YA Book Review: Live Your Best Lie by Jessie Weaver

Summer Cartwright is a 16-year-old influencer living a charmed Hollywood, California life. She’s rich, well-connected, and she just signed a massive book deal for an upcoming tell-all style memoir. When a new post from Summer’s Instagram account announces that the social media star will be dead in the next five minutes, the guests are her Halloween party think it’s just part of the entertainment. Her friends know different. That’s not Summer’s brand. Something is wrong. There were right-Summer was actually dead. As the police begin to investigate, those closest to Summer begin their own search for the killer. The suspect list keeps growing as the motive for the murder appears to be the book she was working on. If Summer was dead, would the book and the dark secrets it was set to reveal go away?

Told from the points of view of Summer’s bff, Grace, Summer’s ex-boyfriend Adam, Summer’s number one fan, Cora, and her one-time roommate, Lanie, Live Your Best Lie is a twisted, suspenseful debut. The narrator does an excellent job of juggling the various character points of view as well as flashbacks, but the inclusion of social media posts and comments, police interviews, and newspaper articles make for an interesting read. A delightfully wicked read as well as a timely cautionary tale-social media never tells the whole story and influencers only show what they want you to see.

Hand this to fans of Karen McManus and Maureen Johnson and anyone else who likes to solve the puzzle along with the characters. The clues are there for the clever reader, but so are the red herrings. Readers who make it to the end will be rewarded with a final twist you won’t see coming.

Thank you to Netgalley, Disney Audiobooks, and Melissa de la Cruz Studios for an advanced reader copy.

Getting Cozy With Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree

Viv is ready to hang up her sword and quit the mercenary life for something quieter-and sweeter. Armed with a legend, an artifact, and a little known Gnomish beverage, Viv sets about opening her coffee shop on a ley line in Thune. Her new venture attracts a motley cast of characters, including a baker, a business-minded succubus, and the head of the local mob.

This book is as comforting as a latte and a warm cinnamon roll on a wintery day. Having spent nearly a decade working in coffee shops myself, I thoroughly enjoyed watching Viv’s shop open and evolve. I savored the pages dedicated to the pure joy of a cinnamon roll. I laughed each time Thandri had to change the chalkboard menu and delighted in meeting their customers. While this does take the better half of the book, it’s not all coffee and sweets. As Viv and her crew learn the ropes of the business, trouble is quietly brewing. But Viv isn’t just building a business-she’s building a community and family who have her back when tragedy strikes.

I cannot stress enough how absolutely charming and delightful this book is. If you enjoy a good slice of life story with quirky characters and happy ending, this one is for you. I recommend taking this book to a local coffee shop to be enjoyed with a latte.

Happy Reading!

Megan

Time to Try Something Different

I read If, Then by Kate Hope Day this weekend and cannot stop thinking about this debut work of speculative fiction.

In present-day Oregon, several neighbors who live in the shadow of Broken Mountain, a long-dormant volcano, begin having visions of themselves living alternate realities. These vision worlds are ‘could have been’s for some and ‘still could be’s to others, leaving the affected characters to wonder if they still have time to make better choices in their lives.

Among those with visions is Mark, a dad and scientist who is studying the effects of geothermal activity on animal behavior. Mark has visions of himself living in a tent in the wilderness. Convinced by this other Mark that a life changing environmental event is about to occur, he begins to build an underground shelter for his family. Meanwhile, his surgeon wife Ginny sees a different, happier version of herself, one in which she has left Mark to be with a coworker.

While not much action occurs in this well-written novel, I was swept up the possibility of what was to come with every page I turned. Pick up If, Then for an engrossing read with themes of regret, choice, and consequences. It’s good domestic drama that just happens to ask you to question the possibility of alternative universes along the way.

-Carol

What we’re reading now…..

Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng 

 In the dystopian world of Celeste Ng’s latest novel, books are banned, children are re-homed, and Asian Americans are outcasts. Amidst it all, twelve-year old Bird is left with a handful of memories of his mother. Her presence and poetry have faded from his life, but a familiar image sparks his curiosity and forces him to revisit her disappearance. Melinda

The Making of Her by Bernadette Jiwa

Raised in a Dublin housing estate by an alcoholic father toward the end of the 1940s, Joan and her sister had to grow up fast. Working in a factory by age fourteen it made sense she would find the love of her life at eighteen. Martin Egan, son of a successful business owner, promised Joan the world until she became pregnant and he persuaded her to place the baby up for adoption. Thirty years later when their secret child makes contact, how will they each respond? Family relationships are seen from the women’s perspective and as we get to know the characters better, we understand how difficult and limited their choices truly were, making Joan, in particular, even more endearing. If you enjoy spending time with interesting characters, this is the book for you! Stacey

