What I Read in October (2019)

Books Read in October:  21

Books Read for the Year: 186/175

Topical Books/Monthly Goal Books:

The Anatomist’s Wife, by Anna Lee Huber(cultural). Okay, “cultural” might be stretching it a bit…but I loved this take on a female Sherlock Holmes. (I’ve already procured the second one, too.)

Every Exquisite Thing, by Matthew Quick (TBR).  I’m just going to say “eh” on this one. I was not impressed.

More than a Good Bible Study Girl, by Lisa TerKeurst (spiritual). An excellent read!

The Beauty and the Damned (classic). Honestly…I thought this book kinda sucked. I don’t like selfish, self-absorbed people, and the two main characters were nothing if not that, so this was not the right choice for me.

The Obesity Code, by Jason Fung (nonfiction). Interesting reading, but a little dense and repetitive at times.

For Review:

the lies we tell

The Lies We Tell, by Debra Webb. this was the second book in The Undertaker’s Daughter series—I haven’t read the first one—but I had no issues catching up or following along. Kind of a dark family drama/murder mystery, and a solid, enjoyable read.

the speed of falling objects

The Speed of Falling Objects, by Nancy Richardson Fischer. I loved When Elephants Fly, by this author, and this novel was excellent as well. Family angst and a catastrophic rainstorm adventure with a hot movie star? Yep, I’m there. I truly enjoyed this entire novel, and read it straight through in one sitting.

one night gone

One Night Gone, by Tara Laskowski. Sometimes, books with dual timelines just don’t work for me. This one, however, did. Mystery in a seaside town, a girl missing for 30 years…

trinity sight

Book Review: Trinity Sight, by Jennifer Givhan. A dystopian novel with Zuni mythology… When Calliope wakes up and finds all the people are gone, she sets out to find her family. Along the way, she finds creatures from myth and legend. This was an oddly compelling read.

whispers of shadow & flame

Whispers of Shadow & Flame, by L. Penelope. Another excellent read in the Earthsinger Chronicles! I love the different cultures in these books, and the magic system. Can’t wait to read the next one!

a spell of murder

A Spell of Murder, by Kennedy Kerr. Temerity Love runs Love’s Curiosities—and is renowned for her expertise with antiques. When a murder happens in her tiny Scottish town, her services will be needed to solve the crime. I loved this cozy mystery mixed with magic, and look forward to reading more!

the widow of rose house

The Widow of Rose Harbor, by Dina Biller. Fantastic read! The love interest, Sam, is just so…lovable. Alva has been tarred and feathered in the press thanks to her horrible husband after she left him. Now that she’s a widow, she wants to come home to New York, but the rumors have followed her and her efforts to restore an abandoned mansion are thwarted by a ghost. Enter Sam, the eccentric genius professor (I really wanted to say “playboy billionaire” there and go of on an Avengers tangent…) obsessed with studying ghosts.

the library of lost things

The Library of Lost Things, by Laura Taylor Namey. Darcy is named for one of literature’s most beloved characters, which satisfies her book-loving soul. Now she’s trying to keep her carefully orchestrated life—and her hoarding mother—from falling apart. When Darcy meets Asher, she yearns to get to know him better, but trust has never been her strong point. Darcy’s BFF Marisol makes this book! (Actually, ALL the supporting characters are marvelous.)

the grace year

The Grace Year, by Kim Liggett. This had the feel of The Handmaid’s Tale…except I didn’t care for that book, and I LOVED this one. In a male-dominated society, when they turn sixteen, girls have to get rid of their magic so they don’t have power over men, so they are banished for one year, The Grace Year. Not all of them will come back. And those that do will be changed.

oracle

The Oracle of Cumae, by Melissa Hardy. It’s possible that reading three books right before this one that were amazing made this less-than-amazing book seem even worse, but…honestly, I liked the premise, but the plot was meandering at best, and really more like pointless.

girls like us

Girls Like Us, by Randi Pink.  This is set in the 70s and is about teenage girls dealing with unplanned pregnancies. It was supposed to be about defying conventions and standing up for yourself…except none of them really did that.

