Author: tamaramorning

What I Read in March (2020)

Books Read in March:  22

Books Read for the Year: 64/200

Topical Books/Monthly Goal Books:

Don’t Give Up by Kyle Idleman (Spiritual/TBR). It turned out to be excellent timing for this read, considering the current state of the world.

Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier (classic). It’s been so long since I read this…apparently I was mentally mixing it up with Jane Eyre. Thoroughly enjoyed this re-read.

As Old as Time, by Liz Braswell (TBR). Loved this re-telling of Beauty and the Beast.

The Here and Now, by Ann (TBR) Brashares. This was an odd read. I enjoyed The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants much more.

Odd & True, by Cat Winters (TBR). This was a fairy tale, but not, about two strong sisters trying to determine truth from fiction.

For Review:

what the other 3 don't know

What the Other Three Don’t Know, by Spencer Hyde. I’m kind of on the fence on this one. I enjoyed it—and loved—the banter between the characters, but their almost-instant bonding felt like a stretch for me.

THE-DEEP-cover-final-678x1024

The Deep, by Alma Katsu. I love stories about The Titanic, so this was a natural pick for me. However, the narrative felt quite disjointed to me, making it a less-than-engrossing read.

the immortal conquistador

The Immortal Conquistador, by Carrie Vaughn. It’s been years since I read any of the Kitty books, but I enjoyed this tale of a vampire conquistador/Wild West citizen and some of his adventures.

the rome of fall

The Rome of Fall, by Chad Alan Gibbs. High school football in small-town Alabama—and the power wielded by those involved in it. I don’t even like football, and I enjoyed this. The whole times I was reading this, I kept thinking of Joshilyn Jackson’s gods in Alabama. “There are gods in Alabama…” (One of my favorite books ever.)

queen of the unwanted

Queen of the Unwanted, by Jenna Glass (review forthcoming). Okay, so I probably should have read the first book in The Women’s War series before reading this…but at the same time, I had no problems figuring out what was going on. I enjoyed this, although the culture was quite depressing.

the amish teacher's dilemma

The Amish Teacher’s Dilemma, by Patricia Davids. A sweet, uplifting romance, perfect for these trying times.

sparrow

Sparrow, by Mary Cecilia Jackson. Parts of this were very hard to read, but in the end it was inspiring as well as entertaining. I’m all for women learning how to be strong. And ballet.

tigers not daughters

Tigers, Not Daughters, by Samantha Mabry. This…was not an easy read. There are several POV characters, which can be confusing, although the sisters area all so distinct it was easy to keep them straight in my mind. One of them is pretty unlikable. And one of them is dead, so there’s that. I also didn’t get a good sense of the culture the book is touted for, either. It seemed like a secondary detail at best, and pretty generic in truth to me. (One of my closest friends is Latin-American, and this family and cultural surroundings just seem bland in comparison.)

the sea glass cottage

The Sea Glass Cottage, by RaeAnne Thayne. RaeAnne Thayne is one of the very few romance authors I’ll read without questions. This is another solid read from her.

the last human

The Last Human, by Zack Jordan. This was an okay read, but I didn’t love it. The author made me feel sympathy for a gigantic spider-alien, which really says something, considering my fear of spiders, but some of this just didn’t quite add up to me.

the darkness we hid

The Darkness We Hide, by Debra Webb. I enjoyed this, which seems to wrap up The Undertaker’s Daughter story. Lots of dark family secrets are unearthed here, and as always, I enjoyed every page.

jack kerouac

Jack Kerouac is Dead to me, by Gae Polisner. This book broke my heart. In a good way. It’s not bright and cheery, but is a strong coming-of-age story and I highly recommend it.

night of the dragon

Night of the Dragon, by Julie Kagawa (review forthcoming). I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this series and I hate to see it end, but this was an excellent conclusion…even if it didn’t quite end how I hoped.

ruthless gods

Ruthless Gods, by Emily A. Duncan (review forthcoming).  The second dark and mesmerizing book in the Something Dark and Holy series. This may be dark and bloody and cold…but the writing is phenomenal and I am totally invested in these characters.

the lucky ones

The Lucky Ones, by Liz Lawson (review forthcoming). May’s twin brother was killed in a school shooting a year ago. She’s trying to get her life back together—and then she meets the boy whose mother is representing the killer in court. This is about survivors of a school shooting and what they go through. It doesn’t deal with the shooting itself much, just focuses on the devastating aftermath.

we didn't ask for this

We Didn’t Ask for This, by Aldi Alsaid (review forthcoming). I guess my main issue with this book—the one that niggled at the back of my mind the entire time I was reading—was how unbelievable it was to me that an entire high school of kids was basically being held hostage and the cops weren’t trying to get them out. That one thing was enough to make the book itself farfetched and unbelievable.

