Book Reviews, Lists, Discussions, and Displays

Tag: February 2020

Book Review: Your Team Loves Mondays…Right?

Your Team Loves Mondays…Right? – Kristin Sherry – Black Rose Writing – Published 20 February 2020

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Synopsis

According to Gallup research, 9 out of 10 people are not naturally wired to manage people. Yet, two-thirds of managers are thrown into supervising people without direction. Kristin Sherry had a similar experience leading a team of 31 people for the first time without preparation.

Packed with practical tools, frameworks and tips to grow your confidence and people management capabilities, this book will help you discover if management is the best fit for your talents, reveal directing and delegating styles, offer strategies and tactics for hiring, onboarding, training, developing others, and retaining and offboarding employees.

Readers will find step-by-step support to create development plans, give feedback, motivate others and facilitate feedback sessions in this toolbox of actionable guidance.

Hard learned lessons combined with experience coaching managers to improve their skills are delivered in this easy-to-follow guide to earn your team’s respect, get better results and help your team love Mondays.

My thoughts

The title of this book is what caught my eye. I thought it was the perfect way of capturing when a team can have some difficulties working together, when personalities get in the way of productivity or working together. Your Team Loves Mondays…Right? is a practical guide to management, and encompasses a range of topics from key management traits to the entire process through onboarding to offbording.

This book is suitable for managers or for would-be managers. It’s also helpful to those of us who are not managers but must work in a team and under managers. There are practical tips and plenty of examples. Kristin A. Sherry writes from her vast practical experience.

The book starts with breaking down the most effective characteristics of managers and moves into an assessment for the reader’s management style and fit for managerial work. The book then moves into the many possible stages of management, from hiring workers, induction training, working with their teams and training them up to the way in which to best go about discharging employees.

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Book Review: The Shadows Between Us

The Shadows Between Us – Tricia Levenseller – Feiwel and Friends – Published 25 February 2020

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Synopsis

Alessandra is tired of being overlooked, but she has a plan to gain power:

1) Woo the Shadow King.
2) Marry him.
3) Kill him and take his kingdom for herself.

No one knows the extent of the freshly crowned Shadow King’s power. Some say he can command the shadows that swirl around him to do his bidding. Others say they speak to him, whispering the thoughts of his enemies. Regardless, Alessandra knows what she deserves, and she’s going to do everything within her power to get it.

But Alessandra’s not the only one trying to kill the king. As attempts on his life are made, she finds herself trying to keep him alive long enough for him to make her his queen—all while struggling not to lose her heart. After all, who better for a Shadow King than a cunning, villainous queen?

My thoughts

The Shadows Between Us is deviously, deliciously addictive. I was intrigued by the concept of a Slytherin romance, a story where the heroine was set on murder, deceit and gaining power, but I never imagined being so captured by the story, so entranced by Alessandra’s cunning and plotting, and honestly, even if everything else in this book was atrocious — which it certainly wasn’t — I would have stayed for the romance.

Alessandra has three goals. Draw the attention of the Shadow King. Marry him. Kill him and take the kingdom and the power of the throne for herself. She has no problem with step number one, but the Shadow King seems more set on a platonic arrangement between them rather than marriage as he hunts for his parents’ killer. And as a killer draws closer to the King, Alessandra will have to save the king’s life first if she wants to kill him herself.

Female empowerment. Alessandra radiates it. She does what she wants and plans to give that same power to as many women as possible. And while she isn’t exactly nice, she is fair and never judges. If her friends, or strangers, would rather not act as she does, if they have different plans for their lives and bodies, she is okay with that and believes everyone else should be too.

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Book Review: The Seventh Sun

The Seventh Sun – Lani Forbes – The Age of the Seventh Sun #1 – Blackstone Publishing – Published 18 February 2020

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Synopsis

Thrust into leadership upon the death of his emperor father, young Prince Ahkin feels completely unready for his new position. Though his royal blood controls the power of the sun, he’s now responsible for the lives of all the Chicome people. And despite all Ahkin’s efforts, the sun is fading–and the end of the world may be at hand.

