Monday, July 31, 2017

A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. White, 2017

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Edwardian Romance and History Gains a Twist of Suspense

Rosemary Gresham has no family beyond the band of former urchins that helped her survive as a girl in the mean streets of London. Grown now, they concentrate on stealing high-value items and have learned how to blend into upper-class society. But when Rosemary must determine whether a certain wealthy gentleman is loyal to Britain or to Germany, she is in for the challenge of a lifetime. How does one steal a family's history, their very name?

Peter Holstein, given his family's German blood, writes his popular series of adventure novels under a pen name. With European politics boiling and his own neighbors suspicious of him, Peter debates whether it might be best to change his name for good. When Rosemary shows up at his door pretending to be a historian and offering to help him trace his family history, his question might be answered.

But as the two work together and Rosemary sees his gracious reaction to his neighbors' scornful attacks, she wonders if her assignment is going down the wrong path. Is it too late to help him prove that he's more than his name?

(432 pages)

I was a little wary of reading A Name Unknown because I get rather frustrated with the cheesy, unrealistic nature of a lot of historical fiction novels (and most especially Christian historical fiction novels). I really liked the premise, though, so I decided to take the plunge and review it.

And I'm very glad I did. While the writing was indeed slightly cheesy in parts (mainly in the few–rather skippable–scenes where the characters were talking/writing about religion), I was impressed by how normal A Name Unknown really was. I didn't read it thinking "ick, this is cringe-worthy but it's fluffy enough that I'm enjoying it;" rather, I was so engaged by the story and its characters that I wasn't really thinking anything to myself at all. I believe I can unequivocally say that A Name Unknown is not only the best Christian fiction novel I've read in a very long time, but it's also straight-up one of the best romances I've read in a while.

I think a huge reason for this is the male lead. Most books feature male protagonists who are handsome and brooding, rich and intelligent, well-spoken and clever. Peter Holstein is many of these things–he's middlingly handsome, quite wealthy, very smart, and extremely clever–but all of this is hidden from the world by his terrible stutter. That's right, Peter has a stutter. Like, a really bad one. And I love that, because it makes him so much more real and vulnerable. I mean, the man communicates important things to people by letters because he can't make his tongue trip out all the right words! Peter is also definitely not some high-society golden boy: he's basically scorned by everyone but a close few, because his family and last name tie him too closely to the hated Germans (the book's set during the lead-up to WWI, a fascinating time I know far too little about).

I also love that we get to watch Peter and Rosemary develop a very natural relationship over the course of over 400 pages–there's zero insta-love involved. They don't look at each other for the first time and get a strange spike in their heartbeat, they don't find themselves yearning to be close to each other, they don't rush to fall in love with someone they just met because they're physically attracted to them. During the first half of the book their relationship grows carefully, slowly, respectably, and genuinely. It's a beautiful thing to watch.

Now for a few negatives. I have to say, A Name Unknown does fall for the usual trap of having the characters start saying stupid, unrealistic things after things have developed a bit: Rosemary and Peter express their high opinions of each other in terms that are way too frank, for example. The only other bad dialogue comes in once or twice when Rosemary is supposed to be showing off her street smarts and cleverness–her dialogue in those scenes reads more like something from a movie than anything from real life. Come to think of it, Peter was a little too perfect as well.

But I'm really not complaining too loudly. He's a sweet, humble bookworm, for crying out loud. A bookworm and an author. And they grow to know each other by reading books and talking about them, which is like my ideal romance. So I'm just going to make a passing reference to the political stuff that I've completely ignored (and which was actually quite fascinating, by the way!) and end the review here.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, July 24, 2017

You'll Think of Me by Robin Lee Hatcher, 2017

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In a small town in Idaho’s idyllic wine country where the past looms large, can two people realize their individual dreams for the future … together?

Abandoned once too often, Brooklyn Myers never intended to return to Thunder Creek, Idaho. Her hometown holds too many memories of heartache and rejection. But when her estranged husband Chad Hallston dies and leaves his family home and acreage to her and their ten-year-old daughter Alycia, it's an opportunity to change their lives for the better—a chance Brooklyn can't pass up, for Alycia's sake if not her own.

