Book Reviews, Lists, Discussions, and Displays

Tag: Four-stars (Page 1 of 35)

Book Review: The Hollow Inside

The Hollow Inside – Brooke Lauren Davis – Bloomsbury YA – Published 25 May 2021

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Synopsis

Phoenix and mom Nina have spent years on the road, using their charm and wits to swindle and steal to get by. Now they’ve made it to their ultimate destination, Mom’s hometown of Jasper Hollow. The plan: bring down Ellis Bowman, the man who ruined Nina’s life.

After Phoenix gets caught spying, she spins a convincing story that inadvertently gives her full access to the Bowman family. As she digs deeper into their secrets, she finds herself entrenched in the tale of a death and a disappearance that doesn’t entirely line up with what Mom has told her. Who, if anyone, is telling the whole truth?

My thoughts

The Hollow Inside is completely addictive but I also kind of wanted to read it between my fingers while covering my eyes as there is a near constant feeling of impending dread. Revenges, lies, betrayal, longing – a mystery thriller with so much heart.

I was so caught up in the world and so torn between waning to rescue Phoenix from the woman she calls mother and rescue Nina, both from herself and from the pain of her past. On one hand I was totally, one hundred percent behind the notion of revenge – make that man hurt, ladies. And on the other it’s so easy to see the hurt and destruction Phoenix has to endure while her mother seeks this revenge. There really isn’t a right answer, yet Phoenix has to chose every single day what her right will be. She longs for her mother to acknowledge her and the sacrifices she is making, yet her mother is constantly upset with her, angry and takes it out on Phoenix.

As Phoenix and Nina arrive in Jasper Hollow the truth of what happened there is slowly revealed. Some of this Phoenix discovers as she goes undercover as a sad, homeless girl and finds herself invited to live with the Bowmans. Other, clearer details are revealed through flashbacks to Nina’s childhood. This is what really caught me between wanting a different life for Phoenix and wanting revenge for Nina, as we see the hurt through Nina’s eyes. Does it justify Nina’s actions now or explain them? The reader will have to decide, as does Phoenix.

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Book Review: Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet

Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet – Laekan Zea Kemp – Little, Brown Books for Young Readers – Published 6 April 2021

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Synopsis

As an aspiring pastry chef, Penelope Prado has always dreamed of opening her own pastelería next to her father’s restaurant, Nacho’s Tacos. But her mom and dad have different plans — leaving Pen to choose between disappointing her traditional Mexican-American parents or following her own path. When she confesses a secret she’s been keeping, her world is sent into a tailspin. But then she meets a cute new hire at Nacho’s who sees through her hard exterior and asks the questions she’s been too afraid to ask herself.

Xander Amaro has been searching for home since he was a little boy. For him, a job at Nacho’s is an opportunity for just that — a chance at a normal life, to settle in at his abuelo’s, and to find the father who left him behind. But when both the restaurant and Xander’s immigrant status are threatened, he will do whatever it takes to protect his new found family and himself.

Together, Pen and Xander must navigate first love and discovering where they belong — both within their families and their fiercely loyal Chicanx community — in order to save the place they all call home.

My thoughts

I love books about/that feature food. They are also slightly torturous because food and that makes me hungry. And this book had me serious hungry for Mexican flavours and culinary delights. Of course, what sits so beautifully alongside this story of passion for food and the love that goes into their cooking is a heartbreaking story of belonging.

Penelope Prado knows where she belongs. She dreams of running her own bakery, and building it right next to her family’s restaurant. Her father disagrees, and when Pen finally tells her parents she has dropped out of school and walked away from the life they wanted for her, they refuse to speak to her and her father fires her from the restaurant. Pen is an incredibly strong character – and not just because the guys in the kitchen completely and utterly fear her (which is awesome, by the way). Pen has a history of depression, anxiety and self harm. With her future so uncertainly and her risking everything to chase what feels right, but not really sure how to actually move forward, Pen finds herself wrestling with her mental demons again.

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Book Review: The Stolen Kingdom

The Stolen Kingdom – Jillian Boehme – Tor Teen – Published 2 March 2021

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Synopsis

For a hundred years, the once-prosperous kingdom of Perin Faye has suffered under the rule of the greedy and power-hungry Thungrave kings.

Maralyth Graylaern, a cacao farmer’s daughter, has no idea her hidden magical power is proof of a secret bloodline and claim to the throne.

Alac Thungrave, the king’s second son, has always been uncomfortable with his position as the spare heir—and the dark, stolen magic that comes with ruling.

