“Girl from nowhere” Tiffany Rosenhan

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. Bloomsbury Publishing. To be published July 21, 2020.

Girl from nowhereSophia was not a regular 16-year-old girl. She had lived all over the world with her diplomat parents, and knew more than 14 different languages. She had been trained in deadly combat, and knew how to accurately shoot a gun on the run. After having to live in so many different places and experiencing so many different things, Sophia was shocked when her parents arrived in the small town of Waterford, Montana and told her they were officially retired. Now that she was given permission to slow down her life and “act like a teenager”, Sophia had no idea what to do.

Her first day at school didn’t go over well, as teachers were less than impressed with her knowledge, but she made a few friends who kept her occupied with normal teenage things. Soon Sophia started to fall into the routine of hanging out and wondering why the very handsome Aksel left her tongue-tied. She and Aksel soon became a couple but, just as Sophia thought the doors of her past were forever closed, something happened that caused them to come blasting open. It will take everything she’s learned from her father and Askel’s love to keep Sophia’s former world from crashing down around her new one.

“Girl from nowhere” is filled with action, love, and adventure. The only thing I didn’t like about it was the cover. With a storyline of a type of female 007 mixed up with a very handsome James Bond type, having a book cover showing a girl with tape over her eyes DOESN’T CUT IT! Come on Bloomsbury! There’s still a month left before publication, so PLEASE come out with a more riveting cover to draw readers in – otherwise they’ll pass up a very good book!

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.

“Thirteens” Kate Alice Marshall

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. Viking (Penguin Random House). The secrets of Eden Eld #1. To be published August 18, 2020.

ThirteensAfter a house fire and the disappearance of her mother, Ellie moved in with her aunt and uncle in the little town of Eden Eld. She’s determined to show them that she’s normal, because she and her mom used to see things nobody else saw. She’s not going to tell them about the weird grandfather clock that just appeared outside of her room ticking backwards, and she’s certainly not going to tell them about the big, strange looking bird with a yellow eye that was staring at her while she waited for the bus.

At school Ellie becomes friends with Pip and Otto, who clue her into the fact that they can also see things no one else sees but she has to keep it a secret. It doesn’t take long to realize their names are palindromes, they’re all going to be thirteen years old on Halloween, and they all have the same birthmarks. These strange similarities don’t seem coincidental so, working together, they discover the town is hiding a strange secret. Every 13 years, three thirteen-year-olds disappear. They’re next on the list to disappear without a trace, so will have to pull out all the stops if they plan to make it to their fourteenth birthday.

Those of you who are regulars on my blog know I refuse to read books in a series unless I have all of them in front of me. However, the publisher tricked me. The description sounded really interesting on NetGalley and Goodreads. Neither site had the name of a series listed for the book, so I requested it. When I downloaded it, the very first page said it was part one of a planned series. I was upset I’d been hoodwinked, but gamely set about reading because I had to review it.

I actually enjoyed it, but the cliffhanger ending reminded me that nothing could be tied into a big bow until the series was completed. I don’t even know how many books will BE in the series! I can’t wait to find out what happens next to Ellie, Otto and Pip, and the first book hasn’t even officially come out yet!!

Grrr! However, despite all this angst, I will still recommend it for ages 11-14.

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

“I killed Zoe Spanos” Kit Frick

I killed Zoe SpanosRated 4 stars **** ARC. ebook. Margaret K. McElderry books (Simon & Schuster). To be published June 30, 2020.

Seventeen-year-old Anna is thrilled when she’s offered a job as a nanny in the Hamptons on Long Island. She’d wasted the last few months of her senior year drinking and partying in Brooklyn. She’s ready to save money for college, turn over a new leaf, and spend time hanging out on the beach.

She and her charge hit it off quite well, and she’s prepared to relax and enjoy her summer. However it doesn’t take long before Anna finds out she looks exactly like Zoe Spanos, a girl who went missing months earlier, and hasn’t been heard from since January. As days pass Anna keeps getting feelings of déjà vu, believing she’d spent time in the town and had met Zoe in the past. Things begin to get jumbled in her mind and the more they do, the more she’s convinced she killed Zoe. She confesses to the police, and is sentenced to a juvenile center.

Though Anna believes she’s guilty, one person feels there’s more to her story that needs to be explored. Martina, best friends with Zoe’s little sister, runs a podcast about Zoe that tries to figure out what happened to her. Martina is determined to ferret out the truth but, when it’s finally revealed, it will shock everyone.

Told in flashbacks from when Anna first arrived and her time in juvie, the story seemed a bit disjointed. Anna’s memories seemed out of place, and I couldn’t figure out why she was having them. However as more was disclosed, the more her memories made sense. When all was revealed in this whodunit I was completely shocked. I definitely did NOT see that coming!

I recommend this book for ages 16 and older.

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

“Mockingjay” Suzanne Collins

Rated 5 stars ***** ebook. 2010. Scholastic Press. The Hunger Games #3.

MockingjayAfter being rescued from the arena by rebels from District 13 Katniss feels unmoored because they were unable to rescue Peeta. She is sure President Snow is torturing him for information. With fighting going on in every district, the rebels need to unite if they want to attack the Capitol, so they need Katniss to be the voice of the rebellion – their Mockingjay. Reluctantly Katniss accepts the role, but her mind and heart are constantly on Peeta. Though she’s not sure about her feelings for him, she does know that she wants him back. She also wants revenge against Snow, and is determined to do whatever it takes to make him pay.

This third book of the Hunger Games series was filled with action and adventure before it reached its satisfying conclusion.

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.

“Catching fire” Suzanne Collins

Rated 5 stars ***** ebook. Scholastic Press. 2009. The Hunger Games #2. 

