Sundays are for Writing #50

This has been an…erratic writing week. Of my five planned writing days, I got my two pages on two separate days, zero pages on two more, and four pages on the fifth. So, eight pages for the week instead of ten, but considering I was exhausted and I also wrote a couple of book reviews in there, I’ll take it.

Book Review: The Dating Charade, by Melissa Ferguson

the dating charade
Image belongs to Thomas Nelson.

Title:  The Dating Charade
AuthorMelissa Ferguson
Genre:  Romance
Rating:  4 out of 5

Cassie Everson has figured out the perfect way to escape from a bad date, and she’s not afraid to use it. After the latest in a string of horrible first dates, Cassie swears off dating and gives up on the idea of having a family of her own. Although an accident years ago left her unable to have biological children, as director of Girls Haven, she’s surrounded by girls every day and that will just have to be enough. That and admiring the cute firefighter across the street.

Jett Bentley is a firefighter recently back in his hometown when he catches a glimpse of Cassie Everson on a dating app. The Cassie Everson, whom he had a crush on back in high school when he was an awkward freshman and she was a popular senior. After a great first date where they both claim they don’t want children, they each return home to find themselves with three kids dropped on their doorstep.

Becoming an overnight parent to three kids was never in Jett’s plans, and while Cassie wanted kids, parenting is tougher than it looks. Add in their fledgling attraction to each other—not to mention their separate decisions to keep their three kids—each—a secret from each other—and things just got a whole lot more complicated.

The Dating Charade is a sweet, funny book. I loved both Cassie and Jett and watching their parenting fails was definitely full of laughs—especially Jett’s bathroom fiasco. I enjoyed this book from the start and read it straight through in one sitting. It’s nice to read something so positive and clean, with characters that you can relate to and that make you laugh.

Melissa Ferguson lives in Tennessee. The Dating Charade is her debut novel.

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

Book Review: The Weight of a Soul, by Elizabeth Tammi

the weight of a soul
Image belongs to Flux Books.

Title:  The Weight of a Soul
Author:    Elizabeth Tammi
Genre:  New Adult, YA
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

Lena’s father is the chief of their Viking clan, but he’s always gone raiding, leaving Lena, her sister Fressa, and their mother behind to lead the clan. When Fressa dies suddenly and mysteriously, Lena is devasted, but after the clan mourns, it seems like she’s the only one still missing Fressa.

Determined to find out what happened to her sister and bring her back, Lena takes a dangerous journey to make a deal with Hela, the goddess of death. There’s a chance to save Fressa but fulfilling her end of the bargain will take Lena deeper into darkness than she can even imagine. For Fressa’s death is the start of a plan to cause Ragnarök—events leading to the destruction of the world. And Hela isn’t the only god involved.

The Weight of a Soul is vividly realized, with the setting coming to life and breathing on the page. The culture is fascinating and utterly believable. I loved the writing itself. I did not love Lena, though. I didn’t find her likable at all, and, while I sympathized with her grief over Fressa, her descent into darkness and willingness to ignore the grief and destruction she was causing made the book hard to read. Obviously, this is my own personal opinion, and I would recommend this to anyone looking for a read based in Norse mythology, Vikings, and…Loki.

Elizabeth Tammi was born in California, raised in Florida, and now attends journalism school in Georgia. The Weight of a Soul is her new novel.

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

Book Review: Trace of Evil, by Alice Blanchard

trace of evil
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books.

Title:  Trace of Evil
AuthorAlice Blanchard
Genre:  Thriller
Rating:  4 out of 5

Natalie Lockhart is a rookie detective in the town she grew up in. Burning Lake, New York has a dark past, full of covens, mysteries, and murder. Now Natalie’s been tasked with finding a link between the Missing Nine—nine homeless people who have gone missing over the years. And Natalie sees a connection she doesn’t like—a connection to a decades’ old death.

Then Daisy Buckner, a local schoolteacher turns ups dead, and the one suspect collapses into a coma only hours later. Everyone loved Daisy—or so Natalie thinks—but Daisy was hiding secrets, secrets that just might have gotten her killed. But the darkness in Burning Lake hides secrets that Natalie cannot even fathom.

Trace of Evil is well-written, compelling, and I didn’t have a clue who the killer was. (Either of them, actually.) But, two things caught my attention:  1) I never felt like I was truly experiencing Natalie’s thoughts and feelings. The point-of-view felt quite distant to me. And 2)…No one in this town—adult, teenager, police officer, no one—gave a second thought to the prevalence of covens. They were everywhere, as if it were a normal, expected part of the teenage experience. Which seemed weird to me, honestly. I have zero experience with a place where teenage covens are the norm, so this seemed just past far-fetched to me. But that’s just my own experience.

Alice Blanchard is an award-winning author. Trace of Evil is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Southern Harm, by Caroline Fardig

southern harm
Image belongs to Alibi.

Title:  Southern Harm
AuthorCaroline Fardig
Genre:  Mystery/thriller, women’s fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

Quinn Bellandini just wants to enjoy her quiet life with her new boyfriend, Tucker, running her family’s B&B—and staying away from murder investigations. But when Quinn finds bones in Tucker’s Aunt Lela’s yard and Lela is accused of the 33-year-old murder of a homecoming queen, she and her sister Delilah end up on the case again.

Tucker is devastated by his aunt’s arrest, so Quinn wants to help. Soon she and Delilah are asking questions, talking to everyone from busybody neighbors to old high school teachers to society matrons. The case is cold, and people don’t want to talk, but Quinn keeps asking questions, and turns up answers that seem to lead to the least likely of suspects—including her own parents!

