Review | A Song for a New Day

A Song for a New Day by Sarah Pinsker

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Luce Cannon’s music career is taking off with her song “Blood and Diamonds”.  She’s touring with a great band and loves playing live and winning over new audiences every night.

Then everything changes.  Terror attacks send the U.S. into a panic and then comes a deadly virus that spreads quickly.  The government steps in to enact congregation laws banning large public gatherings.  People begin to live their lives without human contact, living and working online in Hoodspace (a hoodie is worn to connect to virtual reality).

Luce’s music will not be silenced.  She takes her royalties and begins performing illegal concerts to those who remember “the Before” and human connection.

Rosemary Laws is too young to remember much from the Before.  Her entire life has basically been in Hoodspace:  school, friends, dating, and now her job as a customer service rep for the corporate giant Superwally (think Wal-Mart & Amazon combined).  She lives on a wind farm in a small town with her parents who are the only people she has contact with regularly.

She lucks out when she’s given tickets to an online concert and discovers a love of music.  Then she’s offered a job seeking out new musical talent to sign who will bring their music to virtual reality.  The catch?  She’ll not only be going out in public regularly but traveling to cities she’s only heard about and attending illegal concerts.

Alternating between Luce and Rosemary’s stories, their paths eventually connect.  Luce mourns the Before, offering insight into music and human connection that makes Rosemary begin to question the way things have become.

A Song for a New Day is a dystopian/speculative fiction novel set in the near future.  The plot feels entirely plausible, the atmosphere is exciting, and the characters feel authentic.  I wish there’d been more explanation about the Before; essentially all we know is that some terrorists wreaked havoc and were eventually caught but people remain fearful.  Readers get some background on the two MCs (mostly Luce) and world-building (I would’ve loved a bit more!) but the primary focus in this novel is the music and human connection.

A Song for a New Day is intense, immersive, and highly entertaining.  I recommend this to readers who are passionate about music and enjoy modern day dystopias / speculative fiction.

Thanks to Berkley Books and the Penguin First to Read program for an ARC in exchange for my honest review.  A Song for a New Day is scheduled for release on September 3, 2019.

 

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Review | The Turn of the Key

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

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Rowan Caine comes across an online ad seeking a live-in nanny in the Scottish Highlands.  The salary is incredibly generous and she’ll just make the deadline to apply.  When she arrives for an interview, she finds the luxurious Heatherbrae House is a home remodeled for modern day conveniences.  Almost every room has a camera and every appliance can be operated at the touch of a button on a phone or tablet.

Left alone on the isolated moors with three young girls, we learn that both Rowan and Heatherbrae are not what they seem and both are keeping secrets.

In a slow burn of gothic suspense, The Turn of the Key is a series of letters written in prison by Rowan to a lawyer she hopes will represent her.  She’s accused of killing one of the children left in her charge and she struggles to explain the series of events that led to her incarceration while adamantly denying she had any involvement in the murder.

A house with a creepy history (and a poison garden!), strange children (oooh a creepy/evil child never fails to spook me), a handyman who appears at suspicious times (seriously, what is he hiding?), and a main character who admits she hasn’t always been completely honest (girrrrl you look guilty!) culminates for a highly entertaining gothic mystery!

I have a few complaints about this book, mainly that the ending felt rushed and left me with a few questions, and the whodunit—while a surprise—didn’t seem to fit the story entirely.
I really enjoyed the twists (especially because there were two that I didn’t see coming!) and the atmosphere added an intense layer to the story.

If you enjoy atmospheric modern gothic mysteries, this is one worth checking out.

Thanks to Gallery/Scout Press and Edelweiss for providing me with a DRC in exchange for my honest review.  The Turn of the Key is scheduled for release on August 6, 2019.

 

Review | gods with a little g

gods with a little g by Tupelo Hassman

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“If you were flying in a plane over Rosary, California, the first thing you’d see is me, a skinny white girl with messy hair and a big backpack, waving you on. ‘Keep going,’ I’d say.” *

Helen is tired of living in Rosary, a town named by Catholics but now run by Thumpers (Bible-thumping evangelicals) who have alienated the surrounding towns.

“Rosary is like that bully in the schoolyard who looks around when the dust settles and says, ‘Where did everybody go?'” *

Rosary doesn’t want to be isolated from their neighboring city Sky but they don’t condone their lifestyle choices and they certainly don’t want them to influence the teens of Rosary.

