Songwriter Night by D.G. Driver #bookreview #musical #countrymusic #RBRT

In this sweet romantic novella, Lyle and Trish are two aspiring Country music songwriters that meet at a Nashville coffee house. With Trish being new in town, Lyle invites her to his monthly gathering of songwriters to get to know her better. The evening of quirky characters and light-hearted singing is interrupted by the arrival Aiden Bronson. He’s got a hit song on the radio, and he’s back to show off, stirring up some rivalry while he’s at it. How will Lyle compete against Aiden’s charisma and talent in order to win Trish’s heart?

I’ve never come across anything quite like this, and it’s a cool concept. I read the Kindle version of this book, but there’s also an audiobook which includes not just the story, but also twelve original songs. In the Kindle book the song lyrics are written, but if you’re a country music lover, you may prefer the audiobook version.

If you want to break into the music industry, lots of folks follow their dreams to Nashville, and that’s exactly what the two MCs in this novella are hoping to do. They meet in a coffee house where Trish immediately catches the eye of Lyle. He invites her to a songwriter night he and his roommate host monthly. Being new in town and wanting to meet people, Trish immediately accepts. Much of the story takes place on that evening when we meet several other characters – some of them very animated (George and Tammy especially). When Lyle’s former roommate, who’s recently experienced some success with his music, shows up, Lyle’s hopes for the evening quickly go off the rails.

Being familiar with Nashville, I enjoyed the references to local places, highways, and sections of the city. I’m not a country music fan, but I appreciated the song lyrics and how they add to the story. Trish and Lyle, each a little awkward and unsure, have an adorable meet cute and are very likeable and relatable. This was a novella, but I’d love to see what happens to these characters in the future and hope the author considers expanding on the story.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Rosie’s Book Review Team.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Amanda in Malta: The Sleeping Lady by Darlene Foster #bookreview #MG #mystery #TuesdayBookBlog

Amanda receives a postcard from her best friend, Leah, and is surprised to learn that she is in Malta with her aunt. Reading between the lines, she senses Leah is in trouble. Desperate to help her, Amanda travels to Malta with her classmate Caleb and his parents.

Amanda is intrigued by this exotic island in the middle of the Mediterranean, full of colourful history, sun-drenched limestone fortresses, stunning beaches and fascinating birds. But…who is killing the protected birds? Who stole a priceless artifact from the museum? And why is Leah acting so strange? She couldn’t possibly be involved in these illegal activities, or could she?

Join Amanda and her friends as they visit ancient temples, an exciting falconry and the enchanting Popeye Village, as they try to get to the bottom of the mystery of the Sleeping Lady.

I thoroughly enjoyed Amanda in Alberta when I read it last year not long after visiting Canada. When I saw Amanda’s newest adventure on NetGalley, I thought “Let’s go to Malta!”

The author’s descriptions are vivid and detailed making it easy for readers to visualize the local sights Amanda visits. I drooled over some of the food, especially the pastizzi (but definitely not the rabbit pizza). As an animal lover, I adored the Cat Cafe where locals leave food out for the homeless cats in the city. The Popeye Theme Park was a fun addition. I had no idea the Robin Williams movie was filmed in Malta. With historical details sprinkled throughout the story, I always come away from these books learning something new and feel as if I’ve visited the locations myself.

Amanda is one well-traveled young girl and often finds herself in the midst of troubling occurrences. Malta is no exception. With jellyfish stings, kidnappings, chases, and a trip to the hospital, she and her friends Caleb and Leah encounter both dangerous situations and people several times over the course of the story.

I’d highly recommend this delightful series to young readers and those young at heart who enjoy captivating adventures and mysteries that take them around the world. Who couldn’t use some armchair travel?

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

The Ones We’re Meant To Find by Joan He #bookreview #scifi #YA

One of the most twisty, surprising, engaging page-turner YAs you’ll read this year—We Were Liars meets Black Mirror, with a dash of Studio Ghibli.

Cee awoke on an abandoned island three years ago. With no idea of how she was marooned, she only has a rickety house, an old android, and a single memory: she has a sister, and Cee needs to find her.

STEM prodigy Kasey wants escape from the science and home she once trusted. The eco-city—Earth’s last unpolluted place—is meant to be sanctuary for those commited to planetary protection, but it’s populated by people willing to do anything for refuge, even lie. Now, she’ll have to decide if she’s ready to use science to help humanity, even though it failed the people who mattered most. 

I saw reviewers raving about this book on Goodreads and a few blogs. Being a sci-fi fan, I had to request it.

