I’d like to give a bit of explanation for my ratings in the reviews I write. I probably should have done this when I started rating reviews…but it seemed self-explanatory. Except my ratings are more nuanced than five stars=a spectacular book. I read a lot. Like, a lot. But just because I loved a book, doesn’t mean you will. And just because something bothered me in a book, doesn’t mean it will bother a single other person on the planet. A review is an opinion, and we all know what they say about opinions.

It’s highly unlikely you’ll ever see a one- or two-star rating on a review here. Because if I think the writing is that bad, or I dislike the content that much, I won’t finish reading the book. (It took me years—most of my life—to embrace the freedom of not finishing a book that was a bad choice for me.) Writing is hard work, and I refuse to give a bad review to a book just because I don’t like it a bit. That’s disrespectful to the author and the work that went into creating the book. And, just because I don’t care for the book, doesn’t mean you won’t, either.

So, as a general guideline:
-5 stars means I loved the book. It might have a few issues, but I loved it anyway.
-4 stars means I liked the book, possibly loved parts of it. A solid read.
-3 stars means I thought it was good enough to finish—but there was something I
didn’t really care for (could have been a writing issued, could have been a character
I found annoying). The writing might have been superb—which I’ll mention—but if
the MC is whiny and annoying, that detracts enough that it knocked the rating
down.
-anything with a decimal number means it leaned towards the next number up (So,
the character was annoying, but not that annoying.).

Again, my reviews are my opinions. We don’t all have the same tastes or pet peeves or preferences. That’s what makes us individuals. If you think my 3-star rating is wrong on a book, please tell me why. Maybe your insight into the character I disliked will change my mind. Anything is possible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review and Blog Tour:  Snowbound with Her Mountain Cowboy, by Patricia Johns

Image belongs to Harlequin.

Title:   Snowbound with Her Mountain Cowboy
Author: Patricia Johns   
Genre:   Romance
Rating:  4 out of 5

Mountain resort owner Angelina Cunningham has her hands full with a massive winter storm. Which is exactly when her ex-husband arrives, injured and suffering temporary amnesia. Ben King has always been her weakness. Though he doesn’t remember her, he’s still as charming and sweet as ever, and Angelina is falling for him all over again. But can their rekindled love outlast the storm and the return of their past mistakes?

This was a sweet, clean read and I enjoyed it. I liked both Angie and Ben and seeing how they handled life now differed from how they handled it then. It was fun watching them fall for each other again, and wondering how they would get things worked out.

Patricia Johns lives in Canada. Snowbound with her Mountain Cowboy is her newest novel.

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

 

Book Review:  Small Things Like These, by Claire Keegan

Image belongs to Grove Atlantic.

Title:   Small Things Like These
Author:   Claire Keegan
Genre:   Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

It is 1985 in a small Irish town. During the weeks leading up to Christmas, Bill Furlong, a coal merchant and family man faces into his busiest season. Early one morning, while delivering an order to the local convent, Bill makes a discovery which forces him to confront both his past and the complicit silences of a town controlled by the church.

This was a very short read–I think I finished it in about an hour. Stellar, evocative writing, but I found it very bleak and quite slow. Probably just not a good fit for me, despite how vivid and detailed it was.

Claire Keegan is an award-winning author. Small Things Like These is her newest novel.

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

The Best Books I Read in November (2021)

In November, I read 22 books, bringing my total for the year to 217 books.

Of those 22 books, I really enjoyed three of them:

The Brightest Star in Paris, by Diana Biller. I didn’t realize until at least halfway through that I’d read—and enjoyed—the previous book in this series. Ballet, ghosts, and wonderful characters made this a read I enjoyed every single sentence of.

City of Time and Magic, by Paula Brackston. I’ve loved all the books in this series, and this was no different. Time travel, magic, romance, and a kick-butt (but not in an in-your-face way) heroine made this pure pleasure.

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, by Nabeel Qureshi. I read this because I’d heard good things about it, and it did not disappoint. I learned so much about Islam in this, and the contrasts between it and Christianity were so clearly laid out that it destroys all arguments about similarities.

