Tag: reading

Book Review: The House at 758, by Kathryn Berla

 

the house at 758
Image belongs to Amberjack Publishing.

As if being 16 weren’t bad enough, Krista is still dealing with the death of her mother. Her father has moved his new girlfriend in and wants Krista to start acting normal again and find something to do. Her best friend is going to Maine for the summer. And Krista feels like she has no one to talk to about her pain.

So, she spends her time in a tent on top of the house, shoplifting, and watching a mysterious house. She’s not ready to act normal again. Then she meets Jake, who works at the store she shoplifts, and her dad tells her that her grandfather, a Hungarian Holocaust survivor, is coming to visit. Krista starts to feel better, but if she never deals with the past, will she ever feel normal again?

The House at 758 took me by surprise. First, I feel like Krista is my spirit animal. Living in a tent on top of the house because you don’t want to be around people? Sign me up for that! Krista is hurting desperately, but she doesn’t want to ask for help. She’d rather brood and act like everything is okay, because shouldn’t people know what she’s going through? Dealing with dark emotions like grief, anger, and guilt isn’t easy, and Krista fights against it for a long time, until she starts to realize that there is more than one side to every story. This was an engrossing read that drew me into Krista’s head and kept me rooting for her to make a breakthrough and start to see light again.

Kathryn Berla is the author of Dream Me, Twelves Hours in Paradise, Going Places, and The Kitty Committee. The House at 758 is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Amberjack Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Advertisements

Book Review: Select, by Marit Weisenberg

select-cvr_large
Image belongs to Charlesbridge Teen.

Julia Jaynes is part of a group of highly-evolved humans living in Austin, Texas. Rich, beautiful, and powerful, they keep to themselves and try not to draw more attention to their media-popular circle. Then Julia saves her sister from drowning, and the media attention she causes makes her powerful father punish her by sending her to public high school.

There Julia meets John, a tennis prodigy and a nice, regular guy. When Julie discovers she can read his mind—sometimes—she uses the power to encourage John, and her feelings start to grow. Living with the regular humans isn’t as bad as she thought, but Julie is desperate to get back in her controlling father’s good graces, before their circle disappears from society for good.

So…the cover of this book is what caught my eye first, and the premise is fantastic. I read all of it, but Julia was a bit too erratic for me. Does she hate her father? Does she love him? Does she want to stay with the super humans? Does a life of freedom with the regular humans sound more appealing?  What is really going on with the evolved humans and Julia’s powerful father? And why did he separate the younger members and try to destroy the more powerful ones’ talents?

I don’t actually know the answers to any of these questions, and that bothers me. Julia can’t make up her mind, and a first-person narrative should have some insight into the character, but it doesn’t. (I saw several comparisons to Twilight in other reviews, and that is sadly accurate.) I loved the premise of this book, but the execution and character development was lacking.

Despite her name, Marit Weisenberg is only a quarter Norwegian. She lives in Austin, Texas. Select is the first book in the Select series.

(Galley provided by Charlesbridge Teen via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

What I Read in September

I read fourteen books in September. Not bad, considering I’m back to work and grad school full-time.

The Long Ride Home, by Tawni Waters

The Long Ride Home, by Tawni Waters. (Read to review.) I enjoyed this novel that dealt with some difficult topics:  the loss of a parent, and unexpected pregnancy and the decisions to be made concerning it. Harley hasn’t dealt with the death of her mother and her resulting cross-country move, but it’s summer now, so she decides to take a trip to scatter her mother’s ashes. With Dean, her only friend, and the boy she slept with one night while drunk. But soon Harley realizes she’s pregnant, throwing her feelings for Dean into more turmoil, and she must decide what to do with the choices before her. Excellent read.

end of the world running club

The End of the World Running Club, by Adrian Walker. (Read to review.) After the sky fell, Edgar’s whole world—the entire world—changed, but he’s still not the greatest father. Until he’s separated from his wife and kids, and must make it all the way across the country to them before the rescuers leave him behind forever. Running is the only answer. This is not your typical dystopian thriller. It has shades of literary fiction, and the characters are complex and troubled, with overwhelming problems. I enjoyed it very much.

