The Book of Essie, Meghan Maclean Weir

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Title: The Book of Essie

Author: Meghan Maclean Weir

Pages:  336

Genre: contemporary fiction

Is this part of a series?  No

Publish date: June 12th, 2018

 

Summary:

Essie is the youngest of Pastor Hick’s children, and has lived her life on television for her family’s show Six for Hicks.  It doesn’t really allow for a normal childhood or life in general.  Everyone thinks they know her from the show… but they know nothing- and she’s ready to change that.

Rourke is the handsome school athlete.  Everyone likes him- he has the looks, grades, and talent.  Unfortunately that won’t get him far without money- college is expensive and his parents are about to loose their business.  When circumstances force the two together Rourke is ready to hate her for everything she stands for.  The more they see of each other, though, the more he realizes that he and the rest of the world have it wrong.

Liberty Bell is trying to make amends for her past- sadly, the very public past does not want to be forgotten and people have a lot of preconceived notions.  When Essie approaches her for help, all she can see is a way to make a new name for herself.  As she gets more of the story, though, the young people begin to mean more to her than a story.

This is about family, loyalty, religion betrayal, and redemption.

My thoughts:

I was up until three in the morning because I simply could not put the book down.  The characters were real, multifaceted and interesting.  I found myself rooting for them from the beginning.  Quick paced, heartfelt and just a bit irreverent, this is sure to be a crowd-pleaser.  I loved the premise here, and that each of the three narratives had their individual demons.  The different points of view added a lot to the story and the drama at hand.  Each one has an opinion as to what the right thing to do is, and each have their own hang ups.
Essie, especially, was easy for me to love.  She is just seventeen, but was forced to grow up so fast.  She’s media savvy, and yet she sees the craziness that is her life, sees the humor of the situation and decides to use it to meet her own goals.  At first, I felt bad for the way she used Rourke; but then I realized that she also thought she was helping him the only way she knew how…. and if her plan was going to work she needed a partner.

The mother might upset some people.  She’s conniving, manipulative and cares more about appearances than anything else and always has.  Her reactions to what is going on in the family were a huge turn off to me.  Meetings about “Essie’s problem” that she wasn’t invited to.  Large issues swept under the rug.  Everything is about image- how she looks and sounds, how the pastor looks- going so far as to photo-shop the daughter that left the fold into holiday pictures so that no one would know she was estranged.  Honestly, I hated her, but she was a necessary evil for the story.

Fast paced and heartfelt, this book broke me.  I loved it!  For me, this is a five star book with an added star for creativity.  It’s hard to intertwine this many issues together so fluidly.  normal star rating normal star ratingnormal star ratingnormal star ratingnormal star rating star-709689_960_720

On the adult content scale there is a lot of language, but more than that are the underlying issues of the book.  There is talk of rape, conversion therapy, bigotry and hate.  I would say that this book is only for older teens and adults.  It’s a lot to take in, and I was pleased to see that Goodreads was not labeling this as a YA novel despite the age of the main character.  It isn’t one.  Let’s give it a seven.  Parental Guidance

I was lucky enough to receive an eARC of this book from First to Read in exchange for an honest review.  My thanks.  first to read

The book comes out 6-12-18.  Be ready!

Link to book:

Amazon

Happy Reading,

Amber

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A Deadly Cliché, Ellery Adams

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Title: A Deadly Cliche

Author: Ellery Adams

Pages: 278

Genre: Cozy mystery

Is this part of a series?  Yes, book two in the Books by the Bay series.  Here is the review for book one if needed.  A Killer Plot, Ellery Adams.

Published:  March 1st, 2011

Summary:

A man is found on the beach, buried down in the sand with a toy bucket over his head.   Who is he?  Why was he placed there?  In town there have been a string of thefts, each one with a cliche left as a calling card.  Are the two connected?  Or are there two different criminals?  Laurel, ready to be more than an at-home mother, is covering the stories to see if she could be part of the town paper.  Armed with all her courage, and Olivia at her side, she’ll see if she can live her dream of being a journalist.

While all this is going on, Olivia has been looking to open a new restaurant- a crab house in town.  She’s looking into buildings and trying to help Millae and Harris figure out their feelings- something she absolutely can’t do because she can’t even come to grips with her own feelings for the man she wants.  Then there’s the letter.  Someone claims they have been caring for her father all these years- the man she thought dead!  They want money, but she wants answers.  Can the once reclusive woman balance everything?

My thoughts:

First, I loved this cover.  Each of the books in the series have Captain Haviland and books.  It’s definitely eye catching.  I also like that I am already seeing a lot of character growth not only with Olivia, but with Laurel and Harris as well.  They are well developed, interesting characters that grow only more intriguing as you read on.

