Blog Tour: The Amish Newcomer, by Patrice Lewis

Image belongs to Harlequin/Love Inspired.

Title: The Amish Newcomer
Author: Patrice Lewis    
Genre: Romance, Christian
Rating: 4.0 out of 5

Can a modern city girl ever become one of the Plain People?

She needed a safe place to hide. Instead, she found a place to call home.

Television journalist Leah Porte never imagined her career would end with her witnessing a murder. Now she’s temporarily living among the Amish in witness protection. Instead of feeling alone and adrift, Leah is warmly welcomed by the close-knit community—and Amish bachelor Isaac Sommer. But caught between two very different worlds, choosing love would mean leaving her big city life behind forever.

This was a sweet, uplifting read. The difference between Leah’s previous life and her life with the Amish made for an interesting premise, one I cannot imagine going through. Solid writing here and a lovely community made this a wonderful comfort read.

Patrice Lewis lives in North Idaho. The Amish Newcomer is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Before She Was Helen, by Caroline B. Cooney

befor she was helen
Image belongs to Poisoned Pen Press.

Title: Before She Was Helen
Author: Caroline B. Cooney  
Genre: Fiction, mystery
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

When Clemmie goes next door to check on her difficult and unlikeable neighbor Dom, he isn’t there. But something else is. Something stunning, beautiful and inexplicable. Clemmie photographs the wondrous object on her cell phone and makes the irrevocable error of forwarding it. As the picture swirls over the internet, Clemmie tries desperately to keep a grip on her own personal network of secrets. Can fifty years of careful hiding under names not her own be ruined by one careless picture? 

And although what Clemmie finds is a work of art, what the police find is a body. . . in a place where Clemmie wasn’t supposed to be, and where she left her fingerprints. Suddenly, the bland, quiet life Clemmie has built for herself in her sleepy South Carolina retirement community comes crashing down as her dark past surges into the present.

The description of this novel didn’t give me a clue of the confusion that came along with it. Because Clemmie is only Clemmie in her own thoughts and in her memories. She goes by Helen in her life and that’s what everyone knows her as. And her niece and nephew are clueless and selfish and get her into heaps of trouble with their thoughtlessness—but who would ever have suspected “Helen” was hiding secrets like this?

I liked the idea of this “helpless” little old lady being a disguise for someone who went through a terrible ordeal fifty years ago, but it just wasn’t very realistic to me. And the busybodies at the retirement community…no, thank you. I’d have moved just to escape from them.

Caroline B. Cooney started writing stories when she was in the sixth grade. Before She Was Helen is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: What They Meant for Evil, by Rebecca Deng

 

what they meant for evil
Image belongs to FaithWorks.

Title: What They Meant for Evil
Author:  Rebecca Deng
Genre: Nonfiction
Rating: 4 out of 5

One of the first unaccompanied refugee children to enter the United States in 2000, after South Sudan’s second civil war took the lives of most of her family, Rebecca’s story begins in the late 1980s when, at the age of four, her village was attacked and she had to escape. What They Meant for Evil is the account of that unimaginable journey. With the candor and purity of a child, Rebecca recalls how she endured fleeing from gunfire, suffering through hunger and strength-sapping illnesses, dodging life-threatening predators-lions, snakes, crocodiles, and soldiers alike-that dogged her footsteps, and grappling with a war that stole her childhood.

I cannot imagine the strength it takes to go through something like this…and to not just survive but thrive! I love how the story is told through Rebecca’s eyes at the age the events happened. This gives the story even more impact. While the things she went through are horrific—and the idea that untold numbers also experienced the violence and pain of this same war—her determination and accomplishments are very inspiring!

Rebecca Deng is one of the Lost Girls of Sudan who came to the U.S. in 2000 to escape the violence and war that had plagued her country for years. What They Meant for Evil is her story.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: Road Out of Winter, by Alison Stine

road out of winter
Image belongs to Harlequin/MIRA.