I enjoyed the second novel in the Southern B&B Mystery series. Fardig’s novels are always so enjoyable:  light, funny, and charming, with quirky, likable characters. There’s a lot of family drama in this one—we are talking about the South, after all—and even the secondary characters are excellent. Lela is especially memorable, but so are the rest of this delightful cast.

Caroline Fardig is a bestselling author. Southern Harm is her newest novel, the second book in the Southern B&B Mystery series.

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

Sundays are for Writing #49

My writing goal this week was five 2-page writing sessions. That’s…not quite what happened.

Instead, I got one 2 1/4-page session, one 2 3/4-page session, and one 5-page session. So…10 pages fro the week, and only two scenes away from finishing up this timeline and being able to move back to the present-day.

I hope everyone else had a good writing week as well.

Book Review: Synapse, by Steven James

synapse
Image belongs to Thomas Nelson.

Title:  Synapse
AuthorSteven James
Genre:  Suspense, thriller
Rating:  5 out of 5

Thirty years in the future, when AI is so advanced that humans live side by side with cognizant robots called Artificials, Kestrel Hathaway must come to terms not just with what machines know, but what they believe. Is hope real for them, or merely an illusion? 

Kestrel Hathaway is a minister reeling from unthinkable tragedy when she witnesses a terrorist attack and steps in to render aid. When she’s questioned by the officials, she realizes the possibility of another attack—a devastating one—is looming, and she and her Artificial, Jordan, work together to untangle the lies and secrets wrapped around the attack.

Federal counterterrorism agent Nick Vernon is determined to stop the attack he knows is coming. He doesn’t want Kestrel in danger—but her insight might be just the thing he needs to break the case.

And Jordan is asking questions an Artificial should never ask; questions about life, God, and the afterlife. Where does the line between humanity and Artificial blur?

This book was a wild ride from the very first page. I read it straight through because I had to know what happened! I was very intrigued with Kestrel, who is a minister asking tough questions in the wake of tragedy. I’ve never read a suspense/thriller book with a minister as the main character, and I think every novel of this type set in the future that I’ve read has done away with the idea of faith and religion, so this was fascinating to read. I highly recommend this novel—but don’t start it unless you have a few free hours to kill right then!

Steven James is a bestselling author with a master’s degree in Storytelling. Synapse is his newest novel.

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

Book Review: Lake Season, by Denise Hunter

lake season
Image belongs to Thomas Nelson.

Title:  Lake Season
Author:   Denise Hunter
Genre:  Romance, Christian
Rating:  5 out of 5

After their parents die in a tragic accident, Molly Bennett and her brother and sister decide to make their parents’ dream a reality:  turning their historic home back into an inn. Molly will have to give up her dreams of Italy, but she knows it’s worth it to see her youngest sister finish high school at home in tiny Bluebell, North Carolina. Then Molly finds an unsent letter in the wall of the inn—a letter that tells of a love lost years ago in Bluebell. She wants to return the letter to its rightful owners but has no idea how to find them.

Adam Bradford, secretly bestselling novelist Nathaniel Quinn, is in Bluebell to research his next novel. Quiet and reclusive, he takes no chance on people finding out who he really is. But Molly and Adam become instant friends and soon he is just as fascinated with finding the lost letter’s recipient as she is. But Molly doesn’t know Adam is keeping secrets—and trust is one thing she holds sacred.

I loved this book! Sweet and simple, mixing the past and present together seamlessly as it explores Adam and Molly’s fears and issues as well as secrets from the past. I was invested from the first page, and I loved the characters—and the small town of Bluebell—as well as the family bond between Molly and her siblings.

Denise Hunter is a bestselling author who lives in Indiana. Lake Season is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Scared Little Rabbits, by A.V. Geiger

scared little rabbits
Image belongs to Sourcebooks Fire.

Title:  Scared Little Rabbits
AuthorA.V. Geiger  
Genre:  YA, suspense
Rating:  4 out of 5

Nora was thrilled to be chosen for the Maker Project:  three weeks at the elite Winthrop Academy where she’ll have the chance to put her coding skills to use on the dazzling new project she’s sure she’ll have an idea for. But everyone seems to know each other already and have formed their groups, and Nora’s left on the fringes, watching.

Until Maddox befriends her and they have a great idea for their project. But Maddox’s girlfriend is atop the hierarchy at the Maker Project and making her angry is the last thing Nora wants to do. Then someone winds up dead…and Nora is left wondering if anyone is who they say they are.

I’m not a huge social media person, but I can see where the InstaLove App would be hugely popular, especially for wallflowers like Nora. I liked her well enough, even if her social awkwardness was sometimes a bit much. Surely she wasn’t really that naïve? I enjoyed this book for what it was and read it in one sitting, but nothing in it was completely unexpected (except maybe the scene with Nora and the pool).

A.V. Geiger is an epidemiologist. Scared Little Rabbits is her newest novel.

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

The Best Books I Read in November (2019)

I read 22 books in November, bringing my total for the year to 210. Of those 22 books, I rated 6 of them 5 stars. But…top 3, right?

So, I’m picking a near-future thriller, a contemporary romance, and a historical. And 3 runners-up, because…just because.

synapse

Synapse, by Steven James. This was a wild ride from page one! AI with a Methodist minister main character, plus a terrorist plot? I never would have imagined those things went together.

lake season

Lake Season, by Denise Hunter. This was a lovely contemporary romance rolled together with a story of star-crossed lovers from the past. Such a good read!

A Silken Thread

A Silken Thread, by Kim Vogel Sawyer. This was an excellent historical novel set 30 years after the Civil War in Atlanta.

Runners-up (by which I mean “Three really excellent books from two of my favorite authors”):

Call Down the Hawk, by Maggie Stiefvater.

Navigating the Stars and Chasing the Shadows, by Maria V. Snyder.