Category Archives: 2019 Books

Chirp

Finished Chirp by Kate Messner. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

From acclaimed author Kate Messner comes the powerful story of a young girl with the courage to make her voice heard, set against the backdrop of a summertime mystery.

When Mia moves to Vermont the summer after seventh grade, she’s recovering from the broken arm she got falling off a balance beam. And packed away in the moving boxes under her clothes and gymnastics trophies is a secret she’d rather forget.

Mia’s change in scenery brings day camp, new friends, and time with her beloved grandmother. But Gram is convinced someone is trying to destroy her cricket farm. Is it sabotage or is Gram’s thinking impaired from the stroke she suffered months ago? Mia and her friends set out to investigate, but can they uncover the truth in time to save Gram’s farm? And will that discovery empower Mia to confront the secret she’s been hiding–and find the courage she never knew she had?

In a compelling story rich with friendship, science, and summer fun, a girl finds her voice while navigating the joys and challenges of growing up.”

This book packs a lot into a hair under 230 pages. I love Mia and her family, especially Gram. I’ve never been particularly tempted to try crickets but I kind of am now. (Probably the garlic and sea salt, but maybe maple? Probably barbecue.)

I also love Mia’s friends. They’re smart and lovely people, and I especially love the way that they all cheer each other on. They’re not even competitive or frenemies and it’s a good change.

As could be expected from Kate Messner’s books, this is a fun and good story that is an excellent time. (Expect some hard moments and maybe a few tears, but it’s all worth it.) Highly recommended.

Long Bright River

Finished Long Bright River by Liz Moore. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Two sisters travel the same streets,though their lives couldn’t be more different.
Then one of them goes missing.

In a Philadelphia neighborhood rocked by the opioid crisis, two once-inseparable sisters find themselves at odds. One, Kacey, lives on the streets in the vise of addiction. The other, Mickey, walks those same blocks on her police beat. They don’t speak anymore, but Mickey never stops worrying about her sibling.

Then Kacey disappears, suddenly, at the same time that a mysterious string of murders begins in Mickey’s district, and Mickey becomes dangerously obsessed with finding the culprit–and her sister–before it’s too late.

Alternating its present-day mystery with the story of the sisters’ childhood and adolescence, Long Bright River is at once heart-pounding and heart-wrenching: a gripping suspense novel that is also a moving story of sisters, addiction, and the formidable ties that persist between place, family, and fate.”

This is an intense novel. I think a lot of families have been affected by the opioid epidemic, and Mickey’s family definitely has been. The novel begins with a list of the people her family’s lost and it’s not a short list.

Like Mickey, the reader is trying to piece together what’s going on and unsure about if Kacey is OK or not. There’s a lot going on and everything may or may not be connected.

There are a lot of revelations and this is such an intense book. This is an early contender for my favorites of the year list and I am really excited to see what else is ahead, if this is the case.

Highly recommended.

Just Breathe

Finished Just Breathe by Cammie McGovern. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“David Sheinman is the popular president of his senior class, battling cystic fibrosis.

Jamie Turner is a quiet sophomore, struggling with depression.

The pair soon realizes that they can be their true selves with each other, and their unlikely friendship develops into something so much more. But neither Jamie nor David can bring themselves to reveal the secrets that weigh most heavily on their hearts—and their time for honesty may be running out.”

I love Cammie McGovern’s books so much! They usually make me cry, but they’re also full of great characters and are just amazing.

I love how this book shows depression and how Jamie’s not pathetic or trying to get attention or any of the other stigmas. Sometimes she’s fine and sometimes she’s not, and it’s not ever under her control, just like how David’s cystic fibrosis is out of his control. (Also, I didn’t know much about CF before, so I feel like I learned a lot just from this book.)

This is obviously a book that deals with heavy topics but there’s a lot of lightness here, as well. It never felt like a chore or too emotionally taxing to read it. (Also, if you are a fan of classic movies, you are going to love Jamie.)

Highly recommended.

A Heart So Fierce and Broken

Finished A Heart So Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

In the sequel to New York Times bestselling A Curse So Dark and Lonely, Brigid Kemmerer returns to the world of Emberfall in a lush fantasy where friends become foes and love blooms in the darkest of places.

Find the heir, win the crown.
The curse is finally broken, but Prince Rhen of Emberfall faces darker troubles still. Rumors circulate that he is not the true heir and that forbidden magic has been unleashed in Emberfall. Although Rhen has Harper by his side, his guardsman Grey is missing, leaving more questions than answers.

Win the crown, save the kingdom.
Rumored to be the heir, Grey has been on the run since he destroyed Lilith. He has no desire to challenge Rhen–until Karis Luran once again threatens to take Emberfall by force. Her own daughter Lia Mara sees the flaws in her mother’s violent plan, but can she convince Grey to stand against Rhen, even for the good of Emberfall?

The heart-pounding, compulsively readable saga continues as loyalties are tested and new love blooms in a kingdom on the brink of war.”