When Maralyth becomes embroiled in a plot to murder the royal family and seize the throne, a cat-and-mouse chase ensues in an adventure of dark magic, court intrigue, and forbidden love.

My thoughts

I love stand-alone fantasy novels and The Stolen Kingdom is a fantastic example. It has everything you need from a complete trilogy or series: the intrigue and political scheming; romance which moves from enemies to reluctant allies to someone the other can wholly depend on; and there is also magic.

Maralyth Graylaern is the daughter of a renown vintners. She has a head for business and a heart for making a difference to others. Ever since her mother died, Maralyth has been confined to the kitchen, except for when she can make a quiet trip to the vines and use her secret magic to help them flourish.

Alac is a spare. His brother is set to inherit the thrown and Alac will only inherit should something happen to his brother. Alac wants no part in ruling the kingdom or the dark magic that forever changed him, but his father seems determined to teach Alac the ways of the dark magic and Alac is surprised by the pull it has on him.

Maralyth and Alac are both heirs in their own way. Yet, neither are prepared for taking over the kingdom nor did either dream they ever would. Maralyth has dreams of being a business woman and making conditions better for small wineries. Alac dreams of becoming a vineyard owner and finally escaping the shadow of his father, the memories of who his father was before being consumed by the magic and the darkness that seems to pervade the castle. When Maralyth is unwilling drawn into a plot to overthrow the king, she has to choose to step up to her destiny and equally Alac must decide how much the crown really means to him.

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Book Review: Things That Grow

Things That Grow – Meredith Goldstein – HMH Books for Young Readers – Published 9 March 2021

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Synopsis

When Lori’s Dorothy Parker–loving grandmother dies, Lori’s world is turned upside down. Grandma Sheryl was everything to Lori—and not just because Sheryl raised Lori when Lori’s mom got a job out of town. Now Lori’s mom is insisting on moving her away from her beloved Boston right before senior year. Desperate to stay for as long as possible, Lori insists on honoring her grandmother’s last request before she moves: to scatter Sheryl’s ashes near things that grow.

Along with her uncle Seth and Chris, best friend and love-of-her-life crush, Lori sets off on a road trip to visit her grandmother’s favorite gardens. Dodging forest bathers, scandalized volunteers, and angry homeowners, they come to terms with the shape of life after Grandma Sheryl. Saying goodbye isn’t easy, but Lori might just find a way to move forward surrounded by the people she loves.

My thoughts

Things That Grow is a novel about family and grief, about growing up, falling in love with your best friend but not wanting to risk the relationship and staying quiet about your feeling. It’s also got quite a few gardens in it (I love fiction that includes gardens, not sure why but they always make a story more beautiful) and you could almost call it a road tip novel, as the characters venture on their journey, which doesn’t span too many miles, but still forces them to consider their relationships with each other.

Lori has lived with her Grandma for a few years. She was happy for the stability after living with her mother who would move them regularly, changing jobs and locations as often as she changed boyfriends. So when Grandma Sheryl dies, Lori is reeling from both the loss of her home and the woman who felt more like a mother than her mother ever did. Lori’s mother demands Lori move back with her, despite it meaning Lori will have to change schools right at the start of her senior year and leave behind her best friend, Chris. Lori stalls by insisting they honour her grandmother’s last wish – to have her ashes scattered in four gardens.

Anyone who has had to deal with the aftermath of losing a loved one will relate to Lori’s feelings. This book explores grief in an honest way. Lori isn’t sure how to deal with her feelings and often uses humour to cope with the situations she finds herself in – like trying to find a cremation service for a Jewish woman. So yes, while this book is about death, funerals (they don’t really have one), spreading of ashes and grief, it’s actually a funny, realistic, ‘oh my gosh, no don’t do that’, hopeful novel.

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Book Review: The Escape

The Escape – Lisa Harris – US Marshals #1 – Revell – Published 3 November 2020

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Synopsis

US Marshals Madison James and Jonas Quinn are thrust into a high-profile case when they are called on to transport two prisoners across the country on a private plane. But when the plane experiences engine trouble en route from the Pacific Northwest to Colorado, the pilots crash-land the aircraft deep in the heart of the sprawling Salmon-Challis National Forest.

When Madison and Jonas regain consciousness, they find both pilots and one prisoner dead–and one fugitive on the run. They’ll have to negotiate the rugged and remote backcountry through Idaho, Wyoming, and Colorado while tracking a murderer who is desperate to disappear–and will do anything to stop them.

My thoughts

A new series by Lisa Harris, this book will have you on the edge of your seat as the characters chase down an escaped felon.

