Genre: Modern

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May 30

Two Like Me and You – Review and Tour!

Book Reviews, Book Tours 0 ★★★½

Be sure to check out all the other blogs on the tour over on XpressoTours!

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Two Like Me and You – Review and Tour!Two Like Me and You by Chad Alan Gibbs
Published by Borne Back Books on May 20, 2019
Genres: Modern, Young Adult
Pages: 298
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World WideBuy on Amazon
Goodreads three-half-stars

Edwin Green's ex-girlfriend is famous. We're talking cover-of-every-tabloid-in-the-grocery-store-line famous. She dumped Edwin one year ago on what he refers to as Black Saturday, and in hopes of winning her back, he's spent the last twelve months trying to become famous himself. It hasn't gone well.

But when a history class assignment pairs Edwin with Parker Haddaway, the mysterious new girl at school, she introduces him to Garland Lenox, a nursing-home-bound World War II veteran who will change Edwin's life forever.

The three escape to France, in search of the old man's long-lost love, and as word of their adventure spreads, they become media darlings. But when things fall apart, they also become the focus of French authorities. In a race against time, who will find love, and who will only find more heartache?

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Two Like Me and You is a quirky, funny debut novel about two teenagers trying to navigate their own mental and emotional growing pains, and their quest to help an old man find the girl he lost in the chaos of World War II. I was a bit skeptical of the tone of the book at first, but soon it becomes apparent that Edwin, our narrator, just has a rather anxiety-filled yet still somehow irreverent way of looking at life. And that he’s still not over his now famous ex-girlfriend, Sadie.

Parker is hilarious and so unashamedly herself, I absolutely loved her. I would love to see another book from her point of view. She isn’t afraid to take chances (to the point of stupidity, at one point, but thankfully no one was harmed), and she isn’t afraid to be different. That’s my kind of girl!

There is a lot of stuff going on in this story that just…would never, ever happen. I know it’s fiction, of course, but still. I expect my contemporaries to be a little more realistic. For instance, there is NO WAY IN HELL any nursing home would have let an old man go off with two high school kids. Definitely not the way it’s explained away in this story, anyway. Also all the running around and dodging of police? Come on, y’all. Just be prepared to have to suspend a little more disbelief than you might be use to.

The romance was cute, very puppy-love like. Edwin is sweet, but he has a lot of growing up to do. Parker does right by him though. She totally does. You’ll have to read it to find out what I mean!

Overall this was a very enjoyable read, lighthearted but with some really heartfelt bits when Gordon is telling his story of being in France and meeting the love of his life during the war. I was expecting a little more of a Letters to Juliet type story, but I was still quite satisfied with how this turned out. 3.5/5 stars!

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three-half-stars

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May 28

No Place Like Here – Review and Tour!

Book Reviews 3 ★★★★★

Be sure to check out all the stops on the tour over at Prism Book Tours!

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No Place Like Here – Review and Tour!No Place Like Here by Christina June
Published by Blink on May 21, 2019
Genres: Modern, Young Adult
Pages: 272
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World WideBuy on Amazon
Goodreads five-stars

Ashlyn Zanotti has big plans for the summer. She’s just spent a year at boarding school and can’t wait to get home. But when Ashlyn’s father is arrested for tax evasion and her mother enters a rehab facility for “exhaustion,” a.k.a. depression, her life is turned upside down.

The cherry on top? Ashlyn’s father sends her to work with a cousin she doesn’t even know at a rustic team-building retreat center in the middle of nowhere. A self-proclaimed “indoor girl,” not even Ash’s habit of leaving breadcrumb quotes—inspirational sayings she scribbles everywhere—can help her cope.

With a dangerously careless camp manager doling out grunt work, an overbearing father trying to control her even from prison, and more than a little boy drama to struggle with, the summer is full of challenges. And Ashlyn must make the toughest decision of her life: keep quiet and follow her dad’s marching orders, or find the courage to finally stand up to her father to have any hope of finding her way back home.