Juniper and Thorn by Ava Reid

A sheltered wizard’s daughter falls in love with a ballet dancer while a monster stalks the streets and the bodies of brutalized men appear all over the city. A reimagining of the classic fairy tale “The Juniper Tree.” Shannon

Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher 

Marra is a princess on a quest to save her sister with the help of a reluctant grave-witch and a dog she creates out of bone and wire. Along the way, their party grows, with the addition of Marra’s fairy godmother, whose blessings turn out to be curses and a loveable disgraced knight, whose heart is in desperate need of rescuing. Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher is an adult, revenge-filled fairy-tale that is equal parts action-packed, humorous, and original – a perfect feminist fantasy novel.  Carol

The Divorce Colony:  How Women Revolutionized Marriage and Found Freedom on the American Frontier by April White

In the 19th century, Sioux Falls, SD, became a haven for women seeking a divorce. Among the laxest laws in the country, women came from all the States and Europe to gain their freedom during a time that women had few rights. The book explores not only the  social drama but political and religious drama, while telling detailed and entertaining stories of the women who took hold of their futures. Christine

Murder in the Park by Jeanne M. Dams

This story takes place in 1925 in Oak Park, an affluent suburb of Chicago. Elizabeth Fairchild is a close friend of Mr. Anthony, owner of a quaint antique store. Mr. Anthony is found stabbed to death and the local police think they have the killer. Elizabeth and a few others, including Mrs. Hemingway are certain the police have arrested the wrong man. At this point in the story the search is on for the real killer. Please stay tuned… Emma

The Inugami Curse by Seishi Yokomizo

In post-WWII Japan, Detective Kindaichi is called and warned that the reading of a local magnate’s will is certain to set off a series of murders. Though skeptical of the prognostication, Detective Kindaichi travels to the small town and awaits the reading. However, immediately upon his arrival, he is witness to a life-threatening accident that portends the danger to the magnate’s family yet to come. The detective must first uncover the family secrets to unravel the mystery. Trent

The Winners by Fredrik Backman

The final installment in the Beartown trilogy, about the resilient and closely knit community that puts hockey above all else. Taking place over two weeks, Beartown residents must prove their love for each other and for their town, struggling to move on from the past in the wake of numerous changes. Told in Backman’s signature reflective style, it’s hard to put this one down. Linnea

Dirt Creek by Hayley Scrivenor

When a 12-year-old girl goes missing in a rural Australian town during the worst heat wave in decades, tempers flare and townspeople with skeletons in their closets, and long histories together, begin to fall apart, and also to come together to search for the young girl. Kept me guessing for quite awhile. Sara

New Historical Fiction

Pilot Ward Millar makes a last-minute decision to bail out over North Korea. Unfortunately, even with a parachute, Ward breaks both of his ankles and is easily captured by the North Koreans and Chinese. Ward needs medical attention which his captors provide haphazardly if he shares information, mostly false information, with them.

At home when Ward’s wife, Barbara, receives notification that her husband is missing in action, she believes he still alive. Barbara is a woman of deep and sustaining faith and refuses to believe that Ward is dead despite what family and friends have to say.

North Korean soldier Kim Jae Pil is a Christian. He and his family have kept their faith secret to survive. Kim is forced to serve as a solder but wants to and plans to escape from the army and reunite with his family. Ward and Kim eventually meet and together plan their escape.

This novel is based on the true story of an American POW during the Korean War and a North Korean soldier who became unlikely allies. They were united in their shared faith in God during a daring escape to freedom. The novel is a story of courage, determination, unlikely friendship, and enduring faith.

~Emma

A Clever Little Story

The village of Prometto, Italy (population 212) is in big trouble. It will cost 70,000 euros (nearly $71,000) to repair the town’s failing water system and their treasury is depleted. Signor Speranza, a vacuum repairman and the town’s part-time mayor must come up with a plan to save their beloved town.

Speranza starts a rumor that the Italian movie star, Dante Rinaldi, is coming to Prometto to film a movie. He convinces the local butcher, Signor Maestro, to give him most of 70,000 euros as long as at least one of his 15 sons gets a part in the movie. Thanks to social media, the rumor spreads quickly. Everyone wants a part. Speranza decides to start filming the movie with no knowledge and little equipment while waiting for Dante to arrive. He employs his assistant, Smilzo, to provide the screen play, help with auditions, and film the movie. Unfortunately, all of the above is a lie and Signor Speranza gets buried deeper and deeper with all his lies.

The debut novel by Christine Simon is a quick fun read.

~Emma