Title: Road Out of Winter
Author: Alison Stine
Genre: YA
Rating: 4 out of 5

Surrounded by poverty and paranoia her entire life, Wil has been left behind in her small Appalachian town by her mother and her best friend. Not only is she tending her stepfather’s illegal marijuana farm alone, but she’s left to watch the world fall further into chaos in the face of a climate crisis brought on by another year of unending winter.  

With her now priceless grow lights stashed in her truck and a pouch of precious seeds, Wil upends her life to pursue her mother in California, collecting an eclectic crew of fellow refugees along the way. She’s determined to start over and use her skills to grow badly needed food in impossible farming conditions, but the icy roads and desperate strangers are treacherous to Wil and her gang. Her green thumb becomes the target of a violent cult and their volatile leader, and Wil must use all her cunning and resources to protect her newfound family and the hope they have found within each other.

 This was rather dark and depressing—so the author did an excellent job of setting the tone and mood of the story. The idea of never-ending winter is sobering, at the very least. Wil is an interesting character. She’s so used to being the outcast, the one everyone shuns, that it’s a big adjustment to have people around who actually need her.

I enjoyed the character growth she experienced, but the book just depressed me, frankly. Lots of horrible people willing to steal and kill in order to get ahead, even if they don’t actually need what they’re stealing. Wil is like a tiny ray of light in a dark room in this story, and even though she sometimes flickers, she does not go out.

Alison Stine lives in the Appalachian foothills. Road Out of Winter is her newest novel.

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

Sundays are for Writing #87

This was an excellent writing week! In addition to two fiction-writing sessions, working on the Chasing Shadows revision, and two lessons in the Maggie Stiefvater class, I wrote seven book reviews + two other blog posts.

Happy writing!

Book Review: Sing Like No One’s Listening, by Vanessa Jones

sing like no one's listening
Image belongs to Peachtree Publishing.

Title: Sing Like No One’s Listening
Author: Vanessa Jones    
Genre: YA
Rating: 4 out of 5

Nettie Delaney has just been accepted into a prestigious performing arts school–the very same school her superstar mother attended. With her mother’s shadow hanging over her, Nettie has her work cut out for her–and everyone is watching. To make matters worse, Nettie hasn’t been able to sing a single note since her mother died. Whenever she tries, she just clams up. But if Nettie’s going to survive a demanding first year and keep her place in a highly coveted program, she’ll have to work through her grief and deliver a showstopper or face expulsion.

All may not be lost, however, when Nettie stumbles upon a mysterious piano player in an empty studio after class. Masked behind a curtain, can Nettie summon the courage to find her voice? Or will the pressure and anxiety of performing come crashing down?

This was a fun book! I know nothing about professional dancing or singing or performing, so I can’t say if it was accurate there, but if felt accurate. The author did an excellent job of connecting the reader to Nettie’s struggles and investing them in her journey.

The secondary characters were larger-than-life and a lot of fun, and I enjoyed seeing Nettie conquer her fears—all of them, not just the singing—and grow into her own person. A fun, inspiring read.

Vanessa Jones lives in Rome. Sing Like No One’s Listening is her newest novel.

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

Best Books I Read in August (2020)

In August, I read 29 books, bringing my total for the year to 216 books read.

The three best books I read in August were:

persuasion

Persuasion, by Jane Austen. Because, obviously. It’s not as good as Pride and Prejudice, but it’s still an excellent read and I enjoyed every moment.

furia

Furia, by Yamile Saied Méndez. I thoroughly enjoyed  this tale of a girl determined to play soccer like the men in her culture do, despite all the people who tell her she can’t. This was inspiring and an evocative look at life in an Argentina barrio.

my grandmother

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, by Fredrik Backman. I have no words for how much I enjoyed this novel. From the very first page, I was entranced by Elsa, the protagonist, who is “seven years old and different.” The voice in this novel was extraordinary, and I had ration myself to keep from reading this straight through in one sitting.

