Book Reviews, Lists, Discussions, and Displays

Tag: Four-stars (Page 1 of 35)

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

Book Review: None Shall Sleep

None Shall Sleep – Ellie Marney – Little, Brown Books for Young Readers – Published 1 September 2020

 

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Synopsis

In 1982, two teenagers—serial killer survivor Emma Lewis and US Marshal candidate Travis Bell—are recruited by the FBI to interview convicted juvenile killers and provide insight and advice on cold cases. From the start, Emma and Travis develop a quick friendship, gaining information from juvenile murderers that even the FBI can’t crack. But when the team is called in to give advice on an active case—a serial killer who exclusively hunts teenagers—things begin to unravel. Working against the clock, they must turn to one of the country’s most notorious incarcerated murderers for help: teenage sociopath Simon Gutmunsson. Despite Travis’s objections, Emma becomes the conduit between Simon and the FBI team. But while Simon seems to be giving them the information they need to save lives, he’s an expert manipulator playing a very long game…and he has his sights set on Emma.

My thoughts

Well that was terrifying. None Shall Sleep is a scary, psychological thriller for teens (or older teen readers, at least), perfect for crime and mystery fans.

Set in 1982, two teens are recruited to help the FBI interview teenage serial killers. Emma Lewis survived a serial killer. Now the FBI want her to work for them, interviewing convicted killers to help them catch new offenders. Her partner is Travis Bell, training to be a US Marshal and whose father was killed by Simon Gutmunsson, a convicted serial killer. But when teenagers continue to be killed, in horrific ways, Travis and Emma find that their interviews may have insight into the case.

If you are squeamish, this is not the book for you. If, however, you like murder, clues, lots of twist and turns, teamwork, a heroine survivor who isn’t afraid to take on some really bad guys, detective work and teenage sociopaths (coz they are lots of fun (in books, of course)) then this is the perfect book for you.

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Book Review: The Other Side of the Sky

The Other Side of the Sky – Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner – HarperTeen – Published 8 September 2020

 

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Synopsis

Prince North’s home is in the sky, in a gleaming city held aloft by intricate engines powered by technology. Nimh is the living goddess of her people on the surface, responsible for providing answers, direction—hope.

Linked by a terrifying prophecy and caught between duty and fate, they must choose between saving their people or succumbing to the bond that is forbidden between them.

My thoughts

The Other Side of the Sky is the start of a new epic fantasy by Kaufman and Spooner. Readers will be swept away in this intriguing story of doing what it takes to survive and having to choose between faith and knowledge, love and a future.

The Other Side of the Sky is a YA fantasy that feels like a mix between fantasy, science fiction and dystopian fiction. The world that has been crafted feels like a reflection of our world gone bad – mists of toxic pollution, a population that have found sanctuary in the skies leaving below a world they believe ruined. From the history has sprung up legends of gods who escaped to a world above.

Nimh is the Goddess Divine, one in a long line of divine, chosen to bring hope to her people. The only problem is that her powers have never materialised and her divinity is challenged by those who seek to overthrow her. A prophecy speaks of a falling star that could help her bring peace and prosperity to the land. Prince North lives on Alciel, a land that floats above the clouds. But their safety is challenged by the failings of the engines that keep their islands flying. North suggests returning to the land below their ancestors ascended from. When North’s glider fails and he finds himself falling.

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Book Review: Aftershocks

Aftershocks – Marisa Reichardt – Amulet Books – Published 29 September 2020

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Synopsis

When a magnitude 7.8 earthquake hits California, Ruby is trapped in a laundromat with Charlie, a boy she had her first conversation with only moments before. She can’t see anything beyond the rubble that she’s trapped beneath, but she’s sure someone will come save them soon. As the hours and days tick by, Ruby and Charlie struggle to stay hopeful—and stay alive. Ruby has only Charlie’s voice and her memories to find the hope to keep holding on. Will the two make it out alive? And if they do, what will they have lost to the earthquake?

My thoughts

How long could you survive? Faced with life and death, could you do what it takes to make it through a major natural disaster? And if you do survive, how do you know what to do next? Aftershock is an original and insightful novel about survival, friendship, doing the right thing, facing your mistakes and learning to continue to live after surviving it all, all set against the heart-stopping suspense of an earthquake.

We often hear about natural disasters on the news. The number count of who survived and who didn’t. But what about the stories of those who live through such an event? I don’t often see disaster novels come across my radar and I’m so glad I found this one. It a great mix of realistic fiction and action. Every moment is both tense and yet also introspective. It’s a story about connections. It’s a story about mistakes and learning to live with them. It’s also a story about doing the right thing in really hard situations. Aftershock touches on some interesting and important themes alongside the main story of surviving an earthquake.

Ruby has blown off water polo practice after learning her mother is dating her coach. She knows how her friends will react, especially volatile Mila. Her plan is to convince the cute guy waiting at the laundromat to buy her alcohol. What better way to drown her sorrows than getting drunk? That plan goes awry when a massive earthquake brings the building down around them. Trapped and alone, Ruby and the guy – Charlie, she learns – struggle to survive. But as they wait hours for a rescue that might never come, they find themselves sharing their secrets, regrets and a desire to do things differently once they escape.