What I Read in November (2021)

Books Read in November: 22
Books Read for the Year:  217/250

Topical Books/Monthly Goal Books:

The Inheritance Games, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. I ended up binge-reading this because I couldn’t put it down! And immediately bought the second one.

Loving My Actual Life, by Alexandra Kuykendall (spiritual). I really enjoyed this read.

Fierce Jesus, by Lisa Harper (spiritual). Lisa Harper’s voice is so conversational, it makes everything she writes a good read.

For Review:

A Reckless Match, by Kate Bateman. I enjoyed this read. Lovers-to-enemies is one of my favorite tropes in romance reads.

Oh William!, by Elizabeth Strout. I have no idea why I finished reading this. I liked the writing, but the two main characters were selfish and unpleasant people.

Digging Up Trouble, by Kitt Crowe. This was also a “meh” read.The dog was cute, but a little to good to be true, and the MC was pretty self-absorbed.

Eight Perfect Hours, by Lia Louis. This was such a fun read! I loved all the little coincidences and run-ins between the characters and their chemistry was so believable.

The Brightest Star in Paris, by Diana Biller. This read was such a warm, pleasant read, like pulling a fuzzy blanket around you and snuggling on the choice. Great characters that were so believable and likable. I enjoyed it immensely!

Heard It In a Love Song, by Tracey Garvis Graves. I listened to this on audio, and I really enjoyed it. I loved getting into the characters’ heads.

The First Christmas, by Stephen Mitchell. This was creative, but not biblical. And the author is into Zen, so I don’t trust him to write truthfully about anything in the Bible.

Within These Wicked Walls, by Lauren Blackwood. This was quite unique, and I enjoyed the voice. There were a few rouch transitions that I felt jumped past some needed-details. (Also, does this cover like like Natalie Portman, or am I losing my mind?)

All of Us Villains, by Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman. This was very loosely like The Hunger Games…if all the characters were more or less evil and selfish.

Never Fall for Your Fiancée, by Virginia Heath. I enjoyed this so much! The characters were a lot of fun, especially Hugh.

The Dangers of an Ordinary Night, by Lynne Reeves. This was…not quite to my liking. I found all the characters just “meh” at best, if not truly unlikable (to me).

A Light in the Sky, by Shina Reynolds. I enjoyed this fantasy about winged horses (not pegasus) and the warriors who ride them—and the evil rulers who have been lying to everyone all along (of course).

Unearthly and Starcrossed, by Katie Jane Gallagher. I have to confess: pretty sure I’ve never read any human-alien romance, so this was a first for me. They were quick, fun reads, even if the aliens were basically humans with a little different appearance.

City of Time and Magic, by Paula Brackston. I love this series so much! Time travel, history, romance, and adventure all rolled into one.

Forever Home, by Elysia Whisler. This ended up being a meh read, as the author completely destroyed my trust at the 73% mark. That negated the solid writing and interesting characters.

Small Things Like These, by Claire Keegan (review forthcoming). This was a very short and introspective read. A bit depressing for my tastes, but excellent writing.

Just Because:

The Harbinger II, by Jonathan Cahn. This was a fascianting read.

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, by Nabeel Qureshi. I learned so much about Islam in this book, far more than I knew originally.

Left Unfinished:

Among the Hunted, by Caytlyn Brooke. I made it 10% or so before giving upon this. It seemed too superficial for me.

Another Beast’s Skin, by Jessika Grewe Glover. I think I made it 10-15%, but this felt like it just glossed over things and rushed them, without making me believe anything was truly happening.

Doizemaster, by Tony M. Quintana. This just wasn’t a good fit for me, and it seemed a bit…underdeveloped. Just my opinion.

The Left-Handed Twin, by Thomas Perry. Apparently this is a popular series, but the MC felt far too distant to hold my attention.

Hello, Transcriber, by Hannah Morrissey. I tried, but I just could not get into this. It seemed so bleak.

Book Review and Blog Tour:  Forever Home, by Elysia Whisler

Image belongs to Harlequin.

