Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Walls: A Novel by L.M. Elliott

(Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book!)

about book:

The New York Times bestselling author of ten young adult novels, L. M. Elliott has long been known as a master of historical fiction that humanizes and illuminates contemporary issues, steeping readers in the eras of World War II, the Cold War, and the American Revolution. Now, in the unofficial follow-up to her 2017 Suspect Red, which followed two teenage boys swept up in the 1950s Red Scare, Elliott turns her attention to the espionage-riddled standoff between America and Soviet Russia in WALLS (Publication Date: July 27, 2021; Ages 12 – 18; Hardcover; $19.95)

Set in the tumultuous year leading up to the surprise overnight raising of the Berlin Wall in August 1961, and punctuated with real-life photographs, headlines, and personalities of the time, WALLS explores the budding friendship between two cousins on different sides of the communist/democracy divide and the very real dangers their growing bond presents their families. 

Drew is an army brat, a hotshot athlete poised to be his high school’s star pitcher, when he has to move for the sixth time in fifteen years—this time to West Berlin, where American soldiers like his dad hold an outpost of democracy against communist Russia in Hitler’s former capital. Meanwhile, in East Berlin, his cousin Matthias has grown up in the wreckage left by Allied bombing during World War II, on streets ruled by the Communist Party’s secret police. From the opposing sides of the Cold War, Drew and Matthias begin to overcome the many ideological walls between them to become wary friends. They argue over the space race, capitalism, socialism, and even the American civil rights movement, and bond over rock ’n’ roll—music outlawed in Matthias’s part of the city. As the political situation around them gets all the more dire, Drew and Matthias’s loyalty—to their sector, their countries, their families, and each other—will be tested in ways that will change their lives forever.

“My hope with WALLS is to provide a compelling, suspenseful read about whether two teens can learn to trust and care about one another, despite what they’ve been fed about the other’s world. Showing (I hope!) in a poignant, relatable way the importance of forming your own opinion based on personal experience and reflection. Not swallowing propaganda, disinformation, unsubstantiated conspiracy theories and innuendo, or demeaning slogans and stereotypes,” says Elliott, whose works have been recognized as NCSS/CBC Notables, Bank Street College of Education Best Books, and Grateful American Book Prize winners. “The set-up of two boys—each fervent believers in their diametrically opposed political philosophies who come to understand the other’s point of view—felt a potent way to humanize the effect of the Cold War’s dangerous polarization on the day-to-day lives of ordinary people. And given the narrative’s relevancy to some of today’s frictions, to spark some thoughts about readers’ own lives.”


Moving by month through a historically monumental year, WALLS sheds light on a troubling, often overlooked chapter of history, and brings to vivid life the heroic and tragic choices of the Cold War. 

my thoughts:

Wow! What a story! Walls is an excellent piece of YA historical fiction that will captivate you right from the start. I absolutely LOVED it to bits!

L. M. Elliott has written an entertaining and engaging story that will introduce you to cousins, Mathias and Drew - two teens living in the same city, but on opposite sides of a wall. It's Berlin, Germany in 1961 and Drew's family has just been relocated to the West side of Berlin. His father is in the army and moving is part of the job. So, Drew is used to having to start over, but he's not happy about it. His cousin Mathias lives in Berlin on the East side. His life has not been easy, living in the aftermath of war. The two cousins are literally on different sides of the same city, but also have opposing views of the politics that keep them separated. Once they begin to spend more and more time together, they finally start to open up to each other and find themselves bonding over music. Of course, it's a dangerous time to be living in Berlin, so they must keep their love of rock 'n' roll secret, along with their political ideologies. Talk about the heat in the Cold War.

Walls is a terrific story that you won't want to put down for anything. The writing is superb. The characters are great and so relatable in their youthful passions about politics, music, countries, and families. Each chapter is a month in Drew's life and starts off with photographs and information about that time in Berlin. It's such a cool way to introduce each chapter and share about the history. I really enjoyed getting to know these characters, the country they lived in, and the history surrounding them. Such an awesome story!!

I would happily recommend Walls to fans of Elliott and to anyone looking for their next great read - you will LOVE this book!!

Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book!

Friday, July 23, 2021

Fierce Little Thing: A Novel by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

(Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book!)

about book:

“A Secret History-esque tale...All the ingredients for the perfect summer read.” —The Millions
“Captivating, thoughtful, and tense, a great read for those who enjoy psychological thrillers and complex puzzles. Highly recommended.” —New York Journal Review of Books

“It’s time to come Home. All five of you. Or else.” 

Saskia was a damaged, lonely teenager when she arrived at the lakeside commune called Home. She was entranced by the tang of sourdough starter; the midnight call of the loons; the triumph of foraging wild mushrooms from the forest floor. But most of all she was taken with Abraham, Home's charismatic leader, the North Star to Saskia and the four other teens who lived there, her best and only friends.

