Book Review

ARC Book Review: The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

Rating: ☆☆☆☆ 1/2
Audience: Young adult historical fiction
Length: 512 pages
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Publisher: Philomel Books
Release Date: October 1st, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Madrid, 1957. Under the fascist dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, Spain is hiding a dark secret. Meanwhile, tourists and foreign businessmen flood into Spain under the welcoming guise of sunshine and wine. Among them is eighteen-year-old Daniel Matheson, the son of a Texas oil tycoon, who arrives in Madrid with his parents hoping to connect with the country of his mother’s birth through the lens of his camera. Photography–and fate–introduce him to Ana, whose family’s interweaving obstacles reveal the lingering grasp of the Spanish Civil War–as well as chilling definitions of fortune and fear. Daniel’s photographs leave him with uncomfortable questions amidst shadows of danger. He is backed into a corner of decisions to protect those he loves. Lives and hearts collide, revealing an incredibly dark side to the sunny Spanish city.

Master storyteller Ruta Sepetys once again shines light into one of history’s darkest corners in this epic, heart-wrenching novel about identity, unforgettable love, repercussions of war, and the hidden violence of silence–inspired by the true post-war struggles of Spain.

QUEEN OF HISTORICAL FICTION.

I had a friend gracious enough to let me borrow this book and Y’ALL. It was amazing and I loved it.

I absolutely love the way that Sepetys puts together her stories. I own all of her books, but have only read two and clearly I need to up the rest on my TBR. The chapters are written in a fast, short, rotating POV way that keeps you flipping faster and faster. It’s so easy to read this book and keep you interested at the same time.

THE ROMANCE WAS PRECIOUS. Incredibly cute. It was slow and sweet and was exactly what this book needed. I loved watching Daniel and Ana interact and grow to be each other’s confidante. I think they both helped one another see the world from another perspective. I literally SHOUTED at my book when we had a date change in the book because I needed a happy ending for Ana. NEEDED IT. (And Daniel, but really, Ana).

I didn’t love Rafa and Puri’s point of views as much as the others. That is why I took off half a star. By the end, their contributions really made sense though and I do appreciate that. It absolutely broke my heart reading about the deception of the nuns and doctors in Spain during the 1950s-80s. I can’t put into words how that must have felt to be a mother in that time.

The work that went into this novel is clearly seen and I loved having all of the tidbits from speeches and publications that were layered throughout the book. It really brought the history to life and reminded me that things like this really did happen.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult historical fiction + romance
  • Language: very little
  • Romance: kisses, a not detailed love scene where you do know they spent the night together
  • Violence: guns, torture, imprisonment, murder, physical
  • Trigger warnings: mentions of miscarriage, kidnapping of babies and children

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Book Review

Book Review: Ghostly Echoes (Jackaby #3) by William Ritter

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: Young adult supernatural
Length: 377 pages
Author: Rick Riordan
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Release Date: June 28th, 2005
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Jenny Cavanaugh, the ghostly lady of 926 Augur Lane, has enlisted the investigative services of her fellow residents to solve a decade-old murder—her own. Abigail Rook and her eccentric employer, Detective R. F. Jackaby, dive into the cold case, starting with a search for Jenny’s fiancé, who went missing the night she died. But when a new, gruesome murder closely mirrors the events of ten years prior, Abigail and Jackaby realize that Jenny’s case isn’t so cold after all, and her killer may be far more dangerous than they suspected.

Fantasy and folklore mix with mad science as Abigail’s race to unravel the mystery leads her across the cold cobblestones of nineteenth-century New England, down to the mythical underworld, and deep into her colleagues’ grim histories to battle the most deadly foe she has ever faced.

GETTING BETTER & BETTER.

This installment was my favorite yet, another simple quick read that I devoured in a day.

I love the world that Ritter has built. And each book has added another piece to the world itself. We get to see new locations, adventures and characters that only add to the book.

Jackaby is so fun to watch. He has some of the best small talk and one-liners and seeing him have some feelings?! YES. It’s also great that we got some back-story on him and I like this new layer it added to his character. My favorite is that this book is heavy on the friendship. And while I love romance, when a friendship is done so well you don’t even notice it’s awesome. Abigail and Jackaby have a great relationship and genuinely care for each other, what a great duo.

