Book Review: The Liar’s Guide to the Night Sky


Brianna R. Shrum

Rating: 5 out of 5.

published: 3rd November 2020
spoilers? no

Goodreads

It’s no one’s fault that Hallie Jacob is alone. That her grandpa got sick half a world away and so her parents yanked her to Colorado the last semester of her senior year. That career-wise, she’s specialized in fighting fire, and now she’s surrounded by ice, snow, and a thousand cousins she’s half-banned from hanging around with. But that’s what’s happened. That’s what her December looks like.

On one big family weekend in the freaking tundra, Hallie sneaks off with those cousins to an abandoned ski slope. But they get caught in a random mudslide, and what started as a Secret Bonfire Party goes in a Potential Donner Party direction real fast. With some cousins in desperate need of medical attention, Hallie leaves their camp for help—and is surprised when Jonah Ramirez (her cousin’s extremely off-limits—absurdly hot—best friend) joins her.

Facing paralyzing temperatures, sharp-toothed animals strong enough to survive a climate with hardly any water or air, and weather phenomena so wicked they’ll wreck a mountain before you can blink, Jonah and Hallie have no choice but to trust each other as they search for the way to town to send help back to their stranded friends and family. And THAT may be more impossible, even, than making it out alive.

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Book Review: Laurel Everywhere


Erin Moynihan

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

published: 10th November 2020
spoilers? not ones that aren’t also in blurb

Goodreads

Severe loss. For Laurel Summers, those two words don’t cut it. They don’t even come close. After a car wreck kills her mother and siblings, the ghosts of her family surround her as she wrestles with grief, anger, and the fear that she won’t be enough to keep her dad alive either.

Fifteen-year-old Laurel Summers couldn’t tell you the last words she spoke to her mother and siblings if her life depended on it. But she will never forget the image of her mother’s mangled green car on the freeway, shattering the boring world Laurel had been so desperate to escape. Now she can’t stop seeing the ghosts of her family members, which haunt her with memories of how life used to be back when her biggest problem was the kiss she shared with her best friend Hanna.

After the accident, Laurel and her dad are left to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives. Her dad is struggling with his grief and depression, unable to cope with the loss of his family. He seeks a way out of his pain, leaving Laurel behind while he struggles to cope with his own mental illness. She is desperate to find a way to hold everything together again and help her father come to terms with the loss so he can come back to her.

Laurel tries to make sense of her pain with the help of her grandparents, her two best friends, and some random strangers. As she struggles to understand who she is without her family, she must come to terms with the items on her List of Things Not to Talk About, learn to trust her dad again, and—on top of it all—keep her heart open to love in the wake of her immense loss, eventually learning that it’s okay to not be okay.

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Book Review: The Country Village Christmas Show


Cathy Lake

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

published: 29th October 2020
spoilers? nope

Goodreads

A feel-good, festive read to keep you cosy this winter. For fans of Heidi Swain, Sarah Morgan and The Archers.

Recently divorced, the family home sold and her son all grown-up, Clare is at a crossroads. She’s dedicated her whole adult life to her family, and now it’s time she did something for herself.

In the lead up to Christmas, Clare decides that a bit of time in the countryside might be just what she needs, so she moves back to Little Bramble, the village she grew up in. But living with her mum for the first time in years – and not to mention Goliath the Great Dane – can be challenging.

When Clare finds herself running the village Christmas show, it feels like she has purpose in her life again. Bringing together people from all sides of the community, and all walks of life, will Clare manage to pull off a festive feat like no other? And will she find the new start in life – and possibly love – that she’s been looking for?

The Country Village Christmas Show is the perfect romantic read to get cosy with this winter.

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Book Review: How It All Blew Up


Arvin Ahmadi

Rating: 4 out of 5.

published: 23rd September 2020
spoilers? no

Goodreads

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda goes to Italy in Arvin Ahmadi’s newest incisive look at identity and what it means to find yourself by running away.

Eighteen-year-old Amir Azadi always knew coming out to his Muslim family would be messy–he just didn’t think it would end in an airport interrogation room. But when faced with a failed relationship, bullies, and blackmail, running away to Rome is his only option. Right?

Soon, late nights with new friends and dates in the Sistine Chapel start to feel like second nature… until his old life comes knocking on his door. Now, Amir has to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth to a US Customs officer, or risk losing his hard-won freedom.

At turns uplifting and devastating, How It All Blew Up is Arvin Ahmadi’s most powerful novel yet, a celebration of how life’s most painful moments can live alongside the riotous, life-changing joys of discovering who you are.

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Book Review: The Secret of You and Me


Melissa Lenhardt

Rating: 2 out of 5.

published: 4th August 2020
spoilers? a couple

Goodreads

You always come back to your first love

Nora hasn’t looked back. Not since she left home, and her broken heart, far behind her. But now tragedy calls her back, where she must finally come face to face with ex-boyfriend Charlie, and best friend Sophie. Only now will she be able to confront her past—and reconcile her future.

Sophie seems to have everything. Married to Charlie, with a wonderful daughter and a successful career. Yet underneath that perfection lies an explosive secret. A secret that ripped through their town and destroyed her friendship with Nora. So when Sophie finds out that Nora has returned, she hopes Nora’s stay is short. The life she has built depends on it.

