Book Review: A Sister’s Shame by Maggie Hartley

Hi everyone! I am pretty behind on my reading for the year, but am hoping to catch up over the coming months. I so far finished five books out of my goal of reading twenty in 2021. The most recent book I finished is A Sister’s Shame by Maggie Hartley. This book came out on April 15 and I immediately ordered it on Apple Books. I already finished it last Friday, but couldn’t find the time to review it until now.

Summary

Foster carer Maggie Hartley is used to all manner of children arriving on her doorstep, but nothing can prepare her for sisters Billy and Bo when they
arrive at her home. It is clear from the moment she sets eyes on them four-year-old Bo and seven-year-old Billy have clearly been subjected to unimaginable
neglect, and it takes all of Maggie’s skills as a foster carer to try to connect with the volatile little girls, who seem far younger than their years.

Over time, the little girls slowly emerge from their shells, and Maggie begins the difficult task of trying to gain their trust. But as time goes on, it
becomes clear that there is something much darker going on, something that will call into question everything Maggie has ever learned in all her years
as a foster carer…

My Review

Even despite the fact that the main issues in this book aren’t mentioned in the synopsis, I found this book to be on the predictable side. I could pretty quickly imagine what Billie and Bo had been and were still going through. As such, if you’re used to books with lots of twists and turns, this book isn’t for you. However, if you want to learn what fostering in the UK is really like, or if you’re interested in inspirational memoirs, this is a great book. I for one don’t really care for unexpected plot twists, so I didn’t mind the fact that this story is quite predictable. In fact, I loved to read about all the details that my imagination couldn’t fill in already.

I had only read one Maggie Hartley memoir before and that one was soon one of my favorite inspirational memoirs. That one, Who Will Love Me Now?, which I reviewed last August, deals with an older child. I usually like to read about older children more than about younger children, so that one was slightly more for me than this. However, I could definitely sympathize with Billie and Bo too, thanks to Hartley’s compassionate writing style. For this reason, I gave this book five stars on Goodreads too.

Book Details

Title: A Sister’s Shame
Author: Maggie Hartley
Publisher: Seven Dials
Publication Date: April 15, 2021

Reading Wrap-Up (April 12, 2021) #IMWAYR

Hi everyone. It’s a cold, windy and rainy Monday here. Perfect for reading. Not that I’ve done a huge amount of it, but I’d still like to join in with It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? or #IMWAYR. Let me share some of my bookish thoughts.

Life Update

I’m feeling okay today. Not bad, not great. I am loving looking through my tons of writing prompts, but none seem to inspire me right now. That is, I did open the app Drafts on my iPhone again yesterday and discovered a number of freewrites and poems I’d written. That did inspire me a little.

What I’m Currently Reading

Well, honestly, too many books to count. I’ve mostly been reading bits here and there and then putting down a book again.

I picked up the second book in the Church Dogs of Charleston series by Melissa Storm a few weeks ago, as it was free. It’s a cute read.

Then I’m still reading The Choices We Make by Karma Brown. I finally read a bit in this novel again a few days back, but well, I don’t think I’m in the mood for complicated adult novels at this point.

Finally, I was somehow interested in reading abuse survivor memoirs again, so downloaded the preview of You are Mine by Isabelle Eriksson. I haven’t yet decided whether I’m going to buy the actual book.

I’ve also been paging through a ton of books on journaling, but I don’t think that counts as actual reading.

What I Recently Finished Reading

I got Abby, Tried and True by Donna Gephart off Bookshare in an impulse a few weeks ago and raced through it. I wrote a review last Tuesday.

What I Think I’ll Be Reading Next

Both Casey Watson and Maggie Hartley have a foster care memoir out this Thursday, so probably one of those. I also have been asking around in a Christian book group on Facebook about realistic contemporary fiction. I got a lot of replies and am still sorting through them, so I may want to buy a book by one of the recommended authors.

What have you been reading lately?

Book Review: Abby, Tried and True by Donna Gephart

About a week ago, I was browsing the children’s book category on Bookshare and I came across the realistic middle grade novel Abby, Tried and True by Donna Gephart. Gephart was a new to me author even though she’s had eight middle grade novels published so far.

I was already reading four different books at the same time, but needed something, uhm, lighter? Not that the subject matter of this book is light, but I did expect it to be more easy to read than the adult novels I was reading. I raced through the first 80% of this book, then let it sit there because the #AtoZChallenge got in the way. I eventually decided to finish the book last night. Let me share my thoughts.