Charlie and Abigail took a much bigger backseat than in the previous books. Almost as if it might have been best to not even have a romance component for Abigail (unless it all comes together in book four, to be determined). I think they’re SO CUTE, but since I wish we had more of them it’s hard to love this romance wholly.

What I realized in this third book was that so much from the beginning of this series is pulling through to the finale. There’s been a lot of build-up and slowly peeling away the layers to create what I know will be an amazing finale. I love how nuanced some of these aspects have been and how it’s all falling into place.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult supernatural fantasy
  • Language: none
  • Romance: a kiss or two
  • Violence: murder, vampires, physical, some magical

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Book Review

ARC Book Review: The Lady Rogue by Jenn Bennett

Rating: ☆☆☆ 1/2
Audience: Young adult historical fiction + fantasy
Length: 384 pages
Author: Jenn Bennett
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: September 3rd, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Some legends never die…

Traveling with her treasure-hunting father has always been a dream for Theodora. She’s read every book in his library, has an impressive knowledge of the world’s most sought-after relics, and has all the ambition in the world. What she doesn’t have is her father’s permission. That honor goes to her father’s nineteen-year-old protégé—and once-upon-a-time love of Theodora’s life—Huck Gallagher, while Theodora is left to sit alone in her hotel in Istanbul.

Until Huck arrives from an expedition without her father and enlists Theodora’s help in rescuing him. Armed with her father’s travel journal, the reluctant duo learns that her father had been digging up information on a legendary and magical ring that once belonged to Vlad the Impaler—more widely known as Dracula—and that it just might be the key to finding him.

Journeying into Romania, Theodora and Huck embark on a captivating adventure through Gothic villages and dark castles in the misty Carpathian Mountains to recover the notorious ring. But they aren’t the only ones who are searching for it. A secretive and dangerous occult society with a powerful link to Vlad the Impaler himself is hunting for it, too. And they will go to any lengths—including murder—to possess it. 

Thank you to the publisher, Simon & Schuster and Netgalley for the e-ARC. All opinions are my own. Release date, page length, etc. subject to change before publication.

OVERALL ENJOYED.

I feel really conflicted about this book. It took me longer than usual to get through and I really did enjoy it, but I didn’t love how the ending went down which kinda bummed the book overall.

The world building was really cool. I love that it was set in Romania! That is unique and vastly different than a lot of YA books and thought it was great. The world building was well done and I felt like I was running all over the countryside with Theo and Huck. They really went on an adventure and that wasn’t stagnant in the slightest.

What I did realize after finishing this book was that I am not [as big of a] fan of second chance romances where they grew up together. I didn’t get all the feels for them that I was hoping. Their banter and interactions were sweet and funny so I still shipped them overall. I was happy things worked out enough in the end. They had decent chemistry but I hated the nickname Banshee (and he would not stop calling her that).

What annoyed me with the ending was the transition to caring more about her Father than Huck. I get that the premise was about family, BUT Y’ALL, we spent the entire book reconnecting with Huck and looking for her Dad (where Theo continually talked about how annoyed and upset she was with him). Then, she leaves Huck in his moment of need to find her Dad, and I don’t know. Since she talked up not liking him, I frankly didn’t care that much what happened to him. There was an interesting twist involving Theo that was creepy and accurate for a novel set around Vlad the Impaler.

I did like the dialogue and writing style. The addition of the history from the region was very interesting. Bennett must have done a lot of research to make it as accurate as possible (with creative choices for the book). I do enjoy her style and look forward to reading more books from her.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult historical fiction + fantasy
  • Language: some strong language
  • Romance: a few kisses
  • Violence: poison, dark magic, scythes, losing a finger

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Book Review

Book Review: When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton

Rating: ☆☆☆☆ 1/2
Audience: Historical fiction + Romance
Length: 346 pages
Author: Chanel Cleeton
Publisher: Berkley Books
Release Date: April 9th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

In 1960s Florida, a young Cuban exile will risk her life–and heart–to take back her country in this exhilarating historical novel from the author of Next Year in Havana, a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick.

Beautiful. Daring. Deadly. 

The Cuban Revolution took everything from sugar heiress Beatriz Perez–her family, her people, her country. Recruited by the CIA to infiltrate Fidel Castro’s inner circle and pulled into the dangerous world of espionage, Beatriz is consumed by her quest for revenge and her desire to reclaim the life she lost.

