Review: The Family Gathering by Robyn Carr

The Family Gathering is book 3 in the Sullivan’s Crossing series, where I loved book 1, but had some reservations about book 2 (quirky wanderer gave me pause). I’m feeling the love again for this installment.

Dakota needs time to decompress after serving his country, so he visits his sister and brother in Sullivan’s Crossing. Besides building a relationship with his siblings and their families, Dakota starts to build a life in town (he sees it as temporary but come on now).

I very much enjoyed Carr’s customary secondary plot lines that reference past books but don’t depend on them. I also liked that she focused so much on family — because Dakota’s family totally had some issues to resolve! And of course the romance…. well, it’s obvious Sid would be a tough nut to crack. Question is, is Dakota the guy to do it…

As for my favorite part of most books: I won’t tell the hows and whys and wherefores, but after some work, Dakota and his family experience some pretty nice happily ever afters.



Review: In Sight of Stars by Gae Polisner

Books about teens with mental illness are hit or miss for me. Usually not very good and full of cliches, but every now and then a true keeper comes along. This latest tale from Gae Polisner is definitely one of the latter.

Klee’s had a lot to deal with in his young life. Not only did his dad kill himself, but Klee was the one to find him afterwards. His mom, hoping for a fresh start, uproots them from his beloved New York City. He doesn’t really fit in at his new school and basically resigns himself to just getting by until he graduates and can begin a new life.

But then he meets Sarah. And everything changes. She becomes his reason for being. She’s his polar opposite. And he can’t imagine his life without her. Sarah, however, isn’t as commital. Eventually it all becomes too much for Klee and he makes a desperate attempt to end the pain he’s feeling.

This author does an outstanding job of taking us inside Klee’s head, imagining what he must be thinking and feeling. So much trauma at such a young age…leading up to the incident and his recovery period afterwards.

A word of warning: Although this one is classified as young adult, I’d suggest it for the older end of the spectrum. The message is important but it’s pretty sexually descriptive. An insightful story!


Buy It Now: In Sight of Stars

Review: The First Kiss of Spring by Emily March

I’ve got to say, this wasn’t the Eternity Springs I was expecting! I thought I’d be reading light and sweet but what I read was dark and heavy.

While I liked the present day Josh character very much, his past was pretty dark, and that cast a shadow over much of the plot. His moodiness was understandable but just a little depressing for Eternity Springs.

I expected Caitlin to be the predictable small town girl/breath of fresh air, yet her character development was a little uneven: she’s still a young woman without a family of her own, yet she leaves her big city job to become a day care worker. She wants to be out of her parents’ clutches, yet she is just as judgmental as they are.

This book was well written and had cameos of characters from prior books. I loved Celeste’s hand in making sure everyone lives out their best life. Despite being thrown off by these two particular characters, I did — as usual — enjoy all the magic Eternity Springs offers.

If you’ve been reading the Eternity Springs series and wishing the next book would be more serious, a little gritty, and spicier than the previous books – Emily March has written this one for you. ūüôā



Review: This Is Not a Love Letter by Kim Purcell


Teenage love is hard, no doubt. ¬†Surely this is the person you’ll be with for the rest of your life, right? ¬†And there’s no possible way you can live without them, is there?

For young Jessie, it all becomes a bit overwhelming. ¬†Sure, she loves Chris with all her heart. ¬†And she can’t imagine her life without him. ¬†But when things start moving a bit too fast, getting a bit too permanent, she decides to slow it down a bit. ¬†Just a break, she tells, him. ¬†Just one week. ¬†A chance to take a step back and breath for a minute.

And then Chris disappears. And she wants him back. ¬†But it’s too late. ¬†She makes all kinds of promises to herself and everyone else. ¬†If only he’ll come home, things will be different. ¬†She didn’t really want a break. ¬†She’s sorry, she misses him, things will be better than ever. ¬†If only it were that simple.

