Tag: relationships

Book Review: Firebrand, by Sarah MacTavish

firebrand

Way back in…March, I think…I went to a local author event, mainly because Rachel Caine was going to be there, and I love her writing. I’d heard her speak before, and was pleased to have another opportunity. There was another author there, Sarah MacTavish, and I really enjoyed her talk as well. So, I ended up buying her debut novel, Firebrand. And it’s been sitting in that particular TBR pile until last week. Yes, I stockpile books…and then don’t have a chance to read them for months. I have a problem, okay?

When I did pick it up, I finished reading it in less than 24 hours. It was that good. It’s set right before the Civil War, and its about two young abolitionists and the struggles they face. I like historical fiction, but I thought this YA historical was extremely well-written, and I found myself rooting for the characters. (Also, I’m from Texas, not too far from where part of the book is set, and I had no idea about some of the things in the novel.) This book deals with difficult events and topics, but it’s history:  if we don’t learn from it, we’re doomed to repeat it.

Saoirse Callahan and her family are struggling to survive on their small Texas farm that’s a far cry from their home in Ireland. Tempers are short, and after the death of one of her brothers, the whole family seems on the verge of collapsing. Then a series of fires sweep the region, and rumors of a slave uprising spread, leaving vigilante justice in their wake. Saoirse is desperate to find out what really happened, but her questions land her family in even deeper trouble.

Westleigh Kavanagh is safely an abolitionist in Pennsylvania, until he realizes his father’s new boarder is a runaway slave. Westleigh is determined to keep the man’s secret, even from his father, who, as sheriff, is bound to uphold the law, no matter what his personal beliefs are. Then Westleigh finds an old journal, and uncovers secrets his father has long kept hidden from him, secrets that lead him to the Callahans in  Texas.

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Book Review: Lilac Lane, by Sherryl Woods

lilac lane

Keira Malone raised her three kids alone when their father decided drinking was more important. When she finally allowed herself to love again, her fiancé died of a heart attack. Now she leaves Ireland behind for Maryland to spend time with her daughter and new granddaughter, and to help her son-in-law with his Irish pub.

She butts heads with Bryan Laramie, the moody chef at the pub, and more than sparks fly as the two try to decide who knows best. Once they reach a truce, Bryan’s long-lost daughter shows up, and he must deal with unresolved issues from the past, when he last saw his daughter as a baby. And Keira has her own issues:  having been so unlucky with love twice, is it even worth the effort? While the two try to sort out their problems, the rest of the town takes sides for the upcoming Fall Festival Irish Stew cook-off, where they will match up to decide who’s really best in the kitchen.

Sherryl Woods is the author of more than 100 novels. Lilac Lane is her newest novel, the 14th book in the Chesapeake Shores series.

(Galley provided by Harlequin/MIRA via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Kissing Max Holden, by Katy Upperman

kissing max holden
Image belongs to Swoon Reads.

Jillian Eldridge has lived next door to Max Holden for years. They grew up together, going through life as friends who just happened to live close. But lately, they haven’t been so close. Not since Max’s dad had a stroke, and Max took a dark detour as he struggled to deal with the way his life has changed. When Max climbs through her window one night, lost and looking for a friend, Jill just can’t turn her back on him, and her dad catches them kissing.

Jillian knew it was a terrible idea even before her dad caught them. Max has issues. And a girlfriend. But the lost look in her friend’s eyes made her forget all of that. Her parents are fighting all the time and she has a new sibling on the way, so Jillian needs someone she can turn to. She’s not sure Max is the right person for that, but she’s not sure she can resist finding out.

A lot of people think YA books just deal with romance and popularity contests, but that just isn’t the case. Kissing Max Holden does have romance, of course, but it deals with deep issues:  family tragedy, troubled marriages, hard decisions. Jillian is a great character, driven and determined, who faces obstacles to her dreams that she never imagined. Max is struggling with almost losing his father and the immense changes in his family, and he copes by turning to things he knows he shouldn’t. Max and Jillian help each other with the battles they face, as their friendship turns to something more. Sweet with the spice of adversity, Kissing Max Holden is a great read that will keep you turning the pages long after you should be sleeping (ask me how I know).