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

No Place Like Here was so much more than I expected! I went into it thinking I was getting a somewhat fluffy summer camp novel (at only 272 pages I finished it in half a shift at work – yes, my job is that slow). While there were fluffy aspects, it was so much deeper and touched my heart in ways I was completely surprised by.

Ashlyn’s entire world has been turned upside down. All her plans for the summer have gone out the window. Her parents BOTH seem to have abandoned her. She’s been shipped off to stay with relatives she hasn’t seen for nearly a decade. She plans to just keep her head down and her mouth shut, just like she has for the entire life she’s spent with her overbearing, self-centered father. But then she realizes that she does still have a family that cares about her, and she starts to grow into herself. She grows SO MUCH in this short book, it was really amazing and yet still very believable.

I loved that she didn’t just grow up and shut her parents out. She grew up and at least tried to start the healing process with them. Her mom’s struggle with depression felt realistically portrayed, and I really appreciated the positive mental health rep in the book! Getting help is NOT a weakness, or a waste of time. YES!

Also, a HUGE thank you to Christina June for not making this a “romance is the answer” story. There is a little flirtation, a little kissing, a lot of attraction – but no real romance. So many stories portray romantic relationships as the cure-all for what ails us and it’s just so not true!

Now I need to go back and read the books that came before this one. Apparently some of the same characters show up, so I’m personally hoping that after No Place Like Here we get to hear more of Baxter’s story…

5/5 stars. I loved this book! I’ll be waiting for anything else Christina June puts out.

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Mar 04

The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane

Book Reviews 0 ★★★★

The Mystery of Black Hollow LaneThe Mystery of Black Hollow Lane by Julia Nobel
Published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky on March 5, 2019
Genres: Middle Grade, Modern
Pages: 320
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Goodreads four-stars

The first in an exciting new series, this suspenseful debut brings readers on a journey filled with secrets, mystery, and unforgettable characters.

With a dad who disappeared years ago and a mother who's a bit too busy to parent, Emmy is shipped off to Wellsworth, a prestigious boarding school in England, where she's sure she won't fit in.

But then she finds a box of mysterious medallions in the attic of her home—medallions that belonged to her father. Her father who may have gone to Wellsworth.

When she arrives at school, she finds the strange symbols from the medallions etched into walls and books, which leads Emmy and her new friends, Jack and Lola, to Wellsworth's secret society: The Order of Black Hollow Lane. Emmy can't help but think that the society had something to do with her dad's disappearance, and that there may be more than just dark secrets in the halls of Wellsworth...

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane is the kind of book I would have LOVED reading as a nine or ten-year-old. It has strong, independent kids with their own unique voices, an intriguing mystery (that the adults are dead-bent on NOT being helpful with), and juuuuust enough creep factor to make a warm blanket desirable.

Emmy’s father disappeared when she was a toddler, and her mother is a “parenting expert” that is rarely around and emotionally distant even when she’s physically present. At the start of the story, Emmy is shipped off to a boarding school in England, despite having never been there in her life. Never one to remain down for long (however much her mother’s actions might hurt her), she acclimates quickly, making new friends with some of the more colorful characters at the school.

The mystery of Emmy’s father’s disappearance is a main theme, as she is (as many of us would be) desperate to find out anything about him, his life, and yes of course his disappearance. It was very intriguing to have all that thrown in with the typical school stuff (reminds me vaguely of Harry Potter here, considering the main friend group is also three people), and it seems the groundwork has been laid for future books in the series. Some questions were answered by the end, but even more were asked! I’m very eager to see when the next book will be released and what will happen to Emmy and her friends next.

I did wish there had been at least ONE adult who was straight with the kids, instead of constantly blowing them off or just trying to pretend things hadn’t happened. Children are smarter than we give them credit for, and often able to handle things much better than we might anticipate.

4/5 stars.

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Feb 28

You Asked for Perfect Review

Book Reviews 0 ★★★★★

You Asked for Perfect ReviewYou Asked for Perfect by Laura Silverman
Published by Sourcebooks Fire on March 5, 2019
Genres: Modern, Young Adult
Pages: 288
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Goodreads five-stars

Senior Ariel Stone is the perfect college applicant: first chair violin, dedicated community volunteer, and expected valedictorian. He works hard - really hard - to make his life look effortless. A failed Calculus quiz is not part of that plan. Not when he’s number one. Not when his peers can smell weakness like a freshman’s body spray.

