The Book of Essie, Meghan Maclean Weir

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

Advertisements

Comixology…. imperfect, but worth it

1030_comics_630x420

Every time I see a comic book movie, I remember the 13 year old me riding my bike to the comic shop desperate to find out what the X-Men were up to.  It was a bit expensive even then, but so long as I kept it down to three different comics a month my father was happy.  I loved them, these amazing friends.  They were strong, courageous, and often hilarious.  If you know me you know that a book has to have certain things to win me over: good character development, plot, and interesting character interactions.  Who does this better than the comic book industry?!?  I mean, seriously, what are the X-men besides superhero soap operas (bless them!)?  You miss one month and you have absolutely no idea what’s going on.  When I moved to Kansas City the nearest comic shop was two bus rides away.  (You had to transfer)  The library and regular book store were much better options and I lost touch with the Marvel Universe.

Fast forward twenty years.  I am an old woman with limited free money and no earthly idea where to begin trying to catch up.  I want to know more about The Avengers, Justice League, X-men, X-force, Hulk, Spiderman….  If I tried to figure out each of these different titles, and the arc that I needed I could drop a hundred dollars easily.  I mean, one comic is about $5.  A graphic novel or collection of six comics is $16 in paper or between $5 and $10 eBook.  Then you have to decide…. paper or digital.  I have to admit I was completely pro paper here- I mean, it felt wrong to consider a digital comic!  On the other hand, it is SO MUCH CHEAPER!  I don’t have to give up shelf room, or worry about bending the comic in my purse, and I can make the image or text larger.  (Old lady problems… I know I am only 35, but try telling my body that!)

This is where Comixology comes in.  I pay $6 a month and get to borrow all sorts of comics, allowing me to catch up and choose the series and arcs I care about without loosing all my book money.  Now, they don’t have all of the comics in the unlimited grouping and eventually I will have to start paying for story lines again; but I can’t imagine a better way to jump back into the comic world.  Plus, once I am ready to start buying again, they offer discounts on the eBook prices.  I think this is going to meet my needs nicely!

Have you guys tried this, or is there a different subscription you prefer?  Let me know!

Happy Reading,

Amber

Little Big Love, Katy Regan

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

Gale Force, Owen Laukkanen

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Title: Gale Force

Author: Owen Laukkanen

Pages:  384

Is this part of a series?  No.

Publish Date: May 8th, 2018

Summary:

McKenna Rhodes is still reeling from her father’s death- one she feels she is responsible for.  Working a salvage ship is dangerous work- but the payoff when you pull it off is amazing.  Still, her father is a constant reminder that you don’t always win in this gamble.

She left the salvage business, mostly doing day trips and the like- no more big scores.  This life, though, just isn’t paying the bills and she needs money- badly.  When she hears about The Pacific Lion wrecked two hundred miles out in a storm…. well, maybe there’s a bit of her father in her after all, because despite her better judgement, she can’t resist.  With her father’s old crew, she heads out.  What they don’t know is that there’s more of interest on that boat than a bunch of cars.  A man had stowed away with Yakuza bonds, and the thief’s associate wants the money- but so do the gangsters.  With everything on the line, can McKenna prove herself as captain, get the big score, and keep her makeshift family alive?

My thoughts:

I have loved Owen Laukkanen for years due to his Stevens/ Windmere books and while I wasn’t sure this one would be up my alley, I had to try it.  The author starts slowly, as usual, drawing you into the character’s world; but once he catches his stride it’s non stop action.  I felt for McKenna and the amount of guilt she carried, the chip on her shoulder at times getting in the way of making the best decisions.  I also loved the rest of the crew, especially Ridley.  Harrison Court was a mixed bag for me.  He was brash and ridiculous at times with a touch of Peter Pan syndrome.  What I liked about him, though, was that he was growing up- he understood what he lost with McKenna so long ago and he had no bones about letting her know he wanted another chance.  I did not like the fact that he often treated her like she wasn’t his boss- not listening to orders.  It happened so often that I found myself wondering if this man could really be worth the hassle.

