The Best Books I Read in April (2019)

I read 18 books in April, and DNF two more, but a handful of books I really enjoyed. One is historical fiction/fantasy, the other are mainstream/women’s fiction with a little romance.

rosie's traveling tea shop

Rosie’s Traveling Tea Shop, by Rebecca Raisin. This was probably my favorite read, and I binge-read all of it last Sunday. Straight through. (Yes, that was exactly as wonderful as it sounds.) The idea of traveling all the time—but with a book shop, not a cooking shop (except the tea idea is tempting)—is strangely alluring for me, and I wish I could work out a way to make that happen.  #thevanlife

Romanov

Romanov, by Nadine Brandes. This is a fantasy version of historical fiction. Well, there are spells and spellmasters in it, so I assume it’s fantasy. But, it’s the story of the Romanov family and their time in exile, and what happens to their daughter, Anastasia. (It’s definitely not the Disney version.)

one summer in paris

One Summer in Paris, by Sarah Morgan. Apparently in April I had a thing for books about women reinventing themselves and starting new lives in foreign places…One Summer in Paris is about two women spending the summer in Paris alone—one because her husband of 25 years decides he wants a divorce, so she goes on the trip without him, and one who’s keeping secrets about her mother as she tries to figure out life on her own—who meet and become friends.

All three of these are excellent reads.

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What I Read in April (2019)

Books Read in April:  18

Books Read for the Year: 67/175

Topical Books/Monthly Goal Books:

That Hideous Strength, by C.S. Lewis (classic). While I enjoyed the first two books in The Space Trilogy, this was a bit too much talking-heads to me. Or maybe I just wasn’t paying close enough attention.

I Declare War: Four Keys to Winning the Battle with Yourself, by Levi Lusko (spiritual). After hearing him speak last month, I was excited to read this book about beating the bad habits you don’t want to do anymore.

The Lost Girls of Paris, by Pam Jenoff (cultural). This is about female spies during WWII, and what happened to them.

Girl, Stop Apologizing, by Rachel Hollis (nonfiction). I love Hollis’ voice!

Two Princes of Summer, by Nissa Leder (from the TBR pile). Please see the “Left Unfinished” section.

For Review:

the girl he used to know

The Girl He Used to Know, by Tracey Garvis Graves. Ten years ago, Annika Rose and Jonathan had a relationship. But Annika isn’t like other people. She doesn’t like people, and she doesn’t know how to talk to them or how to interpret what they mean. Now that she’s run into Jonathan again, can she show him she’s different than she used to be? This is a solid read from the viewpoint of a character that looks at the world so differently…and knows it.

the devouring gray

The Devouring Grey, by Christine Lynn Herman. I thoroughly enjoyed this dark—very dark—modern YA fantasy. Everybody in this book has issues. Serious issues. And mysteries and secrets abound.

little lovely things

Little Lovely Things, by Maureen Joyce Connolly. Not for the faint of heart or anyone who is disturbed by violence involving children. Claire is driving her two children to daycare when she is overcome by sickness and has to pull into a gas station. She wakes up later on the floor of the bathroom…with her car and her daughters gone. The police have no clues, but Claire is convinced her daughters are alive…but the tragedy may destroy everything in her life. Emotional read.

15 wonders

The Fifteen Wonders of Daniel Green, by Erica Boyce. When a dying farmer pays a secret group to make a crop circle and bring attention to a dying farm town, the artist finds himself drawn into the family’s lives. This was an interesting, rather magical read.

the mother-in-law

The Mother-in-law, by Sally Hepworth. Why does the mother-in-law always have to be the villain? Well…Lucy and Diana never got along, but now Diana is dead, and Lucy—and the rest of the family—is a suspect.

redwoods and whales

Redwoods and Whales, by Phil Joel. Loved this read about stepping into the identity God has for you, and looking at life for yourself, not the way everyone else does.

brief chronicles

Brief Chronicles of Another Stupid Heartbreak, by Adi Alsaid. When Lu’s boyfriend breaks up with her, writer’s block sets in for the relationship journalist, and she’s on the verge of losing her scholarship. Then she meets Cal and Iris, who plan to end their relationship at the end of summer, and is fascinated, and determined to write about them, slowly finding herself drawn into their dynamics.

a pack of blood and lies

A Pack of Blood and Lies, by Olivia Wildenstein. This is a solid read about an all-male pack of werewolves, and the girl who dares to challenge the status quo.

one summer in paris

One Summer in Paris, by Sarah Morgan. Grace intends to surprise her husband with a trip to Paris for their 25th anniversary. Instead, he wants a divorce, so she goes to Paris alone, lost in memories of the past. She meets Audrey, on her own for the first time, and keeping secrets about her family as she refuses to let anyone close. The friendship between Grace and Audrey teaches them both important lessons. I’ve never had any desire to visit Paris, but this book made me reconsider. A wonderful read!