 

What I Read in August (2020)

Books Read in August: 29

Books Read for the Year: 216/200

Topical Books/Monthly Goal Books: 

The God I Never Knew, by Robert Morris + The God I Never Knew devotional (spiritual).

Persuasion, by Jane Austen (classic). I’ve read all of Austen’s works, but it’s been a while (hence my comfort re-read). This is probably my second favorite and I enjoyed it so much!

Meet the Sky, by McCall Hoyle (TBR). I enjoyed this YA about being stuck on an island during a hurricane and dealing with your past.

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, by Fredrik Backman (TBR). This book is amazing! I loved every single page of it, and it’s now one of my all-time favorites.

The Yada Yada Prayer Group, by Neta Jackson (TBR). Excellent read to start off a series.

For Review:

the morning flower

The Morning Flower, by Amanda Hocking. I’m just going to have to stop reading this author. Her writing style just isn’t for me.

it came from the sky

It Came from the Sky, by Chelsea Sedoti. This tale of two brothers who create a hoax that aliens have descended on their town was funny—and I felt like I was reading about Sheldon from Big Bang Theory.

paris never leaves you

Paris Never Leaves You, by Ellen Feldman. This is set during the Nazi occupation of Paris, and I found myself somewhat traumatized from reading it, just from the emotional distress the characters went through. I did not however, really like the main character.

no woods so dark as these

No Woods So Dark as These, by Randall Silvis. I’ve enjoyed this series so far. This one had a lot more introspection, and I’m not a fan of the ending, but I like the characters and I’ll definitely read the next one.

a life once dreamed

A Life Once Dreamed, by Rachel Fordham. This was a sweet, uplifting read that I really enjoyed.

cry of metal & bone

Cry of Metal & Bone, by L. Penelope. I really enjoy the Earthsinger Chronicles series, and this was no exception. Diverse characters and cultures and lots of actions make this fun to read.

the wrong mr. darcy

The Wrong Mr. Darcy, by Evelyn Lozada. Have you ever seen something and wished fervently you could unsee it? This is that in book form. Calling this a Pride and Prejudice re-telling is a grave injustice. Horrible, unlikable, one-dimensional characters, over-the-top, unbelievable drama, just…NO.

death by didgeroo

Death by Didgeridoo, by Barbara Venkataraman. This was a quick, fun start to a new series.

scandalous secrets

Scandalous Secrets, by Synithia Williams. I enjoyed this second-chance romance.

the case of the killer divorce

The Case of the Killer Divorce, by Barbara Venkataraman. The second book in the series, this had me laughing at the characters’ antics.

into a canyon deep

Into a Canyon Deep, by James Lindholm. I wanted to like this, but it ended up feeling like the author was writing a Gary Stu character and the whole thing was filled with completely not-believable characters and action.

fable

Fable, by Adrienne Young. I loved this! A seafaring, swashbuckling adventure about a girl abandoned by her father who strives to survive and get back to him—if only to find out why. Gorgeous cover, too.

peril in the park

Peril in the Park, by Barbara Venkataraman. Another fun, quick read in this series.

these vengeful hearts

These Vengeful Hearts, by Katherine Lauren. Does doing the wrong thing for a good reason make it okay?

secret crush seduction

Secret Crush Seduction, by Jaci Lee (review forthcoming). This was a decent read, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the spoiled characters.

sing like no one's listening

Sing Like No One’s Listening, by Vanessa Jones (review forthcoming). This was a fun YA read, although I know nothing about singing/dancing/performing.

road out of winter

Road Out of Winter, by Alison Stine (review forthcoming). This was a solid dystopian read—and I felt like I was freezing while reading it!

what they meant for evil

What They Meant for Evil, by Rebecca Deng (review forthcoming). Poignant and inspiring read.

befor she was helen

Before She Was Helen, by Caroline Cooney (review forthcoming). This was a bit odd and a little chaotic for me.

the amish newcomer

The Amish Newcomer, by Patrice Lewis (review forthcoming). I enjoyed this read about a reporter who goes into witness protection in an Amish community.

furia

Furia, by Yamile Saied Méndez (review forthcoming). This was a fantastic, empowering read!