christmas angels

Christmas Angles, by Nancy Naigle. This was a sweet Christmas romance about Liz, who buys the deserted inn that belonged to her grandparents and sets out to restore it.

the middle matters

The Middle Matters, by Lisa-Jo Baker (review forthcoming). A solid, relatable, and inspirational read.

bound in flame

Bound in Flame, by Katherine Kayne. I don’t think I’d ever read anything set in historical Hawaii, so I was excited to read this. But…the writing was shaky at best, and felt very bare-bones (Not in a clean, sparse way, but in an this-is-practically-an-outline-without-details-or-connections way).

if darkness takes us

If Darkness Takes Us, by Brenda Marie Smith. This was a unique concept to me:  secret doomsday-prepper granny left to take care of her four grandchildren after something knocks out all power and the government. Some of the characters seemed more like caricatures than actual people (rebellious teenager, angry pre-teen, verbally abusive husband) and the POV felt more distant than I would have liked, but it was an interesting read.

the curious heart of ailsa rae

The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae, by Stephanie Butland. This was a fantastic read! It’s about a girl who gets a heart transplant after a lifetime of being sick, and how she learns to live again.

Left Unfinished:

I Have No Secrets, by Penny Joelson. I made it about 20% of the way through this, and decided to stop. It was interesting, I just don’t think it was a good fit for me now.

Book Review: The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae, by Stephanie Butland

the curious heart of ailsa rae
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:  The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae
Author:  Stephanie Butland
Genre:  Women’s fiction
Rating:  5 out of 5

Ailsa Rae was born with a heart that didn’t work right. Her whole life was spent in protecting herself, being sick, and praying for a transplant—not really living. When she was 28, that wish came true, and now she has a new heart. What she wants is a new life.

Ailsa lost her best friend/boyfriend Lennox when he did not receive the liver transplant he so desperately needed, and sometimes it feels just wrong that she has a new lease on life and Lennox…doesn’t. So Ailsa talks to her blog and asks it for help making decisions, and she talks to her new heart, Apple, as they learn to live together. Ailsa’s rock has always been her mom, Hayley, but some of the dreams Ailsa has are things her mom doesn’t approve it.

Ailsa knew dying was hard, but she never imagined that just living was even harder.

I enjoyed this book so much! I know a good amount about kidney transplants (family history + my job) and a bit about pancreas transplants, but next to nothing about heart transplants. Ailsa was so much fun to read:  her voice, her attitude, her just-like-everyone-else-but-afraid-I’m-different hopes and dreams. She’s incredibly strong from her experiences, but she’s been sheltered her whole life, so she’s like a colt taking its first wobbling steps into the world. An excellent read!

Stephanie Butland is a breast cancer survivor and an author.  The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae is her new novel.

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

Book Review: If Darkness Takes Us , by Brenda Marie Smith

if darkness takes us
Image belongs to Southern Fried Karma.

Title:  If Darkness Takes Us
AuthorBrenda Marie Smith
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

Bea Crenshaw has lived in the Austin suburbs for years, watching the world go to pieces around her. So she starts prepping—doomsday prepping—secretly, letting no one in her family know just how prepared she is. When calamity strikes in the form of a solar pulse, maybe, Bea is ready. But she never imagined how hard the end of the world would be when taking care of her four grandchildren.

Bea knows if they are to survive, they must work together with their neighbors, but that’s easier said than done. Some boys would rather watch the world burn than help the community. Bea just wants her family safe—but will she be able to make that happen, no matter how prepared she thought she was?

A post-apocalyptic novel about a grandmother? That concept was unique enough to catch my attention. I enjoyed the idea and the story enough to finish reading the novel, but the novel did have some issues. The younger grandchildren—actually, all the grandchildren but Keno—seemed to be caricatures of “problem child” kids, not actual people. (Rebellious and defiant teenage girl, bratty little girl, angry pre-teen.) They annoyed me badly enough I didn’t actually care what happened to them. And Bea herself was oblivious to reality and real life—almost willfully so. If it fell outside the neat box she had prepared in her mind, she had no idea how to deal with it, so she went with denial. Not a healthy choice for anyone. I just wasn’t invested in these characters.

