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:  Don’t Go to Sleep, by Bryce Moore

Image belongs to Sourcebooks Fire.

Title:    Don’t Go to Sleep  
Author:   Bryce Moore
Genre:   Thriller, YA
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

Gianna is the average seventeen-year-old girl living in 1918 New Orleans. She worries about her family’s store, the great war, and a mysterious illness that’s about to take hold of the city she loves.

It doesn’t help that there also appears to be a mad man on the loose in her neighborhood. The attacks started as burglaries but soon escalate to cold blooded murder. There’s a killer out there, and the police can’t seem to figure out how to stop him.

Gianna enlists the help of her friend Enzo to investigate. And as they study the crimes, they see a common link between the victims, and Gianna can’t help but wonder if it’s the same man who attacked her family years before.

As Gianna gets closer to the killer, she discovers a connection between them that she never would have suspected.

I love historical fiction and New Orleans, so this should have been a winner. Instead, I found it slightly above average. I was fascinated by the descriptions of New Orleans a century ago, but Gianna’s habit of rushing headlong into danger without regard for the consequences was a bit too much for me. Not just chasing a literal axe murderer but running around the city in the midst of a deadly influenza pandemic. Her POV felt a little disjointed and distant, and there was never any explanation offered for her connection to the killer.

Bryce Moore lives in western Maine and is a Librarian. Don’t Go to Sleep is his newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour:  Mr. Perfect on Paper, by Jean Meltzer

Image belongs to Harlequin/MIRA.

TitleMr. Perfect on Paper    
Author:  Jean Meltzer
Genre: Romance  
Rating:  DNF

The perfect Jewish husband should be:

* A doctor or lawyer (preferably a doctor)

* Baggage-free (no previous marriages, no children)

* And of course—he must be Jewish

As the creator and CEO of the popular Jewish dating app J-Mate, matchmaker Dara Rabinowitz knows the formula for lasting love—at least, for everyone else. When it comes to her own love life, she’s been idling indefinitely. Until her beloved bubbe shares Dara’s checklist for “The Perfect Jewish Husband” on national television and charming news anchor Chris Steadfast proposes they turn Dara’s search into must-see TV.

As a non-Jewish single dad, Chris doesn’t check any of Dara’s boxes. But her hunt for Mr. Perfect is the ratings boost his show desperately needs. If only Chris could ignore his own pesky attraction to Dara—a task much easier said than done when Dara starts questioning if “perfect on paper” can compete with how hard she’s falling for Chris…

This just did not work for me. These characters didn’t work for me. Dara’s anxiety was described in such excruciating detail it bogged everything else down, and Chris…well, the first time he meets Dara, there’s no sign he even notices her. A few minutes later he’s remembering his physical attraction to her…that wasn’t even hinted at in that first meeting. Those two things just don’t go together.

Jean Meltzer lives in Virginia. Mr. Perfect on Paper is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour:  The Last of the Seven, by Steven Hartov

Image belongs to Harlequin/Hanover Square Press.

TitleThe Last of the Seven    
Author:  Steven Hartov  
Genre:   historical fiction
Rating:  DNF

A lone soldier wearing a German uniform stumbles into a British military camp in the North African desert with an incredible story to tell. He is the only survivor of an undercover operation meant to infiltrate a Nazi base, trading on the soldiers’ perfect fluency in German. For this man is not British born but instead a German Jew seeking revenge for the deaths of his family back home in Berlin.

As the Allies advance into Europe, the young lieutenant is brought to recover in Sicily, where he’s recruited by a British major to join the newly formed “X Troop,” a commando unit composed of German and Austrian Jews that’s training for a top secret mission at a nearby camp in the Sicilian hills. They are all “lost boys,” driven not by patriotism but by vengeance.

This DNF was all me:  solid writing and characterization, I just wasn’t in the right headspace to read this at this time. I was intrigued by the subject, as this was something I’d never heard of in my WWII historical reading, but it just wasn’t a good choice for me right now.

Steven Hartov was born in Connecticut. The Last of the Seven is his newest book.

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

Book Review:  How to Date a Superhero (And Not Die Trying), by Cristina Fernandez

Image belongs to HarperCollins.

Title:    How to Date a Superhero (And Not Die Trying)  
Author:   Cristina Fernandez
Genre:   YA, fantasy
Rating:  3.0 out of 5

Falling for a superhero is dangerous. You have to trust that they’ll catch you.

Astrid isn’t a superhero, not like the ones she sees on the news, but she has something she thinks of as a small superpower: she has a perfect sense of time. And she’s not going to waste a single second.

Her plan for college is clear—friends, classes, and extracurriculars all carefully selected to get her into medical school.

Until Max Martin, a nerdy boy from her high school, crashes back into her life. Things with Max were never simple, and he doesn’t keep to her schedule. He disappears in the middle of dates and cancels at the last minute with stupid excuses.

When a supervillain breaks into her bedroom one night, Astrid has to face the facts: her boyfriend, Max Martin, is a superhero. Double-majoring as a premed was hard, but now Astrid will have to balance a double life. This wasn’t part of her plan.

