“The companion” Katie Alender

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. G.P. Putnam’s Sons (Penguin Random House). To be published August 25, 2020.

The CompanionMargot was the only survivor after her parents and sisters were in a car crash and drowned. Sent to live in an orphanage, she was taken in by a rich family to be a companion for their daughter Agatha. At the estate daily nightmares of her family’s watery death subsided, as Agatha’s mother Laura was very kind. But things began to change when Margot found an old diary of Laura’s younger sister who had died years ago. By the time she began to put two and two together, time was up before she could get to four.

This was very creepy, so make sure not to read it at night or you’ll have the same nightmares as Margot. Alender was very clever as she lured readers along on her sinister plot, making us totally despair for Margot and Agatha. Well-done Ms. Alender. Very well done.

PS – not sure why the cover has a spoon with pins in it. I can think of lots of different types of covers to describe this book, but a spoon with pins would not be one of them.

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.

“Darius the great deserves better” Adib Khorram

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. Dial Books (Penguin Random House); Darius the Great #1. To be published August 25, 2020.

Darius the great deserves betterSince returning from Iran, Darius has felt a bit more confident. He joined the soccer team and came out to his teammates. He knows they have his back, and enjoys the feeling of being part of a team and having friends. He has his first real boyfriend, Landon, and even got his first job in a teashop where he gets to try different flavors. Soccer is going great, they’re having a winning season and Chip is turning out to be a good friend. Everything seemed to be looking up, until things began to go slowly downhill.

His parents started to work more hours, so his grandmothers came to live with them for a while even though they hadn’t spent much time with them in the past. His dad was away for longer periods of time, while Landon kept pressuring him about their relationship. Chip turned out to be a good guy, but his best friend Trent keeps bullying Darius. While his grandfather’s health gets worse, Sohrab is facing trouble in Iran. With all of these issues Darius feels more conflicted than ever, but he finds strength in his friendships, his family and himself.

Readers will definitely relate to Darius and all of his issues, and will feel as if he’s one of their own classmates. I loved reading about Darius again, and can’t wait to see what happens in the next book of the series.

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.

“Darius the great is not okay” Adib Khorram

Rated 5 stars ***** Dial Books (Penguin Random House); Darius the Great #1. 2018.

DariustheGreatisnotokayDarius has “father issues,” because his dad hates his weight and long hair, telling him the bullying he endures is his own fault. Though both suffer from depression, Darius feels as if his dad succeeded in the world and he hasn’t. In addition he feels “fractional,” not “full” Persian like his mom, believing his little sister Laleh is loved more because she’s smarter and cuter.

When the family travels to Iran to visit his grandparents because his grandfather is dying, Darius struggles to understand the language and customs. He immediately feels loved by his grandmother, but feels held at arm’s length by his tough grandfather. Things improve when Sohrab, a neighbor who believes in him and encourages him, becomes his best friend. Together they conquer Iran as he helps Darius develop a love for soccer and for himself. Eventually Darius’ father helps him realize how much he is loved.

This story of the often-difficult dynamics found in family relationships, friendships and heritage stays with readers long after they turn the final page. I look forward to reading more about Darius as he learns more about himself.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

“White Ivy” Susie Yang

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. Simon & Schuster. To be published September 8, 2020.

White IvyIvy was two years old when her parents moved from China to the United States and left her in the care of Meifeng, her grandmother. It took three years for them to save enough money to send for her so, when she arrived, they felt like strangers. Two years later Meifeng joined the family, but Ivy felt caught. In their world she was expected to become a doctor, and to be obedient but she was definitely not obedient and didn’t want to be a doctor. She wanted an exciting life of her own so filled her days reading about beautiful sad heroines.

In 6th grade her father became a technician at a prep school so her tuition was free. By that time she had become a petty thief with her grandmother, and stole the things she needed to fit in at school. Though she worked hard to emulate the lifestyles of the beautiful, rich girls who were now her classmates, and had fallen hard for Gideon Speyer the local heartthrob, she was always on the outskirts of school life.

Through college and beyond Ivy flits from relationship to relationship, refusing any involvements, but is thrilled when she runs into Gideon’s older sister. She makes sure she and Gideon rekindle their acquaintance, and becomes so ruthless and single minded in her pursuit of him that she loses track of the definition of true love.

