Thursday, July 27, 2017

Likable Heroine + Compelling Plot = Another Winning Maeve Kerrigan Mystery

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

(Note:  While this review will not contain spoilers for After the Fire, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from earlier Maeve Kerrigan mysteries.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)

Murchison House, one of the concrete high-rises that makes up London's seedy Maudling Estate housing project, is no stranger to police activity.  The place is a magnet for every kind of criminal activity possible.  This time, a savage—and suspicious—fire has ravaged through the building, leaving many residents displaced and desperate.  Four people are dead, one of them an outspoken politician well known for his racist rantings.  What was a man like him doing in a dive like Murchison House?  

As DC Maeve Kerrigan and the rest of the murder squad look into the incident, it becomes crystal clear that the fire was no accident.  Neither was the politician's death.  Plenty of people had reason to loathe Geoff Armstrong, but who actually killed him?  Everyone connected with Murchison House has something to hide, including Mr. Armstrong.  The more Maeve discovers, the more risky her job becomes.  Murchison House has always been a dangerous place—will it be a deadly one for the intrepid DC Kerrigan?  As if she doesn't have enough to worry about, Maeve is still dodging the skin-crawling attention of her stalker; dealing with a condition that could put her job at risk; and trying to sort out her feelings for one DI Josh Derwent.  One thing is clear—she's in for a wild ride.

You've probably realized by now that I'm a raving Maeve Kerrigan fan.  Jane Casey's heroine is brave, tenacious, and, above all, human.  She's unfailingly likable, an always compelling narrator whom I happen to adore.  The series also boasts intriguing minor characters and taut, engrossing plots.  After the Fire, the sixth installment, is no exception.  With a number of didn't-see-that-coming twists, the story kept me riveted.  As always, I'm intrigued to see where Casey takes Maeve next.  Wherever it is, I'll definitely be along for the ride!

(Readalikes: Other books in the Maeve Kerrigan series, including Left for Dead [novella]; The Burning; The Reckoning; The Last Girl; The Stranger You Know; The Kill; and Let the Dead Speak; also reminds me of books by Sharon Bolton and Tana French)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for strong language, violence, blood/gore, sexual content, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Lyrical Southern Novel Atmospheric and Powerfully Rendered

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Adelaide Lyle doesn't go inside the church anymore.  The only reason she comes anywhere near the building is for the children.  Kids should not be anywhere close to the River Road Church of Christ in Signs Following or its dangerous pastor.  It's up to the 81-year-old midwife to steer them away, to keep them safe.  Their parents might believe in Pastor Chambliss' poison-drinking, snake-handling brand of faith, but that doesn't mean the children should be in harm's way.

Despite Adelaide's watchful eye, a mute, autistic teenager dies during church services.  Although the pastor claims the boy's death was an accident, Adelaide doesn't believe it.  Not for a minute.  Strange, sinister things follow Carson Chambliss wherever he goes.  What really happened inside the church?  Why is an innocent boy dead?  

A Land More Kind Than Home, a debut novel by Wiley Cash, tells the story of a tragic death and the ways in which it rocks a small North Carolina town.  Atmospheric and powerfully rendered, it hits on important subjects—faith vs. fanaticism, revenge vs. redemption, and remorse vs. regret.  It's an undeniably sad novel, but a compelling one nonetheless. The story has stuck with me, even though it's been months since I read it.  If you enjoy rich, thought-provoking Southern fiction, you won't want to miss this one.

(Readalikes: Reminded me a little of The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (1 F-bomb, plus milder expletives), violence, blood/gore, and mild sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Fifth Maeve Kerrigan Mystery Leaves Me Hankering for the Sixth ... and Seventh ... and Eighth ... and ...

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(Note: While this review will not contain spoilers for The Kill, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from earlier Maeve Kerrigan mysteries. As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)

DC Maeve Kerrigan is looking forward to attending the wedding of a colleague in the peaceful English countryside.  She could use a break from the grimness of her job as a London murder detective.  A brutal cop killing in the city cuts her holiday short, however, and it's not long before she and her mercurial partner, DI Josh Derwent, are headed back to the mean streets of London.  So much for the vacation Maeve so desperately needs.

