Tag: friends

Book Review: Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me, by Gae Polisner

jack kerouac
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press/Wednesday Books.

Title:  Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me
AuthorGae Polisner
Genre:  YA
Rating:  4.5 out of 5 

Fifteen-year-old JL Markham’s life used to be filled with carnival nights and hot summer days spent giggling with her forever best friend Aubrey about their families and boys. Together, they were unstoppable. But they aren’t the friends they once were.

With JL’s father gone on long term business, and her mother struggling with her mental illness, JL takes solace in the tropical butterflies she raises, and in her new, older boyfriend, Max Gordon. Max may be rough on the outside, but he has the soul of a poet (something Aubrey will never understand). Only, Max is about to graduate, and he’s going to hit the road – with or without JL.

JL can’t bear being left behind again. But what if devoting herself to Max not only means betraying her parents, but permanently losing the love of her best friend? What becomes of loyalty, when no one is loyal to you?

This book. Seriously. I am not even sure what to say about it. It broke my heart—not because it was bad, but because it was so good! I felt for JL so much. She’s lost her best friend to whatever came between them, she’s lost her dad to business, her mom to dissociative disorder, her grandmother who seems to be in denial…she’s basically lost everyone in her life. Except Max, her new, older boyfriend…that everyone at school says horrible things about, including her in the rumors, too.

JL is on the verge of growing up. She wants to grow up—at least she thinks so—but she has no one to show her the way. She can’t even sort out what she wants in her own mind, she just knows she wants more. I was right there with her, experiencing everything—even the horrible stuff—and I loved every page. Even when it broke my heart.

GAE POLISNER is the award-winning author of In Sight of Stars, The Memory of Things, The Summer of Letting Go, The Pull of Gravity, and Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me. She lives on Long Island with her husband, two sons, and a suspiciously-fictional looking dog. When Gae isn’t writing, you can find her in a pool or the open waters off Long Island. She’s still hoping that one day her wetsuit will turn her into a superhero.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Sparrow, by Mary Cecilia Jackson

sparrow
Image belongs to Tor Teen.

Title:  Sparrow
AuthorMary Cecilia Jackson
Genre:  YA
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Sparrow—Savannah Darcy Rose—thought she would be safe after her mother died. She thought she could finally stop hiding. She’s a gifted ballerina with a tight-knit circle of friends, she’s starring in a new production, and her future looks bright.

Then she meets Tristan:  handsome, wealthy, the most popular boy in school. Sparrow is in love, but Tristan isn’t quite as perfect as he seems, and soon Sparrow finds herself keeping secrets from everyone. She’s not the kind of girl who tells, but after a brutal assault, she must learn how to open up to those around her.

This wasn’t an easy book to read. You could see the disaster looming…but you were helpless to divert it. Sparrow’s backstory is horrifying, and the emotional scars she bears lead to physical scars in her present. I loved her strength and determination—and the strong friendships made the novel shine.

Mary Cecilia Jackson loves being a Southerner and reading. Sparrow is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Tor Teen in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Rome of Fall, by Chad Alan Gibbs

the rome of fall
Image belongs to Borne Back Books.

Title:  The Rome of Fall
AuthorChad Alan Gibbs
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

Twenty years ago, Marcus Brinks left Rome, Alabama behind quickly, quietly, and mysteriously. The small town worshiped its football gods—back when Marcus was in high school, that was Deacon Cassburn—and allowed them to get away with anything short of murder, including bullying Marcus and his best friends, Silas and third-string quarterback Jackson. So Marcus and his friends decide to take down Deacon—state championship on the line or not.

Now Marcus is back in Rome to care for his dying mother. Things have changed in Rome…or have they? Marcus is a teacher and former indie rock star and Jackson is the football god/coach, while Deacon and his buddies plot to take him down. Things are ugly in Rome, and Marcus just wants to keep out of the drama and maybe have a bit of romance with his high school crush. But the past has a way of shaping the future, and even in Rome, it will catch up to you.