Summary

When Abby Braverman’s best friend, Cat, moves to Israel, she’s sure it’s the worst thing that could happen. But then her older brother, Paul, is diagnosed with cancer, and life upends again. Now it’s up to Abby to find a way to navigate seventh grade without her best friend, help keep her brother’s spirits up during difficult treatments, and figure out her surprising new feelings for the boy next door.

My Review

First, let me share that this book is really good with respect to its representation of diverse characters. Abby and her family are Jewish, which in a way shouldn’t be surprising, but it was to me. Abby has two Moms and nowhere is there a mention of a biological father. Abby just corrects people who assume she must have a Mom and a Dad.

Second, Abby is a truly great character. At first, she seems a bit dorky, but her sense of humor is apparent pretty quickly. I really loved the word jokes in this book. One of them, about Mom Rachel’s cooking YouTube, I didn’t even get until I’d finished the book.

Despite the tough subject matter of Paul’s cancer, this is a really lighthearted read. I don’t mean that the hard parts are sugarcoated – they aren’t. I mean, Paul truly experiences grief and sadness and this is made very clear. However, through Abby’s strength, I keep feeling that everything will be okay in the end.

The side characters are also very well-developed. I totally rooted for Conrad, the boy next door Abby has feelings for. However, there are also more negative characters out there. That makes this story believable and yet positive at the same time.

Overall, I loved this story. I gave it a solid five stars on Goodreads.

Book Details

Title: Abby, Tried and True
Author: Donna Gephart
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: March 9, 2021

Reading Wrap-Up (March 15, 2021) #IMWAYR

Hi everyone. I didn’t do a reading wrap-up last week, because I had very little bookish news. Today, I still don’t have a lot of exciting stuff to share, but I still wanted to write about what I’ve been reading. As usual, I’m linking up with It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (#IMWAYR).

Life Update

I’m slowly recovering from my cold. Today, I feel a little better than I was over the weekend. Despite this, I’m still a little sniffy and very tired. I rested a lot this morning, but this afternoon and evening, I’m trying to be active. I did have to take a paracetamol about half an hour ago because I was having a headache.

What I’m Currently Reading

I won’t bore you with the endless list of books I added to my Apple Books library over the past two weeks. I’m pretty sure I added 20 to 30 new books that I got free thanks to BookBub.

One of these books though is Mail Order Soulmate by Jean Oram. It’s a contemporary romance about a former agent marrying a woman over the Internet. In the first chapter, the woman shows up at his doorstep with her baby. It all sounds a bit far-fetched to me, but I’m in the mood for cheesy stuff.

I’m also still reading After the Cure by Deirdre Gould, which I got free off Apple Books a few weeks ago. It’s a pretty plot-dense story with new information popping up practically on every page. That’s probably why I’m slow moving through it.

What I Recently Finished Reading

Nothing as of yet. When I started having the first symptoms of a cold Thursday night, I imagined that a weekend quarantining in my room would give me plenty of time to read. It didn’t, since the cold was too bad. Besides, I got the negative COVID test result already at around 1Pm Saturday. I did read some everyday of the weekend, but not nearly enough to finish anything. That’s frustrating, since I set my reading goal at 20 books for 2021 and have only finished three so far.

What I Think I’ll Be Reading Next

I honestly have no idea. I might want to read a middle grade or young adult novel for a change. After all, I used to read these a lot and now I hardly do anymore. Besides, maybe a shorter read will get me on track with my reading goal. Is that cheating? So what if it is?

What have you read recently?

The Count to Ten With Me Book Tag

Hi everyone! It’s been forever since I did a book tag. Today, I’m doing the Count to Ten With Me book tag, which I found here. I love numbers and books, so this should be fun.

1. First book in a series
I’m obviously going with After the Cure by Deirdre Gould, since this is the most recent series starter I’ve read (or am actually still reading). The beginning was a bit disappointing, but right now I’m finding it pretty interesting. Then again, I’ve never read post-apocalyptic novels before, so my expectations may be low.

2. Two or more copies of the same book
This is a pretty rare occurrence for me. I’d have to go with a book I scanned before eBooks or Bookshare became available to me and then downloaded after they did. The one that comes to mind now is Coping with Trauma-Related Dissociation by Onno van der Hart, Suzette Boon and Kathy Steele. I have the first edition English one (it’s also available in Dutch) as both a self-scanned copy and on Bookshare.

