Sunday, July 30, 2023

The Art of Love and Lies by Rebecca Anderson

The Art of Love and Lies 
By Rebecca Anderson 
Published by Shadow Mountain 

Description from the publisher: 
  A free-spirited artist teams up with a no-nonsense detective to capture a thief who has stolen a priceless Michaelangelo painting. 

Manchester, England, 1857 
Rosanna Hawkins is one of Manchester’s finest artists, even though no one knows her name. She reproduces “parlor versions” of classic masterpieces with near-perfect precision, which her employer then sells to the emerging upper-middle class families. 
When the largest art exhibition ever to be held in England opens in Manchester, Rosanna is excited to visit. She meets the handsome Inspector Martin Harrison, who is head of security, and is immediately intrigued by his charm, confidence, and portrait-worthy good looks. The two spend many a flirtatious afternoon exploring the exhibition hall, discussing art, and sharing their secret hopes. Rosanna dreams of painting something original and meaningful, and Martin hopes to one day shed the shadow of his father’s notorious past. 
But when they discover the theft of some of the paintings—and all the evidence points to Rosanna—she must convince Inspector Harrison she is innocent and proposes a plan to capture the real art thief. 
It is a daring race to catch the criminal before he disappears with the most priceless piece in the collection—Michaelangelo’s The Manchester Madonna. If Rosanna and Inspector Harrison fail, not only will the painting be lost forever but so will their chance to paint their own happily ever after. 

Advanced Reviews: 
“Enchanting. An art thief can't prevent love from blooming.” —Foreword Reviews, starred review
“Exciting historical romance. A tender love story.” —Library Journal 
“The romantic escapades of this unlikely duo will keep readers eagerly turning pages.” —Publishers Weekly

My Review:
I think my favorite part of this book might actually have been the setting--I'm totally intrigued by Victorian England and love learning new things about it, so getting glimpses of the Art Treasures Exhibition in Manchester in 1857 was really cool. I also like the banter between Martin and Rosanna; they were quite cute together! There were a few plot points that were a little hard to believe (like how Rosanna escapes a couple of situations), but all in all, this romance was fun to read.
3.5 stars.

I read an ARC provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Swimming in a Sea of Stars by Julie Wright

Swimming in a Sea of Stars 
By Julie Wright 
Published by Shadow Mountain
Publication Date: August 1, 2023

Description from the publisher:

A single kindness can save a life.

Journal entry: Heading to school. I know what everyone will say. There goes the girl who tried to kill herself. 

Addison is no stranger to feeling stressed, insecure, and sad. Her therapist recommended she keep a journal to help her understand those feelings better, which she really needs today. It’s her first day back to school, several weeks after she survived her suicide attempt. She knows there are rumors about why she did it: A lousy home life? Bullying? Heartbreak? None of them are true, but it doesn’t matter because Addison still feels like she’s drowning. She still holds secrets she’s not ready to share. 

During the school day, Addison encounters four other students struggling with their own secrets: 
Booker is anxious about seeing Addison. They were sort of a couple until he tried to kiss her. She fled and then tried to end her life. Those two things couldn’t be related, could they? 

Celia feels trapped by her mother’s abusive boyfriend. She can guess why Addison did what she did.

Damion is TikTok-famous and thinks befriending Addison could boost his followers. But what no one knows is he needs the world to remember him since his sick mom doesn’t anymore. 

Avery is considered a loner and doesn’t know Addison, but they have neighboring lockers. With Avery’s older brother in jail for dealing drugs, Avery is desperate for meaningful human connection. 

Swimming in a Sea of Stars is a poignant and gripping novel about how we’re all interconnected, like the stars in the night sky that form constellations and map out the universe, and if even one star goes missing, the effect is profound.

 My review:
This book totally drew me in from the first page. I don't always like books with several narrators, but I liked each of the five here. I also really enjoyed seeing how their interactions impacted each other, just small things or words that were just the nudge that another character needed to think about things (including each other) differently. I appreciated the honesty of the emotions. I think that's my favorite think about a well-written YA book; the emotions are palpable. In a book that covers topics of attempted suicide, abuse, cancer, etc., those emotions and the plot could have become overwhelming, but I think Julie Wright did a great job of finding the balance of not making them too much for the reader while still making them real and not sugarcoated or overly simplistic. I also liked the feeling of hope as the book progressed. With a book that covers so much--and all occurs in one day--realistically, we're not going to see everything resolve perfectly, but I think where it ended for each character was hopeful. Part of me really wanted an epilogue because I'd love to know what happened to each character, but I also wonder if it could have felt believable; the characters still have a lot of emotional work to do and skipping that to include an epilogue might have diluted their experiences and the power of their processes of coping and learning and growing.

This book covers important topics and is very well-written. I definitely recommend this to teens and adults alike. 4.5 stars.
I read an ARC provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.