I’m not a football fan, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying every page of this. I graduated in ’95, so all the references the author made brought that back to life for me. I’m from Texas, so I get the Friday Night Lights hoopla—even though my high school didn’t have football until just a couple of years ago, the basketball coach back then could have gotten away with murder—and it was so vivid and realistic in The Rome of Fall.

Marcus isn’t entirely likable, but he’s relatable. The whole teen angst storyline in the ‘90s was vivid, angry, and full of pain. The present-day storyline was more nostalgic, but also angry and painful. I loved how everything resolved at the end, bringing Marcus full-circle and the reader hoping he finds happiness along with his dreams.

Chad Alan Gibbs is an award-winning author. The Rome of Fall is his newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Borne Back Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Little Bookshop on the Seine, by Rebecca Raisin

the little bookshop
Image belongs to harlequin/HQN.

Title:  The Little Bookshop on the Seine
AuthorRebecca Raisin
Genre:  Women’s fiction
Rating:  5 out of 5

Sarah Smith loves her little bookstore in tiny Ashford, Connecticut. She swears her books talk to her, and she’s happy with her life, her tight-knit group of friends—and their pastries—and her boyfriend, globe-trotting journalist Ridge. Except he’s gone so much, and Sarah is a little bit bored. So, when her Parisian friend Sophie offers a six-month bookshop exchange, Sarah finds herself flying to Paris to take care of Once Upon a Time, a famous, and popular, bookstore on the Seine.

But Sarah’s dreams of quiet time spent reading, forays to explore Paris, and getting to see Ridge as he travels the world fade quickly once she arrives in Paris. The staff at the bookshop are suspicious and uncooperative. The customers are rude. There’s barely time to breathe, much less read. And instead of spending time with Ridge, their relationship is reduced to occasional quick phone calls. But Sarah has had enough. Christmas is coming and she is determined to get things sorted out, no matter what.

I loved this book! I didn’t realize until I finished it that Rebecca Raisin also wrote Rosie’s Traveling Tea Shop, which was also a lovely read…but it all makes sense now. The Little Bookshop on the Seine made me want to visit Paris, which has never been on my Places to Go list, but I’d pack right up for a chance to work in Once Upon a Time, and Sarah, with her love of books and reading contrasting with her desire to experience life is so me that I related to every page. I highly recommend this!

Rebecca Raisin loves books. The Little Bookshop on the Seine is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/HQN in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: This Really Happened, by Annmarie McQueen

this really happened
Image belongs to the author.

Title:  This Really Happened
Author:    Annmarie McQueen
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

For Erin, university is her chance to stretch her wings. She’d like to make some friends, but she also must focus on her studies—economics, which her emotionally-distant parents approve of. Then she meets her five flatmates, including Allen, the quiet, creative boy who just seems to get her. Their friendship grows, as do Erin’s feelings for Allen, until one day Allen starts dating Charlotte, another of their flatmates.

Erin is devastated but struggles to be okay with it and be happy for her friends. Then one night leaving a crowded club, Charlotte is struck by a car, and everything changes.

This Really Happened is told in alternating timelines:  Erin’s experiences in the present day and her blog posts about Charlotte’s accident and its aftermath, the times slowly growing closer together as the reader gets closer to the truth. Erin only has one friend—her older sister—when she comes to university. She’s not close to her parents, so having a ready-made group of friends is a heady experience with her.

I enjoyed reading about how the friendships developed and I was fascinated by the alternating timelines. I found Allen a bit annoying, but I can see how he interested Erin. This is a solid read for anyone who likes to be intrigued with their reading choice.

Annmarie McQueen is a London-based writer and blogger who loves tea. This Really Happened is her new novel.

(Galley courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Confession Club, by Elizabeth Berg

the confession club
Image belongs to Random House.

Title:  The Confession Club
Author:    Elizabeth Berg
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

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.)

Book Review: The Book Charmer, by Karen Hawkins

the book charmer
Image belongs to Gallery Books.

