Book Review: Bonavere Howl, by Caitlin Galway

bonavere howl
Image belongs to Guernica Editions.

Title:  Bonavere Howl
Author:  Caitlin Galway
Genre:  Historical fiction, middle grade
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

In New Orleans in 1955, the languid heat presses down on everything. Thirteen-year-old Bonavere, the youngest of the Bonavere sisters, has her best friend Saul to turn to and her two older sisters. Her parents pay the sisters no mind, even when middle sister Constance goes missing.

Some of the blame falls on Saul and his family because of their race, but Bonavere knows that isn’t true, so she sets out to find what really happened to Constance. Her questions lead her to the wealthy Lasalle family, and stories of girls found half-mad in the nearby swamps. Bonavere has no idea what secrets she’ll stir up when she starts asking questions. She just wants her sister back.

I’ll read just about anything set in New Orleans, and this novel captures the feel of the city very well:  the heat, the cobbled streets, the craziness…However, most of the story itself is a bit inexplicable to me. Things happened, but I couldn’t always see the connection to them and anything else, and I’m still not sure exactly what was going on.

Caitlin Galway’s newest novel is Bonavere Howl.

(Galley courtesy of Guernica Editions via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

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Book Review: The Southern Side of Paradise, by Kristy Woodson Harvey

southern side of paradise
Image belongs to Gallery Books.

Title:  The Southern Side of Paradise
Author:  Kristy Woodson Harvey
Genre:  Southern fiction
Rating:  2 out of 5

Ansley Murphy has everything she’s ever wanted…finally. The man she’s always loved is back in her life. Her three daughters are in town and happy. Her business is taking off. Ansley can’t help but feel like the other shoe is about to drop.

Her youngest daughter, Emerson, and actress and recently engaged, just landed a dream role and got engaged, but her health is worrying her, and she feels like she’s missing something when she should be focused on planning her wedding. When secrets that were never meant to be told come out, the sisters’ bond with their mother turns fragile, as all stand on the brink of life-changing decisions.

I’m just going to be up-front:  I could not stand these characters, and that made me dislike this book intensely. This is clearly my own issue. The writing is great, and the small southern town setting is very well done. But…seriously? Ansley spends half her time justifying the fact that she cheated on her husband for years…so they could have children. She knew it was wrong, but she makes excuses to herself anyway. Emerson is whiny and childish, prone to throwing a fit if she doesn’t get her way, and she’s so self-absorbed she can’t even see the person standing right next to her. She’s also pretty heartless, and her morals are highly questionable (Wonder where she learned that from?) Sister Caroline is a controlling witch, who also makes excuses for her bad behavior (Yes, her husband cheated on her very publicly, which was terrible, but that doesn’t mean you get to treat everyone around you badly). Sloane wasn’t enough of a presence for me to actually care about her, but she was the only one who was likable. I’d read this author again, but not these characters.

Kristy Woodson Harvey is a bestselling author. The Southern Side of Paradise is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Gallery Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Sundays are for Writing #20

So…I didn’t do any actual (fiction) writing this week. The story I was working on, well, I still have no idea where that is going, so working on that is accomplishing nothing. Meanwhile, my re-telling of Camelot has been niggling at the back of my mind.

It’s been over two years since I came up with that idea for the capstone class for my undergraduate degree, but I kept thinking about it over the past month or so, and when I realized how dissatisfied I was with my current project, well, the switch seemed natural.

So, this week I pulled everything I had on the Camelot story and read through it. Some of my ideas came back to me. I did character sketches of the main five characters and outlined the first five scenes. I also came up with a working version of the Sentence—Holly Lisle’s one-sentence story outline technique—to keep me on-track. I’ll start actually writing this week.

I’m excited!

Book Review: This is Not a Love Scene, by S.C. Megale

 

this-is-not-a-love-scene-cover

Title:  This is Not a Love Scene
Author:  S.C. Megale
Genre:  YA
Rating:  4 out of 5

Maeve and all her friends are obsessed with their senior film project and their portfolios to get into film school. Maeve would be, too, but having MS means her options are different than her friends. Maeve loves filmmaking. And guys. Especially the guy starring in their senior project:  Cole. But leading men don’t go for girls in wheelchairs, right?

But the chemistry between Maeve and the always-in-motion Cole is intense, and suddenly Maeve is dealing with typical dating mishaps and juggling the film project and her disease. Maeve is so used to being rejected, that she’s just not sure she can trust Cole, who seems far too good to be true. But Maeve will have to deal with her own fears if she’s ever to find out the truth about Cole’s feelings for her.

Maeve is an incredibly strong character, but she does have some issues that made her a little hard for me to read. I loved seeing how she viewed the world and her experiences in a life with MS, but she can be quite awkward and a little needy. She also comes across as very selfish, to the point where she completely ignores the sometimes-major problems her friends are having in favor of obsessing about her own issues. I didn’t find her all that likable, but she is a very strong character.

S.C. Megale is a writer, a filmmaker, and a philanthropist. This is Not a Love Scene is her debut novel.

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

Sundays are for Writing #19

It’s hard to believe we’re 19 weeks into 2019. Time is flying. I wish I could say it’s because I’m having so much fun, but that’s not exactly true. More like it’s flying because I’m so busy.

My schedule was a bit different this week. I was off on Monday to recover from a race, so I got in two writing sessions that day, one on Tuesday, and three on Thursday to hit my word count goal for the week. I also outlined five scenes and completed two lessons in my writing class this week.