While this cover is beautiful, it doesn’t scream sci-fi/dystopia to me. I honestly assumed it was YA contemporary until I read the description, and I’m afraid it may be targeting the wrong group of readers. The worldbuilding is the big standout for me in this novel. Earth is overpolluted and nearly uninhabitable, and citizens have taken to living in ecocities in the sky. If you rank high enough, that is. Most people don’t and have little chance of getting in. Oceans are poisoned and natural disasters occur frequently, killing millions. Time is running out.

Told in alternating POVs between Cee and Kasey, discrepancies in their stories arise early in the book. By Cee’s count, she’s been on the island three years. Kasey says she’s been missing only months. The mystery about what exactly is going on will keep readers turning the pages, but I have to admit I guessed it early. I’ve probably read too many sci-fi books, and I came across a similar premise in another novel a few years ago that clued me in.

If contemporary fans pick this up, I suspect the strong bond between the sisters will be the draw for them, and it’s a driving force in the plot. Cee loves life and is carefree, while Kasey is more at home in a science lab working alone. With me being more a fan of sci-fi than contemporary, the relationship aspect didn’t appeal to me as much.

It’s a grim story, but comes with stunning plot twists that have surprised most readers and complex worldbuilding. If you’re a fan of sci-fi/dystopia who enjoys mysterious puzzles or like reading novels with strong sibling bonds, this book may captivate you.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir #bookreview #scifi #thriller #TuesdayBookBlog

Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission–and if he fails, humanity and the earth itself will perish.

Except that right now, he doesn’t know that. He can’t even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it.

All he knows is that he’s been asleep for a very, very long time. And he’s just been awakened to find himself millions of miles from home, with nothing but two corpses for company.

His crewmates dead, his memories fuzzily returning, he realizes that an impossible task now confronts him. Alone on this tiny ship that’s been cobbled together by every government and space agency on the planet and hurled into the depths of space, it’s up to him to conquer an extinction-level threat to our species.

And thanks to an unexpected ally, he just might have a chance.

Part scientific mystery, part dazzling interstellar journey, Project Hail Mary is a tale of discovery, speculation, and survival to rival The Martian–while taking us to places it never dreamed of going. 

The Martian absolutely blew me away when it was released (I loved the movie, which can always be hit or miss with adaptations), so I immediately requested this book when I saw it on NetGalley.

This is a difficult review to write without revealing spoilers, but I’ll do what I can. The reader is just as clueless about what’s going on as Ryland is when he wakes after a long coma, and I liked that. You feel his frustration and surprise through flashbacks as his memory returns, and the story is revealed. And what an incredible story it is! So much tension, so many life-threatening situations – I literally couldn’t put the book down. I held it in one hand to read while stirring something on the stove with the other.

Some of the plot points are awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping, and thought-provoking. I experienced a gamut of emotions. Admittedly the math is so far out of my lane it’s incomprehensible, but the author explains it as much as possible. I wouldn’t say there are quite as many humorous moments as in The Martian, but it’s not without some comedic relief after some heavy situations.

At its core, Project Hail Mary is about sacrifices, friendship, acceptance, and self-realization. I enjoyed the hell out of this book and would highly recommend it to sci-fi fans. I’m really hoping for a movie out of this one – they’d better not screw it up.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Through The Nethergate by Roberta Eaton Cheadle #bookreview #YA #supernatural

Can one girl banish evil?

Margaret, a girl born with second sight, has the unique ability to bring ghosts trapped between Heaven and Hell back to life. When her parents die suddenly, she goes to live with her beloved grandfather but the cellar of her grandfather’s ancient inn is haunted by an evil spirit of its own.

In the town of Bungay, a black dog wanders the streets, enslaving the ghosts of those who have died unnatural deaths. When Margaret arrives, these phantoms congregate at the inn, hoping she can free them from the clutches of Hugh Bigod, the 12th century ghost who has drawn them away from Heaven’s White Light in his canine guise.

With the help of her grandfather and the spirits she has befriended, Margaret sets out to defeat Hugh Bigod, only to discover he wants to use her for his own ends – to take over Hell itself.

A clever melding of fiction and historical facts. 

I’m always up for a good ghost story, and I have to commend the author (or cover designer) for such an intriguing, foreboding cover. It does a wonderful job of setting the tone of the story.