Puzzled by the cold reaction of the policeman's widow, Maeve and Derwent must sort out the truth behind the murder.  What led to Sergeant Hammond's untimely demise?  Everyone involved in the crime seems to be hiding explosive secrets, including Maeve's boss.  Can Maeve filter out the facts in time to catch a killer?  Torn between loyalty to her mentor, her desire to put a murderer behind bars, and her blossoming attraction to her partner, Maeve's got plenty on her plate.  And things are about to go from bad to a whole lot worse ...

It's no secret that I love me some Maeve Kerrigan.  She's the perfect heroine—brave, devoted, and likable.  Her narrative voice is so compelling that I would literally follow it anywhere!  That's not tough, though, when Jane Casey writes such engrossing stories.  The Kill, the fifth installment in her popular series, is no exception.  Although I guessed the identity of the murderer early on in this one, the novel still held enough surprises to keep me turning pages late into the night.  I'm especially enjoying the growing relationship between Maeve and Josh, the latter of whom gets some much needed humanizing in The Kill.  The ending of this one made me sad, but it also left me hankering for the next book (and the next and the next ...).

(Readalikes:  other books in the Maeve Kerrigan series, including Left For Dead [novella]; The Burning; The Reckoning; The Last Girl; The Stranger You Know; After the Fire; and Let the Dead Speak; also reminds me of books by Tana French and Sharon Bolton)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for strong language, violence, blood/gore, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Debut Psychological Thriller Odd But Compelling

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When Nora Lawrence hops on a train from London to Oxfordshire, she's expecting to spend a peaceful weekend in the country with her older sister.  She's shocked to her core when she finds Rachel stabbed to death in her home, her murdered dog nearby.  A nurse practitioner who kept to herself, 31-year-old Rachel was hardly the type to attract enemies.  Who could have committed such a brutal act against the woman and her canine companion?

As the police flounder around looking for suspects, Nora inserts herself into the investigation.  While managing to offend nearly everyone in town, she comes to realize how little she really knew about her sister's life in this far-flung hamlet.  Still, she wonders if Rachel's murder had anything to do with an unsolved assault Rachel suffered as a teen.  Did her attacker come back to finish the job?  Or did the killer have a more current motive?  Nora's determined to find out, even if it means putting her own neck on the line.

Under the Harrow, a psychological thriller by debut author Flynn Berry, has earned the expected comparisons to books like Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train.  And it is similar—in some ways.  It's moody, atmospheric, and depressing.  It's also just ... odd.  With a sluggish plot and characters who just aren't that likable (both Nora and Rachel come off as cold, unfeeling, and weird), Under the Harrow is not exactly a page turner.  It's compelling enough, though, that I wanted to know whodunit.  I also found myself surprised by the murderer, so there's that.  In the end, though, Under the Harrow was just an okay read for me. 

(Readalikes:  Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn; The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins; and similar psychological thrillers)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (a dozen or so F-bombs, plus milder expletives), violence, and blood/gore

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Reichs' Standalone Thriller Twisty and Compelling

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Need no one.  Feel nothing.


That's the mantra Sunday "Sunnie" Night has lived by ever since her forced retirement from the Charleston Police Department.  Living on isolated Goat Island, she keeps her distance even from her few neighbors.  It's only when her foster father, Perry "Beau" Beaumonde, asks a favor that Sunnie even contemplates breaking her strict code of not caring about anyone but herself.  A retired cop, Beau urges Sunnie to at least meet with a wealthy grandmother who's willing to pay big for information about her 15-year-old granddaughter, who's been missing ever since the Hebrew school bombing that killed her mother and brother. 

Sunnie can't help but identify with the teenage victim, who's described as moody, resentful, and unhappy.  Those are emotions with which Sunnie is all too familiar.  The fact that Stella Bright may have been kidnapped by members of a dangerous cult also piques Sunnie's interest.  Having narrowly escaped that life herself, she knows something about what Stella may be facing.  

