Review: My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal

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I’ve been thinking for several days about how to review this book.  It’s not that it isn’t good, which it is.  It’s just one of those stories that is hard to describe, hard to recommend to people without giving away too much of the story.

Leon’s life has not been easy.  His mom is an addict, and his dad is in prison.  But still, he’s a good kid. He helps his mom out more than a child should, especially when it comes to taking care of his baby brother.  That’s not enough to keep them out of trouble, though. When his mom finally gives in to her demons, Leon and Jake find themselves taken away and placed into a foster home.

As foster homes go, it’s a good one.  Maureen is kind and caring even at her advanced age.  Leon would probably be happy staying with her indefinitely.  There’s a little hitch in that plan, however.  Baby Jake is adopted, and Leon finds himself missing his brother terribly.  And when Maureen gets sick, things go from bad to worse.  He’s determined to find his brother, and he becomes angry when he can’t.

Set in the late 70s/early 80s, the story mirrors the racial unrest of the time.  As a black child with a white brother, Leon knows that things are different for him.  He just can’t understand why.  It’s a sad story, makes your heart hurt for a child to go through so much. Quick and easy to read, hard to forget.

~Thalia

Buy It Now:  My Name is Leon

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Review: Two Christmas novellas- Forever Christmas & My True Love Gave to Me by Christine Lynxwiler

November means Christmas reading, so I hunkered down the past couple nights with two novellas in my Kindle’s “Christmas” folder. 

These charming and heartfelt stories felt like full-length novels in that the characters were many and varied, the plots had time to twist and meander a bit, and the main characters were wonderfully developed. 

In Forever Christmas, Kristianna tries to live out her own authentic life, fighting through family pressures and a stressful romantic past. I loved that Kristianna’s best friends never wavered in their love and loyalty to her. I enjoyed Kristianna’s fun dates, her surprise gifts, and the relationships she had with the quirky townspeople. Although saving her town of Jingle Bells from corporate intrusion was top of mind, Kristianna eventually got the message that working together for a solution is more effective than cutting off your nose to spite your face. 

In My True Love Gave to Me, loving wife and mom of two Penny has had it up to here with her newly-unemployed husband’s moping. But when he finally does something to snap out of it, she’s not truly on board with that either. The plan? A family RV trip. The reaction? Horror, as you might guess. However, in the spirit of a good Christmas story, the lessons are in the journey. Lynxwiler gives us an entertaining road trip where relationships are strengthened, trust is built, and true love abounds. 

Both novellas have a Christian perspective, with a mentions of “God’s plan” and positively describing other characters as Christian. They both have a happily ever after, too. 

You’ll be glad to know my Kindle’s Christmas folder is full of myriad holiday novels. These were only the tip of the iceberg! 

-calliope 

Buy MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME
Buy FOREVER CHRISTMAS

Review: Blame by Nicole Trope

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Being a parent is not an easy job.  On the very best of days, children fill us with warmth and joy and hope for the future.  On the very worst of days, they make us wonder what ever made us think we could do the whole parenting thing.  And fair or not, mothers seem to carry an unfair share of the burden.  But still, we keep doing it because of the love.  What happens, though, when your child is not easily loved?  What does a mother do when you are blessed, or challenged, with a child so difficult that on most days you just barely get by?

Anna seemed to find Caro just when she needed her the most.  As the mother of a young child with autism, she finds herself sinking deeper and deeper into herself.  Then Caro reaches out to her, and a friendship is born.  Although they have daughters around the same age, their lives couldn’t be more different.  But their close bond withstands that.

Until the night that Maya is killed in a tragic accident.  Who is to blame?  Is it Caro, who was driving the vehicle?  Or is it Anna, who maybe wasn’t as vigilant as she knew she needed to be?  Their friendship is tested in ways they never thought possible as the truth is slowly unraveled.

I loved the style of this story.  The author alternates between Anna and Caro, narrating from the perspective of each.  Most of the story takes place as each is being interrogated by detectives.  We think we know who is at fault, and then we change our minds.  The author drags it out until almost the very end.  An excellent read!

~Thalia

Buy It Now:  Blame

 

Review: Faithful by Alice Hoffman 

Faithful is a good YA novel with some realistic grit and an excellent rendering of teenage emotion. Hoffman perfectly describes adolescent/young adult self-centeredness — being egocentric without knowing it — the feeling that no one understands you and you’re the only one going through so much pain. 

Hoffman has a terrific way of harnessing the overwhelming despair Shelby feels without making the book contrived or too angsty. I believed in Shelby as she looked for ways to save herself – some destroyed her further, but some were steps toward healing. Hoffman beautifully illustrated a realistic message of HOPE – there’s a way out and something better waiting, but it’s up to you to grab a hold of the ladder rungs. In Faithful, Shelby achieved more than she ever bargained for: she found her savior, and became one to someone else. 

