Author: tamaramorning

Book Review and Blog Tour: Bright Burning Stars, by A.K. Small

Image belongs to Algonquin.

Title Bright Burning Stars
AuthorA.K. Small
Genre:  YA
Rating:  4 out of 5

Best friends Marine Duval and Kate Sanders have trained at the Paris Opera Ballet School since childhood, where they’ve formed an inseparable bond forged by respective family tragedies and a fierce love for dance. When the body of a student is found in the dorms just before the start of their final year, Marine and Kate begin to ask themselves what they would do to win the ultimate prize: to be the one girl selected to join the Opera’s prestigious corps de ballet. Would they die? Cheat? Seduce the most talented boy in the school, dubbed the Demigod, hoping his magic would make them shine, too? Neither girl is sure.

But then Kate gets closer to the Demigod, even as Marine has begun to capture his heart. And as selection day draws near, the competition—for the prize, for the Demigod—becomes fiercer, and Marine and Kate realize they have everything to lose, including each other. (less)

This was a bit hard for me to read. The writing is excellent, and the characters were great, but reading about the dark side of the ballet world was a little depressing, frankly. I believe it’s a realistic portrayal, sadly, because I can’t image what these girls put themselves through:  the abuse their body image takes and the physical and emotional demands they put on themselves.

Marine’s issues were scary, but at least she eventually realized it. Kate’s issues…her sometimes completely unfounded obsession with guys was just sad. She definitely has some delusions and mental health issues, in addition to her drug problem. It was sad that she didn’t realize that, though.

A.K. Small was born in Paris. Bright Burning Stars is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Algonquin in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Lost Apothecary, by Sarah Penner

Image belongs to Harlequin/Park Row.

TitleThe Lost Apothecary
AuthorSarah Penner
Genre:  Historical fiction
Rating:  4.5 out of 5.0

Rule #1: The poison must never be used to harm another woman.

Rule #2: The names of the murderer and her victim must be recorded in the apothecary’s register.

One cold February evening in 1791, at the back of a dark London alley in a hidden apothecary shop, Nella awaits her newest customer. Once a respected healer, Nella now uses her knowledge for a darker purpose—selling well-disguised poisons to desperate women who would kill to be free of the men in their lives. But when her new patron turns out to be a precocious twelve-year-old named Eliza Fanning, an unexpected friendship sets in motion a string of events that jeopardizes Nella’s world and threatens to expose the many women whose names are written in her register.

In present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, reeling from the discovery of her husband’s infidelity. When she finds an old apothecary vial near the river Thames, she can’t resist investigating, only to realize she’s found a link to the unsolved “apothecary murders” that haunted London over two centuries ago. As she deepens her search, Caroline’s life collides with Nella’s and Eliza’s in a stunning twist of fate—and not everyone will survive.

I really enjoyed this novel! I loved how it switched between the historical chapters and the modern-day ones seamlessly, while leaving the reader on the edge of their seat. So much character growth, too, for Caroline. While finding out her husband was cheating on her was awful, it was a catalyst for growth and finding out who she really was and what she truly wanted out of life. I also loved the hints of magic at the resolution of the historical timeline, with the girl and the apothecary. Very well done!

Sarah Penner lives in Florida. The Lost Apothecary is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/Park Row in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Nature of Fragile Things, by Susan Meissner

Image belongs to Berkley.

TitleThe Nature of Fragile Things
AuthorSusan Meissner
Genre:  Fiction, historical fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

April 18, 1906: A massive earthquake rocks San Francisco just before daybreak, igniting a devouring inferno. Lives are lost, lives are shattered, but some rise from the ashes forever changed.

Sophie Whalen is a young Irish immigrant so desperate to get out of a New York tenement that she answers a mail-order bride ad and agrees to marry a man she knows nothing about. San Francisco widower Martin Hocking proves to be as aloof as he is mesmerizingly handsome. Sophie quickly develops deep affection for Kat, Martin’s silent five-year-old daughter, but Martin’s odd behavior leaves her with the uneasy feeling that something about her newfound situation isn’t right.