For Mayana, the only daughter of the Chicome family whose blood controls the power of water, the old emperor’s death may mean that she is next. Prince Ahkin must be married before he can ascend the throne, and Mayana is one of six noble daughters presented to him as a possible wife. Those who are not chosen will be sacrificed to the gods.

Only one girl can become Ahkin’s bride. Mayana and Ahkin feel an immediate connection, but the gods themselves may be against them. Both recognize that the ancient rites of blood that keep the gods appeased may be harming the Chicome more than they help. As a bloodred comet and the fading sun bring a growing sense of dread, only two young people may hope to change their world.

My thoughts

The Seventh Sun is a hard-to-put-down fantasy with Aztec, Maya and Egyptian influences. A fight for the prince’s hand, magic that controls elements and animals, and blood protection that seems to be weakening, will one girl’s voice against the rules and traditions that dictate her world be enough to spark change?

When Prince Ahkin’s father, the Emperor of the Chicome people, dies suddenly, and his mother follows the emperor into the underworld, Ahkin must begin his reign. His first step will be choosing a bride to stand beside him. Mayana is a the daughter of Lord Atl, and when the emperor dies, she is chosen to compete for the honour of becoming the empress. But the girls not chosen will be sacrificed for the good of the empire. Ahkin and Mayana share a connection straight away, but Mayana hasn’t told Ahkin of her doubts about the sacrifices and it might change the way he views her.

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Book Review: A Galaxy of Sea Stars

A Galaxy of Sea Stars – Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo – Farrar, Straus and Giroux – Published 4 February 2020

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Synopsis

At a time when everything in her small town of Seaside, Rhode Island, seems like it’s changing, eleven-year-old Izzy Vitale wants things to stay the same. She wants her dad to start acting like he did before he was deployed to Afghanistan, she wants her mom to move back to the marina where they live, but most of all, she wants best friends – Piper and Zelda (dubbed the Sea Star Posse by their kindergarten teacher) – to stay best friends as they begin sixth grade at the regional middle school.

Then, Izzy’s father invites his former Army interpreter from Afghanistan and his whole family – including eleven-year-old Sitara — to move into the upstairs apartment at the marina. Izzy doesn’t know what to make of Sitara with her hijab and refusal to eat cafeteria food. She does know that her constant presence has become like a rogue wave disrupting the normally easy flow of the Sea Star Posse. But as Izzy gets to know Sitara, she can’t help but admire her self-confidence and pride in her Muslim faith. Little by little, Izzy begins to realize there exists a world much larger than her safe but insulated harbor in Seaside.

When hate messages start showing up at the girls school and at the marina, Izzy and Sitara team up to discover the source of the vandalism. But what Izzy ultimately learns, will force her to make a choice: remain silent and betray Sitara or speak up for what she knows is right – even if it means losing the Sea Star Posse forever.

My thoughts

A Galaxy of Sea Stars is middle grade fiction at its finest. These young girls are just discovering their independence but with these changes come challenges to long-held friendship, discovering things you never knew, looking at life differently and learning to look past your own experiences to consider the feelings of others.

Izzy and her two best friends are the Sea Stars, best friends since they were little. With a new school to navigate and new classes, Izzy is determined to keep the group together. When Izzy’s father invites the interpreter he worked with in Afghanistan and his family to move in, Izzy is worried. Why isn’t her mother moving back home and what will the Sea Stars say about Sitara, who is Izzy’s age and isn’t scared of standing out or explaining about her beliefs?

Izzy is an authentic young teen. She is struggling to balance what she knows and feels is right with trying desperately to hold onto what is comfortable and known in her life. She is right on the cusp of growing up – sometime sounding like a mature teen and other times reverting back to more childish displays of emotion (and sadly, even as an adult I could totally relate to these meltdowns). Growing up is hard, especially when navigating changes in schools, friendship and family circumstances. It’s something so many young people face today, especially family breakdown. Izzy wants her family to go back to the way it was and doesn’t understand why her mother can’t just come home. She also struggles to come to terms with the changes she has seen in her father since he has come back from serving in Afghanistan. These two points aren’t explored in too much depth, the focus of the story remains on other things, but Izzy does come to accept her mother’s choice, she loves and accepts her fathers, and her parents work harder at explaining things to Izzy and making her more comfortable with the new living arrangements.

