Book Review: The McAvoy Sisters Book of Secrets by Molly Fader

The McAvoy Sisters Book of Secrets is a novel about the beautiful, imperfect ties that bind families together.

Delia is struggling. She’s trying to maintain it all with a rebellious teenage daughter and a demanding infant. If that weren’t enough to deal with, she is feeling increasingly isolated from her husband, dealing with the stress of her family’s charter business, and her elderly mother is ailing and in need of more care.

Delia’s sister Lindy, on the other hand, left town seventeen years ago to live her life in the city and has never looked back…until now. When she gets a call about their mother, Lindy returns for her first look at the people her mother and sister have become.

The McAvoy Sisters Book of Secrets opens with a heavy sense of the isolation Delia has lived with. A traumatic event seventeen years ago—that drove Lindy away and strained the family relationships—is slowly revealed throughout the book. Molly Fader has done an amazing job with capturing the dynamics of siblings who love each other, but are still dealing with the hurt of the past.

This is a deep and heart wrenching book, but also a lovely tale of sisters and the strength and love that bind a family together.

*I received a copy of The McAvoy Sisters Book of Secrets from NetGalley and Graydon House in exchange for an honest review

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Book Review: Storm and Fury (The Harbinger #1) by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Storm and Fury is a spinoff of the Lux series (Edited– this is a spinoff to Dark Elements). As a disclaimer, I have not (yet!) read the Lux series, so my review is based entirely on this book.

The world: It’s like ours, but gargoyles (you know, the stone statues!) came off their ledges several years ago and are now protecting humanity from demons (oh, yeah, they also walk the earth). The shape-shifting gargoyles—called Wardens—live in protected communities.

The characters: Trinity is half-human and half something-else who has grown up behind the protected walls of a Warden community. Though she’s slowly going blind, Trinity has the strength and fighting ability far beyond what most of the Wardens think her capable of—and that is part of Trinity’s secret. Misha is a Warden who is bonded to Trinity and serves as her protector. Peanut is a ghost that serves as a side-kick of sorts to Trinity (oh, yeah, she can see ghosts as well!). Zayne is a Warden from the DC area, who has arrived with news about an increasing danger to humans and Wardens.

The storyline: Trinity is an eighteen-year old living in a protected West Virginia community in which very few people actually know why they’re protecting her—or what she really is. She is fierce and a true badass, but she is also slowly going blind. Also, she’s a teenaged girl who dreams of leaving her protected life and experiencing the world. Two Wardens arrive from the DC area, one of which is Zayne, and Trinity eavesdrops on a conversation they have with the lead Warden in Trinity’s community. Something has been killing demons and Wardens. Trinity and Zayne have an immediate connection, as if pulled together by fate. After an attack, when a Warden is taken, Trinity joins Zayne when he returns to DC, where she actually meets demons, as well as witches, and develops a new, and surprising view of the world while trying to discover who—or what—is threatening the world. 

I found the opening of Storm and Fury to be a bit slow. The build up is slow, but once the action begins, it really does move along quite quickly and I was truly caught up in the action. Trinity is smart, sassy/snarky and a real badass. I wasn’t sure about Zayne at first, he seemed like he might be a creep trying to be charming, but I warmed to him pretty quickly. Storm and Fury ends with a hell of a cliffhanger, which leaves me anxious for book 2.

*I received a copy of Storm and Fury from NetGalley and Inkyard Press/Harlequin Teen in exchange for an honest review

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Book Review: The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister

   My plan this morning was to skim the first chapter of The Scent Keeper, by Erica Bauermeister, just to get a feel for it. Five hours later, I’ve finished the book and I’m still spell-bound.

   Emmaline and her father live alone on island, surrounded by all the wonders of nature. In their cabin, her father stores small vials, the smells of a thousand memories bottled and sealed in an effort to preserve them forever. But as the scents begin to fade, and Emmaline’s curiosity pushes her farther from her father’s rules, everything she’s known is at risk.

   Through a series of tragic events Emmaline finds herself in the harsh, noisy “real world” where her understanding of smells is the only thing she has to help navigate the new town, school, and relationships she lacked on the island. And beyond it all is the lingering mystery of who Emmaline really is and where she came from.

   The Scent Keeper is a beautifully written, lyrical story that pulls at your heart and engages your senses. The emotions and descriptions are so vivid that you will feel the heartache and smell the scents. It’s a mesmerizing and enchanting journey of self-discovery and self-awareness. All I can say is, just wow. Great writing and a great book.

*I received a copy of The Scent Keeper from NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.  