Then one early-spring evening, a stranger at the door sets in motion a transforming chain of events. Sophie discovers hidden ties to two other women. The first, pretty and pregnant, is standing on her doorstep. The second is hundreds of miles away in the American Southwest, grieving the loss of everything she once loved.

The fates of these three women intertwine on the eve of the devastating earthquake, thrusting them onto a perilous journey that will test their resiliency and resolve and, ultimately, their belief that love can overcome fear.

This was a very good read! I know almost nothing about the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, so finding out more was very sad. I cannot imagine how terrifying that must have been!

Meissner is superb at sprinkling tiny hints and clues throughout the novel without giving away the truth:  I only had vague ideas about the truth of Sophie’s past and the secrets she was hiding—and I was never sure exactly what happened with Martin. I will say, I loved the ending and thought it very appropriate, tying up all the lose ends at once. Definitely a solid read!

Susan Meissner is a bestselling author. The nature of Fragile Things is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Berkley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Furbidden Fatality, by Deborah Blake

Image belongs to Berkley.

TitleFurbidden Fatality
AuthorDeborah Blake
Genre:  Cozy mystery
Rating:  4.0 out of 5

Kari Stuart’s life is going nowhere–until she unexpectedly wins the lottery. The twenty-nine-year-old instant multimillionaire is still mulling plans for her winnings when trying to rescue a bossy black kitten leads her to a semiabandoned animal shelter. They need the cash–Kari needs a purpose.

But the dilapidated rescue is literally going to the dogs with a pending lawsuit, hard to adopt animals, and too much suspicious attention from the town’s dog warden. When the warden turns up dead outside the shelter’s dog kennels, Kari finds herself up a creek without a pooper-scooper.

With the help of some dedicated volunteers, a cute vet, and a kitten who mysteriously shows up just when she needs it, Kari must prove her innocence all while trying to save a dog on death row. Now she just needs to hope that her string of unexpected luck isn’t about to run out.

This was a cute cozy mystery to start off a new series. There were several moments I thought the main characters was a little too naïve or oblivious—I’m sorry, but if I knew there were bears around, I would not go wandering around at night unarmed and alone when the dogs started barking, nor would I ever venture outside at night alone after finding a dead body and repeated vandalism. So, no, she’s not the brightest light in the room, but she’s likable enough, and the background characters are quirky and fun. The hint of romance isn’t overdone, either, so that/s nice. I’d definitely read more of this series.

Deborah Blake lives in New York. Furbidden Fatality is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Berkley in exchange for an honest review.)

Sundays are for Writing #109

Well…it ended up being a good writing week. Being stuck at home due to ice/snow all week will do that for you. If you’ve seen the Texas weather on the news this week, well, I live right in the middle of all that. We just don’t get weather like that here usually. I was extremely blessed and didn’t lose power or water. I had no internet for four days, but that’s a small thing compared to people having no heat in single-digit temps.

I got in my three fiction sessions, and I also wrote seven book reviews (with no internet for most of the week, I was unable to work from home, so I had a lot of extra free time to read).

Happy writing!

Book Review: Of Silver and Shadow, by Jennifer Gruenke

of silver and shadow
Image belongs to North Star/Flux.

Title:  Of Silver and Shadow
AuthorJennifer Gruenke
Genre:  Fantasy
Rating:  5 out of 5

Ren Kolins is a silver wielder—a dangerous thing to be in the kingdom of Erdis, where magic has been outlawed for a century. Ren is just trying to survive, sticking to a life of petty thievery, card games, and pit fighting to get by. But when a wealthy rebel leader discovers her secret, he offers her a fortune to join his revolution. The caveat: she won’t see a single coin until they overthrow the King.

Behind the castle walls, a brutal group of warriors known as the King’s Children is engaged in a competition: the first to find the rebel leader will be made King’s Fang, the right hand of the King of Erdis. And Adley Farre is hunting down the rebels one by one, torturing her way to Ren and the rebel leader, and the coveted King’s Fang title.