Two decades later, Saskia is shuttered in her Connecticut estate, estranged from the others. Her carefully walled life is torn open by threatening letters. Unless she and her former friends return to the land in rural Maine, the terrible thing they did as teenagers—their last-ditch attempt to save Home—will be revealed.

From vastly different lives, the five return to confront their blackmailer and reckon with the horror that split them apart. How far will they go to bury their secret forever?

New York Times bestselling author Miranda Beverly-Whittemore’s Fierce Little Thing is a mesmerizing story of friendship and its reckonings.

my thoughts:

Fierce Little Thing by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore is a terrific suspense-filled mystery that will shock you with its clever twists and turns. Told in dual timelines, this story will have you flipping pages faster and faster, the more you get to know these extremely unlikeable characters (that you can't help but get addicted to).  I LOVED reading all about these damaged friends who are forced to confront their past and the secret that has kept them apart all of these years. OMG!

What a thrilling read! The writing was top notch and the storyline kept me hooked all the way through. I really enjoyed trying to piece together what happened. Such a great book!

Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book!

Monday, July 19, 2021

Kill All Your Darlings by David Bell

(Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with a  copy of this book!)

about book: (summary from Goodreads)

After years of struggling to write following the deaths of his wife and son, English professor Connor Nye publishes his first novel, a thriller about the murder of a young woman.

There's just one problem: Connor didn't write the book. His missing student did. And then she appears on his doorstep, alive and well, threatening to expose him.

Connor's problems escalate when the police insist details in the novel implicate him in an unsolved murder from two years ago. Soon Connor discovers the crime is part of a disturbing scandal on campus and faces an impossible dilemma--admit he didn't write the book and lose his job or keep up the lie and risk everything. When another murder occurs, Connor must clear his name by unraveling the horrifying secrets buried in his student's manuscript.

This is a suspenseful, provocative novel about the sexual harassment that still runs rampant in academia--and the lengths those in power will go to cover it up.

When a student disappears and is presumed dead, her professor passes off her manuscript as his own--only to find out it implicates him in an unsolved murder in this new thriller from the USA Today bestselling author of The Request

my thoughts:

Professors stealing their student's dissertations and publishing it as their own work - is that a new genre? I know that 'publish or perish' is the thing in academia, but seriously? This is the second book I've read this year with that exact plot line. Of course, I love the idea. Having been in the academic world for a bit, I just love the drama that this idea inspires. Not only does it makes you suspect the professor, but you also can't help but wonder about the rest of the academic staff or their students. Makes you wonder what other dirty secrets are being hidden away. I remember all the snarky gossip that exists within the academic world, so I can only imagine how much fun it must have been to write a book about this topic and that world. 

Kill All Your Darlings by David Bell is all about Connor, an English professor who is now a widow following the deaths of his wife and son. He is grieving. And, he is struggling to keep it together - home and career. So, he does the unthinkable and steals his student's paper and publishes it as his new novel. The student has gone missing and he figures that she's not going to turn up, so why not ensure that he keeps his job by publishing a new novel? Except, the novel starts to do rather well. And, the missing student shows up at his house.  Oh, and the cops come a knocking when they recognize details in Connor's story that match a murder scene. Say what?! Yep, Connor has unwittingly placed himself smack dab in the middle of a murder investigation as the prime suspect.  Talk about regretting your actions. Looks like Connor has no one to blame, but himself. And, he has no one to help him out of this crazy mess, except himself. Yikes!

Bell has written a suspenseful story that has twists and turns throughout, which will leave you guessing all the way through. Such a fun read! I just loved getting to know Connor and piecing together who's guilty of what. Definitely a great summer read!

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book!

Friday, July 16, 2021

The Unbreakables: A Novel by Lisa Barr

about book:

A delicious, sharp novel about a woman who jets off to France after her perfect marriage collapses, putting the broken pieces of herself back together while rediscovering her own joie de vivrea lust for life, art, and steamy sex. 

The worst birthday ever might just be the gift of a lifetime…

It’s Sophie Bloom’s forty-second birthday, and she’s ready for a night of celebration with Gabe, her longtime, devoted husband, and her two besties and their spouses. Dinner is served with a side of delicious gossip, including which North Grove residents were caught with their pants down on Ashley Madison after the secret on-line dating site for married and committed couples was hacked. Thirty-two million cheaters worldwide have been exposed…including Sophie’s “perfect” husband. To add insult to injury, she learns Gabe is the top cheater in their town. 

Humiliated and directionless, Sophie jumps into the unknown and flees to France to meet up with her teenage daughter who is studying abroad and nursing her own heartbreak. After a brief visit to Paris, Sophie heads out to the artist enclave of Saint-Paul-de-Vence. There, for the first time in a long time, Sophie acknowledges her own desires—not her husband’s, not her daughter’s—and rediscovers her essence with painful honesty and humor, reawakening both her sensuality and ambitions as a sculptor. 