Little do the Thumpers know Helen and her group of misfit friends, the self-proclaimed Dickheads, spend their afternoons at Fast Eddie’s Tire Yard drinking beer and their nights dialing in to a Sky radio station that discusses topics that are off-limits in their hometown.

gods with a little g follows Helen through her junior year: navigating life with her best friends Win and Rain, coming to terms with her dad’s first relationship since her mom died, and harboring a secret crush on bad boy Bird …who may become her stepbrother (awkwaaaard).

Full of lovable quirky characters in a modern dystopia, gods with a little g is a unique and gritty coming-of-age story that doesn’t shy away from complicated and relevant topics like gender identity and abortion.

Thanks to Farrar, Straus, and Giroux and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review.  gods with a little g is scheduled for release on August 13, 2019.

*Quotes included are from a digital advanced reader’s copy and are subject to change upon final publication.

Review | The Poet X

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

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“My parents probably wanted a girl who would sit in the pews
wearing pretty florals and a soft smile.
They got combat boots and a mouth silent
until it’s sharp as an island machete.”

The Poet X is a powerful novel in verse following the life of sixteen-year-old Xiomara. She’s questioning her religion, frustrated with the shape her body has taken and the attention it receives, and unable to express any of her feelings to her parents, especially her deeply devout mother.

Xiomara uses her journal, a gift from her twin brother, to express her thoughts, feelings, and frustrations. As she falls for a boy at school and her English teacher takes an interest in her writing, Xiomara begins to find courage and power in her words. When she joins the school’s poetry club she’s able to express herself in a way she never thought possible.

Beautifully written in a captivating and authentic voice, The Poet X is an honest look at a first generation teen’s struggle to find their own voice and direction.

I strongly recommend this novel to anyone who appreciates poetry/verse and YA.  Even if you’re not a fan of YA, you may appreciate this novel for its format and strong message.

The Poet X was released in March 2018 by Harper Teen and I’m thankful my local library had a copy available!

Review | Someone We Know

Someone We Know by Shari Lapena

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Olivia Sharpe has just discovered her teenage son Raleigh has been breaking in to neighbors’ homes.  He says he has never taken anything, he only breaks in to hack computers when no one is home.

At the same time, news is breaking that their neighbor, Amanda Pierce (who everyone believes left her husband even though he filed a missing persons report), has been found in the trunk of her car, which was submerged in the nearby lake.  Coincidentally, the Pierce home is one that Raleigh broke in to around the time of Amanda’s disappearance.

Olivia is certain her son had nothing to do with what happened to Amanda Pierce but that doesn’t prevent the increasing worry she has that police will somehow find out Raleigh was in their home.

This neighborhood has a lot of juicy secrets and they are revealed at a pitch perfect pace!
Readers learn Amanda’s husband had a dark side and her extramarital affairs – which lead to more neighborhood rumors – leave several men in the neighborhood under suspicion, including Olivia’s husband.
To make matters worse, a neighbor is asking a lot of questions about an anonymous letter she received about someone breaking in to her home.

The Sharpe family is pulled into the homicide investigation and Raleigh’s crime may hold the answer to who killed Amanda Pierce.

Lapena has written another entertaining whodunit with several layers!  I enjoyed unraveling the mystery, from Raleigh’s break-ins to the secrets of each neighbor, and connecting the pieces.

Thanks to Pamela Dorman Books and Edelweiss for providing a DRC in exchange for my honest review.  Someone We Know is scheduled for release on July 30, 2019.

Review | Lock Every Door

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

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If Jules Larsen didn’t have bad luck, she’d have no luck at all.

After being laid off from her job she returns to her apartment to find her boyfriend with another woman.  In desperate need of both a new job and a roof over her head, Jules answers an ad for an apartment sitter.

When Jules arrives at the address she was given, she’s stunned to find herself standing in front of the Bartholomew, Manhattan’s most high-profile building, home to some elite residents.

“Every so often, life offers you a reset button. When it does, you need to press it as hard as you can.” *

The Bartholomew has a long standing rule that apartments cannot remain unoccupied for more than a month for reasons of security.  The resident of 12A recently passed away and while her family argue over who will get the apartment, they consider an apartment sitter to be an insurance policy.  One they’re willing to pay four thousand dollars a month for.

There are only a few rules for Jules to become a temporary resident of the grand Bartholomew:  she must keep the apartment in pristine condition and spend every night there; she cannot speak to any of the residents unless spoken to because they value their privacy and she cannot have any visitors under any circumstances.

While the rules seem a little strange, Jules is willing to follow them for three months and twelve thousand dollars.  This opportunity will get her back on her feet for a fresh start.