I absolutely loved A Curse So Dark and Lonely, so I was very excited to start this one. And somehow, it was even better!

Yes, we don’t see Rhen and Harper very much at all, but I absolutely loved Lia Mara and obviously we already love Grey.

I’m very conflicted for the third book, because I don’t know what’s going to happen and I don’t want anyone to get hurt. Rhen and Grey are currently at odds, and I don’t see a way for that to be reconciled without one of them losing.

Also, as a warning, there’s a major cliffhanger. The next book (and last, I think) doesn’t have a title or a release date (beyond “2021”) and so I’m going to be on edge for a long time, I think.

This is the best series I’ve read in a very long time. Highly recommended.

A Curse So Dark and Lonely

Finished A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Fall in love, break the curse.

Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year, Prince Rhen, the heir of Emberfall, thought he could be saved easily if a girl fell for him. But that was before he turned into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. Before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.

Nothing has ever been easy for Harper. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, Harper learned to be tough enough to survive. When she tries to save a stranger on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s pulled into a magical world.

Break the curse, save the kingdom.

Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. A prince? A curse? A monster? As she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what’s at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.”

I’ve absolutely loved Brigid Kemmerer’s contemporary YA but I was a little nervous to start her fantasy series. It’s not a genre I’m fond of anymore, but I love her books enough that I felt relatively sure that I would enjoy it.

And, as it turns out, “enjoy it” wasn’t even it. I absolutely loved this book. Harper is my favorite heroine in quite a while, and I really liked Rhen, too. This is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, and it’s a great version of that.

Everything about this was fantastic. I’m sad that it took me this long to read it…although not too sad, because I’m already a couple chapters into the sequel and I don’t want to even think about how hard the wait for the third book (currently untitled) will be. But that’s a problem for later.

Highly recommended.

The Map from Here to There

Finished The Map from Here to There by Emery Lord. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Acclaimed author Emery Lord crafts a gorgeous story of friendship and identity, daring to ask: What happens after happily ever after?

It’s senior year, and Paige Hancock is finally living her best life. She has a fun summer job, great friends, and a super charming boyfriend who totally gets her. But senior year also means big decisions. Weighing “the rest of her life,” Paige feels her anxiety begin to pervade every decision she makes. Everything is exactly how she always wanted it to be–how can she leave it all behind next year? In her head, she knows there is so much more to experience after high school. But in her heart, is it so terrible to want everything to stay the same forever?

Emery Lord’s award-winning storytelling shines with lovable characters and heartfelt exploration of life’s most important questions.”

It’s been a while since I read The Start of Me and You, but this book can also function as a standalone. (Details came back to me as I read this one, but all I remembered at first was how much I loved the first one.)

The best part about this book is the way it deals with how it goes after you get what you wanted. Paige and Max are a great couple and they’re now dealing with waiting for college acceptance letters. I don’t think that time is dealt with enough in YA (although it’s highly possible that I’m just reading the wrong books) and The Map from Here to There shows how stressful it is to actually try and decide your entire life, based on very little information. What if you pick the wrong school or the wrong major? What if you don’t get in anywhere? What if you hate it?

It was stressful for me but it all feels so much worse now.

This book is also really fun. I liked reading about Paige and Max but my favorite was Paige and her friends. They feel like real best friends and they’re fantastic.

I love everything about this book. Highly recommended.

Jane Anonymous

Finished Jane Anonymous by Laurie Faria Stolarz. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Bestselling author Laurie Faria Stolarz returns with Jane Anonymous, a gripping tale of a seventeen-year-old girl’s kidnapping and her struggle to fit back into her life after she escapes.

Then, “Jane” was just your typical 17-year-old in a typical New England suburb getting ready to start her senior year. She had a part-time job she enjoyed, an awesome best friend, overbearing but loving parents, and a crush on a boy who was taking her to see her favorite band. She never would’ve imagined that in her town where nothing ever happens, a series of small coincidences would lead to a devastating turn of events that would forever change her life.

Now, it’s been three months since “Jane” escaped captivity and returned home. Three months of being that girl who was kidnapped, the girl who was held by a “monster.” Three months of writing down everything she remembered from those seven months locked up in that stark white room. But, what if everything you thought you knew―everything you thought you experienced―turned out to be a lie?”

You guys, this book. First off, I read it like it was my job. I couldn’t put it down and when I DID have to (like, to do my actual job), I kept thinking about it and wondering what the next chapter would bring.

I like the new trend of showing what life is like after a traumatic event. Jane’s kidnapping and time in captivity is obviously horrible, but her life doesn’t magically snap back into place once she manages to return to her normal existence. Her time away has completely changed her and it’s hard for her to relate to her parents or old friends.

This was a hard book to read in a lot of ways, but it’s not as harrowing as it could be. I kept rooting for Jane, and I kept rooting for her parents and her friends to find a way back to her.