My heart immediately went out to Margaret. She’s lost both parents in a tragic accident and has been taken away from her familiar environment to live with her grandfather in a haunted inn. Having second sight, she encounters several ghosts, and I enjoyed learning their backstories and how some of them came to linger at the inn. With several historical characters woven into the story (many of them spirits – good and evil), it’s clear the author did extensive research. I’ve read several YA horror/supernatural novels, but a character with the ability to bring ghosts trapped between heaven and hell back to life is new to me and adds a unique spin.

After Margaret is attacked and taken, and Lucifer shows up with plans to use Margaret’s gift for his own benefit, the story becomes a battle between good and evil. A lot is going on, and much responsibility falls on Margaret’s young shoulders. She’s thrust into some extreme situations, and some scenes may cause goosebumps (love it when that happens).

Although categorized as young adult, with the historical aspects and social commentary on several important issues, this novel would also be a crossover to adults. With a mix of supernatural, horror, paranormal, and history, Through the Nethergate will appeal to a wide variety of readers.

Take Me Home Tonight by Morgan Matson #bookreview #YA #contemporary #humor #TuesdayBookBlog

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off meets Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist in this romp through the city that never sleeps from the New York Times bestselling author of Since You’ve Been Gone, Morgan Matson.

Two girls. One night. Zero phones.

Kat and Stevie—best friends, theater kids, polar opposites—have snuck away from the suburbs to spend a night in New York City. They have it all planned out. They’ll see a play, eat at the city’s hottest restaurant, and have the best. Night. Ever. What could go wrong?

Well. Kind of a lot?

They’re barely off the train before they’re dealing with destroyed phones, family drama, and unexpected Pomeranians. Over the next few hours, they’ll have to grapple with old flames, terrible theater, and unhelpful cab drivers. But there are also cute boys to kiss, parties to crash, dry cleaning to deliver (don’t ask), and the world’s best museum to explore.

Over the course of a wild night in the city that never sleeps, both Kat and Stevie will get a wake-up call about their friendship, their choices…and finally discover what they really want for their future.

That is, assuming they can make it to Grand Central before the clock strikes midnight. 

I have to admit – it was the Ferris Bueller comp title that cinched the deal on requesting this book from NetGalley. There were no Save Ferris water towers, but this sure was a fun romp.

Kat and Stevie are ride or die besties, but polar opposites in interests, actions, and physical attributes. Despite a planning checklist for their trip into NYC, their adventure goes sideways from the moment they step off the train at Grand Central Station. The evening lands them in some unexpected, chaotic, and humorous situations, and they meet a Pomeranian named Brad who will steal your heart. Kat and Stevie are both very relatable and flawed, and each of them experience their own coming of age moments over the course of the story. Those more serious moments aren’t something I expected going into this book, but I like how they’re life-changing issues and the ways the girls deal with them.

Something I feel could have been left out was Teri’s subplot. After reading Kat’s and Stevie’s chapters, her sections felt like a speed bump that took me out of the story.

Is it likely most of this storyline could happen? No. But if you suspend your disbelief and just go with the flow, you’ll soon find yourself caught up in an unlikely, but whimsical adventure.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

The Infinity Courts by Akemi Dawn Bowman #bookreview #YA #fantasy

Eighteen-year-old Nami Miyamoto is certain her life is just beginning. She has a great family, just graduated high school, and is on her way to a party where her entire class is waiting for her—including, most importantly, the boy she’s been in love with for years.

The only problem? She’s murdered before she gets there.

When Nami wakes up, she learns she’s in a place called Infinity, where human consciousness goes when physical bodies die. She quickly discovers that Ophelia, a virtual assistant widely used by humans on Earth, has taken over the afterlife and is now posing as a queen, forcing humans into servitude the way she’d been forced to serve in the real world. Even worse, Ophelia is inching closer and closer to accomplishing her grand plans of eradicating human existence once and for all.

As Nami works with a team of rebels to bring down Ophelia and save the humans under her imprisonment, she is forced to reckon with her past, her future, and what it is that truly makes us human.
From award-winning author Akemi Dawn Bowman comes an incisive, action-packed tale that explores big questions about technology, grief, love, and humanity. 

This is my first time reading this author, and I requested this book from NetGalley because of the stunning cover and wonderful reviews of her backlist.

Nami’s life is just beginning. She graduated high school, college is on the horizon, and she’s at the beginning of a romantic relationship with her best friend of several years. Then she finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time, and her life is cut short after a spontaneous act of bravery.