Katy Upperman is a writer who loves country music and Instagram. Her debut novel is Kissing Max Holden.

(Galley provided by Swoon Reads via NetGalley.)

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.)

Book Review: Dream Me, by Kathryn Berla

dream me
Image belongs to Amberjack Publishing.

Babe is always the new girl in town. Always. So, when her family moves to Florida one summer, she doesn’t expect much, just a regular life working for the local country club and its upper-class members. But she makes friends and starts to imagine a life there. Then the headaches start, terrible, blinding ones that seem to be caused by the dreams she has every single night.

Zat is a dreamer from a far distant future where people no longer dream and Earth is dying. In his dreams, he sees red-haired Babe and longs to experience the life she embraces. Instead of leaving Earth with his family, he chooses to travel back in time and live in Babe’s dreams, but he never imagines those dreams will cause her so much pain. While Babe clings to their dream life together, Zat tries to pull away so he no longer hurts her. Soon they must make a choice between dreams and reality.

I’ve read some great books lately, and Dream Me is one of them. The whole premise is unique, since Zat only exists in Babe’s dreams, but the characters are so vivid they feel like I know them personally. Zat’s bleak existence made me feel sorry for him, and I could relate to Babe’s tough exterior, caused by her challenging life. These characters are deep and compelling, and the novel blends YA with fantasy seamlessly, with an added does of mystery—what is Zat hiding? Will they find a solution? Even the setting—the steamy Florida coast—lives and breathes on the page. If you love YA, fantasy, romance, or sci-fi, you should read this!

Kathryn Berla lives in San Francisco. Her newest novel, Dream Me, hits shelves on July 11th.

(Galley provided by Amberjack Publishing in return for an honest review.)

Book Review: Love, Alabama, by Susan Sands

Love, Alabama
Image belongs to Tule Publishing.

Susan Sands is from Louisiana, but lives in Georgia now. Love, Alabama is the second book in the Alabama series.

Emma Laroux had it all in college:  a shot at the Miss America title, a bright future, and a charming boyfriend she loved. But all of that disappeared because of a night she can’t remember, a night full of scandal that cost her her boyfriend and caused her to walk away from her title. Now she’s settled in her small home town, happy with her life as a pageant coach.

Except it’s been years since she dated anyone, and she’s not sure why. Sure, it would be nice to have kids, but the men aren’t exactly beating down her door. Then Matthew Pope arrives in town. He’s not happy to be back in the South, and when he sees Emma, he remembers that fateful night ten years before, when she was in trouble and he came to her rescue. But Emma doesn’t remember Matthew, and soon the past starts to haunt the two of them, interfering with the attraction growing between them.

I love book series set in the same location, where characters I loved in previous books appear in the current one, and you find out what’s going on in their lives. This is a series like that, and although I haven’t read Again, Alabama, I love the sense of family that links the two books. And the picture of small-town Southern life is scarily accurate, complete with nosy neighbors and former beauty queens with attitudes.

(Galley provided by Tule Publishing via NetGalley.)

Book Review: All the Forever Things, by Jolene Perry

all the forever things
All the Forever Things, by Jolene Perry. Image belongs to Albert Whitman & Company.

Jolene Perry lives in Alaska and writes young adult fiction. Her newest books is All the Forever Things.

Gabe’s family runs a funeral home, so she knows about death and the truth about life:  everything ends. Gabe has embraced her reputation and her Wednesday Addams-vibe, complete with vintage clothes and an I-don’t-care attitude. Her best friend, Bree, is all she needs, someone who understands the weirdness of her life and loves her anyway.

But when Bree starts dating a boy who is the epitome of everything Gabe—and Bree—has hated for years, she wonders if the really knows the truth, or if she knows Bree at all. The only one she can turn to is new boy Hartman, who doesn’t know quite what to make of Gabe, but who gets Gabe out of her shell anyway. Driving a hearse to prom will change Gabe’s life more than she ever imagined.

All the Forever Things is an enjoyable read. Gabe is a character I both loved and sympathized with, and her faux pas and missteps made me laugh and cringe at the same time. Her friendship with Bree broke my heart, and made me hope everything would work out for the two of them, and Hartman is a wonderful contrast for Gabe. If you love young adult books, definitely pick this one up.