Derek Johnson, Chad's best friend since boyhood, isn't keen on the return of Brooklyn Myers to Thunder Creek. He still blames her for leading his friend astray. And now she has ruined his chance to buy the neighboring ten acres which would have allowed him to expand his organic farm. To add insult to injury, Chad's dying request was that Derek become the father to Alycia that Chad never was. How can he keep that promise without also spending time with the girl’s mother?

Brought together by unexpected circumstances, Derek and Brooklyn must both confront challenges to their dreams and expectations. He must overcome long held misconceptions about Brooklyn while she must learn to trust someone other than herself. And if they can do it, they just might discover that God has something better in mind than either of them ever imagined.

(320 pages)

First, let's just acknowledge that the premise of You'll Think of Me is slightly creepy. Brooklyn's husband dumped her penniless ten years ago when he found out she was pregnant, but he decided to track her down and leave her his family land to raise their daughter Alycia. He then proceeds to write to his childhood best friend Derek, whom he'd been promising to sell that same house and land to for years, and told him "yeah, I changed my mind. Also, I want you to be the father I never was to Alycia."

I'm sorry, but . . . what? It doesn't sound like Chad ever paid a penny of child support to Brooklyn in all this time–he owes her big-time! But instead of bequeathing her the money she really needs, he leaves her a dusty old fixer-upper and a bunch of land in a town she hates. Then he asks a friend of his to be Alycia's father, as though he has any parental claim to the girl (or any right to ask a stranger, without Brooklyn's consent, to take on such an intimate role with her daughter!). I feel like Derek never completely acknowledged how messed-up his old best friend's actions really were. Brooklyn does, which is good, but he just skirts around it and talks about "honoring Chad's last wishes" with Alycia.

Setting that aside, though, I did enjoy reading You'll Think of Me. Once in a while, it's nice to just read a fluffy romance book. This one reminded me of that old Sandra Bullock movie, Hope Floats, just with less questionable behavior and more religious lines. This is one of the first Christian romance books I read where I didn't feel like the portrayal of faith was so cheesy it was ridiculous, though, so that's good.

Basically, if you're looking for a fun, fluffy romance read then this fits the bill. It's nothing extraordinarily memorable, but it's entertaining and even meaningful and better than most of the books out there. Once you get past Chad's questionable role in Brooklyn's life, there's a lot of good to be discovered here–the characters are realistic and flawed, the situations are plausible enough, and the relationship that grows up between Derek and Brooklyn is sweet (though I never felt as emotionally invested in it as I'd have liked).

Have you read You'll Think of Me? If so, let us know what you thought of it in the comments section below!

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Batgirl at Super Hero High by Lisa Yee, 2017

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Get your cape on with the DC Super Hero Girls the unprecedented new Super Hero universe especially for girls! Readers of all ages can fly high with the all-new adventures of Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Batgirl, and some of the world s most iconic female super heroes as high schoolers!
Batgirl has always hidden in the shadows but does she have what it takes to stand in the spotlight at Super Hero High? 

Barbara Gordon has always been an off-the-charts, just-forget-about-the-test super-genius and tech whiz, and then she gets the offer of a lifetime when Supergirl recognizes that Barbara s talents make her an ideal candidate for Super Hero High. Donning the cape and cowl, Barbara Gordon becomes Batgirl, ready to train at the most elite school on the planet, next to some of the most powerful teenagers in the galaxy. She s always had the heart of a hero . . . but now she ll have to prove that she can be one. Good thing she loves a challenge! 

Award-winning author Lisa Yee brings mystery, thrills, and laughs to this groundbreaking series that follows DC Comics most iconic female Super Heroes and Super-Villains. Move over Batman and Superman the DC Super Hero Girls are ready to save the day and have fun doing it!

(240 pages)

Oh, gosh.

I honestly don't know how to review this book. For one thing, it's an audio book; I'd literally never listened to an entire book on audio before Batgirl at Super Hero High, so my library of comparisons is completely blank. I have no idea if this was a good or a bad narrator, whether the packaging was appropriate, nothing. So I guess I'll just talk a little bit about what I noticed and then discuss the story some.