Determined to find out what happened to the girl, Sunnie enlists the help of her twin brother, Gus.  Together, they chase leads across the country, risking their own lives to solve an increasingly puzzling mystery.  With danger lurking around every corner, will the two Nights survive their perilous assignment?

Two Nights, a standalone thriller by Kathy Reichs, author of the popular Temperance Brennan series (on which the t.v. series Bones is based), is a fast-paced, exciting story.  With lots of action and plenty of twists, it's a difficult-to-put-down page turner.  Sunnie is Tempe's opposite; she's tough, unyielding, and flinty.  Although she's not as warm or funny as Tempe (a character I happen to adore), Sunnie's a sympathetic character who's easy to like and admire.  While Two Nights didn't capture me as much as Reichs' other books have, I still enjoyed this engrossing mystery.

(Readalikes:  Um, nothing specific is coming to mind.  You?)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:



for strong language, violence, and blood/gore

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of Two Nights from the generous folks at Penguin Random House via those at Netgalley.  Thank you!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Always Thrilling Crime Series Never Disappoints



(Note: Although this review will not contain spoilers for The Stranger You Know, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from earlier Maeve Kerrigan mysteries.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)

London murder detective Maeve Kerrigan is at a loss.  Someone is strangling women in their homes, leaving no evidence behind.  Without DNA, footprints, or any other clue to guide them, Maeve and her team can't figure out how to proceed.  Who is this guy and how is he covering his trail so completely?


When evidence finally does start trickling in, it points in a disturbing direction—DCI Josh Derwent.  Maeve's partner is long on personality flaws and short on charm, but he's a driven, highly-skilled copper.  He can't be a murderer.  Can he?  Derwent has never been exactly forthcoming (except when Maeve really, really wishes he wouldn't be) about his personal life; truthfully, she doesn't know that much about him.  Could the misogynistic Derwent really be behind the brutal killings?  Maeve doesn't think so, but the more she learns about his dark past, the more uncertain she becomes.  Derwent has been accused of murder before.  Was he guilty then?  Is he guilty now?  Maeve has to know.

I've been a big Maeve Kerrigan fan ever since her debut in The Burning.  Irish crime writer Jane Casey has created an understated heroine who shines because of her humanity.  Maeve is tough and smart, compassionate and brave, but also fallible and self-deprecating.  I love her.  Casey also crafts tense, exciting plots filled with lots of twists as well as colorful characters.  The Stranger You Know, the fourth book in the series, is no exception.  It's a surprise-filled, action-packed, can't-put-it-down thriller that kept me totally engrossed.  Fair warning: Casey's books are not for the faint of heart.  They're disturbing and gory.  If you can handle that kind of thing, then I'd recommend Jane Casey's mystery/thrillers.  Her police procedurals are always top-notch—complex, well-written, and engaging.  If you're a British/U.K. crime fiction fan and haven't given Casey a go yet, you're missing out.

(Readalikes:  Other books in the Maeve Kerrigan series, including Left For Dead [novella]; The Burning; The Reckoning; The Last Girl; The Kill; After the Fire; and Let the Dead Speak.  Also reminds me of the Dublin Murder Squad series by Tana French and mystery/thrillers by Sharon Bolton)

Grade:

 

If this were a movie, it would be rated:


To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Highly Implausible Plot Line? Who Cares When It's So Totally Entertaining?

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Note:  While this review will not contain spoilers for Mormon Girl: Incognito, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from its predecessor, A Date With Danger.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.