Highly recommended.

You Were There, Too

Finished You Were There, Too by Colleen Oakley. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Acclaimed author Colleen Oakley delivers a heart-wrenching and unforgettable love story about a woman who must choose between the man she loves and the man fate has chosen for her in a novel that reminds us that the best life is one led by the heart.

Mia Graydon’s life looks picket-fence perfect; she has the house, her loving husband, and dreams of starting a family. But she has other dreams too — unexplained, recurring ones starring the same man. Still, she doesn’t think much of them, until a relocation to small-town Pennsylvania brings her face to face with the stranger she has been dreaming about for years. And this man harbors a jaw-dropping secret of his own—he’s been dreaming of her too.

Determined to understand, Mia and this not-so-stranger search for answers. But when diving into their pasts begins to unravel her life in the present, Mia emerges with a single question—what if?”

I’ve heard a lot of great things about Colleen Oakley’s books, but this is the first one I’ve read (she has two other ones, and I definitely need to read them this year). This one is absolutely amazing.

I’m one of those people who doesn’t really dream (and yes, I know that I really do and that I just don’t remember them) so the idea of Mia’s recurring dreams about a stranger is already fascinating to me. But when we learn that he (his name is Oliver, as it happens) also dreams about her? And that they meet when she and her husband Harrison are in a slightly rough patch of their marriage?  YES PLEASE.

So first, you should know that this is a rare love triangle because Oliver and Harrison are both really good guys. And you should know that “love triangle” isn’t really very accurate. It’s more of a sort of “what if” question.

I loved every page of this. And, like I said, I need to hit her backlist. Highly recommended.

Taking Shape

Finished Taking Shape by Dustin McNeill. This is an exhaustive history of the Halloween franchise.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Silver Shamrock. Thorn. White Horses. It’s all in here. Join authors Dustin McNeill and Travis Mullins for a deep dive into the evolution of Halloween’s vast mythology. Extensively researched, TAKING SHAPE is the ultimate guide to the first forty years of Haddonfield history. Featuring exclusive interviews with filmmakers from every installment, prepare to gain new insight into Halloween’s iconic boogeyman. Oh, you don’t believe in the boogeyman? You should.

TAKING SHAPE includes:

– Comprehensive story analysis on the entire series!

– A rundown of all deleted and alternate scenes!

– A look at what scholars got right (and wrong) about H1!

– Exclusive details on Nigel Kneale’s original H3 script!

– Comparisons of early scripts to the final theatrical films!

– A rare interview with H5 screenwriter Michael Jacobs!

– An exhaustive account of H6’s troubled production!

– An examination of H20’s roots as a direct-to-video sequel!

– A revealing look behind the grunge of the Rob Zombie era!

– Insight into how test audiences and execs shaped the films!

– In-depth dissection of the official novelizations!”

I’m not sure how big the audience is for a real deep dive into the Halloween franchise, but I will tell you that I loved this book so much!

I would consider myself a Halloween enthusiast (holiday and franchise) but there was a lot in here that I didn’t know, especially in regard to the novelizations. I’m mentioning that so you know that this is good for horror newbies and for more established fans. It’s also written in a very engaging way so that it never feels like a lecture. Instead, it’s like the most fun conversation (granted, one where you listen rather than talk).

I’m excited to read his book on Freddy vs. Jason, and I’m planning to get to that next year.

Highly recommended.

A Girl, a Raccoon, and the Midnight Moon

Finished A Girl, a Raccoon and the Midnight Moon by Karen Romano Young and illustrated by Jessixa Bagley. I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“In a slightly fantastical New York City, one very special library branch has been designated for possible closure. Bookish, socially awkward Pearl, the daughter of the librarian, can’t imagine a world without the library—its books, its community of oddballs, its hominess. When the head of their Edna St. Vincent Millay statue goes missing, closure is closer than ever. But Pearl is determined to save the library. And with a ragtag neighborhood library crew—including a constantly tap-dancing girl who might just be her first friend, an older boy she has a crush on, and a pack of raccoons who can read and write—she just might be able to.

With an eclectic cast of richly drawn characters, a hint of just-around-the-corner magic, footnotes, sidebars, and Jessixa Bagley’s classic illustrations throughout, this warm-hearted, visually magnificent tale of reading and believing from beloved author Karen Romano Young tells of a world where what you want to believe can come true.”

This is probably the most delightful book I’ve read this year. As you know, I absolutely love books about books and readers, and Pearl is an excellent example of this. She’s never known a life without the library (her mom is the librarian and Pearl was literally born in the library) and so when that’s threatened, she’s both devastated and determined to figure out how to save it.

But this is also a magic story. There really are raccoons that can read and write, and they really do run their own newspaper. You can choose to believe or not and maybe it’s that I read this right before Christmas, but I do choose to believe.

It’s my first book from Karen Romano Young, but it won’t be my last. If they’re all as charming as this one, I’ve got a new favorite author.