Book Review: A Bright Young Thing, by Brianne Moore

Image belongs to Alcove Press.

In 1931 England, Astra Davies defies all the conventions. Clever, witty, and determined, Astra smokes, drinks, plays a mean piano, and gallivants around London with her beloved Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. But Astra finds herself in a tight spot when her parents die suddenly, leaving her with a raft of debts. With few marketable skills and a closet full of family secrets, Astra has two choices: find a rich husband or make her own way.

A fiercely driven woman like Astra is not about to cast her lot in with a man, especially out of desperation. And since the only man she fancies–Jeremy Harris, the Earl of Dunreaven–is as hard up as she is, her way forward is clear. But the path to independence is a bumpy one fraught with hazards and heartbreaking choices. A blackmailing socialite threatens to derail Astra’s reputation. A brainless business partner just might drive her even further into debt. And a series of bruising scandals dogs her every step of the way.

From the bustle of London to the country estates of the aristocracy, Astra embarks on a journey that tests her brains, wit, and mettle as never before. But one way or another, Astra Davies is dead set on proving she’s no ordinary Bright Young Thing.

I really enjoyed this read! Astra’s character growth was fantastic to watch. Her friend’s sister, however, was evil and vindictive, and I just couldn’t stand her at all. It seemed like Astra just keep getting slammed with more and more obstacles, but she persevered and learned from them, letting them make her stronger instead of destroying her.

Brianne Moore is from Pennsylvania but now lives in Scotland. A Bright Young Thing is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Inheritance, by JoAnn Ross

Image belongs to Harlequin.

 

When conflict photographer Jackson Swann dies, he leaves behind a conflict of his own making when his three daughters, each born to a different mother, discover that they’re now responsible for the family’s Oregon vineyard—and for a family they didn’t ask for.

After a successful career as a child TV star, Tess is, for the first time in her life, suffering from a serious identity crisis, and renewed resentment around losing her father all over again.

Charlotte, brought up to be a proper Southern wife, gave up her own career to support her husband’s political ambitions. On the worst day of her life, she discovers her beloved father has died, she has two sisters she never knew about, and her husband has fallen in love with another woman.

Natalie, daughter of Jack’s longtime mistress, has always known about her half sisters. And she can’t help feeling that when Tess and Charlotte find out, they’ll resent her for being the daughter their father kept.

As the sisters reluctantly gather at the Maison de Madeleine to deal with their father’s final wishes, they become enchanted by the legacy they’ve inherited, and by their grandmother’s rich stories of life in WWII France and the wounded American soldier who would ultimately influence all their lives.

I actually really enjoyed this read! Tess was kind of unlikable at first, but she grew on me as she mellowed out a bit. As did Charlotte, who actually grew a pair and stood up for herself with her horrid, cheating husband. I would have enjoyed seeing more from Natalie’s viewpoint, as I liked her the best.

The stories of the three sisters, interspersed with tales from their grandmother’s time in the French Resistance, made for a compelling read, fraught with family tensions and truths waiting to be discovered.

JoAnn Ross is a bestselling author. The Inheritance is her newest novel.

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

Sundays are for Writing #137

It’s been a busy week, so not much writing happened. I wrote one book review plus two blog posts (my August reading and the best books I read in August). I’m not worried about the light writing week. My family lives outside of New Orleans and I have friends there, too, so the storm took quite a bit of my focus.

Happy writing!

The Best Books I Read in August (2021)

I read 13 books in August…and DNFed 12, so yeah, August’s reading was a crapshoot.

I actually really loved four of my monthly reading selections from my TBR pile.

A Court of Silver Flames, by Sarah J. Maas. I’ve enjoyed this entire series, but it was fascinating to see Nesta and Cassian’s story. Talk about oil and water!

Deeply Odd, by Dean Koontz. I read the first five books in this series years ago (I started reading before they were a series), and have just recently re-read those and started reading the others. I love the voice in these so much, and Odd Thomas is such a great character.

Mister Impossible, by Maggie Stiefvater. I do enjoy Stiefvater’s books so much, and I’ve loved these characters for years (some of them, anyway).

Million Dollar Demon, by Kim Harrison. I’ve read and loved this entire series. Jenks is definitely my favorite character.