I also have some books that I have both the Dutch translation and original English for. An example is Today I’m Alice by Alice Jamieson. I read it in Dutch on audiobook after I’d got the English print one from my sister. This is a memoir by a woman with dissociative identity disorder.

3. Three colours on the cover
I’ll have to pass this one by, since I have absolutely no idea what covers look like, being that I’m blind.

4. Four or more perspectives
The first one that comes to mind is Handle With Care by Jodi Picoult. I am not a fan of many different perspectives, although I loved this one.

5. A five star read
Bloom by Kenneth Oppel. This is also the first in a series, so could count for that question too.

6. Six (or more) short stories
Oh, this is difficult. I rarely read collections of short stories. I’ll go with Our Autistic Lives edited by Alex Ratcliffe. This is a collection of personal essays.

7. A seven on the cover or spine
Pass again, sorry, for the same reason that I passed #3.

8. Eight letters in the title
Ironside by Holly Black. Haven’t read it yet, but wanted to get into fantasy and thought since Holly Black is a well-known author, I’d start there.

9. Book ends on a page ending in a nine
I of course looked this up on Goodreads. Heroine by Mindy McGinnis has 419 pages. I really hadn’t expected that.

10. Ten books in the series
I have absolutely no idea. I don’t read long series at all. Until recently, I flat out refused to read any book that wasn’t a standalone. Now, though I’ll start on trilogies and tetralogies (haven’t finished any yet so far), much longer is hard.

I’m not tagging anyone, but if you’d like to do this tag, I’d love to read it.

Reading Wrap-Up (March 1, 2021) #IMWAYR

Yay, I’ve done a lot of reading over the past week. Enough that I’d love to share it with you in a reading wrap-up. As usual, I’m linking up with It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? or #IMWAYR. I’m also joining in with the Sunday Salon, Sunday Post and Stacking the Shelves.

Life Update

I’ve been doing quite well lately. Like I said on Saturday, I have been in a pretty good mood. Today I’m a little less energetic than I was over the weekend, but I’m still feeling quite cheerful. Right now, I have an essential oil blend of clary sage, grapefruit and lime in my diffuser. It’s great.

What I’m Currently Reading

I finally picked up My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga today again after having let it sit on my digital shelf for several months. I’m finding it surprisingly easy to get back into the story.

I also picked up After the Cure by Deirdre Gould, which I’d downloaded for free a few weeks ago. I’m pretty sure this won’t get a five-star rating from me, but I’m not disappointed enough in it to give up on it. I’m still intrigued by the blurb and the first bits of the story enough that I want to know more.

What I Recently Finished Reading

I raced through A Life Lost by Cathy Glass and finished it on Saturday. It deserved a solid five stars. I reviewed the book yesterday.

What I Think I’ll Be Reading Next

I don’t have a habit of having a ton of books on my Goodreads to-read shelf, but I do have a lot in my head that I’d like to get to someday. Since I’m not very far in any of the books I’m currently reading, I can’t predict what I’ll read next.

Stacking the Shelves

Okay, I feel embarrassed. I said last week that I’d been hoarding book deals through BookBub. Honestly though, the term “hoarding” got a whole new definition this past week. I got at least twelve free books thanks to BookBub. And just so you know, I’m still only picking up books that I think will appeal to me. Among the books I downloaded are:


  • My Perfect Ex-Boyfriend by Annabelle Costa

  • Skye by Kelsie Rae

  • Once Gone by Blake Pierce

  • Critical Vulnerability by Melissa F. Miller

  • Cowboy with a Badge by Margaret Watson

  • Love in a Snowstorm by Zoe York

  • The Eleventh Hour by Anina Collins

  • Kakadu Sunset by Annie Seaton

  • Stripped Raw by Prescott Lane

  • Easy Love by Kristen Proby

  • The Boy Who Painted the World by Melody J. Bremen

  • Twelve Days by Teresa Hill


Most of these are part of some series. That’s only to be expected, as I’m assuming they’re free only to get you into the series and buy the other books. That being said, most of these can be read as standalones too, like I did with Killer Cupcakes by Leighann Dobbs. Although I’m definitely planning to buy at least one other book in that series too, as I thoroughly enjoyed this one.

What have you been reading lately?

Book Review: A Life Lost by Cathy Glass

Already some months ago, I found out about Cathy Glass’ new foster care memoir, A Life Lost. It didn’t come out till February 18 though and I never pre-order books. I waited for the release date and then immediately bought the eBook on Apple Books. Even though I was reading several other books, I gave priority to this one. I finished it yesterday. Today, I’m ready for a review.