http://www.blogginboutbooks.com/p/lds-authors.htmlEight months ago, Jacklyn "Jack" Wyatt was just your average college co-ed.  Then, she got involved in an FBI sting operation, fell in love with special agent Damon Wade, and almost died during the rescue of a kidnapping victim.  Jack's undercover FBI gig ended in flames (literally) and now she's back to her boring old mall job.  On the plus side, Damon's a thoughtful, devoted boyfriend who makes Jack's heart skip several beats every time she sees him.  On the not-so plus side, he's evasive about his job, his family, his membership in the Church, and about his true feelings for his very patient girlfriend.  
When Damon travels to Las Vegas on business, Jack comes up with a brilliant plan to reignite their romance.  Unfortunately, her surprise visit to the Strip doesn't quite go according to plan.  Instead, she finds herself in the middle of another FBI operation, this time posing as a ruthless gunrunner.  Determined to protect Damon and his team by playing her part to perfection, Jack must trip her way (on stilettos, no less) through a world so unfamiliar it might as well be Mars.  To convince a crew of hardened thugs that she's a fearsome international arms dealers, Jack will have to fake her way through casino games, weapons demonstrations, and dangerous negotiations with the highest rollers in Vegas.  A tall order for a Utah native who's never played poker or held a gun and thinks bluffing is pretty much a mortal sin.  What's a good little Mormon girl to do?  

With Damon by her side, Jack knows she'll be safe.  Ish.  But when he reveals some shocking secrets about his past, she no longer knows whom to trust.  If she gets out of Vegas alive, the pair's going to have some serious DTR'ing to do ...

So, you know how LDS romantic suspense really isn't my jam?  While that hasn't changed, I have become a fan of Kari Iroz who happens to write ... wait for it ... LDS romantic suspense.  I know!  Whodathunkit?  The thing that I like about her books, A Date With Danger and its sequel, Mormon Girl: Incognito, is that they don't take themselves too seriously.  They're rom-coms more than anything else.  Our heroine, Jack Wyatt, is hilarious.  She's a funny, vulnerable, self-deprecating Everywoman who's impossible not to like.  Damon has less personality, but he's got hidden depths that I hope will be explored more in further novels (I'm keeping my fingers crossed for many more installments in this series).  Even more so than A Date With Danger, the happenings in Mormon Girl: Incognito are highly implausible; even still, they're totally entertaining.  I very willingly suspended my disbelief so I could follow along on Jack's misadventures in Vegas and, you know what?  No regrets.  I had a great time tearing through this fun, lighthearted novel.  Sure, it's far-fetched, but who cares when it's such an enjoyable read?  If you dig clean romantic comedy/suspense with a light sprinkling of LDS doctrine/culture, then you really ought to check out Jack Wyatt.  She's a gem.  

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of A Date With Danger by Kari Iroz and of the movie Miss Congeniality)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for mild sexual innuendo, scenes of peril, and references to illegal activities 

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Mormon Girl: Incognito from the generous folks at Covenant.  Thank you!

--


Want more opinions on Mormon Girl: Incognito?  Check out the other stops on its blog tour:

*June 23rd: http://minreadsandreviews.blogspot.com/http://www.singinglibrarianbooks.com/http://literarytimeout.blogspot.com/http://booksaresanity.blogspot.com/http://www.blogginboutbooks.com/  

Please note:  My review was posted late.  Also, the giveaway associated with this blog tour has ended.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Need a Shivery, Chilling Tale For a Hot Summer Night? I've Got One For You ...

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Clare Martin and her husband, Jess, are desperately in need of a change.  When they're hired to be the caretakers of Riven House, a crumbling Hudson River Valley estate belonging to a beloved college professor, they're ecstatic.  Not only do they get to spend time with the man who mentored them both, but the peaceful setting couldn't be more perfect for two writers seeking inspiration.  Clare's praying the change of scenery will light a fire under Jess, who hasn't even started his second novel, the advance for which has already been spent. She's also hoping to restock their dwindling bank account while rekindling their dying marriage.  A tall order, but the bucolic setting seems capable of delivering everything Clare has ever wanted.

It's not long, though, before strange things start to happen.  Clare hears invisible babies crying in the night, sees wispy figures in the fog, and stumbles on creepy features in a house with a very disturbing history.  Either Clare is going crazy or Riven House is haunted.  The longer she stays, the more she suspects the former.  As the dream Clare embraced so thoroughly evolves into a terrifying nightmare, she'll discover shocking truths about Riven House's heartbreaking past, its current occupants, and her own upbringing.  With all its sinister secrets revealed, only one question remains: is Riven House possessed or is Clare?

