Book Reviews

The Agathas Book Review

I recently finished reading The Agathas by Kathleen Gasglow and Liz Lawson, and I really enjoyed it! This book was released yesterday, May 3rd. The launch event took place at a local bookstore, One More Page Books, and I was able to attend. It was a lot of fun and another bookstore for #22in22, so I’ll be posting about that experience soon. (To find out more about the #22in22 challenge, check out this post.)

About the Book

Last summer, Alice Ogilve’s basketball-star boyfriend Steve dumped her. Then she disappeared for five days. Where she went and what happened to her is the biggest mystery in Castle Cove, because she’s not talking. Or it was, at least. But now, another one of Steve’s girlfriends has vanished: Brooke Donovan, Alice’s ex–best friend. And it doesn’t look like Brooke will be coming back. . .

Enter Iris Adams, Alice’s tutor. Iris has her own reasons for wanting to disappear, though unlike Alice, she doesn’t have the money or the means. That could be changed by the hefty reward Brooke’s grandmother is offering to anyone who can share information about her granddaughter’s whereabouts. The police are convinced Steve is the culprit, but Alice isn’t so sure, and with Iris on her side, she just might be able to prove her theory.

In order to get the reward and prove Steve’s innocence, they need to figure out who killed Brooke Donovan. And luckily Alice has exactly what they need—the complete works of Agatha Christie. If there’s anyone that can teach the girls how to solve a mystery it’s the master herself. But the town of Castle Cove holds many secrets, and Alice and Iris have no idea how much danger they’re about to walk into.

My Review

This book was so good! I loved the nods to Agatha Christie, and the suspense kept me turning pages. I’m also really hoping that this will become a series, because I think it would make a good series, and I want to read more about Alice and Iris. (At the launch event, the authors did confirm that there is second book in the works, slated to be released in May 2023.)

The character development was great! I liked how the Alice and Iris were from such different backgrounds but were able to find common ground and cultivate a friendship. This book also had all the great things about a classic mystery story – It wasn’t immediately obvious who the killer was, and there were some nice twists to keep the reader guessing.

For me, this was right up there with One of Us is Lying and A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, and I think fans of both those books will also enjoy this one. I think any fan of the classic who-dun-it story and Agatha Christie or Nancy Drew will also like this book.

About the Authors

Kathleen Gasglow

Kathleen Glasgow is the author of THE AGATHAS, YOU’D BE HOME NOW, GIRL IN PIECES (a New York Times bestseller and Target Book Club pick), and HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE DARK. Visit her on Twitter (@kathglasgow), Instagram (misskathleenglasgow), her website (www.kathleenglasgowbooks.com), or TikTok @kathleenglasgow.

Liz Lawson

Liz Lawson’s debut contemporary YA novel, THE LUCKY ONES, released from Delacorte Press/Random House in 2020. Next up is THE AGATHAS, a YA mystery she had the pleasure of writing with Kathleen Glasgow (NYT Bestselling author of GIRL IN PIECES).

Currently, Liz resides in the DC metro region, where she lives with an adorable toddler, a fantastic husband, and two VERY bratty cats.

Find her on Instagram and Twitter: @lzlwsn.

Book Reviews

Carnival Of Ash Book Review

I was excited to recieve a copy of The Carnival of Ash by Tom Beckerlegge as part of The Write Reads blog tour. Read on for my review!

About the Book

Book Info

Genre: Adult Fantasy

Length: 528 Pages

Publishing: 15th March 2022

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1786185008/ 

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/58438204-the-carnival-of-ash 

Blurb

An extravagant, lyrical fantasy about a city of poets and librarians. A city that never was.

Cadenza is the City of Words, a city run by poets, its skyline dominated by the steepled towers of its libraries, its heart beating to the stamp and thrum of the printing presses in the Printing Quarter.

