A Dream within a Dream by Mike Nappa and Melissa Kosci

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. Revell provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for an honest review.

A Dream within a Dream by Mike Nappa

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Private investigator Trudi Coffey is held up at gunpoint by a young man demanding her help. The man goes by the name “Dream,” he’s suffering from acute anxiety and memory loss, and the Boston mob is hunting him down as the key to lead them to artwork once stolen in a historic heist in A Dream within a Dream by authors Mike Nappa and Melissa Kosci.

I knew going in that this is the third book in the Coffey & Hill series of investigation thrillers, and no, I didn’t read the two books before this one. But I don’t mind jumping into a series late and backtracking to the earlier books later if I enjoy the book I jumped in on.

This novel includes important backstory that helped me to get a feel for the two main characters, Trudi and her…friend, Samuel Hill. However, while the basis of the plot intrigued me, I found the read to be rather slow. Also, with so many vague and spotty moments surrounding Dream, I often felt like my intrigue didn’t have a satisfying place to land, and my interest waned.

A lot of the chapters end on cliffhangers, an effective contributing factor that kept me holding on through more than half the novel. However, not enough in between the cliffhangers sufficiently gripped me to hold on through the rest of the next half, so I decided not to continue.

The novel is well-written, and other readers unfamiliar with the series may enjoy it just fine. Still, I think this story may be much better for Coffey & Hill fans who already know Trudi and Samuel and may therefore already have a deeper interest in finding out what happens to the characters.

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Coffey & Hill Series

 

Come Juneteenth by Ann Rinaldi

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Come Juneteenth by Ann Rinaldi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

While the Union and the Confederacy are warring against each other in America, President Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation. But Texans keep their enslaved laborers from hearing about it, a fact that will impact Luli Holcomb and the sister she never thought of as a slave in Come Juneteenth by author Ann Rinaldi.

Back in my teens, other novels by this author matured and sharpened my taste for historical fiction, especially concerning American history. So I decided to check this book out after finding it some weeks ago.

Knowing the kind of hard-hitting and poignant young adult stories Rinaldi can deliver, I probably should have been better prepared emotionally for this story of injustice, violence, and human relationships. Although my interest in the read waned here and there, the parts that got me, got me.

Now, it’s important to know this isn’t a story told from the perspective of Black characters, and it isn’t about a big Juneteenth celebration. Nor is it a simplistic, romantic painting of the Civil War and Reconstruction that depicts all white Yankees as completely good and noble and all white Southerners as completely wicked and backward. Rather, it’s a story of flawed human beings and what happens when you have to face where you, and other people in the place you fondly call home, have been profoundly wrong.

This is a tragic novel. Still, it has glimmers of hope for healing and learning from the past.

 

Wolf by the Ears by Ann Rinaldi

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Wolf by the Ears by Ann Rinaldi

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Harriet Hemings loves her life at Monticello, where the former president Thomas Jefferson is head of the plantation. Although Harriet calls Jefferson “Master,” she’s never felt the reality of her enslavement, and rumor has it that she and her siblings are the master’s mulatto children. Now the impending choice of whether or not to leave her home forever to live life as a free woman is breaking Harriet’s heart in Wolf by the Ears by author Ann Rinaldi.

I was thirteen or so the first time I read this YA novel. It was quite the experience for me, getting me to chew on layered concepts that were still new to me at the time, such as the practice of some light-skinned people of color passing for white.

I’ll admit my youth and the newness of it all for me back then had me more entranced (so to speak) than I was this time. While I still think it’s a fairly rich work of historical fiction, I now recognize that I don’t have much reason to like the heroine. She can be pretty childish and melodramatic, with tears coming to her eyes so frequently that it becomes tiring.

While the story sometimes feels like a drawn-out walk to the inevitable, with characters repeating the same sentiments over again, the ironies make the read worth it. The pain comes across well, but the tough, complex ironies of it all are where the story still gets me.

And it ultimately gives me hope. Indeed, the ironic “wolf” situation seemed so impossible to people back then. But time has shown us we didn’t need that unjust wolf after all.

Can’t let today’s wolves stop us from envisioning a better future and fighting for it in whatever ways we can.

 

Song in the Dark by Jessica White

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. I received a complimentary copy of this book for an honest review.

Song in the Dark by Jessica White

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Jenna, a gifted harpist, wants to start making her own decisions about her life. But her threatening ex-boyfriend refuses to leave her alone, and her mother is controlling and manipulative. Dean, a homicide detective with three Dobermans and two current murder cases on his hands, is drawn to Jenna from the first time he sees her play her harp, but shadowed areas in Dean’s life discourage him from getting involved with Jenna in Song in the Dark by author Jessica White.

The awesome cover of this ChristFic romantic suspense novel intrigued me to no end. Without spoiling the art’s dark theme, the dynamic sunset casts its heat and last burst of intensity between the silhouettes of the dogs and the harp, and the strong typography plays on darkness and light. The whole scene radiates with atmosphere.

What intrigued me next is the fact that this story is inspired by a romance in Greek mythology. I waited until after I finished the novel to go back to the list of which characters the author based on which mythological figures. Ah—the creativity!

The events in the characters’ personal lives and the haunting glimpses of their backstories are what gripped me most during this read. The novel is unafraid to go to some dark places, while other moments in the story are rather adorable, without schmaltz. The drama is understated and effective, and there’s not only attraction and affection but also wisdom, sense, and respect in the unfolding of the romance.

Now, the plot development became a bit choppy for me between the climax and resolution, with some points that felt rushed over and narrated answers that tied up some hard questions a little too suddenly and easily. There were also a few more errors and inconsistencies in grammar and punctuation than I would have expected, but they weren’t frequent or major enough to detract from the story for me.

I’d recommend this novel to fellow ChristFic readers who can appreciate suspense that tackles tough issues while making way for light and redemption.