“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.

“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.



“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.

“Snow” John Banville

Rated 4 stars **** ARC. ebook. Hanover Square Press. To be published October 13, 2020.

SnowIn 1957 a well-known Catholic priest was found murdered at the estate of a gentry Protestant family in County Wexford, Ireland where he’d spent most of his time. Colonel Osborne, Lord of the manor, is more interested in his horses than the crime. Though she was the one to discover the body, his frail and sickly wife was too addled to be a good witness while their children claim to have been sound asleep.

Detective Inspector Strafford is sent to investigate, but can’t find clues since the body and crime scene were tampered with before he arrived. He is surprised no one is upset that Lawless was murdered, and appear to think it was a good thing. The Archbishop puts out his official version that the priest had a fall, strongly suggesting that Strafford agree, but he will not rest until he finds out what really happened to Father Lawless.

This whodunit passes suspicion and guilt around so much that the truth, when revealed, comes as a surprise to some. I had my suspicions, and was only half right.

Recommended for Adults.

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

“Winter counts” David Heska Wanbli Weiden

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. HarperCollins Publishers. To be published August 25, 2020.

The author is an enrolled citizen of the Sicangu Lakota Nation.

Winter countsLife on the Lakota Indian Reservation where Virgil Wounded Horse has lived for almost all of his life is tough. Jobs are hard to find and poverty is everywhere, while many work hard to pass on their beliefs and traditions. Virgil is a loner, who turned his back on Lakota traditions many years ago. Because the federal government doesn’t allow tribal police forces to pursue justice on most types of reservation crime, Virgil is the long arm of the law for those who want their own revenge.

Ben Short Bear, tribal councilman, contacts him to find out who is helping a tribal member bring heroin onto the reservation. At first Virgil is not interested in the case but, when his nephew Nathan overdoes and is later kidnapped, he is ready to knock in some heads. Though a drug cartel and local gang are also involved, he is not dissuaded. Though Virgil has always done things his way, he is soon going to learn he will have to make room for his Lakota people and traditions if he hopes to find Nathan before it’s too late.

Heska Wanbli Weiden’s description of reservation life and the helplessness of the tribal police are very realistic. I’m glad he mentioned that the Lakota despise the French derisive term “Sioux,” as I didn’t know that and know it’s important to be educated on correct tribal name terminologies.

Highly recommended for Adults.

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

“White fox” Sara Faring

Rated 2 stars ** ARC. ebook. Macmillan Publishing Group. To be published September 22, 2020.

White FoxTwo sisters, with completely different personalities, travel back to their childhood home in the Mediterranean to try and figure out what happened to their actress mother who disappeared 10 years earlier.

That is the premise of this novel, told through the sister’s alternating viewpoints and a mysterious person called “Boy.” Interspersed with the narrative are different acts from a screenplay their mother had written before she disappeared which, supposedly, contained clues as to what happened to her.

This book was supposed to be about finding out what happened to a loving mother and well known, beloved actress who abandoned her little girls ten years earlier. However there was too much “stuff” thrown into the narrative that, to me, impeded more than revealed. While attempting to be explanatory, the constant foray into interviews, home movies, scripts, ghostly voiceovers by the mysterious “Boy,” etc. were too distracting.

I didn’t like it, but will leave it up to you readers to decide if you want to read it or not.

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

“Lies like poison” Chelsea Pitcher

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. Margaret K. McElderry Books. To be published November 10, 2020.

LIes like poisonThe story of who killed Evelyn, seventeen-year-old Raven’s evil stepmother, is told through the alternating voices and memories of Raven, his stepsister Lily, and his best friends Poppy and Bella. Three years earlier Poppy and Bella hated how Evelyn was mentally and emotionally torturing Raven. Bella, Poppy and Raven had role played fairy tales, with Bella taking the part of a witch so she wrote down a deadly brew for killing Evelyn that would involve poisoning her tea with petals from deadly belladonna and poppy plants. Lily insisted on being part of the plan, having her own reasons for wanting her mother dead. She suggested they also include lily petals and took Bella’s original recipe for safekeeping. However nothing happened because they backed out of the plan at the last minute.

Three years later, Evelyn is dead. The police find belladonna petals in her tea and Bella’s handwritten recipe. She is arrested and it’s up to the others to clear her name – if they can get through their suspicions of each other. Is Bella lying about her innocence? Do Poppy and Lily have something to gain by leaving her in prison? Who killed Evelyn?

This whodunit had many layers, which were cleverly unpeeled one at a time. When the truth is finally revealed readers will be in shock.

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.