Category Archives: Reviews

Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

Flame in the Mist

Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

Series: Flame in the Mist, Book 1
Published by: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers on May 16, 2017
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Mariko, the daughter of an influential samurai, finds she has few choices in life. Though she is intelligent, skilled, and driven, her place is to marry the son of the emperor and do her duty to her family. But when her convoy is attacked by the Black Clan on her way to the imperial city, Mariko escapes and finds herself alone. Using her cunning, Mariko infiltrates the Black Clan in disguise, and she soon learns there is more to the story of this rogue gang that she had imagined. She also finds that the Black Clan values her knowledge and skills in a way her family never seemed to do. And as she grows closer to the Black Clan’s leader, she finds she may need to make a hard decision about whether her duty to her family is the most important thing for her to consider.

I was a little uncertain of what to expect when I started this book, having only scanned the blurb but hearing a lot of buzz about it beforehand. It is certainly an intriguing story, one where history, social class, and vengeance are big influencers on the lives and actions of the characters. There are a few surprises along the way, which keep the story interesting, and it does a good job of setting up the rest of the series. I will note that while I have seen some categorizations of this as a young adult book, I question that–or at least place some caveats–because of some graphic depictions of violence that may not be appropriate for younger readers.

[Disclaimer: This review is based on an advance reading copy received from the publisher via the First to Read program.]

A Little Complicated by Kade Boehme

A Little Complicated

A Little Complicated by Kade Boehme

Published by: Kade Boehme on September 2, 2013
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Ryan Borja missed out on the perfect guy when he was in college. Brady Novak was everything Ryan could want. He was attractive, charming, funny, and caring. Ryan even had a soft spot for Brady’s daughter too. But Brady seemed more interested in Ryan’s sister, Ellie, so Ryan thought it best to move on. Now, years later, Ellie let Ryan know that Brady has moved in nearby. She ran into him and is looking to see if she can pick up where they left off. What she doesn’t know is that Ryan longs for the same chance. If only Brady was looking to do the same…

To me, it is often a mark of good writing when a book goes by quickly but tells a complete story. The flow here is excellent, and I reached the end of the book surprised that it had gone by so quickly but not for a moment feeling like anything was missing. The story is interesting–some interesting family dynamics at play on both sides–and is a nice read for a rainy day or a warm afternoon on the beach.

 

Playing for Keeps by Avery Cockburn

Playing for Keeps

Playing for Keeps by Avery Cockburn

Series: Glasgow Lads, Book 1
Published by: Avery Cockburn on June 17, 2015
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Fergus has been burned by love, and now he knows better than to mix it with his soccer team, which he is bound and determined to lead to a winning season. And when a determined–and quite attractive–lad shows up with an offer for the team to participate in a charity match, Fergus sees it as a perfect opportunity to rally the team and get them some exposure at the same time. It’s just that, well, having this guy around makes it very hard to stick to his new rules.

John has always kept guys at an arm’s length. It hasn’t stopped him from taking a guy home, but he knows it can never be more than that. No one can know the truth about John’s family, and he is determined to keep it that way. Until he sets his sights on Fergus, and he knows he needs to leave his family’s secret behind. But will Fergus be able to accept him if he knows the truth?

Honesty. Is it really always the best policy? And if it is, when is the best time to enact it? Do people have the right to reveal themselves in their own time? Or when entering a relationship, is there an obligation to put it all out there, even if it seems likely the other person will not be able to accept it? For John and Fergus, every one of these questions is put to the test. And when you’re dealing with people who have been burned by secrets and dishonesty in the past, it just adds fuel to the fire in trying to create, maintain, and grow a relationship. And in this case, it leads to some unintended and unexpected explosions.

Eleanor by Jason Gurley

Eleanor

Eleanor by Jason Gurley

Published by: Broadway Books on March 7, 2017
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Eleanor’s twin sister, Esmerelda, died in a tragic car accident that nearly broke her family. Her mother, Agnes, lost her mother at a young age, and the loss of another family member may very well have proved too much. But when Eleanor begins to experience strange moments where she is transported to mysterious places, an already unstable situation appears like it might only get worse. But the force behind all of this is one that Eleanor never would have expected. And it just might lead to a solution from across time that can help heal her family and make it whole once again.