Madison and Jonas are US Marshals. Their assignment is to transport two prisoners, but when their plane goes down they must fight to survive the elements and to find their escaped prisoner. But he always seems to be one step ahead of them and they will have to fight for their lives if they can try and outwit him.

The Escape is the first book in a new series. Judging from the ending, the next book in the series will continue the investigation into Madison’s husband’s murder. We readers are given just a few clues right at the start of the book and the end of the book, but otherwise the story remains focused on the escaped prisoner and trying to recapture him.

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Book Review: Warriors of Wings and Flame

Warriors of Wing and Flame – Sara B Larson – Sisters of Shadow and Light – Tor Teen – Published 27 October  2020

 

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Synopsis

The doorway between the magical Visempirum and the human world has been reopened. Paladin are once more living in the citadel where Zuhra and Inara grew up completely isolated by the magical hedge that trapped them there. Amidst the brewing conflict between the Paladin and humans looms the threat of Barloc, who has stolen Inara’s immense power and continues to elude the Paladin who are desperately searching for him.

In this sequel to Sisters of Shadow and Light, Inara and Zuhra must navigate the treacherous paths of self-discovery, their love for each other, and for the boys who have captured their hearts. Together, they search for the strength within themselves to bridge the divide between the two worlds they inhabit, even as war threatens to destroy everything—and everyone—they love.

My thoughts

Warriors of Wing and Flame is the second and last book in the Sisters of Shadow and Light duology. I very much enjoyed this conclusion to the series, enjoyed the mix of fantasy action (big battle scenes) and character growth.

Zuhra has returned home, bringing with her her long-lost father and teams of Riders with their gryphons. But they must now face the devastation they found upon their return. Inara is reeling from the loss of her powers and the Paladin are desperately trying to track down the man who stole them and who now poses a risk to both worlds and both Paladin and humans. Everything the sisters have finally gained could be threatened if they don’t act quickly.

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Book Review: You Were Never Here

You Were Never Here – Kathleen Peacock – HarperTeen – Published 20 October 2020

 

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Synopsis

Cat hasn’t been to Montgomery Falls, the town her family founded, since she was twelve years old. Since the summer she discovered she could do things that no normal twelve-year-old could do. Since she had her first kiss with Riley Fraser. Since she destroyed their friendship.

Now, five years later, she’s back and Riley has disappeared.

For the last three months no one has heard from or seen Riley. And while there are all sorts of conspiracy theories about where he went, neither the police nor his parents are any closer to finding him. When Noah, Riley’s brother, asks for help in discovering what happened, Cat is torn between wanting to learn the truth and protecting the secret that she’s been guarding ever since that summer she and Riley stopped speaking.

But then a girl is discovered floating in the river, barely alive with no knowledge of who attacked her or why. With the possibility that someone out there is hunting teens, Cat must make a choice: Use her unusual ability to discover the truth and find Riley or keep running away from a power she can’t control. Only one choice will put her in a killer’s sights…

My thoughts

Let’s hear it for books about murder and mystery and teenage investigators and slightly paranormal skills. You Were Never Here is an atmospheric mystery that hooked me right from the start. Fans of The Body Finder (and wow, do I have a lot of those fans in my library) are just going to adore You Were Never Here.

Cat hasn’t been to Montgomery Falls since she was twelve. Now her father is sending her there to stay with her aunt. Cat is dreading the summer, but it becomes a lot worse when she learns that her ex-best friend Riley has been missing for three months. Written off as a runaway, the police and town have no leads. Riley’s brother asks Cat to help discover what really happened, and after Cat and her new friends discover a girl floating half dead in the river, Cat agrees. But there is something most people don’t know about Cat – she can discover a person’s worse secrets just by touching them.

This book has so many things going for it. Alongside the mystery of the missing or hurt teenagers, the reader is also given the mystery of what happened last term at school that caused Cat to be so secretive about it and for her father to send her to Montgomery Falls, completely cut off from the world. There is also, of course, Cat’s unusual ability. How she got this ability is never explained, aside from the women in her family having special gifts for generations. Her father refuses her to talk or acknowledge it and while her aunt has her own gift, she too has been forbidden to speak of it. That’s okay, though, as the focus is not on the how or why of Cat’s gift, but rather  far more on her acceptance of it and how she might use it to help find Riley. And really, she uses her intellect and sleuthing to find the clues more than her ability.