Figuring a few all-nighters will preserve his class rank, Ariel throws himself into studying. His friends will understand if he skips a few plans, and he can sleep when he graduates. Except Ariel’s grade continues to slide. Reluctantly, he gets a tutor. Amir and Ariel have never gotten along, but Amir excels in Calculus, and Ariel is out of options.

Ariel may not like Calc, but he might like Amir. Except adding a new relationship to his long list of commitments may just push him past his limit.

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

You Asked for Perfect absolutely gutted me. Shattered my heart. All the feels.

I was not expecting this. In fact, I put off reading this book for a LONG time, because I was so much less excited about it than about Girl Out of Water, Laura Silverman’s first book (which is, um, apparently one of those books I meant to write a review for and never got around to…oops). However, since I’m trying to be a good little reviewer – and also, hello, academic stress, I can relate – I picked it up last week.

Ariel Stone is the classic, driven, overachiever student. Except he’s Jewish and bisexual. Also, he’s waaaaaaay stressed out, and despite the 10+ year age difference I can so relate.

I used to like studying. That burst of satisfaction when new material clicks. The competitive gratification of finishing a test first, knowing you got everything right.

YES! So true! But then there is the pressure we type-A people like to put on ourselves…and the expectations of our family/teachers/friends…and next thing you know, studying is about as fun as plucking your leg hair out with tweezers.

If I stay any longer, he’ll see what’s happening. He’ll see I don’t understand. I’m not smart enough. I’m an imposter. If I’m going to lose everything I’ve worked for, at least I don’t have to do it in front of an audience.

I really just wanted to wrap Ariel up in a big hug. Like, this kid put so much stress on himself, and he cares so much about his family – and, oh, let’s not forget Amir, because Amir is cool on his own and he and Ariel together is just adorable. Oh, and his FAMILY! Actually, both of their families…why did I not have relationships like this as a teenager? They are supportive – academically and emotionally. The sibling banter is fun and believable. I liked that the story included Ariel’s little sister Rachel, and showed just HOW YOUNG the academic pressure can and does start. It broke my heart, not just Rachel, but Ariel, and Isaac (another young savant that is a secondary character but also struggling).

“If it’s not important to you, why do you tell everyone I’m applying there? It’s all you guys talk about. Like it’s the only worthwhile thing about me.” My voice begins to shake. “If I don’t get in, that’s it. I’ll be Ariel, the one who didn’t get into Harvard. I’ll let everyone down. I’ll let you guys down. And I might not get in. I really might not, because I’m not perfect. They asked for perfect, and I’m not.”

Ariel really grows so much through this story, even though it takes place over only a few weeks. He realizes a lot of his pressure is internal, and he realizes that sometimes…people are more important than academics. Basically he came to the realization that I wish I had, years and years ago. Realizing that sometimes, a couple of extra points on a test aren’t worth missing quality time with family and friends. Oh, and he also got a cute boyfriend out of it, which is always a plus. 😉

5/5 stars. Go buy it, go read it, go hug it.

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Feb 11

Comics Will Break Your Heart

Book Reviews 0 ★★★★

Comics Will Break Your HeartComics Will Break Your Heart by Faith Erin Hicks
Published by Roaring Brook Press on February 12, 2019
Genres: Modern, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 352
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Goodreads four-stars

Miriam's family should be rich. After all, her grandfather was the co-creator of smash-hit comics series The TomorrowMen. But he sold his rights to the series to his co-creator in the 1960s for practically nothing, and now that's what Miriam has: practically nothing. And practically nothing to look forward to either-how can she afford college when her family can barely keep a roof above their heads? As if she didn't have enough to worry about, Miriam's life gets much more complicated when a cute boy shows up in town . . . and turns out to be the grandson of the man who defrauded Miriam's grandfather, and heir to the TomorrowMen fortune.