This was an okay read. Definitely an alternate reality setting, with superheroes and aliens accepted as commonplace, and the rest of the world more or less the same as ours. Astrid was…overwhelmingly selfish, frankly. Beyond obsessed with her schedule and infuriated by anything that dared impinge on it—or her life plans. This is a fairly light read, and if you can deal with a selfish and self-absorbed main character who’s oblivious to all the signs being put out by everyone around her, well, give it a shot.

Cristina Fernandez’s debut novel is How to Date a Superhero (And Not Die Trying).

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

Book Review:  Master of Iron, by Tricia Levenseller

Image belongs to Macmillan/Feewel & Friends.

TitleMaster of Iron    
Author:  Tricia Levenseller
Genre:  YA
Rating:  4.2 out of 5

Eighteen-year-old Ziva may have defeated a deadly warlord, but the price was almost too much. Ziva is forced into a breakneck race to a nearby city with the handsome mercenary, Kellyn, and the young scholar, Petrik, to find a powerful magical healer who can save her sister’s life.

When the events that follow lead to Ziva and Kellyn’s capture by an ambitious prince, Ziva is forced into the very situation she’s been dreading: magicking dangerous weapons meant for world domination.

The forge has always been Ziva’s safe space, a place to avoid society and the anxiety it causes her, but now it is her prison, and she’s not sure just how much of herself she’ll have to sacrifice to save Kellyn and take center stage in the very war she’s been trying to stop.

I hadn’t read the first book in this duology, so it took me a few minutes to get into this, but then I thoroughly enjoyed it. Ziva’s point-of-view is well-done and really shows how her anxiety feels from the inside—and the things she notices about how people respond to it. A nice level of magic and an interesting culture, as well as vivid and likable secondary characters made this an above-average fantasy read.

Tricia Levenseller is from Oregon. Master of Iron is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Macmillan/Feiwel & Friends in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review:  Violet Made of Thorns, by Gina Chen

Image belongs to Random House Children’s.

Title: Violet Made of Thorns     
Author: Gina Chen  
Genre:  Fantasy
Rating:  4.5

Violet is a prophet and a liar, influencing the royal court with her cleverly phrased—and not always true—divinations. Honesty is for suckers, like the oh-so-not charming Prince Cyrus, who plans to strip Violet of her official role once he’s crowned at the end of the summer—unless Violet does something about it.

But when the king asks her to falsely prophesy Cyrus’s love story for an upcoming ball, Violet awakens a dreaded curse, one that will end in either damnation or salvation for the kingdom—all depending on the prince’s choice of future bride. Violet faces her own choice: Seize an opportunity to gain control of her own destiny, no matter the cost, or give in to the ill-fated attraction that’s growing between her and Cyrus.

Violet’s wits may protect her in the cutthroat court, but they can’t change her fate. And as the boundary between hatred and love grows ever thinner with the prince, Violet must untangle a wicked web of deceit in order to save herself and the kingdom—or doom them all.

I enjoyed this story, but I have to say, Violet and Cyrus are both kind of unlikable jerks. Especially to each other. Cyrus’ arrogance is almost overwhelming at times, and Violet is just rude and hateful at least half the time. I enjoyed the culture and mythology, but their personalities were almost enough to make me DNF this. I’m interested in reading more about them—probably—but this isn’t a warm and fuzzy tale.

Gina Chen lives in California. Violet Made of Thorn is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Random House Children’s in exchange for an honest review.)

The Best Books I Read in July (2022)

In July, I read 18 books, bringing my total for the year to 136 books. I also DNFed 12 books, which is a lot. I’m eight books behind schedule for the year. Hopefully I catch up! Of those 18, several of them were excellent. The best of those were:

The Bodyguard, by Katherine Center. I love this author’s books, but this one was the best of hers I’ve read. This made me laugh out loud several times (especially the “attacking” cow) and really relate to the main character. If you need a fun weekend read, grab this.

Long Story Short, by Serena Kaylor. This has everything: an awkward main character, a hot, brooding love interest, the enemies-to-lovers trope, great secondary characters. and lots of Shakespeare!

The Shadow Wand, by Laurie Forest. I’m still loving every page of this sometimes dark magical series.

What I Read in July (2022)

Books Read in July: 18
Books Read for the Year:  136/250
Topical Books/Monthly Goal Books:

Mark’s Story, by Tim LaHaye (spiritual). I might have cried at the end of this…
Chasing Love, by Sean McDowell (spiritual). This was quite an interesting read.
Frequency, by Robert Morris (spiritual). Loved this re-read.
The Shadow Wand, by Laurie Forest (TBR). This series is SO good!
Trouble with the Cursed, by Kim Harrison (TBR). As always, I loved this.

For Review:

Potiphar’s Wife, by Mesu Andrews. This was a fascinating story, but I didn’t really care much for Zully herself. The secondary characters, however, were excellent.

Cold, Cold Bones, by Kathy Reichs. This just did not work for me: Tempe is normally such a smart character, but she kept doing flat-out stupid things in this novel.