Carlo Mazzoni, a young wordsmith arrives at the city gates intent on making his name as the bells ring out with the news of the death of the city’s poet-leader. Instead, he finds himself embroiled with the intrigues of a city in turmoil, the looming prospect of war with their rival Venice ever-present. A war that threatens not only to destroy Cadenza but remove it from history altogether…

My Review

This book was very creative and different from any other book I’ve read. It is labeled adult fantasy, rather than YA fantasy, so that could be partly why. It is well-written, written in the style of literary fiction.

The book was not exactly what I was expecting from the blurb, as it ended up being more political and historical than an actual fantasy story. And I was a little disappointed that the libraries played such a small part in the story.

I liked the world building, and I thought some of the characters were relatable. However, there were a lot of characters, so at times it could be tricky to keep straight who was who. Also, it was difficult at times to tell how the characters were all connected.

I think fans of political historical fiction will actually enjoy this more than fans of fantasy as there were no actual magical elements to the story.

Just FYI, there are some trigger warnings – violence and sexual content.

About the Author

Tom Beckerlegge grew up in the northwest of England in a house filled with books. Writing as Tom Becker, he won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize with his debut novel; The Carnival of Ash is his first adult book. He lives in Enfield with his wife and young son.

Book Reviews

Dog Star Book Review

I recently finished Dog Star by Megan Shepherd, which I really enjoyed. I recieved a ARC in exchange for a review. This book was released on Tuesday, January 11th, 2022.

About the Book

Laika is a Cold Dog, a stray pup fighting for her life on the streets of Moscow. Then, one winter night, she is plucked from her alley to become a starflyer, a dog trained to travel into space. Distrustful of people, Laika tries to do everything she can to escape. That is, until she meets Nina.

Nina is a Cold Girl, lonely and full of questions. Her best friend has moved to America in a rush, leaving Nina to face the school bullies all by herself. Plus, her father’s work as a scientist in the Soviet Space Program grows more secretive by the day.

When the two meet in her father’s laboratory, their growing bond slowly warms the chill that has settled in each other’s hearts. As the Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union grows fierce, Laika and Nina uncover shocking secrets and hard truths that will test their friendship. How will they find the courage to chase their dreams all the way to the stars?

Based on an incredible true story, Carnegie Medal nominee and New York Times–bestselling author Megan Shepherd crafts a harrowing, propulsive girl-and-her-dog tale that will linger in your heart long after the last page.

My Review

I really enjoyed this book. It’s great for the classroom, as it covers historical events as well as lots of other topics that are great for discussion. I loved the way there were alternating chapters from the dog, Laika, and the girl who loves her, Nina. Megan Shepherd did a great job of telling the story from both the girl’s and the dog’s POV.

Both characters had strong voices and that is part of what kept me turning pages. I also enjoyed reading about the history of the space dogs, especially since it is something I didn’t know much about before.

One spoiler (because this is something I’d appreciate knowing going into the story), since the story is based on history, the dog dies in the end of the book. However, I will caveat that by saying that the author does an excellent job of writing this instance so that it is not sad.

I think anyone who loves middle grade books, as well as historical fiction fans will enjoy this book.

Also, Megan Shepherd just announced that she’s publishing her first adult thriller – Malice House and I can’t wait to read it!

About the Author

New York Times bestseller and Carnegie Medal-nominated author Megan Shepherd grew up in her family’s independent bookstore in the Blue Ridge Mountains. She is the author of many acclaimed middle grade and young adult novels including The Madman’s Daughter series, The Cage series, The Secret Horses of Briar Hill, and the Grim Lovelies series. She now lives and writes on a haunted 125-year-old farm outside Asheville, North Carolina, with her husband and children, cats, chickens, bees, and an especially scruffy dog.

Book Reviews

The Little Women Devotional Review

I’m SO excited to be part of the launch team for The Little Women Devotional. Little Women is one of my favorite books and as soon as I heard about this devotional, I knew I wanted to read it!

About the Book

The Little Women Devotional offers lovely inspiration that explores the themes of faith, family, contentment, wisdom, and joy in the classic Louisa May Alcott novel, cherished by generations of readers.