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Book Review: Heart of Flames

Heart of Flames – Nicki Pau Preto – Crown of Feathers #2 – Simon Pulse – Published 11 February 2020

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Synopsis

Veronyka, Tristan, and Sev must stop the advancing empire from destroying the Phoenix Riders in this fiery sequel to Crown of Feathers, which #1 New York Times bestselling author Kendare Blake calls “absolutely unforgettable!”

You are a daughter of queens.

The world is balanced on the edge of a knife, and war is almost certain between the empire and the Phoenix Riders.

Like Nefyra before you, your life will be a trial by fire.

Veronyka finally got her wish to join the Riders, but while she’s supposed to be in training, all she really wants to do is fly out to defend the villages of Pyra from the advancing empire. Tristan has been promoted to Master Rider, but he has very different ideas about the best way to protect their people than his father, the commander. Sev has been sent to spy on the empire, but maintaining his cover may force him to fight on the wrong side of the war. And Veronyka’s sister, Val, is determined to regain the empire she lost—even if it means inciting the war herself.

Such is your inheritance. A name. A legacy. An empire in ruin.

As tensions reach a boiling point, the characters all find themselves drawn together into a fight that will shape the course of the empire—and determine the future of the Phoenix Riders. Each must decide how far they’re willing to go—and what they’re willing to lose in the process.

My thoughts

Heart of Flames is the second book in the Crown of Feathers series. This is an amazing fantasy series, with phoenixes (which are even cooler than dragons, if you can imagine that), and a cast of heart-strong and determined characters who must fight for the freedom to be themselves. I loved the second book even more than the first book – we get far more insight into the phoenixes, the complex world Nicki Pau Preto has created, and more romance – though with that ending I am now desperate for the third book.

Veronyka has been revealed as the girl she is, bonded with a phoenix and proved herself in the battle between Phoenix Riders and the advancing Golden Empire that was just the first step toward the promised war. Her sister, Val, who is actually Avalkyra reincarnated and determined to reclaim the throne no matter the cost, wants to use Veronyka to achieve her goal. Tristan is now a Master Rider but no closer to convincing his father Commander Cassian to use his Phoenix Riders to actively defend again the Empire. And Sev has returned to the Empire’s armed forces, this time as a spy reporting directly to Cassian. War looms but there are big secrets that, revealed, will change everything.

The world in which Heart of Flames is based is rich with details of a glorious and horrendous past. It’s all messy and complex. This doesn’t feel like a wonderful magical world that is only slightly out of balanced and in which the actions of just one or two people might be able to put it right again. In fact, it honestly all feels a little hopeless. But that’s what makes this book so epic and the roles of all the characters so important. Veronyka might be special in ways she is only just discovering but she alone could not even dream of creating a secure future, if one can be achieved at all. It will take the work of many and even then, the future of their world, much like our own, will be tainted by the war, destruction and mistakes of the past. There are many characters in this book and over 5 of them share the chapters in this book, but each one is vital to the story. I do admit to being a little confused about the complex history of the lands and ruling forces of each, but the little segments from history books that are spaced between each chapter help to reveal important details.

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Book Review: If You Only Knew

If You Only Knew – Prerna Pickett – Swoon Reads – Published 11 February 2020

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Synopsis

Corey has just been released from jail, and all he wants is a new beginning. But when his former gang comes knocking, Corey agrees to vandalize the home of Kent Hopper, the prosecutor who put him away.

To erase the guilt she carries from getting away with a crime, Tessa spends most of her nights riding her motorcycle. When she catches Corey destroying her father’s car, she doesn’t see a criminal: She sees a way to finally right her own wrongs. So instead of turning Corey over to the police, she convinces her father to give Corey a second chance.

As Tessa and Corey spend more time with each other, it becomes difficult to ignore the pull between them. But they’re both keeping secrets, and when those secrets come to light, they’ll each have to face their demons in order to have a future together.

My thoughts

If You Only Knew is perfect for readers who enjoy the grit and gang-backdrop romances of Simone Elkeles. This second-chance, hidden-secrets romance will have readers anxiously awaiting the fates of these never-meant-to-be characters and the trauma-filled pasts they must face to find hope in their futures.