I will say that there was a lot happening in this book.  The book had a good flow and transitioned from one part to the next well, so I was never overwhelmed; but when I started working on the summary I realized just how many balls were in the air.  If the other six books stay in this vein this is going to be a heck of a series.  It’s a quick cozy mystery, and I had a lot of fun reading it.  For me, this is a five star book.  normal star ratingnormal star ratingnormal star ratingnormal star ratingnormal star rating

On the adult content scale there was violence, language, and hints at sexual content.  Really, it was barely anything.  I give it a three.  General.svg

The book is out!  Have you read it?

Link to book:

Amazon

Happy Reading,

Amber

Little Big Love, Katy Regan

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Title: Little Big Love

Author: Katy Regan

Pages: 384

Genre: Family, contemporary fiction

Is this book part of a series?  No.

Publish Date: June 5th, 2018

Summary:

One night can change so many lives; and one determined soul can reconnect them all.  Ten year old Zac is facing a lot- he isn’t exactly popular at school. In fact, his size makes him a target for bullying and his sole friend is his neighbor Teagan.  All he ever wanted was for him and his mother to be happy.  He wants a dad for himself, and someone to love his mother.

A drunken declaration from Juliet sends her son into a tailspin.  If his father was the only man she ever loved, he needed to know more about him.  Secrets will come out, and bonds will be tested beyond limits.  This book is about love, family, loyalty, and accepting the past.

My thoughts:

I love this book, there’s so much heart!  Now, full disclosure, I read this book over a month ago and have been waiting until closer to release to review it.  I don’t like doing that, because it isn’t as fresh in my mind.  I may just begin scheduling reviews when they are this far out.

This one, though, stays with you.  Each character burrows into your soul.  Zac is loving and sweet, the apple of his mother and grandmother’s eye.  He’s also very smart and mature for his age.  I loved his thought process, his care for his mother, and his relationship with his best friend.  I felt bad for him, being bullied for being overweight.   Every time I read about things like this I can’t believe they could ever be real…. but they most likely are.

Juliet is working constantly and still can’t make ends meet, but she is determined to be a good mother.  Between stress eating, holing herself off from romance, and the occasional lifted item; she’s a mess.  When she finds out how badly Zac has been trying not only to find her a companion, but himself a father, she knows it’s time to come clean about a few secrets.

I even liked the grandparents, though the hate living in Juliet’s mother was sometimes overwhelming.  She has a lot of pain and has been allowed unhealthy coping strategies for far too long.  Still, she loved Zac without reservation, and her pain was one I could understand.

The premise was interesting and the book flowed between the three narrators easily.  I loved the writing style, and felt like the additional insights were completely necessary for the story.  For me, this is a five star book.  normal star ratingnormal star ratingnormal star ratingnormal star ratingnormal star rating

On the adult content scale, there is some language and bullying.  The bullying was actually the hardest on me.  I give it a four.  Talk to your younger teens about how it is portrayed and what they think of it.  Parental Guidance
I was lucky enough to receive an eARC of this book from First to Read in exchange for an honest review.  My thanks!  first to read

The book comes out 6-05-18.  Is it on your TBR list yet?

Link to book:

Amazon

Happy Reading,

Amber

 

The History of Jane Doe, Michael Belanger

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Title: The History of Jane Doe

Author: Michael Belanger

Pages:  304

Genre: YA, Contemporary

Is this part of a series?  No.

Publish Date: June 5th, 2018

 

Summary:

Seen through the eyes of a youth that has already loved and lost, this story is cut into parts so that he can write out the history: Before Jane, and After Jane.  Struggling with the hurt feelings, guilt, unanswered questions and trying to find his place again; Ray is drowning and no amount of therapy, parenting, or friendship can reach him.  He always understood history, and wanted to write Jane’s; so that she wasn’t forgotten.  But how much did she know about the bright, quirky girl with the sad eyes and secrets?  And how does he figure out who he is after Jane?

My thoughts:

First, I adored the premise here.  Ray is a great character, well rounded and interesting.  He loves his odd little town with it’s “haunted house” and “green cows”.  He loves the history of it- and history in general.  When the pretty new girl, Jane Doe, begins talking to him, he can’t wait to be the one to show her all the oddities her conspiracy-theorist heart yearns for.  Along with his geeky best friend, Simon, they make a list of adventures and make a year to remember.