Each reading corresponds with a chapter from the book and invites you to embrace God’s guiding hand in your life as His cherished daughter. This beautiful chapter-by-chapter devotional includes original artwork throughout, and each reading includes examples from the novel, scripture, life application, and prayers perfect for groups, book clubs, or personal reflection.

My Review

If you have been following my blog long, you know how much I love Little Women, so I was so excited to find out about this book. And it didn’t disappoint. It is so encouraging, and I love the way each devotional piece corresponds to a chapter in Little Women. It was a lot of fun to read through a chapter of Little Women and then read the corresponding devotional. There are some adorable illustrations included throughout the book as well. It’s a devotional you could read over again and still gain some new insights. I’m planning to read it again and journal my thoughts for each day as I read through the book.

I think this book is perfect for literature enthusiasts as well as anyone who enjoys Little Women.

Do you have a favorite devotional book? Let me know in the comments!

About the Author

RACHEL DODGE is the bestselling author of The Anne of Green Gables Devotional: A Chapter-by-Chapter Companion for Kindred Spirits and Praying with Jane: 31 Days through the Prayers of Jane Austen. Rachel teaches college English; speaks at libraries, literary groups, and teas; and writes for Jane Austen’s World. A true kindred spirit at heart, she loves books, bonnets, and ballgowns. You can visit her at RachelDodge.com or on Instagram @kindredspiritbooks.

Book Reviews

Top Ten Best Reads of 2021

Hi everyone! I read a lot of books this year, not quite as many as last year, but I met my Goodreads goal, so I’m happy!

I read a lot of thrillers this year, both YA and adult, which is a bit of a departure from what a typically read, YA fantasy. I also joined a book club at my local bookstore, and that turned out to be a good thing, since a few of my top ten picks were the book club choices. Here are the ones I chose as my top ten:

  1. Chasing Starlight by Teri Bailey Black (YA historical mystery) – This book has a great vintage vibe and was a NetGalley read. Check out my review here.
  2. A Curse So Dark and Lonely and Defy the Night by Brigid Kemmerer (YA fantasy) – I combined two here since they are by the same author, but I really enjoyed both of them. A Curse so Dark and Lonely is the first book in the Cursebreakers series. Defy the Night, the first in a new series, is the author’s latest book. My local bookstore chose this book as the book club pick and I was able to meet the author and get my copy signed. If you like YA fantasy, you’ll likely enjoy both of these.
  3. Lost in the Neverwood by Aiden Thomas (YA fantasy) – This is a retelling of Peter Pan. It was very good, but fair warning, it will probably make you cry.
  4. The Broken Girls by Simone St. James (Adult thriller) – This a book I chose for one of my Book of the Month boxes. A journalist investigates a haunted hall where students had been killed fifty plus years earlier.
  5. Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone (Adult thriller) – This was another ARC read, a book I recieved as part of a blog tour. You can read my review here.
  6. Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon (YA contemporary) – I also read this one as part of a book tour. It was another great read, but be warned that it’s not just a fluffy story – you’ll probably cry, I did. You can read my full review here.
  7. The Stranger in the Mirror by Liv Constantine (Adult Thriller) – This was another book club read from my local bookstore, and again I was able to meet the author and get my book signed. This is a thriller where the main character cannot remember who she is. She only has her husband’s word telling her who she is, but more and more things happen causing her to doubt him. I could not put this one down and finished it in two sittings.
  8. I Don’t Forgive You by Aggie Blum Thompson (Adult Thriller) – Another book club read, I also got my copy of this book signed by the author. This is about a photographer who has just moved to a cliquely DC suburb, and on top of navigating the new setting, she also gets framed for murder. I read this one in one sitting.
  9. Dark and Shallow Lies by Ginny Myers Sain (YA Thriller) – A girl returns to the small town where she spends her summers. But things are different because one of her best friends has been missing for six months. As she tries to figure out what happened, she uncovers secret after secret. Set in the swamps of Louisiana, the setting only added to the suspense.
  10. Shiver by Allie Reynolds (Adult Thriller) – I just read this one last month, but I’d had it on my TBR for awhile. Five friends who have not seen each other for a decade get invited to a ski resort. The same ski resort where one of their friends went missing ten years ago. No one knows who invited them and they appear to be the only ones there. Strange things keep happening making them believe someone else is there watching them. Creepy and haunting, I read this one in a day.