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Book Review: Enola Holmes The Case of the Missing Marquess

Enola Holmes: The Case of the Missing Marquess – Enola Holmes #1 – Nancy Springer – Philomel Books – Published 2006

 

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Synopsis

When Enola Holmes, sister to the detective Sherlock Holmes, discovers her mother has disappeared, she quickly embarks on a journey to London in search of her. But nothing can prepare her for what awaits. Because when she arrives, she finds herself involved in the kidnapping of a young marquess, fleeing murderous villains, and trying to elude her shrewd older brothers–all while attempting to piece together clues to her mother’s strange disappearance. Amid all the mayhem, will Enola be able to decode the necessary clues and find her mother?

My thoughts

With the announcement of the Enola Holmes movie, we decided to read the first book in the Enola Holmes series, The Case of the Missing Marquess in our Year 6 book club. Unsurprisingly, the book is much better than the movie (even considering Henry Cavill – sorry Henry). The book is full of fun disguises and clever ways that Enola learns to consider her environment, to move around undetected and to start living on her own terms.

When Enola’s mother disappears and doesn’t return, Enola is forced to inform her two older brothers – Mycroft and Sherlock Holmes. Surprised at the state of the estate and Enola herself, Mycroft decides that Enola will be sent to boarding school. Enola has other ideas and escapes, heading to London to search for her mother. But along the way, she is intrigued by the case of another “missing” person and she decides to investigate.

Despite being written in this century, the writing has an old-style feeling, and draws heavily on period language. This was a great discussion point for out book club. The book also draws attention to many of the inequities of the time.

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Book Review: The Key To Love

The Key To Love – Betsy St. Amant – Revell – Published 13 October 2020

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Synopsis

The only thing Bri Duval loves more than baking petit fours is romance. So much so, she’s created her own version of the famous Parisian lovelock wall at her bakery in Story, Kansas. She never expects it to go viral–or for Trek Magazine to send travel writer Gerard Fortier to feature the bakery. He’s definitely handsome, but Bri has been holding out for a love story like the one her parents had, and that certainly will not include the love-scorned-and-therefore-love-scorning Gerard.

Just when it seems Bri’s bakery is poised for unprecedented success, a series of events threaten not just her business but the pedestal she’s kept her parents on all these years. Maybe Gerard is right about romance. Or maybe Bri’s recipe just needs to be tweaked.

My thoughts

The Key to Love is a very sweet (so many macaroons and petit fours!!) romance about finding love in unexpected places.

Bri is a romantic. She’s holding out for a big romance, just like the one her parents shared. But her aunts’ bakery, where she works and tries to recreate both her mother’s legacy and recipes, is in danger of being sold, demolished and replaced with a chain store. When a travel magazine sends a reporter to write about the bakery, Bri hopes it will be just what they need to save it. But the journalist, Gerard is nothing like she expected and seems against them and her from the start.

I really enjoyed the romance between Gerard and Bri. They are complete opposites. Bri has stayed in her comfort zone, living and working in her home town. She likes bitter coffee and sweet treats. She loves all things romance. Gerard has sworn off love after a relationship gone bad and words of advice from a trusted mentor. He lives a life with no strings holding him back and is cynical about relationships. Settling down is the very last thing on his plan. He also has no desire to write a sappy article about a bakery, but it’s the only thing between him and a promotion.

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Book Review: Dear Hero

Dear Hero – Hope Bolinger and Alyssa Roat – INtense Publications – Published 28 September 2020

 

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Synopsis

Cortex and V need a new nemesis. Cortex’s last villain dumped him, and V got a little overeager and took out her hero prematurely. They meet on Meta-Match, a nemesis pairing site for heroes and villains. After throwing punches at each other behind coffee shops and hiring henchman to do their bidding (mostly just getting them coffee), they realize they have a lot more in common than meets the eye. And they may have a lot more hero and villain inside than they realize.

My thoughts

I am always on the lookout for superhero novels. a) they are an awesome mix of action and either fantasy or science fiction and b) they are hard to come by, so I jumped at the chance to read Dear Hero. Dear Hero is written entirely in short messages shared between the two main characters, which makes for a creative novel, if one that leaves the backstory and world building a little unclear.

Cortex is a hero. When his last villain leaves him, he decides to reach out on Meta-Match to find a new one. V is looking for a hero to fight with. She and Cortex begin exchanging messages and then they start to meet to practice their hero villain routine, but when someone close to them is kidnapped, they have to team up.

My main problem with this books comes down to the format. I applaud the authors for giving it a go. Writing an entire book in text messages or DMs would not be easy. It’s creative and quick to read. The problem comes with the reader trying to get an accurate view of the characters, backstory, world and culture. All those things remained unclear. I needed, wanted to know more about the concept of how the hero and villain structure works, why they do what they do, more about the governance of heroes and villains and how they fit into the larger world picture, the pop culture that surrounds it and the world that had been created. Continue reading

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