Corey would do anything to protect his family, even taking up with the gang his father worked for, even taking the fall and going to jail for his least-favourite gang member. Tessa has a privileged life, but she carries the scars from her mother’s abandonment and the shame of the night she crossed the line between right and wrong. When Corey, freshly released from jail, is trapped into vandalising the home of his prosecutor, he comes face-to-face with Tessa. Tessa convinces her father to give Corey another chance as a way to atone for her own sins, and agrees to watch him as he works to restore their vandalised home. But Corey and Tessa have more in common then they realised, starting with attraction and ending with a whole heap of danger.

Can I start by saying I hate this book’s cover. I hope it is changed before it hits the shelves. It just gives it the whole wrong vibe. This is a dark, edgy, gritty novel. It’s about crime, gangs and mistakes. I get that the image is meant to reflect Corey’s graffiti work, but it just doesn’t work for me. Okay, that aside, this is a pretty quick book to read. It has a straightforward plot that is easy to predict and follow. There were a few surprises, especially the leader of the gang – didn’t see that coming! – but the appeal of this book comes from the edgy attraction between Corey and Tessa. Both have made mistakes, both want to make a different path for their future and both feel trapped by their choices. Together, they start to have hope. Tessa has a supportive and slightly abrasive cousin who also fulfils the role of best friend.

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Book Review: If For Any Reason

If For Any Reason – Courtney Walsh – Tyndale House Publishers – Published 3 February 2020

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Synopsis

Emily Ackerman has traveled the world, her constant compass and companion a book of letters her mother left for her when she died. With no father in the picture, her mom’s advice has been her only true north. But when professional failure leads Emily back to Nantucket to renovate and sell the family cottage she inherited, she wonders if her mom left advice to cover this . . . especially when her grandmother arrives to “supervise.” And especially when her heart becomes entangled with Hollis McGuire, the boy next door-turned-baseball star who’s back on the island after a career-ending injury.

As sparks fly between her and Hollis, Emily is drawn to island life, even as she uncovers shocking secrets about the tragic accident that led to her mother’s death. With her world turned upside down, Emily must choose between allowing the voices from her past to guide her future or forging her own path forward.

My thoughts

If For Any Reason is a charming summer read about second chances, connecting with your purpose in life and looking beyond the mistakes of your past. It’s a story about family and belonging. It’s easy to read with relatable characters and Courtney Walsh’s fantastic writing style. If For Any Reason is perfect fans of Christian contemporary romance.

Emily is returning to Nantucket Island. It holds good and bad memories- fun summers spent in the community theatre program and the year an accident took her mother away for ever. Now, after travelling aimlessly and an opportunity to direct her own play that ended in disaster, Emily has no choice but to return and claim the beach house her grandfather left her. She plans to do it up and sell it as quickly as possible, but she didn’t count on running into boy-next-door Hollis, who is now all grown up, or his charming daughter who inspires Emily to revive her love of theatre. As the summer warms up, Emily will have the chance to uncover the truth about her mother’s death, but it might change things forever.

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New Book Releases February 2020 – Young Adult Fiction

New Book Releases for February 2020 – Young Adult Fiction

Here’s my list of top picks for February 2020 new releases. What’s on your reading list? Click on covers for more details.

Children’s Fiction

A Galaxy of Sea Stars – Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo – Farrar Straus and Giroux – Published 4 February 2020

At a time when everything in her small town of Seaside, Rhode Island, seems like it’s changing, eleven-year-old Izzy Vitale wants things to stay the same. She wants her dad to start acting like he did before he was deployed to Afghanistan, she wants her mom to move back to the marina where they live, but most of all, she wants best friends – Piper and Zelda (dubbed the Sea Star Posse by their kindergarten teacher) – to stay best friends as they begin sixth grade at the regional middle school.

Then, Izzy’s father invites his former Army interpreter from Afghanistan and his whole family – including eleven-year-old Sitara — to move into the upstairs apartment at the marina.