As feelings grow between Jane and Ray, though, he can’t help seeing little things.  She won’t talk about her past, her friends there.  Sometimes she is sad, distant, and won’t come around for days.  He loves Jane, and wants to help her, but what does a teen know about dealing with depression?  I actually really appreciated how the author showed Jane; and how Ray was “after”.  It seemed believable, honest.  He was in pain and confused, angry at having to seek help from a psychiatrist when he wasn’t even sure what needed fixed.  The slightly ridiculous interactions between Jane, Ray and Simon helped to lighten the mood; lending a bit of humor and whimsy to what would otherwise be a very heavy piece.  In this way it reminded me of John Green’s works, and I think his fans will really like Belanger.

My only complaint is that it followed no real time line.  Each chapter was “…Days before/ after Jane” and you had to stop and think.  Has this happened yet, do they know about this here?  If the memories went in order it would be easier, but one’s memories don’t come like that.  We are at the whim of what is important to Ray at the moment.  It makes for a choppier reading experience, but a more organic one.  For me, this is a five star book.  normal star ratingnormal star ratingnormal star ratingnormal star ratingnormal star rating

On the adult content scale, I am a bit torn.  There’s very light sexual content, and some language and drinking- all very minor.  But there are triggers here: teen depression and self harm.  My niece will still be offered this one, but I would definitely either save it for older teens or have an open discussion at the end to talk out their feelings on Jane and if anything could be done differently.  I give it a five.  Parental Guidance

I was lucky enough to receive an eARC of this book from First to Read in exchange for an honest review.  My thanks!  first to read

The book comes out 6-05-18.  Be ready!

Link to book:

Amazon

Happy Reading,

Amber

The House Swap, Rebecca Fleet

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Title: The House Swap

Author: Rebecca Fleet

Pages:  320

Genre: suspense

Is this part of a series?  No.

Publish Date: May 22nd, 2018

Summary:

It’s been a long couple of years for Francis and Caroline.  Each one has a part to play in the demise of their marriage.  To see if they can reconnect, they decided to do a house swap for a week.

Their son, Eddie, is with Caroline’s mother and they have seven days just for them.  The past, though, doesn’t always stay where it belongs.  Odd things are popping up around the new house, and Caroline is getting odd messages.  Could it be that she gave too much access to someone that doesn’t want to be forgotten?

My thoughts:

I have to admit, this book couldn’t hold my interest.  I ended up setting it aside way too often (I finished four books while trying to read this one).  Maybe it’s just me.  Caroline was not a likable character.  I found her selfish and self serving, spoiled, and combative.  Francis, on the other hand, either tried to hard or didn’t try at all.  There was no in between.  Amber was alright, I liked her, but she was a bit weak.  I never got a good feel for Carl.  I think if the side characters had been a bit better developed I might have liked them more.

The premise was interesting, but the execution had issues.  Flowing from present to past, and from Caroline to Francis to an unknown person got to be a bit much.  The writing became choppy… I am not sure if that was purposeful but it did not help build the suspense; so I am thinking it wasn’t.  And did I mention I hate Caroline?  I need a character I can root for here!  I don’t know…. maybe this book just wasn’t for me.  For me, it was a two star book.  normal star ratingnormal star rating

On the adult content, there is a lot of language, sexual content, drugs, alcohol…. you name it.  It wasn’t too over the top (some of the sexual content got a little explicit), but I still would not give this to a teen.  Let’s give it an eight.  adult content road sign

I was given an eARC of this book from First to Read in exchange for an honest review.  My Thanks.  first to read

The book comes out 5-22-18.  Let me know what you think!

Link to book:

Amazon

Happy Reading

How I Resist: Activism and Hope For The Next Generation, Maureen Johnson

 

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Title: How I Resist

Edited by: Maureen Johnson

Pages: 320

Genre: collected work, inspirational

Is this part of a series?  No.

Published: May 15th, 2018

Summary:

The youth of today are getting more tech savvy, and understanding much more of what is going on in the world than I feel like I was at their age.  They see the issues prevalent in the world that they will inherit; and they’re ready to start making a difference.  The problem is, they’re too young to vote, and often aren’t taken very seriously.  Add to that, they don’t always have the life experience or the confidence to be heard.  Plus… all the issues, all the problems…. it all seems so huge that it could be overwhelming.

Where do you begin?  How do you find your way?  Will it even matter?  Through essays, interviews and other forms we go through these questions.  Each piece is geared toward giving non violent ideas on how to be heard, choosing your platform, who to talk to…. along with the resounding message that the reader is not alone.