Each character on the team was well developed and interesting with their own past and stories.  I love how Laukkanen can draw you in to the character- they are always so well fleshed out that you could almost touch them.  I do feel like he didn’t give the Yakuza characters as much definition- they seemed a bit cookie cutter- but it was a minor thing for me.  Looking through other reviews, I see a few talking about the technical verbage- and there is a lot, but I don’t feel it was over done.  There was never so much that I was drawn out of the story.  The writing was perfect, the plot interesting and the book had an even flow- after about the first twenty pages.  Hey, there was a lot to introduce!    This is a fast paced adventure that I think will not only please Laukkanen’s older fans, but bring him a new crowd as well.  For me it is a five star book.  normal star ratingnormal star ratingnormal star ratingnormal star ratingnormal star rating

On the adult content- there’s some language and violence.  Nothing over the top.  I would say that this is fine for an older teen- I have seen far worse in comics lol.  Let’s give this a four.  Parental Guidance

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 5-8-18, are you ready?

Link to book:

Amazon

Happy reading,

Amber

The Optimist’s Guide to Letting Go, Amy E Reichert

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Title: The Optimist’s Guide to Letting Go

Author: Amy E. Reichert

Pages:  352

Genre: women’s fiction

Is this part of a series?  No.

Publish Date: May 15th, 2018

Summary:

Gina lost her husband and best friend, Drew, two years ago.  Her sister Victoria has been a great help with trying to heal and being a sounding board; with the help of Grilled G’s- the food truck Drew fixed up for her- she might just look normal.  Looks can be deceiving.  She’s broken to the point of keeping his shirt in a zip lock baggie, keeping his old cell active so that she can hear him.  She knows she has to be strong, that May needs her…. and so she won’t allow herself to grieve in front of her daughter, instead giving space.

May lost her best friend too- her father.  The man that taught her how to take apart an engine and put it back together.  The level head of the family.  Her support system.  Regina won’t even talk about him!  She has lists upon list to get through the day, but as far as May can see her daughter’s name isn’t on any of them.

Victoria was always the good daughter- the one that did as expected.  She married Jeff, as her parents wanted and had four children that she loves, even as they exhaust her.  She keeps the peace and keeps her head down- isn’t that what one does in exchange for security?  She can’t help thinking about what she missed though, a deep and crazy love like Gina had with her Drew.  When secrets come out, she has to decide what’s most important.

Lorraine has spent a lifetime covering up her secrets.  When she and Floyd married she knew there would be certain expectations.  She would bring him into the Milwaukee society, give him a perfect family, act as his hostess, never rock the boat.  Even after his death, she was too terrified of the fall out to give up her secrets.  A stroke brings to the forefront what she’s done.  Watching her daughters, unable to talk to them- to explain…. she finally understands that she needs to come clean; but how?  As these women’s lives come together, a story comes together of love, joy, grief and the different ways to let go.

My thoughts:

This book broke me.  Each character is a well developed disaster.   You can’t help but be pulled into their drama, dreams and regrets.  Each one is multifaceted and oddly easy to love.  I know I say this in a lot of my reviews- it’s honestly one of the top things I look for in a book- can I identify with these characters?  Are they well developed?  These things are important to me as I read to fall into a different world- escaping work, stress and boredom to give myself to a set of characters for however long I have.  I also read to learn about new places or ideas… but mostly it’s been my escape since I was an overly-angsty  pre teen.

But I digress.  The story is told in three points of view- Gina, Lorraine and May with gorgeous flash backs and memories.  Now, I have a bit of issue here.  The transition between POV’s is flawless.  The story flows smoothly from one very different voice to another.  I was disappointed that Victoria didn’t have a chapter though.  She is pivotal to the story, a support system for May and Regina as well as loving (if crazed) daughter of Lorraine.  The secret touches her just as deeply as the others.  Plus, she has her own things going down, but we never get to see into her mind.  I cannot help but feel like this is a missed opportunity… unless of course she’s getting her own story?  Unlikely, but a girl can dream.

Still, this is a beautifully written, sweet story that shows the strength of family, and the art of forgiveness and letting go.  I loved it.  I am most likely buying it for my own library as well as several copies for friends and family.  Five stars!!!  normal star ratingnormal star ratingnormal star ratingnormal star ratingnormal star rating

On the adult content scale there’s language, drinking and some very mild sexual content.  I would still let my niece read it, so I would give it a four.  General.svg

I was lucky enough to receive an eARC of this book from Netgalley and Gallery books in exchange for an honest review.  My thanks.  pro_reader_120

The book comes out 5-15-18- who’s excited?!?!

Link to book:

Amazon

Happy Reading,

Amber