Children’s fiction – Contemporary

Young Adult Fiction

Yes No Maybe So – Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed – Balzer + Bray – Published 4 February 2020

YES: Jamie Goldberg is cool with volunteering for his local state senate candidate—as long as he’s behind the scenes. No: Maya Rehman’s having the worst Ramadan ever. Why her mother thinks the solution to her problems is political canvassing—with some awkward dude she hardly knows—is beyond her. MAYBE SO
Going door to door isn’t exactly glamorous, but maybe it’s not the worst thing in the world.

Young adult fiction: Contemporary.


What I Want You To See – Catherine Linka – Disney-Hyperion – Published 4 February 2020

Winning a scholarship to California’s most prestigious art school seems like a fairy tale ending to Sabine Reye’s awful senior year. After losing both her mother and her home, Sabine longs for a place where she belongs.

But the cutthroat world of visual arts is nothing like what Sabine had imagined.

Young adult fiction: Contemporary

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New Book Releases February 2020 – Christian Fiction

New Book Releases for February 2020

Here is my list of top picks of new releases for February 2020. Click on the covers for more details.

 

Christian Fiction

If For Any Reason – Courtney Walsh – Tyndale – Published 3 February 2020

Emily Ackerman has traveled the world, her constant compass and companion a book of letters her mother left for her when she died. With no father in the picture, her mom’s advice has been her only true north. But when professional failure leads Emily back to Nantucket to renovate and sell the family cottage she inherited, she wonders if her mom left advice to cover this . . . especially when her grandmother arrives to “supervise.” And especially when her heart becomes entangled with Hollis McGuire, the boy next door-turned-baseball star who’s back on the island after a career-ending injury.

Christian fiction: Contemporary.

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Book Review: The Solid Grounds Coffee Company

The Solid Grounds Coffee Company – Carla Laureano – Supper Club #3 – Tyndale – Published 4 February 2020

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Synopsis

Analyn Sanchez can handle the long hours and arrogant clients that come with her job as a crisis management associate at Denver’s largest publicity firm. The high-powered job, expensive condo, and designer wardrobe are all part of her plan to prove to her family that her life choices haven’t been in vain. But when she’s asked to cover up a client’s misdeeds with serious moral and legal ramifications, she can no longer sacrifice her conscience for her career . . . and the cost is no less than her job.

Ever since a devastating climbing accident in South America eight months ago, and a bad decision that dried up his sponsorships, professional rock climber Bryan Shaw has found himself at similar loose ends. When the opportunity to buy a coffee farm in Colombia arises, he jumps on it–only to discover his wandering ways have left him utterly unprepared to run a business.

When Bryan returns home and offers Ana a role in his company as a solution to both their problems, she’s desperate enough to consider working with the far-too-flippant and far-too-handsome climber, even though he’s the polar opposite of her type A nature. As they delve deeper into the business, however, she begins to suspect there’s much more to Bryan than she’s given him credit for . . . and that sometimes the best plans are the ones you never see coming.

My thoughts

The Solid Grounds Coffee Company is such a delightful novel. I adored books one and two in this series and I was so keen to read this one I pushed it to the top of my rather large reading pile. And I’m so glad I did. I seriously love this series and I fell in love with Ana, Bryan, their coffee company venture and their romance. This book has everything I need – good food, great friendship, passionate kisses, faith and so much heart. I highly recommend this book and highly recommend the entire Supper Club series.

Ana is a publicist. It’s a high-style life, where keeping up appearances is a 24/7 occupation. But when a client asks her to cross moral and legal grounds and Ana refuses, she is asked to take a four month break from work. Bryan is a changed man. After a personal disaster and professional accident he left the world of rock climbing and purchased a coffee bean farm in Columbia. But his plans for creating a coffee roasting company could do with the guidance of a marketing guru. Ana and Bryan join forces, but they each vow to ignore the the physical attraction they’ve been dancing around for years.

This is a powerful story of second chances and learning from past mistakes. Bryan is very open about his past lifestyle and how he has now moved away from that. But he knows there are consequences and a long journey ahead of making different choices. Ana is only just starting to realise her life choices may not be want she actually wants, and she, too, has a past she’s kept very well hidden from the world. Ana and Bryan have far more in common than they realised and watching their friendship grow and mature, even as they fight the sparks of attraction, was so much fun.

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