“Even if we break” Marieke Nijkamp

Rated 4 stars ***** ARC. Sourcebooks Fire. 306 p. Published September 15, 2020.

Even if we breakFinn, Maddy, Ever, Carter and Liva became friends through gaming. Ever created the magical world of Gonfalon, and Liva created their costumes. In Gonfalon their normal problems disappeared, as they role played Ever’s adventures. Though cracks had appeared in their friendship due to recent events, they planned one last Gonfalon adventure in Liva’s remote mountain cabin in an attempt to recreate their past before some of them headed off to college.

Each of them have their own reasons for not wanting to be on the mountain, but come anyway because they want to salvage pieces of their friendships. After one of their Gonfalon characters is unexpectedly killed, it seemed as if fate turned against them. Mysterious music, blood, death, and the ghosts of murdered victims seemed to be haunting them. As their numbers start to decline, those who remain will have to find the will to survive whatever is hunting them down one-by-one.

Told through multiple points of view, this twisted story had side plots and innuendoes that gave clues to the situation at hand, but offered no answers. Readers will be surprised at the big reveal, and shocked to note why the rumors about the mountain were real.

Recommended for ages 16 and older.

I received an advance reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

“And now she’s gone” Rachel Howzell Hall

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Forge Books (Tom Doherty Associates). 525 p. To be published September 22, 2020.

And now she's goneIsabel Lincoln has been reported missing by her rich doctor boyfriend, who appears more interested in getting his dog back than in reuniting with his girlfriend. Since this is Grayson Sykes’ first case, she is determined to leave no stone unturned in her desire to find clues that will lead her to Isabel. While she’s busily uncovering stones, boulders are appearing in their place. It seems as if everything Grayson had learned, or been told, about Isabel has a double meaning. Grayson is left to wonder if, just like her, Isabel had a reason to disappear.

Interspersed with the missing person case is Grayson’s own story of strength and resilience in the face of constant abuse. Readers will be drawn into both of these women’s stories and, hopefully, find a way to arrange their own escapes from these types of relationships.

Recommended for Adults.

I received an advance reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

“The lost apothecary” Sarah Penner

The lost apothecaryRated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. Park Row. To be published March 2, 2021.

After her mother’s untimely death, Nellie carried on her apothecary business with a twist. Now, in 1791, though she still sold healing herbs and antidotes she also helped women escape men and abusive situations by dispensing medicines in quantities that would ensure their deaths. Her shop was a place where struggling women’s voices could be heard. Eliza, a young servant girl, allowed herself to be drawn into Nellie’s world which had unexpected consequences for both of them.

In present day London Caroline hoped to distract herself from her cheating husband by immersing herself in the city’s history. While on a mudlarking tour by the Thames, she discovered a colorful vial with a bearlike image. As she searched for its origins the love she’d had for history, which she’d buried for her husband’s sake, began to revive. With every step closer towards learning more about the vial and the mysterious apothecary from whence it came, Caroline peeled away the layers covering her own needs and desires as she learned more of Nellie and Eliza’s two hundred year old story.

Told in alternating voices between the past and present, readers are treated to an historical mystery that draws them into the story of three women striving to break free of the bonds placed on them through the men in their lives.

Highly recommended for Adults.

I received a digital advance reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

“Find me in Havana” Serena Burdick

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. Park Row Books. To be published January 12, 2021.

A rebellion led to a reversal of fortunes for Juana Maria Antonia Santurio y Canto Rodriguez and her five children in their town of Guanajay Cuba. One of her younger daughters was more musically talented than the other so, when Estelita turned 15, she and Mamá left the family behind and travelled to America so she could become a star.

Three years later Estelita was pregnant and, after giving birth to her daughter Nina, her husband wouldn’t let her perform. She wasn’t going to let anyone stand in the way of her career, so Estelita ran away from him. As Nina grew older she resented being forced into boarding school by her grandmother, and longed for time with her mother, but Estelita was focused on men and her career.