But first love doesn’t fade easily. Memories come to light, passion ignites and old feelings resurface. As the forces that once tore them apart begin to re-emerge, both Nora and Sophie must accept that true love is something worth fighting for.

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Book Review: Rural Voices


ed. by Nora Shalaway Carpenter

Rating: 3 out of 5.

published: 13th October 2020
spoilers? no

Goodreads

Think you know what rural America is like? Discover a plurality of perspectives in this enlightening anthology of stories that turns preconceptions on their head.

Gracie sees a chance of fitting in at her South Carolina private school, until a “white trash”-themed Halloween party has her steering clear of the rich kids. Samuel’s Tejano family has both stood up to oppression and been a source of it, but now he’s ready to own his true sexual identity. A Puerto Rican teen in Utah discovers that being a rodeo queen means embracing her heritage, not shedding it…

For most of America’s history, rural people and culture have been casually mocked, stereotyped, and, in general, deeply misunderstood. Now an array of short stories, poetry, graphic short stories, and personal essays, along with anecdotes from the authors’ real lives, dives deep into the complexity and diversity of rural America and the people who call it home. Fifteen extraordinary authors – diverse in ethnic background, sexual orientation, geographic location, and socioeconomic status – explore the challenges, beauty, and nuances of growing up in rural America. From a mountain town in New Mexico to the gorges of New York to the arctic tundra of Alaska, you’ll find yourself visiting parts of this country you might not know existed – and meet characters whose lives might be surprisingly similar to your own.

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Book Review: Dead to Her


Sarah Pinborough

Rating: 2 out of 5.

published: 4th June 2020
spoilers? nope

Goodreads

There’s nothing like a woman scorned

Something old…

When Marcie met Jason Maddox, she couldn’t believe her luck. Becoming Jason’s second wife catapulted her into the elite world of high society. But underneath the polite, old money manners, she knows she’ll always be an outsider, and her hard-won life hangs by a thread.

Something new…

Then Jason’s widowed boss brings back a new wife from his trip to London. Young, beautiful, reckless – nobody can take their eyes off Keisha. Including Jason.

Something you can never, ever undo…

Marcie refuses to be replaced so easily. People would kill for her life of luxury. What will Marcie do to keep it?

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Book Review: Mostly Dead Things


Kristen Arnett

Rating: 3 out of 5.

published: 2nd July 2020
spoilers? no

Goodreads

One morning, Jessa-Lynn Morton walks into the family taxidermy shop to find that her father has committed suicide, right there on one of the metal tables. Shocked and grieving, Jessa steps up to manage the failing business, while the rest of the Morton family crumbles. Her mother starts sneaking into the shop to make aggressively lewd art with the taxidermied animals. Her brother Milo withdraws, struggling to function. And Brynn, Milo’s wife—and the only person Jessa’s ever been in love with—walks out without a word. As Jessa seeks out less-than-legal ways of generating income, her mother’s art escalates—picture a figure of her dead husband and a stuffed buffalo in an uncomfortably sexual pose—and the Mortons reach a tipping point. For the first time, Jessa has no choice but to learn who these people truly are, and ultimately how she fits alongside them.

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Book Review: Surrender Your Sons


Adam Sass

Rating: 1 out of 5.

published: 15th September 2020
spoilers? limited

Goodreads

Connor Major’s summer break is turning into a nightmare.

His SAT scores bombed, the old man he delivers meals to died, and when he came out to his religious zealot mother, she had him kidnapped and shipped off to a secluded island. His final destination: Nightlight Ministries, a conversion therapy camp that will be his new home until he “changes.”

But Connor’s troubles are only beginning. At Nightlight, everyone has something to hide from the campers to the “converted” staff and cagey camp director, and it quickly becomes clear that no one is safe. Connor plans to escape and bring the other kidnapped teens with him. But first, he’s exposing the camp’s horrible truths for what they are— and taking this place down.

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Book Review: Melt My Heart


Bethany Rutter

Rating: 3 out of 5.

published: 23rd July 2020
spoilers? no

Goodreads

Lily Rose is used to people paying attention to her gorgeous twin sister, Daisy. But even though Lily loves her own fat body, she can’t shake the idea that no one would ever choose her over Daisy – not when they could have the thin twin.

That is, until she meets Cal, the gorgeous, sweet guy from New Zealand who can’t seem to stay away. The gorgeous, sweet guy who also happens to be Daisy’s summer crush. Lily can’t seem to figure out why she isn’t as into him as she should be. She should be head-over-heels in love, not missing time at the ice-cream shack with her life-long best friend, Cassie. Not wondering what Cassie is getting up to with Cal’s friend Jack, or what she’s thinking about when they’re alone . . .

With university threatening to tear Cassie and Lily apart at the end of summer, trying to keep Cal a secret from Daisy and a growing right-wing threat disturbing the usual quiet of their pleasant seaside town, Lily’s summer is set to be far from relaxing.

Melt My Heart is a hilarious and inspiring coming-of-age YA novel from Bethany Rutter: influencer, editor and a fierce UK voice in the debate around body positivity.

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