Summary

Jackson is aggressive, confrontational and often volatile. His mother, Kayla, is crippled with grief after tragically losing her husband and eldest son.
Struggling to cope, she puts Jackson into foster care.

Cathy, his carer, encourages Jackson to talk about what has happened to his family, but he just won’t engage. His actions continue to test and worry everyone.

Then, in a dramatic turn of events, the true reason for Jackson’s behaviour comes to light …

My Review

This is a remarkable story. I had already read several of Cathy Glass’ other foster care memoirs, so already knew I liked her writing style. However, some of the books are a bit too predictable for my liking. This one wasn’t. It wasn’t too suspenseful for my liking either. In fact, Cathy used the exact right balance between tension and predictability. For this reason, I had some idea of the reason for Jackson’s behavior, but it still came as enough of a surprise.

This story is not just about Jackson, but also about Tilly, another child in Cathy’s care. I hadn’t read Cathy’s previous book, A Terrible Secret, which introduces Tilly, but I didn’t feel I was missing information. Cathy takes care to explain enough that each memoir can be read as a standalone and yet keeps her explanations brief enough that it doesn’t get boring if you’ve read many of her other books.

One thing that made me feel a little uncomfortable, but in a good way, was the story’s ending. It is sad, but then again sadness is part of life.

I totally loved this story and gave it five stars on Goodreads. I really hope this isn’t Cathy Glass’ last memoir.

Book Details

Title: A Life Lost: Jackson Is Haunted by a Secret from His Past
Author: Cathy Glass
Publisher: HarperElement
Publication Date: February 18, 2021

Reading Wrap-Up (February 22, 2021) #IMWAYR

Hi again readers. It’s time for another reading wrap-up. As usual, I’m joining #IMWAYR. Because I have been hoarding books again, I’m also linking up with Stacking the Shelves.

Life Update

I have been doing okay’ish over the past week. On Thursday, I was in a bit of a crisis due to significant overload. I’ve also been anxious about my lack of productivity. I mean, I haven’t been moving as much as I should. Last week, I could blame the snow. Now I can’t. Thankfully though, today I caught up again. However, in other areas I’ve also been less active and I’m still undecided as to whether I have my expectations up too high.

Similarly, this past week wasn’t as great a reading week as I’d expected, but that may’ve been because I had my expectations up pretty high. I hope to finish another book by the end of the month, as I would need to in order to keep on track with my Goodreads reading goal.

What I’m Currently Reading

I read some more in The Choices We Make by Karma Brown. Unfortunately, I’m not moving as quickly as I’d like.

In addition, I purchased A Life Lost by Cathy Glass, which is her latest fostering memoir. So far, like most of her books, I love it, but I’m not moving in it as quickly as I’d like either.

What I Recently Finished Reading

Uhm, nothing. I really need to finish more if I want to reach my Goodreads goal, which I’ve set at 20 books, so very low for a book lover. Then again, as much as I love books, I’m also a slow reader.

What I Think I’ll Be Reading Next

I honestly don’t know. I got so many books I think I’ll love that it’s hard to pick one. I’m also truly a mood reader, so I can’t really predict what will grab my attention next.

Stacking the Shelves

I love love love BookBub, which for those not familiar with it, is a site where you can find book deals. Thanks to BookBub, I have literally been hoarding books over the past week. Okay, I also have Apple Books to thank, as I got some while browsing similar books on there. I got several science fiction series starters, including After the Cure by Deirdre Gould and Apocalypse by Kyle West. I also got a romance called Second Chance Spring by Delancey Stewart.

I had been debating whether to get a book on crystal healing too. I know, I know, there’s absolutely no reason to believe in crystal healing and it’s rather occult too. However, I can’t stop myself being interested in it, so today I did get a book on the topic. I obviously got it off Bookshare, as I have absolutely no interest in paying for such a book. For those who don’t know, Bookshare is a service for print disabled (blind or dyslexic) people, allowing members to download almost unlimited books for $50 a year. I totally love it!

What have you been reading lately?

Book Review: Hatch by Kenneth Oppel

Yay, I finally finished Hatch by Kenneth Oppel. I had read Bloom, the first book in the trilogy, last summer and reviewed it here in August. Hatch came out on December 1 I think (although Goodreads says it came out on September 15). I got it off Bookshare the next day. Today I’m finally able to review it.