Catching fireIn this second book of the Hunger Games series, Katniss endures the wrath of President Snow because she dared defy him and the Capitol when she prepared to eat poisonous berries at the end of their Games. Though she later claimed she did it out of love for Peeta because she didn’t want to kill him, he knows Rebels in other districts took her actions as encouragement.

President Snow threatens Katniss that she needs to make the Rebels truly believe she’s in love with Peeta and that she didn’t mean to start a rebellion. However, when he feels she hasn’t been convincing enough, he enacts his own revenge. She, Peeta and all winning Tributes from every Hunger Games in the past are forced to return to the ring for the Quarter Quell – a celebration of the Games that occurs every 25 years. As she endures another nightmare Games Katniss plans to keep Peeta alive, knowing only one of them can make it out alive this time.

The second book in this series was as amazing as I remembered it to be! It was so exciting that I couldn’t wait to pick up book 3 “Mockingjay” to find out what happens next to Peeta and Katniss – the star crossed lovers of Panem. BTW

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.

“The Hunger Games” Suzanne Collins

The hunger gamesRated 5 stars ***** ebook. Scholastic. 2018. The Hunger Games #1 (Special Edition). (Includes two interviews: “Interview with Suzanne Collins” and “Suzanne Collins and Walter Dean Myers on writing about war.”)

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen lives in District 12 with her mother and little sister Prim. She and her best friend Gale have been hunting in the woods ever since their fathers died in a coal-mining explosion when she was eleven. The woods provide food for their poor families – even though poaching is an offense the rich Capitol punishes with death.

The Capitol rules its 12 Districts with an iron fist, keeping everyone poor and forcing two children from each district to fight to the death in the annual Hunger Games. Each year residents are forced to attend the Reaping where names are drawn. When Prim’s name is called Katniss is shocked, and quickly volunteers herself as a Tribute to protect her.

She and Peeta Mellark, the other Tribute from her district, are assigned a Sponsor. They are encouraged to pretend to be star-crossed lovers, to play on the public’s feelings and get costly supplies delivered during the Games. What Katniss doesn’t know is that Peeta has been in love with her since he was five years old. As she sorts through her confused feelings about him and Gale, she will have to cross an invisible line in her mind if she wants them to survive.

I first read the Hunger Games series sometime in 2011 so, after reading “The ballad of songbirds and snakes,” I needed to refresh my memory on Professor Snow and the others in the series. This second reading was as exciting as the first, and I look forward to reading “Catching fire,” the next book in the series.

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.

“The ballad of songbirds and snakes” Suzanne Collins

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. Scholastic. (The Hunger Games #0). Published May 19, 2020.

The ballad of songbirds and snakesCoriolanus Snow endured hunger, deprivation, and the loss of both parents during the Rebel siege on the Capitol. His cousin’s bargaining abilities at the Black Market enabled them to survive, but the Snow family fortune was destroyed. Coriolanus is determined to keep it secret that the Snows, one of the Capitol’s Old Guard families, is poor.

His favorite professor at the Academy was able to get him assigned to one of the tributes for the upcoming Hunger Games as a student mentor, so he has a chance to vie for a University scholarship. Coriolanus knows winning the Games is his only hope to having a future, and is desperate to win. When he’s assigned Lucy Gray Baird from District 12 he’s disappointed because he’d hoped for a strong boy, however, her musical abilities and joie de vivre help to change his mind.

As he spends time with Lucy Gray, he begins to think of her as a person instead of as a tribute. His determination to protect her from the other tributes, and to win, begins to override rational thoughts until the lines between right and wrong get blurred. As time goes on Coriolanus’ determination to always win, and to always come out on top, will forever change their lives.

When I was given the opportunity to read this ARC, I wondered if it would be as interesting as the other books in The Hunger Games series because, after all, it IS about the very evil President Snow. However, not only is it exciting, but I found myself feeling sorry for Coriolanus. SORRY for HIM?! I can hear gasps echoing around the world, but let me preface that comment. I felt sorry for him in the BEGINNING and MIDDLE of the book, but definitely not by the end. Make sure to read the book to find out why.

I’m now off to reread The Hunger Games series and decipher clues revealed in “The ballad of songbirds and snakes.” I won’t be surprised if Collins writes another follow up to the Coriolanus Snow saga.

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.

 

“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.

“The book of lost names” Kristin Harmel

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. Gallery Books (Simon & Schuster.) To be published July 21, 2020.

The book of lost namesIn 2005, Eva Abrams sees an article in the New York Times seeking the owner of a rare book that had been looted by the Nazis. Eva knows it’s her book that she’d thought was lost long ago, and that it contains a secret she’s waited 60 years to find. With single-minded purpose she books a trip to Berlin to claim it, hoping it might contain a message from her long lost lover who died in 1944.

From Florida 2005, readers are taken to 1942 Paris where we’re introduced to Eva Traube. She and her parents don’t believe there’s going to be a roundup of Jews but, when her father and thousands more are taken, she and her mother escape to Free France where they planned to continue on into Switzerland. Instead, against her mother’s wishes, she becomes involved with the French Resistance. In the hidden library of a Catholic church her artistic skills are put to use forging identity documents for hundreds of Jewish children escaping to Switzerland. There she and Rèmy, a fellow forger, develop a secret code based on the Fibonacci sequence and use a rare book to record the real names of the children to whom they were giving false identities.

Through flashbacks between the past and present readers learn of the difficulties Eva faced by falling in love with a Catholic, the battles she had with her grieving and bitter mother, and the hard work she did to save the lives of many children. We see the ways in which the Catholic church was involved in saving lives, the love she held for Rèmy, and how she’d hidden her true self for many years. It is a story of love, hope and faith, in the midst of despair, that rings true to its time and place.

Highly recommended for Adults.

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