I’m feeling a bit restless and unhappy with this manuscript right now, so I’m trying to push through and get to my happy place again. I start my Directed Project on Tuesday, which is a sort of internship. I’m re-designing a blog for a local faith-based nonprofit. This will make my schedule even crazier, so we’ll see how the writing fares.

Happy writing!

Book Review: How We Disappeared, by Jing-Jing Lee

how we disappeared
Image belongs to Hanover Square Press.

Title:  How We Disappeared
Author:  Jing-Jing Lee
Genre:  Fiction/historical fiction
Rating:  4.2 out of 5

In 1942 Singapore, the world is at war, but it becomes personal when soldiers ransack a village and murder everyone, leaving only two survivors. In a nearby village, girls are taken captive and forced to become “comfort women”—prostitutes—earning them the shame and disdain of their families—if they are fortunate enough to survive and escape. Wang Di was one of these women, and after sixty years of silence, she is finally ready to talk about the horrors she experienced.

In the year 2000, twelve-year-old Kevin is going blind, so he records everything he hears. Including the dying confession of his beloved grandmother…who isn’t really his grandmother at all. Kevin knows this secret is bigger than he is, but he’s determined to find out the truth—and share it.

How We Disappeared isn’t an easy book to read. It’s full of the sometimes-horrific experiences of these characters, but there are glimpses of hope as well. The settings are realistic—good and bad—and, though the book gets off to a slow start, it is well-worth reading.

Jing-Jing Lee is an author and a poet. How We Disappeared is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/Hanover Square Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, by Kim Michele Richardson

the book woman
Image belongs to Sourcebooks Landmark.

Title:  The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek
Author:  Kim Michele Richardson
Genre:  Historical fiction
Rating:  5 out of 5

In 1936 Kentucky, Cussy Mary Carter is the last living woman of the Blue People. With her blue skin, she’s taunted and ridiculed and treated as inferior, but Cussy Mary is a proud member of the Kentucky Pack Horse library service. This job is her way out, an escape from needing to marry in order to survive.

For Cussy Mary, delivering books to the backwoods people on her route is more than a job. For people who rarely see a newspaper—and who are unlikely to be able to read one if they did see it—the Book Woman is a Godsend, a deliverer of outside news, and a glimmer of hope in the darkness of the woods amidst prejudice and poverty so devastating it destroys entire families. Cussy Mary is determined to continue delivering hope to those around her—along with books.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is an incredible read! Yes, the blue-skinned people in Kentucky were real—they had methemoglobinemia, which caused a decrease in oxygenation of their skin. The prejudice and abuse Cussy Mary experiences in this book is heartbreaking, but so is the poverty that surrounds her. This book is vivid and lovely, with every page engraved with the strength of Cussy Mary—and her courage.

Kim Michele Richardson lives and writes in Kentucky. The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Sourcebooks Landmark via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Romanov, by Nadine Brandes

Romanov
Image belongs to Thomas Nelson.

Title:  Romanov
Author:  Nadine Brandes
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

The history books say I died.

They don’t know the half of it.

With Russia in revolution, the Romanov family are held as hostages by the Bolsheviks. For Nastya—Princess Anastasia—this new world is bewildering and frustrating. Her loving family is intact and together, but they are constantly guarded by soldiers. They are barely allowed to go outside. They are constantly under watch. She doesn’t understand why the world is so bloody and dangerous, she just knows it is.

There is an element of truth in what the people say about the Romanovs, but Nastya is not a spellcaster. If she was, she could heal her brother’s hemophilia and her mother’s illness. She could stop herself from falling in love and mend her sister’s broken heart. And she could keep her family from being executed.

But this isn’t the lies spoken about her family by the Bolsheviks. This is her life. And the truth is far stranger than the history books say.

I’ve probably seen the Disney movie Anastasia at some point, but I don’t remember it, and I’ve certainly read bits and pieces about the Romanovs, none of which I remembered before picking this book up. I had no problems understanding what was going on or starting the story after the Romanovs are taken hostage. The love in this family is remarkable and portrayed so well. All the characters are well-done, but Nastya herself is both struggling and strong, and her determination to help her family is something to behold. I enjoyed this read immensely.

Nadine Brandes is the author of the Out of Time series. Romanov is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Thomas Nelson via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Sundays are for Writing #18

I had another good writing week! Three days, two 10-minute sessions each day, for a little over 2,250 words.

I know that’s chump change to my old daily word counts, but I’m happy with the consistency.

I also outlined five scenes and completed two writing lessons, so I hit all my writing goals for the week!

Book Review: Only Ever Her, by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen

only ever her
Image belongs to Lake Union Publishing.

Title:  Only Ever Her
Author:  Marybeth Mayhew Whalen
Genre:  Mystery
Rating:  3 out of 5

When Annie was a little girl, she was found wandering in the woods, not far from her mother’s murdered body. Now grown up, she’s the town’s darling, and her imminent wedding is all anyone talks about. Annie’s ready for her life to change, but can she leave behind this small town—and her support system—to start her new life?

Just days before her wedding, Annie disappears. There’s no sign of her. No sign she might have run. No sign she spoke to anyone before she disappeared. With her mother’s accused murderer freshly released from prison, the town fears the worst, and those who love Annie will have to deal with their own issues as they search for her.

I did not connect with this book at all. The small-town vibe was accurate, but I found Annie herself unlikable, as was her secret friend. I didn’t find this very suspenseful, and everyone had secrets, of course, but the only character I liked was Clary. Just not a good fit for me.

Marybeth Mayhew Whalen lives and writes in North Carolina. Only Ever Her is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Lake Union Publishing via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)