Brenda Marie Smith lives in Austin, Texas. If Darkness Takes Us is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Southern Fried Karma via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Christmas Angels, by Nancy Naigle

christmas angels
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:  Christmas Angels
Author:    Nancy Naigle
Genre:  Romance
Rating:  4 out of 5

Liz Westmoreland spent summers growing up the in the little town of Antler Creek, where her grandparents ran an inn. When they sold it, it broke her heart, although she treasured the memories. When she stumbles upon a listing for what looks like her beloved inn, she buys it sight unseen, and is horrified when she finds her new purchase in disrepair, making her wonder if the place will ever shine like it did in her childhood.

Matt Hardy missed out on buying the inn, but he just hopes the new owner won’t make thing worse like the last ones did. When he realizes his childhood crush is the new owner, he’s eager to help her restore the inn, even if she doesn’t quite remember him. But when an accident has Liz questioning if she’s even meant to turn the inn around, he and the residents of Antler Creek must come together to convince her she’s found her home.

Christmas Angels was a sweet romance read, even for someone who doesn’t like Christmas stories months early. The author captures the small-town feel well, although I wonder if places so completely uplifting and friendly even exist (I mean, everyone supported and liked her, which seems unlikely). I thought the romance resolved itself a little too quickly and seamlessly, but this was a cute read.

Nancy Naigle is a bestselling author. Christmas Angles is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Bound in Flame, by Katherine Kayne

bound in flame
Image belongs to Passionflower Press.

Title:  Bound in Flame
Author:    Katherine Kayne
Genre:
Rating: 3 out of 5

In 1909 Hawaii, Letty Lang is a suffragette, a rebel, and an animal lover with a temper who’s determined to become the first female veterinarian in Hawaii. There’s also the flames she feels around her, that she’s never understood. When she dives into the ocean to save a horse, she sets things in motion that will change the way she sees the world.

She is a Gate to the land she loves, but her flames will destroy anyone who comes close, even Timothy, the horse’s owner and a lord looking for an heiress to help fund his dreams. Can she control her flames, or will she lose everything she wants in the attempt?

I’m not sure how to classify this book. It’s sort of YA, sort of historical, and sort of fantasy. But not completely any of these…I loved the setting, but the location/date tags on every chapter were pointless, as the timeline was straightforward, and most of the novel was set in Hawaii. This novel… could have been fascinating, but it felt unfinished, like the bare bones of the story was there, but it needed details filled in and sometimes events seemed to happen unrelated to anything else. The subplot about the serial killer seemed entirely pointless and unrelated as well.

Katherine Kayne lives in Hawaii part of the year. Bound in Flame is her newest novel.

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

Sundays are for Writing #43

This was an okay writing week, in that I did one less writing session than I’d planned. But, since it was due to mental and physical exhaustion…I’m okay with that. So, four sessions for eight pages total.

Plus… a lot of book reviews (working ahead to over the days I’ll be on vacation the first week of November).

Book Review: The Oracle of Cumae, by Melissa Hardy

oracle
Image belongs to Second Story Press.

Title:  The Oracle of Cumae
AuthorMelissa Hardy
Genre:  Speculative Fiction
Rating:  3 out of 5

Mariuccia Umbellino is 99 years old when a miracle occurs, and she asks to see a priest. While her family thinks she wants to confess, Mariuccia just wants to tell someone the story of what happened years ago when she was a child in the Italian countryside. Mariuccia’s family had always been guardians of the Oracle, but one year, that guardianship entailed a lot more work than others.

When a priest and a wealthy man arrive at the family home en route to destroy the Oracle’s cave, Mariuccia and her mother sneak away to rescue the Oracle, bringing her home with them where it’s safe. Soon there are love spells with unforeseen results, strange mummies, and disembodied voices all around. It will take years for things to be set right with Mariuccia’s family.

That wasn’t a very good summary, but…I’m still not sure what the actual point (or plot) of the book was. I would have enjoyed more stories from Mariuccia’s life, instead of focusing on this one. I loved the Oracle’s sass, but really, what was the point of this book?

