Thursday, August 31, 2017

Review: The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give
By Angie Thomas
Published: February 28, 2017

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

My review:

At the beginning of the book, Starr goes to a party with her friend Kenya (she also happens to be a half sister of Starr's half brother Seven). While she is there, Starr feels like she doesn't belong. She may have gone to school with the other teens long ago and she still lives in the same neighborhood but now she goes to a prep school and has a secret white boyfriend. Her wealthy best friends don't know what her home life is really like as their parents wouldn't allow them to visit her. She is torn between two different lives and has different versions of her persona, not really able to be herself with anyone. It is at this party that Starr reconnects with Khalil. When she was a child, Khalil was one of her best friends but in recent years they'd grown apart. Her other childhood best friend died tragically in a drive-by when Starr was ten.

In the aftermath of the shooting, Starr is broken. She can't stop reliving what happened and she has to face going down to the police station to give a statement. There are all kinds of nasty things being said about Khalil in the media where he is not portrayed as a victim but a criminal. Starr's only break from her pain is at school where she tries to act like everything is just fine but even there she can't escape what happened.

This was a powerful novel inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and many true stories. The title comes from Tupac's T.H.U.G.L.I.F.E. tattoo and what it stood for (The Hate U Give Little Infants F*cks Everybody). Angie Carter has written a book that will make readers think and feel strong emotion and hopefully want to take action in a positive way. 

One of the most impactful moments of the book for me was when Starr talked about how her parents had "the talk" with her. Not the one that everyone gets at puberty but rather what to do when a cop pulls you over. It was heartbreaking that such a conversation needed to take place and it is a common occurrence. In a later scene, Starr witnesses a loved one being forced to lie down on the ground as an act of police intimidation. Not all cops are portrayed in a negative light. Starr's uncle is a police officer and second father to Starr and he has faith in his fellow officers though not all are deserving of it.

Starr goes through so much and I really felt for her. I was glad she had such a loving family and her boyfriend was pretty sweet. I loved how they bonded over their mutual fandom (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air). Unfortunately not all of her friends were there for her and she had to figure out who her true friends were. I admired Starr for standing up for herself and Khalil even though it was so hard to do (and scary). 

The Hate U Give is the best book I've read in 2017 so far. I think it is so relevant to what is going on in America today but it is also a well written story. I highly recommend it. I'm afraid my review doesn't quite do it justice.

Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

Friday, August 18, 2017

Review: The Daughters of Ireland

The Daughters of Ireland 
(orig. The Daughters of Castle Deverill)
By Santa Montefiore
Published: August 15, 2017

Ireland. 1925.
The war is over. But life will never be the same...
In the green hills of West Cork, Ireland, Castle Deverill has burned to the ground. But young Celia Deverill is determined to see her ruined ancestral home restored to its former glory — to the years when Celia ran through its vast halls with her cousin Kitty and their childhood friend Bridie Doyle.
Kitty herself is raising a young family, but she longs for Jack O’Leary — the long-ago sweetheart she cannot have. And soon Kitty must make a heartbreaking decision, one that could destroy everything she holds dear.
Bridie, once a cook's daugher in Castle Deverill, is now a well-heeled New York City socialite. Yet her celebrity can't erase a past act that haunts her still. Nor can it keep her from seeking revenge upon the woman who wronged her all those years ago.
As these three daughters of Ireland seek to make their way in a world once again beset by dark forces, Santa Montefiore shows us once more why she is one of the best-loved storytellers at work today.

My review:

In the first book in the Deverill Chronicles, the story focuses on Kitty Deverill but here we get to see what is going on with Celia, Bridie and several other characters. The legacy of the castle ties them all together. It is more than just a place. It represents family and heritage and home. When Kitty's father Bertie had to put the castle up for sale, the family had no idea that Celia would be the one to buy it. She pours money and effort into rebuilding it and making it better than it was before. For Kitty, it is bittersweet. While Castle Deverill stays in the family, it is still hard to see it in someone else's hands and it isn't the same. The castle is also home to the ghosts of the Lords Deverill because of the curse Maggie O'Leary placed on Barton Deverill centuries ago. This time we get to find out what happened in the past as well.

In addition to the Deverill family in Ireland we also see what happens in the lives of the London Deverills and a long lost Deverill in America. As the years pass, there is tragedy and family secrets are unearthed. Meanwhile Bridie Doyle is nursing an undeserved grudge against Kitty Deverill. Even though she has riches (far more than Kitty who is living at the mercy of her cousin) Bridie is bitter and wants more. She blames Kitty for her unhappiness instead of rightly looking in the mirror (though Kitty's father holds some blame as well). Bridie is not my least favorite character in the book but she certainly comes close. I'm really hoping she will finally grow up in the next book. Celia on the other hand starts out as flighty and by the end has matured quite a bit. I really liked her character progression. Kitty grew up some more as well. It is hard for her to decide if she should let go of Jack and put her family first though I don't think Jack is good enough for her. He is a bit of a mess but both Kitty and Bridie still love him.

