‘The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise’ – Dan Gemeinhart

Sometimes you come across a book that worms it’s way in…and this is one of those books. Heart-warming, feel good emotional rollercoaster…what a journey, and message.

Coyote Sunrise is unconventional in many ways. For the last five years she and her father, Rodeo, have been travelling round America in a converted school bus. While this might seem appealing, we soon learn this is a defence move after Coyote’s mum and sisters were killed in a road accident five years earlier.

When Coyote takes a call from her grandmother, she learns that the park near where they used to live is to be dug up. Having not visited since the accident, that could mean little…but Coyote is determined to return as she remembers burying a box of memories with her mother in the park. Hard though this will be, she feels that she can’t ignore this. Unfortunately, she has to find a way to get her dad to drive her across country, without telling him what they’re doing.

Our story focuses on the journey, where Coyote finds herself taking on board a ragtag bunch of runaways and misfits. Determined to show kindness, Coyote learns that many people have things they want to keep hidden and that sometimes you need to let people in to help you.

From start to finish this was a charming read, giving a beautiful message and showing how grief impacts us. I loved the goat, and couldn’t help but smile throughout!

 

‘You Have a Friend in 10A’ – Maggie Shipstead

Picked up a couple of times, but needed to wait until I was in the right mood…and I’m glad I did. Thanks to NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read this, and while not every one caught my eye there were definitely more than a couple of great stories.

All very different, but I found a sense of wistfulness in all. The characters are often flawed, sometimes deeply so, and I couldn’t help but feel on a number of occasions that I was reading something intensely personal.

The one-night stand featuring the gymnast was unsettling in its honesty, and I found myself intrigued by the title story about the actress escaping a cult.
It has certainly made me more determined to get on with reading The Great Circle.

 

‘My Mechanical Romance’ – Alexene Faros Follmuth

My Mechanical Romance is a cute romance, immersing us in the world of robotics…and having been an avid watcher of Robot Wars when I was younger I could understand the appeal (even if the creation of these things was not in my sphere of interest).

Bel is reluctant to think too deeply about the future. She is a capable student but hasn’t considered her future, isn’t sure what she wants to do at college and hasn’t even thought about how to make herself an interesting potential student. Teo, on the other hand, has his future planned with precision. He’s single-minded in his pursuit of academic excellence and is scarily focused on his extra-curricular activities being tailored to give him maximum advantage. Each has their reasons for behaving like this, both of which are revealed as we read, and I couldn’t help but feel sorry for any young adult caught in this kind of academic pressure-cooker.

The focus on academia sounds heavy, but it is very much in the background. Our key interest is Bel’s involvement in the Robotic club and their preparations for National competition. It’s intense! There’s a couple of moments that had me rolling my eyes in frustration – the well-timed illness and the annoying sexist opponents- but these do offer something to the narrative.

I enjoyed the developing relationship between Teo and Bel, and it was certainly an interesting read to look at women in STEM and the institutionalised barriers that may impact on those wanting to get involved/feeling they can’t get involved.

For a YA romance this was a little more nuanced than I was expecting (and that was a good thing) and it has reminded me that I really need to get on with reading Atlas Six (penned by the author under another name)…

‘This Wicked Fate’ – Kalynn Bayron

While The Poison Heart was a good read I’m more than a little surprised by how this seemed to focus on quite a different story (and was quite a bit slower) to that I was expecting.

Briesis is caught up in a determined effort to do whatever she needs to in order to try and bring her mother back from the dead. It shouldn’t be possible, but with the support of Hecate Briesis is in line to get her wish.

Slow to get going, although it was a great idea. I liked the ongoing attempt to show the danger these people put themselves in to support others, but there was a lot we had to take for granted and I don’t feel all my questions were answered (particularly about the use of plants).

Once the quest got underway I felt a lot was relying on their personalities to carry events. There were some great moments, and yet I wanted to know more about the special talents Brie has.

Thanks to NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read this in advance of publication.

