Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin

Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin
Publisher/Year: Feiwel and Friends, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 226
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Goodreads

Summary

Rose Howard is obsessed with homonyms. She’s thrilled that her own name is a homonym, and she purposely gave her dog Rain a name with two homonyms (Reign, Rein) which, according to Rose’s rules of homonyms, is very special. Not everyone understands Rose’s obsessions, her rules, or the other things that make her different–not her teachers, not other kids, and not her single father.

When a storm hits their rural town, rivers overflow, roads are flooded, and Rain goes missing. Rose’s father shouldn’t have let Rain out. Now, Rose has to find her dog, even if it means leaving her routines and safe places to search.

Hearts will break and spirits will soar for this powerful story, brilliantly told from Rose’s point of view.

What I thought

I was absolutely blown away by this little book, and I dare say that it’s one of the best I’ve read so far this year. Going into this one knowing the basics–this is about a girl with high-functioning autism who loses her beloved dog during a hurricane–I knew it might be a bit of a difficult read, if you will. I never expected to feel so fiercely for Rose, and I certainly never expected to find myself in tears multiple times toward the end of the book. I think that in itself stands as a testimony to the quality of Martin’s writing. I can’t personally speak for the representation here, but I will say that this book opened my eyes in a lot of ways. I think this would be a great one for parents and children to read and discuss together. Martin’s writing is heartfelt, and she truly brought Rose and her story to life for me. I could go on and on, but being that this was a shorter read, I don’t want to give anything away. Suffice it to say that Rain Reign will be on my mind for some time to come, and I would absolutely recommend this to anyone.

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Pretty Revenge by Emily Liebert

Pretty Revenge by Emily Liebert
Publisher/Year: Gallery Books, July 2019
Format: Kindle
Pages: 320
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐
Goodreads

Summary

The name of the game is revenge–no matter the cost–in this emotionally charged thriller reminiscent of The Wife Between Us and The Perfect Nanny.

Kerrie O’Malley, jobless and in an unfulfilling relationship, can isolate the singular moment in her life when things veered off course–the night she was irrevocably wronged by someone she looked up to. Eighteen years later, when Kerrie sees the very woman who destroyed her life on televesion, a fire ignites inside her. The stakes are high. The risks are perilous. But she’ll stop at nothing to achieve the retribution she deserves.

Jordana Pierson is a gilded New Yorker who appears to have it all: wealth, glamour, a successful and handsome husband, and a thriving wedding concierge business. Her record is spotless. Her business is flourishing. No one knows the truth about her and the dark shadows of her past.

No one, that is, except Kerrie.

Exploring just how far someone will go for vengeance, Pretty Revenge is a riveting, compulsively readable novel bursting with twists and turns and plenty of suspense.

What I thought

First thing’s first–can we talk about this stunning cover?! It’s SO eye-catching!

As for the inside of this book, unfortunately, although I enjoyed my time spent reading this one, it fell flat in some ways for me. For a novel that’s described as a thriller, I guess I just wasn’t…thrilled enough. Reading this one required a lot of suspension of disbelief, which I can certainly look past, but then the big reveals along the way, plus that ending, were not dramatic enough for me. The story just kinda flopped.

On a more positive note, I really enjoyed the fact that by the end, I was feeling sympathetic towards both narrators. It was far less “good guy versus bad guy” than I was expecting. I love when an author can show that there’s more than one side to a person, and Liebert successfully created multi-faceted main characters. Not only that but her writing in general flows very well, making this a quick, easy read.

All in all, although I was pretty disappointed in this book as a thriller, I did enjoy Emily Liebert’s writing. So even though I don’t think I’d ever re-read this one, I would like to try some of Liebert’s other books.

**Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this e-ARC from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinions or my review.

Mirror, Mirror (Grace #1) by Staci Stallings

Mirror, Mirror (Grace #1) by Staci Stallings
Publisher/Year: Spirit Light Publishing, 2014
Format: Kindle
Rating: ⭐⭐
Goodreads

Summary

A Contemporary Christian Epic-Novel

California golden girl, Sage Wentworth’s life looks perfect from the outside looking in. She’s got money, friends, and all the social status a girl could want. But underneath the glitz and glamour, Sage’s perfect existence holds many dark secrets–secrets even she herself doesn’t know. When she is unceremoniously sent to live with her biological father’s family in North Carolina for the summer, Sage finds herself swimming in very unfamiliar waters with seemingly friendly sharks poised to eat her alive on every side. Can Sage navigate these treacherous waters long enough to get back home, or has life for this golden girl changed forever?