I've enjoyed several of Carol Goodman's eerie mysteries, but her newest—The Widow's House—is my favorite so far.  Atmospheric and eerie, it's a spooky Gothic tale that gets creepier as its moves forward.  Although the plot builds slowly, the increasing intensity makes the novel impossible to put down.  Against my better judgment, I stayed up well past midnight to finish it and, yes, nightmares did ensue.  The Widow's House tells a depressing story, to be true, but it's also a compelling page turner that you won't be able to put down.  If you need a shivery tale to send chills down your spine on a scorching summer night, you can't go wrong with this one.

(Readalikes: Reminded me of other books by Carol Goodman as well as of Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (a dozen or so F-bombs, plus milder expletives), violence, blood/gore, depictions of illegal drug use, and mild sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Moon An "EnMagickal" Middle Grade Adventure

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Dark and gloomy, the Protectorate is a village beset by fear—fear of the Elders, who rule the town; fear of the wicked witch, who watches from the forest; and fear of bearing children, one of whom must be sacrificed every year in order to protect the village.  Not everyone supports the annual tradition of leaving a newborn in the woods for the witch, but no one has the courage to speak out against the practice.  It's simply what has to be done.  

Xan, a witch who is not wicked in the least, does her best to ferry the Protectorate's unwanted children to better homes in happier locales.  One night, however, she accidentally "enmagicks" a baby girl, infusing her with a strong dose of moonlight.  The safest solution to the problem is for Xan to raise young Luna herself, which she does with the help of a swamp monster and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon.  

http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/newberymedal/newberymedalEverything is well and good until Luna's magic grows too strong to control, Xan's body starts to fail her, and a determined farmer plunges into the woods, determined to kill the witch.  What ensues is a tense, exciting quest for truth, right, and justice.   
The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill is a magical fantasy that is both lovely and uplifting.  The prose is lyrical, poetic.  A layered tale, it instructs on many levels, teaching lessons about thinking for one's self, finding courage to do what is right, the importance of truth, and the endurance of love.  I'm sure a digger could find much in the way of symbolism and allegory in this story; me, I just enjoyed it for its surface sweetness.  If you love fantasy stories with a timeless feel, you'll definitely want to let The Girl Who Drank the Moon "enmagick" you.

(Readalikes:  I can't really think of anything.  Can you?)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for brief, mild language (no F-bombs), violence, and scenes of peril

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

TTT: Serial Readers, Unite!


How do you feel about series books?  Love them?  Hate them?  I happen to delight in delving deeply into a place and its people, so I adore them.  Naturally, then, I'm excited to jump into today's Top Ten Tuesday topic.  

If you want to join in the fun, all you have to do is hop on over to The Broke and the Bookish, read the rules, make a list of your own, and start clicking around the blogosphere.  It's a good time, I promise!

So, back to the topic du jour.  Because I love series so much, I'm in the middle of about a million of them.  Today, we're supposed to list series we've been meaning to start but haven't.  I don't even want to think about that when I've got so many I need to finish.  So, here's a mix of series I want to re-read, start, and finish:


1.  Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling (status: complete)—I read the Harry Potter books as they came out and have been meaning to re-read the entire series ever since.  I've started this goal in the last six months or so and it's been fun to revisit the HP world we all know and love!


 2.  The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis (status: 1/7)—I read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe back in elementary school.  Although the book totally captured my imagination, I don't think I ever continued with the series.  Methinks I need to remedy that.
 
3.  The Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder (status: complete)—When I was a kid, I was obsessed with the Little House world—the books, the t.v. show, everything.  I've been meaning to re-read this whole series for a long time, just haven't done it yet.


 4.  Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (status: 1/8)—I read Outlander a number of years ago.  Although I loved the book, I never continued with the series.  Not sure why.  I want to finish it, but the idea of re-reading Outlander, plus seven more very lengthy tomes is a little daunting.  One of these days ...