What an original spin on the afterlife. Ophelia, a virtual assistant used by many people, including Nami, is Queen of Infinity. Kind of makes you want to be nicer to Alexa and Siri when they can’t help you. There are also four territories, each ruled by a prince (Ophelia’s sons). Soon after dying and arriving in Infinity, Nami is taken in by a group of rebels fighting against Ophelia, and that’s when she started to annoy me. In spite of being a newcomer, she’s convinced she knows better than those who’ve been around much longer, and she jumps into situations headfirst before completely thinking things through. Many times. She has a strong moral compass and brings up thought-provoking questions about coexistence, forgiveness, and second chances, but the big picture eludes her at times. The supporting characters are well-drawn, and I especially enjoyed strong leader Annika and the mysterious Gil.

I wish I’d gotten to know a little more about Nami before her death – her interactions with family and friends, likes/dislikes, etc., but she’s thrown into the afterlife almost immediately. With heavy inner monologue, this is a lengthy read at nearly five hundred pages, and I found myself skimming over sections that were pretty similar. Just when Nami begins to understand what the rebels have been telling her, she’s blindsided. That ending? Didn’t see that twist coming – not even the shimmer of a hint. That alone upped my rating, but I’m still not sure how I feel about it.

With unique worldbuilding (who knew they had royal balls and wars in the afterlife?), political issues, and dystopian themes, The Infinity Courts will appeal to fantasy fans looking for a different landscape.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Harbinger (Wake-Robin Ridge #3) by Marcia Meara #bookreview #supernatural #suspense #TuesdayBookBlog

Continuing in the tradition of Wake-Robin Ridge and A Boy Named Rabbit, Marcia Meara’s North Carolina mountain series takes a shivery turn with the Appalachian Legend of Ol’ Shuck, the Harbinger of Death.

“. . . he felt the wet slide of the dog’s burning hot tongue on his face, and the scrape of its razor sharp teeth against the top of his head. A white-hot agony of crushing pain followed, as the jaws began to close.”

The wine-red trillium that carpets the forests of the North Carolina Mountains is considered a welcome harbinger of spring—but not all such omens are happy ones. An Appalachian legend claims the Black Dog, or Ol’ Shuck, as he’s often called, is a harbinger of death. If you see him, you or someone you know is going to die.

But what happens when Ol’ Shuck starts coming for you in your dreams? Nightmares of epic proportions haunt the deacon of the Light of Grace Baptist Church, and bring terror into the lives of everyone around him. Even MacKenzie Cole and his adopted son, Rabbit, find themselves pulled into danger.

When Sheriff Raleigh Wardell asks Mac and Rabbit to help him solve a twenty-year-old cold case, Rabbit’s visions of a little girl lost set them on a path that soon collides with that of a desperate man being slowly driven mad by guilt.

As Rabbit’s gift of the Sight grows ever more powerful, his commitment to those who seek justice grows as well, even when their pleas come from beyond the grave.

I’ve said it before, but I’d love to join this family. Although fictional, I guarantee they feel very real when you’re immersed in these books.

Rabbit captured my heart in the second book, and I adore him even more now. His interactions with his little sister are so sweet, and he’s a perfect big brother. One of my favorite parts of the story is when Rabbit is struck nearly speechless when meeting the sister of his best friend – and then tells his mother what he saw in his future. These lighthearted times are a balance to the bleaker parts of the story as Rabbit takes a lot on his young shoulders while using his gift to find the body of a girl murdered several years before. Although not even a teenager, he’s an old soul wise beyond his years and is very insightful when it comes to people and their actions. His adoptive parents, Mac and Sarah, are protective of him, but also understand how his gift can help people and are there with him every step of the way.

It’s no secret who the villain is. Cadey Hagan believes he’s remade himself (he’s still deplorable), and no one will ever discover what he did all those years ago. The author did an amazing job crafting his gradual mental deterioration, and by the end the reader may wonder if Ol’ Shuck is actually mythical.

I can’t recommend this supernatural suspense series enough. I’m excited to read the next book so I can spend more time with these lovely characters (my fictional family).

Dustborn by Erin Bowman #bookreview #YA #postapocalyptic #TuesdayBookBlog

Delta of Dead River sets out to rescue her family from a ruthless dictator rising to power in the Wastes and discovers a secret that will reshape her world in this postapocalyptic Western mashup for fans of Mad Max and Gunslinger Girl.

Delta of Dead River has always been told to hide her back, where a map is branded on her skin to a rumored paradise called the Verdant. In a wasteland plagued by dust squalls, geomagnetic storms, and solar flares, many would kill for it—even if no one can read it. So when raiders sent by a man known as the General attack her village, Delta suspects he is searching for her. 