Getting Hot with the Scot

Getting Hot with the Scot, by Melonie Johnson.  On the trip of a lifetime, Cassie meets a hot Scottish Highlander in a kilt and soon finds herself in more than a one-night-stand.

belly up

Belly Up,  by Eva Darrows. An unexpected pregnancy at 16 changes Serendipity’s whole life and brings people into her life she can’t imagine being without. Love the friendships in this book.

only ever her

Only Ever Her, by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen (review forthcoming). The small-town feel of this is spot-on, but I found most of the characters disagreeable at best, and didn’t really care why Annie had gone missing.

Romanov

Romanov, by Nadine Brandes (review forthcoming). This fictionalized tale of Anastasia Romanov and her family was completely engrossing, and I highly recommend it.

Just Because:

rosie's traveling tea shop

Rosie’s Traveling Tea Shop, by Rebecca Raisin. Can we talk about how much I love this book? SO. MUCH.

Left Unfinished:

two princes of summer

Two Princes of Summer, by Nissa Leder. Beautiful cover that definitely made me want to read this. But…I quit at the 20% mark. Scarlett’s mother committed suicide, and now she’s grieving. Believable. Mentioning how everyone—including her—thought her mother was crazy for seeing things over and over and over…makes the impact completely disappear. Scarlett, while drunk, goes into another realm with Cade, whom she basically doesn’t know…and doesn’t even question this decision. And Cade is a little rape-y for my taste, thank you very much. Raith was moderately interesting, but not enough to make me continue reading. Thanks, but no thanks.

Tinfoil Crowns, by Erin Jones. The MC was just entirely to self-obsessed for me. I read about 10%, but I couldn’t put up with her narcissism anymore.

 

Book Review: Belly Up, by Eva Darrows

 

belly up
Image belongs to Harlequin TEEN/Inkyard Press.

Title:  Belly Up
Author:  Eva Darrows
Genre:  YA
Rating:  4 out of 5

It’s bad enough Sara’s boyfriend cheated on her and she found out when she saw sexting pics on his phone. But now he and the other girl are flaunting it around town, when all Sara wants is to get through the summer and spend senior year with her best friend, Devi, and get into an Ivy League school. Surely a drunken hook-up at a party will at least take Sara’s mind off her problems.

Or not.

She forgot to get the guy’s number, and when she finds out she’s pregnant, well, things change. She and her mom move in with her grandmother, and instead of starting senior year with Devi, Sara is the new girl at a new school. She meets some new friends and Leaf, a Romani boy who really gets her, and whose flirting makes her happy. Except she’s also the pregnant new girl. She should probably tell Leaf about that, but she wants to hold on to her happiness for just a little longer.

Belly Up wasn’t quite what I expected. Sara is an amazing character, and her voice is so much fun. This is an incredibly diverse book, and friendship is a main theme, as is love (and not romantic love, either). This was a fun read about serious subjects, and I recommend it.

Eva Darrows/Hillary Monahan is a New York Times-bestselling author. Belly Up is her newest novel.

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

Sundays are for Writing #17

I had a good writing week. I got all my words, but I changed my sessions just a bit to accommodate my schedule:  three sessions on Tuesday, one after work on Wednesday, and two on Saturday.

I also outlined five scenes and did two writing lessons this week, so I hit all my writing goals!

Book Review: Getting Hot with the Scot, by Melonie Johnson

Getting Hot with the Scot
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:  Getting Hot with the Scot
Author:  Melonie Johnson
Genre:  Romance
Rating:  4 out of 5

Cassie Crow is a pop culture reporter for a talk show, but she wants to be a “serious” reporter. Even though she’s on the vacation of a lifetime with her friends, her upcoming big interview is all she can think about. Until a mix-up in a Scottish castle leads to a chance encounter with a handsome man in a kilt.

Logan’s career is doing pranks before a camera and making it big is all he can think about. Until he meets Cassie and needs her to agree before he can use the footage that may capture the hearts of his target audience.

What was supposed to be a one-night-stand might become more, but only if Cassie and Logan conquer the fears from their pasts.

Getting Hot with the Scot was a quick, fun read. Running into a sexy Highlander in a kilt—in a castle, no less—is probably the dream of a lot of women, so I found the way the novel took that idea and ran with it to be quite entertaining. The best part of this book, besides Logan’s accent, was the friendship between Cassie and her group of friends.

Melonie Johnson is a writer, a wife, a mother, and many other things, depending on her current interests. Getting Hot with the Scot is the first book in the Sometimes in Love series.

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

Book Review: A Pack of Blood and Lies, by Olivia Wildenstein

 

a pack of blood and lies
Image belongs to Twig Publishing.