In her endearing debut novel, cartoonist Faith Erin Hicks pens a sensitive and funny Romeo and Juliet tale about modern romance, geek royalty, and what it takes to heal the long-festering scars of the past (Spoiler Alert: love).

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Comics Will Break Your Heart was an adorable story with hattips to geeks of all kinds – from the greats of British literature to, obviously, comic book fans! The plot is loosely based on Romeo and Juliet, only the two families in question are descendents of patriarchs who together birthed one of the greatest comic book franchises of all time, only to have a bitter falling out.

Mir and Weldon are both likable characters, young people approaching the end of high school with the usual amount of trepidation and flailing about as they try to figure out their place in the world and what they want to do with their lives. They meet by sheer accident, when Weldon’s misbehavior prompts his high-powered, fame and fortune focused father to send him away for the summer, to his aunt and uncle’s house in the small town he has rarely seen. Despite his undercurrent of resentment and propensity for lying, Weldon is charismatic and charms just about everyone he meets. Mir has a work ethic to rival most adults, desperate to rise above her family’s extreme economy of existence. I liked that she didn’t seem embarrassed by her admittedly rather eccentric parents, but she knew that their choices were not going to be hers. I could understand her resentment of being forced to the extremes of frugal living – such as buying a second hand Monopoly and painting rocks to replace the missing pieces.

The cast of side characters was endearing too, even if I felt that their stories were left unfinished. I loved Mir’s friends Evan and Raleigh, and I hope maybe the author plans to write more about them at some point. Evan especially! He was just so sweet and kind and clearly cared so much about Mir. I really liked that even though he wanted to care about her in a more-than-friends way, when she said made it clear she wasn’t interested he completely dropped it, but remained a great friend. A lot of guys could take a lesson! 😛

The Romeo/Juliet plot was a little weak, mostly because of its predictability. The adults of the two families have had some hard feelings in the past, but their reasons for estrangement sound weak, especially the way Weldon’s aunt presents her case.

4/5 stars. I loved the descriptions of fandoms and comics, and Comic Con. It definitely appeals to the inner (and not so inner) nerd!

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Feb 05

A Monster Like Me

Book Reviews 0 ★★★★

A Monster Like MeA Monster Like Me by Wendy Swore
Published by Shadow Mountain on March 5, 2019
Genres: Middle Grade, Modern
Pages: 304
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Goodreads four-stars

Being the new kid at school is hard, but Sophie has a secret weapon: her vivid imagination and her oversized, trusted Big Book of Monsters--an encyclopedia of myths and legends from all over the world. The pictures and descriptions of the creatures in her book help her know which kids to watch out for--clearly the bullies are trolls and goblins--as well as how to avoid them. Though not everyone is hiding a monster inside; the nice next-door neighbor is probably a good witch, and Sophie's new best friend is obviously a good fairy.

Sophie is convinced she is a monster because of the "monster mark" on her face. At least that's what she calls it. The doctors call it a blood tumor, and it covers almost half of her face. Sophie can feel it pulsing with every beat of her heart. And if she's a monster on the outside, then she must be a monster on the inside, too. She knows that it's only a matter of time before the other kids, the doctors, and even her mom figure it out.

The Big Book of Monsters gives Sophie the idea that there might be a cure for her monster mark, but in order to make the magic work, she'll need to create a special necklace made from ordinary items--a feather, a shell, and a crystal--that Sophie believes are talismans. Once she's collected all the needed ingredients, she'll only have one chance to make a very special wish. If Sophie can't break the curse and become human again, her mom is probably going to leave--just like Dad did. Because who would want to live with a real monster?

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Sophie thinks she’s a monster. She thinks a lot of people around her are monsters too, and she carries her Big Book of Monsters around almost everywhere she goes so that she can identify them and protect herself and her mom from them. The big birthmark – a hermangioma – that covers one side of her face makes kids and even adults stare and even make fun of her, and as a result she has severe social anxiety. Her world of monsters helps everything make sense. Until things start to change, and the bullying gets worse, and her monsters might just make her lose the only friend she’s ever had.