The Daughters of Ireland is the story of the Deverill family in the 1920s but it is also about the idea of home and what that means to the various characters. The setting of Ireland as well as the castle is important although at times the story goes to New York and even South Africa. The family curse ties into it as well. So does the concept of revenge and forgiveness. The novel covers several years and a lot happens but the story moves at a good pace and there is some character development though there is a large cast to keep track of. 

Overall I really enjoyed this book. It has historical details, interesting settings, characters that I cared about and some soapy drama and scandal as well. Now I am waiting for my copy of book three to arrive from Book Depository because I don't want to wait till next year to find out what happens. I'd suggest this series to readers who are interested in historical fiction set in Ireland or family sagas. 

Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Review: The Paris Spy

The Paris Spy
By Susan Elia MacNeal
Published: August 8, 2017

Maggie Hope has come a long way since serving as a typist for Winston Churchill. Now she’s working undercover for the Special Operations Executive in the elegant but eerily silent city of Paris, where SS officers prowl the streets in their Mercedes and the Ritz is draped with swastika banners. Walking among the enemy is tense and terrifying, and even though she’s disguised in chic Chanel, Maggie can’t help longing for home.

But her missions come first. Maggie’s half sister, Elise, has disappeared after being saved from a concentration camp, and Maggie is desperate to find her—that is, if Elise even wants to be found. Equally urgent, Churchill is planning the Allied invasion of France, and SOE agent Erica Calvert has been captured, the whereabouts of her vital research regarding Normandy unknown. Maggie must risk her life to penetrate powerful circles and employ all her talents for deception and spycraft to root out a traitor, find her sister, and locate the reports crucial to planning D-Day in a deadly game of wits with the Nazi intelligence elite.

My review:

At the end of the last book, Maggie used her connections to find a way onto a plane to France. Maggie wants to find her sister Elise and rescue Agent Calvert and retrieve the information she had collected. Also newly arrived in France are her friends (and fellow spies) Sarah and Hugh who have their own mission to accomplish. Unfortunately there is a mole in their midst which makes the situation even more dangerous.

The Paris Spy is a fast paced mystery with some unexpected twists and edge of your seat moments. I did figure out early on who the traitor was but that didn't lessen my reading experience. Like in the other books in the series there are real historical figures like Winston Churchill and Coco Chanel. I really didn't like her at all. She may have been stylish but she was also a Nazi collaborator. It was fascinating to get more insight into all the preparations that went into planning the invasion of Normandy. There is also an interesting discussion about espionage and the expending of lives for the greater good.

One thing I noticed with this book is that with the growing cast of characters, the individual stories weren't as impactful at times. I was riveted by what was going on with Hugh and Sarah though. Elise's story also ties in with Maggie as we find out where she is hiding now and what she has been up to. I still cared about all the returning characters but there were some things that I felt detracted from the main action happening in Paris. The ending is something of a cliffhanger however so I'm curious to see what is going to happen to Maggie next. It is going to be a long wait till the next novel! Overall I liked this newest installment in the Maggie Hope mystery series. 

Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Sunday Post (96) / It's Monday, What Are You Reading

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a post to recap the past week, showcase books and things we have received and share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead. It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a fun weekly meme now hosted by Kathryn at Book Date, where we share what we've read and reviewed over the past week and what we plan to read next.

I can't believe it's August already. I've had a busy couple of weeks so I haven't participated in awhile. Last weekend I worked and the weekend before that I visited my parents. My dad is doing really well. He is officially off restrictions now and can drive again and leave his heart pillow behind. He still has to go to therapy but he may get to graduate from it sooner than anticipated. I will be visiting them again next weekend and visiting my sister the weekend after that for my birthday. 

At the library I have been busy getting ready for the fair (it starts tomorrow). I am working two shifts at the fair. During my shifts we are offering rock painting. I ended up having to buy rocks from Amazon and hopefully they'll arrive in time. We will also have some games at our booth and button making which is always a big draw. We are offering several designs including Harry Potter houses, Star Wars and Game of Thrones inspired buttons. This past Friday we went to take a look around the new building where we will have our booth. It is air conditioned (a huge bonus) but we will also be sharing space with an animal arena so we'll get to see some of the judging up close and personal. I am glad I won't be there when the pig judging is going on. I did enjoy visiting the llamas and goats last year but I won't be at the fair during their judging.

Last three weeks on my blog:

Cafe By the Sea by Jenny Colgan (review)

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid (review)
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn (review)
A Twist in Time by Julie McElwain (review)
Changes in Latitudes by Jen Malone (review)

Books read:

Heartstone by Elle Katharine White

This is an interesting fantasy inspired by Pride and Prejudice set in a world with dragons, wyverns and other mythical creatures. Aliza Bentaine doesn't quite live up to Elizabeth Bennet (she's a bit of a mouse) but I still liked the novel.