5.  Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer (status: 5/12)—This is such a delightful series.  It's got it all—adventure, romance, humor, sass, etc.  Fortunately, Meyer finished the Bloody Jack books prior to his death in 2014.  Unfortunately, he will never pen another series.  Bummer, because this one is a real treasure.


6.  Ruth Galloway by Elly Griffiths (status: 4/10+)—I've enjoyed this series about a quirky British forensic archeologist who helps the police solve mysteries.  More books are being added every year, so I need to catch up quick!


7.  Amelia Peabody by Elizabeth Peters (status: 7?/20+)—An oldie but goodie, this series made its entrance into the world in 1975, just like Yours Truly!  I'm not sure where I am in the series as I've been reading it for a long time.  I'd like to go back and re-read the early books, then continue on.  Someday.


8.  Lady Julia Grey by Deanna Raybourn (status: 0/5+)—I've enjoyed Raybourn's newest series, so I'm interested in checking out this older one as well.  


9.  Study/Chronicles of Ixia by Maria V. Snyder (status: 0/6+)—I've been meaning to read this YA series about a royal food taster ever since it began back in 2005.  One of these days ...


10.  Lady Darby by Anna Lee Huber (status: 0/6+)—Lark got me interested in this historical mystery series about a widow who shares her anatomist husband's "unnatural" interest.  

So, there you go, ten series I want to re-read, start, and finish.  What series are you interested in starting?  Have you read any of the ones I mentioned?  Which other series should I be starting?  Leave me a comment and I'll gladly return the favor!

Happy TTT! 

Friday, June 16, 2017

Love on Pointe a Fun, Faith-Promoting Debut (With a Giveaway!)

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Rhys Solario isn't like the other guys at Brigham Young University.  He hasn't served a mission, he doesn't hold the priesthood, he's not interested in a temple marriage—heck, he's not even Mormon.  He's a good guy, but he's learned from bitter experience that he's not the kind of man for whom BYU co-eds are looking.  Which is fine by him.  He just needs to keep his head down for two more semesters, then he'll be done with the Y and its crazy dating scene forever. 

http://www.blogginboutbooks.com/p/lds-authors.htmlEmmy Jennings only has one thing on her mind: ballet.  She's a talented, experienced ballerina, but now that her impulsive twin has up and quit dancing—an obsession they've always shared—Emmy will have to work even harder to learn routines and perform well enough to earn a coveted solo in an upcoming show.  With a full school schedule, a learning disability that makes studying even more complicated, and a sister-roommate who's acting strangely, Emmy's got plenty on her plate.  The last thing she needs is a distraction like her handsome new study partner.  She's not looking for a date, let alone her eternal companion, but Emmy can't deny her attraction to kind, down-to-earth Rhys Solario.

Rhys can't believe a gorgeous, graceful Mormon girl like Emmy is giving a guy like him a chance.  Of course, she doesn't know he's not a member of her church.  He needs to tell her.  Right away.  The second he does, though, she'll jeté right out of his life.  Rhys will do anything to keep Emmy by his side.  Except the one thing she wants him to do: convert.  Will Emmy have to give up what's most important to her in order for the couple to have a chance?  Or will their whirlwind romance end before it's even had a chance to begin? 

Love on Pointe, a debut novel by Tiffany Odekirk, is an upbeat, swoony romance featuring a likable duo battling an impossible problem.  While I found the story's premise a little implausible, I adored its setting.  Odekirk does an admirable job of bringing the BYU atmosphere to life in all its goofy glory, capturing both the fun and frustration inherent in the student experience.  She also goes to great pains to break down common stereotypes, although many manage to bleed through.  Still, Love on Pointe tackles a difficult situation with honesty and sensitivity.  Although it's obvious from the get-go how the story will end, she throws in a couple of surprises to keep the plot interesting.  Not every aspect of the story line rang true for me, but overall I found Love on Pointe an enjoyable read.  Yes, it oozes a fair amount of cheese and melodrama; still, it's a bright, fun, faith-promoting book that will appeal to anyone looking for a clean, easy-to-read LDS romance.  While I have a few issues with Odekirk's debut performance, one thing is certain—I can't wait to see what she does for an encore.    

