The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware
First line: The magpies are back.
Summary: When Harriet Westaway receives a letter from a lawyer she is confused by its contents. It is informing her that her grandmother has died and that her presence is needed at the reading of the will. Harriet has never met her grandmother. She never even knew she had one. Maybe they got the wrong person. Nevertheless, with a loan shark hounding her for money and bills piling up she decides to see what is behind this letter. Upon arriving at Trepassen she meets the rest of her “family”. Can she deceive these people and take their money? On the other hand, is there more here than she thought?
Highlights: This is by far Ruth Ware’s best novel. It took me a while to read but not from lack of interest. I liked Harriet. She is a young girl in an impossible situation. She does the best she can to take care of herself in an uncertain world. I really enjoyed the diary entries that give the reader a peak into the past and snippets of facts pertaining to the mystery. I kept coming up with new scenarios and answers. Ware did a great job setting up each little twist and turn. In addition, I was truly a little frightened by Mrs. Warren. She was always there with some dark comment or ominous look.
I didn’t mean you—I just meant—well, look, Mrs. Warren’s always had a touch of the Mrs. Danvers about her.
Lowlights: The loan sharks were the driving force to get the story started but then the threat disappeared as the plot progressed. I understand that they were just a starting point for why Hal decided to impersonate the Westaway heir but if it was a big part of the beginning maybe it should make an appearance at the end?
FYI: Ruth Ware is also the author of The Woman in Cabin 10 and The Lying Game.
Calypso by David Sedaris
First line: Though there’s an industry built on telling you otherwise, there are few real joys to middle age.
Summary: In the newest book by David Sedaris we get a look into his life in England and at his beach house in North Carolina. He tells stories of his family, partner and the neighborhood fox.
Highlights: I think this is my favorite book by him. Ever since I was introduced to him, I have picked up everything I can find. He makes me laugh and think. In this book he switched from hilarious stories about having a stomach virus on a book tour to the death of his sister. It was fun and heart felt at the same time. I think we get an even deeper look into his life. He bares his family secrets and his soul. I was heartbroken when reading about the last time he saw his sister, Tiffany. I laughed until I cried when reading about the trash he picks up along the road near his home. The stories of his parents were so sad. It takes a lot of courage to write these things. And David does it so well. I cannot wait to see him at a local book signing. I am going to completely fan-girl over him!
FYI: He is going to be at Watermark Books in Wichita on June 20th!!!
Legendary by Stephanie Garber
*This is book 2 in a series! May contain spoilers. Check out my review of Caraval on our blog as well.*
First line: While some rooms on the estate had monsters hiding beneath the beds, Tella swore her mother’s suite concealed enchantment.
Summary: At the end of Caraval it appears that Scarlett and Tella are now safe from their evil father. But this is far from the truth. Tella is entangled in a bargain with a mysterious friend. This friend plans to help Tella find her mother, who disappeared years before, but it comes at a price. Tella must find out the Legend’s real name. However, the truth could bring about the end of Caraval and Legend himself.
Highlights: Once again I cannot help but rave about the beautiful cover! But the language and story make it even more wonderful. I was a little weary about reading Tella’s story when in the previous novel she was a minor character that caused much of Scarlett’s troubles. However, I was surprised by how much more I enjoyed this book than the first one. Tella is a tough girl who does not think that love is anything she is destined to experience. This is quite a change from many YA novels where the girl only wants to find love. She is smart and tricky. She is not scared to get her hands dirty.
I loved the Fates! So creepy and detailed. I was truly terrified of the Undead Queen and her Handmaidens but not more than the Prince of Hearts. Everything about him makes my skin crawl. The addition of these supernatural beings expands and makes the story even more elaborate than Caraval.
That ending! Throughout the story, we follow Tella as she tries to figure out what is real and what is not. I felt like I was slowly going mad along with her trying to piece together all the clues. As we reached the last few pages, I kept wondering if we were going to get another book and we certainly will! I wonder if it will follow Tella some more or expand on another minor character. Either way I am in!
Lowlights: That I have to wait a year for the next book!
FYI: Book 2 in the Caraval series.
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
First line: There are two kinds of people in the world, those who leave home, and those who don’t.
Summary: Roy and Celestial are newlyweds. They are happy until one night Roy is arrested for a crime that he did not commit. He is sentenced to a twelve-year sentence. Celestial tries to hold onto the love for her husband but it becomes harder as the years pass by. She takes solace in her friend and the best man at their wedding, Andre. However, Roy is released after five years and plans to return to his life and his wife. Can they go back to the people they were before?
Highlights: This book is one that is relevant. It is a contemporary story about a couple who has to deal with odds that are out of their control. I enjoyed the correspondence between Celestial and Roy while he is in jail. It gives us an insight into the challenges of a couple who are separated by incarceration.
Lowlights: I felt like the climax (when Roy is released) was not as exciting or intriguing as I wanted it to be. I thought there would be more conflict.
FYI: Language and some adult content.
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
First line: Varya is thirteen.
Summary: Four siblings sneak out one night to find a local gypsy woman who is said to be able to tell their futures including their date of death. With these revelations, the siblings begin to live their lives with the knowledge hanging over them. Their stories span over fifty years from San Francisco to Las Vegas. The introduction of the AIDS virus to the war in Iraq. This story shows how knowledge of the future can shape our lives.