Title:   The Book Charmer
Author:   Karen Hawkins
Genre:   Fiction
Rating:   5 out of 5

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.)

Book Review: Smitten by the Brit, by Melonie Johnson

 

smitten by the brit
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:  Smitten by the Brit
Author:  Melonie Johnson
Genre:  Romance
Rating:  4 out of 5

Bonnie Blythe is an English professor with her life planned out:  her fiancé is about to finish grad school, so now they can start planning their wedding. If he’ll ever settle on a date, that is. So she helps her best friend plan her wedding and tries not to be bitter about her own lack of wedding planning. And she tries not to think about Theo, the handsome, dashing Brit she met last year, who’s straight out of an Austen novel.

Theo knew Bonnie was engaged when he met her, so he kept a polite, respectful distance, even when all he wanted was the fiery redhead. When Bonnie’s engagement ends badly and she takes a teaching position at Cambridge, only an hour away from Theo, he’s happy to be the friend she needs. Theo would like to be more than friends, but family duty—and a secret he’s keeping from Bonnie—make that impossible.

I love the lighthearted and fun voice of this series. Getting Hot with the Scot foreshadowed the attraction between Bonnie and Theo, and I love when series allow you to find out more about characters from previous books. Theo is handsome and charming, and Bonnie deserves better than her wishy-washy fiancé anyway, so this was an enjoyable read.

According to her website, Melonie Johnson is a “Redhead. Writer. Drama Mama.” Smitten by the Brit is the second book in her Sometimes in Love series.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Belly Up, by Eva Darrows

 

belly up
Image belongs to Harlequin TEEN/Inkyard Press.

Title:  Belly Up
Author:  Eva Darrows
Genre:  YA
Rating:  4 out of 5

It’s bad enough Sara’s boyfriend cheated on her and she found out when she saw sexting pics on his phone. But now he and the other girl are flaunting it around town, when all Sara wants is to get through the summer and spend senior year with her best friend, Devi, and get into an Ivy League school. Surely a drunken hook-up at a party will at least take Sara’s mind off her problems.

Or not.

She forgot to get the guy’s number, and when she finds out she’s pregnant, well, things change. She and her mom move in with her grandmother, and instead of starting senior year with Devi, Sara is the new girl at a new school. She meets some new friends and Leaf, a Romani boy who really gets her, and whose flirting makes her happy. Except she’s also the pregnant new girl. She should probably tell Leaf about that, but she wants to hold on to her happiness for just a little longer.

Belly Up wasn’t quite what I expected. Sara is an amazing character, and her voice is so much fun. This is an incredibly diverse book, and friendship is a main theme, as is love (and not romantic love, either). This was a fun read about serious subjects, and I recommend it.

Eva Darrows/Hillary Monahan is a New York Times-bestselling author. Belly Up is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin TEEN/Inkyard Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Getting Hot with the Scot, by Melonie Johnson

Getting Hot with the Scot
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:  Getting Hot with the Scot
Author:  Melonie Johnson
Genre:  Romance
Rating:  4 out of 5

Cassie Crow is a pop culture reporter for a talk show, but she wants to be a “serious” reporter. Even though she’s on the vacation of a lifetime with her friends, her upcoming big interview is all she can think about. Until a mix-up in a Scottish castle leads to a chance encounter with a handsome man in a kilt.

Logan’s career is doing pranks before a camera and making it big is all he can think about. Until he meets Cassie and needs her to agree before he can use the footage that may capture the hearts of his target audience.

What was supposed to be a one-night-stand might become more, but only if Cassie and Logan conquer the fears from their pasts.

Getting Hot with the Scot was a quick, fun read. Running into a sexy Highlander in a kilt—in a castle, no less—is probably the dream of a lot of women, so I found the way the novel took that idea and ran with it to be quite entertaining. The best part of this book, besides Logan’s accent, was the friendship between Cassie and her group of friends.

Melonie Johnson is a writer, a wife, a mother, and many other things, depending on her current interests. Getting Hot with the Scot is the first book in the Sometimes in Love series.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)