New Home by Ivy Ruthven is the first in the YA romance series Bramble Wood’s Royal Tea Shop. Olivia, a teenage girl born to privilege in Scotland, loses everything and is forced to move to a humble Pennsylvania small town with her outcast mother and younger brother, James. Everything is difficult for a girl adjusting not only to a new income, a new school, and a new country—but to a new feeling of fear and helplessness. Olivia strikes up friendships, wins hearts with her musical talent, and finds work in a signature little tea shop run by the quirky Bramble Wood. But the story is only beginning, as mystery and discomfort loom around a strange, popular boy who seems instantly obsessed with Olivia.
New Home was all-around captivating. A delightful story defined by perfect pacing and stellar writing, and threaded with believable, subtly well-rounded characters both young and old. In a spot-on telling of the classic story of finding adventure by falling on hard times, Ivy Ruthven’s Olivia receives a reversal of fortune and handles it in an entirely lovable way. Loyal, plucky, and determined, she’s as likable as the enchanting small town of Knightswood that she now calls home. Ryan is a compelling foil, appealing and suspect at the same time, with a slightly weird quality that leaves the book on an ambivalent, intriguing cliffhanger. A lovely beginning to a promising series, New Home quietly builds a sincere and accessible world and populates it with a good set of characters. For readers looking for something light-hearted and sweet, this is the perfect cup of—tea!
This tender, emotionally compelling coming of age journey by Marti Eicholz follows a young woman from lowly origins to her final success as a dancer and composer of ballets. An Angel with Secrets begins with Angel’s birth in the prison where her pregnant mother has just been incarcerated. After living with her father and his girlfriend, she runs away and begins a new life as Angie, one of many adopted by the owner of a local children’s home. Angie finds her passion in dance and travels to New York and Europe to pursue a degree in ballet, but her life is not complete until she finds out the place a mysterious woman named Mary might have in her life.
An Angel with Secrets is a pleasant, entertaining chick-lit read. Perfect for a cozy hour or two spent curled up in a window-seat with a book, it transports readers from the street neighborhoods of drug addicts and criminals to the romantic, prismatic world of dance. I loved Marti Eicholz’s attention to the art form—ballets are lovingly and accurately described, with vivid, succinct language that brings Angie’s world to life. Friends and family form a delightful, poignant cast around a thoroughly believable girl learning life lessons in perseverance and emotional honesty and the vivid situations make this book an ideal match for anyone interested in the performing arts, or just readers looking for a lovely drama about a young woman pursuing her dreams. Marti Eicholz is definitely an author to put on your list if you’re a ballet aficionado.
Sins of Summer by Linda Heavner Gerald is a page-turning fiction read with a distinctive, memorable protagonist. Successful interior designer Audrey is simultaneously up-scale and relatable, as she struggles with a difficult past and her façade world begins to crumble around her. Unable to bear the hypocrisy of the wealthy elite, her marriage crumbles as she falls into alcoholism and preoccupation with her identity. When a villain emerges from the shadows of the beach house where she first experienced trauma, Audrey and her newfound friend Diana must face the ultimate music—God’s purpose and plan amidst so much wrongdoing. Audrey’s situations kept me reading breathlessly and the story pace was quick and exhilarating. The characters and situations flowed evenly into each other, keeping interest high.
Linda delves into some sexual issues in this page-turning contemporary novel, writing with remarkable vividness. I eagerly followed Audrey and Diana as they grew from emotional hollowness to greater spiritual purpose through the subtly drawn faith element, but the story’s emphasis was on relationships and empowerment. Linda Heavner Gerald handles the dramatic plot and multiple points of view with great effectiveness. Some form of gender-based violence or mistreatment links most of the women in the book, and Sins of Summer captures this topic in a crystallized fictional form. There’s a little glamour, a little adventure, and more than a little heartbreak and triumph. Not for younger audiences because of the content, but for mature readers looking for something a little different Sins of Summer would be an intriguing summer reading choice.
This is the companion for Sarah Scheele's newsletter blog. In it I share reviews for books I'd recommend/are similar to my own.