This was a fantastic book! Sophie is 11 years old, and the writing will appeal to kids that age and even a little older. The idea of Sophie so fully believing in the idea of people being monsters, will be a little more hard to go along with, but the book has a cast of loving, supportive adults that – while not hogging the page time – make it clear that Sophie’s way of dealing with the issues caused by her birthmark is not the healthiest way.

Autumn, a sweetheart of a girl at Sophie’s new school, is such a vivacious, loving friend to Sophie that she unwittingly opens an entire new world to her shy friend. Autumn’s grandmother, a gardener and herbalist, is another new friend that slowly draws Sophie out of her shell with gentleness and acceptance.

I really liked that Sophie’s mom was such a positive character. Even though she was far from perfect, she loved Sophie with all her heart and really, truly wanted the absolute best for her. In so many MG and YA books the parents are negative influences and I was happy to see a strong mother/daughter relationship.

4/5 stars. Strongly recommend for any kid and any library! Also worth noting: the author herself had a hermangioma as a child, and some of the incidents in the book came from her experiences.

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Jan 18

Annaliese Rising Blog Tour and Review!

Book Reviews, Book Tours 0 ★★★★

Annaliese Rising Blog Tour and Review!Analiese Rising by Brenda Drake
Published by Entangled: Teen on January 8, 2019
Genres: magical realism, Modern, Young Adult
Pages: 350
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World WideBuy on Amazon
Goodreads four-stars

Half-Blood meets Antigoddess in a thrilling, romantic new series from New York Times bestselling author Brenda Drake.

When a stranger gives Analiese Jordan a list of names before he dies, the last thing she expects to see is her own on it. Not. Cool. Her search for answers leads to the man’s grandson, Marek, who has dangerous secrets of his own. Both are determined to unlock the mystery of the list.

But the truth is deadly. Analiese is a descendant of the God of Death, known as a Riser, with the power to raise the dead and control them. Finding out she has hidden powers? Cool. Finding out she turns corpses into killers? No, thank you.

Now the trail plants her and Marek in the middle of a war between gods who apparently want to raise an army of the Risen, and Analiese must figure out how to save the world—from herself.

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

I’m so excited to be a part of this book tour! Analiese Rising sounded fascinating to me the moment I read the blurb, and I’m happy to say it did not disappoint. Be sure to scroll to the end and enter the giveaway!

I had an error in blog scheduling and apologize that this post was supposed to be up yesterday!

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4/5 stars! I definitely recommend Analiese Rising, especially if you enjoyed Percy Jackson or similar stories. I’ll be on the lookout for more from Brenda Drake!

Things I Loved

  • The ancient gods of MANY different countries (not just Greek or Roman, as is so very common) are plunked down in the middle of modern day Europe. The way their quirks and foibles and abilities are revealed was absolutely fascinating.
  • After the first few chapters of set-up, the action was non-stop. Analiese and Marek go globetrotting, and so much happens to them in such a short time. Phew!
  • The whole premise of death-risers. WHAAAAAT. I need more. Please tell me there will be a sequel.
  • Analiese’s relationship with her brother, Dalton. I love those two so much and seriously needed more of Dalton. He seemed like such a cool guy and kind of got the short end of the stick.
  • Diversity! Yes! While the MCs are straight and white, there are several secondary characters of various colors and sexualities/genders.

Small Complaints

  • The insta-love. I know this is YA and it’s kind of expected but really. Sigh. Also, let me repeat for the 9,909th time…BOY SWEAT DOES NOT SMELL GOOD.
  • The way adults treat teenagers, like they’re still small children. I realize this happens in real life, but come oooooon can’t we have at least one adult who realizes that their underage charges are actually capable?
  • Would like some more background on how the Risers came to be…maybe another book?? Pleeeeease? Hehe.

About the Author

Brenda Drake grew up the youngest of three children, an Air Force brat, and the continual new kid at school. Her fondest memories growing up is of her eccentric, Irish grandmother’s animated tales, which gave her a strong love for storytelling. With kids of all ages populating Brenda’s world, it was only fitting that she would choose to write stories with a bend toward the fantastical for both younger readers and the young at heart. And because she married her prince charming, there’s always a romance warming the pages. Her favorite books are The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, Kings Row by Henry Bellamann, and Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. When she’s not writing, she hosts workshops and contests for writers such as Pitch Wars and Pitch Madness on her blog, and holds Twitter pitch parties on the hash tag, #PitMad. In her free time, Brenda enjoys hanging out with her family, haunting libraries, bookstores, and coffee shops, or just reading someplace quiet and not at all exotic (much to her disappointment).