Title:   Forever Home
Author Elysia Whisler
Genre:   Romance
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

Newly retired from the Marine Corps, Delaney is looking for somewhere to start over. It’s not going to be easy, but when she finds the perfect place to open her dream motorcycle shop, she goes for it. What she doesn’t expect is an abandoned pit bull to come with the building. The shy pup is slow to trust, but Delaney is determined to win it over.

Detective Sean Callahan is smitten from the moment he sees Delaney, but her cool demeanor throws him off his game. When her late father’s vintage motorcycle is stolen from Delaney’s shop, Sean gets to turn up in his element: chasing the bad guy and showing his best self to a woman who’s gotten under his skin in a bad way.

Delaney isn’t used to lasting relationships, but letting love in—both human and canine—helps her see that she may have found a place she belongs, forever.

Solid writing here and well-developed characters, but I’ll probably never read anything else from this author again. I enjoyed reading Delaney’s point-of-view and her background was interesting until, 73% of the way through the book (Yes, I checked.), she revealed that her previous relationship was with a woman.

The way it was said, oh-so-casually, without any previous mention of it (or any further mention of it, either) and without the slightest reaction at all from the male lead (or Delaney herself), made it feel like virtue signaling from the author, not a believable part of this character. This was after a previous episode of virtue signaling in the form of a minor background character had already taken place. This is a major part of this character’s life, and she never once thought of it until 3/4ths of the way through the book? Not believable. When an author break’s my trust as a reader like that, it negates anything else I found appealing in the book.

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

Book Review:  City of Time and Magic, by Paula Brackston

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:  City of Time and Magic
Author:   Paula Brackston
Genre:   Historical fiction
Rating:  5 out of 5

City of Time and Magic sees Xanthe face her greatest challenges yet. She must choose from three treasures that sing to her; a beautiful writing slope, a mourning brooch of heartbreaking detail, and a gorgeous gem-set hat pin. All call her, but the wrong one could take her on a mission other than that which she must address first, and the stakes could not be higher. While her earlier mission to Regency England had been a success, the journey home resulted in Liam being taken from her, spirited away to another time and place. Xanthe must follow the treasure that will take her to him if he is not to be lost forever.

 Xanthe is certain that Mistress Flyte has Liam and determined to find them both. But when she discovers Lydia Flyte has been tracking the actions of the Visionary Society, a group of ruthless and unscrupulous Spinners who have been selling their talents to a club of wealthy clients, Xanthe realizes her work as a Spinner must come before her personal wishes. The Visionary Society is highly dangerous and directly opposed to the creed of the Spinners. Their actions could have disastrous consequences as they alter the authentic order of things and change the future. Xanthe knows she must take on the Society. It will require the skills of all her friends, old and new, to attempt such a thing, and not all of them will survive the confrontation that follows.

I love this series! This is a time travel novel that doesn’t gloss over the likely challenges of everyday life in the past (At least, they’d definitely be challenges for someone from the present.). I wouldn’t even be able to dress myself!

I thoroughly enjoy the writing and worldbuilding, but the characters are my favorite part of this series. Xanthe herself is flawed yet determined, and the supporting characters are just as likable. The conflicts, challenges, and choices she faces had me completely enthralled.

Paula Brackston lives in Wales. City of Time and Magic is her newest novel.

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

Sundays are for Writing #149

This was a solid writing week. I wrote four book reviews.

This was also a sad week: Cian, my adult cat that I’d had for 15-16 years, passed away Friday. Losing Salem (my other elderly cat) less than four months ago and now Cian has been tough. The two kittens I rescued, Poe and Puck, cannot replace my boys. Though they’re trying. As I write this, Poe is perched on my shoulder, and Puck wants in my lap.

Book Review:  Starcrossed, by Katie Jane Gallagher

Image belongs to the author.

Title:   Starcrossed
Author Katie Jane Gallagher
Genre:   Fantasy
Rating:  4.0 out of 5

It’s all very well to make out with an alien prince. A few kisses should be harmless—right?

 Yet that alien prince is the only male present on the spaceship that serves as Corinne Kaminski’s gilded prison. Faced with a thorny status quo, Corinne begrudgingly keeps plotting her escape, despite her growing feelings for Del.

