“All this time” Mikki Daughtry and Rachael Lippincott

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. To be published September 29, 2020.

All this timeKyle had been in love with Kimberly since third grade. He asked her out in seventh grade, and they dated through high school. The night of their graduation party Kim tells him she wants to know what her life would be like without him. Kyle can’t imagine his life without her but, when she’s killed in a head on collision that leaves him with a broken leg and head injury, he has to learn.

Months are spent in self-loathing and grief before Kyle ventures to the cemetery to visit Kim. While there he meets Marley, grieving the death of her twin sister. She doesn’t want to tell sad stories, so Kyle sets about trying to make her happy. In time they realize how much they understand each other and settle into a comfortableness that has Kyle feeling as if he finally knows what his future could be like without Kim. But sad stories have a way of being told, and everything changes for both of them.

This book did a number on me. Without giving out spoilers there was a point where my neighbors could hear me screaming, “You did NOT just do that!” Visions of a certain Dallas episode and a Christopher Reeve movie (both of which have to remain nameless due to spoilers) danced in my head as I wished for Daughtry and Lippincott to take a different path.

“All this time” is a great read, and I highly recommend it for ages 16 and older.

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

“Never look back” Lilliam Rivera

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. Bloomsbury YA (Bloomsbury Publishing). To be published September 1, 2020.

Never look backSeventeen-year-old Pheus is ready for a Bronx summer with his dad, his guitar, and his friends. He’s not ready to commit to anyone or anything unless fun is involved. Nicknamed “El Nuevo Nene de la Bachata” due to his mad skills on the guitar and his singing, Pheus is ready for a great summer.

Eury’s father left when she was just a little girl, but Ato understood her despair. As her only friend they spent a lot of time together, but he wanted more from her. After the devastation of their home by Hurricane Maria, she and her mom moved to Florida. Though Ato followed her from Puerto Rico, fear of him and what he would do next began to change her behavior. No one would believe she was seeing a spirit and, since her mom didn’t believe in therapists, Eury was sent to visit her aunt and regroup.

Pheus never expected to meet someone like Eury. Hopeless against Ato’s tormenting spirit Eury felt relief when she met Pheus. Together their love enables them to climb mountains and forge seas of chaos and uncertainty.

As a Puerto Rican Latina and New Yorker, I could hear the music, feel the beat, and understand the Spanish phrases that flowed throughout Pheus and Eury’s stories. Publicity material calls it a retelling of the Greek myth Orpheus and Eurydice but, since I don’t have familiarity with that myth, I can’t tell whether or not it matches. I CAN tell you I believe it should be in the running for a 2021 Pura Belpré award – especially now that the judging panel has been expanded to include YALSA. Listen in at 44 min. 55 sec. to hear the announcement made at the 2020 ALA Youth Media Awards. Remember that you read it here first!

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.

“The nesting” C. J. Cooke

The nestingRated 3 stars *** ARC. ebook. Berkley (Penguin Random House). To be published September 29, 2020.

Lexi had grown up in foster care with a mom who hated her. After a suicide attempt, she lost her job and was dumped by her boyfriend. Helpless and homeless, she spent hours riding commuter rail trains where she overheard a conversation about a nanny job in Norway. Lexi didn’t know anything about being a nanny, but knew she needed this job. She took over the resume and persona of Sophie Hallerton, the commuter who’d been thinking about applying for the job, and sent off her application.

After getting the job Lexi enjoyed her life in Norway with Coco and Gaia, her two young charges. However, Norway had its own secrets. What was the terrifying creature that regularly appeared in the house and grounds? What really happened to Coco and Gaia’s mother? Why did it seem as if the very earth wanted them all gone?

I enjoyed this book, and felt great sympathy for Lexi. HOWEVER I have BIG questions about the ending. For those who are reading my review, if you don’t want to spoil the ending for yourself, please don’t read below the SPOILER ALERT! banner. These questions, and resulting uncertainties, made me drop two stars from my rating.

However, since the storyline is very imaginative, I will recommend it for Adults. I hope the situation I mentioned below gets fixed before the book is published.

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

******SPOILER ALERT! ******* SPOILER ALERT! **********SPOILER ALERT! ********

******SPOILER ALERT! ******* SPOILER ALERT! **********SPOILER ALERT! ********

I am VERY confused over how Aurelia died. In Derry’s version she wades into the fjord, submerges and drowns. However this doesn’t jive with what was written earlier in the book because Aurelia imagined herself wading into the fjord with reindeer and then returned home. She didn’t die during that particular visit to the fjord.

In the Prologue Cooke wrote that Aurelia died when she accidentally fell off a cliff while being chased. Did the author forget what she’d written and decide to make up a completely different death for Aurelia? Did she fall off the cliff OR did she drown while having hallucinations with the reindeer? If she drowned with the invisible reindeer then the Prologue needs to be rewritten.

Also, why did Tom decide to let Lexi stay on after her accident? He didn’t feel bad about her attempted suicide when she told him why she’d impersonated Sophie. He could have insisted she return to London after she got out of the hospital. What changed? I hope the author or publisher have answers for me. Thanks.