This story is all kinds of things at once. ¬†It’s a love story, sure. ¬†But it’s also a mystery. Exactly what did happen to Chris? ¬†It’s also an excellent take on teenage issues. ¬†A great read!


Buy It Now:  This Is Not a Love Letter

Review: When I Am Through with You


This one didn’t go anything like I was expecting. ¬†That’s not necessarily a bad thing. ¬†However, it does make for a difficult task writing a review without giving too much away.

Teenagers, weekend hike in the mountains, somebody dies. ¬†That’s the story in a nutshell. ¬†There’s a bit more to it, of course. ¬†Ben starts off the story by telling you that he killed someone. ¬†Not just any someone, but his girlfriend while at the same time claiming to love her very much. ¬†Just how and why he killed her remains a mystery for much of the story. ¬†Along the way we’re introduced to a host of other characters with their own bits of intrigue.

While this was a good enough story, I feel like it could have been more. ¬†I somehow felt cheated by the ending as I was expecting something a bit juicier. ¬†Still, it’s suspenseful enough to keep you interested as you wonder just what’s going to happen with this ragtag group of teenagers out in the middle of nowhere.

Read it and let me know what you think!


Buy It Now:  When I Am Through with You

Review: A French Wedding by Hannah Tunnicliffe 

Lovely story, but not what I expected. I thought, “A wedding! France! Cheese! Pastry!” And I got a wedding… but not until the very very end; France… well a part of France  caught very much in between England and France in language and culture; cheese… yes, but not everyone liked it; and pastry… oh the very best pastries and cakes made by chef Juliette. 

Juliette set aside her personal baggage to be Max’s personal chef. For Juliette, life was even easier that way. When Max invited a bunch of friends to stay at his home for the weekend, Juliette was ready to cook for them like a madwoman. But things went wrong at every turn due to the shadow Max’s mood cast. Whether he meant to or not, Max kind of ruined everything for his friends and his chef. And that kind of ruined the story for me. 
Good writing, good plot, depressing main character. 



Review: Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven


For a long time, young adult novels pretty much ran the gamut from surviving a bully to falling in everlasting love. ¬†Thankfully times have changed somewhat. ¬†Today’s authors are giving us stories full of believable characters, not just those who fit into a stereotypical mold of the perfect teenager.

Libby has A LOT of things going against her. ¬†She’s overweight, significantly so. ¬†She’s never had a boyfriend. ¬†Her mom is dead. ¬†She’s been homeschooled for the past several years and is way out of touch with the high school scene. She has no friends and has been bullied in the past. ¬†And, oh yeah, she achieved national notoriety when she had to be cut out of her house because of her weight.

But she also has a lot going for her. ¬†She has a loving father. ¬†She’s lost a ton of weight since that infamous incident. ¬†She’s funny, kind, smart, and resilient as all get out. ¬†And she’s back in school after so many years away. ¬†Of course there are struggles, but Libby’s up for the challenge.

And then there’s Jack. ¬†As one of the popular, cool kids he’s the exact opposite of Libby on the outside. ¬†But he has his problems and insecurities, too. ¬†His swagger and confidence comes from a place of insecurity and shame. ¬†He’s covering up a secret that he’ll do anything to protect.

Although Jack and Libby seem to have nothing in common, they’re unwillingly thrown together as the result of a cruel prank. ¬†They find friendship first, and then something more. ¬†Is it possible that two such different people can actually be happy together?

This is kind of a sappy romance book, which I’m usually not a fan of. ¬†But I loved Libby’s spunk and her spirit. ¬†She’s strong and confident as she flies in the face of everyone’s idea of the perfect teenager. ¬†I would only wish that all young girls could have such confidence. ¬†It’s very good most of the time. ¬†Granted, there are parts of the story that were highly unbelievable for me just because I know how society treats people who are different. ¬† It’s certainly something to wish for, though.