 Complicating matters even more is the sudden, grand entrance of Del’s sisters onto the ship. The two cunning princesses would be most unhappy to learn that their brother, heir to the throne of Ailopt, has his eye on a human girl from Montana—and that said human girl returns his affection.

 Then a chance at freedom becomes tantalizingly close, just when things are heating up behind closed doors. Corinne will have to decide what’s more important: returning home for good or taking a chance on cosmic love?

This was another entertaining read. The two sisters, or at least one of them, were definitely mean girls. I’m always interested in how an author portrays aliens:  will they be humans in a different form, or will their mindset and personalities truly be alien? I found these aliens to be humans in a different form, but that didn’t make this read any less interesting. I’m looking forward to where the author takes this series next.

Katie Jane Gallagher was born in Illinois. Starcrossed is her newest novel, the second book in the Beauty and Her Alien series.

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

Book Review:  Unearthly, by Katie Jane Gallagher

Image belongs to the author.

Title:   Unearthly
Author Katie Jane Gallagher
Genre:   Fantasy
Rating:  4.0 out of 5

Once upon a time, an alien prince craving solitude docked his spaceship above the snowy Montana mountains.

 Unbeknownst to him, a small-town beauty searched for her missing father in the lonely winter woods…

 When Corinne Kaminski volunteers to take her father’s place on the alien’s sprawling, desolate ship, she regards it as a death sentence. But just as the alien promised, no harm befalls her in her strange new home, where the walls talk, a dense hothouse flourishes, and sim rooms transport the user to any place imaginable.

 The ship’s only other occupant, Del, is shocking to look at. Beastly, some might say. But Corinne finds herself unable to look away. 

Yet a gilded cage is still a cage, and Corinne longs for freedom. Her instincts might be pushing her toward friendship with Del—and something more than friendship, perhaps—but at what cost?

This was a quick, fun read. To me, things escalated between Corinne and Del too quickly, but I’ve never been abducted by aliens, so what do I know? Her psychological warfare tactics—blasting AC/DC—made me laugh. I enjoyed the descriptions of her Montana home, and I look forward to reading more about these characters.

Katie Jane Gallagher was born in Illinois. Unearthly is the first book in the Beauty and Her Alien series.

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

 

Book Review:  A Light in the Sky, by Shina Reynolds

Image belongs to Wink Road Press.

Title:   A Light in the Sky
Author Shina Reynolds
Genre:   Fantasy, YA
Rating:  4 out of 5

Seventeen-year-old Aluma Banks has always dreamed of soaring freely through the skies astride a powerful winged steed of her own. But flying is a privilege granted only to the Riders of the king’s Empyrean Cavalry, the aerial warriors who defend the borders of their land from the fallen Kingdom of Laithlann.

 Each year, Rider hopefuls across Eirelannia compete in the Autumn Tournament for the honor of joining the Cavalry. Aluma, trained to ride and fight by her retired Empyrean Rider father, knows she has what it takes to prove herself worthy—if only her father hadn’t forbidden her from joining their ranks, in the hope of protecting his only daughter from the perils of war. To make matters worse, Thayer, Aluma’s best friend who could be becoming something more, is competing—and if he wins, he’ll leave her behind.

 When Aluma’s father is tragically injured just before the Tournament, she finds herself unexpectedly thrust into this year’s competition. But as Aluma begins to pursue her dreams, she learns devastating secrets about the king and his never-ending war with Laithlann. In her quest for the truth, Aluma discovers a power deep within herself that may be the only way to save Eirelannia and the people she loves from the darkness that threatens to consume them all.

 I enjoyed this creative fantasy read. Flying horses—created, not born, like Pegasus—and the soldiers who ride them, a publicized contest, an evil and overbearing king (of course), and a secret rebellion. Granted, the last two are, but when put together with the others and with characters I liked, this made for a fun read. I could have done without the love triangle, but it didn’t really surprise me. I’m looking forward to the next book in the series.

Shina Reynolds lives in Texas. A Light in the Sky is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Wink Road Press in exchange for an honest review.)