 

‘Daughter of the Moon Goddess’ – Sue Lynn Tan

From start to finish we are immersed in a world rich with history and tradition. Some of this is explained, some is revealed as we read and yet I still feel there’s a lot to be told. This was a book I was unsure about before I started, but not far in I knew this was a book I’d want to return to so ordered my own copy.

Our tale focuses on Xingyin, the daughter of the moon goddess. Banished from the Celestial Empire for her actions, Xingyin’s mother has lived a half-life as she tries to protect her daughter from the wrath of the Immortal who took everything from her. Unfortunately, as she grows older her magic is harder to hide and Xingyin is forced to leave her home to try and remain safe.

Xingyin finds herself in the Emperor’s palace, companion to the young prince. She has to hide her true motivations, but we watch as Xingyin finds her skills growing.

While the situation felt unlikely, the friendship and respect between Xingyin and the prince was evident from the start. While events overtake them rather, their bond was obvious.

The different battles Xingyin experiences allow us to see her growth as a character, and her relationship with her training partner – who is not what he seems – lent a tension to the book that I hope will be developed in book two.

While the lyrical descriptions will not be to everyone’s taste, they helped me immerse myself in the world and lent a depth to it that I found hugely appealing.

 

‘They’re Watching You’ – Chelsea Ichaso

Due for release in January 2023, I was thrilled to get a copy of this via NetGalley. The cover and blurb had me tingling in anticipation…and now I’ve finished, I can’t wait to recommend this to others.

Ichaso strikes the right note here. At the outset, I was sucked in by Maren’s quest to find out what happened to her friend. She is gutsy, a little reckless, but it soon become obvious that someone was toying with her and that this game could be a lot more serious than she imagined.

What Maren learns is that Polly had become part of a secret society in their exclusive boarding school. Maren digs until she finds a way in…and then we started a curious cat and mouse game.

From the moment the Society is mentioned, Ichaso ramps up the tension. There’s a love triangle (of sorts) but it’s never clear who can be trusted, and Maren herself falls prey to this. Some of the challenges seemed rather childish…but it was evidently part of a much bigger plan. As we learn about the scope of the Society we start to see how serious this could be.

Once underway, this was a hard story to put down. It exploited the fears of the characters very well, and was written in a way that always left me with a niggling suspicion.

For a book about secret societies, deadly rituals and with potentially life-threatening scenarios this was great fun!

 

‘Bad Things Happen Here’ – Rebecca Barrow

To the outside world, Parris is a beautiful town full of people whose lives are to be envied. What they don’t see is the dark side to the town, the secrets that lurk in the shadows and which keep those who live in Parris trapped.
Our main character is Luca Laine Thomas, from one of the wealthy families who everyone knows. Her life might seem easy, but Luca believes in the curse that is rumoured to haunt the town. Her best friend, Polly, was found dead and though it was ruled accidental, Luca is convinced there’s more to the story.
My initial thoughts on Luca and her friends were not particularly positive. While they expressed unease at the events taking place in their town, they seemed to be as much a part of the problem as anyone else. Their behaviour towards the new neighbour, Naomi, felt a little patronising and yet I hoped things would not be quite as I thought.
Once Luca learns that her sister, Whitney, has been found dead after a party, things got a lot more interesting. Luca cannot accept what she’s being told and decides to carry out her own investigation. What she learns shows that nearly everyone has something to hide.
I found myself caught up in this once the story got underway, and fans of The Cheerleaders or Kit Frick will no doubt love the approach taken. The ending left me rather stunned, but it was nice to see Luca grow in self-belief as she made her way through events. Thanks to NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read this in advance of publication.

 

‘The Blood Traitor’ – Lynette Noni

After the ending of The Gilded Cage I really was torn over whether or not to start this. I was desperate to find out what happened to Kiva, but I worried whether this could possibly live up to my expectations. I’m pleased to report that this really is a phenomenal end to the series, and – yet again – I shall be urging people to read this.

