Pub. Date: October 15, 2019
Source: e-ARC via publisher (Thank you, Algonquin Young Readers!)
Summary: Kit-with-a-small-k is navigating middle school with a really big, really strange secret: When she’s stressed, she turns into a naked mole rat.
It first happened after kit watched her best friend, Clem, fall and get hurt during an acrobatic performance on TV. Since then, the transformations keep happening—whether kit wants them to or not. Kit can’t tell Clem about it, because after the fall, Clem just hasn’t been herself. She’s sad and mad and gloomy, and keeping a secret of her own: the real reason she fell.
A year after the accident, kit and Clem still haven’t figured out how to deal with all the ways they have transformed—both inside and out. When their secrets come between them, the best friends get into a big fight. Somehow, kit has to save the day, but she doesn’t believe she can be that kind of hero. Turning into a naked mole rat isn’t really a superpower. Or is it?
Genre: Middle Grade, Contemporary, Magical Realism
When I was first approached to take part on the blog tour for Naked Mole Rat Saves the Day, I was ecstatic. I don’t get a chance to discuss as much Middle Grade as I would like to and the book sounded emotional and exciting (and more than a bit quirky with the main character transforming into a naked mole rat whenever she’s stressed). I disregarded the fact that my first and only other experience with the author wasn’t that great and let my optimism rule.
Kit (spelled kit – with a small k, thank you very much) is not having the best year. As if dealing with middle school wasn’t bad enough, she’s no longer speaking to one of her best friends, and watched another best friend horribly injure herself on national television. Her mother was once a one-hit wonder and now she’s aiming for a comeback and kit never knew her father; her mother always said he was the stars and kit was more than happy to accept that until Jackson blurted out her father’s true identity.
Though she won’t tell her other friends why she’s no longer speaking to Jackson, they do know they’re not to speak to him anymore either. And once Clem is released from the hospital, she doesn’t seem like the same bestie kit knew. She’s moody and sad – and holding in a secret.
I’ll cut right to the chase and say that Naked Mole Rat Saves the Day didn’t work for me, unfortunately. While it was certainly a one-sitting read (admittedly due to a lot of skimming on my part), I couldn’t help but feel the book was weighed down with an overabundance of heavy topics: mass suicide, a parent’s mental health, another parent found someone else and left the family, the MC learns the identity of her father, another character learns the grandmother had been married previously and the mom’s dad had actually died before she was born/grandmother didn’t realize she was pregnant. There are also themes on friendship and growing up and a completely random scene in a shelter where it’s announced all the animals need to be adopted ASAP or they’ll all be put down. All the while, the main character spends scenes turning into a naked mole rat (I never understood this) and that odd mix of magical realism/fantasy was extremely jarring when thrown in between mentions of mass suicide and mental health.
My previous novel of the author’s, A Possibility of Whales, was another too-quirky novel that didn’t live up to my expectations. In that book, the main character’s father, a celebrity, has his name in all caps anytime it’s mentioned. In Naked Mole Rat, kit (short for keep it together) is written in all lower case. I’m not sure if Rivers’s other books do this as well; just another way to try and make an already strange book feel ‘unique.’
Sadly this one didn’t work for me. There was a too-strange juxtaposition between extremely heavy topics and random scenes where the main character transformed into an animal. There was a checklist of issues in this book ranging from mental health to suicide to family secrets and I wish the author would have instead chosen to focus on just one or two. Instead I felt I was constantly on edge, bouncing from one issue to the next. This story might work better for tweens and I’m sad to say I didn’t enjoy it as I had hoped.
Pub. Date: September 17, 2019
Source: ARC via publisher (Thank you, Graydon House!)
Summary: Maine, 1846. Gabriel Stone is desperate to escape the ghosts that haunt him in Massachusetts after his wife’s death, so he moves to Maine, taking a position as a minister in the remote village of Pale Harbor.
But not all is as it seems in the sleepy town. Strange, unsettling things have been happening, and the townspeople claim that only one person can be responsible: Sophronia Carver, a reclusive widow who lives with a spinster maid in the eerie Castle Carver. Sophronia must be a witch, and she almost certainly killed her husband.