What were your favorite reads of 2021? Let me know in the comments!

Blog tours, Book Reviews

Lies Like Wildfire Blog Tour

Ultimate Tour – Penguin

Lies Like Wildfire by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez

     

Publisher: Penguin

Length: 384 Pages

Publishing: 7th September 2021

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Lies-Like-Wildfire-Jennifer-Alvarez-ebook/dp/B08VFV5FXD

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/55894185

About the Book

An intense high-stakes story about five friends and the deadly secret that could send their lives up in flames, perfect for fans of Karen McManus and E. Lockhart.

In Gap Mountain, California, everyone knows about fire season. And no one is more vigilant than 18-year-old Hannah Warner, the sheriff’s daughter and aspiring FBI agent. That is until this summer. When Hannah and her best friends accidentally spark an enormous and deadly wildfire, their instinct is to lie to the police and the fire investigators.

But as the blaze roars through their rural town and towards Yosemite National Park, Hannah’s friends begin to crack and she finds herself going to extreme lengths to protect their secret. Because sometimes good people do bad things. And if there’s one thing people hate, it’s liars.

My Review

This was a fast paced and well-written read. The suspense kept building and kept the reader hooked. The main characters were realistic, but not all of them were likeable. A couple of them didn’t care about the consequences their actions brought to others, which annoyed me, but they were all fully developed.

This is a pretty intense book with a lot of details about the wildfire and the damage it caused, so fair warning for any possible triggers. I think readers who enjoy fast-paced YA thrillers like Jennifer Lynn Barnes’s The Naturals series as well as the Charlotte Holmes series by Brittany Cavallaro will enjoy this one as well.

About the Author

I received my B.A. in English from the University of California at Berkeley. I’m fascinated by underdogs and power dynamics between groups of people. 

I’m the author of LIES LIKE WILDFIRE, a teen thriller soon-to-be published by Delacorte Press, and two middle grade book series, each published by HarperCollins Children’s Books, THE GUARDIAN HERD (a quartet) and RIDERS OF THE REALM (a trilogy). Before this, I self-published a middle grade fantasy called THE PET WASHER. 

When I’m not writing, you’ll find me galloping my little black mare through the foothills of Sonoma County or teaching free creative writing workshops to kids and adults at various branches of our local library system. 

The Healdsburg Literary Guild selected me as their 2019/2020 Literary Laureate for my work in building literacy in my community. It is an honor I hold dear. I am also the current SCBWI Sonoma County Coordinator and a volunteer on the Sonoma County Library Advisory Board.

I live in Northern California with my husband, three children, and more than my fair share of pets!

Blog tours, Book Reviews

Wicked Little Deeds Blog Tour

Publisher: Penguin

Length: 400 Pages

Publishing: 5th August 2021

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Wicked-Little-Deeds-Kat-Ellis-ebook/dp/B08L75VKPD

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/55600867-wicked-little-deeds

About the Book

From its creepy town mascot to the story of its cursed waterfall, Burden Falls is a small town dripping with superstition. Ava Thorn knows this well – since the horrific accident she witnessed a year ago, she’s been plagued by nightmares.

But when her school nemesis is brutally murdered and Ava is the primary suspect, she starts to wonder if the legends surrounding the town are more fact than fiction.

Whatever secrets Burden Falls is hiding, there’s a killer on the loose, and they have a vendetta against the Thorns…

My Review

This book was fast paced and a little twisty. It held my attention and kept me interested in the storyline, and I was a little suprised by the twist at the end.

I thought the main character, Ava, was relatable. Dominic was also an interesting character, but some of the side characters were not as well developed, and I would have liked to have seen more characterization with them.