As she sheds her past and travels the obstacle-filled off beaten path, Sophie Bloom is determined to blossom. Allowing her true self to emerge in the postcard beauty of Provence, Sophie must decide what is broken forever...and what it means to be truly unbreakable.

“Artful, feminist, and emotionally gripping. The Unbreakables is a remarkable tribute to a woman’s strength in the face of heartbreak and adversity.” — Helen Hoang, author of The Kiss Quotient

Smart, sure and sexy, The Unbreakables is unforgettable.” — Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Orphan’s Tale and The Lost Girls of Paris

“This exquisitely wrought novel will appeal to readers who believe in the redemption of new beginnings.” — Publishers Weekly

my thoughts:

For Paris in July I finally picked up my copy of The Unbreakables.  I bought the book over a year ago, but never found myself ready to read it. I figured the time was finally now. And so, I dove right in. Let me just say, I wish I had pulled myself right out of it. The book was a dud for me. Definitely not my cup of tea.  

The only parts of the book I enjoyed reading about were the ones that included descriptions of France and all its glories (museums, cafes, restaurants, countryside).  The story itself, well, I found myself rolling my eyes and skim reading it. There were just too many cliches, caricatures, and unfulfilling storylines. Basically, Sophie finds out her husband has cheated on her throughout their entire marriage. She's devastated and heads to France to be with their daughter - she called her mom crying that her boyfriend had cheated on her. Turns out she cheated on her boyfriend with a married man and may be pregnant. How ridiculous is that? Anyhow, I'm sure you can guess what happens next. Sophie sets about discovering herself in France. And, there you have it. That's the whole story. Talk about predictable with a capital P. 

So, why did I keep reading the book instead of DNFing it? France. Reading about France is the only thing that kept me turning pages. Sophie finally visiting the CafĂ© de Flore, walking around the Rodin museum, and driving through the French countryside - all of that was worth reading. I couldn't help but daydream about these places as Sophie walked around them or sat outside them. Those were the fun parts of the book. All in all, The Unbreakables was just not for me. Oh well, can't love them all, right? 

And now, I'm off to read something by Sally Rooney. I've been managing a book or two a day, and I want to keep that reading streak going, so I have decided to dive into a book by an author that I consider to be "a sure thing" - meaning, the book won't disappoint. 

Hope you all are staying safe and enjoying a great read.  

Thursday, July 15, 2021

The Road To Delano by John DeSimone

(Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!)

about book:

Jack Duncan is a high school senior whose dream is to play baseball in college and beyond, as far away from Delano as possible. He longs to escape the political turmoil surrounding the labor struggles of the striking fieldworkers that infests his small ag town. Ever since his father, a grape grower, died under suspicious circumstances ten years earlier, he’s had to be the sole emotional support of his mother, who has kept secrets from him about his father’s involvement in the ongoing labor strife.

With their property on the verge of a tax sale, Jack drives an old combine into town to sell it so he and his mother don’t become homeless. On the road, an old friend of his father’s shows up and hands him the police report indicating Jack’s father was murdered. Jack is compelled to dig deep to discover the entire truth, which throws him into the heart of the corruption endemic in the Central Valley. Everything he has dreamed of is at stake if he can’t control his impulse for revenge.

While Jack’s girlfriend, the intelligent and articulate Ella, warns him not to do anything to jeopardize their plans of moving to L.A., after graduation. Jack turns to his best friend, Adrian, a star player on the team, to help to save his mother’s land. When Jack’s efforts to rescue a stolen piece of farm equipment leaves Adrian, the son of a boycotting fieldworker who works closely with Cesar Chavez, in a catastrophic situation, Jack must bail his friend out of his dilemma before it ruins his future prospects. Jack uses his wits, his acumen at card playing, and his boldness to raise the money to spring his friend, who has been transformed by his jail experience.

The Road to Delano is the path Jack, Ella, and Adrian must take to find their strength, their duty, their destiny.

my thoughts:

The Road To Delano by John DeSimone is a riveting story about growing up and the ugly realities that life can throw at you.  

Jack and his mother are struggling. His father died in an accident some time ago, so it's just been the two of them ever since. He's on his way into to town to sell an old combine when he runs into one of his father's friends. This man tells Jack that his dad was murdered. Shocked and confused, Jack decides that he must find out what really happened to his dad. His girlfriend, Ella, doesn't want him to do anything. She just wants them to leave town - a plan they have had for ages. So, he asks his best friend Adrian to help him. Unfortunately, things go haywire and Adrian winds up in jail. Now Jack is tasked with finding out the truth and getting his best friend free. Talk about a stressful to-do list. 

DeSimone has written a terrific story that showcases his top notch writing skills.  We have real life events and people interspersed throughout the story, which adds a layer of depth and history.  We also have characters that you can't help but root for and long to know more about. This is one book that will captivate you, and also inspire you to seek out more information about Cesar Chavez, farmworkers, and farming history. The Road To Delano is a book that I would be happy to recommend to anyone and everyone looking for their next great read. 

Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!