As the Cold War swells like a hurricane over the shores of the Florida Strait, Beatriz is caught between the clash of Cuban American politics and the perils of a forbidden affair with a powerful man driven by ambitions of his own. When the ever-changing tides of history threaten everything she has fought for, she must make a choice between her past and future–but the wrong move could cost Beatriz everything–not just the island she loves, but also the man who has stolen her heart…

SOPHOMORE BOOK IS EVEN BETTER.

Oooooh, I loved this even more than Next Year in Havana. Let me also say, I love the Audible narrator: Kyla Garcia. She did another amazing job and kept me completely entranced in this book.

I love Beatriz Perez so stinkin’ much. She was an amazing MC and brought out all of the feels. I love how strong and independent. Beatriz has so much loyalty and love for her family and her country. This control and defines all of her decisions. And even when I wanted to shout out her, I also understood her choices.

THIS ROMANCE THOUGH. Okay, didn’t start out in the best light (trigger: cheating), but guys. I will firmly stand by that this might be the only case where I accepted and was okay with it. Her relationship with Nicholas made me swoooooon. Oh, it was so good. And also destroyed me, but I’ve already accepted that this is how Cleeton likes to torture us. I was happy with the resolution and felt relieved at how it all came to a conclusion.

My reasoning for being 4.5 stars vs. 5 stars was that, at times, it was too political (for me personally). It would cause some scenes to drag on a little long when I had already gotten the point.

BUT, what was really cool was having Beatriz work with the CIA. It was really interesting to have that plot line and her relationships with the agent was intriguing and intense. I loved watching Beatriz navigate the crisis in Cuba, the JFK assassination and the beginnings of the Cold War. History was woven perfectly into the timeline.

Overall audience notes:

  • Historical fiction + romance
  • Language: none
  • Romance: some kisses, and a handful of light detailed FTB scenes
  • Violence: guns, murder, threats of warfare, mentions of the JFK assassination
  • Trigger warnings: cheating (while engaged)

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BOTM

Special Announcement: August Books for BOTM YA (& My Pick!)

This post may contain referral/affiliate links. If you buy something, I may earn a commission.

We are nearing the end of August y’all. And while that is sad, it’s time for more BOTM YA Picks! This can be the happy part of our day!

If you’re interested in signing up, please click the link below this paragraph! This month, new members can use the code: FLEX to join for $9.99 (33% off the regular subscription price!).

Book of the Month YA

Sci-Fi:

Mind Games by Shana Silver (Debut!)

Arden sells memories. Whether it’s the becoming homecoming queen or studying for that all important test, Arden can hack into a classmate’s memories and upload the experience for you just as if you’d lived it yourself. Business is great, right up until the day Arden whites out, losing 15 minutes of her life and all her memories of the hot boy across the school yard. The hot boy her friends assure her she’s had a crush on for years.

Arden realizes that her own memories have been hacked, but they haven’t just been stolen and shared… they’ve been deleted. And she’s not the only one, the hot stranger, Sebastian, has lost ALL of his memories. But how can they find someone with the power to make them forget everything they’ve learned?


Contemporary Fiction:

Hello Girls by Brittany Cavallaro & Emily Henry

Best friends are forged by fire. For Winona Olsen and Lucille Pryce, that fire happened the night they met outside the police station—both deciding whether to turn their families in.

Winona has been starving for life in the seemingly perfect home that she shares with her seemingly perfect father, celebrity weatherman Stormy Olsen. No one knows that he locks the pantry door to control her eating and leaves bruises where no one can see them.

Lucille has been suffocating beneath the needs of her mother and her drug-dealing brother, wondering if there’s more out there for her than disappearing waitress tips and generations of barely getting by.

One harrowing night, Winona and Lucille realize they can’t wait until graduation to start their new lives. They need out. Now. All they need is three grand, fast. And really, a stolen convertible to take them from Michigan to Las Vegas can’t hurt. 


Contemporary Fiction:

Color Me In by Natasha Diaz (Debut!)

Debut YA author Natasha Díaz pulls from her personal experience to inform this powerful coming-of-age novel about the meaning of friendship, the joyful beginnings of romance, and the racism and religious intolerance that can both strain a family to the breaking point and strengthen its bonds.