This is not one of my favorites, but I did give it a solid three star rating. Some FYI – there was a bit of language and some weird references to Satan (i.e – “thank Satan” instead of “thank God”).

Fans of #Murdertrending, All Your Twisted Secrets, and White Fox would probably also enjoy this book.

About the Author

Kat Ellis is a young adult author whose novels include Wicked Little Deeds/Burden Falls (August 2021), Harrow Lake (July 2020), Purge (September 2016), Breaker (May 2016), and Blackfin Sky (May 2014). She is a fan of all things horror and sci-fi, and a keen explorer of ruins, castles and cemeteries – all of which are plentiful in North Wales, where Kat lives with her husband.

You can find out more about Kat at http://www.katelliswrites.com or connect with her on social media.  

Email: katelliswrites@gmail.com

Website: katelliswrites.com

Facebook: facebook.com/katelliswrites

Instagram: @katelliswrites

Twitter: @el_kat


Blog tours, Book Reviews

Instructions for Dancing Blog Tour

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Ultimate Tour – Penguin

Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon

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About The Book

#1 New York Times bestselling author of Everything, Everything and The Sun is Also a Star Nicola Yoon is back with a new and utterly unique romance.

Evie is disillusioned about love ever since her dad left her mum for another woman – she’s even throwing out her beloved romance novel collection.

When she’s given a copy of a book called Instructions for Dancing, and follows a note inside to a dilapidated dance studio, she discovers she has a strange and unwelcome gift. When a couple kisses in front of her, she can see their whole relationship play out – from the moment they first catch each other’s eye to the last bitter moments of their break-up.

For Evie, it confirms everything she thinks she knows about love – that it doesn’t last.

But at the dance studio she meets X – tall, dreadlocked, fascinating – and they start to learn to dance, together. Can X help break the spell that Evie is under? Can he change Evie’s mind about love?

Praise for Nicola Yoon:

‘Gorgeous and lyrical’ New York Times

‘Powerful, lovely, heart-wrenching’ Jennifer Niven

‘This extraordinary first novel about love so strong it might kill us is too good to feel like a debut’ Jodi Picoult

My Review

When I first started this book, I thought it was just going to a fun YA romcom, and it was that, but it was also so much more. And to be honest, I cried so much when reading this one, and I don’t often do that while reading. But this book was just so good!

I really liked the characters. Both Evie and X were so relatable. Fifi was hilarious, and Martin was an awesome best friend! I also loved the ballroom dancing element – I love watching Dancing with the Stars, and so of course I enjoyed reading about a ballroom dancing competition.

The plot of the story is both gripping and heart-warming. It really captures the spirit of what it’s like to be eighteen and just discovering both the beautiful parts of love as well as the ugly, heart-breaking bits. But you don’t have to be eighteen to enjoy this book. I think anyone who loves romcom books, ballroom dancing, and learning to love life will enjoy this book. If you’ve enjoyed any of Nicola Yoon’s other books, you’ll enjoy this one, and fans of Kasie West and Taylor Jenkins Reid will also like this one.

About the Author

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Nicola Yoon is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Instructions for Dancing, Everything, Everythingand The Sun Is Also a Star. She is a National Book Award finalist, a Michael L. Printz Honor Book recipient and a Coretta Scott King New Talent Award winner. Two of her novels have been made into major motion pictures. She’s also co-publisher of Joy Revolution, a Random House young adult imprint dedicated to love stories starring people of color. She grew up in Jamaica and Brooklyn, and lives in Los Angeles with her husband, the novelist David Yoon, and their daughter. You can find out more about her at https://www.nicolayoon.com.

Blog tours, Book Reviews

Mirroland Blog Tour

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I’m thrilled to be part of this blog tour hosted by https://www.thewritereads.com/.

Ultimate Tour – Scribner

Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone

About the Book

Twelve years ago my life began again.

But it was a lie.

With the startling twists of Gone Girl and the haunting emotional power of Room, Mirrorland is the story of twin sisters, the man they both love, and the dark childhood they can’t leave behind.