Just Because:

Smoke Bitten, by Patricia Briggs. Because the Mercy Thompson series is, hands-down, one of my favorite series ever. I read this straight through in one sitting, as my reward for Working From Home Week One.

 Left Unfinished:

The Earl Not Taken, by A.S. Fenichel. I wanted to enjoy this, but Poppy and Rhys seemed like caricatures to me, and some of the details and action felt completely unbelievable to me, aespecially in that setting/society.

The Red Lotus, by Chris Bohjalian. I think I read about 30% of this…but, honestly, if you don’t care about the characters, what’s the point of reading?

Privateers, by Charlie Newton. I barely started this one. The first scene felt like a bad action movie, and I just wasn’t in the right mindset for that.

The Rogue, by Lee W. Brainard (Planets Shaken). Lots of scientific jargon in this one and it felt like the characters were lecturing—“As you know, Bob…”—making it impossible for me to like them.

 

Book Review: Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me, by Gae Polisner

jack kerouac
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press/Wednesday Books.

Title:  Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me
AuthorGae Polisner
Genre:  YA
Rating:  4.5 out of 5 

Fifteen-year-old JL Markham’s life used to be filled with carnival nights and hot summer days spent giggling with her forever best friend Aubrey about their families and boys. Together, they were unstoppable. But they aren’t the friends they once were.

With JL’s father gone on long term business, and her mother struggling with her mental illness, JL takes solace in the tropical butterflies she raises, and in her new, older boyfriend, Max Gordon. Max may be rough on the outside, but he has the soul of a poet (something Aubrey will never understand). Only, Max is about to graduate, and he’s going to hit the road – with or without JL.

JL can’t bear being left behind again. But what if devoting herself to Max not only means betraying her parents, but permanently losing the love of her best friend? What becomes of loyalty, when no one is loyal to you?

This book. Seriously. I am not even sure what to say about it. It broke my heart—not because it was bad, but because it was so good! I felt for JL so much. She’s lost her best friend to whatever came between them, she’s lost her dad to business, her mom to dissociative disorder, her grandmother who seems to be in denial…she’s basically lost everyone in her life. Except Max, her new, older boyfriend…that everyone at school says horrible things about, including her in the rumors, too.

JL is on the verge of growing up. She wants to grow up—at least she thinks so—but she has no one to show her the way. She can’t even sort out what she wants in her own mind, she just knows she wants more. I was right there with her, experiencing everything—even the horrible stuff—and I loved every page. Even when it broke my heart.

GAE POLISNER is the award-winning author of In Sight of Stars, The Memory of Things, The Summer of Letting Go, The Pull of Gravity, and Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me. She lives on Long Island with her husband, two sons, and a suspiciously-fictional looking dog. When Gae isn’t writing, you can find her in a pool or the open waters off Long Island. She’s still hoping that one day her wetsuit will turn her into a superhero.

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

Book Review: The Darkness We Hide, by Debra Webb

the darkness we hid
Image belongs to Harlequin/MIRA.

Title:  The Darkness We Hide
AuthorDebra Webb
Genre:  Suspense, thriller
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

For months, Doctor Rowan Dupont has been staring death in the face. It followed her back to her hometown of Winchester, Tennessee, ten months ago, cloaking the walls of her family’s Victorian funeral home like a shroud. In investigating the mysterious deaths of her loved ones, Rowan has unearthed enough family secrets to bury everything she’d previously thought true. But each shocking discovery has only led to more bodies and more questions; the rabbit hole is deeper than she ever imagined.

Despite settling into a comfortable life with Police Chief Billy Brannigan, Rowan knows dangerous serial killer Julian Addington is still out there. She can’t let her guard down now. Not when she’s this close to ending it once and for all. But with a storm brewing on the horizon, she’ll get only one shot before the impending darkness takes hold, threatening to wipe away every truth she’s uncovered—and everything she holds dear.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading the story of Rowan and the secrets she’s discovered about her life—and her family. In this novel, some of those secrets are finally revealed giving faithful readers a resolution. Rowan’s sometimes-blind loyalty drives her to take risks, but it’s for the right reasons, making her motivations understandable.

