Book Review: In Search of Us, by Ava Dellaira

in search of us
Image belongs to Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR).

Title:  In Search of Us
Author:  Ava Dellaira
Genre:  Young Adult
Rating:  4/5

In LA in the late 1990s, Marilyn is a pretty 17-year-old with a mom who has ambitions;  she expects Marilyn to make it big in Hollywood, so Marilyn can support them. But her mother never asks what Marilyn wants:  going away to college and becoming a photographer. With Marilyn landing fewer jobs, they soon find themselves living with Marilyn’s unpredictable uncle.

Marilyn is just biding her time, living for graduation, when her “real” life will start. Then she meets James, the boy who lives downstairs. James shows her how to live in the now.

In the present, Angie has a single mom, a dead father she never met, and no one to help her sort out her identity. With her brown skin and curly hair, she looks nothing like her mom, and she knows nothing about her father. Then Angie finds out her mother has been lying to her all along, and she sets out on a road trip to LA with her best friend, Sam, hoping to discover who she really is.

In Search of Us is an emotional story about family, love, and finding yourself. These two stories are entwined seamlessly, and I’m not sure which I was more emotionally invested in, Marilyn’s or Angie’s. Both feel like their mothers don’t understand them, and both want more out of life. Marilyn is struggling to break her mother’s hold on her, and Angie struggles to find her father in more than just a single old picture. Racism is a strong theme here, portrayed honesty and realistically, with a large helping of grief. I was in tears by the end, and this book made my heart ache, as well as being so vivid I felt like I was a part of the story.

Ava Dellaira is the author of Love Letters to the Dead. In Search of Us is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) in exchange for an honest review.)

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Book Review: I Found My Tribe, by Ruth Fitzmaurice

i found my tribe
Image belongs to Bloomsbury US.

Title:  I Found My Tribe
Author:  Ruth Fitzmaurice
Genre:  Non-fiction, memoir
Rating:  4/5

Ruth has five active children, and a husband, Simon, with Motor Neuron Disease. Simon can only communicate with his eyes. Ruth’s life is filled with children, caregivers and healthcare professionals, and her love for Simon, but she needs more.

Fortunately, Ruth has her tribe:  The Tragic Wives’ Swimming Club, a group of close friends who help each other through the obstacles they face every single day in their lives, and the waves and frigid water they face in their swimming. Swimming in Greystones cove saves them, and their favorite thing is moonlight swims in the ocean under the full moon.

Sometimes, the most unlikely things can save you.

I think a lot of us are looking for our “tribe.” The fortunate ones find them. Ruth is blessed to have friends who both surround her in her difficulties—and they are so very difficult—and who can fully sympathize because of their own similar circumstances. Ruth is an amazingly strong woman:  she’s raising FIVE kids essentially alone, while writing full-time and caring for a husband who needs total care and an army of medical staff. I cannot even imagine the kind of strength this takes. This book is a wonderful read about the friends who help us shine a light into the darkness surrounding us.

Ruth Fitzmaurice worked in radio before becoming a wife and mother of five children. I Found My Tribe is her first book.

Note:  Ruth’s husband, Simon, passed last October.

(Galley provided by Bloomsbury US in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Coincidence Makers, by Yoav Blum

thecoincidencemakers
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:  The Coincidence Makers
Author:  Yoav Blum
Genre:  A mix of several:  mystery, romance, literary fiction-ish.
Rating:  3.5/5

We’ve all had something happen “by coincidence,” like running into your childhood best friend on the side of the street when you have a flat tire. Or meeting someone new in a coffee shop after you knock your drink off the table onto their shoes. But what if those things don’t just happen by chance?

Guy, Emily, and Eric are Coincidence Makers:  they work for a secret organization, creating the coincidences they are assigned through complex manipulations and machinations. Sometimes, they create a love match. Sometimes, they just give someone the push they need to live their dreams.

Guy used to be an Imaginary Friend, and he fell in love with another Imaginary Friend. He’s never forgotten her, and thoughts of her haunt every day, so he tries his best to ignore Emily’s overtures. But when Guy is assigned a coincidence that’s higher than anything he’s done before, he realizes even his hidden world has deeper secrets.

I liked this book. The concept is unique and fascinating—even if the “science” is sometimes a bit over my head. Guy, Emily, and Eric are characters I liked, and they would be fun to hang out with. The book is dreamy, and reading it felt like floating…or I probably would have enjoyed it more (not the right type of book for my mindset at the time), but it was a good, creative read.

