Winterborne Home for Vengeance & Valor

Author: Ally Carter

Series: Winterborne Home #1

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers

Release Date: December 29, 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Ally Carter has crafted a fabulous adventure for young readers that will keep them turning the page and engaged in a great story.

April has bounced from one foster home to another after being left by her mother at the age of two. After a trip to the museum when she sees an emblem that resembles one her mother left her that is on a key she keeps around her neck, her life gets even more complicated. The museum catches fire when she is there, and she doesn’t remember how she got out of the museum. Now, April is taken to a new home, a big creepy mansion that is home to a group of other orphans. April feels out of place; in her mind she isn’t an orphan, her mother is coming back for her. The longer she is at Winterborne Home, the more confused she gets with secrets behind closed doors and one secret leads to another. April and the other kids must work together to solve the mysteries in front of them before they all lose the home they have come to love.

Ally Carter can now be added to my list of favorite children’s authors. Winterborne Home was a fun, engaging mystery that will leave kids wanting more and more of the story to read. To me, this is the best kind of story, especially for kids as it contains so much mystery and young characters that learn to rely on each other when they have been alone for so long. This is the first Middle Grade novel Ally Carter has written and I am so excited to see what all she comes out with next. Her writing these characters was spot on, April and the other kids are written with the perfect mannerisms and characteristics of the age they are portraying. Each one has unique characteristics that makes them stick out, Sadie is an inventor, Tim a charmer, and Violet is shy but has just the right thing to say at exactly the right moment. Young readers will find a character they can relate to whether they are a boy or girl, adventurous or more introverted, either way there will be relatable aspects to the story for everyone. I read this so I would know if it would be a good fit for my ten-year-old son and even though the main character is a girl I know he will still love the story. I recommend this to young readers eager for an adventure and getting ready to get lost in the pages.

The Love Note

Author: Joanna Davidson Politano

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: October 20, 2020

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Willa Duval dreams of becoming a doctor, despite the fact that in 1859 the world says women should be wives and mothers. After rejecting four proposals, she makes a deal with her father that she serve successfully as a nurse on her own or she marry. Driven by a lost love letter found in the nook of an old desk, she is drawn to Crestwicke, an old mansion she visited as a child. Upon arrival she finds she will be acting as nurse to the ornery matron of the home, Gilda Gresham. On a mission to find the author of the note, Willa’s duties double. Once the note is misplaced and begins wreaking havoc on the residents of the home that Willa feels she must fix. Willa finds friendship and strength through her nursing efforts. Reunited with childhood friend, Gabe, Willa discovers her purpose and possibly even love. Willa is able to not only nurse Mrs Gresham, she also helps heal broken relationships within the home.

This book reads like a classic novel. I felt it reminiscent of “Jane Eyre” and “ Anne of Green Gables”. It is beautifully written. There were many times that i wished I had a pencil to underline lines that spoke to me. The characters were well written and the setting descriptive. The plot kept me intrigued and I wanted to keep reading. The conclusion was satisfying. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Burden of Proof

Author: Davis Bunn

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: November 3, 2020

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Bunn continues to show why he’s a master at crossing sci-fi into other genres with this new legal thriller!

Ethan Barrett has been handed a death sentence by means of skin cancer.  His reflection on his life is anything except to be proud of.  He regrets his selfish decisions that have caused hurt to so many others.  His late brother’s widow unexpectedly finds him one day while he is making his final kayak paddle in Cocoa Beach, Florida and offers him an impossible, yet alluring offer.  As a neuroscientist, she can match his brain wave frequency that will have the effect to transport his consciousness back in time to a certain point where he will be able to pick up at that point in time with his future knowledge, giving him the chance to save his brother.  The only catch is, he will die, both at the present time and shortly after he transitions to the past.  With nothing to lose, can Ethan alter the course of history?

So, fun fact about me, I’m a huge fan of quantum mechanics research dealing with string theory and time alternation, so this book was right up my alley.  It wasn’t completely originally as Blake Crouch published Recursion last year, which had a lot of the same replaced consciousness perspectives, but I was glad to see that Bunn took this in a different direction and pushed it more into a legal thriller than medical based.  He doesn’t get too detailed in the science, so the average everyday reader will enjoy the story without getting too bogged down in the whole science of things like some geeks so as myself thrive on. 

One of my favorite aspects of this book is the theme of the prodigal son compared to Ethan.  It is a progressive retelling for sure, but he is able to realize his past for what is was and when given the chance, make amends and return to the family that he loves with forgiveness even when he doesn’t deserve it.  It has a resounding theme of treating others with kindness and truthfulness while not being selfish can cause a completely different relationship between people.  High recommended read for the end of the wacky year of 2020!