As the incidents escalate, one thing becomes clear: they are the work of a twisted person inspired by the wildly popular stories of Mr. Edgar Allan Poe. And Gabriel must find answers, or Pale Harbor will suffer a fate worthy of Poe’s darkest tales.
Genre: Mystery, Historical Fiction
Maine, 1846. After the sudden death of her husband, Sophronia Carver has shut herself away in her large house on the hill, locked safely inside Castle Carver. Since Nathaniel’s death, the townsfolk of Pale Harbor have deemed Sophronia a murderer, an evil witch to blame for any and everything.
The arrival of a new minister seems like a breath of fresh air – just what Pale Harbor needs. Gabriel, however, isn’t quite the pious man he claims to be and the more time he spends around Mrs. Carver, the more he forgets his real reason for leaving home.
Recently there have been mysterious gifts left on Castle Carver’s doorstep – dead and mutilated ravens. Initially these were determined to be the work of children, only lately these disturbing offerings have increased in number – and gruesome nature. Whoever is responsible for the heinous deeds has been leaving notes behind, each one seemingly threatening Sophronia, each one hinting at secrets to be revealed. As Gabriel and Sophronia dig deeper into the mystery, they begin to notice an eerie resemblance to the stories of the famous Edgar Allan Poe.
It might still be hovering in the mid-80s in Pittsburgh, but fall is here and I am ready! I’m ready for chunky sweaters and cute booties and, best of all, atmospheric novels! Broody, windswept moors and crumbling estates scream my name this time of year and I immediately pounced on The Widow of Pale Harbor the second I heard of it.
A man haunted by the death of his wife, a woman blamed for the death of her husband, odd killings inspired by the work of Poe: The Widow of Pale Harbor was everything I was looking for to put me in a fall mood! Sophronia spends her days tucked away where she’s accompanied by a tiny handful of servants and her loyal maid. Prior to his death, Nathaniel published a literary magazine and Sophronia has taken up the helm, perusing the submissions she receives. Gabriel’s wife died in childbirth and he blames himself for not being a better man while she was alive. In an attempt to repent, he’s taken up the guise of a transcendentalist preacher, a religion he knows nothing about nor has any interest in. Naturally a romance blossoms between these two and while I could have done without the insta-love aspect, I really enjoyed these characters.
In fact, the entire cast was wonderful, from the gossipy twin girls who can’t wait to inform the new minister of the town witch to the servants of Castle Carver. While I ultimately guessed the villain, there were moments where I genuinely could have pointed fingers at any number of characters; there was no black and white, there were flaws and fierce loyalty and pain running rampant throughout each one. I truly marveled at that.
While it might still be a bit too warm to fully live my best sweater weather life, I am living it in spirit and fall reads are my favorite way of ringing in the season. The Widow of Pale Harbor hits all my fall novel favorites: a big manor, suspicious deaths, dark secrets, and references to Poe! The book does have a slight case of insta-love, but the mystery and setting were both such a delight that I didn’t mind and now I’m fully and completely ready for fall!
Pub. Date: September 3, 2019
Source: e-ARC via publisher (Thank you, Harlequin/MIRA!)
Summary: Raised in a quiet rural community, Anna has always been taught that her Mamma’s rules are the only path to follow. But, on her eighteenth birthday, she defies her Mamma for the first time in her life, and goes to Astroland. She’s never been allowed to visit Florida’s biggest theme park, so why, when she arrives, does everything about it seem so familiar? And is there a connection to the mysterious letter she receives that same day—a letter addressing her by a different name?
Rosie has grown up in the shadow of the missing sister she barely remembers, her family fractured by years of searching without leads. Now, on the fifteenth anniversary of her sister’s disappearance, the media circus resumes as the funds dedicated to the search dry up, and Rosie vows to uncover the truth herself. But can she find the answer before it tears her family apart?
As the temperatures drop and the mornings come with a chill in the air, there’s nothing I look forward to more than sinking into a mystery. Something dark, something intense and gripping that will thoroughly rope me in and hold me captive until the Big Reveal is announced. When I was approached to review A Girl Named Anna, I had high hopes: a sister’s disappearance, a cult-like religion obsessed with cleanliness, a Mamma who must be obeyed above all else. Dark, intense, and gripping, hello!