Over the years different husbands held her focus as they struggled to maintain a relationship through Nina’s drug fueled teen years. In 1966, before they could fully reconcile, it was too late. Estelita was dead, and Nina was certain her husband had murdered her.

This poignant story is based on the life of Cuban singer and actress Estelita Rodriguez, as told to the author by her daughter. Before reading it I had never heard of Estelita, though I knew the names of her peers Desi Arnaz, John Wayne, Sammy Davis Jr., and others mentioned in the book. During a time when women were supposed to bow to their husband’s wishes, both Mamá and Estelita were cut from a different cloth. Their strength comes out through the pages to inspire today’s women.

Highly recommended for Adults.

I received a digital advance reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

“Little Cruelties” Liz Nugent

Rated 3 stars *** ARC. ebook. Simon & Schuster. To be published November 10, 2020.

Little CrueltiesA selfish mother, interested only in her singing career, raised Will, Brian and Luke. The oldest son Will was her favorite, Brian was tolerated and Luke, her youngest, was openly disliked. Their father showed them all love, but she pitted them against each other for crumbs of her affection. With their mother constantly egging them on, the brothers became competitive and hateful towards each other.

Now grown, the brothers continued the cruelty towards each other they’d learned from their mother. Will had become a successful filmmaker and womanizer, Brian was jealous of his brother’s successes, while Luke turned to drugs and alcohol for comfort even though he was a successful pop singer. As a result of their jealousy and competitiveness, one brother is killed. They learned their lessons well from Mommy Dearest, but who was her star pupil?

All the brothers take turns recalling important memories from their lives, going back and forth in time. I found the back and forth between the years to be very distracting as their memories would have been easier to follow if they had been sequential.

Though I wasn’t really a fan of this book I gave it 3 stars because it’s a good lesson on how NOT to train up your child. Readers be warned.

I received a digital advance reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

“The Enigma game” Elizabeth Wein

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. Hyperion (Disney). Code Name Verity. To be published November 3, 2020. Includes “Author’s declaration of accountability,” “Further reading,” and “A handful of interesting links.” ‘

The Enigma GameNineteen-year-old Jamie was the leader of his Bristol Blenheim bomber plane squadron in 1940 Scotland, fighting the much faster German Messerschmitt 110 night fighters. Jamie was tired of his men being killed, and of being the underdog in these battles. He wanted a small advantage so, when the Enigma Machine came his way, he kept it secret.

Louisa Adair was orphaned at fifteen-years-old. She desperately needed a job, as doors were closed in England because of being half-Jamaican and half English. When she saw an ad to care for an elderly German woman in Scotland she took the job over the phone. Louisa had always wanted to fly and have adventures so, when she met a German spy and came into possession of the Enigma Machine she kept it secret.

Eighteen-year-old Ellen was a Gypsy Traveller. She’d spent her life being disrespected so, when she became a driver for the RAF, she didn’t tell anyone about her background. She had grown up with Jamie and knew how badly he wanted to beat the Germans, so, when she learned about the Enigma Machine she kept it secret to help Jamie and his men.

None of them knew that the Enigma Machine would play such a big part in the war, and that the Germans wouldn’t stop until it was destroyed.

The story of the Enigma Machine and its impact on the RAF is told through alternating viewpoints and, what’s really interesting is that it actually did exist, and played a big role in Allied victories.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

I received a digital advance reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

“Once we were here” Christopher Cosmos

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. Arcade Publishing (Skyhorse Publishing). To be published October 20, 2020.

Once we were hereThe beauty and history of Greece, World War II, and love are the backbone of this breathtaking and far-reaching novel. For thousands of years, Greeks have had to fight its enemies. Thus, when Mussolini told her Prime Minister to take 3 months to decide if they wanted to be occupied without having to go to war, it only took 3 minutes for him to respond with a resounding “OXI = No!” The Greeks of 1940, as their ancestors did before them, fought to the death to protect their country from the invaders.