*This novel is not appropriate for teens under age 15 due to brief and infrequent but graphic and vulgar descriptions of sex.* 

-calliope

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Review: The Return of Norah Wells by Virginia Macgregor

3112057424997133(Titled The Astonishing Return of Norah Wells in the UK) ** spoiler alert ** I have to say that I read this book quickly. I really felt compelled to finish it to the end. I had to see how it ended.

Having said that, well….that’s all I can really say…I found the writing style not only distracting, but also confusing. I found many parts of the novel repetitive. I found the children to be the only mature characters in the novel. I understood their confusion. I understood their emotions and feelings going back and forth. The adults however…I just couldn’t relate to. Their constant going back and forth. Their seeming ability to let 6 years go by and every one of them thinking things could/would go back to how it was before.

How does one expect us to feel sorry for the one that left, when she only came back for the reasons she did…I might not agree with her leaving…or why she left…but I could try to relate and understand it somehow…but let’s face it, if she wasn’t facing a life changing situation, she would still be off doing whatever it is that she did the previous 6 years…

The father…don’t even get me started on him. I understand not being perfect. I understand being confused…but he just took it to another level, didn’t he?

The “otherworldliness” stuff…again…I just don’t get it…sure, I understand that the author might have felt she was adding to the story and trying to stick in clever bits of symbolism, but seriously? It just added to the confusion and the not connecting to the story…as did all the strange “prominent but not prominent” twitter cast.

Finally, the different POVs….I don’t mind stories told in different POVs…but when the character in the chapter refers to themselves in 3rd person…it just does my head in…I’ve never before read anything like that…it’s almost like the characters decided to play both character and a narrator and that they couldn’t even keep their roles straight and kept getting confused and that’s why they slipped into 3rd person narratives from time to time…

Honestly, I’m not trying to rip this book to shreds. It was an interesting storyline. People do walk out of their lives. Sometimes they decide to come back. Often for the exact reasons described in this novel. However, I just don’t think many of them come back and expect to pick up exactly where they left off…they come back hoping to mend fences and make amends….not to step right back into the life they walked away from..as if nothing happened….as if they hadn’t been heard from in 6 years…as if time froze and did not move one once they left…and certainly, not one, but several adults expecting that to happen for various different reasons…

When it’s all said and done, am I glad I read this book? Yes. Was I in a hurry to finish so I could see what happened? Yes. Did I SOOOOO wish it was written differently? Hell yes…

Until next time…
Urania xx

Review copy provided by Netgalley for an honest review

Buy it now The Return of Norah Wells by Virginia Macgregor

Review: The Lost Codex by Heather Lyons

codex I can’t believe this series is over. I just can’t. I’ve enjoyed watching these characters for so long and it’s very bittersweet to realize there’s no more to come. I may wallow in the depths of despair for a while.

There will be no spoilers in this review, so don’t worry. But make sure you’ve read the first three books before you read this.

The Lost Codex takes place immediately after The Forgotten Mountain. And we all remember how that one ended, right? It ended with lots of screaming and gasping and yelling. Or maybe that was just me. Well, anyways, I was anxious to start this book. My heart was racing and I could barely sit still. I needed Alice’s world put back the way it was. But in order to do that, she needed to take control and decide what’s best for her.

Without saying spoilers, all I will tell you is that this book caused tears, tears and more tears. I actually had to read a few scenes over and over again just to make myself comprehend what I just read. I couldn’t believe what happened. If I was Wonderlandian, my shirt would’ve been stained red from my broken heart.

The Collectors’ Society is in the battle of its life. This is what they’ve trained for. This final battle will ask more from them than ever before. Some lives will be lost while others will be changed forever.

Can Alice and Finn’s love hold them together? Will there ever be peace? Who is that blasted Librarian? So many questions will be answered, even if not in the way we want, they will be answered.

~Melpomene

Buy The Lost Codex HERE.

Purchase previous books in this series:
The Collectors’ Society
The Hidden Library
The Forgotten Mountian

Review: Rhythm & Clues by Sue Ann Jaffarian 

These Odelia Grey mysteries satisfy me so. Jaffarian includes much more than just the crime and sleuth aspect; some of the books focus on Odelia and her attorney boss Mike Steele. Others give us strong subplots involving Odelia’s friends on the police force. This latest in the series includes rock stars, bodyguards, and the delicate relationship between a strong daughter and her strong mother. 

While rock legends don’t do it for me (and so I was a little bored with that part of the plot), Odelia unraveled murders with her signature stubbornness and throwing caution to the wind. I loved the middle-of-the-night meddling, the saving grace of Odelia’s formerly criminal friends, and the comic relief that reminds me of Stephanie Plum. Much to my delight, Jaffarian also surprised me in Rhythm & Clues with my most favorite part of any book ever: the hint of a romantic happily ever after.

 *Vroom vroom*

Can’t wait for the next one. 

-calliope

Buy RHYTHM & CLUES