Luke Baker has always considered himself a slacker of the first order. He’s not particularly athletic, musical, talented or intelligent. In fact, his “talents” such as they are run more in the vein of helping people when they most need it, and right now, that talent is much-needed by his best friend, Jaycee Lawrence who is facing the arrival of the stepsister she had gladly forgotten ever existed. A whole summer trying to talk Jaycee down off the ledge while simultaneously fighting like mad not to fall for her gorgeous, unattainable older sister? Yeah, this should be fun…

What I thought

Sometimes those free Kindle books turn out to be winners for me, and sometimes, unfortunately, they don’t. Sadly, this was one of those books that just wasn’t for me. I did like the story well enough to finish. Admittedly, I did want to see how things would turn out with Sage and Luke. However, as a whole, I think this novel was in need of some serious editing. I felt like it was entirely too long, and there were quite a few typos. The writing has heart, but some of the minute-by-minute detail could have been eliminated without being too detrimental to the overall plot. And I’m sorry, I know this is something so minor, but if I had to read the phrase “Eep!” or “He put his hand to his beltline” one more time, I could have screamed.

I truly don’t enjoy disliking a book, but unfortunately, this wasn’t for me. It had a sweet message, though, so even though this wasn’t my favorite, plenty of other readers have enjoyed it. I’m a firm believer in the fact that there’s a reader for every book, so if this sounds like something you might be interested in, I say go for it!

American Supernatural Tales edited by S. T. Joshi

American Supernatural Tales edited by S. T. Joshi
Publisher/Year: Penguin Books, 2007
Format: Paperback
Pages: 477
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Goodreads

Summary

The ultimate collection of weird and frightening fiction by American writers

It takes an unusual caliber of writer to deliver readers into the terrifying beyond–to conjure tales that are not only unsettling, but unnatural, with elements and characters that are all the more disturbing for their impossibility. From Edgar Allan Poe to Stephen King, American authors have excelled at journeying into the supernatural. You’ll find them here, including H. P. Lovecraft, Shirley Jackson, Ray Bradbury, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and others. An unprecedented anthology of phantasmagoric, spectral, and demonic writing, American Supernatural Tales celebrates our enduring need to be spooked and horrified.

What I thought

If you are looking for a collection of “supernatural”/horror short stories, look no further. This was a solid sampling of stories from some of the genre’s best authors. I was so excited to dive into this one to not only read selections from some of my favorite authors, but also to discover some of the other greats that I hadn’t read before. As with any collection, there were some stories that I enjoyed more than others, but for the most part, I really liked what I read and even found a few new favorites. I also really enjoyed Joshi’s introduction and found his commentary on the genre to be fascinating, although I highly disagree with his opinion of Stephen King. All in all, I thought this was a comprehensive anthology and one I’d like to add to my own shelves!

Here’s my rating of each story:

