Wednesday, September 20, 2017

CAN'T WAIT TO READ: The Closest I've Come by Fred Aceves

Release date: November 7th 2017
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pre-order: Amazon

Synopsis via Goodreads:

The Closest I’ve Come is a must-read from talented first-time author Fred Aceves, in the tradition of Walter Dean Myers.

Marcos Rivas wants to find love.
He’s sure as hell not getting it at home, where his mom’s racist boyfriend beats him up. Or from his boys, who aren’t exactly the “hug it out” type. Marcos yearns for love, a working cell phone, and maybe a pair of sneakers that aren’t falling apart. But more than anything, Marcos wants to get out of Maesta, his hood—which seems impossible.

When Marcos is placed in a new after-school program for troubled teens with potential, he meets Zach, a theater geek whose life seems great on the surface, and Amy, a punk girl who doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her. These new friendships inspire Marcos to open up to his Maesta crew, too, and along the way, Marcos starts to think more about his future and what he has to fight for. Marcos ultimately learns that bravery isn’t about acting tough and being macho; it’s about being true to yourself.

Fred AcevesAbout the Author
Fred Aceves is a Latino author who grew up in a community like the one described in The Closest I’ve Come, a tough, working-class neighborhood filled with single moms. He attended five high schools and worked two jobs before eventually dropping out of school. He later earned his GED and traveled around the world. He was born in the United States and currently lives in Mexico with his wife. The Closest I’ve Come is his debut novel.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Review: The Chesapeake Bride by Mariah Stewart

Series: Chesapeake Diaries #11
Release date: August 29th 2017
Publisher: Pocket Books
Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository {Affiliate Link}

Synopsis via Goodreads:
From New York Times bestselling author Mariah Stewart comes a new chapter in her celebrated Chesapeake Diaries series, featuring her signature “rich characterization, charming setting, and a romance you’ll never forget” (Robyn Carr, #1 New York Times bestselling author).

Architect Cassidy Logan has sworn off good-looking adventurers. Newly divorced, she’s focused on building ecologically friendly, historically accurate homes on the Chesapeake Bay for her father’s construction company. Traveling to Cannonball Island—where there has been no new construction in nearly one hundred years—Cass is sensitive to the heritage of the island, and has come up with plans so perfect she’s determined to buy a home for herself. Even the fact that Owen Parker—a local who she dismisses as a lightweight and a player—seems to be everywhere isn’t enough to deter her from building her dream house.

Owen Parker is and always has been sinfully handsome and wickedly clever, a magnet for mischief as well as girls. He’s a rolling stone, going and doing whatever appeals to him, from flying a mail plane in Alaska, to working on a cattle ranch in Australia, a shrimp boat in Louisiana, and surfing and diving in Costa Rica. When an old friend offers him a job salvaging a sunken ship on the Chesapeake Bay, Owen gladly accepts. Something’s been telling him it was time to head home to Cannonball Island, and a job is as good an excuse as any. And he’s totally smitten by the pretty architect on the scene, but it seems he’s finally met a woman who’s immune to his charms. Sooner or later, Owen will have to face the reason why he always runs, because this time, leaving just might be harder than staying.

*Publisher approved request via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I hadn't realized that this was eleventh in a series when I found it on NetGalley. I just got curious about the story after reading the blurb and requested it right away. Thankfully, each book in the series focuses on different characters so this one, like the others, can be read as a standalone. 

So what can I say about The Chesapeake Bride? Well, above all else I definitely enjoyed it. The story is rich in history and has wonderful descriptions of a coastal setting that had me breathing in every scene. I also really liked each character, not just the main. While Cass and Owen were both very interesting to read about, I fell in love with Owen's grand-aunt Ruby and his little sister, Lis. I liked how loving and supportive the family and members of the community were. Everyone knew everyone. That in itself was simply delightful. And whenever Ruby or Grace got to talking about a family or a particular spot on the island, it always warmed my heart. In a way, they brought life back to things and you could really feel the love and knowledge they possessed. 

As for the main characters, Owen and Cass, I thought their encounters were cute and often times informative. Cass was still moving on from a divorce so it was understandable that she'd want to focus solely on the development project and fought the idea of having a relationship with Owen, especially when he was a known player and adventure seeker that never stuck around for long. Nevertheless, the subtle ways Owen had gotten her to warm up to him was adorable and he certainly made my mouth drool reading about his cooking skills. Their time together didn't always end well, with Cass being headstrong and her drive to preserve the history of Cannonball Island not always being taken in a genuine way. But I was glad that Owen cleared up his misinterpretations pretty quickly and that the two were able to better connect.