Siddhartha, by Hermann Hesse. (Classic book of the month.) I know this is supposed to be really inspiring, but I was not a fan.

Power Thoughts, by Joyce Meyer. (Spiritual book of the month.) Good, solid read.

Blindness, by Jose Saramago. (Cultural book of the month.) Eh. I’m not even sure what the point of this book was. Possibly something was lost in translation?

Full Dark, No Stars, by Stephen King. (From the TBR pile.) I used to read everything King wrote. Not sure why I stopped. I’m not a fan of short stories, just because I like longer tales, but this is standard King fare:  by “standard” I mean solid writing, creepiness, and compelling stories. That’s standard for King, because he’s a talented writer.

AFewMinorAdjustments_Memoir_Cover_Kephart_hr

A Few Minor Adjustments, by Cherie Kephart. (Read to review.) A memoir of healing from an unidentified illness. Cherie has been sick for a long time, and no one has been able to tell her why. From her days in Africa in the Peace Corps, to her struggles in the American medical system, this is her story.

ots

On the Spectrum, by Jennifer Gold. (Read to review.) I really enjoyed this read, about autism and eating disorders and Paris. This wasn’t the typical “she never eats” eating disorder, either, and it was an intriguing look into the mindset of a girl obsessed with healthy eating (No bread? No carbs…ever?!). The addition of a bit romance made it appealing, and her efforts to help her autistic brother were heartwarming.

murder magic

Murder, Magic, and What We Wore, by Kelly Jones. (Read to review.) A Regency-era mystery/coming-of-age tale with a light, witty tone as a girl tries out her spying skills in an effort to find who killed her father and earn a job in her father’s footsteps.

blackbird season

The Blackbird Season, by Kate Moretti. (Read to review.) Okay, this book sucked me in from the very beginning, and I couldn’t put it down! The setting had a very Southern/small-town feel (complete with everyone knowing everybody’s business, and “I always knew there was something funny about him!” statements.).

hanna

Hanna Who Fell from the Sky, by Christopher Meades. (Read to review.)  The setting of this novel was disturbing to me:  an isolated settlement where the teenage girls become fourth or fifth wives to men old enough to be their fathers and the teenage boys are run out of town. Hanna herself was a fantastic character, conflicted about wanting to leave her family and sacrificing herself (to becoming a fifth wife) to save her family. The family relationships are complex, and there’s a lot going on here emotionally. A very good read!

ash

A Short History of the Girl Next Door, by Jared Reck. (Read to review.) Not what I was expecting. At all. Loved the voice of the story, but it made me cry.

goblins

The Goblins of Bellwater, by Molly Ringle (Review forthcoming.) This book was magical. I love the premise of a hidden world that only a few are aware of, and the goblins were creepy. Very evocative of Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin market,” which inspired it. Fantastic read! (And the cover is beautiful!)

SOD

Sea of Doubt, by Jeremy D. Holden (Review forthcoming.) Apart from the very concept of someone pretending to be the Second Coming of Jesus, which appalled me, there are so many levels of deceit in this book that it made me sad:  because people really are that evil (some people). Loved the concept of the Hug Challenge, though.

Books I Read in August

August was a good reading month. I read seventeen books.

any dream will do

Any Dream Will Do, by Debbie Macomber. (Read to review.) I thought this romance was a bit different from this author’s usual fare–not that I’ve read all of her works–but a pastor struggling to raise his kids after his wife’s death and a just-out-of-prison woman working to create a new life for herself made a nice change of pace.

The Almost Sisters, by Joshilyn Jackson. (From my TBR pile.) How can I forget how much I like this author? gods in Alabama introduced me to the world of Southern fiction, and this tale of a comic book author pregnant with a mystery Batman’s baby who goes back to a tiny Southern town when her grandmother starts going crazy and ends up finding a skeleton in a trunk in the attic and a dark family secret is a gripping, wonderful read. bonus points for the sweet tea love and the handling of race issues.

earthquake

Things that Happened Before the Earthquake, by Chiara Barzini(Read to review.) Um. Literary fiction is hit or miss with me. The writing was evocative, but the family this was about was a big turn-off for me. The MC was self-destructive, and I could never get a sense of the why for her actions.

