Icons by Margaret Stohl – Though I had high hopes for Margaret Stohl’s YA novel about teens who discover they hold the key to ridding the Earth of a deadly alien invasion, it was disappointing in the long run. The story is an inventive one and while I enjoyed the premise, the plot lagged in places and the nature of the children’s gifts as well as other details about how it all came together were either vague or lacking all together. There was also a weirdness that included a lover’s quad and some random insta-love that was a little WTF, coming out of nowhere as it did. With trilogies you always have the hope that things will become more clear as the series progresses, but this one didn’t leave me wanting more. There is a sense of completion in the end, so while the set-up for the next novel is clear, you aren’t left completely hanging if you only want to invest in the one book.
The Paradise Guest House by Ellen Sussman – Ellen Sussman has written a lovely novel of healing, redemption and forgiveness with The Paradise Guest House. I was intrigued by Jamie’s journey to Bali to confront painful memories haunting her as a result of the nightclub bombing in Bali that killed her boyfriend, and left her with emotional and physical wounds. She also has some issues to resolve with Gabe, a sexy ex-patriot with whom she made a profound connection during her recovery. Sussman achieves the fine balance required to convey the beautiful beaches and unique island culture with a country that struggles to get back to its feet, and to reclaim its carefree nature, peace and tranquility. The different ways we live, process grief, attempt to rebuild in the wake of great personal loss, and take the steps to open ourselves again to love are gently explored in this satisfying novel. Recommended.