The story here is honestly a bit surreal and comes across as a bit strange at first. But as things move forward, the connections between the various characters–those named and those unnamed–starts to become clear. And the power of grief and love to transcend the impossible is illustrated in some unexpected ways.

[Disclaimer: This review is based on a copy of the book received from the publisher via the Blogging for Books program.]

Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki

Woman No. 17

Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki

Published by: Hogarth on May 9, 2017
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Author Lady Daniels needs to finish her memoir. And now that she’s separated from her husband, she realizes she may need some help. And that help comes in the form of S., a young artist who is willing to work as a nanny to make ends meet. She connects right away with Lady’s younger son, and Lady’s capable-of-taking-care-of-himself older son, Seth, does not seem to mind her all that much either. But as everyone in the house gets to know each other better, secrets bubble to the surface that everyone hoped would stay hidden. And sometimes the truth can be the most poisonous of all…

I found this to be an enjoyable and interesting read. There’s quite a bit of embedded commentary here on mother-daughter dynamics, both between Lady and S. and between each of them and their own mothers. Add in the interactions between Lady and her two sons, and there might be more here about parent-child relationships in general. And, of course, there is the question of truth and omission of fact. Is it okay to keep information from someone if you think it will protect them or make their life easier? Or is that really up to anyone else to decide besides the person it all affects? And when our secrets are revealed, regardless of how it happens, do we really have anyone else to blame but ourselves?

[Disclaimer: This review is based on an advance reading copy provided by the publisher via the First to Read program.]

There Your Heart Lies by Mary Gordon

There Your Heart Lies

There Your Heart Lies by Mary Gordon

Published by: Pantheon Books on May 9, 2017
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Marian never really felt like she fit with the rest of her family, with the exception of her brother, Johnny, who she felt was truly a kindred spirit. And after his tragic death, she broke ties with them and headed to Europe to volunteer during the Spanish Civil War. Now in her nineties, Marian relays her experiences to her granddaughter, Amelia, telling a story that spans two continents and over seven decades. Having been tested by family, friends, strangers, and circumstances, Marian’s story challenges notions of what it means to be a woman, a sister, a daughter, a mother, and a moral person in the face of adversity.

If you enjoy historical fiction and character studies, then this is a book you would be likely to enjoy. Mary Gordon weaves a tale that keeps you turning the pages, watching and waiting to see what happens next in Marian’s journey. Her story is a reflection of an eventful life lived, one of a woman who did the best she could despite the circumstances in which she found herself.

Cold Summer by Gwen Cole

Cold Summer

Cold Summer by Gwen Cole

Published by: Sky Pony Press on May 2, 2017
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Kale Jackson has an exciting special ability, but it is one that he is beginning to think is not quite so exciting anymore. He travels through time. That might sound fascinating to many people, but Kale cannot control it. Though he can usually tell when he’s likely to travel shortly before he does, he can’t stop it or force it to happen. And with his recent travels taking him back to World War II, fighting on the front lines as a sharpshooter, the danger has taken much of the fun out of the whole experience. Of course there’s also the fact that he cannot explain to most people why he disappears for days at a time without any notice. They would never believe him–including his own father.

But one person who has always believed Kale is Harper, a childhood friend who used to live next door. And when Kale finds out she’s returned for the summer, he has the smallest glimmer of hope that quickly fades. In the years that have gone by Kale has changed. But so has Harper. Although she promised she would never ask Kale where he travels, she is more assertive and insistent that Kale not resign himself to being alone. The two quickly reforge a friendship that has the potential to become something more. That is, until Harper looks up Kale’s involvement in World War II online. What she finds has the potential to change everything.
This is a wonderfully written young adult science fiction story that doesn’t rely on all of the tropes that are so common these days in the genre. Yes, there’s angst and a budding relationship, but they don’t drive the story. Instead we see Kale, a young man who feels very much at the mercy of this thing he can’t control or explain, finding his way back to feeling like he has some agency over his life. And we see Harper, a young woman who has recently claimed her own agency, working to feel comfortable with her choices while trying to help Kale do the same. And everyone will have to love Uncle Jasper. Definitely recommended reading!