Paradise Girls, by Sandy Gingras. This ended up being a sweet, semi-magical read that I really enjoyed.

Upgrade, by Blake Crouch. Like most of Blake’s novels, this one was waaay over my head, but the author did a great job making something inconceivable believable.

The Bodyguard, by Katherine Center. I absolutely loved this! Such a fun read.

The Librarian Spy, by Madeline Martin. I do love a good WWII historical fiction, and I enjoyed this a lot. These women are so, so strong.

Long Past Summer, by Noué Kirwan (review forthcoming). I really didn’t care for the either of the MCs in this. One was totally selfish, the other was passive.

The Codebreaker’s Secret, by Sara Ackerman. Loved this read!

Long Story Short, by Serena Kaylor. This was a wonderful YA read! I related so much to the MC and her awkwardness.

Accomplished, by Amanda Quain. Sometimes Jane Austen re-tellings are terrible. This one was actually excellent, although Georgie’s continued infatuation with Wickham was very annoying.

Violet Made of Thorns, by Gina Chen (review forthcoming). Desptie hard-to-like MCs, I enjoyed this read.

Master of Iron, by Tricia Levenseller (review forthcoming). I didn’t read the first book in this duology, so it took me a bit to get situated in the story, but I enjoyed it a lot.

Just Because:

Unashamed, by Francine Rivers. Wonderful read!

Left Unfinished:

Corinne, by Rebecca Morrow. I think I made it about 15% in this, but the characters just felt so distant I couldn’t get into it.

The Man Who Could Move Clouds, by Ingrid Rojas Contreras. This just started off too slowly for me. I enjoyed Fruit of the Drunken Tree, but couldn’t get into this.

Wake the Bones, by Elizabeth Kilcoyne. I read 20% of this, but the characters were jerks: cruel, mean, and just kind of ugly to each other. I didn’t want to waste any more time reading about people I wouldn’t care to be around.

Death and the Conjuror, by Tom Mead. I didn’t get very far in this because the POV kept shifting without warning. Nora Roberts can (mostly) pull that off, but that’s about it.

Ruthless, by Gena Showalter. Normally, I love Showalter’s stuff, but this one was…not good.

For Butter or Worse, by Erin La Rosa. Initially, I liked Nina, and thought Leo was a total tool. Then I realized they were both jerks and stopped reading.

Point Last Seen, by Christina Dodd. I really tried with this one. The first 15% or so felt a bit erratic, with a series of coincidental occurrences that just weren’t believable mixed with character actions that just didn’t add up. Then, Elle’s actions just became too far-fetched for me, and Gothic itself was peopled with characters that just weren’t believable, and I had to give up at about 40%.

Dark Earth, by Rebecca Stott. Solid writing, but it just felt so slow, and I didn’t feel a connection with either of the sisters.

The Daughter of Doctor Moreau, by Sylvia Moreno-Garcia. I read about 25% if this, but I didn’t really like any of the characters, so I didn’t care to read more.

Bet On It, by Jodie Slaughter. I read about a third of this, then I just couldn’t take it anymore. Walker was a total jerk. He’s holding the mother of all grudges against everyone in this town and feels perfectly entitled to hate them all because of his experiences as a child. He’s either seething with self-righteous hatred, or lusting after Aja, there is no other facet of his personality.

Mint Chocolate Murder, by Meri Allen. I tried. I read about 30% of this, but it was just so slow, and the murder hadn’t even happened yet!

Round Up the Usual Peacocks, by Donna Andrews. The opening of this just bored me.

Book Review and Blog Tour:  Long Past Summer, by Noué Kirwan

Image belongs to Harlequin.

Title: Long Past Summer     
Author:   Noué Kirwan
Genre:   Romance
Rating:  3.0 out of 5

Mikaela Marchand is living the polished life she always planned for: a successful New York lawyer, with a promotion in her sights and a devoted boyfriend by her side. She’s come a long way from the meek teen she was growing up in small town Georgia, but the memory of her adolescence isn’t far—in fact, it’s splashed across a massive billboard in Times Square. An old photograph of Mikaela and her former best friend, Julie, has landed on the cover of a high-profile fashion magazine advertised all over the city. And when Julie files a lawsuit, Mikaela is caught in the middle as defense lawyer for the magazine.

Not only will she have to face Julie for the first time in years, Mikaela’s forced to work closely with the photographer in question: the former love of her life–and Julie’s ex-husband–Cameron Murphy. Mikaela needs to win the case to get her promotion–and as a junior partner, she has no margin for error. But unresolved feelings still exist between Cam and Mikaela, and jealousy always made Julie play dirty…

Solid writing from a debut author, I just didn’t really care for the characters. Mikaela was totally self-absorbed and so focused on other people’s perceptions of her that she forgot to be human—and forgot other people have feelings, too (like her doctor boyfriend). Cameron really wasn’t any better, and for me, these two came off as uncommunicative, needy, and co-dependent. Despite the quality of the writing, the characters themselves made this a lackluster read for me.

Noué Kirwan is from New York. Long Past Summer is her debut novel.

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