Highlights: I really enjoyed Simon’s story. I think he was my favorite character. I was sad when his story was over. However, the plotline for the book was very intriguing. Would I want to know when my death date was? I cannot imagine that I would. It would bring dread as each day passed. On the other hand, would this give me reason to enjoy each day? The author really gives the reader lots to think about while reading. A good author can do this and Chloe Benjamin did a great job.
Lowlights: Simon and Klara were the characters that kept my attention. However, I felt that the story slowed after that. Especially with Varya’s story. Varya had to deal with the loss of each of her siblings and wrapping the story up. I felt like she deserved more. There was a little twist for her but it was not as big as I would have hoped for.
FYI: There is some sexual content and language.
The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
First line: On a drowsy Sunday afternoon, a man in a long dark coat hesitated in front of a house on a tree-lined street.
Summary: After the murder of her parents by a faerie of the High Court, Jude and her sisters are taken back to the land of faery. For years, Jude has trained and wished to be a part of the Court even if she is only human. When the chance arrives in the form of a transition of power, she takes her chance. Entering the world of intrigue, she must outwit her family and the wicked prince, Cardan.
Highlights: This is only the second book by Holly Black that I have read and I definitely know that I will be reading more. Her characters are fantastic. Jude is another kick butt girl in a world where is she is actually considered weak. However, she wants to be a part of the faerie world. And who would not want to be an beautiful immortal? The twists and turns were perfect, leaving the reader shocked and intrigued. There seem to be many books about faeries recently. It is following a growing trend but I think this one will not get lost in the group. I cannot wait to see where the author takes us in the next installment.
Lowlights: It started slow with the introductions and character building but it is worth the wait. Don’t give up on this one too early!
FYI: Book one in the The Folk of the Air series.
Love & War by Melissa de la Cruz
First line: Forget Paris.
Summary: As the Revolution is coming to a close Alexander Hamilton and his new bride, Eliza Schuyler, are learning that being married is not always easy. Alex is setting up his law offices and Eliza is establishing their home. The long hours at the office defending Loyalist clients puts a strain on the young couple. Will they be able to continue their love story or will it crumble?
Highlights: I enjoyed the story of their early marriage. De la Cruz does a good job of portraying how hard it would be to try to find a balance in this new country. I particularly liked the struggle of a young patriot having to defend the wife of a Loyalist. He must have faced lots of ridicule from other members of his party.
Lowlights: This is young adult and it feels like it. The love and feelings are very immature. However, it does as good job of bringing the history to a young audience.
FYI: Book 2 in the Alex & Eliza series.
The Elizas by Sara Shepard
First line: I’m screaming as I wake up.
Summary: When Eliza Fontaine, a debut author, is found at the bottom of a pool her family believes that she has tried again to commit suicide. Eliza knows that she was pushed into the pool but cannot remember who pushed her. As she looks deeper into the incident, she learns more secrets have been kept from her. Why is everyone assuming that her upcoming book is a parallel with her life? It is fiction. Or is it?
Highlights: I liked the mystery and fast pace of the second half of the novel. I kept thinking the story was finished but a new twist was added digging deeper into the mystery. The cover was really pretty as well. I really enjoy reading Sara Shepard’s books. She can write a fun story that keeps me coming back for more. Dorothy was a very interesting character. She is flamboyant and eccentric. She added a little fun and spice to the story.
Lowlights: The first half of the novel was slow moving. I nearly gave up on it. I did not like the intertwining with Eliza’s book but as the story progressed, it grew on me. And Desmond was not a character I liked or connected with.
FYI: Check out her Pretty Little Liars series!
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
First line: I try not to think of her.
Summary: Magic once flowed through the land of Orisha. Maji’s controlled the magic. However, the king led a raid on the Maji of the land, killing them all. Zelie had to watch her mother die because of her magic and she has never forgotten. When Zelie stumbles upon the escaping Princess Amari she starts a quest to bring back magic to the land and revive the Maji. On their tail is Amari’s brother, the prince of Orisha, Inan who is determined to stop the return of magic but he is also hiding a dark secret.
Highlights: That cover! Skies! It is amazing. The author, Tomi Adeyemi, is a born storyteller. In her debut novel, she develops a fantasy world with great cast of characters and rich history. Tomi builds a world that resembles West Africa. The beasts and landscape are easily comparable but also very different. She weaves magic and heart into the whole story. While I was reading, I could easily picture it all happening right before my eyes. I loved all the action sequences. Zelie is badass! She has to hide her skills but she can whoop anyone. Also secretly, Amari is skilled as well. I love seeing amazing female characters that can kick butt and do!
The story is told from three different perspectives. Zelie, Amari and Inan each play an important part in the narrative. Zelie, a Diviner, is the child who had everything taken away from her when the Raid killed her mother. Amari is the princess who grew up sheltered but sees her friend, a Diviner like Zelie, killed by her father. And Inan, the crown prince, who has been taught to fear magic and fight to eradicate it. From each character, we get a look into the prejudices and history of Orisha and its people. All three have to learn from the events of the story and overcome their challenges in order to find peace and equality.
“You crushed us to build you monarchy on the backs of our blood and bone. Your mistake wasn’t keeping us alive. It was thinking we’d never fight back!”
This book is a powerful story that was written in a time of unrest. In the author’s note, she describes turning on the TV and feeling afraid. It is important that we have more books that show that just because we look different we are really all the same no matter what.
Lowlights: The only fault I found was the quick progression of the love story. At least to the reader very little time had passed and they were already talking love. This is one of the biggest troubles with YA fiction but it can easily be overlooked when there is a great story line like this.
FYI: Perfect for fans of Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard and the movie, Black Panther!