Yoav Blum is an Israeli author and software developer whose novels have become international bestsellers. The Coincidence Makers is his newest novel.

(Galley provided by St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Southern Discomfort, by Caroline Fardig

southern discomfort
Image belongs to Alibi Publishing.

Title:  Southern Discomfort
Author:  Caroline Fardig
Genre:  Mystery, Southern Fiction
Rating:  4/5

Quinn Bellandini runs a B&B with her grandfather, her sister Delilah, and the ghost of her late uncle Frank—whom everyone but Quinn believes in. She bakes scones, keeps the B&B running smoothly, and plays guitar in a band with her friends. She doesn’t even have time to date.

Her friend Drew runs a restaurant down the street with his brother, Jason, a surly, argumentative guy who fights with everyone—including his wife. When Quinn finds Jason’s body one night, she’s horrified—but not really surprised, considering how everyone disliked Jason.

What does surprise her is her presence near the top of the list of suspects, along with Drew. When Drew suggests they try to uncover a more-likely suspect to save their own necks, Quinn reluctantly agrees. She’s more suited to baking than investigating, but she finds her talent for killing people with kindness to thinly disguise her pointed remarks comes in handy. And she’ll need every trick she has to stay out of jail while she searches for a murderer.

I thoroughly enjoyed Southern Discomfort. I’ve never been to Savannah, but as a born-and-raised Southern girl, I found the setting believable and familiar (especially the popularity of sweet tea). Quinn and Delilah’s relationship was fantastic, and their interactions made the book even better! A great read for cozy mystery fans and anyone who loves Southern fiction.

Caroline Fardig is the author of the Lizzie Hart series, the Java Jive series, and the Ellie Matthews series. Southern Discomfort is her newest novel, the first in the Southern B&B mystery series.

(Galley provided by Alibi in exchange for an honest review.)

 

Book Review: Sex, Jesus, and the Conversations the Church Forgot, by Mo Isom

sex
Image belongs to Baker Books.

Title: Sex, Jesus, and the Conversations the Church Forgot
Author:  Mo Isom
Genre:  Non-fiction, Christian
Rating:  5/5

Sex. (There. Got your attention, didn’t I?) Society is obsessed with it, and the church doesn’t talk about it, apart from an unequivocal “Don’t do it!” Christians don’t talk about it, but we should—because there are far too many people wandering lost in a world that glorifies sex, promiscuity, and sex-pectations.

Mo Isom talks about it as she tells her story of a life lived according to expectations, a life scarred by pornography, misunderstandings, and the silence of the church on a topic that permeates our culture. She takes something the world is obsessed with, removes the bondage associated with it, and turns it into something that glorifies God.

I don’t generally review non-fiction books, especially the Christian books I read. (They’re on my Goodreads and my Books Read posts, though.) However, this book is one that needs to be talked about. I grew up in church—Southern Baptist—and my church never talked about sex. (My current church—non-denominational—does talk about it, some.) None of the churches my friends grew up in talked about sex. But our culture is obsessed with it. So, why is the church not talking about it? Why does the church let the world be the only source of information related to a topic that saturates our culture? And why are we surprised when Christians have a worldly view of sex, and not a Godly view?

I loved Mo Isom’s voice in this. (So much so that I’m now reading her first book.) She does talk about sex: her exposure to it growing up, the silence on it she experienced in the church, and her struggles to give it its rightly place—not a worldly one. Her voice is like a comfortable chat with a friend and makes this a must-read book.

Mo Isom is a New York Times-bestselling author, a former All-American soccer goalkeeper, and the first female to have trained with and tried out for an SEC men’s football team. She is the author of Wreck My Life:  Journeying from Broken to Bold and her newest book, Sex, Jesus, and the Conversations the Church Forgot.

(Galley provided by Baker Books in exchange for an honest review.)

What I Read in February 2018

Books Read in February: 14

Books Read for the Year:  28/150

Topical Books/Monthly Goal Books:

A Wrinkle in time, by Madeleine L’Engle (classic). I wanted to re-read this, before the movie came out. I loved it again!