Melissa Hardy’s first novel was published when she was 17.  The Oracle of Cumae is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Second Story Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Girls Like Us, by Randi Pink

girls like us
Image belongs to Feiwel & Friends.

 

Title:  Girls Like Us
Author:    Randi Pink
Genre:  YA, historical
Rating:  3 out of 5

Georgia, 1972.

Izella and her sister Ola do everything just as their mother, a very religious woman, tells them. Cooking, cleaning, serving…and most of all, staying out of trouble and not getting pregnant. Except Ola didn’t listen to that last one, and now Izella must get her out of trouble somehow.

Their neighbor, Missippi, is also pregnant, through no fault of her own—and she’s too young to understand what the ramifications are. When her father sends her to Chicago to a woman who will take care of her until she has the babies, she meets Sue, also pregnant and the daughter of a pro-life senator.

Four different girls. Four different stories. All facing the same issue.

This book was not what I thought it would be. It’s rougher than I would like not, not fully polished, and while it’s about an emotional topic, I never felt an emotional connection with any of the characters. I found Izella and Ola basically unlikable, although I did like Missippi and Sue. The sisters’ choices show their ignorance of reality—perhaps due to their almost-cloistered upbringing—while Missippi is a character I felt sorry for, making the best of a horrible situation. Sue, on the other hand, is full of great motives, but zero follow-through. She talks a good game, but her rebellion vanishes in the face of opposition.

Randi Pink lives in Birmingham, Alabama. Girls Like Us is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Feiwel & Friends via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Grace Year, by Kim Liggett

the grace year
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press/Wednesday Books.

Title:  The Grace Year
AuthorKim Liggett
Genre:  YA
Rating:  5 out of 5

When they turn sixteen, girls in Garner County are told they come into their magic. They have power over men and power to drive other women mad with jealousy. Which is why they are banished to the wilderness for a year:  to get rid of their magic and return ready to be wives. No one speaks of the Grace Year. It is forbidden. No one knows what happens there.

Tierney James hates how things are. She hates how women turn on each other and how men have all the power. She just wants to survive her Grace Year and get on with her life. She knows she’ll never be a wife, so survival is her goal. But soon she realizes there is more to fear than the wilderness, or even the poachers who fight to steal any of the girls and sell their parts on the black market.

The real danger may lie in each other.

This book. This book. I’ve seen comparisons to The Handmaid’s Tale, and it does have that sort of feel. But I didn’t care for that novel, and I loved this one. This society was horrifying to me. Women are worse than second-class citizens, but even worse than that was the way they treated each other. They are truly horrible to each other—and it made me almost nauseous to read.

This is a tale full of darkness and danger, mistakes and madness, but it’s a tale of hope nonetheless, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Kim Liggett left the rural Midwest for New York City when she was sixteen. The Grace Year is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: The Widow of Rose House, by Diana Biller

the widow of rose house
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:  The Widow of Rose House
Author:    Diana Biller
Genre:  Historical fiction, romance
Rating:  5 out of 5

In 1875, Alva Webster has spent three years developing a tough hide and learning how to ignore the whispers and gossip going around about her. When she left her abusive husband, he crucified her in the press, and the sordid tales followed her from London back home to New York, where she longs for a fresh start. She bought Liefdehuis, an abandoned mansion, in the hopes of repairing it and her hopes for the future.

But rumors of ghosts haunting the mansion make her task impossible, until eccentric professor Samuel Moore turns up, eager to study the phenomena. Sam’s family is famous for its love of science, and Sam himself is beloved by the press—and women—all over, so Alva wants no part of him, no matter how charming and caring he is. But Sam is her only hope of solving the mystery of the ghost in Liefdehuis—and unlocking the secrets in Alva’s heart.

I feel like Sam—and his family—are the stars of this book, although Alva is pretty incredible herself. But Sam…he’s like Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory, except caring, considerate, and funny. I loved him from his first introduction and am quite impressed that Alva resisted for as long as she did. There’s a lot of humor in this novel, a little bit of fright, and it all adds up to an entrancing read.

Diana Biller loves ballet and hiking. The Widow of Rose House is her newest novel.

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