(Galley provided by Albert Whitman & Company.)

The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett, by Chelsea Sedoti

lizzie
Image belongs to Sourcebooks Fire.

Chelsea Sedoti lives in Las Vegas, but hates casinos. She prefers the Mohave Desert, animals, and writing about flawed teenagers who refuse to grow up. Her novel, The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett, just released.

Hawthorn Creely has one friend, a brother who ignores her, a mother with an embarrassing past, and enough social anxiety to kill a cat. She and the “in” crowd don’t exactly mesh—Hawthorn got burned by one of them years ago, and is still scarred for life. When it-girl Lizzie Lovett disappears, the whole town turns out to search for her, and that’s all anyone talks about. Except Hawthorn. What’s the big deal? Most of the people obsessing about Lizzie don’t even know her.

But soon Hawthorn finds herself wondering what happened to Lizzie, and comes up with a theory so crazy even she can’t believe it. Or can she?  To find out the truth, Hawthorn gets a job at the diner Lizzy worked at and befriends Lizzie’s boyfriend, who everybody thinks killed her. But that’s just ridiculous, isn’t it? As Hawthorn’s obsession with Lizzie Lovett grows, she soon realizes nothing is as she once thought it was.

I loved this book. Hawthorn is a somewhat-unreliable narrator, but aren’t we all? She is overflowing with life, but relating to people is not her strong point. She says what she thinks—and that often results in misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and/or disaster. The family dynamics in this book are complex, and give the reader a glimpse into just why Hawthorn feels like such an outsider in her life. Obsessive, curious, and awkward, Hawthorn is all of us personified. I highly recommend this!

(Galley provided by Sourcebooks Fire via NetGalley.)

Did I Mention I Miss You? by Estelle Maskame

did-i-mention-i-miss-you
Image belongs to Sourcebooks Fire.

Estelle Maskame is the author of the Wattpad sensation Did I Mention I Love You? trilogy. Did I Mention I Miss You? is the final book.

Eden hasn’t spoken with Tyler in over a year. After he left her, she started a new life at a school in Chicago, and tried to forget about Tyler. Now she’s just angry at him, and she never wants to speak to him again. But back in Santa Monica for the summer, it’s hard to forget Tyler when she’s surrounded by things that remind her of him.

And she’s not the only one who returns to Santa Monica. Tyler has made a new life for himself, and he wants Eden in it. Eden is confused by this new Tyler, and she’s not sure if she can ever forgive him. But when family conflict draws them together, Eden must decide if Tyler is worth everything he’s put her through.

Okay, I’ll admit it:  cheesy high school movies are a guilty pleasure of mine. Think Ten Things I Hate About You and Save the Last Dance. I also love reading books like that, and the DIMILY trilogy fits nicely in there. It’s been fun seeing Eden and Tyler change and grow throughout the books, and this is an enjoyable ending to a series I liked.

(Galley provided by Sourcebooks Fire via NetGalley.)

The Tea Planter’s Wife, by Dinah Jeffries

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I do not own this image. Image belongs to Crown Publishing.

Dinah Jeffries was born in Malaysia but moved to England at age nine. Her newest novel is The Tea Planter’s Wife.

Gwen arrives in Ceylon full of anticipation and fear:  newly married after a whirlwind courtship, now she joins her husband, Laurence, on his tea plantation. Ceylon is so much more than Gwen ever imagined:  a lush, other-worldly paradise filled with racial conflict and secrets. Lots of secrets.

Like the hidden grave she finds near the house. And the trunk of old baby clothes. Laurence won’t talk about these secrets, and soon Gwen is wrapped up in her pregnancy and a secret of her own. These secrets put up a wall between Gwen and Laurence, one that leads to more secrets, lies and manipulation, and a tragedy of the worst sort.

Some books leave you speechless and emotionally reeling. This was one of those books. Ceylon is so vivid and brimming with life I could almost smell the flowers and the tea. Gwen and Laurence are flawed and frightened, but love each other so much and so deeply as their relationship grows. Their secrets haunt them both through every page of the book. This book is a phenomenal, emotional rollercoaster!

(Galley provided by Crown Publishing.)