Daughters of the Night Sky, by Aimie K. Runyan (cultural book). This is about Russian women pilots during WWII, and was a very good read, although sad—the discrimination and issues the women faced was hard to read about. Also, it’s about war, so of course it’s sad.

sex

Sex, Jesus, and the Conversations the Church Forgot, by Mo Isom (spiritual, review forthcoming). As I grew up in the (Baptist) church, and sex was something that was never talked about, this was an intriguing read. And Isom’s conversational voice is phenomenal.

For Review:

You Will Be Mine, by Natasha Preston. I expect some twists and suspense from Preston—and this delivered—but the characters that insisted on doing the stupidest things imaginable—like sneaking off alone while being stalked by a serial killer—kind of ruined this for me. Almost DNF.

The Book of Pearl, by Timothee de Fombelle. I enjoyed this translation of a boy from the world of story forced to grow up in a world without magic—here—and how he tries to gather proof of his home’s existence.

the rending

The Rending and the Nest, by Kaethe Schwehn. Very intriguing dystopian novel. Four years ago, most of the population and animals, a lot of the stuff, and the sunshine and weather disappeared for unknown reasons. The survivors are getting by, making new lives for themselves scavenging from the scraps left over.They gain new hope when one of the women gets pregnant, but when she gives birth to an object, the world comes crashing down around them again. This is a strange book, but it’s very compelling and intriguing.

the belles

 

The Belles, by Dhonielle Clayton. On the surface, this book did not seem like it would be right for me:  it’s about a society that reveres beauty above all else, whose inhabitants are born grey and must pay to change their physical appearance to match society’s trends (See? It’s about half of what bothers me so badly about our own society.). Camellia is a Belle, one of the elite who controls Beauty. She is determined to be the Favorite—the leading Belle—but when she reaches court she finds that there is far more going on than she ever imagined, and the darkness she finds has a long reach. This was an engrossing book, and about far more than what I first assumed to be trivial superficiality—though there’s some commentary on that as well. Extremely readable! (Like, I read this in a single day, and can’t wait for the next book!)

TLG

The Liar’s Girl, by Catherine Ryan Howard. This is about a girl whose boyfriend was convicted as a serial killer ten years ago…and now that more victims are showing up, he will only speak to her. She can’t rest until she finds out the truth about his claims of innocence.

tess

Tess of the Road, by Rachel Hartman. This is a fantasy book that deals with some hard subject matter—rape, emotional abuse, women’s’ rights—but above all else, it’s a book about a character that changes in profound ways as a person. Loved it!

BFM

Blunt Force Magic, by Lawrence Davis. I enjoyed this so much! The MC is very self-deprecating, but he steps in to helps save a stranger–even knowing it’s going to land him a whole lot of magical trouble! (Please read the review, as it’s more detailed. But I will definitely read more of this series!)

DotS

Daughters of the Storm, by Kim Wilkins. This is another one that you should read the full review on, as the writing was great, but I disliked the characters so much that it almost made me DNF the book.

thecoincidencemakers

The Coincidence Makers, by Yoav Blum (review forthcoming). This literary fiction is about three Coincidence Makers—exactly what they sound like—who have different specialties. One of them, a former Imaginary Friend, is haunted by the loss of the Imaginary Friend lover that he knew in his past. A dreamy, soothing read.

DNF:

Sugar Lump by Megan Gaudin. Vapid and superficial, despite the very intriguing premise of the book. (And I love YA, so that wasn’t the problem. But I like real YA, not surface-level, and I couldn’t get past that.)

A Cold Day in Hell by Lissa Marie Redmond. Only made it about 10%. I felt pretty distant from the main character to start with, but stuck it out until she met with the accused killer, a teenage kid who just randomly had sex with a girl he didn’t know in her car, and then she turned up dead a few hours later, and he’s totally confused about why he’s been accused. Here’s the thing: I don’t do stupid people. Or stupid characters. So his blasé attitude about the whole situation was a deal-breaker for me right then and there.

Just Because:

The Dark Calling, by Kresley Cole. I hate the idea that this series is almost over, because I love it so much. SO. MUCH. I think I got the first book free—and I knew the author was a good one—so that’s why I ended up reading the first one…just before the second book came out. And I was sucked in from the beginning. I hate when a character I like gets killed off, but it always makes sense in this series. Also…when a love triangle is involved, I usually have a favorite/one that makes mores sense for the heroine. This time I don’t. I love Jack and Aric both equally, and they both make sense for Evie. So…I kind of don’t want to know who she ends up with…

Linking up with Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy for Quick Lit.

