Tag Archives: rating: four-stars

Ember by Brock Adams

Ember

Ember by Brock Adams

Published by: Hub City Press on September 21, 2017
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

The sun began to die three years ago, causing the leaders of the world to come together to try to find a solution. That solution was to launch the entire world’s nuclear weapons stock in an attempt to kick start the glowing ember into some sort of rebirth. But when the day comes when they should have reached their target, there are no signs that anything has changed. Lisa and her husband, Guy, have been hanging on to hope, though they are unsure how long they should hold on. And when a group of militants calling themselves the Minutemen emerge with weapons and begin taking over various cities, Lisa and Guy set out on the run, hoping they might find a safe place to settle down and continue to hope for the future.

I found myself intrigued by the concept of this story. Yes, end-of-the-world stories have been told time and time again. And many times we see the plight of the protagonists against whatever natural disaster is responsible for bringing everything down. But there is a strong human element to this story that is compelling and stands out as unique. Lisa’s journey is one that takes her to some unexpected places and brings readers right along with her.

Provenance by Ann Leckie

Provenance

Provenance by Ann Leckie

Published by: Orbit on September 26, 2017
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Ingray has a plan that will show up her brother and secure her inheritance. She just has to facilitate getting a criminal out of prison and get them back to her home planet in one piece. But she had not planned for obstacles like the intervention of another alien race and a case of mistaken identity throwing entire plan off course. A murder and a major betrayal later, and she begins to wonder if the whole thing was just a giant mistake. But she can’t spend too much time wondering when the fate of her planet and her people are at stake.

This story throws you right into Ingray’s world, and there is no turning back. Leckie has built a rich world that has a number of layers that reveal themselves as the story goes on. There are a number of unexpected twists and turns that kept me in the story and guessing where things might go next. There were some moments where I felt like it was tough to follow some of the characters, but they were not enough to truly distract from the overall story. I definitely recommend this for science fiction fans.

What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton

What Happened

What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton

Published by: Simon & Schuster on September 12, 2017
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

In what can only be described as a candid and open narrative, Hillary Rodham Clinton shares with readers her thoughts, experiences, and feelings during the course of the 2016 Presidential Election. Covering everything from what influenced her decision to run in the first place and the momentum of her campaign to what was going through her head during the debates and how she handled election night and the time since her unexpected and unprecedented loss

Before picking this up, I had heard the commentary that this was just Hillary listing out excuses for her loss, but it is not that at all. There’s a sense of honesty in the narrative, while the author is clear to recognize that what readers are getting her perspective and opinion. But when one considers how much the media was focused on her opponent during the election cycle (and he always told everyone exactly what he was thinking), it provides a balance to the existing public narrative. I personally also found it to be an inspiring read–I’m quite glad I picked it up.

The Fifth Petal by Brunonia Barry

The Fifth Petal

The Fifth Petal by Brunonia Barry

Published by: Crown on January 24, 2017
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

The mysterious death of a young man on Halloween night leaves Salem’s Chief of Police, John Rafferty, wondering about a possible connection to a triple homicide that occurred on Halloween night in 1989. Of course, one of the reasons they might be related is that Rose Whelan was present at the scene of both crimes, and in both cases she said something about a banshee being responsible for the killings. Rafferty believes Rose is not a murderer, and he’s set out to prove it. His quest is bolstered by the return to Salem of Callie Cahill, the daughter of one of the original victims and a witness to some of that night’s events. But unearthing the truth proves to be potentially dangerous for them both. If the murderer was an evil spiritual force, are they prepared to take it on? And if the perpetrator is of the more mundane criminal variety, they’ve carried the secret and covered their tracks for almost 30 years–so they might just stop at nothing to keep it that way.

This is a tale of intrigue across decades that ties back across centuries. Questions abound about who can be trusted and who cannot. Some in town have been carrying secrets that they don’t want to get out, which in itself provides a recipe for danger and disaster. But the ways in which those secrets connect (and the possibility of a supernatural element thrown in) provide a path to figuring out what happened all those years ago. If Rafferty and Callie can stay out of the crosshairs…

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

They Both Die at the End

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

Published by: HarperTeen on September 5, 2017
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

In a future where people receive a phone call on the day they will die to let them know it is their last day, Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio happen to get the call on the same day. Total strangers to each other, they meet up on an app called Last Friend and decide to spend their End Day together. For Mateo, it’s an opportunity to step outside of the cautious life he’s lived to find some adventure and tie up loose ends. For Rufus, who has a number of his own challenges to work through, a day with Mateo provides a chance to be a bit more carefree on his last day while spending his time with someone who understands exactly what he’s going through. And both find that it truly is amazing how deeply a bond can form in less than 24 hours…

This is a moving and thought-provoking book. Of course, it raises the obvious questions about whether one would want to know they were going to die or simply let it come as it does. And there’s the question of how we choose to live our lives on a day-to-day basis–live every day as if it’s your last or save that for your actual last day? And what does living your life as though it’s your last day really mean? The chances we don’t take may sometimes be just as impactful on our lives as the ones we do. And even though the title tells you exactly where this book is headed, I found I was still completely gutted when I got there. These two characters and the world in which they live really comes to life on these pages, and I found myself lost in the book and hoping–even just for a moment–for an ending that I (and Rufus and Mateo) knew deep down wasn’t possible.

 

Nocturne by Irene Preston and Liv Rancourt

Nocturne

Nocturne by Irene Preston & Liv Rancourt

Series: Hours of the Night, Book 2
Published by:
 Prescourt Books on October 12, 2017
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

When a prominent society lady (and, as it turns out, essentially the head of a powerful coven) mysteriously dies at her own party, the only thing anyone knows for certain is that foul play is more than suspected. So it’s also no surprise that Thaddeus and Sarasija find themselves working to track down the murderer. And if it’s not enough to be on the trail of someone (or something) nefarious, they still need to track down the missing grimoire (a.k.a. guide to demon summoning) while Thaddeus is struggling to keep himself in control and Sara is having strange dreams that he is keeping to himself. Recipe for disaster? Probably. But these two just might be up to the challenge.