Buy It Now:  Holding Up the Universe


Review: The Weight of Zero by Karen Fortunati


There’s something very refreshing about an author who prefaces their book with an explanation of exactly WHY their story is different from the others of the same genre. ¬†That’s a rare find in today’s world.

Catherine knows that it’s coming. ¬†As sure as the passage of time, she’s certain that eventually her debilitating depression/bipolar disorder will rear its ugly head again. And because she knows it’s unavoidable, she has an escape plan. ¬†No way is she going to be caught unaware like the last time things went south. ¬†So she finds comfort in a shoebox. It’s here that she’s stockpiling an arsenal of medication sure to take her away from the pain for good. ¬†She doesn’t see what she’s planning as a selfish act. ¬†In fact, it’s her sacrifice to everyone she loves. ¬†Only when she’s out of their lives can they truly begin to live again.

But something happens as she’s just passively walking through life. ¬†She starts to care again. ¬†First in the form of Michael, her first boyfriend. ¬†And then along comes Kristal, someone who’s dealing with just as much as she is. ¬†Still, she’s bound and determined to follow through with her plan when, not if because she knows it’s inevitable, the darkness once again comes for her.

This book was so very good for too many reasons to list. ¬†The characters are real, raw, and flawed. ¬†Everyone has something they’re dealing with, even if it’s not apparent at first glance. ¬†And Catherine’s journey is difficult. ¬†It’s not all nice and neat and wrapped up in a pretty package by the last chapter. ¬†Real life is very much like that, and to pretend otherwise is not fair.


Buy It Now:  The Weight of Zero


Review: Detached by Christina Kilbourne


There’s ¬†a game my fellow Muses & I like to play from time to time. ¬†We call it “Guess the Muse” and it involves guessing which one of our brilliant reviewers has written a certain review. ¬†Yes, we are that predictable at times. ¬†And I’ve been known to gravitate towards books involving young people facing issues of all kinds. ¬†So for this review, ¬†I’m staying true to form.

Anna is in a very dark place.  She enjoys nothing, feels nothing, even tastes nothing.  Everything in her life is just there.  So she dreams of an escape route, even going so far as to make a list of possible ways to commit suicide.  And she makes a few attempts, although none of them come close to being successful.  Until the very last one.

Depression and suicide in teens are always difficult topics to read about. But they’re ¬† important ones because they’re ¬†very real. This book does a good job of telling the story of one such teen in a way that’s entirely believable. Another aspect of the book that I enjoyed was hearing Anna’s story told from three different perspectives: Anna herself, her mother, and her best friend. It’s a reminder that these are issues that don’t just affect one person but instead everyone around that person.


Buy It Now:  Detached

Review: Cure by Brenda Zalegowski


Warning: ¬† If you are expecting an in-depth review of this book with complete character analysis and a detailed plot summary, you’ve come to the wrong place. ¬†If, however, you’re looking for a simple directive to read an outstanding book, then carry on.

Let me also preface this very short, brief review by saying that you really must read Brenda’s debut novel, Behind the Falls. ¬†Yes, it’s the precursor to this outstanding story. ¬†And no, it’s not imperative to understanding and loving Cure. ¬†But it will help you fall in love with the characters even more.

This is a story of love and loss, things that we are all familiar with. ¬†Love never comes easy, but then most things worth having never do. ¬†And young love, teen love especially, is that much more difficult. ¬†There are tears and there are smiles. ¬†There are lives lost and lives saved. ¬†And there’s closure, of some sort at least. ¬†Yes, you’ll recognize many of the characters from the first story. ¬†And you’ll meet some new ones.

And that’s all you’re going to get. ¬†I’ve never been one to write a synopsis of a story and call it a review, but I do usually give a bit more than you’re getting with this one. ¬†But I just can’t with this one. ¬†You’ll just have to trust me. ¬†Read Behind the Falls. ¬†And then read this one.


Buy It Now:  Cure