Anna has just turned eighteen and made a secret wish with her pastor’s son of a boyfriend: she wants to visit Astroland. For fifteen years it has been Florida’s biggest theme park, yet Mamma has forbade it for some unknown reason. Locked in a house with little in the way of entertainment apart from gardening and reading the Bible, Anna seems more like a young woman from a much earlier era.
Growing up in the spotlight hasn’t been easy on Rosie. When she was just a year old, her older sister suddenly vanished while the family was on vacation. Back home in England, the family continues to search fifteen years later, hoping with each media appearance that someone, somewhere, will finally come forward with a new lead.
Told in alternating chapters, A Girl Named Anna is an extremely quick read; I finished in roughly three hours – at around 330 pages, 100 per hour is a rapid pace for me! The chapters are short, brisk, and easy to read. There really isn’t much of a mystery: it’s clear from the start Anna is the missing sister; there are only two narratives in the book. I wish there would have been a third, a reporter perhaps? Mamma? The journalist who first has suspicions all those years ago? Some outside voice to break up the two girls’.
A Girl Named Anna is a debut novel and reads as such. Much of the plot relies on coincidences and suspension of disbelief. I mean, how else is a reader expected to enjoy a book where a sixteen-year-old solves a 15-year disappearance in less than a month when police and PIs – not to mention a slew of Reddit-esque detectives – couldn’t? I still feel the story could have been aided by another voice in the mix, rather than just Rosie and Anna. That said, while I’ve certainly read far more entertaining and, well, thrilling novels, A Girl Named Anna was good for a few hours before bed.
Pub. Date: August 27, 2019
Source: e-ARC + finished copy via publisher (Thank you, Berkley!)
Summary: You’re riding in your self-driving car when suddenly the doors lock, the route changes and you have lost all control. Then, a mysterious voice tells you, “You are going to die.”
Just as self-driving cars become the trusted, safer norm, eight people find themselves in this terrifying situation, including a faded TV star, a pregnant young woman, an abused wife fleeing her husband, an illegal immigrant, a husband and wife, and a suicidal man.
From cameras hidden in their cars, their panic is broadcast to millions of people around the world. But the public will show their true colors when they are asked, “Which of these people should we save?…And who should we kill first?”
Genre: Contemporary, Thriller, Beach Read
When I was approached about reviewing The Passengers, I was hooked before even reading a single sentence: comparisons to ’70s disaster flicks, Agatha Christie, and Speed, all rolled into one book. How could I possibly say no? As it turns out, this fiercely addictive novel was all that and then some.
In the near future, driverless cars have become the norm, with differing levels based on the amount of autonomy the vehicle has. One day, eight Londoners (including an aging television star, an abused woman hoping to finally flee her husband, and a husband and wife) begin their morning like any other…only they quickly learn their self-driving cars are no longer under their control. A mysterious hacker has taken over and announces that within two hours the passengers will die. The real kicker? The cars’ cameras are being broadcast worldwide – and the hacker wants the viewers to choose the sole survivor.
I am a reader who loves a bursting-to-the-seams cast of characters – and that’s certainly the case with The Passengers. Not only do the chapters alternate between every single passenger, but also a woman serving as the lone civilian on a Vehicle Inquest Jury that determines who’s at fault regarding car accidents. (Spoiler: it’s never the car’s fault.) Libby was a fascinating character: she’s staunchly against self-driving cars and practically all technology for that matter. She’s experienced firsthand the destruction these cars can cause and she’s determined to fight for the people, despite the jury’s attempts to intimidate and outright bully her. It’s during a jury meeting that the hacker first makes contact and it’s clear he (?) knows far more about the members of the panel than anyone should.
As the story progresses and the characters begin to realize something is capital w Wrong, I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. If you were like me and millions of others who read Lord of the Flies in school, you won’t be at all surprised when these adults begin fearing for their lives and acting out in ways they normally wouldn’t. Only one passenger will get to live and it’s up to the viewers to decide who’s worthy. Because of that, awful, dark secrets get out: blackmail, a double-life (including an entire second family), a dead spouse in the trunk of the car, covering up another spouses’s pedophilia. Naturally there’s more to those secrets, but the hacker only reveals the bare bones. It’s what’s hidden under the surface that was truly gripping and really made me think.