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Ignite the Sun

Author: Hanna C. Howard

Publisher: Blink YA Books

Release Date: August 18, 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A perfect YA fantasy for readers that enjoy magic, romance, adventure and so much more!

Siria Nightingale has only ever heard tales of the Sun.  In the world she lives in, she has never seen the sun, it is only a legend. A witch known as Queen Iyzabel has shrouded the kingdom in shadows claiming it will protect her subjects from the dangers of the light. Even though she has never known the sun or light, Siria has always felt uneasy in the darkness and shadows. After years spent at academy, Siria is chosen by the queen to have a special spot at the Choosing Ball. What she doesn’t know is that she along with the others selected are suspected of being the long-lost Sun Child. Only the Sun Child can break the darkness and bring back the light to the kingdom. Siria along with the rebels sent to watch over her and help her try to save the kingdom and Ignite the Sun.

In Ignite the Sun, I felt Siria was the perfect protagonist. She grows throughout the story and comes into her own by the end. Her arc as a main character was truly enjoyable to read and follow along with. Readers watch as she starst the story as a young, impressionable woman ready to do anything to please the queen, until she learns the truth of her life and all she has believed to be the truth is a lie. The more she learns, the greater we see her grow as a character. She has her flaws, nothing in the story tries to paint her as the perfect person, and she embraces her flaws and learns to grow despite all that is placed in her way. Not once did I lack the ability to visualize setting or characters, Howard did a fantastic job painting a picture with words that readers will easily be able to follow along and enjoy. Readers that enjoy the mythological aspect of stories will be pleased with the history of the kingdom and how the dark came to overtake the light. This is a great story for Young Adults to read dealing with hate, bullying, teasing, and how to come into your own skin and be proud of who you are, even if it isn’t who you expected. I recommend this book to readers that enjoy fantasy, mythology, and hope for a life better than imagined for.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Mountain Laurel

Author: Lori Benton

Publisher: Tyndale

Release Date: September 1, 2020

Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Rich historical setting combined with flawed characters seeking redemption make this a can’t miss for genre lovers!

Ian Cameron never planned to set foot again on his uncle’s plantation in North Carolina.  But in 1793 after his cabinet making apprenticeship doesn’t go as planned, he makes the journey back again.  He feels he must put his past behind him and become the man to take over the plantation after his uncle passes.  Upon his arrival, he quickly learns that he doesn’t fit the preferences of his new aunt and her daughters.  Then he meets Seona, a light skinned young lady who is very artistic.  He’s very taken by her, but there is a small problem.  She is enslaved to his uncle.

Seona remembers the last time Mister Ian was at the planation.  She has never forgotten his pale flax hair color and he was one of the first pictures that she drew.  She has continued to draw but keeps it a secret to keep her and her family safe.  When Ian discovers her talent, he encourages it and even offers her the use of his cabinet making shop to continue to develop her drawing.  Can Seona put her trust in Ian?  Somebody who might own her one day?

This is the first novel that I’ve read by Lori Benton and I find it hard to believe that I haven’t come across her works before.  She has tremendous talent for developing rich historical scenery that pulls the reader into the story so that they are walking in the setting rather than reading about it.  She also develops deeply flawed characters that easily give readers the ability to connect with many of them.  Even the supporting characters quickly find a way into the reader’s mind so that they are often left wondering about them. 

This book is written during a difficult time in our country’s history that continues to make the forefront of today’s headlines.  The historical accuracy needs to be read by people so that it’s not sugarcoated into a feel-good story.  This book also deals with the poor treatment of people during the time, even concerning rape.  It will undoubtedly be difficult for some to read, but it is worth it.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Nine

Author: Rachelle Dekker

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: September 1, 2020

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

This is the book I have been waiting for Rachelle Dekker to write: her own voice, her own story and one readers will not want to miss!

For the past several years, Zoe Johnson has done her best to stay in the shadows and not draw attention to herself. She has stayed to herself and not let anyone get close to her for fear of what it might mean. While working at a diner to support herself on the edge of a small town, a strange teenager makes her way in and has no memory of her past or anything other than she needs to find a woman in Corpus Christi. From that moment on, Zoe’s world changes and she finds herself on an adventure to steer clear of her past while helping this girl known as Lucy discover what has happened to her and stay one step ahead of those out to find Lucy and keep her secrets from the rest of the world.