As always, I was drawn into the story from the very first page, and the action kept me reading straight through the entire novel, eager to find out how thing would play out. This book did not disappoint!

Debra Webb is the award-winning, USA Today bestselling author of more than 130 novels, including reader favorites the Faces of Evil, the Colby Agency, and the Shades of Death series. With more than four million books sold in numerous languages and countries, Debra’s love of storytelling goes back to her childhood on a farm in Alabama.

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

Book Review: The Last Human, by Zack Jordan

the last human
Image belongs to Del Rey.

Title:  The Last Human
AuthorZack Jordan
Genre:  sci-fi
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

Sara is a human—the most terrifying creature in the entire galaxy. She’s the last human—and only her mother—a terrifying alien predator know she’s human. If any of their neighbors on Watchtower Station found out what Sara was, her mother would have to eviscerate them. Again.

Sara has accepted that she’ll never know why humans were considered too dangerous to let live. Then she runs into a bounty hunter, a rebellious spacesuit, and a cute fluffball with an IQ in the thousands, and her life shatters around her. Now Sara finds herself playing a deadly game with two vast intelligences in an effort to find out the truth—and learn if she really is the last human.

I have to give props to the author for making Sara’s adoptive mother—the fearsome Widow with mandibles and bladed appendages—likable and sympathetic. Like Ron Weasley, I am terrified of spiders, so making a giant murderous one likable is an accomplishment.

There was a little bit of the absurd Douglas Adams feel to this at times and the rebellious spacesuit was my favorite character. Sara was a mostly sympathetic character, but I didn’t really care for the others, especially the Network or the Observer. I’m hit or miss on sci-fi, and this one came down almost in the midst, with a more distant feel to it than I prefer. The question that haunted me through the whole book is:  how does Sara—a member of the most feared and supposedly extinct species in the galaxy—hide the fact that she is a human from everyone she encounters, when they all have neural implants and scanners?

Zack Jordan lives in Chicago. The Last Human is his new novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Sea Glass Cottage, by RaeAnne Thayne

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the sea glass cottage
Image belongs to Harlequin/HQN.

Title:  The Sea Glass Cottage
AuthorRaeAnne Thayne
Genre:  Romance
Rating:  4 out of 5

The life Olivia Harper always dreamed of isn’t so dreamy these days. The 16-hour work days are unfulfilling and so are things with her on-again, off-again boyfriend. But when she hears that her estranged mother, Juliet, has been seriously injured in a car accident, Liv has no choice but to pack up her life and head home to beautiful Cape Sanctuary on the Northern California coast.

It’s just for a few months—that’s what Liv keeps telling herself. But the closer she gets to Cape Sanctuary, the painful memories start flooding back: Natalie, her vibrant, passionate older sister who downward-spiraled into addiction. The fights with her mother who enabled her sister at every turn. The overdose that took Natalie, leaving her now-teenaged daughter, Caitlin, an orphan.

As Liv tries to balance her own needs with those of her injured mother and an obstinate, resentful fifteen-year-old, it becomes clear that all three Harper women have been keeping heartbreaking secrets from one another. And as those secrets are revealed, Liv, Juliet, and Caitlin will see that it’s never too late—or too early—to heal family wounds and find forgiveness.

I don’t read much in the romance genre—it’s not that I’m against it, I just burned myself out on years ago—but RaeAnne Thayne is one author I’ll definitely pick up without question (along with Nora Roberts sometimes and Debbie Macomber always). And I’m certainly glad I picked this up.The Sea Glass Cottage takes us back to Cape Sanctuary—this is a small town I’d love to visit—with Liv, who moved away years ago to start a life in the city. But city life isn’t all she thought it would be, with her anxiety almost overpowering her. When she heads back home to take care of her life. Everything comes back to her.

Liv’s struggles with the past—the death of her father, memories of her addict sister, her lonely childhood—are relatable and well-drawn, making it easy to put myself into her shoes. I loved how all three women’s struggles are woven together—and how they find their way through. I definitely recommend reading this!

