darkwater Secrets, by Robin Caroll

darkwater secrets
Image belongs to Gilead Publishing.

Title:   Darkwater Secrets
Author:   Robin Caroll
Genre:   Southern fiction, suspense
Rating:   4 out of 5

Managing the Darkwater Inn in the heart of the French Quarter is a dream job for Adelaide Fountaine. The job is demanding and busy, but she loves the hectic pace. The owner, not so much. But the owner’s son, Dimitri, has become her friend, over late-night meals in the quiet kitchen.

Detective Beau Savoie has been friends with Adelaide since childhood, but when a murder in the Darkwater brings up secrets from her past and leaves Adelaide a suspect, Beau starts to wonder if he really knows her at all. With the murder investigation pushing her into Dimitri’s arms, Beau wants to be mad at Adelaide, but he’s hiding secrets of his own.

I love suspense novels, Southern fiction, and New Orleans, so I was eager to read this novel. And I was not disappointed. The author captures the feel of the French Quarter—and the boutique hotels found there—with style and charm. I was so caught up in the drama between the characters, I didn’t even really care who the murderer was!

Robin Caroll is the best-selling author of almost 30 novels. Darkwater Secrets has just been released in paperback.

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

Book Review: Fruit of the Drunken Tree, by Ingrid Rojas Contreras

fruit of the drunken tree
Image belongs to Doubleday Books.

Title:  Fruit of the Drunken Tree
Author:  Ingrid Rojas Contreras
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

In 1990s Columbia, Pablo Escobar, drug lord, reigns through violence and cleverness as the police struggle to apprehend him. Violence and drugs are everywhere, and the threat of kidnapping by guerrillas looms over daily life.

Seven-year-old Chula and her sister, Cassandra, lead a mostly-sheltered life in their gated community, but sometimes outside events encroach on their happiness. Then Petrona comes to be their live-in maid. Petrona is from the slums, where the guerillas are, and she’s desperate to provide for her family, willing to do anything to keep them safe.

Chula and Petrona form an unlikely bond, as Chula struggles to unravel Petrona’s secrets, while Petrona fights to keep the darkness in her life from destroying everything that’s beautiful.

Fruit of the Drunken Tree is told in the alternating viewpoints of Chula and Petrona. It was a little bit slow to get going, but then I found myself engrossed in the vibrant culture of Bogota. The differences between Chula’s life and Petrona’s were startling, and sad, but the girls’ friendship was uplifting.

Ingrid Rojas Contreras is an award-winning author and a teacher. Fruit of the Drunken Tree is her new novel.

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

Book Review: Cottage by the Sea, by Debbie Macomber

cottage by the sea
Image belongs to Ballantine Books.

Title:   Cottage by the Sea
Author:   Debbie Macomber
Genre:   Romance, fiction
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

To recover from a horrible tragedy, Annie moves to Oceanside, the seaside town where her family vacationed when she was a teenager. She loves the small town and the people who live there.

Like Keaton, the gentle, almost-silent man who always helps her out. Mellie, her landlord and next-door-neighbor, who never sets foot outside her door and is cranky and angry. And Britt, the girl at the coffee shop who Annie suspects hides a terrible secret.

Annie feels at home in Oceanside and falls in love with Keaton, but when she’s offered the chance of a lifetime, she must choose between her dreams and her healing heart.

Debbie Macomber is a solid, consistent writer who always delivers a compelling plot, great characters, and interesting conflict. Cottage by the Sea is no exception. Annie suffered a horrific tragedy, and grief almost overwhelms her until she returns to the scene of her younger happiness. Keaton is a fascinating character, and I loved reading about him.

Debbie Macomber is an international best-selling author. Cottage by the Sea is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Ballantine 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: Baby Teeth, by Zoje Stage

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Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   Baby Teeth
Author:   Zoje Stage
Genre:   Thriller, Suspense
Rating:   4 out of 5

Hanna is a sweet, silent seven-year-old. She’s far smarter than she should be, but she hides it behind a placid façade. Usually. She’s her father’s baby and her mother’s nemesis.

Suzette has been sick most of her life but thought becoming a mother would leave her fulfilled and renewed. Instead, it just leaves her terrified.

Hanna sees her mother as competition for her father’s affection and will stop at nothing to eliminate her competition. Nothing. As Hanna becomes increasingly more aggressive and her tricks become more dangerous, Suzette is desperate to convince her husband that their beloved daughter may be better off away from home—and that may be the only way she survives her daughter’s intentions.