Packaging first, I guess. It comes in a rectangular cardboard box which holds a plastic thing that takes up about half of the box's width, and then a white cardboard fold-out thing that holds the four CDs that contain the actual audio. The entire audiobook takes 4.5 hours to listen through from beginning to end, which was very convenient for me–I listened to the entire thing over the course of two days while I did hands-on jobs like cleaning my room and walking the dog! I really liked the narrator, a rather perky young woman, and listening to her speak was almost like watching a movie. Once or twice I couldn't tell which character was supposed to be speaking, because there are so many she had a hard time giving them all distinct voices, but that was a very minor issue.

As for the story, well, what do you expect from a story set at "Super Hero High?" It's ridiculously hokey and unrealistic–Batgirl's ability to reprogram complex objects in mere seconds is a particularly egregious example of this–but it's so fun and exciting that you can't help but engage in some major suspension of disbelief. It is a superhero story, after all, so logic (and science!) work a little bit different there. I was never a huge superhero reader when I was younger, mainly I think because I just wasn't exposed, but Batgirl at Super Hero High shows me the sort of ridiculous fun my young imagination was missing out on for all those years. If you or a kid you know is looking for a superhero book, then this one might be just right!

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Outlaw Christian by Jacqueline A. Bussie, 2016

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Jacqueline Bussie knows that too many Christians live according to unspoken "laws" that govern the Christian life: #1: Never get angry at God; #2: Never doubt; #3: Never question; #4: Never tell your real story; #5: Always speak in cliches about evil and suffering; and #6: Always believe hope comes easy for those who truly love God.

Living according to these rules is killing real Christian life;
Outlaw Christian proposes a rebellious, life-giving, authentic alternative. Through captivating stories and with disarming honesty, Bussie gives concrete, practical strategies to help readers cultivate hope, seek joy, practice accompaniment, compost their pain, and rediscover the spiritual practice of lament. Tackling difficult questions without political divisiveness, Bussie speaks to both progressive and conservative Christians in ways that unite rather than divide. And in doing so, she provides a new way to handle the most difficult and troubling questions of life in a broken world that God will never abandon.
(288 pages)

I moved eight times over the course of my childhood, which means I've attended nine churches (plus visiting dozens more). We've found several good permanent churches over the years, but they've been in a variety of denominations. Over the past 18 years, I have been a part of Presbyterian, Church of Christ, and even non-denominational churches. There are even more denominations, I'm sure, that I simply can't remember at the moment.

I say all this simply to point out that my family has never stuck to a specific set of "laws" tied to a certain sect of the church. We're definitely not revolutionaries, and most of my parents' (and my) beliefs likely fall most closely in the "moderate" area of the political/religious scale, but I was raised to pursue my own ideas about God and religion rather than to parrot the dogma of any one specific church. For a long time, though, we faced limited church options and wound up attending a rather strange conservative church. Looking back now, I realize that I gained a bitterness and disrespect for the church from my time there because I was constantly in interaction with people who had their own set of rules about what it took to be a "good Christian" that didn't match my own. Now that we've been away from that church for almost two years, that outlook is fading–largely thanks to books like Outlaw Christian that introduce me to other people who share some of my criticisms of church culture but still participate in it and pursue a meaningful relationship with God.

Reading Outlaw Christian, I get the vibe that Bussie is someone I would legitimately like if I ever met her in person. She's thoughtful about her faith and honest about her struggles, patient with those who disagree with her, and open-minded/nonjudgmental while still confident in her own beliefs. She tackles the hardcore issues like death, grief, hardship and abuse, arguing that we should feel comfortable bringing our anger and doubts to God instead of letting them fester while we do our best to feign perfection. I really like her arguments against the misconception that a Christian has to be happy all the time.

Just a note, her points are great and sort of organized by topic by the different chapters, but they meander a little bit. I didn't mind, but others who are a little more finicky than I might. Also, I really want to take Bussie's college class on religion now. Any chance you'll be heading to St. Andrews, Scotland any time soon, Dr. Bussie?!

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Dog Company by Lynn Vincent and Roger Hill, 2017

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Two decorated American war heroes survive combat in Afghanistan only to find themselves on an unfamiliar battlefield - the courtroom - in this true story by the commander of Delta Company, 1/506th a.k.a. Dog Company.

The deaths of two of his men is agony for Captain Roger Hill and the agony is intensified when he realizes those responsible - 12 Taliban spies- have been working right under his nose on the American base.

When unreasonable military regulations demand that he free the spies within 96 hours, and Hill can't get his superior officer to respond to the deadline, he takes action to intimidate the prisoners to confess - and to protect his company from another attack.