[Disclaimer: This review is based on an advance review copy provided by the publisher via Edelweiss.]

The Wingsnatchers by Sarah Jean Horwitz

The Wingsnatchers

The Wingsnatchers by Sarah Jean Horwitz

Series: Carmer and Grit, Book 1
Published by: Algonquin Young Readers on April 25, 2017
Rating: 5 stars (★★★★★)

Felix Carmer III, aspiring inventor and tinkerer, sees his work as a magician’s apprentice as worthwhile but only a means to an end. But with his employer’s show not doing so well as of late, he finds himself invested in helping them win the grand prize in a magic competition–which may be more difficult than it seems. When he unexpectedly crosses paths with a faerie–a faerie??–he learns that there is a real magic that goes well beyond the tricks they perform in the show. But he also learns things that make him question some of the scientific advancements that have recently intrigued him as well.

Grit, faerie princess of the Seelie court, has never really felt like she fit in anywhere. Yes, she’s a princess, but she was born with only one wing and many would say she doesn’t act like a princess. But she isn’t going to set aside her sense of adventure or curiosity just because it is what people expect of her. And when faeries from across Skemantis start disappearing, she finds herself on a quest to help find out who is behind it. And that quest brings her to a young magician’s apprentice named Carmer. And while he seems an unlikely ally, he may just be the one person who can help her find out what is going on and put an end to it before more faeries are hurt.

I do not give many five-star ratings, but there was no question for me when I finished this book that it deserves it. I found myself quickly lost in the world of Skemantis, invested in the characters, and drawn to turn each page by wonderful pacing, description, and action. I particularly enjoyed the partnership between Carmer and Grit, both the way it developed and the dynamic between the two of them as the story drove on. For the first book in a series, this is a great start, and I look forward to reading future installments.

[Disclaimer: This review is based on an advance reading copy of the book received from the publisher in advance of publication.]

Ace in the Hole by Ava Drake

Ace in the Hole

Ace in the Hole by Ava Drake

Series: Wild Cards, Book 1
Published by: Dreamspinner Press on July 1, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Christian Chatsworth-Brandeis is nothing if not devoted to his job. And even though the senator he works for is probably not the greatest human being on the planet, Christian is not going to let him down. Besides, it is only for a few more years and then he can be on to something bigger and better. But when a series of threats against the senator lead to the hiring of an additional security team–one that includes Stone Jackson–things go in some unexpected directions. And the almost completely fall off the rails when the senator disappears right before a series of important public appearances and fundraising events. But Christian has a plan…and he can only hope that his burning attraction for Stone–something it’s clear is reciprocal–doesn’t get in the way.

Fun. Lighthearted. Original. Steamy. These are all words I would use to describe this book. It is written in an engaging and entertaining style, and I found myself quickly drawn in to Christian and Stone’s world. It is well worth a read, and is the first book in a series so I am looking forward to what’s to come…

Gone Without a Trace by Mary Torjussen

Gone Without a Trace

Gone Without a Trace by Mary Torjussen

Published by: Berkley Books on April 18, 2017
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Hannah comes home one day to find her boyfriend has completely disappeared. It’s not just that he’s not at home. Everything of his is gone. He’s disappeared from her social media. His phone number is missing from her contacts. And his place of employment says he no longer works there. It’s as though his entire existence was a figment of her imagination. Except she knows it wasn’t. And her friends can confirm that for her. But where did he go? And why did he leave? And why do things keep turning up in her apartment when she’s not home? And why does she have the feeling that someone is watching her from a distance? She’s determined to find answers, regardless of what it means for everything else in her life.

This is definitely a page-turner. It opens with such an incredible question: How can someone completely disappear from your life? And did they do so willingly or should you immediately suspect foul play of some kind? Hannah feels like she might be losing her mind, and there’s clearly good reason why she may feel that way. The complicated web of connections and the untangling of it that is the plot of this story will keep you wondering right through to the end of the book.

[This review is based on an advance review copy received from the publisher via the First to Read program.]