Dotted with news tickers, chat logs, and articles, the chapters flew by, particularly once things really got into gear and the action ramped up. Labor Day weekend heralds the end of summer and The Passengers is the perfect final beach read: it was intense and engaging and I tore through the pages, desperate to know what was going to happen next! I’m shocked I had never read anything by Marrs before – or had even heard of him prior to this novel! He has an impressive backlist that I will for sure be scrambling to get.
For Pride Month I made it a point to focus on LGBT reads and this one in particular was among my most anticipated reads of the year. I’m a huge fan of historical romance and I can’t recall ever coming across a novel even featuring LGBT characters, let alone front and center on the cover! Not only were two ladies the stars of the show, but there was also a heavy dose of botany and astronomy – yes please!Running away from a broken heart after watching her lover marry, Lucy abruptly shows up at the home of a Countess, determined to be the one to answer her request for a translator of a prominent French astronomy text. Lucy’s fully confident in her abilities, after all, while her father was revered in his field, it was Lucy who took over the work.
While I fully enjoyed the bits of science sprinkled throughout, I’m a little disappointed to say I found this one lacking. I’m delighted the book exists and had a great time reading it, but overall it left me wanting. Still, I’m curious to see where the series goes from here!
Romanov by Nadine Brandes | May 7, 2019
Tell me a book is about the Romanovs and there basically a 100% chance I’ll read it. Several years ago I featured an edition of Get Your Fix that focused solely on novels and non-fiction about the dynasty. I’m more than a little obsessed with this family.
That obsession was not strong enough to stop the absurd amount of eyerolling I did while reading this book. I’m always up for stories of Romanov survivors. Throw in a bit of magic and I’ll roll with it! Unfortunately, this book was all over the place. Anastasia – Nastya – wants to be a spell caster instead of a grand duchess. This magic system was never fully explained and left me confused. There’s special ink and bits of paper and magic words seemingly burst forth from the caster’s mouth.
If that was the book’s only downfall I could have excused it. HOWEVER, the kicker that had me frantically texting a friend as each ridiculous page went by: Anastasia and Alexei both die – Alexei TWICE – but don’t worry, Anastasia simply magics them back to life. While as ghosts (the first time around), the pair spend a few pages going on ghost adventures in the forest while the bodies of their parents and sisters lay in a pile behind them, and in the end Anastasia falls in love with the guard who shot/killed her. No thank you.
Trespassing by Brandi Reeds | April 1, 2018
In an attempt to try to rectify my pathetic netgalley stats, I’ve been making an effort to review old titles. Trespassing is a domestic thriller that instantly caught my eye when I first came across it, but never made the time for it. Until now. And I’m kicking myself for letting it sit so long!
Veronica’s life seems to be ripping apart at the seams. Her latest round of fertility treatments has failed, her 3-year-old has a new imaginary friend that seems more evil than innocent, and her pilot husband has just left for a flight…and doesn’t come back home. Veronica tries to hold it together and not fret, but Elizabella keeps insisting her imaginary friend told her Daddy’s dead. What follows is a cat-and-mouse thriller, from fake paystubs to a fully-paid house in the Florida Keys. Veronica’s grasp of reality loosens as she realizes her husband wasn’t the man she thought he was – and is someone after her now?
Despite the size of this novel, I tore through it, fully invested and engaged. I needed to know what was going on, I wanted explanations from her husband nearly as bad as Veronica did! While the ended was a little overdone, I really liked this one and can’t wait for Reeds’ next novel!
How to Hack a Heartbreak by Kristin Rockaway | July 30, 2019
Mel is stuck at a dead-end job working the help desk of a start-up full of brogrammers who all believe they’re God’s gift to the tech industry, yet can’t understand that disabling ad blockers in order to browse for porn just might result in a wave of viruses. Multiple times.
After the hottest dating app, Fluttr, leaves her ghosted, Mel decides to take matters into her own hands. JerkAlert was only meant to be a fun way for Mel and her friends to blow off steam – their way of getting the word out about the sexist, misogynistic, married men on Fluttr – but it took off and soon hundreds of women are leaving warnings about the seemingly nice guys on the app.
Had this just been a story about JerkAlert, I think I would have enjoyed the book far more. Instead, there’s an office romance between Mel and one of the techies hoping to make it big with a fantasy football app. I had hoped to get more out of this one than I did, but at least it was a fast, one-sitting read.