My thoughts:

I have a book hangover (*sips coffee*).  I couldn’t put this book down, and ended up reading it- and rereading my favorite parts- in one day.  My eBook is covered with highlights and notes.  Actually, I also bought the audiobook and would consider the hardback as well if I didn’t think Warren would kill me.

When I first heard about this book, I was ecstatic.  If done right, this could be one of the most important books of the year to my mind.  You have youths that are strong, articulate and courageous like Emma Gonzales.  She inspires me, as I know she has thousands of others.  But I feel like she is the exception, not the rule.  Most young people aren’t ready for that sort of platform- some people like myself will never be.  So what do you do?  You still want to help, everyone wants to leave the world better than they found it.  But it seems like too much- these things could swallow you whole!

That’s where this book comes in.  With every short story, essay, song and interview we are given clear, concise directives on what can be done behind the scenes.  On steps that we can take, and people to contact.  Not only that, but we are told time and again that we aren’t alone.  I feel like that’s important.  With every shared experience you get a sense of community and togetherness.  The world isn’t so crazy when you know there are others that felt what you feel, and hear about what they did about it.  The book both gave me peace from the gnawing anxiety that the news now gives me; along with hope.  Almost serenity.  I may not be able to do much…. but I have a voice and I can be heard.  That is what I came away with (along with a hefty list of books that I could read as I move further into activism).  I feel like it would do the same for my niece, and really for anyone.  For me, this is a five star book.  normal star ratingnormal star ratingnormal star ratingnormal star ratingnormal star rating

On the adult content side, I don’t feel like there was much of anything.  Light cursing.  Honestly I feel like this book was made for any age so long as they have the vocabulary necessary, or a dictionary handy.  I don’t feel it deserves a rating at all, it’s so low.  General.svg

The book is out, and I have to say I think everyone should be reading it.  This could be one of the definitive books of the year- and I don’t say that lightly.

Link to book:

Amazon

*I actually have so many quotes I want to place in this review that I am doing a whole other post to accommodate!  I will link this review to it.

Happy reading,

Amber

 

Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder, Joanne Fluke

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Title: Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder

Author: Joanne Fluke

Pages:  336

Genre: Cozy Mystery

Is this book part of a series?  Yes, book one of the Hannah Swensen series.

Published: May 3rd, 2011

Summary:

Hannah has made a name for herself in her hometown of Lake Eden, Minnesota.  She is the owner of The Cookie Jar, the less feminine sister, crazy cat owner, and least tactful resident.  She bakes well, and has a fierce loyalty to those in her orb.  When her dairy delivery guy, Ron, is found shot behind her shop she knows she has to help her brother in law, Bill, nab the bad guy.  At the same time, she has a business to run and a match making mama to deflect.

Between trying to charm information out of the residents and getting herself in odd situations- the kind that involve dumpster diving and makeovers- she’s determined to protect her town.

My thoughts:

This was my facebook reading group’s pic for the month.  (Reading between the lines if anyone’s interested).  I lucked out because I have been on a cozy mystery kick for a bit.  This seemed like a fun, fast read with recipes.  I will say that I like the characters of Hannah, Moishe (how do you even pronounce that??), Norman and Andrea.  I feel like a lot of the other characters were a bit under developed unfortunately.  I mean, I liked Delores fine, but she was a bit cliche.  She was a busy body mama, who wanted way too much access to her daughter’s personal life.  I feel like it’s overdone.  Add to that, Norman’s mother Carrie seems like the exact same character.  I mean, geeze, it’s uncanny.

Any one who knows me will roll their eyes at this, but my favorite character was Moishe the beat-up rescue cat.  I know… the pet is nearly always my favorite (Captain Haviland, Muffin Cat, Owen and Hercules, Elvis…. I could go on).  He was a charming distraction from all the mayhem, and I found myself in love with the way he and Hannah interacted.  I needed the distraction, because sometimes I got mad at the book.  Bill is the one in law enforcement- and the one coming up for a promotion; but all you see is Hannah snooping around and doing the leg work.  Did we have to make Bill seem so incompetent?  Why wasn’t Hannah relying on him more?  I don’t know, maybe it’s just me.  It was still a fun, fast read, and I did appreciate the cookie recipes at the end of the chapters…. but I didn’t warm up to this one like I wanted to.  Later, I think I will try some of the other books in a series to see how it grows.  I think there’s a lot of potential here, it just felt a teeny bit flat for me.  I give it a three.  normal star ratingnormal star ratingnormal star rating

On the adult content scale, there’s some violence and language.  You always come up to the body after the fact, and it’s not explicit at all in their descriptions; so I would let my niece read this one.  I give it a four.  General.svg

Link to book:

Amazon

Happy Reading,

Amber