Blackhearts and Blacksouls, by Nicole Castroman (The first has been sitting on my Kindle for months.) I really enjoyed these two books, which are meant to be Blackbeard’s origin story–and romance, of course. Teach and Anne are great characters, and their relationship and backstories are both well-developed. Very enjoyable reads.

wonder

Recapturing The Wonder, by Mike Cosper. (Read to review, plus a spiritual book.) Very good read from an author with a great voice.

if the creek don't rise

If the Creek Don’t Rise, by Leah Weiss (Read to review.). Um…I did not care for this one much. The setting—Appalachia–was tough to read about, as was the poverty and mindset of the characters.

atwg

All the Wicked Girls, by Chris Whitaker (Read to review). Great Southern Gothic about a teenage girl who disappears and the entire town’s search for what happened to her.

mask of shadows

Mask of Shadows, by Linsey Miller (Read to Review.) Fantasy with a gender-fluid main character. This was a pretty unique read that I enjoyed, despite some contradictions.

Dumplin’, by Julie Murphy (Has been languishing on my Kindle for months.) Loved this! A teenage girl grapples with her body image in a small Southern town. The characters in this novel are fantastic! Seriously. You must read this!

Side Effects May Vary, by Julie Murphy (Because I loved Dumplin.) I did not care for the MC, who is a teenage girl with cancer. She was pretty mean to everyone around her, and I found her mostly unlikable.

On the Wings of a Whisper, by Lynette Bonner (From a different culture.) Short. Too short. I enjoyed what there was of it, though.

The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Arthur Conan Doyle (Classic book of the month.) Can’t believe I’ve never read this before!

tgwtrb

The Girl with the Red Balloon, by Katherine Locke (Read to review.) Time-travel via balloon into Berlin Wall-era Germany, Loved the characters, the world, and the story!

Bitter Past, by Caroline Fardig (Review forthcoming.) The beginning of a new series for this author, about a forensics professor asked to assist in a murder investigation that has swept over her small college.

Boundaries, by Dr. Henry Cloud.

The Salt Line, by Holly Goddard Hones (Review forthcoming.) Very unique dystopian tale where America has retreated behind walls to escape the deadly ticks found outside. Not what I was expecting at all!

Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy for Quick Lit.

Books I Read in July

I had an excellent reading month in July and read 16 books.

the mourning parade

The Mourning Parade, by Dawn Reno Langely. (Read to review.) Wow. Just wow. I loved this book! It’s a bit sad, about a veterinarian who goes to Thailand for a year to work with rescued elephants. She’s dealing with PTSD from the loss of her sons, and needs the escape.

Ship Breaker, by Paola Bacigalupi. (Just because.) Very different distopian set in a future American where the seas have risen, and some have to scavenge items from the past to survive. Nailer rescues a rich girl after one of the city killer hurricanes, and finds that his life will never be the same.

trust

Trust, by Kylie Scott. (Read to review.) I LOVED THIS! From the opening scene all the way to the very end, I couldn’t put it down. Can I tell you how much I loved Edie? Her sass and way of looking at life was fantastic. Bonus points for not being the typical gorgeous and skinny main character. Her interactions with John were so real, and I felt like I was her, experiencing every second. (Speaking of John Cole…I may have made a new collection in my reading bullet journal after reading this book, called Book Boyfriends, just to put him on it…allegedly. He was THAT appealing.)

awkward

The Awkward Path to Getting Lucky, by Summer Heacock. (Read to review.) Another book I loved! (I’ve had fantastic luck with books lately.) This book made me laugh, cringe with embarrassment, and crave a cupcake (several times simultaneously). The scene when the ladies come running out of the kitchen with…toys…clutched in their hands was the greatest!