What I Read in August (2021)

Books Read in August: 13

Books Read for the Year: 165/250

I will say, I DNFed a lot of books this month—as in almost as many as I actually finished reading. Possibly because I committed to read so many, so I couldn’t afford to read one that didn’t completely hold my interest.

Topical Books/Monthly Goal Books:

A Court of Silver Flames, by Sarah J. Maas (TBR). Loved this read!

Gently and Lowly, by Dane Ortlund (spiritual). I enjoyed this.

Deeply Odd, by Dean Koontz (TBR). I really loved this!

Mister Impossible, by Maggie Stiefvater (TBR). I do enjoy Stiefvater’s books so much.

Million Dollar Demon, by Kim Harrison (TBR). I’ve read and loved this entire series. Jenks is definitely my favorite character.

For Review:

Such a Good Wife, by Seraphina Glass. I have to say, the wife was pretty heartless in this. It was a solid read, but she gave me issues.

Where the Truth Lies, by Anna Bailey. I feel like the author had a bad experience with a small town, because every single person in this novel was hiding dark, ugly secrets.

We Are the Brennans, by Tracey Lange. I really enjoyed this family tale!

Beware the Mermaids, by Carrie Talick. I enjoyed this more than I thought I would, although the husband was such a jerk. A fun, easy read.

What We Carry, by Kalyn Fogarty. This was pretty heavy, and the MC (and her mother) were both basically selfish and clueless people.

The Bookseller’s Secret, by Michelle Gable. I liked this read, although I preferred the present-day storyline much more than the historical one.

Where I Left Her, by Amber Garza. This was…I don’t know. It wasn’t a horrible read or anything, but the mother and her super-controlling personality were awful. Definitely an unreliable narrator and I didn’t care for her at all.

Velvet Was the Night, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. This was masterfully written, but I didn’t really care for the characters.

Left Unfinished:

Songbirds, by Christy Lefteri. I read about 15% of this, but it was very slow, and it just didn’t keep my attention.

The Wildest Ride, by Marcella Bell. I think I read about 30% of this, but the two main characters were too arrogant and their only other non-cliche character trait was attitude, so it just wasn’t for me.

The People We keep, by Allison Larkin. I just couldn’t get into this.

The Hand of the Sun King, by J.T. Greathouse. I made it about 15% of the way through this before giving up. I just couldn’t make myself care about the MC.

The Show Girl, by Nicola Harrison. This wasn’t bad. I read over 50% of it, but Olive ended up getting on my nerves because she was so self-absorbed.

Yours Cheerfully, by AJ Pearce. I wanted to like this. But, I read 15% of it, and though I found it funny, I was also slightly bored, so I stopped reading.

Maiden Voyages, by Siân Evans. I didn’t get very far in this before putting it down, because it felt like reading a textbook.

The Eternal Audience of One, by Rémy Ngamije. I didn’t make it very far in this, as the condescending and racist tone was too much for me.

Ramadan Ramsey, by Louis Edwards. Normally, I love to read anything set in New Orleans, but this started off sooooo slooooowly I just couldn’t get into it.

Refugee High, by Elly Fishman. I choose not to read anything that makes its political bias so obvious on page two.

The Family Plot, by Megan Collins. This sounded intriguing, but the whole scenario was pretty creepy—and Dahlia was just so unwilling to accept that reality was different from her perception of it. I couldn’t read more than 15% of it.

Book Review: Velvet Was the Night, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Image belongs to Random House/Del Rey.

1970s, Mexico City. Maite is a secretary who lives for one thing: the latest issue of Secret Romance. While student protests and political unrest consume the city, Maite escapes into stories of passion and danger.

Her next-door neighbor, Leonora, a beautiful art student, seems to live a life of intrigue and romance that Maite envies. When Leonora disappears under suspicious circumstances, Maite finds herself searching for the missing woman—and journeying deeper into Leonora’s secret life of student radicals and dissidents.

Meanwhile, someone else is also looking for Leonora at the behest of his boss, a shadowy figure who commands goon squads dedicated to squashing political activists. Elvis is an eccentric criminal who longs to escape his own life: He loathes violence and loves old movies and rock ’n’ roll. But as Elvis searches for the missing woman, he comes to observe Maite from a distance—and grows more and more obsessed with this woman who shares his love of music and the unspoken loneliness of his heart.