Summary

Fans left desperate for more at the end of Bloom will dive into this second book of the Overthrow trilogy–where the danger mounts and alien creatures begin to hatch. First the rain brought seeds. Seeds that grew into alien plants that burrowed and strangled and fed. Seth, Anaya, and Petra are strangely immune to the plants’ toxins and found a way to combat them. But just as they have their first success, the rain begins again. This rain brings eggs. That hatch into insects. Not small insects. Bird-sized mosquitos that carry disease. Borer worms that can eat through the foundation of a house. Boat-sized water striders that carry away their prey. But our heroes aren’t able to help this time–they’ve been locked away in a government lab with other kids who are also immune. What is their secret? Could they be… part alien themselves? Whose side are they on? Kenneth Oppel expertly escalates the threats and ratchets up the tension in this can’t-read-it-fast-enough adventure with an alien twist. Readers will be gasping for the next book as soon as they turn the last page…

My Review

I truly loved the first half or so of the book. It shows how Anaya, Petra and Seth try to survive whilst being locked up in a government lab and cruelly experimented on by the military. I didn’t care that they were part alien themselves. In fact, just like while reading Bloom, I mostly just cared about the main characters’ wellbeing and was hardly touched by the rest of the world being harmed by the alien insects. I think that’s a true positive about this series, that it paints the characters so well that I truly empathize with them.

Then, around 65% into the book, it got a bit boring. I was convinced I’d neared the end of the story only to find out from my app that I was only at two-thirds or so. By around 80%, the story got more fast-paced again and I truly raced through those last pages.

I don’t want to give away the ending, but I do need to say it was not what I’d expected. Though I do really want to know more, the ending of this book was a bit of a disappointment.

I ended up rating this book four out of five stars because of its not so fast-paced bits in the middle and its ending.

Book Details

Title: Hatch (The Overthrow, #2)
Author: Kenneth Oppel
Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
Publication Date: December 1, 2020

Reading Wrap-Up (February 15, 2021) #IMWAYR

Hi everyone! I finally managed to do some significant amount of reading, so today I’m sharing another reading wrap-up. I really wish I spent more time in the day reading consistently, but for whatever reason, it seems to go in ebbs and flows. It’s so interesting that, like with most everything else, I love collecting books more than actually reading them. For this reason, my various book apps are overflowing. Thankfully, I have enough space on my iPhone, so it’s really no problem.

As usual, I’m linking up this post to It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? or #IMWAYR. I’m also linking up with the Sunday Salon.

Life Update

I’ve been up since 4:30 this morning. It’s not surprising, as I slept a lot yesterday afternoon. I could’ve tried to go back to sleep, of course, but instead chose to listen to Hour of Power, Bobby Schuller’s television church service. This week, Schuller wasn’t preaching, but I loved the pastor who was.

In addition, I spent some time reading. I then made coffee at six o’clock. I hope the sound of my Senseo machine didn’t wake anyone else. It’s now 9:15AM and I already had breakfast and another cup of coffee. How nice.

If you’d like to know more about the rest of my week, please check out my #WeekendCoffeeShare post, which I wrote on Saturday.

What I’m Currently Reading

I finally picked up The Choices We Make by Karma Brown. It was recommended to me through Storygraph. Not that I use that thing anymore, as it’s not very accessible. I’m just going with Goodreads. However, Storygraph’s recommendations are good. Anyway, I had gotten this one off Bookshare already over a month ago, but wasn’t really into reading during most of January.

That is, I did read a lot, but mostly Christian nonfiction, such as devotionals and Bible studies. I am loving Made In His Image by Zondervan.

What I Recently Finished Reading

Yay, I finally finished Hatch, the second book in The Overthrow trilogy by Kenneth Oppel. I’ll post a review soon. Let me just say already that the ending was not what I’d expected.

What I Think I’ll Be Reading Next

I got several free eBooks through Bookbub this past week. One of them is Fire Starter by P. Anastasia. I was drawn to it after I’d finished Hatch, because it’s the first installment in the Fluorescence tetralogy, another young adult SciFi series, and seems to share some themes with Kenneth Oppel’s trilogy.

I also downloaded Sunshine Cottage by Barbara Cool Lee. This sounds like a cozy mystery I may really like, so I may be reading that next too.

Lastly, I really have my eyes on The Land Darkened by Tony Urban and Drew Strickland, a post-apocalyptic thriller. Yes, I really think I’m into scarier and less realistic books now than I was before. However, it’s not available on Bookshare or Apple Books as far as I can tell.

What have you been reading lately?