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four-stars

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Jan 03

Review of The Midnight Witness

Book Reviews 0 ★★★★

Review of The Midnight WitnessThe Midnight Witness (Louise Rick #1) by Sara Blaedel, Mark Kline
Published by Grand Central Publishing on October 23, 2018
Genres: Modern, Mystery
Pages: 281
Goodreads four-stars

#1 INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER
Sara Blaedel returns with another thrilling novel in her series featuring homicide detective Louise Rick--a strong-willed police investigator perfect for readers of Lisa Gardner, Tami Hoag, Tess Gerritsen, or Jo Nesbo.

A young woman is found strangled in a park, and a male journalist has been killed in the backyard of the Royal Hotel in Copenhagen.

Detective Louise Rick is put on the case of the young girl, but very soon becomes entangled in solving the other homicide too when it turns out her best friend, journalist Camilla Lind, knew the murdered man. Louise tries to keep her friend from getting too involved, but Camilla's never been one to miss out on an interesting story. And this time, Camilla may have gone too far...

Emotionally riveting and filled with unexpected twists, THE MIDNIGHT WITNESS is a tour-de-force from international phenomenon Sara Blaedel.

The Midnight Witness pulled me in quickly and, barring anything totally off the wall happening, has hooked me for the remainder of this series. I had never read anything in the “nordic noir” genre so I was really eager to see how this would work for me, and it did not disappoint. I felt a kinship with Louise almost immediately, one adrenaline junkie to another.

Suddenly she felt it. All morning she’d been worried it wouldn’t show up.
The rush.
The energy came like a wave, a familiar feeling that usually came on at a crime scene. It was like an injection, adrenaline shooting up her body and into her chest, ending with her scalp prickling. She was ready.

Louise lives for the rush, but it’s a pleasant perk to her main goal of getting justice for the victims of crime and their families. I really liked the balance of focus on her job and the details of all the workings of the homicide unit with the time spent with her friend/family relationships. I think there was a lot of setup in this book, as in many first-in-a-series books, and we don’t get to see much of Louise’s back story at all so I’m hopeful that will come more in the sequels.

The story behind the murders here was less compelling than I really wanted it to be, and I was much more interested in the murder of the young woman in the park than that of the journalist. Still, about halfway through I started talking to the characters – a sure sign to myself that I’m invested in the story. I really enjoyed Louise and Camilla’s friendship, even while I wonder what kind of trouble a murder detective can get into by being friends with a reporter.

Whenever I read mysteries, I try to form a theory as early in the book as possible. I take notes so that I know exactly where I was in the book when I formed my idea of who-dun-it. My theory kept changing in this one – as soon as I would settle on one suspect, something else would happen and I’d be off on a rabbit trail again. It was great fun. I didn’t guess the true murderer until about 20 pages before it was revealed, so huge props to Blaedel on that.

4/5 stars. This is definitely different than most other mystery or thriller books I’ve read. It’s not a thriller – the pace is slower, and it’s less gory. There are SOME details of the murder but nothing too extreme. It’s also not a cozy mystery – too analytical for that. I guess it’s most similar to the Sherlock Holmes type detective novels, but it has more layers of personal relationships in it. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The Louise Rick series and Sara Blaedel were brought to my attention by the awesome blog Crime By the Book, and I am so excited to have a new detective series to follow.

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Dec 28

One Day in December

Book Reviews 0 ★★★★★

Last of the Christmas book reviews! This was ALMOST my favorite, second only to The Christmas Sisters.

One Day in DecemberOne Day in December by Josie Silver
Published by Broadway Books on October 16, 2018
Genres: Modern, Romance
Pages: 416
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World WideBuy on Amazon
Goodreads five-stars
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Two people. Ten chances. One unforgettable love story.