Cat lives in Los Angeles, about as far away as she can get from her estranged twin sister El and No. 36 Westeryk Road, the imposing gothic house in Edinburgh where they grew up. As girls, they invented Mirrorland, a dark, imaginary place under the pantry stairs full of pirates, witches, and clowns. These days Cat rarely thinks about their childhood home, or the fact that El now lives there with her husband Ross.

But when El mysteriously disappears after going out on her sailboat, Cat is forced to return to the grand old house, which has scarcely changed in twenty years. No. 36 Westeryk Road is still full of shadowy, hidden corners, and at every turn Cat finds herself stumbling on long-held secrets and terrifying ghosts from the past. Because someone—El?—has left Cat clues all over the house: a treasure hunt that leads right back to Mirrorland, where she knows the truth lies crouched and waiting…

A sharply crafted mystery about love and betrayal, redemption and revenge, Mirrorland is a propulsive, page-turning debut about the power of imagination and the price of freedom. Perfect for fans of Gillian Flynn, Ruth Ware, and Daphne du Maurier.

My Review

Wow! This book had me on the edge of my seat, and I read it in two sittings. I enjoyed the writing style, and the suspense built at the story progressed, keeping me invested in what was happening.

I really liked the main character, Catriona. I found her relatable, especially with the back and forth relationship between her and her sister. I think anyone who has siblings can probably relate to that on some level. I liked how they created their own fantasy world as children, something that me and my siblings also did when we were young. I loved how the author weaved the fairytales and fantasies into the story and I loved all the references to classic literature.

The twists just kept coming, even up to the very end, and some of them I didn’t see which is unusual for me as I typically have the story figured out before the end. Also, I have to say that ending was very satisfying – something that is not always the case for some books like this. If you enjoy fast-paced, twisty psychological thrillers, you’ll enjoy this one – if you liked Gone Girl, you’ll like this one as well.

About the Author

Carole Johnstone is an award-winning writer from Scotland, whose short stories have been published all over the world. Mirrorland, a psychological suspense with a gothic twist, is her debut novel.

Having grown up in Lanarkshire, she now lives in the beautiful Argyll & Bute, and is currently working on her second novel: a very unusual murder-mystery, set in the equally beautiful Outer Hebrides. You can visit her at  https://carolejohnstone.com/about/.

Book Reviews

Chasing Starlight Book Review

So I’m finding that I really love these historical murder mysteries! I’m probably going to have to do a post on all the ones I have read, but that will be for another time. 🙂

The Blurb

1938. The Golden Age of Hollywood. Palm trees and movie stars. Film studios pumping out musicals, westerns, and gangster films at a furious pace. Everyone wants to be a star―except society girl and aspiring astronomer Kate Hildebrand, who’d rather study them in the night sky. She’s already famous after a childhood tragedy turned her into a newspaper headline. What she craves is stability.

But when Kate has to move to Hollywood to live with her washed-up silent film star grandfather, she walks into a murder scene and finds herself on the front page again. She suspects one of the young men boarding in her grandfather’s run-down mansion is the killer―maybe even her grandfather. She searches for clues.

Now, Kate must discover the killer while working on the set of a musical―and falling in love. Will her stars align so she can catch the murderer and live the dream in Old Hollywood? Or will she find that she’s just chasing starlight?

My Review

This book was so good! I was immediately drawn into Kate’s world, and I cared about what would happen to her. I loved how she was into astronomy and wanted to go to school to study it. I also loved the romance between her and Hugo.

The setting and atmosphere were great! A creepy old mansion and the glamour of old Hollywood sets. And even though it started out rocky, I loved seeing how Kate’s relationship with her grandfather developed into one of true and trusted family. I also really liked the way Kate came to terms with what happened in her past and became stronger for it!

And the Nancy Drew reference! I love it!!

If you love Nancy Drew, you’ll definitely love this book, but I think it will also appeal to fans of A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson and the Truly Devious series by Maureen Johnson.

Have you read this one? What’s your favorite historical fiction murder mystery? Let me know in the comments!