Pub. Date: July 23, 2019
Source: ARC via publisher (Thank you, Tyndale!)
Summary: Life changes overnight for coach John Harrison when his high school basketball team and state championship dreams are crushed under the weight of unexpected news. When the largest manufacturing plant shuts down and hundreds of families leave their town, John questions how he and his family will face an uncertain future.
After reluctantly agreeing to coach cross-country, John and his wife, Amy, meet an aspiring athlete who’s pushing her limits on a journey toward discovery. Inspired by the words and prayers of a newfound friend, John becomes the least likely coach helping the least likely runner attempt the impossible in the biggest race of the year.
Genre: Contemporary, Christian Fiction
Barbara has just received a phone call any parent would dread: it’s the hospital. Her daughter Janet has been admitted and Barbara should make her way there as soon as possible. Just as she’s hanging up the phone, a car pulls up outside: it’s her daughter’s no-good boyfriend, an addict named T-Bone. In his arms is a blanket; he’s apologizing and before Barbara realizes what’s happening, T-Bone takes off in his car. Inside that blanket? Barbara’s baby granddaughter, Hannah.
Fifteen years later, the town of Franklin is rocked when word gets out that the largest manufacturing plant – and the town’s largest employer – is shutting down. Suddenly the future seems uncertain. John Harrison is a local basketball coach. Just as it seems championship titles are in reach, students begin leaving one by one as parents pack up in search of jobs. Things go from bad to worse when John learns he’s no longer the basketball coach, but the cross-country coach, a sport he knows nothing about nor cares about.
Now 15, Hannah faces expulsion from the public high school. The only remaining school in the area is Brookshire, a private, Christian high school, but there’s no way Barbara could possible afford the tuition on her waitress’s pay. As one door closes, another opens, however, and the pair learn an anonymous benefactor has paid Hannah’s tuition. Hannah knows this is her last resort: shape up and get her act together or wind up headed down the same road as her parents.
First and foremost, Overcomer is a novelization of a movie. I haven’t seen the movie – it’s from the creators of War Room – so I can’t say how true the book sticks to the story. However, I can say this book certainly reads like a movie. I could easily picture these characters (having actual people on the cover didn’t hurt!) and knew what was going to happen throughout the plot. In a feel-good story like this, there aren’t any surprises, but that didn’t lessen my enjoyment of the novel in any way.
While there are an abundance of characters, when it comes down to it, Overcomer tells the story of John and Hannah, a basketball-turned-cross-country coach and a teen struggling to fit in and find her identity. I’m of the ‘the more, the merrier’ mindset when it comes to viewpoints and the two here were great, but I found myself sitting up a little straighter during Hannah’s chapters. Orphaned as a baby with only her grandmother left, Hannah hasn’t had the easiest life. To fill a void, she began stealing. Nothing huge, some earbuds here, a necklace there. Her thievery has kicked her out of numerous schools and now she’s in a Christian school – when she can’t remember the last time she went to church. To make matters worse, she’s the school’s sole cross-country athlete…and half the time she can’t finish races due to her asthma.
As this is a Christian fiction novel, religion obviously played a large role, with themes like redemption and forgiveness at its core. At times, it came off a little heavy-handed, though I know it comes with the genre, so that didn’t bother me. What did get to me was how simple the writing was. Because this is a novelization of a movie, I’m not sure if the dialogue was taken straight from the film or not, but the sentence structures, the conversations, it was all very easy. There were moments – particularly conversations between adults – where the writing felt more like something from a YA novel. But again, this didn’t detract from my enjoyment. If anything, it made the pages fly by even faster.
Going into Overcomer, I knew exactly what I was going to get; no surprises were in store for me. The sitcom-style neatness of the ending might not appeal to all readers (I admit I do like a bit of messiness at times), but I was fully along for the ride. Don’t let its 400-page length scare you off: a slightly larger than normal font size and quick chapters made flying through this book a breeze! While Overcomer is my first novel of Fabry’s, I actually own another. I’m thinking it’s time to dig it out from the depths of my bookshelves and dive in! If you’re a fan of feel-good novels, Overcomer is for you.