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Book Review: Airborne

Airborne – DiAnn Mills – Tyndale House Publishers – Published 8 September 2020

 

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Synopsis

Heather Lawrence’s long-awaited vacation to Salzburg wasn’t supposed to go like this. Mere hours into the transatlantic flight, the Houston FBI agent is awakened when passengers begin exhibiting horrific symptoms of an unknown infection. As the virus quickly spreads and dozens of passengers fall ill, Heather fears she’s witnessing an epidemic similar to ones her estranged husband studies for a living–but this airborne contagion may have been deliberately released.

While Heather remains quarantined with other survivors, she works with her FBI colleagues to identify the person behind this attack. The prime suspect? Dr. Chad Lawrence, an expert in his field . . . and Heather’s husband. The Lawrences’ marriage has been on the rocks since Chad announced his career took precedence over his wife and future family and moved out.

As more victims fall prey days after the initial outbreak, time’s running out to hunt down the killer, one who may be closer to the victims than anyone ever expected.

My thoughts

I’m sure when DiAnn Mills was writing Airborne she had no idea that it would be released in the midst of a global pandemic, where a deadly virus was spreading throughout the world. It certainly made for some timely reading. Fortunately for the characters, they had a chance to stop the spread of their deadly virus and limit the contagion to just an airplane. Unfortunately, for the characters, their virus results in horrific symptoms and death. Airborne is a tense and thrilling read, with lots of suspects to doubt and a complicated investigation.

When FBI Agent Heather Lawrence takes her planed holiday to Salzberg, Germany, it’s not the romantic trip she imagined. Instead of being with her husband, they’ve separated and he has filed for divorce. When a terrible virus breaks out on the plane, their journey is halted as the authorities decide how to handle the situation. As the bodies start to pile up and the conditions onboard worsen, it begins to look like a deliberate act. Number one suspect is Dr Chad Lawrence, Heather’s husband and an expert in viruses, but does he have motive to want Heather dead?

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Book Review: Until I Met You

Until I Met You – Tari Faris – Restoring Heritage #2 – Revell – Published 8 September 2020

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Synopsis

When she hears that the small town of Heritage, Michigan, is looking for a new librarian, Libby Kingsley jumps at the opportunity. Little did she know the library is barely more than a storage closet stuffed with dusty, outdated books. What the community really needs is a new building. But the only funds available are those being channeled into the new town square, and the landscape architect in charge of the project wants nothing to do with her plans.

All Austin Williams wants to do is get the town square project finished so he can do right by the family business and then extricate himself from the town that reveres the brother who cost him so much. But the local media and the town’s new librarian seem to be conspiring against him at every turn. Will the determined bookworm find her way into his blueprints–and possibly even his heart?

My thoughts

Small towns, romance and a construction project with no budget and a strict deadline – what could possibly go wrong? Throw in a nosy journalist, bad publicity and some miscommunication and everything that could go wrong does. Until I Met You is a sweet and charming story about finding the right person at the wrong time, moving on from the past and learning to make the most of every day and every situation.

Libby Kingsley is a librarian (yay librarians in fiction). She’s feeling pretty down about life and is happy to take a position as the new librarian in Heritage, Michigan. The only problem is the library is more of a desolate basement that should be condemned. She finds the perfect solution – she just has to convince the town and construction company that moving an old building into the new town centre is a good idea. Austin Williams is trying to save his family’s construction company, redesign the town square with no help and little budget and now he has to contend with the ideas of Libby Kingsley. He just needs to make it through the next few months unscathed, but it seems like everything and everyone – including his brother – is against him.

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Book Review: A Life Once Dreamed

A Life Once Dreamed – Rachel Fordham – Revell – Published 4 August 2020

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Synopsis

Six years ago, a shocking secret sent Agnes Pratt running in search of a new start. She found it in Penance, a rugged town of miners and lumberjacks in the Dakota Territory, where she became Miss Aggie, respected schoolteacher and confirmed old maid. But the past has a way of catching up with people.

When childhood friend and former sweetheart James Harris accepts a position as the town doctor, Aggie’s pleasantly predictable days suddenly become anything but. James wants to know why Agnes left behind the life they had dreamed of creating for themselves–but he is the one person who can never know.

In the shadows of the Black Hills, can a healing light be shed on the past? Or will the secret Agnes can’t seem to outrun destroy her chance at happiness?

My thoughts

Rachel Fordham returns to the 1880s frontier in her latest novel, A Life Once Dreamed. This is a historical romance that plunges readers into a setting where disease can wipe out families, birth holds many dangers and morals dictate social standing. This is a story about belonging and acceptance and finding your true family.

Agnes Pratt left Boston six years ago. She left behind the love of her life, but she knew they could never had a future together. Now she is teacher in a small frontier town. When James Harris appears in town as the new doctor, it brings up all their past and Aggie’s hurt. But she refuses to share the secret of why she left him all those years ago. When two disasters chance the course of their lives, Aggie and James will need to decide if what they share is enough to overlook all the obstacles that stand between them.

The setting Fordham creates feels very realistic. Times are hard and facilities basic for the people of Penance. The arrival of a doctor is cause for celebration – for everyone that is, except Aggie. Seeing James again shows her that her feelings haven’t changed, a love that is built on years of friendship and shared adventure, which we readers learn about through reflections, flashbacks and letters. Aggie closely guards her secret, even from readers for a good part of the book. I didn’t guess the direction her secret would take the book until the first disaster. I won’t spoil anything here.

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