Who is Nevaeh Levitz?

Growing up in an affluent suburb of New York City, sixteen-year-old Nevaeh Levitz never thought much about her biracial roots. When her Black mom and Jewish dad split up, she relocates to her mom’s family home in Harlem and is forced to confront her identity for the first time. 

Nevaeh wants to get to know her extended family, but one of her cousins can’t stand that Nevaeh, who inadvertently passes as white, is too privileged, pampered, and selfish to relate to the injustices they face on a daily basis as African Americans. In the midst of attempting to blend their families, Nevaeh’s dad decides that she should have a belated bat mitzvah instead of a sweet sixteen, which guarantees social humiliation at her posh private school. Even with the push and pull of her two cultures, Nevaeh does what she’s always done when life gets complicated: she stays silent.

It’s only when Nevaeh stumbles upon a secret from her mom’s past, finds herself falling in love, and sees firsthand the prejudice her family faces that she begins to realize she has a voice. And she has choices. Will she continue to let circumstances dictate her path? Or will she find power in herself and decide once and for all who and where she is meant to be?


Historical Fiction:

The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee

By day, seventeen-year-old Jo Kuan works as a lady’s maid for the cruel daughter of one of the wealthiest men in Atlanta. But by night, Jo moonlights as the pseudonymous author of a newspaper advice column for the genteel Southern lady, “Dear Miss Sweetie.” When her column becomes wildly popular, she uses the power of the pen to address some of society’s ills, but she’s not prepared for the backlash that follows when her column challenges fixed ideas about race and gender. 

While her opponents clamor to uncover the secret identity of Miss Sweetie, a mysterious letter sets Jo off on a search for her own past and the parents who abandoned her as a baby. But when her efforts put her in the crosshairs of Atlanta’s most notorious criminal, Jo must decide whether she, a girl used to living in the shadows, is ready to step into the light.


Fantasy:

House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig (Debut!)

In a manor by the sea, twelve sisters are cursed.

Annaleigh lives a sheltered life at Highmoor, a manor by the sea, with her sisters, their father, and stepmother. Once they were twelve, but loneliness fills the grand halls now that four of the girls’ lives have been cut short. Each death was more tragic than the last—the plague, a plummeting fall, a drowning, a slippery plunge—and there are whispers throughout the surrounding villages that the family is cursed by the gods.

Disturbed by a series of ghostly visions, Annaleigh becomes increasingly suspicious that the deaths were no accidents. Her sisters have been sneaking out every night to attend glittering balls, dancing until dawn in silk gowns and shimmering slippers, and Annaleigh isn’t sure whether to try to stop them or to join their forbidden trysts. Because who—or what—are they really dancing with?

When Annaleigh’s involvement with a mysterious stranger who has secrets of his own intensifies, it’s a race to unravel the darkness that has fallen over her family—before it claims her next.

My pick for August is: The House of Salt and Sorrows! I’ve had this on my TBR for awhile and I’ve been seeing rave reviews for it. My bookstagram friend and I are actually going to host a buddy read later this month pick. If you’re interested, please check out my Instagram for more information!

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Book Review

Book Review: Stalking Jack the Ripper (Stalking Jack the Ripper #1) by Kerri Maniscalco

Rating: ☆☆☆ 1/2
Audience: Young adult historical fiction + mystery
Length: 326 pages
Author: Kerri Maniscalco
Publisher: Jimmy Patterson
Release Date: September 20th, 2016
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Presented by James Patterson’s new children’s imprint, this deliciously creepy horror novel has a storyline inspired by the Ripper murders and an unexpected, blood-chilling conclusion…

Seventeen-year-old Audrey Rose Wadsworth was born a lord’s daughter, with a life of wealth and privilege stretched out before her. But between the social teas and silk dress fittings, she leads a forbidden secret life.

Against her stern father’s wishes and society’s expectations, Audrey often slips away to her uncle’s laboratory to study the gruesome practice of forensic medicine. When her work on a string of savagely killed corpses drags Audrey into the investigation of a serial murderer, her search for answers brings her close to her own sheltered world.