Laurie is pretty sure love at first sight doesn't exist anywhere but the movies. But then, through a misted-up bus window one snowy December day, she sees a man who she knows instantly is the one. Their eyes meet, there's a moment of pure magic...and then her bus drives away.

Certain they're fated to find each other again, Laurie spends a year scanning every bus stop and cafe in London for him. But she doesn't find him, not when it matters anyway. Instead they "reunite" at a Christmas party, when her best friend Sarah giddily introduces her new boyfriend to Laurie. It's Jack, the man from the bus. It would be.

What follows for Laurie, Sarah and Jack is ten years of friendship, heartbreak, missed opportunities, roads not taken, and destinies reconsidered. One Day in December is a joyous, heartwarming and immensely moving love story to escape into and a reminder that fate takes inexplicable turns along the route to happiness.

One Day in December was my local bookstore’s book club pick for December (the meeting of which I did not get to attend, to much sadness). I was a bit dismayed, to be honest, as I don’t typically read a lot of romance and often find myself too jaded and cynical to enjoy books with a heavy romantic focus. I am very happy to report that this book warmed even my crusty old heart!

Friends and Feels

While this book is, yes, a story of love, it is also a story of friendship. Laurie and Sarah have been best friends for years, and their friendship is really the glue that holds this book together. I loved them both, even if I definitely identified more with Laurie’s feelings and experiences. I’ve never been glamorous or someone who shines in the spotlight, so I was right there with her! The story spans 10 years from the time Laurie first spots her Mr. Right at a bus stop, and while Laurie and Sarah have their disagreements and even fights at times, they stick together through it all. Even when thousands of miles separate them! Again, having many long distance friendships, this really struck a chord with me. They aren’t all sunshine and roses, and Laurie really struggles sometimes with Sarah being in a relationship with Jack, but in the end she does the absolute best that a best friend could do and tries to be rational. After all, it’s pure silliness to think that you could be destined for someone you took a fancy to through the window of a bus…right?

Whoever the hell is in charge of TV scheduling needs a bullet between their eyes. Surely they could work out that anyone who needs to resort to watching TV on Valentine’s night is single and potentially bitter, so why they thought The Notebook would make suitable viewing is beyond me.

Despite the somewhat serious tone of the book – three young people seeking their own path in life as well as seeking for someone to share it with – there are moments of humor sprinkled throughout. More than once I giggled to myself while reading.

The storyline does move relatively fast, skipping over large chunks of each year and only coming back to “big” events or conversations. I was leery of that concept too, but it really seemed to work well for this type of growth in relationships and characters. All of the main characters grow, and growth includes some “mistakes” that are rather painful and costly at times. Some of the choices they made had me gasping in horror and feeling pains in my own heart, as again I just found them SO relatable (and in a couple of cases I’ve even walked the exact same path and could see the impending danger).

Jack starts off as a classic nice guy, goes through some shit and turns into a complete asshole. Not because that’s who he really is, but because he sinks into depression after a major accident and it completely changes his personality. He can see this, himself, but seems powerless to stop it. I found this to be a very accurate portrayal of how depression can wreck havoc on a person AND their relationships with other people – again, having been on both sides of that coin to some extent. Thankfully this was only temporary but it did leave his mark on him and the people around him.

Yes, But…

I did have a couple little…bothers with this story. First of all, Jack lies to Laurie right from jump. It’s a little white lie, but it affects her more than he could possibly know and it just felt…bleh. And then, there is a certain THING that happens, that results in lies of omission that (naturally) create problems further down the road. It bothered me, and yet I can’t say what I would have done in the same circumstance would really have been any different. People make mistakes, and sometimes it is better for other people – people who might be hurt by the truth – to not find out. Sometimes. It’s such a gray area, which I guess was the point here.

5/5 stars. Overall I loved One Day in December because yes (as I have already said MANY times, I know), it was relatable for me, and because I felt it was so true to life. Life is messy. Sometimes life sucks. Relationships and love are EXTREMELY messy and often uncomfortable. But people and relationships ARE worth it! I loved that even after all the heartache and struggle, Laurie and Sarah and Jack all have hope and love in life, no matter how long they had to wait or look to find it. Sometimes the road to get to where we need to go is long, but life isn’t just about the destination.