The author made you really think hard about the characters, and threw in a few twists and turns I didn’t expect. I will highly recommend this book for Adults.

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

 

“Little disasters” Sarah Vaughan

Rated 4 stars **** ARC.. ebook. Atria/Emily Bestler Books. To be published August 18, 2020.

Little DisastersLiz, Jess, Charlotte and Mel met at a prenatal class, and grew close through play dates and nights out together. Over the ten years of their friendship Liz, Charlotte and Mel always felt that Jess was a perfect mom because she had the cleanest house, cooked the best food, expertly parented her two boys, and got her figure back just a few weeks after giving birth to her third child.

However, shortly after Betsey’s birth, things seemed to change. Jess didn’t spend as much time with her friends; was easily distracted, and was obsessed with cleaning. Because her husband worked long hours, she was left to care for three small children on her own. She internalized everything and, though she grew more and more withdrawn, no one realized she was hiding a secret that would forever change all of their lives.

Through flashbacks and the present time, readers gain insight into secrets from Liz, Jess and Charlotte’s pasts that made them into the women they are today. As the situation with Jess gets darker and more complicated, and Liz struggles with her own issues, it is the bonds of friendship that keep their heads above water.

I thought the storyline between Liz and Jess was compelling and kept me guessing up until the very last page, but I disliked the flashbacks the author used to talk about their pasts. I thought there was too much back and forth going on between the past and present. However, because the subject matter is very important, I will recommend it for Adult readers.

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

“The second home” Christina Clancy

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. St. Martin’s Press. To be published June 2, 2020.

The Second HomeAnn’s parents had recently been killed in an accident and, though it had been in her family for generations, she was desperate to rid herself of her family’s ramshackle summer home in Wellfleet, MA. Her urgency to sell included the fact she didn’t want her estranged brother Michael to know she was selling. They’d lost contact years earlier, after an especially horrific summer, and the anger she felt towards him had worsened over the years.

Michael and Ann had been the same age and were best friends at school so, since he got along well with her family, Ann convinced them to adopt him. The summer of 1999 was his first in Wellfleet, which he spent wrestling with his feelings about Ann. She had taken on a babysitting job with the Shaws, a rich family, contrasting their lives and loving how her boss made her feel. While they spent the summer trying to work through their issues, her younger sister Poppy was getting high after falling in with a rough crowd of surfing locals. That summer forever changed their lives.

Ann, Michael and Poppy’s love for their summer home, and the Wellfleet memories that tied them together, will sink deeply into the reader. I was fully invested in their stories, told through flashbacks and the present, and was eagerly turning pages as I hoped for everything to end on a satisfying note.

Highly recommended for Adults.

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

“The House of Five Fortunes” Amanda Hughes

Rated 3 stars *** ebook. 2016. Lillis and James. Bold Women of the 20th Century #3. 2016.

The House of Five FortunesXiu’s mother bought an opium den, The House of Five Fortunes, in San Francisco after her husband fell ill and could no longer support the family. When she died Xiu inherited it, but was forced to hide the leadership skills she’d learned due to a possessive and tyrannical husband. Her mother had worked hard to make the business a success, even though there were few women business owners in Chinatown, but Xiu passively allowed her husband to hold the reins of her life and her empire because she loved him.

When he was killed Xiu took control again and, with the help of her friend Nuan and Madison a famous actor, they raised The House of Five Fortunes to greater heights. Though there was a lot of anti-Chinese sentiment, that didn’t stop Madison from falling in love with Xiu but, due to her being Chinese, they were not allowed to marry. When random murders began to be committed, the police and local Whites blamed the Chinese. Madison knew Xiu wasn’t safe but, when a massive race riot began in Chinatown, their lives were soon endangered along with all of the town’s inhabitants.

Though this book is in the Bold Women of the 20th Century series, I didn’t see Xiu as very bold. Her mother was strong, but I saw Xiu as weak and easy to manipulate. I thought her mother, Nuan, and Dandan the cook were strong female characters, not Xiu. In fact the strongest character in the book was Madison, and he was a man!