–“The Adventure of the German Student” by Washington Irving ⭐⭐⭐
–“Edward Randolph’s Portrait” by Nathaniel Hawthorne ⭐⭐⭐
–“The Fall of the House of Usher” by Edgar Allan Poe ⭐⭐⭐
–“What Was It?” by Fitz-James O’Brien ⭐⭐⭐⭐
–“The Death of Halpin Frayser” by Ambrose Bierce ⭐⭐
–“The Yellow Sign” by Robert W. Chambers ⭐⭐⭐⭐
–“The Real Right Thing” by Henry James ⭐⭐⭐
–“The Call of Cthulhu” by H. P. Lovecraft ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
–“The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis” by Clark Ashton Smith ⭐⭐⭐⭐
–“Old Garfield’s Heart” by Robert E. Howard ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
–“Black Bargain” by Robert Bloch ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
–“The Lonesome Place” by August Derleth ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
–“The Girl With Hungry Eyes” by Fritz Leiber ⭐⭐⭐⭐
–“The Fog Horn” by Ray Bradbury ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
–“A Visit” by Shirley Jackson ⭐⭐⭐⭐
–“Long Distance Call” by Richard Matheson ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
–“The Vanishing American” by Charles Beaumont ⭐⭐⭐⭐
–“The Events at Poroth Farm” by T. E. D. Klein ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
–“Night Surf” by Stephen King ⭐⭐⭐⭐
–“The Late Shift” by Dennis Etchison ⭐⭐⭐⭐
–“Vastarien” by Thomas Ligotti ⭐⭐⭐
–“Endless Night” by Karl Edward Wagner ⭐⭐
–“The Hollow Man” by Norman Partridge ⭐⭐⭐⭐
–“Last Call for the Sons of Shock” by David J. Schow ⭐⭐⭐
–“Demon” by Joyce Carol Oates ⭐⭐⭐⭐
–“In the Water Works (Birmingham, Alabama 1888) by Caitlin R. Kiernan ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter #2) by J. K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter #2) by J. K. Rowling
Publisher/Year: Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic Press, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 341
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Goodreads

Summary

The Dursleys were so mean and hideous that summer that all Harry Potter wanted to do was to get back to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. But just as he’s packing his bags, Harry receives a warning from a strange, impish creature named Dobby who says that if Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts, disaster will strike.

And strike it does. For in Harry’s second year at Hogwarts, fresh torments and horrors arise, including an outrageously stuck-up new professor, Gilderoy Lockhart, a spirit named Moaning Myrtle who haunts the girls’ bathroom, and the unwanted attentions of Ron Weasley’s younger sister, Ginny.

But each of these seem minor annoyances when the real trouble begins, and someone–or something–starts turning Hogwarts students to stone. Could it be Draco Malfoy, a more poisonous rival than ever? Could it possibly be Hagrid, whose mysterious past is finally told? Or could it be the one everyone at Hogwarts most suspects…Harry Potter himself?

What I thought

Y’know, my instinct about Chamber of Secrets has always been to say that this is my least favorite of the Harry Potter books. And truth be told, it is. I still love it though. I will always have love for any foray into the wizarding world. I can’t speak for anyone else, but after this re-read, I have to say that I don’t think I give CoS enough credit, and here’s why. Now having read the series and having watched the movies, I can see that this little installment is pivotal for the rest of the series.

As I’ve said, I will forever love anything J. K. Rowling writes, and CoS is just as near and dear to me as the other books. But even I will admit, the reintroduction of everything in the first few chapters makes the beginning a little slow going. Other than that though, there is so much to unpack in this one, and it really does develop our story in such a necessary way. First and foremost is the development of the trio’s friendship, as not only do they head on another adventure together at Hogwarts, but also as Harry is welcomed further into the Weasley family with his visit to the Burrow. Additionally, the plot takes a darker turn in CoS as the reader is introduced to magical racial tensions for the first time (full bloods, half bloods, “mudbloods,” squibs), which ultimately is a very important aspect of the series’ overarching plot. On a more positive note, it’s with CoS that we are first introduced to Dobby’s angel self and his unconditional loyalty. And who can forget the first horcrux? But we’ll get into that another day.

Anyway, what I’m getting at is that although this is my least favorite of the Harry Potter books, I still love it and find it immensely important for the sake of the series. I always have a genuinely great time reading these books. And it still stands out as an exemplary addition to the fantasy genre. Regardless of what anyone might say, this is and will always be a 5-star read for me! On to book #3!

The Trail to You by Lindsay Detwiler

The Trail to You by Lindsay Detwiler
Publisher/Year: Hot Tree Publishing, 2019
Format: E-book
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Goodreads

Summary

An independent blonde seeking a fresh start.

Orphaned and unhappy, Ally Hunter makes a life-changing decision to move across the country to a small town that once felt like home. As she reinvents herself, she realizes there’s one part of the equation missing–love. However, a tragedy from the past makes her hesitate when it comes to giving up her heart.

A betrayed man looking for a sense of pride. 

Abandoned by his first love and family, Ronan has one friend he can truly count on–his two-hundred-pound mastiff, Henry. When he returns home from service in the National Guard, though, he find his entire life catapulted in a different direction with the disappearance of his beloved dog.