Jules soon meets fellow apartment sitter Ingrid, who reminds Jules of her sister who disappeared eight years ago.  The Bartholomew has long been shrouded in mystery due to some high-profile events in its early years and its tight-lipped residents but Ingrid thinks there may be a more sinister history that remains unknown.

“Do you think it’s possible for a place to be haunted, even if there aren’t any ghosts there? Because that’s what it feels like to me. Like the Bartholomew is haunted by its history. Like all the bad stuff that’s ever happened there has accumulated like dust and now floats in the air. And we’re breathing it in, Jules.” *

Jules is able to brush off Ingrid’s concerns as wild conjecture thanks to the notoriously private residents.

Except Ingrid disappears the next day.

The building manager says Ingrid left in the middle of the night, no longer willing to follow the strict rules. Jules is certain that there is more to the story and her fear grows as her texts to Ingrid go unread and calls go unanswered.

While searching for her friend, Jules discovers dark secrets within the walls of the Bartholomew, including the alarming fact that Ingrid isn’t the first apartment sitter to go missing in the middle of the night.

Lock Every Door is another compulsively readable thriller from Sager narrated by a character with a troubled past.  I was immediately drawn in by Jules’ tragic past, flipping as fast as I could to learn more of the Bartholomew’s secrets, and searching for a common thread between the two because I expected that to be the direction Sager was headed.
While I guessed a couple key points of the mystery, I was nowhere near uncovering the truth.

I am a huge fan of Sager’s summer thrillers!  He knows how to build a mystery, hooking readers with a secret and reeling us in with an exciting twist.
The history of the Bartholomew leads Jules to one conclusion about the present mystery, the history of our MC had me searching for clues to another mystery, and that clever misdirection made the twist at the end completely unexpected for me.

If you enjoy an exciting mystery that includes some history and dark secrets with a red herring or two, Lock Every Door is definitely one to pick up this summer!

Thanks to Dutton Books and the Penguin First to Read program for providing me with a digital advanced reader’s copy in exchange for my honest review.  Lock Every Door is scheduled for release on July 2, 2019.

*Quotes included are from a digital advanced reader’s copy and are subject to change upon final publication.

Review | The Saturday Night Ghost Club

The Saturday Night Ghost Club by Craig Davidson

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Jake Baker’s twelfth summer was full of the magic and mystery that can only be had once in a lifetime.
A shy outcast, Jake spends most of his time with his eccentric uncle Calvin, who owns a small shop of occult artifacts and shares conspiracy theories with anonymous callers on the telephone.

When Billy Yellowbird and his sister Dove move to town, Jake’s eyes are opened to new possibilities.  He has his first crush on the older Dove, a head-strong wild child, and his first true friend in Billy.

With uncle Calvin and Lex (the local video store clerk), the three friends spend their summer investigating local ghost stories — from a car at the bottom of the lake to the burned down house on the edge of town.  As summer comes to an end, Jake’s parents are able to offer the truth behind the local legends that is more haunting than he could’ve imagined.

Narrated by an adult Jake, The Saturday Night Ghost Club is a bittersweet coming-of-age story that looks at the magic of childhood and memory.

This was a fantastic story, beautifully written with an intoxicating nostalgia that I haven’t felt since reading Bradbury.  I’m so thrilled that this novel is finally being published in the U.S.!

Thanks to Penguin Books for sending me an ARC and Goodreads for hosting the giveaway.  The Saturday Night Ghost Club is scheduled for release in the United States on July 9, 2019.

Review | Theme Music

Theme Music by T. Marie Vandelly

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Dixie Wheeler’s entire family was brutally murdered on Thanksgiving Day in their kitchen by her father, who then killed himself.  Baby Dixie was found unharmed in her high chair by a boy next door and then raised by her aunt and uncle.

It’s been twenty five years and Dixie still bares the emotional scars of the horrific event that she was too young to even remember.  The house goes on the market and Dixie decides to move in, pulling her family’s furniture out of storage to recreate the home as it was at the time of the murders.

Readers soon learn that Dixie’s past is littered with some suspicious events and blacks-outs at convenient times that raise major red flags about her sanity.

When Dixie realizes that her uncle, now deceased, believed her father was innocent, she begins looking in to the case file and contacts the detective (now retired) who worked the original investigation.

While searching for the truth, Dixie’s grasp on reality begins to slip as people around her go missing and the ghosts of her past appear.