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 secrets of lost stones” by Melisa Payne

Rated 5 stars ***** ebook. Lake Union Publishing. 2019.

The secretes of lost stonesA hit-and-run driver killed Chance, Jess’s 8-year-old son eight years ago leaving her devastated and feeling as if life isn’t worth living. When Jess leaves town to start fresh elsewhere, her car breaks down in a small mountainside town. There she’s invited to be a caretaker to an older woman named Lucy who has a way of knowing things that are going to happen. She believes Jess and a ghostly little boy are “loose ends,” something she has to fix.

Fifteen-year-old Star has been living on the streets for months, after running away from a foster home. When a strange older woman calls her a “loose end” and arranges for her to get a bus ticket to a small, out-of-the way town, Star is dumbfounded. When she arrives Lucy convinces her to stay for a little while. Though Star has tough street bravado, she feels herself melting into the kindnesses offered by Lucy.

In alternate voices Jess and Star tell their stories of loss and fear, with a dose of hope. Readers will become invested in their lives, hoping for their “loose ends” to be tied up so they could have hope filled new lives.

Recommended for Adults.

“The prized girl” by Amy K. Green

Rated 3 stars *** ARC. ebook Dutton Books (Penguin Random House). To be published January 20, 2020.

The prized girlThough Vanessa’s thirteen-year-old sister Jenny was brutally murdered she was unaffected, as she’d distanced herself from her family many years ago. Despite herself, Vanessa found herself working with the lead detective to figure out who killed Jenny. Perhaps it was to feel better for being such an awful sister. Perhaps it was to keep herself from sinking further into depression from the breakup with her teacher eight years ago when she turned 18 years old. They’d been together for the best 4 years of her life, and she couldn’t get over it. In alternating voices Jenny and Vanessa tell their stories, leading me on a whodunit ride, and building to a climax that left me reeling.

I did NOT like the ending, feeling the way I did at the end of “It’s a wonderful life” when Mr. Potter didn’t get his comeuppance. I also didn’t care for Vanessa as she was whiny, needy, and a total backstabber. She desperately needed counseling for the trauma she’d experienced, but no one suggested it. If anything my favorite character was JP. He was fresh, honest and told things “like it is,” not like he wished/hoped they could be.

Despite these objections, I gave it 3 stars and will leave it up to you to decide if you want to read it or not.

Recommended for Adults.

I received an advance copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

“And then you loved me” by Inglath Cooper

Rated 5 stars ***** 2014. Fence Free Entertainment, LLC.

And then you loved meI read this book in one sitting, losing myself in a beautiful story of loss and heartache, friendship and pain. Seventeen-year-old Becca belongs to a religious group of farmers, similar to the Amish, who shun worldly things, while eighteen-year-old Matt is the popular, handsome baseball star of their small town. Though completely opposite in the ways they’ve been raised, they fall in love.

Unfortunately circumstances drove them apart for eighteen years until Matt returns to town for the funeral of his grandmother. Both are grown and have their own lives, but seeing each other again causes all the feelings they’ve kept bottled up for eighteen years to begin bubbling to the surface.

Becca has spent those eighteen years married to a man she doesn’t love, caring for a young girl and her little sister who has never gotten over the death of her young man when they were just fifteen years old. Meanwhile their mom mourns the only love of her life, and has refused to reconcile with her son because he married someone of the wrong race and religion. It seems as if no one is allowed to be with the one they love because they’re too busy worrying about appearances and what others think.

Tangled thoughts of having loved and lost, and questions of whether or not it’s possible to start fresh from the mistakes of life are brought before readers. At times I found the storyline to be sad because people chose circumstances over their own happiness, but at other times I found it to be hopeful when they chose to give hope a chance.

Highly recommended for Adult readers.

“The storyteller’s secret” by Sejal Badani

Rated 5 stars ***** ebook. 2018. Lake Union Publishing.

The storyteller's secretFor years Jaya had been desperately trying to have children but, raised by a mother who was never affectionate, she internalized her feelings as the number of miscarriages mounted. Jaya’s inability to talk about her losses and feelings about them resulted in a rift in her marriage as she fell into a deepening depression that left no room for anything other than the loneliness of her womb.

When Jaya learns her grandfather is dying and that her mother refuses to see him, she travels to India to uncover information about her mother’s past. There she meets Ravi who, though an Untouchable, was her grandmother’s trusted friend and servant. He tells her about Amisha, her beautiful, brave, strong grandmother who lived when Great Britain ruled India. This was during a time when women had no say in how their lives were lived, but Amisha wanted to be a writer, to tell stories, and to learn English. She wanted to be heard and to be seen.

Through Ravi’s stories Jaya learns about her mother, her grandmother and her heritage, the sacrifices Ravi made for Amisha and her family, as well as the sacrifices Amisha made for her daughter. In time Jaya learns to walk tall in the pride of those who’ve gone before her, gaining Amisha’s strength to face her future and to live it with purpose.

This book was AMAZING. It completely took my breath away, and made me cry. Amisha’s story is very powerful, as is Ravi’s. I know other readers will feel the same way.

Highly recommended for Adult readers.