Ever since I heard Rachelle Dekker was going to be writing like her father, Ted Dekker, I was super excited to see how her writing would compare to his. With her first few books, I noticed the writing style and voice were very much influenced by Ted, so much so that I thought I was reading one of his books, just not quite as good.  I felt the one they wrote together was just a Ted Dekker book, there was no distinction as to who wrote what part. In each of her books I haven’t heard a solid voice from Rachelle Dekker until now. This book is 100% hers!  I love the story, the style and everything about it. The one thing I didn’t love was not having enough time to sit and read it all at once.

Each character is perfectly crafted and has a beautiful arc throughout the story. Zoe grows up quickly taking on Lucy and helping her on her mission. At the beginning, readers don’t have a clear idea of how old Zoe is but I would say mid-twenties, not old enough to be the mother of a teenager but she quickly fills that roll and has to come to terms with her own issues as she is trying to help Lucy with hers. Seeley is the character we see change the most. It could be said that his change was too abrupt, but Dekker did a really great job of showing why he changed and giving readers a trail to follow to believe in this character. The way she wrote Lucy and Zoe and their relationship pulled me into the story and kept me glued to my seat wanting to know if they would come out okay and how they would get to that point. I felt such a deep connection to these characters and loved the way I was so absorbed into the story.

Again, this is the book I have been waiting for from Rachelle Dekker! She has finally found her voice and I hope she keeps it and continues to churn out amazing stories. I recommend this to readers that enjoy a great suspense thriller that will keep them guessing and give them a solid connection to the characters.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The Eighth Girl

eighth girlAuthor: Maxine Mei-Fung Chung

Publisher: William Morrow

Release Date: March 17, 2020

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A book with some many personalities it will make your head spin!

Alexa Wu suffers from dissociated identity disorder (DID); but she is self-aware of the multiple personalities that she has living insider of her head. She believes her true self to the be the host. Her other identities represent certain aspects of her personality. Dolly is a young girl and has stayed the same age since she showed up. Runner stays in a constant angry and aggressive state. The fouls torment her regularly. Only a handful of people know about her other personalities. Her stepmother Anna, her best friend Ella, and her new psychiatrist Daniel.

Alexa relies mostly on Ella for emotional support. When Ella chooses to take a job at a lower class gentleman’s club, Alexa fears the worst. Ella’s life and that of her little sister are quickly placed in danger and Alexa gets drug into a web of deceit that she and her personalities must band together to save Ella.

So, I knew that going into a novel with the main character having DID that some of the secondary characters were going to be part of the personality. What I didn’t expect were how many of them were going to be part of it or who they would be. If that doesn’t pique your interest to read this book, then I’m not sure what will. The story line was a little slow to take off, but it quickly did and was fast paced with a very dark setting in London’s underworld. It wasn’t too difficult to follow which personality took control of Ella or when they were talking back and forth as the author did a great job identifying each voice. If you enjoy fast paced, twisted tales, this is your story for the year.

There is a lot of content including drinking, recreation drug use, explicit sex, and language that will make some readers uncomfortable.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Hunger Winter

Hunger WinterAuthor: Rob Currie

Publisher: Tyndale House

Release Date: March 3, 2020

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Educational YA story of the German occupation of the Netherlands during World War II.

Thirteen-year-old Dirk has been charged with taking care of his younger sister Anna since his papa left to aid the Dutch resistance against the German Occupation. His mother died one night shortly after his father left and now his older sister Els has been captured by the Gestapo and likely tortured to learn the whereabouts of their father. When their neighbor comes in the night to warn Dirk about Els capture, he takes his younger sister and sets off to make it to their Aunts house in a nearby town. Along the way, Dirk and Anna face many uncertain challenges including informers, work camps, and deserting German officers. Dirk must rely on everything he learned from his father about staying alive as well as his wits if he is going to keep Anna safe.

I love getting new material that educates readers on lesser known areas about World War II. Sadly, I must admit that the most knowledge I have of the Netherlands during this time period comes from The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. So, I was pleased to learn more about the occupation and the meaning behind Hunger Winter. I’m very happy that there are becoming more young adult novels that are educating our young about the past so that maybe we can avoid repeating it in the future!

Dirk was a protagonist that I enjoyed watch come of age. He had a lot thrust upon him at only thirteen years old and took up that challenge without complaining. He become well educated about what was going on around him but still managed to maintain some adolescent innocence. Els was a very strong spirited character and someone that I continually wanted to see escape. She was also very smart to catch her captors trying to trick her into revealing information.

I’ve started to build up quite a collection of YA novels from this time period and my nine-year-old son has begun to really become interested in them. This will definitely be added to the shelf!