Instead of being thanked, Hill's superior brings him up on charges making this decorated officer's next battle a personal one - for his honor and for that of 1st Sergeant Tommy Scott, his second in command.

Combining the camaraderie and battle action of
Band of Brothers with the military courtroom drama of A Few Good Men, Roger Hill's story will leave you impassioned, inspired and forever changed.
(448 pages)

I'm not sure what was going through my mind when I asked to review Dog Company. It's not exactly my typical read, you know? I've been trying to become a little more informed about modern international relations, though, so I guess I thought a true story about soldiers deployed in Afghanistan could be a beneficial read.

I guess I forgot that I really don't like war. I mean sure, I've read lots of stories set during wars–about Jews fleeing the Holocaust, for example, or the brother-against-brother quandaries confronting soldiers during the Civil War–but the main characters in my books almost uniformly are either civilians or green soldiers. Captian Hill is just that: a captain. At the time of the events in the book, he'd served for eight years, and most of his men for far longer. They're all just such complete . . . well, soldiers. And I'm really not one. And I never really want to be. Lots of respect to the men and women who risk their lives to keep the nation safe, of course, but I could never stand the idea of shooting anyone; if I felt the call to join the service, I'd do it as a medic of some sort rather than as a soldier. The other reason I'd never want to be a soldier–and this is a huge one for me–is that I'd dread the day my higher-ups ordered me to do something that went against my moral code.

And really, that's what happened to Captain Hill. He was under orders to release the twelve men who were unequivocally spies for the Taliban, men whose intel had directly led to the deaths of two of his men, back into their freedom because his higher-ups wouldn't accept custody of them. Before they went, he wanted to get some good information out of them that would help them take down the Taliban and, presumably, prevent the loss of more men. To do so, one or two of the soldiers first slapped around a few of the prisoners (something that, in and of itself, was definitely illegal). When that didn't work, Hill grabbed one of them and pulled him outside, dumped him on the ground and shot at nothing so the other prisoners thought he'd killed their comrade. When they still didn't talk, he pretended to shoot two more men and then one of the remaining men cracked, spilling valuable information.

That's . . . pretty awful. I mean, I know the prisoners were probably all horrible people who would have done even worse to the soldiers if the roles had been reversed, but that still doesn't excuse that sort of behavior. We're supposed to be better than the Taliban; that moral high ground is our only real excuse for being in Afghanistan in the first place. So while I can understand the emotional reasons why Captain Hill decided to break the law and use such violent scare tactics on his prisoners, I actually agree with the decision to punish him. Was completely kicking him out of the army necessary? Definitely not, that seems rather disproportionate to his crimes. He should have just been demoted a rank or two (or however they call it) and posted somewhere where he could be monitored a little more closely.

Anyway, while the core moral dilemma is an interesting one, I didn't really enjoy reading Dog Company. It's broken up into units that jumble the chronology just enough to be rather confusing, and just kind of randomly jumps into the backstory of soldiers that were interesting but not exactly relevant. It also covers more than I really needed to know of the months leading up to the prisoner situation, which shifted from intriguing and educational to just straight-up boring by some point. I wound up skimming through a lot of the second half of the book. People more interested in military stuff might find those parts more entertaining than I did, though. Also, the language in the book is atrocious–gobs of f-words are littered in all over the place along with a whole alphabet of other (mildly less offensive) swear words. I pushed past them to read the book, but it wasn't pleasant.

If you've reading this review to the end, then you probably have a pretty good idea of whether Dog Company is for you. I can't say that I really recommend it personally, but it might do something for you that it didn't for me.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, July 10, 2017

My Brother's Keeper by Rod Gragg, 2016

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Thirty captivating profiles of Christians who risked everything to rescue their Jewish neighbors from Nazi terror during the Holocaust. 