This time round we focus on Kiva and the part she plays in trying to restore the wrongs that have been taking place. Relationships are key to this novel, and while I hoped throughout that everything would resolve in the way I dreamed, it wasn’t clear cut. Nobody is quite as they seem, and there’s some seriously unexpected revelations that make so much sense once they come but which sneak upon us as we’re focusing on other matters.

Integral to the plot is a quest…and it’s a good one. Tension aplenty, risks and adventure but also the opportunity for key threads from the previous books to be addressed.

Once I’d started and got back into the world Kiva inhabits, it was incredibly difficult to put the book down. From start to finish I was desperate to see how certain elements would unfold, and though I knew the ending would be bittersweet it honestly felt as if no stone was left unturned and Evalon/Winderall would be in safe hands.

Huge thanks to NetGalley for giving me the chance to read and review this prior to publication, and now to wait until it’s launched into the world and I can talk to others about it!

‘Something Wilder’ – Christina Lauren

Quite a departure for Christina Lauren, but great fun and it was hugely entertaining to follow this through from start to finish.

Lily Wilder has always, a little, resented her father Duke for his obsession with treasure hunts and riddles. A celebrated treasure hunter Duke was rumoured to have discovered money that was stolen by Butch Cassidy. There’s no suggestion that this is the case as Duke sold the family ranch, had a stroke and then left his daughter with nothing.

When we first meet Lily she is preparing for one of her wild tours, taking rich City types to the wild and allowing them to play at finding treasure. However, this particular tour goes very much off page…partly because one of the party is Leo, the man Lily fell in love with years ago, but also because one of the group has an ulterior motive for joining in.

While I was invested in the rekindling of Lily and Leo’s relationship I loved the way we veered into a true treasure hunt. We never quite know how this is going to pan out, but the temptation to risk everything just for a chance to fulfil a dream is quite an inspiration.

There’s danger, more than I expected, and there’s a nerdy delight in puzzles and codes. On more than one occasion it could have gone either way, but this had a lovely feel good factor to it that left me with a smile on my face.

I’m grateful to NetGalley for allowing me the chance to read this before publication in exchange for my review. I also wonder where they’ll go next…

 

‘The House Across the Lake’ – Riley Sager

The House Across the Lake was a story I was so excited to get my hands on, and parts of it really were exciting. However, as a whole, it felt messy and just too much to take in.

Our main character is recently widowed actress Casey Fletcher who has been banished to her lakeside home (the place where her husband died) by her mother who wants her out of the public eye after one too many drunken incidents. In what felt like a Rear Window homage, Casey takes to watching the home across the lake from her…home to supermodel Katherine Royce and her media husband Tom.

Casey’s first meeting with Katherine is when she fishes her out of the lake and saves her from drowning. The tentative steps to a new friendship are forged, but Casey is convinced that things in the Royce household are not what they seem. Obsessive, alcohol-fuelled stalking events occur and it’s hard to workout whether Casey is deluded or if there’s some truth to her fears about Tom.

In the background of this bizarre situation is a local writer, an ex-cop whose wife died and three missing women. From the moment each element is introduced my brain went into overdrive trying to work out what was a red herring, what was plausible and what was a diversion. Casey lurches from one imagined scenario to the next and things ramp up once Katherine goes missing and Tom starts acting suspiciously.

It was at this point that the book went to a whole other level and I had to check if I was reading the latest Sarah Pinborough. I have no problem with the introduction of the supernatural to a story, but in this instance it felt like a gimmick. It served merely to offer a hitherto unthought-of reason for what was happening, but it also served as a diversion to another element of the plot. It felt as if bets were being hedged here as to what type of book was the ultimate aim, and the truth is that it feels as if we don’t get a satisfactory answer.

I’m grateful to NetGalley for giving me the chance to read this before its scheduled July publication, but I’d have been so gutted to have waited for release date and spent the amount I’ve had to on previous Sager books to then get this. I’m afraid this didn’t work for me.