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Every Stolen Breath

Every Stolen Breath_Rd3

Author: Kimberly Gabriel

Publisher: Blink YA Books

Release Date: November 5, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

An intense, electrifying YA novel that will leave readers holding their breath until the very last page!

The Swarm, a mob that leaves no trace, no evidence and no way to know when they will strike next, has left everyone in the city scared to go out in public. Lia Finch lost her father to the swarm two years ago and they haven’t attacked since. Since her father’s death, Lia has been working to uncover the truth behind the swarm and stop anyone else from being beaten to death. What she is trying to do is no easy task as she is still suffering from PTSD from her father’s murder and the asthma she has lived with all her life can cripple her at any moment. She learns the date of the next attack and puts her life in danger with the swarm when a stranger comes to her rescue. He knows the swarm better than anyone because he is a part of it. They must work together to find out what the swarm is planning and stop it from happening without getting either of them killed.

If you are a fan of Young Adult books that read quickly, have an intriguing plot (that is partly based on a true story,) and characters that pull you in from the very beginning, you are not going to want to miss this one. I loved Every Stolen Breath. This was such an amazing book to start the year with. Lia and her search for the truth behind the murder of her father makes for such a solid protagonist. I loved her flaws and her troubles that made her such a relatable character. All she wanted was to be able to bring down the swarm and find out who is truly behind the death of father, but by doing so she puts herself in danger. She isn’t afraid of the danger but is afraid of more of her loved ones getting hurt because of what she is looking into. The more she digs into things, the more those around her are targeted and this is where the story really got good for me, seeing how she is affected by those around her being targeted had me so much more invested in the story and the characters. When I, as a reader, am more invested in the characters the story is taken to a whole new level, which happened with Every Stolen Breath. It is hard to find a YA book today that is clean, has a good story line, and characters that will draw you in. Thankfully this is a book that has all of that and more. I recommend this book to readers, young and old that enjoy a great read that will keep them reading way past their bedtime.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Top Books for 2019

Can readers ever really narrow down a list?  This has been a year filled with great stories by great authors.  We look forward to what the new year will bring and hope that you have a chance to read what we thought were the best books of 2019!

all manner of things

 

All Manner of Things by Susie Finkbeiner

This story really struck a chord with everyone who read it.  It made us yearn for simpler times and reminded us of the importance of family.

Read the full review here.

 

 

 

 

 

the line between

 

The Line Between by Tosca Lee

This was on our watch list for the year as soon as we heard about it.  Lee’s ability to bind suspense and tension into a story full of unforgettable characters is why she keeps appearing on this list year after year.

Read the full review here.

 

 

 

 

single light

 

A Single Light by Tosca Lee

We didn’t think any other thriller was going to top A Line Between, but Lee managed to do just that with her follow-up in A Single Light.

Read the full review here.

 

 

 

 

 

how the light gets in

How the Light Gets In by Jolina Petersheim

Petersheim’s display of raw emotion throughout the pages coupled with her storytelling ability made this modern version of the story of Ruth a shoe-in for a top spot.

Read the full review here.

 

 

 

 

 

snyapse

 

Synapse by Steven James

James has a masters degree in story telling and he puts it to good use in this supernatural thriller.  If you’ve never picked up one of his books, grab one today.  You’ll be in for an awesome treat.

Read the full review here.

 

 

 

 

Recursion

 

Recursion by Blake Crouch

Crouch has the ability to bring the future to his readers.  His stories are mind blowing and may cause you to put the book down to actually think about what was just read.  This story is no exception.

Read the full review here.

 

 

 

 

curse of misty wayfair

 

The Curse of Misty Wayfair by Jaime Jo Wright

This story drew us in from the beginning.  Wright has the ability to unearth her character’s secrets and bring along her readers for a ride.

Read the full review here.

 

 

 

 

 

Vow of Justice

 

Vow of Justice by Lynette Eason

Stories with strong empathy always resonate with us.  The fact that a supporting character connected so strongly to us as well made us choose this for a top spot.

Read the full review here.

 

 

 

 

 

the eighth sister

 

The Eighth Sister by Robert Dugoni

Dugoni’s style of writing always impresses us, which is why he continually shows up for the top of the year picks.  This new series gives us something to look forward to in the coming years.

Read the full review here.

 

 

 

 

Silence between us

 

The Silence Between Us by Alison Gervais

This may be a young adult novel, but the message can be applied to everyone!

Read the full review here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sins of the Father

 

Sins of the Father by Vincent B. Davis II

It’s been a while since a new series that we weren’t expecting captivate our attention.  Such a rare treat deserves to be included in our top picks.

Read the full review here.