Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos
Reviewed by Kendra Nicole (https://kendranicole.net/)
Cornelia and her husband, Teo, are relatively newlywed urbanites who have recently settled down in suburban Philadelphia, where they hope to start a family. As a former city dweller, Cornelia finds herself out of place in her sorority-like neighborhood and has particular trouble with her overbearing and judgmental neighbor, Piper. Cornelia finds a solitary friend in Lake, another newcomer to town whose secret past keeps the two women from establishing the intimacy Cornelia desires.
As the story continues, the focus shifts away from Cornelia (whose chapters are written in first person) to those of two other characters: Lake’s precocious teen son, Dev, and Piper, the neighbor who seems determined to make Cornelia’s life miserable. We learn that, while Piper seems shallow and vicious, she is experiencing trials of her own, neglecting her own husband as she cares for the family of her best friend who is dying of cancer. We also gain insight into Lake’s past as Dev embarks on a hunt for the father who left his mom before he was born. These three main characters—Piper, Dev, and Cornelia—are all searching for the one person to whom they belong, but along their journeys, they stumble into the messiness of relationship and discover that connection and belonging are hard to come by and are often found in the least expected places.
I was surprised by the depth of this book that I thought would be breezy chick-lit. The writing is strong and the characters are multidimensional and intriguing, as are their stories and relationships. There’s quite a bit going on in this book and though I didn’t care for the three different storylines at first, I liked seeing the ways in which they intersected and eventually came together. The novel raises a few interesting ethical issues and sheds light on personality traits/disorders (always an area of interest for me), and for the most part, these weightier aspects simply move the story forward rather than dragging it down.
I hadn’t realized until after reading the book that this is actually a sequel to Love Walks In, so I’m looking forward to reading that one in the future.
My Rating: 4 stars.
Starflight by Melissa Landers
Solara Brooks needs to restart her life and the best way to do that is find passage to the outer realm where no one will care about the felony tattoos across her fingers. Unfortunately, the only way to get there is to become the indentured servant of her former classmate, Doran Spaulding, the spoiled heir to a fuel fortune. Suddenly, everything changes when Doran is accused of conspiracy and must flee the authorities. Solara tricks him into playing her servant and the two find refuge aboard the Banshee with its rag-tag crew. Starflight is a refreshing YA science fiction space adventure with excellent protagonists and an enjoyable supporting cast. It’s a fast-paced read with engaging plot points. I particularly liked Solara. She was an independent, non-apologetic, yet still feminine character. You’ll have fun with this easy, sci-fi tale.
Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
Crooked Kingdom is the sequel to last year’s novel, Six of Crows. Again, Leigh Bardugo comes through with an engaging, character-driven action story. The story picks up right after the events of Six of Crows with Kaz Brekker and his gang having narrowly escaped their first mission. Now, double-crossed and still dealing with the effects of nearly dying, Kaz must use his mastermind skills to get his friends out of the city. Told in alternating point of view chapters from each of the six characters, Crooked Kingdom takes readers on the same roller coaster ride as its predecessor. And that’s not a bad thing. Having been absolutely taken in by the characters after Six of Crows, I found this novel to be even richer and more captivating. But, beware. Leigh Bardugo is a master of the end-of-chapter cliffhanger! This book is incredibly hard to put down after you get into the heart of the action.
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Kaz Brekker, criminal mastermind and leader of one of Ketterdam’s many gangs, has just been offered the score of a lifetime. The catch? He must pull off an impossible heist. But, he has a plan and maybe the right crew of thieves and thugs can pull it off. Six very different outcasts must come together as a team if they are going to infiltrate one of the most impenetrable fortresses ever built. Six of Crows took a good eighty pages to capture my attention, probably because I was previously unfamiliar with the rich world in which Leigh Bardugo sets her novels, but once the action picked up, I was hooked. I love the drama of a good heist story and this one spared none. I came to thoroughly care about her characters and appreciate the uniqueness of each through alternating perspective chapters. The story reminds me of The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. Both contain rich fantasy worlds, flawed characters that you end up rooting for and a wonderful snarkiness. On the whole, I would enthusiastically recommend Six of Crows.
Journey’s End by Jennifer L. Place
The title of Journey’s End describes many things about this book. It was a place and that estate became a character in itself and it was a state of being for the main characters of Quinn Delaney and Declan Gray. Set in the Hudson Valley in the alternating times of the late 1800s/early 1900s and the 1930s, Journey’s End describes the tragic life of Declan Gray through the stories that his best friend Quinn Delaney relates to his grandson, Aiden. When Aiden discovers Declan’s lost diary, he gives his dying grandfather one of his last wishes, to know what actually happened to Declan when he disappeared 30 years previous. The heart of this novel are the relationships and I wish I could have had more time to delve into them. This is where I felt Ms. Place might have rushed herself. I wanted to see more of the interactions between Quinn and Declan, Declan and his wife, and Declan and his spunky business partner. The only relationship that felt truly satisfying was between Quinn and Aiden and I still would have liked more time with them. Still, Journey’s End is a unique and heartfelt story with above average writing. I’d recommend it to anyone who likes character-driven period pieces.
*Disclosure: I was provided a free copy of this novel with a request for an honest review.*