Descriptions of the United States in the 1870’s, life during the gold rush, and the building of the transcontinental railroad by Chinese immigrants were interesting to read. I was saddened to read of the many ways the Chinese were mistreated – ways that are mirrored in anti-Immigrant policies today. Our country may have travelled far during the past 150 years, but many unpleasant reminders from the past still rear their ugly heads.

Recommended for Adults.

“Reverie” Ryan La Sala

Rated 2 stars ** 2020. Sourcebooks. 393 p.

ReverieKane Montgomery woke up in the hospital after five days, and has no idea why he stole and crashed his father’s car. With his memory gone he doesn’t know answers to any of the questions that are running through his brain, but soon discovers he’s the founding member of a group called Others. They have differing powers that enable them to defuse dreams, also known as reveries. Kane is the only one who can unravel them to keep dreamers safe, but he has no idea how to use his powers. While Kane blunders around trying to figure out his past, a drag queen Sorceress is determined to have him be part of her future. It’s only through learning to trust that Kane can create his own future.

I really disliked this book. Kane was such a wimp. By the time I’d gotten to chapter eight he’d already cried twice and, by the end of the book, had cried and thought about running away many more times. His defeatist attitude was annoying. In contrast to him was Dean Flores, my favorite character. He knew he loved Kane and was willing to fight for his man in ways that imperiled his own life, while all Kane could do was cry. Dean is the only reason this book got more than one star.

Though I didn’t like it I will leave it up to you teen readers, ages 14 and older, to decide if you want to read it or not. I wish I had not.

 

“Ghosts of Harvard” Francesca Serritella

Rated 3 stars *** ARC. ebook. Random House. To be published May 5, 2020.

Ghosts of HarvardSeventeen-year-old Cady is determined to attend Harvard because it was where her older brother Eric committed suicide. Since she blames herself, she is determined to figure out why he killed himself.  While at school her studies take a back burner to the nagging questions that arise about Eric’s schizophrenia.

As memories of good and bad times with Eric fill her mind, Cady begins to hear voices and music from a bygone era. Afraid she is heading towards the same path of mental illness, she has a small measure of relief when she figures out the voices are the ghosts of a former Harvard slave and two students who attended the school many years ago.

She enjoys having them as company, learning historical aspects about the school that she’d never known. However, as she uncovers more about Eric’s last days, she soon figures out he was hiding something. When his secret is finally revealed, her life is forever changed in even more ways than she’d thought possible.

I enjoyed the historical aspect of “Ghosts of Harvard,” especially since I once worked on campus, and didn’t know about many of the hidden gems revealed in the book. I now want to travel back to Massachusetts to take a leisurely stroll and go to the places mentioned in the book. The storyline about Eric, his secret, and the ghosts seemed a bit farfetched, but the troubling aspects of suicide, mental illness and its weight on families were truthfully articulated.

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 lions of Fifth Avenue” Fiona Davis

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. Penguin Random House. To be published July 21, 2020.

The lions of fifth avenueIn 1913 Laura Lyons struggles during a time in history when women were expected to be complacent with their roles as wife and mother.

In 1993 Sadie Donovan hasn’t gotten over her long ago divorce and is insecure about everything in her life. She has sealed herself off from getting hurt again, so the only thing that gives her joy is answering reference questions and working with rare books at her NYPL job.

Laura lived with her superintendent husband Jack and two children in an apartment hidden away in the recently built New York Public Library. Her dream was to go to school to become a reporter, but she soon learned that women who dreamed faced uphill battles. The more she got involved with free thinking women in the Heterodoxy Club, the more she realized it would take great courage to risk everything she held dear to be truly happy.

Sadie’s career and job is in danger when rare books continue to be stolen from under her nose and she becomes a suspect. It doesn’t help matters when her research into her grandmother’s life discovers that her grandfather was accused of stealing rare books from the same library in 1913. Sadie will have to learn to work with others who share similar goals if she wants to clear her name and, in the process, unveils 80-year-old secrets about her own family.

I enjoyed the dual voice narratives of Laura and Sadie, and how Davis tied the stolen books to both of their stories. I also enjoyed learning about the history of the NYPL, its collections, immigrant babies, and free thinking women of the early 20th century. This is a great book for those who enjoy historical fiction, and who want to learn more about what it was like to be a woman who had dreams in 1913.

Highly recommended for Adults.

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