I had high hopes but Theme Music was a huge disappointment for me.  It started strong with the chilling massacre described but then the story went downhill from there.
While I’m all about suspending my disbelief for an entertaining story, this one was built on far too many convenient circumstances, enough that I rolled my eyes a few times.  The main character felt like a caricature as the quintessential unreliable narrator.  The ending, which was supposed to be shocking, was instead predictable and unsatisfying.

Thanks to Dutton Books and Edelweiss for providing a DRC in exchange for my honest review.  Theme Music is scheduled for release on July 23, 2019.

Review | Ask Again, Yes

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

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NYPD rookies Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope are partners for a brief time in 1973.  They eventually become next door neighbors in the suburbs, busy with their families and careers.

Lena struggles with loneliness and hopes to find a friend in Anne Stanhope but quickly realizes that her neighbor is unstable.  While Lena is raising her daughters, Anne struggles with a stillbirth before the birth of her only living child, Peter.

Francis and Lena’s youngest daughter Kate has a strong friendship with Peter; they were born just six months apart.  The two grow up together and by the spring of eighth grade, their friendship has progressed to an innocent romance.  They’re becoming aware of tension between their parents and Anne’s increasingly irrational behavior but are uncertain of how to discuss it since it’s something they’re just beginning to understand.
A tragic event changes the entire course of the lives of every member of the Gleeson and Stanhope families forever on one fateful night.

Ask Again, Yes is a stunning portrait of two families that explores their dynamics and examines their choices in the aftermath of tragedy.  This captivating novel manages to tackle heavy subjects like mental illness, alcoholism, and trauma with authenticity.  A gripping family drama with well-developed characters and a pitch perfect pace, Keane’s superb storytelling would not let me go until the final page.

I could write so much about the incredible characters and this poignant story but I’d rather you grab a copy to see why I fell in love with it!

If you’re a fan of literary fiction and/or family dramas or just enjoy a strong character-driven story with rich layers then Ask Again, Yes is one to pick up sooner rather than later… preferably today!

Ask Again, Yes was released by Scribner on May 28, 2019 and I was fortunate enough to read it thanks to my local library.

Review | The Lager Queen of Minnesota

The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal

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J. Ryan Stradal won my heart with the novel Kitchens of the Great Midwest (read my review here) by weaving together a story of family, tragedy, strength, and food.

In his upcoming release The Lager Queen of Minnesota, readers once again journey to the midwest and this time we follow the lives of three women determined to succeed, though their definitions of success are wildly different based on their values.

Sisters Edith and Helen haven’t spoken in years.  Their father left the family farm to Helen who used the profits to turn her husband’s family business into the top brewery in the state.  Helen planned to share half of the farm’s profits with Edith once the brewery became a success but somehow she never got around to it.

Meanwhile, Edith has been living a quiet life with her husband.  She’s raised two children and worked at a local nursing home for forty years baking pies that become famous in the Twin Cities.  When a hipster magazine names her pies the third-best in the state, suddenly people are lining up for the chance to eat dinner at St. Anthony-Waterside Nursing Home!

Life throws a curveball when Edith’s husband becomes ill and retires but Edith finds a fresh start with a new job and they move closer to the city and their children.

After some devastating events, Edith finds herself raising her only grandchild, Diana, alone.
While Edith should be enjoying retirement, she’s working two jobs at Arby’s and Kohl’s to support them.

Diana is struggling to help her grandmother as best she can, working part-time when she’s not in school.  When life throws another unexpected hardship at them, Diana finds a new way to earn fast cash by stealing expensive tools from wealthy neighborhoods.  She thinks her life is over when she’s caught but really it’s the beginning of a bright future.
Instead of an arest, Diana is given the opportunity to pay back her debt by working at a local brewery where she finds an unexpected passion for brewing.

We follow Edith, Helen, and Diana across decades through their success and hardships that eventually lead them together.

It’s a heartbreakingly realistic story of scraping by to barely make ends meet while finding your passion and your purpose.  This is another fantastic story by Stradal who has created a signature style of storytelling with a focus on family, values, and strong women overcoming the odds.

While Kitchens focused on food with stunning detail, Lager Queen obviously focuses on beer and includes fascinating detail on the history of craft beer and the brewing process.  Both are heart warming, poignant, and genuine with the comfort of food/beer making it all the more relatable for readers.

I adore this author and both of his novels and highly recommend them to readers who appreciate realistic family sagas with strong and relatable/quirky characters!

Thanks to Pamela Dorman Books and Edelweiss for providing me with a DRC in exchange for my honest review.  The Lager Queen of Minnesota is scheduled for release on July 23, 2019.