MY BROTHER'S KEEPER unfolds powerful stories of Christians from across denominations who gave everything they had to save the Jewish people from the evils of the Holocaust. This unlikely group of believers, later honored by the nation of Israel as "The Righteous Among the Nations," includes ordinary teenage girls, pastors, priests, a German army officer, a former Italian fascist, an international spy, and even a princess.
In one gripping profile after another, these extraordinary historical accounts offer stories of steadfast believers who together helped thousands of Jewish individuals and families to safety. Many of these everyday heroes perished alongside the very people they were trying to protect. There is no doubt that all of their stories showcase the best of humanity--even in the face of unthinkable evil.
(352 pages)

I asked to review My Brother's Keeper because it looked like a really great compilation of nonfictional stories from WWII, but once it actually showed up on my doorstep I continually put off cracking it open because I thought it would be too depressing (and also because it looked kind of boring).

It wasn't boring, though. Come to think of it, I've never read a book about the treatment of Jews during WWII that was boring–everything was just so horrific back then that even the most snooze-inducing historian couldn't dull the horrifying tales. As for my other concern, yes, My Brother's Keeper was definitely depressing. Its description of the systematic hunting down and wiping out of an entire race is horrifyingly detailed, and primary source quotes and images are used hauntingly throughout the book. Every chapter opens with a black and white image, occasionally of the featured person/family but often of German soldiers or real children who were murdered in concentration camps. In the beginning of the chapter there's a little bit of background on the featured figures, a detailed description of the historical context and the evils that they faced (including some truly horrific descriptions of German murder techniques), and then a detailed account of how they risked their lives to help the Jews and what happened to them afterward. I'd say that most of the featured people wound up surviving the war, though a large amount of them spent at least some time in a concentration camp. In one or two instances, the heroes–and their entire families–were murdered outright for their "crimes" under German law.

Honestly, it's pretty amazing to read about the people who risked everything to help save hundreds (sometimes thousands) of Jews from the Germans. Many heroes found it incomprehensible that the Jewish children were also being targeted, so they set up elaborate systems that rescued thousands of young innocents right out from under the Germans' grasp. It's amazing. But at the same time, I can't believe the depths of inhumanity that went on during the war. It's great that there were some heroes who rescued children, sure, but it's also horrifying to learn that 1.5 million kids died during the Holocaust. That's obscene. That's . . . I can't even find words for it. Monstrous fits, but it's not even enough. The actions of the people described in the book were amazing, incredibly brave, but they didn't even begin to conquer out the terrible evil of all the people who perpetrated the murder of innocents–or all of those who sat by and watched them do it. Gragg discusses the fact that many Christians throughout Europe allowed themselves to get swept up by the Germans, swearing their loyalty to the Third Reich and turning their backs on their Jewish neighbors, but he says that all of the people in My Brother's Keeper channeled their belief in God toward a conviction that they had to help the Jews in whatever way they could. I think that's amazing, but again–I only wish that more people, Christian or atheist or whatever, had stood up to the monstrosity of the Nazis.

But then I stop and wonder what I would have done in their shoes, and I'm afraid that I would have shut up and put my head down in order to save myself. And even if I worked up the courage to sacrifice myself, it's hard to decide whether it's worth saving others at the risk of having all of my loved ones murdered. It was an impossible time, an impossible situation. The Nazis were truly monsters in every sense of the word, and the noble secret actions of these thirty heroes (and of many more, I'm sure!) are even more incredible in contrast to the inhumanity surrounding them. I weep for all those they couldn't save, but I still celebrate every life they managed to save.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Cheesus Was Here by J.C. Davis, 2017

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Sixteen-year-old Delaney Delgado knows miracles aren’t real—if they were, her kid sister wouldn’t be dead. So when the image of baby Jesus appears on a Babybel cheese wheel, she’s not buying the idea that God’s got a dairy obsession. Soon, religious signs begin turning up all over Del’s hometown, tiny Clemency, Texas. Overnight, news vans fill the streets and religious pilgrims start searching for God in the discount aisle of the grocery store.

Hell-bent on proving the so-called miracles are fake, Del convinces her best friend, Gabe, to help her find the truth. While Gabe’s willing to play detective, as a preacher’s son he’s more interested in finding evidence that supports the miracles. But when the whole town becomes caught up in religious fervor and even the late-night talk show hosts have stopped laughing and started to believe, finding the truth might cause more trouble than Del can handle. This novel is neither pro nor anti-religion, and will appeal to fans of contemporary YA novels that explore deep themes with an element of humor. The voice and characters are funny, strong, and full of heart. This is a book for anyone who loved
(272 pages)

I waffled on this one.