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Book Review: Romanov by Nadine Brandes

     One of the stories from history that has always intrigued me (and so many other people) is that of the Romanov family, particularly Anastasia. So much mystery still surrounds the last hours and minutes of her life, as well as her death. And so many theories have been entertained. In Romanov author Nadine Brandes offers her own creative imaginings about the life and death of young Anastasia “Nastya” Romanov. This novel is historical fiction, but with an imaginative bit of magic thrown into the mix.

   The strongest part of the novel, in my opinion, was the relationship between Nastya and her family. It was the one aspect in which I felt a strong emotional connection with the storyline. The family relationship felt loving, intense and authentic. Unfortunately, the rest of the novel felt emotionally distant to me, I didn’t feel a connection to the characters or action outside of that.

   There were some historical inaccuracies (perhaps creative stretching of facts to meet a storytelling goal?) and some things that were glossed over that could have used more attention and flushing out for a stronger storyline.  The inconsistencies in the novel as well as the historical inconsistencies were a bit distracting.

   Another thing that could have used more details was the world-building—especially the magic. It felt unformed and underwhelming.

   All-in-all Romanov was a decent read, an entertaining re-imaging of history, but it wasn’t as great as I’d hoped.

*I received a copy of Romanov from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review

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Book Review: Baby of the Family by Maura Roosevelt


Baby of the Family is a novel about the once influential Whitby family.

Roger Whitby, the four times married family patriarch, has died after squandering a majority of his wealth. He’s left what remains of his estate to his youngest (adopted) son, Nick, the son of his fourth wife. Nick is a young man who has been struggling to find a purpose in his life. As his father is dying, Nick becomes involved in an act of political activism, and then goes missing.

Brooke, Roger’s daughter from his second marriage, is dealing with her own issues. She’s pregnant by a man she doesn’t love, afraid to admit to the love she has for Allie, and her house—the one thing she has from her dad—has just become part of Nick’s inheritance. Brooke doesn’t even really know Nick and has no idea if she’ll be forced out of the house. She’s barely able to get by on her nursing job, and the thought of having to add rent or a mortgage to her financial plan—in addition to the cost of having a baby—has left her unsure of the right decisions.

Roger’s daughter Shelley is living with her mother in the New York apartment Roger walked out of years ago. Her mom has left after descending into a years-long cycle of depression. Desperate for income, Shelley takes a job with a very peculiar man, and ends up in a complex relationship with him.

Told from the point of view of these three Whitby children, each abandoned and let down by their father, it explores the complex relationships between children and their parents. It’s really about finding and being yourself, despite your familial relations.

It was hard to identify with the characters (for obvious reasons—the lack of my own family fortune), but they were interesting enough to keep me reading. Baby of the Family wasn’t a novel that drew me in and kept me on the edge of my seat, but I was passively interested enough to continue reading to find out what happens to each of the characters.

*I received an ARC of Baby of the Family from Netgalley and Dutton Books in exchange for an honest review

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Book Review: Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

I was mesmerized by the description of Gilded Wolves and thrilled when I received a copy. The promise of secret societies and art heists in Paris during the late 1800’s were all the temptation I needed.

Gilded Wolves is a YA fantasy about an ancient order with a drastically diminishing number of houses. Severin is an exiled member of his house—and an antiquities thief–, trying to earn his way back by finding an ancient artefact. In order to do so, he enlists the help of a group of colleagues and friends, each as unique and varied in skill as well as personality.

This book is rich in magic and artistry, as well as multi-cultural mythologies and beliefs. I found it very difficult to get in to, the first several chapters were slow to grab me in all honesty. But once I was finally drawn in to the story line, I was pulled along on a magnificent journey.

I adore how intricately the mythos was woven into the storyline and the subtle undercurrent of history and science that happens throughout this novel. Of course there are comparisons to Six of Crows, but I think Gilded Wolves has set itself apart as it’s own unique world and Roshani Chokshi has developed it beautifully.

*I received a copy of Gilded Wolves from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

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Book Review: Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward

Beautiful Bad by Annie  Ward

There’s been a 911 call, screaming, and an officer arrives at a house to find blood everywhere. Welcome to Meadowlark, Kansas and “The Day of the Killing”.

Beautiful Bad is told from multiple POV’s and throughout different points in history. Maddie and Ian meet overseas and fall in love. They are married and have a son. After a camping accident that leaves Maddie with no memory of the events, she begins journaling as therapy.

So many things come to light as we jump between time periods and POVs: Maddie’s ambitions, Ian’s PTSD and drinking, and Maddie’s broken friendship with Jo. Twenty years is a lot of time for people to build up fears and resentments, it’s a lot of time for things to simmer, and when they boil over (and you find out the how and the who), you’re left with nothing to say but, “DAMN!”