I’m not super into books about evil children—and Hanna is evil—but the author did an excellent job portraying the love Hanna’s parents still have for her, despite her actions. Parts of this novel were creepy, parts were chilling, but all of them made me glad I don’t know any children like Hanna.

Zoje Stage has a background in film and theatre. Baby Teeth is her new novel.

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

Book Review: The Last Cruise, by Kate Christensen

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Image belongs to Doubleday.

Title:   The Last Cruise
Author:  Kate Christensen
Genre:   Fiction
Rating:   4 out of 5

The Queen Isabella is making her last voyage, a two-week retro cruise to Hawaii and back, before being scrapped. No internet. No cell phones. No children. Everything is vintage and classic, from the food and drinks to the entertainment.

Christine Thorne, a journalist before becoming a farmer, is along to keep her friend company, and to experience a life of luxury. Mick Szabo, a Hungarian chef added to the crew at the last-minute, sees it as his chance to impress his famous boss and land a prestigious position. Miriam Koslow, a violinist for a string quartet for years, wants a peaceful trip.

But the voyage is marked by animosity among the crew and signs of cut corners by the cruise company. Soon the Queen Isabella faces its greatest challenge yet, leaving passengers and crew sinking in the turmoil.

The Last Cruise sounds like it would be a fast-paced thriller. It’s not. Instead, it moves slowly and languorously, allowing hints of trouble to peek through its glamourous façade. The odd assortment of characters just works together, and, along with the slow pace, helps cement the sense of low-lying dread that permeates the pages. The ending is not the most frustrating one I’ve ever read…but it’s on the list.

Kate Christensen is an award-winning author and memoirist. The Last Cruise is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Olympian Challenger, by Astrid Arditi

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Image belongs to Astrid Arditi.

Title:   Olympian Challenger
Author:   Astrid Arditi
Genre:   YA, fantasy
Rating:   3.5 out of 5

Hope Diaz lives in New York City. She spends her time swimming, studying, and caring for her mother, who has dementia. She doesn’t have time for parties, so when she receives a mysterious invitation to one, she doesn’t really care. It seems like every other senior in the city got one, so it can’t be all that special. Until she realizes that everyone else can only see a single sentence on the invitation…and she sees more.

Soon, Hope finds herself on Mount Olympus, a guest of the gods, as she and other challengers prepare for a competition that will grant them their greatest wish. Hope doesn’t want immortality. She just wants to go home and take care of her mother.

But leaving Olympus isn’t an option and Hope soon finds out that not everything—or everyone—is as it seems.

Olympian Challenger isn’t a completely unique concept. I’ve seen lots of comparisons to Percy Jackson and Hunger Games. Sure, there are similarities. It’s difficult to write anything that has nothing in common with any other book ever written. But Olympian Challenger is its own story.

Hope is an interesting character, and the friendships she forges on Olympus are intriguing and inspiring. I enjoyed seeing the gods and the heroes through her less-than-impressed eyes. While the plot lags in places and does skimp on details at times, the writing is solid, and I’m interested in reading the second book.

Astrid Arditi lives and writes in Brooklyn. Olympian Challenger is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: All We Ever Wanted, by Emily Griffin

all we ever wanted
Image belongs to Random House/Ballantine Books.

Title:   All We Ever Wanted
Author:   Emily Griffin
Genre:   Fiction
Rating:   4 out of 5

Nina Browning is living the good life among Nashville’s elite. Her husband sold his tech business for millions, catapulting them into the moneyed class, and her son, Finch, just got accepted to Princeton. It’s a far cry from Nina’s middle-class other-side-of-the-tracks upbringing.

Tom Volpe is a single dad who works several jobs trying to raise his independent daughter, Lyla. Since her mom left, he’s been struggling to keep Lyla from following in her drinking and partying ways, so Lyla attends the elite Windsor Academy, her way out.

When questionable pictures of Lyla surface after a party, Tom refuses to let his daughter be victimized, and reports the incident to the principal. Soon the entire school is in an uproar, and Nina is faced with believing her beloved son—even when his story doesn’t always add up—or following her own instincts.

I enjoyed this read about Nina, who on the outside looks like a wealthy wife with nothing to do but charity work, living off her husband’s money and content with the choices she made. But Nina isn’t content, and when she realizes what happened to Lyla, she does what she knows is right, bucking the system and society both, as well as her husband. This was a great read, and it delves into some of the questions surrounding social media use and taking advantage of girls with it.

Emily Griffin is a former lawyer turned best-selling author. Her newest novel is All We Ever Wanted.

(Galley provided by Random House/Ballantine Books in exchange for an honest review.)