Delta sets out to rescue her family but quickly learns that in the Wastes no one can be trusted—perhaps not even her childhood friend, Asher, who has been missing for nearly a decade. If Delta can trust Asher, she just might decode the map and trade evidence of the Verdant to the General for her family. What Delta doesn’t count on is what waits at the Verdant: a long-forgotten secret that will shake the foundation of her entire world.

Postapocalyptic ranks as one of my favorite genres, and I’ve been wanting to read this author for a while. And behold that gorgeous cover!

In Delta’s world, water and food are scarce. The Wastes is barren and unforgiving with sweltering daily temperatures. Geomagnetic storms and dust storms are regular occurrences and can last for days. After her pack (the community of people she’s lived with for years) is taken, she sets out on a quest to find them. It’s not an easy journey, and the odds are nowhere close to being in her favor. For most of the book, nearly every decision she makes is based on saving her pack (which includes her mother) from the General. Anyone could understand her motive, but her pack is introduced briefly at the beginning of the story, and they have very little interaction with Delta. I never felt like I knew them, which made it difficult for me to care about them as much as she did.

Delta is clearly a survivor, but she’s so blinded by her need to find her pack she doesn’t see the consequences of her actions or the domino effect they could trigger. Luckily, she meets some characters along the way that help her see the broader picture and put things into perspective. By the of the story, she’s undergone a tremendous amount of growth and has a wonderful character arc.

There’s a jaw-dropping plot twist I doubt most readers will ever see coming – possibly a couple. One is such a gamechanger I wish more time had been spent on it. With Dustborn being a standalone, I think it could easily have been made into a duology to delve deeper into this significant development. I sure wouldn’t have minded reading another book set in this intricately crafted world.

Dustborn gives off some Mad Max and Waterworld vibes with a splash of Western, so if you’re a fan of those movies this could be the novel for you. It’s a dark, brutal adventure that hooked me from the beginning.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

The Cost of Knowing by Brittney Morris #bookreview #contemporary #supernatural

Dear Martin meets They Both Die at the End in this gripping, evocative novel about a Black teen who has the power to see into the future, whose life turns upside down when he foresees his younger brother’s imminent death, from the acclaimed author of SLAY.

Sixteen-year-old Alex Rufus is trying his best. He tries to be the best employee he can be at the local ice cream shop; the best boyfriend he can be to his amazing girlfriend, Talia; the best protector he can be over his little brother, Isaiah. But as much as Alex tries, he often comes up short.

It’s hard to for him to be present when every time he touches an object or person, Alex sees into its future. When he touches a scoop, he has a vision of him using it to scoop ice cream. When he touches his car, he sees it years from now, totaled and underwater. When he touches Talia, he sees them at the precipice of breaking up, and that terrifies him. Alex feels these visions are a curse, distracting him, making him anxious and unable to live an ordinary life.

And when Alex touches a photo that gives him a vision of his brother’s imminent death, everything changes.

With Alex now in a race against time, death, and circumstances, he and Isaiah must grapple with their past, their future, and what it means to be a young Black man in America in the present. 

This is the second book I’ve read by this author, and she can count me as a confirmed fan.

Alex and his younger brother, Isaiah, were orphaned four year ago after the family was involved in a car accident. Since then, they’ve been raised by their aunt. Sixteen-year-old Alex is trying to be all things for everyone he knows – his employer, his girlfriend, his brother, and even his deceased parents. He also suffers from panic attacks. Since the car accident, every time he touches someone or something, he sees the future of that person or object. After seeing Isaiah’s death, he’s determined to repair their relationship and close the distance between them that developed after their parents’ passing.

Much of this book is spent in Alex’s head with his swirling thoughts, fears, and visions. The author does an incredible job at making the reader feel the grief, anxieties, and pressures Alex experiences nearly every minute of every day. It’s far too much for someone his age to have to carry. And then there are the racial issues. The brothers live in a predominantly white, upper class, gated community. Neighbors who claim not to be racists very clearly are, but fail to see it.

This book is heartbreaking in so many ways and will absolutely wreck you. But it’s also a powerful story that includes joyous bonding moments between Alex and Isaiah. The vivid supporting characters seem to rise from the pages. Talia, Alex’s girlfriend, is a delight, and Aunt Mackie is a strong, successful woman who loves her nephews unconditionally. Although I dreaded what was coming, you couldn’t have pried this book from my hands over the last thirty percent. It’s bittersweet, but also hopeful and so very timely and important. I can’t wait to see what this author does next.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.