Maddie’s writing was my favorite, her voice chilled me and made me sad and scared all at once. But, as I finished, I found myself appreciating every POV for what it contributed to the final outcome.

I’m really afraid to say more because I could go on-and-on, which will inevitably lead to spoilers (and I hate spoilers!). Annie Ward has crafted a magnificently plotted psychological thriller and Beautiful Bad is a book I’ll be thinking about for a long time to come.

 

*I received an ARC (Advanced Reader’s Copy) of Beautiful Bad from  Harlequin and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

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Book Review: Legendary by Stephanie Garber

First, thank you to Stephanie Garber, Flatiron Books and NetGalley for an ARC of Legendary 

Caraval is over and its secrets have been exposed…or have they?

When Caraval ended Donatella Dragna had just received a message from “A friend” hinting that her mother would be proud, but that she must keep up her side of the bargain if she hopes to see her again. Bargain?

Legendary opens on the day after Caraval. Scarlett and Tella are heading to Valenda for a special Caraval in honor of Empress Elentine’s birthday. Julian and Dante are still in the mix, as are some of the original Caraval actors.

Legendary is primarily Tella’s story and weaves all the magic of Caraval with some deeper myths from these lands, both of which are a threat to the existence of the other. Legend remains a mysterious and threatening presence, and in order to save her mother, Tella must discover Legend’s real name. The Fates—gods who once ruled the world—are desperate to return and can only do so with Legend’s magic, but Legend aspires to have the power of the Fates. And, as with every other Caraval, it is impossible to know who is telling the truth, who is lying, who is living, and who is simply playing a part.

Tella seems like a much stronger and more complex character in Legendary than she did in Caraval and it was nice to have this different POV. I thought Legendary had all the magic and beauty that I loved in Caraval, and the world building was amazingly vivid.

My absolute, favorite part of the book though, was at the end. While I can’t share it (it’s a bit of a spoiler) I’ll say that I whispered, “Yes!”, as I closed this book!

Oh…and it was just announced that there will be a book 3! (And I’m going to need to be added to the list for a copy of that as well!)

I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review

 

Buy Legendary on Amazon or from Barnes & Noble

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Book Review: American Panda by Gloria Chao

An incisive, laugh-out-loud contemporary debut about a Taiwanese-American teen whose parents want her to be a doctor and marry a Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer despite her squeamishness with germs and crush on a Japanese classmate.

Mei is seventeen and just entering her freshman year at MIT. She is on track to become a doctor and to marry the ideal Taiwanese mate, all according to the “plan” laid out for her by her parents.

The problem is Mei is a bit of a germaphobe, would prefer to be a dancer, and has zero interest in the boy her parents want her to marry. Mei has found herself pulled between wanting to pursue her own dreams and the knowledge of what it means to go against her parents.

Mei’s brother, Xing, was banished from the family for following his heart and, as Mei discovers her own hopes and happiness, she fears how close she is to repeating his path. Mei finds herself torn between the desire to make her parents proud or to find her own happiness.

American Panda is engaging, and funny, as well as heartbreaking. The characters are so vividly portrayed I could hear them as if they were speaking and standing in the room with me. Even though this reality is so far from anything I’ve known in my life I felt the pain and pressure that Mei—and girls just like her—must feel. What a delightful and engaging story!

*Thank you to NetGalley and Simon Pulse for the chance to read an ARC of American Panda.

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Book Review: Bad Girl Gone by Temple Mathews

Imagine waking up in an orphanage surrounded by a strange mix of troubled kids. That’s exactly what happened to sixteen-year-old Echo Stone.

Echo doesn’t know how she’s gotten to Middle House, an orphanage, because she has parents. But Middle House is actually an “orphanage” for the ghosts of murder victims. It’s a sort of purgatory that these “in-betweeners” are living in until they can solve their murders/finish their business. Echo not only discovers she was murdered, but she visits the gruesome crime scene. With the help of Cole, another in-betweener, Echo sets about to figure out who could have disliked her enough to murder her. She also discovers she might not have been as well-liked as she’d imagined.

As the book opens I found myself as bewildered as Echo must certainly feel. What a strange place Middle House is! It took some time to get my bearings in this book and figure out what was going on. I appreciated the adventure of Echo trying to solve her own murder, dealing with the reality that her life—and those she loved—are far out of reach for her, and I found this to be a quick and easy read.

My criticisms are that I can’t say I ever really felt a connection to Echo, I was interested in the story, but didn’t develop the deep level of connection which makes me really care about the character. I also didn’t feel invested in her romance with Cole.

Overall, it’s a good, quick read for someone looking for something “light”.

*I received a copy of Bad Girl Gone from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

Buy Bad Girl Gone on Amazon or Barnes & Noble 

 

 

 

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