Now as Maite and Elvis come closer to discovering the truth behind Leonora’s disappearance, they can no longer escape the danger that threatens to consume their lives, with hitmen, government agents, and Russian spies all aiming to protect Leonora’s secrets—at gunpoint.

Maite and Elvis interested me enough to finish reading this, which is truly a testament to the author’s skill—because Maite was pretty boring, and Elvis, well, there wasn’t a whole lot about him that I could relate to. I ended up liking this read, despite not really caring for the characters.

Maite is a chronic liar, inflating her sad life with falsehoods, obsessing about comic book romances—and let’s not forget her kleptomaniac tendencies. She wants more out of life, she’s just too afraid of everything to actually go after more. I liked Elvis a bit more, with his sad history and determination to do the right thing—ironic, considering his line of work, but he was sadly blind to reality.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia is an award-winning author. Velvet Was the Night is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Random House/Del Rey in exchange for an honest review.)

Sundays are for Writing #136

I’ve done very minimal writing this week: only one book review. It’s been crazy busy…and most of the books to be reviewed I’ve started reading this week I DNFed. That’s way more than normal, and I’m not sure if it’s because I committed to read and review way too many books in August so my tolerance for reading boredom is almost non-existent or because the books in question really did have issues. Either way, hopefully this next week will be a better writing week.

Book Review and Blog Tour: Where I Left Her, by Amber Garza

Image belongs to Harlequin/MIRA.

Whitney had some misgivings when she dropped her increasingly moody teenage daughter, Amelia, off at Lauren’s house. She’d never met the parents, and usually she’d go in, but Amelia clearly wasn’t going to let something so humiliating happen, so instead Whitney waved to her daughter before pulling away from the little house with the roses in front.

But when she goes back the next day, an elderly couple answers the door—Amelia and Lauren aren’t there, and this couple swears they never were, that she’s at the wrong house. As Whitney searches for Amelia, she uncovers a trail of lies her daughter has told her—from the Finsta account to rumors of a secret relationship. Does she really even know this girl she’s raised? And Amelia’s not the only one with secrets. Could Whitney’s own demons have something to do with her daughter’s disappearance, and can Whitney find her before it’s too late?

Even before I realized Whitney was an unreliable narrator, I thought she was a horrible person. Her super controlling relationship with her daughter got on my very last nerve—especially considering the secrets she was hiding! At first, I was intrigued by what had happened to Amelia, but then I was just low-key annoyed. Does anyone in this family ever tell the truth? Solid writing but unlikeable (to me) characters made this just an okay read.

Amber Garza lives in California. Where I Left Her is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Bookseller’s Secret, by Michelle Gable

Image belongs to Harlequin/Graydon House.

In 1942, London, Nancy Mitford is worried about more than air raids and German spies. Still recovering from a devastating loss, the once sparkling Bright Young Thing is estranged from her husband, her allowance has been cut, and she’s given up her writing career. On top of this, her five beautiful but infamous sisters continue making headlines with their controversial politics.

Eager for distraction and desperate for income, Nancy jumps at the chance to manage the Heywood Hill bookshop while the owner is away at war. Between the shop’s brisk business and the literary salons she hosts for her eccentric friends, Nancy’s life seems on the upswing. But when a mysterious French officer insists that she has a story to tell, Nancy must decide if picking up the pen again and revealing all is worth the price she might be forced to pay.

Eighty years later, Heywood Hill is abuzz with the hunt for a lost wartime manuscript written by Nancy Mitford. For one woman desperately in need of a change, the search will reveal not only a new side to Nancy, but an even more surprising link between the past and present…

Nancy and her family were a bit of a dumpster fire. I really didn’t care for them. Nancy was very wishy-washy and I frankly just wanted her to grow a pair, make a decision, and follow through. I actually enjoyed Katie’s story in the present-day far, far more than Nancy’s, although she had her own set of issues (more of a campfire than a dumpster fire).

There were some parallels between the two women, with their writer’s block and indecisiveness, but it was fun to see Katie’s journey. The blurb makes this seem like everyone in London is talking about the possibility of a lost Mitford manuscript, but in reality it was basically three people, so there’s that.

Michelle Gable is a bestselling author. The Bookseller’s Secret is her newest novel.

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