(Readalikes:  Love on Pointe reminded me of other contemporary LDS romances by Melanie Jacobson, Jenny Proctor, and Brittany Larsen)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for nothing offensive, although the story is most appropriate for readers 12+

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Love on Pointe from the generous folks at Covenant.  Thank you!

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Friday, June 09, 2017

The Door in the Alley A Quick, Quirky, Adventure-Filled Romp

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Even though there are maps tacked up all over his bedroom walls, Sebastian is not the kind of boy who longs for adventure.  He's certainly not the type who goes looking for it.  In fact, he prefers his life just the way it is—safe, predictable, and logical.  So, why does a cryptic sign posted in a dingy alley make him so darn curious?  What is it about The Explorers Society that keeps tugging at his underactive imagination?  

Most illogically, it's a pig in a tiny hat who grants Sebastian entrance into the mysterious society's headquarters.  What he finds inside are people and stories so mind-boggling he can hardly believe they're real.  The Explorers Society is a fun place to hang out, especially since Sebastian's not required to do any adventuring for himself.  

When 11-year-old Evie Drake appears on the Society's doorstep, however, everything changes.  Suddenly, Sebastian finds himself in the middle of a grand adventure complete with a missing explorer, a puzzling mystery, and two sinister bad guys hot on his trail.  Sebastian wants to help Evie find her missing grandfather—he really does—but he's no Indiana Jones.  How can he solve the mystery, rescue Mr. Drake, and keep himself and Evie safe from goons with guns?  It's impossible.  Especially for a risk-averse, panic-attack prone boy like Sebastian.  He's no hero.  Or is he?

The Door in the Alley, the first book in a new series by Adrienne Kress, is a fun-filled, action-packed adventure perfect for armchair explorers.  Featuring a quirky, conversational narrator, it's an upbeat tale with plenty of twists, turns, and surprises.  Sebastian and Evie make a likeable team—it's easy to root for them as they work together to save the only family member Evie has left.  The Door in the Alley is an easy, exciting read that middle graders will surely eat right up.  Personally, I can't wait to see what happens next to this dynamic duo.  

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of York by Laura Ruby; also of books by Lemony Snicket, Psuedonymous Bosch, and Chris Grabenstein)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for violence and scenes of peril

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of The Door in the Alley from the generous folks at Random House Kids.  Thank you! 

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Want more opinions about The Door in the Alley?  Of course you do!  Follow along on the book's two-month long tour:
 
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Imagination Soup
26-Apr
Mom and More
27-Apr
Pandora's Books
28-Apr
Mommy Ramblings
1-May
The Lovely Books
2-May
Batch of Books
3-May
Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
4-May
To Read, or Not To Read
5-May
Grandma's Cookie Jar
8-May
Good Reads with Ronna
9-May
Geo Librarian
10-May
Life By Candlelight
11-May
Jumpin Beans
12-May
Always in the Middle
15-May
Librarians Quest
16-May
The Book Wars
17-May
Middle Grade Mafioso
18-May
Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile
19-May
Tween You & Me
22-May
Mrs. Knott's Book Nook
23-May
Mundie Moms 
24-May
The Write Path
25-May
26-May
Beach Bound Books
29-May
Middle Grade Ninja
30-May
Night Owl Reviews
31-May
Cracking the Cover
1-Jun
Jenni Enzor
2-Jun
Literary Hoots
5-Jun
From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle Grade Authors
6-Jun
The Winged Pen
7-Jun
Operation Awesome
8-Jun
Leeanna.me
9-Jun
Bloggin' 'bout Books
12-Jun
13-Jun
Ms. Yingling Reads
14-Jun
MGMinded blog
15-Jun
Smack Dab in the Middle
16-Jun
Swoony Boys Podcast
19-Jun
Book Foolery
20-Jun
Unleashing Readers
21-Jun
Kit Lit Reviews
22-Jun
The O.W.L.



 
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