A loyal four-legged friend who will unexpectedly bring them together. 

When Henry, Ronan’s brindle mastiff, finds himself far from home, Ronan sets out on a journey to bring him back. However, as the trail to Henry leads Ronan to Ridgewood, Virginia, and an interior designer with a big heart, he’ll realize some hardships lead to beautiful discoveries.

What I thought

So, before I get into my review of this, I’d like to offer a little bit of background on how I came to read this wonderful book. Let me preface this by saying that I love the area of central PA where I’m from, so much so that I moved back home after college. However, one of my very few complaints is that there’s not much here for readers in terms of local authors, author events, or even bookstores (we have a local Barnes & Nobel and a Bradley’s Used Books, and that’s about it). So, when I happened to go past Bradley’s on a day in 2017 and saw that they were set up for a local author event, I made a beeline into the store. I met Lindsay, as well as her husband and Henry (who is ADORABLE), and we talked about her upcoming release. You guys, she is SO friendly! And her books sounded right up my alley. So, when she contacted me about reviewing her newest upcoming release that has the most adorable premise, I jumped at the opportunity!

And I loved it! I’m so glad I’ve finally read a book by Lindsay, and this definitely has me interested in reading her other works.

The Trail to You is one of those feel-good reads that you want to curl up on the couch with, leaving you feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. That’s not to say that this book is empty fluff, though! Our two main characters both have to deal with some of life’s harder “stuff,” which I felt added some extra depth to their story. And let’s face it–with these kinds of stories, you know the guy and the girl will end up together in the end, so I was touched by how beautiful Ronan and Ally’s tale turned out to be. As a dog lover myself, it brought tears to my eyes to watch the mutual love of a dog bring two people together.

Besides that, I have to say that I was very impressed by Lindsay’s writing, as a whole. The story flowed with an ease that made me forget that I was reading, and the character development was spot-on. “Insta-love” was nowhere to be found, and I truly appreciated watching a love story progress naturally. Through all of the “Will they? Won’t they?” I couldn’t help but root for Ronan and Ally. Not to mention, the star of this book (Henry, of course!) had me at work constantly counting down the minutes until I could see my own pup.

I know that sometimes, readers are hesitant to try a book from a self-published or, in this case, an indie-published author, but let me assure you, you’ll be missing out if you don’t read Lindsay Detwiler’s books. The Trail to You is a great place to start! It releases on March 14, 2019, and I’d highly recommend pre-ordering this one, friends!

**Disclaimer: I received a free e-ARC of this book thanks to the author, Lindsay Detwiler, and her publisher, Hot Tree Publishing, in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion or this review.

Bah! Humbug! by Michael Rosen

Bah! Humbug! by Michael Rosen
Publisher/Year: Walker Books, 2018
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 187
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐
Goodreads

Summary

Harry Gruber has the starring role in his school’s production of A Christmas Carol, but his work-obsessed father cannot seem to put his cell phone down long enough to watch. As the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future take the stage, Harry’s father must face some ghosts of his own. Will the story’s message of holiday love reach his distracted heart?

Acclaimed children’s book creators Michael Rosen and Tony Ross deliver a perfect gift for the whole family in this shrewd update of Dickens’s beloved tale.

What I thought

I am such a fanatic for all things Christmas that I can read and enjoy a Christmas book at any time of year. So when I received this last month and saw that it was a retelling of one of my favorite Christmas stories, I was pretty excited! I’ll be honest though, I think that this is a book that would be best enjoyed by its intended audience, aka kids. As an adult who has read A Christmas Carol countless times, I can’t say that this brought anything new to the table for me. However, I think this would be a great way to introduce young readers to Dickens’ classic tale. The script format makes this easily readable, and I think it would even encourage reading aloud. The illustrations are absolutely adorable and have a quirky quality that I loved. The storyline involving Harry and his family kept the story moving forward and offered a modern, if slightly predictable, take on Scrooge’s tale. I will say that I had the feeling that these characters were first introduced in another book maybe, as I couldn’t help feeling like I was missing something.

Overall, this was a quick and quirky take on A Christmas Carol that I think young readers would love. Thank you to Candlewick Press for sending me a free, finished copy!