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Dec 27

The Christmas Sisters

Book Reviews 0 ★★★★★

Just a couple more holiday books, I promise! This one was my top favorite out of the slew of Christmas/holiday books I read this year.

The Christmas SistersThe Christmas Sisters by Sarah Morgan
Published by HQN on September 25, 2018
Genres: Modern, Romance
Pages: 410
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World WideBuy on Amazon
Goodreads five-stars
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In the snowy Highlands of Scotland, Suzanne McBride is dreaming of the perfect cozy Christmas. Her three adopted daughters are coming home for the holidays and she can’t wait to see them. But tensions are running high…

Workaholic Hannah knows she can’t avoid spending the holidays with her family two years in a row. But it’s not the weight of their expectations that’s panicking her—it’s the life-changing secret she’s hiding. Stay-at-home mom Beth is having a personal crisis. All she wants for Christmas is time to decide if she’s ready to return to work—seeing everyone was supposed to help her stress levels, not increase them! Posy isn’t sure she’s living her best life, but with her parents depending on her, making a change seems risky. But not as risky as falling for gorgeous new neighbor Luke…

As Suzanne’s dreams of the perfect McBride Christmas unravel, she must rely on the magic of the season to bring her daughters together. But will this new togetherness teach the sisters that their close-knit bond is strong enough to withstand anything—including a family Christmas?

All the Feels!

The Christmas Sisters hit me right in the feels. Hit so hard it hurt. About halfway through I put it down briefly, and considered not finishing it – not because it was bad, but because the sweetness of the sisters’ relationships with each other and their family in general had me feeling very left out in the cold. My own immediate family is not close and it pains my heart, but after years of trying I had to take steps last year to protect my sanity and emotions from the manipulation. I would so LOVE to have family relationships like the ones in this book! They’re not perfect either, and the story makes that clear, but they all truly love each other and accept each other as they are- even if they do bicker and carry on like most siblings, from time to time.

Despite my relationship-envy, the sisters haven’t had entirely easy lives. Their real parents died in a tragic mountaineering accident when they were very young, and while they were adopted into this warm, nurturing family they understandably had some scars.

She found it impossible to read fairy stories where everyone lived happily ever after. She couldn’t bring herself to perpetrate that lie. There was no Santa. There was no tooth fairy. Love couldn’t be guaranteed…Hannah thought it was healthier if one’s expectations of life were grounded in reality. If you didn’t expect much, you didn’t have as far to fall when you finally realized that no amount of planning could stop bad things happening.

I really identified with Hannah (the oldest sister) here. Right down to how she felt her birth parents had felt about her interests.

Even now there were days when she felt guilty for picking up a book, unable to shake the feeling that there was something more valuable she should be doing with her time.

So much this, even TO THIS DAY my mother takes jabs at my books and the time I spend reading.

Relationships

Beth, the middle sister, and Posy, the youngest, have made something of their own lives in their own way. This particular Christmas though, all three sisters are at something of a crossroads in their lives. Coming home to Scotland is a chance to breathe and re-evaluate, for Beth and Hannah. For Posy, who has never left, their coming (along with that of a certain sexy newcomer to town) stirs a restlessness in her that she thought was long since controlled. What do they want out of life? What is most important? What is worth taking a risk for or on?

“Rocks you can see and touch and learn about. They’re tangible things, but feelings -” he shook his head “-they’re like the weather. They’re the part you can’t control. If you don’t care about anything, then you’re invulnerable, but once you care – well, you can be hurt. And people can disappoint and let you down.”

There is SOME romance in this book, but it didn’t really read like just a romance novel. The multi-faceted layers of all the relationships far exceeded my expectations and the romance was just a side story. The focus was really on the sisters and the family!

5/5 stars. Highly recommend The Christmas Sisters for a warm, cozy holiday read! I don’t understand why Sarah Morgan’s books aren’t more popular if they are all like this, I’m definitely going to be seeking out some of her others.

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