Gather the Daughters, by Jennie Melamed. (Read to review.) I only read half of this, then I had to stop. The writing is great. The setting–dark dystopian–is believable and realistic. But some of the cultural details…were too disturbing for me to continue reading.

all things new

All Things New, by Lauren Miller. (Read to review.) The MC lives with panic attacks in this novel that deals with serious issues in a relatable way, and Marshall, the love interest, is so quirky and fun that I wanted to hang out with him!

kissing max holden

Kissing Max Holden, by Katy Upperman. (Read to review.) Boy and girl grow up next door to each other. Boy turns rebellious and troublesome, girl’s father catches them making out and forbids her from seeing him ever again….That’s the basic premise, but there’s so much more to this story. From Max’s struggles in the aftermath of his father’s stroke, to Jillian’s about-to-arrive sibling and her parents fighting all the time, this story is full of real-life struggles, along with the tension between Max and Jillian.

Ash and Quill, by Rachel Caine. (Because I love this author. And this series.) The ending of this book emotionally broke me. Jess and his band of friends are so amazing together, in a world where books are both treasured and burned outside the all-powerful Great Library.

emma

Emma in the Night, by Wendy Walker. (Read to review.) This is a disturbing book. Actually, the family it’s about is troubling. When Cass and Emma disappeared 3 years ago, they left no trace. Now Cass is back, desperate for help to find Emma. Not what I was expecting.

the innkeeper's sister

The Innkeeper’s Sister, by Linda Goodnight. (Read to review.) A sweet Southern romance about characters dealing with the sins in their past while trying to solve a Civil War-era mystery.

holding

Holding, by Graham Norton. (Read to review.) A cozy mystery set in rural Ireland. At first, the characters do not seem all that interesting, but they definitely grow on you.

Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. (Cultural book of the month.) I’ve been meaning to read this for a while. Now I kind of wish I hadn’t, since I found it pretty sad.

The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James. (Classic book of the month.) I’m not really a fan of this. I never really figured out what was going on–probably because I wasn’t intrigued enough to care.

One in a Million, Priscilla Shirer. (Spiritual book of the month.) Great read, and Shirer is a fantastic speaker, because I’ve heard her speak at my church.

The List, by Particia Forde. (Review forthcoming). It’s hard to imagine a world where there’s only 500 “approved” words that people can use, but Forde does a fantastic job with this dystopian story about a girl who finds out the truth of her world—and the man who wants to take language away from the human race forever.

Lifeblood, by Gena Showalter. (Just because.) This gets all the stars! I’m a huge fan of Showalter’s work, but this trilogy has such a unique set-up and premise. Loved this!

***

Linking up with Quick Lit at Modern Mrs. Darcy.

Book Review: All Things New, by Lauren Miller

all things new
Image belongs to Three Saints Press.

Jessa Gray is seventeen, with a boyfriend she loves, a few friends, and a place she belongs. At least, a place she looks like she belongs:  living with her mom and hanging out with her boyfriend’s crowd. But inside, Jessa is a mess, suffering horrible panic attacks that medication and therapy haven’t helped, and always feeling like an outsider. When a terrible accident leaves Jessa with a brain injury, she sees bruises and scars on everyone around her, and thinks she must be going crazy for real. The chance to move to Colorado with her dad and start over is Jessa’s lifeline.

Instead of being the haven she was looking for, the move makes Jessa’s anxiety worse, until she meets Marshall, the quirky boy with a heart defect who makes her see life a whole new way. Though Jessa starts to feel like she belongs in this new life, she still sees wounds on everyone around her, and wonders if she’ll ever be “normal” again.

I’ve never suffered from anxiety quite like Jessa did, although I do have the occasional panic attack that sends my brain into a frenzy and throws the world into chaos. All Things New captures the pandemonium of anxiety and panic attacks, and shows readers just what if feels like to live with these issues. More importantly, it shows what it’s like to survive with them, and to grow. Jessa is entirely relatable, she doesn’t think she’s normal, but she is:  everyone is dealing with something, which she eventually learns. Marshall is funny and sweet, and he helps Jessa look at the world without the veil of her anxiety. Both humorous and heart-wrenching, All Things New is an enthralling read, bursting with vivid life.

Lauren Miller grew up in Georgia, studied at Yale, and now lives in California, where she writes and works. The author of Parallel and Free to Fall, her newest novel is All Things New.

(Galley provided by Three Saints Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Books I Read in May

I read slightly less than I have been reading in May. It felt like a lot less, but it was really only nine books, instead of my usual 10-12. May was crazy for me. Way too much going on. I’m hoping for a more peaceful June.