But time is running out for all of them, including the youngest Prince of Erdis, who finds himself pulled into the rebellion. Political tensions have reached a boiling point, and Ren and the rebels must take the throne before war breaks out.

I was entranced by this book from the very beginning! Ren’s attitude and brashness is a little much at ties, but I feel that’s a growth opportunity to grow for her, and I did enjoy her sass. Even the secondary characters are vivid and vibrant—like the prince—and the settling felt realistic and almost-visible to me. A fantastic read!

Jennifer Gruenke grew up in California and now lives in Charlotte. Of Silver and Shadow is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of North Star/Flux in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour: Amelia Unabridged, by Ashley Schumacher

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

TitleAmelia Unabridged
AuthorAshley Schumacher
Genre:  YA
Rating:  5 out of 5

Eighteen-year-old Amelia Griffin is obsessed with the famous Orman Chronicles, written by the young and reclusive prodigy N. E. Endsley. They’re the books that brought her and her best friend Jenna together after Amelia’s father left and her family imploded. So when Amelia and Jenna get the opportunity to attend a book festival with Endsley in attendance, Amelia is ecstatic. It’s the perfect way to start off their last summer before college.

In a heartbeat, everything goes horribly wrong. When Jenna gets a chance to meet the author and Amelia doesn’t, the two have a blowout fight like they’ve never experienced. And before Amelia has a chance to mend things, Jenna is killed in a freak car accident. Grief-stricken, and without her best friend to guide her, Amelia questions everything she had planned for the future.

When a mysterious, rare edition of the Orman Chronicles arrives, Amelia is convinced that it somehow came from Jenna. Tracking the book to an obscure but enchanting bookstore in Michigan, Amelia is shocked to find herself face-to-face with the enigmatic and handsome N. E. Endsley himself, the reason for Amelia’s and Jenna’s fight and perhaps the clue to what Jenna wanted to tell her all along.

I loved this read! I completely identified with Amelia throughout the entire book. Her friendship with Jenna was fun and so realistic! Her grief over Jenna’s death and her struggle to find sense in a world that suddenly doesn’t contain any was heartrending.

The details of the bookstore and the small-town life were enchanting. I need this bookstore in my life!  The characters are fantastic—all of them—and I loved every single page of this. Go read it!

Ashley Schumacher lives in Dallas. Amelia Unabridged is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: We Run the Tides, by Vendela Vida

Image belongs to Ecco.

TitleWe Run the Tides
Author: Vendela Vida
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  3 out of 5

Teenage Eulabee and her magnetic best friend, Maria Fabiola, own the streets of Sea Cliff, their foggy oceanside San Francisco neighborhood. They know Sea Cliff’s homes and beaches, its hidden corners and eccentric characters—as well as the upscale all-girls’ school they attend. One day, walking to school with friends, they witness a horrible act—or do they? Eulabee and Maria Fabiola vehemently disagree on what happened, and their rupture is followed by Maria Fabiola’s sudden disappearance—a potential kidnapping that shakes the quiet community and threatens to expose unspoken truths.    

This clearly wasn’t a good fit for me. Solid writing, but I found it on the edge of boring. I know it’s about young teenage girls, but it veered between over-the-top dramatic and bland and I just didn’t care about the characters. At all. The author did a wonderful job of bringing the setting—ritzy neighborhood, private school—to life, but I found it almost impossible to relate to the characters.

Vendela Vida is an award-winning author. We Run the Tides is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Ecco in exchange for an honest review.)

Sundays are for Writing #108

This was an interesting writing week. Three book reviews, and no fiction writing…because I realized that, although I’m only 40 pages into the new story, nothing is really happening (except for the opening scene), and I am, in essence, just feeling out the characters.

I think the Muse has been trying to tell me she’s bored, so I finally listened. Instead of three actual writing sessions, I did three sessions of brainstorming. I think the setting is key to fixing this issue, and now I know how I want to change that. I’ll probably spend this next week fine-tuning the idea, then see if I can use any of what I have with the new setting.

Happy writing!