The story’s shocking twists and turns, augmented with real, sinister period photos, will make this dazzling, #1 New York Times bestselling debut from author Kerri Maniscalco impossible to forget.

THOMAS CRESSWELL IS MY NEW FAVORITE.

Okay, this was new. I haven’t read a book quite like this with the take on someone trying to catch a historical serial killer. WHAT FUN RIGHT? Mostly.

My biggest issue, that curbed my rating significantly was how easy it was to know who the murderer was. I truly picked them out from the moment they walked onto the page. Since he ended up because Jack, I was downtrodden and it made it hard for me to keep picking up the book.

BUT, I was enjoying the heeeeeck about of Thomas. He is my new favorite and I loved every single moment of his shameless flirting with Audrey Rose. SO STINKIN’ CUTE. I clearly couldn’t get enough of him, and their relationship alone is why I will read book two at some point.

Audrey Rose was a great character herself too. Even in the time period she was a strong, independent woman who was going to make sure every man in her way would give her the time of day. Though she was too blinded to see the answer to her troubles, I loved her dialogue and interactions in general.

The plot itself was fine, but like I previously stated when you immediately know who the killer it, it takes away from everything else. I love historical fictions though. And am really curious where this goes from here. The ending was nicely put together with an opening for the next book.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult historical fiction + mystery
  • Language: none
  • Romance: a few kisses
  • Violence: a lot, detailed murders, mentions of cannibalism, detailed violence by knives

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Book Review

Book Review: Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆  
Audience: World War II Historical Ficiton
Length: 502 pages
Author: Martha Hall Kelly
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Release Date: April 5th, 2016
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Inspired by the life of a real World War II heroine, this debut novel reveals a story of love, redemption, and secrets that were hidden for decades.

New York socialite Caroline Ferriday has her hands full with her post at the French consulate and a new love on the horizon. But Caroline’s world is forever changed when Hitler’s army invades Poland in September 1939—and then sets its sights on France.

An ocean away from Caroline, Kasia Kuzmerick, a Polish teenager, senses her carefree youth disappearing as she is drawn deeper into her role as courier for the underground resistance movement. In a tense atmosphere of watchful eyes and suspecting neighbors, one false move can have dire consequences.

For the ambitious young German doctor, Herta Oberheuser, an ad for a government medical position seems her ticket out of a desolate life. Once hired, though, she finds herself trapped in a male-dominated realm of Nazi secrets and power.

The lives of these three women are set on a collision course when the unthinkable happens and Kasia is sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious Nazi concentration camp for women. Their stories cross continents—from New York to Paris, Germany, and Poland—as Caroline and Kasia strive to bring justice to those whom history has forgotten. 

WHAT A BOOK.

WOW. This is the one of the best historical fictions about World War 2 that I have ever read. This was utterly amazing. Made me want to cry, throw things, and feel all sorts of emotions. I barely recognized how long the book actually was, it kept me interested and involved the entire time.

We had Catherine, an older woman in NY who falls in love with a man that has a life back in Paris. She spends her wars years hoping that Paul is okay and raising money and items for all those she can. I loved her personality and hope she held onto, until she didn’t. UGH. I hoped for a more complete ending for her, but I also understood. This wasn’t a book for happy endings, but enduring til the end.

Kaisa destroyed me from one end of this book to the other. She was the subject of horrid trials at Ravensbruck. Her story line caused me to struggle the most. I hadn’t heard much history from the women’s concentration camp and I loved the focus this author put on it. I learned so much and yet again had to cope with how awful humanity can be. Watching Kaisa encounter trial after trial brought out so many emotions.

I can hardly talk about Herta, but I’m also glad she was in the book. It was an interesting perspective to have someone who was pro-German during the time period. She made me so angry, but having this unique take compared to the two others balanced the entire story.

These three characters (that were based off of people actually involved in the war) was outstanding and well thought out. I couldn’t put this book down.

Note: this book does not hold back on describing what happened. Please read at your own caution.

Overall audience notes:

  • Historical fiction about WW2
  • Language: very little
  • Romance: some kisses, an almost fade-to-black scene
  • Violence: whips, guns, death by animal mauling, starvation
  • Trigger warnings: rape, sexual assault, mention of self harm, self-harming (by cutting), attempted suicide, child abuse, PTSD, surgical experimentation, loss of loved ones

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