Here’s what I read:

iswg-final-cover

It Started with Goodbye, by Christina June. (Read to review.) I really enjoyed this! A YA where the MC actually admits she’s wrong, and grows as she learns from her mistakes? Plus, it’s not all about the romance. Great read.

Beneath the Wake, by Ross Pennie. (Read to review…but didn’t.) I don’t even know why I finished this one. It was pretty pointless to me, and the MC…seemed pretty concerned about the intricate meals he ate, but not about the whole people-are-dying-and-I’m-trying-to-figure-out-why thing. (I didn’t review it, but I did give the publisher my feedback. It just wasn’t to my taste. It’s part of a series, so clearly some people like it.)

Turbo Twenty Three, by Janet Evanovich. (Read for fun.) I really love this series, although  I wish Stephanie would just make up her mind already–Ranger. Not Joe. I didn’t think this one measured up, though. It wasn’t really funny, and some of these have had me laughing so hard I cried.

happiness

The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness, by Paula Poundstone. (Read to review.) I like to read some non-fiction now and then, and a comic I used to enjoy seemed like a good option. To me, this book wasn’t really humor–although it had some funny moments–it was just about life. I enjoyed reading it.

hlr

The Half Life of Remorse, by Grant Jarrett. (Read to review.) Deals with some deep issues, including violence, murder, and living on the streets, but with redemption as well.

Palm Trees in the Snow, by Luz Gabas. (Cultural book of the month.) I thought I was picking a Central/South America book, but it turned out to be another one set in Africa. I love reading about Africa, but I though a different culture would be good. Which, actually, this one was, as it was set in a Spanish colony. This was a really good book, and I recommend it.

Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen. (Classic book of the month.) How have I never read this Austen book? I don’t know, but I really enjoyed it.

Be the Message, by Kerry and Chris Shook. (Spiritual book of the month.) An excellent read!

the long run

The Long Run, by Catriona Menzies-Pike. (Read to review.) Another non-fiction choice, and one I found fascinating. The history of women in running was interesting, but a little disheartening. I don’t understand why men found women running so threatening.

Stopped reading: White Fur, by Jardine Libaire, because I found the two main characters were a little too out there for me. I’m okay with crazy. Just not disconnected-from everything-crazy.

(Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy.)

It Started with Goodbye, by Christina June

iswg-final-cover
Image belongs to Blink.

Christina June is a teacher who writes young adult contemporary fiction. It Started with Goodbye is her debut novel, out May 9th.

Tatum Elsea is not looking forward to summer. Accused of a crime—falsely—she’s under house-arrest with her less-than-loving stepmother while her father is out of the country. Tate is only allowed to be at home and her court-ordered community service, unless her stepmother approves it. Like that’s going to happen. So, Tatum starts a secret graphic design business, which leads to an email flirtation with a cello-playing client.

With her feisty step-grandmother in town, Tate starts to realize that maybe her way isn’t the only way, and soon she learns she’s not the only one in the family keeping secrets. Will Tate be able to use her new perspective to fix her relationship with her best friend and turn her family around? Then there’s the cello player…

I finished reading It Started with Goodbye in less than 24 hours. This is a fun, light read, but it delves into some deeper issues, like taking responsibility for your actions, healing relationships, and honesty. Tate grows a lot through the course of the book, and the author captures her growing pains vividly and emotionally, letting the reader see through Tate’s eyes and experience that awakening along with her. I loved how Tate’s relationship with her stepmother and stepsister evolved, and her step-grandmother is perfect; feisty and fun but not irresponsible. The email exchanges with the cello player are a cute finishing touch.

If you like young adult books, I highly recommend this one. It deals with some deep topics and isn’t just a fluffy romance.

(Galley provided by Blink via NetGalley.)

What I Read in April

April was a pretty good reading month for me. I read 13 books, for a total of 45 books. My goal is 100 books for the year, and I’m pretty sure I’ll hit that.