I was excited to see another installment in this series. There was something about Thaddeus and Sara that drew me in when I read Vespers, and that something is definitely still here. These two have experiences that are so different–they’re even from different eras, really–and through those differences they have managed to find something that works for them. Now, sometimes it doesn’t work as well as others, but I think it’s safe to say that is true of nearly any relationship. There are some unexpected twists to rush down in reading this story, and–I’ll just put it out there now–there are some unanswered questions that remain at the end. But that’s what book three is for, right?

[Disclaimer: This review is based on an advance reading copy provided by the authors.]

We Now Return to Regular Life by Martin Wilson

We Now Return to Regular Life

We Now Return to Regular Life by Martin Wilson

Published by: Dial Books on August 1, 2017
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Sam Walsh went missing three years ago, presumed kidnapped and gone without a trace. His older sister, Beth, believed he was dead. His best friend, Josh, was wracked with guilt that maybe he could have done something to stop him from being taken. They both worried that they somehow contributed to Sam’s disappearance. But when Sam is found alive, their worlds change all over again. While Sam is indeed Sam, his experience and his ordeal have changed him. As Beth and Josh deal with relating to the new Sam, Sam also needs to find a way to adapt to his own new reality. And then there’s the age-old question: Do we talk about everything that happened as a means of processing it, or do we keep it all bottled up with the hope that we can just move past it? And the answer may be somewhere in between–a happy medium that is different for all three of them.

Told from the perspectives of Beth and Josh, this is a powerful and poignant story about love, regret, growing up, secrets, trauma, and simply dealing with the realities of life. This is likely to be a challenging read for some, especially considering the truth of what happened to Sam. But the author deals with the subject matter in a real and raw way, while demonstrating a sensitivity to Sam and to the others affected and impacted by the ordeal. There is no quick fix here for anyone. And sometimes we have to open doors when we know we won’t like what’s on the other side because if we leave the door closed, what’s there will simply continue to haunt us. There’s a lot for these teenagers to deal with in this story, but there’s also a strength that each one of them demonstrates that I can only say is inspiring and instructional.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Published by: Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers on February 21, 2012
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Aristotle (Ari) could be described as a bit of a loner, keeping people at least an arm’s length away. But when he goes to the swimming pool one day in the summer (even though he can’t really swim), he finds a potential new friend in Dante. Although Dante is also a bit of a loner, he’s less jaded and more spirited than Ari, which seems at first like it may not bode well for a budding friendship. As the two get to know each other better, however, they learn that they can find commonality even in their differences. They face a number of challenges, both individually and together, that bring them together in ways neither expected.

This is a beautifully-written and compelling narrative. Written from Ari’s perspective, there is an authenticity to the narration that brings the characters to life on the page. The development of the characters (including those in the background) is defined and believable, presented in ways that make sense in the context of the plot and that keep readers connected to and grounded in this universe. Incredibly enjoyable and moving at the same time.

 

Pay It Forward by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Pay It Forward

Pay It Forward by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Published by: Simon & Schuster in 1999 (original publication)
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Reuben St. Clair has given an extra credit assignment in his social studies class for years, asking students to come up with something they can do to change the world for the better. But never has he seen a student take the project as seriously as Trevor McKinney whose project, “Pay It Forward,” has wide-reaching and unexpected effects that create a national movement. The simplicity of Trevor’s idea makes it easy to achieve, and his dedication to seeing it through invigorates the project with a real spirit. But his dedication to its success might also blind him to the the actual successes it is achieving overall. In the end, this is a story about how a little extra kindness in our world can go a long way to make a difference for those we help but also stretch to people we have never even met.

I did really enjoy this book, but I must tell you it immediately made me dislike the film (I think I was only a chapter in . Unfortunately, the film is white-washed in a number of ways and important content that apparently wouldn’t play well to mainstream filmgoers at the time of the movie’s release (alcoholism, child abuse, LGBT characters, hate crimes, etc.) was written out of the film adaptation. And what’s sad is that the story is far less powerful for it. I do encourage people to read the book, even if you’ve seen the movie (and liked it or didn’t), as I think the story in its original form is impactful, inspiring, and interesting.

Insight by Tasha Eurich

Insight

Insight: Why We’re Not as Self-Aware as We Think, and How Seeing Ourselves Clearly Helps Us Succeed at Work and in Life by Tasha Eurich

Published by: Crown on May 2, 2017
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Self-awareness has become somewhat of a buzzword in the business and education sectors. And it seems to make sense. After all, the way we work with others, the way we lead, and the way we work to deliver results all comes back to understanding who we are and how others perceive us. But self-awareness is not simply acquired through a little light introspection and then calling it good. As Tasha Eurich points out in this book, self-awareness is developed and refined over time, and it often involves doing some work that is uncomfortable and sometimes undesirable. But when one considers that leaders and teams who lack self-awareness consistency perform a much lower levels than those who exhibit healthier levels of self-awareness, it is something that cannot be ignored. The more self-aware individual is not only more productive and fulfilled at work, but they also tend to be happier outside of work and more likely to achieve their personal goals. Eurich provides a number of strategies that readers can use to develop their own self-awareness while also offering tactics for dealing with those we encounter in work and in life who are not self-aware (and especially those who have no apparent desire to get there, either).

[Disclaimer: This review is based on a copy of the book provided by the publisher via Blogging For Books.]