Rise and shine, it’s time for another library haul post! Interestingly, this time all of my holds are older titles.
A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole
The first book in the Reluctant Royals series, Naledi Smith, a grad-school student juggling multiple jobs. Raised in the foster system, Naledi quickly learned to take care of herself and spammy emails claiming she’s betrothed to an African prince get a hard delete.
As the sole heir to the throne, Prince Thabiso is feeling the weight of his kingdom. Tasked with tracking down his missing fiancee, Thabiso is quickly mistaken for a commoner – and delights in the chance to experience the world without the weight of the crown.
I’ve heard fantastic things about this series and love a good Cinderella retelling!!
Tokyo Tarareba Girls Vol. 1 by Akiko Higashimura
Three best friends in their 30s lament their still-single status and are determined to be married by the time the Olympics descend on Tokyo in six years.
I grabbed this first volume on a whim and…it was alright. Manga is always a quick read, so it had that going for it. The story though left me wanting. The art is nice, but I doubt I’ll be continuing with the series.
Drive-Thru Dreams: A Journey Through the Heart of America’s Fast-Food Kingdom by Adam Chandler
If you follow me in instagram or goodreads – or even if you’ve been following the blog for a while – you know I’m a huge nonfiction fan – especially when it comes to pop history. This book instantly went on my To Read list the minute I first heard about it and when I saw it on my library’s shelf this past weekend, I pounced.
Chandler explores the hold the fast food industry has had over American life for the past century, from the dark underbelly of the greedy corporate world to how a teenager’s plea for chicken nuggets became the most viral tweet of all time. Flipping through, I was surprised by how short this book is (under 300 pages – including all the notes!). I’m sure this will be an extremely fascinating and super quick read.
A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
I’ve only read one of her books, but enjoyed it immensely and have been eager to check out more of her work. The universe works in mysterious ways: one day last week I happened to be clicking around on wikipedia and started reading about the murder of Grace Brown. A young factory worker, Grace soon started up a relationship with the nephew of the factory owner and eventually discovered she was pregnant. Unwed, Grace hid her pregnancy from her family, and agreed to go on a trip with her boyfriend after he promised they would marry.
Her body was discovered near a lake, the boyfriend claiming Grace jumped in herself and drowned. Authorities, however, believed he ultimately murdered Grace and he was eventually found guilty of the crime. While reading, I learned A Northern Light was heavily inspired by – and features – the murder and I couldn’t grab it fast enough!
Trespassing by Brandi Reeds
This is a novel I originally grabbed from netgalley but never got around to it, whoops! In an attempt to finally get around to cleaning up old reviews I’ve decided to make a point to get some of these from my library.
Veronica is slowly losing her grip on reality. Her latest round of fertility treatments have failed, her 3-year-old suddenly has an imaginary new playmate, and her husband fails to return from a business trip. With Veronica’s family’s history of mental illness and her daughter’s insistence that Daddy is dead, Veronica becomes more and more unsure of what’s going on, but underneath her paranoia, she knows she needs to find her missing husband.
The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein
Another nonfiction and one I’m VERY curious about. Exploring both Sandra’s own life (as she made the transition from a husband to a wife) and her job (the person who cleans away all sign of death), everything about this book sounds interesting. I’ll admit I don’t really know much more about it, but it came highly recommended from a blogger I trust, so I’m absolutely looking forward to diving into this one.
Flirting with Pete by Barbara Delinsky
Casey never met her father, though that didn’t stop her from following in his footsteps and becoming a psychologist. Upon his death, Casey inherits his Boston town house, complete with maids and a gardener. She comes across a manuscript in his belongings and while she’s unsure if it’s the beginnings of a novel or a case study, Casey soon finds herself engrossed by Jenny’s story and, convinced the story is true, she begins digging deeper into this woman’s life.
Other readers have praised this one as an excellent psychological mystery and I’m definitely on board!
Objects of Desire: Design and Society Since 1750 by Adrian Forty
Nerd alert! One final nonfic and possibly the most nonfic of the bunch. A few weeks ago I devoured a fascinating book about the post-war kitchen in America and this book was mentioned a few times. It explores consumer goods since the introduction of mechanized production and I know I lost about half of you there :)
Really though, I’m sure this one will be an interesting read.