Eighteen-year-old Alexei was a fisherman with his father, and loved the sea. It was only natural that he would volunteer with the men of his village to fight, though it meant leaving the beautiful Philia and his beloved parents behind. Alexei and his best friend Costa didn’t know how war would forever change their lives. What would never change was their love for each other, for those they cared for, and for their country.

Stories of Greek gods and heroes are important parts of this story of love and courage. It was so hard to put down that I finished it in one sitting. “Once we were here” is historical and enlightening all at once. I didn’t know the bravery of Greek soldiers played such an important role during World War II, winning praise from many leaders of the day. The stories of Alexei, Costa, Philia and those lost to time will live on long after the final page has been turned.

Highly recommended for Adults.

I received a digital advance reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

“You were never here” Kathleen Peacock

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. HarperTeen (HarperCollins). To be published October 20, 2020.

You were never hereSeventeen-year-old Cat Montgomery got into trouble in New York, which cost her a friend, her phone, her laptop and her freedom. Her angry father shipped her to Montgomery Falls Canada, where she was expected to spend the summer with her aunt at her boarding house.

Cat hadn’t been there in 5 years and was surprised to learn that Riley, her best friend and neighbor, had been missing for months. She doesn’t want to get involved in finding him but, when she finds a body, gives in to his grieving brother’s wish to use her family legacy to search for clues. What she finds out is worse than she’d ever imagined.

I was sucked in – hook, line and sinker. As I followed clues with Cat I thought I had a pretty good idea of the guilty party, but was SHOCKED to be proven wrong. Kathleen Peacock was very devious. Very devious indeed.

Highly recommended for ages 16 and older.

I received a digital advance reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

“The girl who wasn’t there” Vincent Zandri

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. Oceanview Publishing. To be published October 13, 2020.

The girl who wasn't thereSydney O’Keefe spent 10 years doing hard time for a quadruple murder he didn’t commit, but kept his mouth shut and didn’t rat out his mob boss. His boss wanted him silenced so, after several attempts on his life, Sydney decided to sing like a bird to the DA and was released.

After ten years away from his wife and eleven-year-old daughter Chloe, Sydney was ready to begin a new life. The three of them went to Lake Placid for a well-deserved family vacation but, when they took their eyes off Chloe for a short while, she disappeared. The police are convinced that, with his criminal history, Sydney kidnapped her and are ready to place him under arrest. Sydney believes his former boss is seeking revenge so, with no way to prove his innocence, goes rogue to find her. He is not going back to jail, and plans to use everything he’s learned about prison justice to find whoever took her and make them pay.

Bloodbaths, shootings, twists, turns, and ingenious deceptions will keep readers on the edge of their seats. I read this Die Hard-like book in one sitting, eager to see what would next happen to Sydney who, like John McClane, took lots of lickings but kept on ticking because nobody messes with the O’Keefe family. Nobody.

Highly recommended for Adults.

I received a digital advance reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

“Junk boy” Tony Abbott

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins). To be published October 13, 2020.

Junk boyFifteen-year-old Bobby Long lived with his angry, drunk, invalid father in a broken down shack surrounded by junk. They existed side-by-side but couldn’t connect on anything. His father blamed him for his mother leaving, and Bobby blamed himself. The boys at school nicknamed him “Junk” because his house looked like a junkyard, and made his life miserable every chance they got. None of the teachers knew what to do with him, so he was mostly ignored. Bobby spent a lot of time in the woods, thinking and wondering about his mother.

Rachel was an amazing artist. Her mother beat her for being gay and insisted she go to church to be converted straight. As a result she hated her mother with a passion. When her parents split she wanted to change schools so she could live with her father and attend art school but her father thought she should stay with her mother. She didn’t know how she could survive without her art. As she and Bobby began to spend time together they found that they could see each other in ways no one else could see. Through their shared pain for what their lives had become, they struggled to understand what the future held in store for them.

Rachel and Bobby were so believable that my heart hurt for them. I read this book in one sitting, hoping for good things for both of them. I hope teens with similar issues will see there is hope beyond their pain, and that they have a future.

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.

I received a digital advance reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.