Honestly, though, the romance aspect wasn't a huge part of why I liked the story so much, and I didn't care for the last minute drama involving Owen's ex. What I loved more than anything else was the island and its history. The details truly made me want to move there. And I loved that toward the end certain things had resolved for the better. With The Chesapeake Bride being such a good read, I'd love to catch up with the rest of this series. I definitely see why so many people love Stewarts' storytelling.      


Mariah Stewart
About the Author
Mariah Stewart is the award-winning New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty novels of contemporary romance and romantic suspense. A native of Hightstown, New Jersey, she lives with her husband and their dogs amid the rolling hills and Amish farms of southern Chester County, Pennsylvania, where she gardens, reads, and enjoys country life.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

CAN'T WAIT TO READ: Calling My Name by Liara Tamani

Release date: October 24th 2017
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Pre-order: Amazon

Synopsis via Goodreads:

Taja Brown lives with her parents and older brother and younger sister, in Houston, Texas. Taja has always known what the expectations of her conservative and tightly-knit African American family are—do well in school, go to church every Sunday, no intimacy before marriage. But Taja is trying to keep up with friends as they get their first kisses, first boyfriends, first everythings. And she’s tired of cheering for her athletic younger sister and an older brother who has more freedom just because he’s a boy. 

Taja dreams of going to college and forging her own relationship with the world and with God, but when she falls in love for the first time, those dreams are suddenly in danger of evaporating.

Liara TamaniAbout the Author
Liara Tamani lives in Houston, Texas. She holds an MFA in writing from Vermont College and a BA from Duke University. Liara is a strong believer in following your heart, even when you don't know exactly where it's taking you. Calling My Name is her debut novel.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Review: Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker

Release date: August 8th 2017
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository {Affiliate Link}

Synopsis via Goodreads:

From the bestselling author of All Is Not Forgotten comes a thriller about two missing sisters, a twisted family, and what happens when one girl comes back...

One night three years ago, the Tanner sisters disappeared: 
fifteen-year-old Cass and seventeen-year-old Emma. 

Three years later, Cass returns, without her sister Emma. Her story is one of kidnapping and betrayal, of a mysterious island where the two were held. But to forensic psychiatrist Dr. Abby Winter, something doesn't add up. Looking deep within this dysfunctional family Dr. Winter uncovers a life where boundaries were violated and a narcissistic parent held sway. And where one sister's return might just be the beginning of the crime.

*Publisher approved request via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Wendy Walker impressed me with her debut novel and so I was looking forward to where she'd go next because of her great writing and ability to twist things. And While Emma in the Night certainly had an intense and stirring vibe, it didn't quite deliver the punch I was seeking from the author. 

My issues began instantly with my inability to connect with Cass or Abby. The intriguing doctor aside, I never trusted Cass from the moment she returned home. Also, I feel like the story would have impacted me more if I could have experienced some of the things while they were happening, instead of just taking Cass' word for it as she's recollecting the horror of her mother and the kind of house she and her sister were growing up in. I know that might have extended the story somewhat, but I would have liked a little more of "in the moment" emotions from the sisters.

Also, it wasn't too hard to detect what was really going on. Cass was giving these precise details about the island and about her sister that had me suspecting her from the beginning, especially when it came to tales about Emma. As a matter of fact, I wish Cass had taken a different route so that the mother would have received what she truly deserved. But I guess we wouldn't have found out about Emma and I understand to an extent why she did what she had to do. 

Back to Dr. Abby Winter. It was clear that the forensic psychiatrist had dealt with her own horrors and could relate to Cass in regards to having a narcissistic parent. Throughout the story, she was quick to make connections to certain behavior and I found it interesting that Cass had easily detected the similarity between them, hoping that Abby would not only believe in her but would figure things out. That aspect of the story was quite interesting to read. 