Walking to Listen

Walking to Listen, by Andrew Forsthoefel (Read to review.) Andrew set out to walk across America, wearing a sign that read “Walking to Listen.” He met many incredible people who helped him on his way. I love the idea of this, but I’d probably be too terrified to do it.

The yellow envelope

The Yellow Envelope, by Kim Dinan. (Read to review.) A memoir about a woman and her husband who sell everything and travel the world. Friends give them a yellow envelope filled with money, and the instructions to give it away. I love the message of this book, and it really made me want to travel.

H20, by Virginia Bergin. (For fun.) When rain—and other water—becomes deadly, survival takes more thought than I imagined. It’s more than no drinking water (unless it’s bottled). No shower. No walks in the rain. Definitely no fishing. Interesting premise with a MC that started off quite annoying (she’s a teenager who’s suddenly on her own in a whole new world). I enjoyed this.

The Storm, by Virginia Bergen. (For fun.) The follow-up to H2O, with the MC a whole lot more likeable.

all the forever things

All the Forever Things, by Jolene Perry. (Read to review.) A quirky girl who lives in a funeral home finds her life changed when her best friend starts dating a boy they both used to hate, and she must survive high school on her own. Loved this.

a twist in time

A Twist in Time, by Julie McElwain. (Read to review.) When an FBI agent finds herself in 1800s England, her survival skills are no match for the rules of the Ton. But she puts her investigative skills to work to solve the murder of a Lady whom no one seems to like.

beartown

Beartown, by Fredrik Backman. (Read to review.) A dying hockey town on the edge of resurrection when the junior boys team makes it to the semi-finals is ripped apart by the trauma of one girl, which sets the townspeople against each other. Fantastic book!

brew or die

Brew or Die, by Caroline Fardig. (Read to review.) Lighthearted story about Juliet, the coffee shop manager who sleuths on the side, as she investigates a murder and corporate wrongdoing, as her past comes back to haunt her. I really enjoy this series.

Lady Susan, by Jane Austen. (Classic.) Eh. I did not enjoy this book. Lady Susan was a horrible person.

Pandemic, by A.G. Riddle. (For fun.) Although a lot of the science and technical stuff was way over my head, I enjoyed this read. The end of the world as we know it…at the hands of a secret group of scientists with an agenda thousands of years in the making.

The Alchemist, by Paula Coelho. (Cultural book.) Both enjoyable and magical.

Lady in Waiting, by Jackie Kendall. (From the TBR pile.)

Dream Big, Think Small, by Jeff Manion. (Spiritual book.) Lots of food for thought here, about small, consistent steps that yield big results.

2 Books I Stopped Reading, 2 Books I Loved (Not a Review)

Life has been super busy for me lately, so I haven’t written a book review. I’ve been reading—some—just haven’t progressed to the review state of things.

I have actually stopped reading two books lately, which is hard for me. Normally, once I start reading, I’ll finish the book even if it’s just sort of “meh.” I finally broke that habit a couple of years ago.

The first book I stopped reading was The Idiot, by Elif Batuman. I didn’t stop reading this because the writing was horrible or anything like that. It’s set in 1995, when the internet was new, and that was kind of fun. But I could not feel a connection to the main character, and the whole disembodied and theoretical email relationship between the MC and her love interest just felt so awkward and forced that I couldn’t deal with it anymore. The Amazon page has a quote from GQ that this is “Easily the funniest book I’ve read this year,” and I…must not have gotten to the funny parts, despite having read about half the book. Or possibly I’m not smart enough to catch the humor?

The second book was The Dhow House by Jean MCNeil. I wanted to like this book. The writing was fantastic. But the MC was so…out-of-it that I couldn’t really care. The setting was fascinating, but so outside of my realm of experience that I couldn’t really picture it, and the MC’s family was so superficial that I had to put the book down. I read about a third of this before stopping.

I did stumble across two books in B & N on Sunday that caught my eye:  H2O and The Storm, by Virginia Bergin. These are dystopian books about what happens when rain becomes almost-instantly fatal. In England, no less. The MC, Ruby, is a completely normal teenager whom I found slightly annoying in the first book, but still likeable, if superficial. She’s pretty young, I think. I enjoyed her much more in the second book, and would gladly read more of these books if they existed.