New York Times bestselling author RaeAnne Thayne finds inspiration in the beautiful northern Utah mountains where she lives with her family. Her books have won numerous honors, including six RITA Award nominations from Romance Writers of America and Career Achievement and Romance Pioneer awards from RT Book Reviews. She loves to hear from readers and can be reached through her website at http://www.raeannethayne.com.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: Tigers Not Daughters, by Samantha Mabry

tigers not daughters
Image belongs to Algonquin Young Readers.

Title:  Tigers Not Daughters
AuthorSamantha Mabry
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

There are four Torres sisters: the oldest, Ana, is determined to live life her way. Jessica, flouts convention and puts walls around her heart. Iridian clings to words. And Rosa is free spirited and drawn to the wild. The girls live with their father, a widower who relishes his control of every aspect of their lives, but after Anna falls to her death from her bedroom window at the age of eighteen, the family splinters.

Jessica, now the oldest, tries to keep her family together while subsuming as much of Ana as possible into her own life. Iridian withdraws from the world. And Rosa becomes obsessed with an urban myth. But when mysterious things start happening around the Torres house, the girls start to wonder if Ana is haunting them. And if she is, what is she trying to tell them?

Tigers Not Daughters was a little hard for me to get into, but I’m glad I did. I didn’t like all the characters—Jessica in particular seemed particularly selfish and not in the least self-aware—but it was wonderful to see them come into their identities as sisters and family and women who could stand on their own two feet. I’ve seen this touted as a cultural  lodestone, but, honestly, I’ve read much more vibrant novels on the Latin-American culture. It was secondary at best in this novel, with the focus being on the girls themselves.

Samantha Mabry credits her tendency toward magical thinking to her Grandmother Garcia, who would wash money in the kitchen sink to rinse off any bad spirits. She teaches writing and Latino literature at a community college in Dallas, where she lives with her husband, a historian, and a cat named Mouse. She is the author of A Fierce and Subtle Poison and All the Wind in the World. Visit her online at samanthamabry.com or on Twitter: @samanthamabry.

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

Book Review: Sparrow, by Mary Cecilia Jackson

sparrow
Image belongs to Tor Teen.

Title:  Sparrow
AuthorMary Cecilia Jackson
Genre:  YA
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Sparrow—Savannah Darcy Rose—thought she would be safe after her mother died. She thought she could finally stop hiding. She’s a gifted ballerina with a tight-knit circle of friends, she’s starring in a new production, and her future looks bright.

Then she meets Tristan:  handsome, wealthy, the most popular boy in school. Sparrow is in love, but Tristan isn’t quite as perfect as he seems, and soon Sparrow finds herself keeping secrets from everyone. She’s not the kind of girl who tells, but after a brutal assault, she must learn how to open up to those around her.

This wasn’t an easy book to read. You could see the disaster looming…but you were helpless to divert it. Sparrow’s backstory is horrifying, and the emotional scars she bears lead to physical scars in her present. I loved her strength and determination—and the strong friendships made the novel shine.

Mary Cecilia Jackson loves being a Southerner and reading. Sparrow is her debut novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Amish Teacher’s Dilemma, by Patricia Davids

the amish teacher's dilemma
Image belongs to Harlequin/Love Inspired.

Title:  The Amish Teacher’s Dilemma
AuthorPatricia Davids
Genre:  Inspirational fiction, romance
Rating:  4 out of 5

Taking a schoolteacher position in another district is just the change Amish spinster Eva Coblentz needs. And with her new neighbor, blacksmith Willis Gingrich, struggling to raise his three orphaned siblings, Eva is determined to help them heal. But when her relatives insist she come home, Eva must choose between the life she left…and the one she’s growing to love.

I haven’t read the first two novels in The North Country Amish series, and that wasn’t a problem at all. I liked Eva from the first paragraph and admired her strength and determination to make a life for herself. Willis’s little sister, Maddie, and her imaginary friend, Bubble, were wonderful, and I enjoyed every scene the little girl was in. She definitely has a way of saying things that should not be said! I felt very sorry for Willis, who has struggled with dyslexia his whole life—and never knew it—and only realizes there’s hope for him when his youngest brother faces the same struggle. This is a lovely, feel-good read that’s both inspiring and uplifting.

Patricia Davids is a bestselling author. The Amish Teacher’s Dilemma, the third novel in her The North Country Amish series, is now available.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/Love Inspired in exchange for an honest review.)