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

I read this for my evening book group. I thought it was pretty good and we had a great discussion.

Changes in Latitudes by Jen Malone

I already posted my review of this. While there were times I got annoyed with the MC, I mostly liked this book.

The Paris Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal

Maggie is an undercover British spy in France during WWII and there is a traitor in their midst. Definitely some edge of your seat moments and the book ends with something of a cliffhanger. I was disappointed that I figured out who the traitor was pretty quickly but it was still a suspenseful read.

The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson

I thought this was an enjoyable quick read. I loved that the main character's name is Leia and that she is a comic book writer. I enjoyed the descriptions of her comic book. There is a mystery and some romance and quirky characters as well.

Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe by Jenny Colgan

I love cupcakes and the idea of this novel really appealed to me. Issy loses her job and uses her severance pay to start a cupcake bakery. Her grandfather taught her to bake when she was little and she seems to have inherited his talent for it. Sadly he now has dementia so he is writing down his recipes for her so they won't be forgotten. 

Books listened to:

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

This audio book was pretty good. The story is engrossing and suspenseful at times, especially Eve's story of her experiences as a spy in WWI France. Inspired by a true story.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

This is a powerful story that made me angry and sad and made me think. The narration is excellent too. One of the best books of 2017. I hope to have my review written soon.

Currently reading:

Karma Khullar's Mustache by Kristi Wientge

Poor Karma. I can totally commiserate. On top of getting unwanted facial hair she is also dealing with some difficulty with her best friend. Middle school can be such a tough time.

On my TBR pile:

I love this series and cannot wait to read this. I am sure it will be fun even if I figure out the mystery early on.

The One That Got Away by Melissa Pimentel

This is a retelling of Persuasion, one of my favorite Jane Austen novels. 

The Daughters of Ireland by Santa Montefiore

I loved The Girl in the Castle so I am eagerly looking forward to this sequel. It is something of a family saga so I don't know if I will get through it this week.

New books received:

The Essence of Malice by Ashley Weaver (for review)

Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford (for review)

The Two of Us by Victoria Bylin (for review)

Karma Khullar's Mustache by Kristi Wientge (for review)

In Some Other Life by Jessica Brody (for review)

The Daughters of Ireland by Santa Montefiore (for review)

The Lake Effect by Erin McCahan (library book)

Kiss Carlo by Adriana Trigiani (library book)

Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe by Jenny Colgan (library book)

The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson (library book)

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Review: Changes in Latitudes

Changes in Latitudes
By Jen Malone
Published: July 25, 2017

A "road" trip romance that takes place at sea!

All Cassie wants is to get some solid ground under her feet following the shock of her parents' divorce. So when she learns of her mom's plans to take Cassie and her brother, Drew, on a four-month sailing trip from Oregon to Mexico, she's stunned. There is absolutely nothing solid about the Pacific Ocean. 

Cassie is furious. And nervous. It's been hard enough keeping Drew sheltered from what Cassie knows about her mother's role in breaking their family apart, but living in such close quarters threatens to push her anger past its tipping point. Enter Jonah, a whip-smart deckhand who's as gorgeous as he is flirtatious. Cassie tries to keep him at a distance, but the more time they spend together--wandering San Francisco, riding beachside roller coasters, and exploring the California coastline--the harder it is to fight the attraction. 

​Cassie wants to let herself go, but her parents' split has left her feeling adrift in a sea of questions she can't even begin to answer. Can she forgive her mom? Will home ever feel the same? Should she take a chance on Jonah? With life's unpredictable tides working against her, Cassie must decide whether to swim against them... or dive right in.

My review:

I felt bad for Cassie because of the divorce and she is in some deep pain over it and the secret she overheard regarding her mom. Now she has to be stuck on a boat with her mom for four months. While I could understand her hurt, her bratty behavior got old after awhile. To be fair, I know I acted like that at times when I was younger. Cassie's brother Drew is much more sunny even though he is also affected by the divorce. He is eager to learn everything he can about sailing and embraces the trip with good humor. Drew is pretty sweet and I kept thinking he was younger and not a teen yet since he isn't moody like his sister!

Thankfully Cassie's attitude does improve as the book goes on and she is changed by the experience of the trip. The divorce is a really sad thing that happened but it didn't just happen to her. She realizes that her anger and petty behavior was keeping her from making the most of a really cool experience. I think bonding with her brother helped and it doesn't hurt that she meets Jonah who becomes a friend and love interest. I think Cassie grows up a lot during the trip and she learns more about her mom too. 

Overall I liked this book. I appreciated the focus on family relationships and I liked the character development as well. The romance was sweet and I liked how Jonah also befriended Drew and seemed to be a genuinely nice guy. I enjoyed the setting and learning a little bit about sailing though I would never in a million years want to do that. I seriously suffer from motion sickness so I could feel Cassie's pain at the beginning of the trip! I think fans of Morgan Matson, Sarah Dessen and Jessi Kirby would like this.