Just Because:

Why Jesus? by Ravi Zacharias. Ravi was probably the greatest Christian apologist of the last 100 years, and his thoughts on Jesus compared to different religions were fascinating.

Soul Harvest, by Tim LeHaye.

Left Unfinished:

Olive the Lionheart, by Brad Ricca. I didn’t make it very far into this. I loved the family myth at the beginning, but when Olive’s part started, I was just bored.

Above the Clouds, by Kilian Jornet. This sounded fascinating—but it ended up being a bit too much of the technical details of training (and, frankly, he did some crazy/dangerous stuff to his body during training).

Blunt Force, by Lynda La Plante. I didn’t make it very far in this, as there was far too many technical details thrown in to keep my attention.

The Moon is Missing, by Jenni Ogden. I read about 25% of this, but just couldn’t get into it or care about the characters.

A Door Between Us, by Ehsaneh Sadr. This was just a case of it not being the right fit for me at the time.

Comanche, by Brett Riley. I wanted to like this. I’ve been through Comanche, Texas countless times, but I found this boring. It jumped around a lot. It was repetitive. And why no quotation marks?

 

 

 

Book Review and Blog Tour: Secret Crush Seduction, by Jayci Lee

secret crush seduction
Image belongs to Harlequin.

Title: Secret Crush Seduction
Author: Jayci Lee
Genre: Romance
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Aspiring fashion designer Adelaide Song wants to prove she’s more than just a pampered heiress. All she needs is a little courage—and the help of deliciously sexy Michael Reynolds, her childhood crush and her brother’s best friend. But when her secret crush turns into an illicit liaison, Adelaide realizes mixing business with pleasure spells trouble for all her plans…

Actually, Adelaide comes across as 100% pampered heiress, so there’s that…I feel like this book focused on the superficial layers and never got into anything “real.” The secret Michael was hiding was, I’m sure, painful, but the idea that he didn’t think Adelaide would stay with him because of it portrays her as superficial, too.

Solid writing, but everything seemed so over-emphasized:  the fear of the paparazzi (then don’t make a fool of yourself in public), worry her grandmother thinks she’s incapable (then don’t act like you are), etc. I think maybe I just didn’t like the characters much.

Jayci Lee lives in California. Secret Crush Seduction is her newest novel.

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

Blog Tour and Book Review: These Vengeful Hearts, by Katherine Laurin

these vengeful hearts
Image belongs to Inkyard Press.

Title: These Vengeful Hearts
Author:  Katherine Laurin
Genre: YA
Rating: 4 out of 5

Whenever something scandalous happens at Heller High, the Red Court is the name on everyone’s lips. Its members–the most elite female students in the school–deal out social ruin and favors in equal measure, their true identities a secret known only to their ruthless leader: the Queen of Hearts.

Sixteen-year-old Ember Williams has seen firsthand the damage the Red Court can do. Two years ago, they caused the accident that left her older sister paralyzed. Now, Ember is determined to hold them accountable…by taking the Red Court down from the inside.

But crossing enemy lines will mean crossing moral boundaries, too–ones Ember may never be able to come back from. She always knew taking on the Red Court would come at a price, but will the cost of revenge be more than she’s willing to sacrifice?

This asks the question “Does doing the wrong/bad thing for a right/good reason make it okay?” Because Ember does some pretty horrible stuff to people as a member of the Red Court—and she keeps telling herself it’s okay because she’s trying to take the Red Court down.

I actually enjoyed reading Ember’s moral quandary. I thought her struggles were very realistic—and there are a lot of crappy people at her school! Her friendship with Gideon was fantastic and totally believable (everyone needs a best friend like that), and her crush was a nice counter to the darkness of the whole Red Court, even if it was bit predictable.

Katherine Laurin lives in Colorado. These Vengeful Hearts is her newest novel.

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