Title:  A Pack of Blood and Lies
Author:  Olivia Wildenstein
Genre:  YA/New Adult, paranormal
Rating:  4 out of 5

Ness is almost 18 when she’s forced to return to Boulder. She intended to forget about what happened there, forget about what happened to her mom, and forget all the domineering men in the werewolf pack that had no room for a female. She was happy to think she’d escaped with only her memories.

But now she’s back in boulder and those memories are standing before her. One of them is a friend, but one of them is Liam Kolane, son of Heath, the cruelest man she’d ever imagined. Now Heath is dead, and no one dares challenge Liam for the right to rule the pack.

Except Ness, who isn’t going to let him win without a fight. A fight to the death—if she can convince her heart that’s an acceptable cost.

I found this pretty predictable in most ways, but I enjoyed the read. Lots of chauvinistic alpha males swaggering around, but there are some glimmers of redeeming qualities among them. Coming from a patriarchal society, it’s understandable, even if mildly infuriating.

Bestselling author Olivia Wildenstein lives in Switzerland. A Pack of Blood and Lies is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Brief Chronicle of Another Stupid Heartbreak, by Adi Alsaid

brief chronicles
Image belongs to Harlequin TEEN.

Title:  Brief Chronicle of Another Stupid Heartbreak
Author:  Adi Alsaid
Genre:  YA
Rating:  4 out of 5

Lu Charles is not having a good summer. Her boyfriend broke up with her, and now she’s got writer’s block. Which is a big deal for a relationship reporter—especially since her scholarship rides on the gig.

Then Lu meets Cal. He’s funny and smart, and she’s intrigued when she learns he and his long-term girlfriend Iris plan to break up at the end of the summer before they go away to college—just like her relationship. Soon Lu is hanging out with Cal and Iris, fascinated with their relationship and a love that seems strong enough to stand the strains ahead. How can two people just choose to give that up? Lu smells a story, one that will hopefully end her writer’s block for good.

Lu is an interesting character. She’s smart and observant, but so stuck inside her own head—and her own pain—that reality sometimes escapes her. Cal and Iris’s relationship is enviable and looks like magic to Lu, still hurting under the weight of her own broken heart. Getting to know them will give Lu insight into her own self—but it’s not an easy journey.

Adi Alsaid was born and raised in Mexico City. Brief Chronicle of Another Stupid Heartbreak is his newest novel.

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

Sundays are for Writing #16

I did get in three writing days this week, meeting my goal of 2,250 words. I’m happy with that, but so far, as of Saturday around noonish, I have not done any scene outlines or writing lessons.

I dohave that planned for Sunday morning, though, so we’ll see how that works out. I really need some kind of plot for this story…

Book Review: The Mother-in-law, by Sally Hepworth

the mother-in-law
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:  The Mother-in-law
Author:  Sally Hepworth
Genre:  Domestic suspense
Rating:  4 out of 5

When Lucy married Ollie ten years ago, she couldn’t wait to become part of his family. But his mother, Diana, had other plans. She kept Lucy at arm’s length, always said exactly the wrong thing and made Lucy feel never-good-enough, and prioritized her job aiding refugees. Who could compete with that? Not stay-at-home mom Lucy.

Now Diana has been found dead of an apparent suicide, a note beside her blaming advanced cancer. But the police aren’t so sure. There are traces of poison in her system—and no trace of cancer. Things aren’t adding up, and every member of the family is under scrutiny—especially Lucy, whose tumultuous relationship with Diana is no secret from anyone.

I was kind of on the fence about this one. I know every mother-in-law isn’t evil—they’re just typecast that way—and I wasn’t sure I wanted to read something predictable. This was not a predictable read. It’s told in alternating viewpoints—Lucy and Diana—then and now, gradually revealing the truth of the relationship between the two—and what drove someone to kill Diana.

Sally Hepworth is a bestselling author who lives in Australia. The Mother-in-law is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Redwoods and Whales: Becoming Who You Actually Are, by Phil Joel

 

redwoods and whales
Image belongs to Emanate Books/Thomas Nelson.

Title:  Redwoods and Whales: Becoming Who You Actually Are
Author: Phil Joel
Genre:  Spiritual, Christian
Rating:   5 out of 5

Redwoods and Whales offers a warning and a promise:

The warning: Don’t become that beached whale, trying to live in a foreign environment.

The promise: You will find freedom when your identity is centered under the safety of the Divine.

Life is tough. Depression, addiction, suicide, violence…they’re all commonplace in our society, and they make it hard to know where to turn. Despite the “connectedness” of our social media word, many people feel alone and adrift. But we have a choice:  we can choose to seek God and His true nature, and we can choose to live healthy, purpose-filled lives.

I wasn’t sure what to expect of this book, but Redwoods and Whales brought inspiration and hope while acknowledging the sometimes-bleak world around us. The casual tone combined with the chatting-with-a-friend feel of the book makes it easier to soak in the deep message in this book.

Phil Joel is a musician and an artist. Redwoods and Whales:  Becoming Who You Actually Are is his debut book.

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