There's not much else I can write without giving away the whole story, but I do want to mention that when disheartening details about the family was being revealed by Cass, I realized that dysfunctional didn't quite sum it up. The mother was...I don't even have the right word to describe her. She definitely had problems and required serious professional help, but the girls' father was just as bad. The only genuine and stable person in the sisters' lives was their older brother, Witt. While I doubted the intentions of every other character in the story, his kind nature was the most convincing and it's a relief that at least Cass had his love and support to move forward. 

To conclude, Emma in the Night has good writing and an overall premise that may shake you. But as I've mentioned before, I would have loved to be in the scenes as certain events were taking place, just to feel the emotions of the characters, instead of being told about what happened over and over. Still, it's an interesting psychological novel.

Wendy   WalkerAbout the Author
Wendy Walker is a former family law attorney in Fairfield County, Connecticut who began writing while at home raising her three sons. She published two novels with St. Martin’s Press and edited multiple compilations for the Chicken Soup for the Soul series before writing her debut psychological thriller, All is Not Forgotten. Wendy is currently writing her third thriller while managing a busy household.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Review: The Smallest Thing by Lisa Manterfield

Release date: July 18th 2017
Publisher: Steel Rose Press
Purchase: Amazon

Synopsis via Goodreads:

The very last thing 17-year-old Emmott Syddall wants is to turn out like her dad. She’s descended from ten generations who never left their dull English village, and there’s no way she’s going to waste a perfectly good life that way. She’s moving to London and she swears she is never coming back. 

But when the unexplained deaths of her neighbors force the government to quarantine the village, Em learns what it truly means to be trapped. Now, she must choose. Will she pursue her desire for freedom, at all costs, or do what’s best for the people she loves: her dad, her best friend Deb, and, to her surprise, the mysterious man in the HAZMAT suit? 

Inspired by the historical story of the plague village of Eyam, this contemporary tale of friendship, community, and impossible love weaves the horrors of recent news headlines with the intimate details of how it feels to become an adult—and fall in love—in the midst of tragedy.

*Publisher approved request via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Smallest Thing is a really good story. It had my attention locked from start. The writing is just wonderful, and the overall mystery regarding what was causing members of the village to fall sick, some dying soon after, had me intrigued.  

I liked that this was inspired by a real life event, one that I had no idea about until reading the blurb, but I'm glad the author was able to deliver the story in such a way that I actually felt like I was there in every moment, experiencing this devastation. 

What I also liked is how there were other aspects to the story and it wasn't just about the plague. Emmott's character, for instance, was coming-of-age and she wanted to get out into the world and live her life her way. She had these big plans and dreamed of leaving the village, as opposed to remaining "stuck" there like her father and ancestors. Emmott dreaded living under her father's strictness, which was understandable, because he often came off so hard and inconsiderate toward his daughter, many times saying things that hurt her feelings or made her feel ignored. Their relationship, or lack thereof, was definitely tense for the most part. In one particular scene, he yelled at Emmott for being with a certain character that I never liked from the get-go, but the way he handled it was so heartbreaking, especially as a father. I guess he didn't know better, and Emmott's mother wasn't exactly there either. She was another story all to herself and while some details were revealed about her and the marital issues with Emmott's father, I was okay with her not being in the village while everything was taking place because then too much would be going on. 

Going back to Emmott's character, I must say that I did find her to be selfish and impulsive at times, wanting to disregard rules and risk spreading the plague elsewhere, but then I would remind myself that this was a teen girl just starting to figure out her life, and had to quickly learn to cope in an adult way if she was going to be able to survive. Not sure how I'd fare in a similar situation but I feel like Emmott did her best, especially toward the end of the story. And I liked how in the midst of the plague and with the entire village being placed in quarantine, Emmott was able to bond with someone who genuinely cared for her, even if for every encounter an hazmat suit was always between them. I found that to be quite interesting in itself, and it offered a bit of sweetness in such a sad time. 

Again, great story with remarkable writing. And although the ending broke my heart, I almost expected that to happen and I'm okay with the way things turned out. This is my first time reading a book by Lisa Manterfield and I must say I'm impressed by her storytelling. I'll definitely be checking out her other releases.

Lisa ManterfieldAbout the Author
Lisa Manterfield is the award-winning author of A Strange Companion and I’m Taking My Eggs and Going Home: How One Woman Dared to Say No to Motherhood. Her work has appeared in The Saturday Evening Post, Los Angeles Times, and Psychology Today. 

Originally from northern England, she now lives in Southern California with her husband and over-indulged cat. 


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