I almost didn't agree to review Cheesus Was Here because I worried it would be offensive to me as a Christian. The teaser promised it was "neither pro nor anti-religion," though, so my curiosity won out and I got the book. I agree that it doesn't wind up siding firmly with one side of the argument of the other, though there are some interesting points made along the way. In many ways, I almost thought it was a little biased toward religion.

Don't get me wrong–as I said, I'm a Christian myself. But I find it rather disturbing that the entire town of Clemency believes in the miracles except for Delaney, and that everyone (including characters who are considered by the author to be voices of reason!) constantly tells Delaney that her only reason for trying to disprove the miracles is some sort of bitter, slightly immature vendetta against God for her sister's death.

I mean, I don't know about you, but if people started worshipping a hunk of Babybel cheese I'd definitely be skeptical and start investigating. You can be religious without being gullible, and you can roll your eyes at some baby-shaped cheese just because you think it's stupid (and not because you're angry at the universe). Granted, Del's particular reasoning may have had something to do with her sister's death, too, but it would have been good to see some other viewpoints.

Besides that, though, I thought the book's take on everything was really good. The crazed way people start worshipping the hunk of cheese (and then later a window and a board that appear to be similarly marked by God) is frustrating but realistic, and Del's emotional turmoil and cynicism after her sister's death by cancer the year before rings crushingly true. There's a little bit of language and some references to mature topics (including sex and homosexuality), but nothing horrible to turn people away.

Basically, Cheesus Was Here is a really interesting book that raises some fascinating questions about religion and death and mourning. I really enjoyed it, much more than I thought I would.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Cold Summer by Gwen Cole, 2017

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Today, he’s a high school dropout with no future.
Tomorrow, he’s a soldier in World War II.

Kale Jackson has spent years trying to control his time-traveling ability but hasn’t had much luck. One day he lives in 1945, fighting in the war as a sharpshooter and helplessly watching soldiers—friends—die. Then the next day, he’s back in the present, where WWII has bled into his modern life in the form of PTSD, straining his relationship with his father and the few friends he has left. Every day it becomes harder to hide his battle wounds, both physical and mental, from the past.

When the ex-girl-next-door, Harper, moves back to town, thoughts of what could be if only he had a normal life begin to haunt him. Harper reminds him of the person he was before the PTSD, which helps anchor him to the present. With practice, maybe Kale could remain in the present permanently and never step foot on a battlefield again. Maybe he can have the normal life he craves.

But then Harper finds Kale’s name in a historical article—and he’s listed as a casualty of the war. Kale knows now that he must learn to control his time-traveling ability to save himself and his chance at a life with Harper. Otherwise, he’ll be killed in a time where he doesn’t belong by a bullet that was never meant for him.

(322 pages)

Some of my favorite story tropes include childhood friends falling in love, time travel, and kids healing and growing after parental abandonment. Cold Summer has all three of those, so it seems like it should be perfect for me.

And in some way, it is. I really, really enjoyed reading it. Kale and Harper's relationship is so beautiful, built on the shared experiences of their childhoods. They trust each other completely and it's beautiful to watch. Kale's struggles with his uncontrollable time travel and the PTSD from living as a soldier during WWII are tragic, though also preventable (he's literally offered an out at one point!) and occasionally skated past (we spend a lot more time in the drama of the present than in the life-or-death horror of the past). The storylines about Harper's neglectful-to-the-point-of-abandonment mother and Kale's tense-and-angry father are very delicately and honestly done.

But at the same time, the book isn't perfect. Like I said, I liked the romance between Kale and Harper–but I also didn't like how physical things got between them. At one point, they nearly even had sex! Also, the language was less than ideal: swears are littered here and there, and the f-word is even used maybe once a chapter. It's used during times of great stress usually, sure, but that's still not great especially for younger readers. I thought Harper's abandonment issues were dealt with way too quickly at the end, and the time travel mechanism still seems kind of hazy to me. I like the "purpose" they realize Kale's experiences served, but it seems really random that he was chosen for that one thing out of everything he could have done throughout history.

All that aside, I still spent a couple of hours reading and enjoying Cold Summer. It's a good summer read, full of plot and grit while somehow managing to simultaneously be rather fluffy. If you're curious, and you don't mind the medium to high-level racy material and swearing, then you might like it. Let us know in the comments section what you think if you do decide to read it!

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.