 

 

Book Review: Daughters of the Storm, by Kim Wilkins

DotS
Image belongs to Del Rey.

With the King of Thrysland in a magic-induced coma, his kingdom is at great risk, especially if his greatest enemy, Hakon the Raven King, finds out. But his five daughters are determined to keep the secret.

Bluebell, the eldest daughter, a warrior, and army commander, will stop at nothing to find out who harmed her father—and to reverse the spell. Rose, unhappily married but loyal to her family, will stop at nothing to keep her daughter safe, even when her father lies on the verge of death. Ash, who has powers she should not possess, knows who can help her father—but doesn’t dare to approach the woman. Willow is hiding a dark secret from everyone—and she’s not sure how she can help her father, or if she should. Ivy is concerned with Ivy and doesn’t care who she hurts to get her way.

The sisters must stand together to heal their father, but even their stepbrother seeks to stop them from saving their father.

I need to open by saying I don’t think this was a good fit for me. Because my overwhelming impression of this book is quite negative. The world is vivid and well-drawn. The writing is solid and descriptive, allowing me a clear picture at all times.

The characters… I didn’t like any of them. I’m not even sure why I finished reading this, I disliked the characters so much. Bluebell is an aspiring dictator who has no qualms about doing what she wants and using people as she sees fits, and she doesn’t care who she hurts, even her sisters. Rose is selfish and self-absorbed, and I have zero sympathy for her. Ash, I kind of liked, but her penchant for hiding things and lying was troublesome. Willow was either crazy, completely deluded, or possibly both, in addition to being oblivious to reality. Ivy was just plain hateful, one of those selfish mean girls. Even the secondary characters were unlikable.

So…clearly not a good fit for me.

Kim Wilkins writes everything from historical fantasy to young adult fiction. Daughters of the Storm is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Del Rey in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Blunt Force Magic, by Lawrence Davis

BFM
Image belongs to WildBlue Press.

Janzen’s life as a package courier in Cleveland, Ohio isn’t glamorous. He works, hangs out at a hole-in-the-wall bar, and goes home drunk to his dog. It’s a life, just a dull one. Five years ago, Janzen was an apprentice Artificer, living on the edge in a group of practitioners intent on fighting evil, but now he’s alone.

So, Janzen works, drinks, and sleeps. And repeats. Until the day he’s delivering a package and finds himself fighting for his life against a Stalker—a creature from the Abyss—defending a young witch against the dark predator.

Now Janzen must figure out who sent the Stalker, delving into his past for any scrap of help he can find, before the monster succeeds in killing him—and the witch. All in a day’s work, right?

This book. From the first page, I was drawn in by Janzen’s dry, self-deprecating humor and his unflinching honesty. He left the magical life behind years ago, but he doesn’t hesitate to step back into his role when danger threatens a young stranger. This character made the book—but the whole gritty urban fantasy/detective noir feeling didn’t hurt, either. A great read!

Lawrence Davis is the author of Blunt Force Magic, the first book in The Monsters and Men trilogy.

(Galley provided by WildBlue Press in exchange for an honest review.)

 

More reviews at <a href=” https://tamaramorning.com/”>Tomorrow is Another Day</a>

Book Review: Tess of the Road, by Rachel Hartman

tess
Image belongs to Random House.

In Goredd, reputation is everything and there are certain expectations about women and their place. Expectations that Tess just can’t seem to live up to. Trapped in her duty to her family, Tess is bitter, angry, and hopeless. Also, a little bit of a drunkard. Which leads to the incident at her sister’s wedding…

Before she’s forced into a nunnery, Tess chops off her hair, dresses as a boy, and sets out on the Road, ins search of one of the World Serpents, creatures of legend she’s been fascinated with for years.

The Road is more challenging than Tess ever imagined, and every day, she must make the decision to live one more day. She meets friends in unexpected places as she searches for who she really is, learning to heal from the pain of her past so she can seek the future she dreams of.

There’s some darkness in Tess of the Road. Tess begins as a hateful, unlikeable character—although with her past, who wouldn’t be hateful? This is a book about growth more than anything, and Tess’s journey is magnificent as it unfolds, and she learns there is so much more to the world than what society expects.

Rachel Hartman has a B.A. in Comparative Literature. Tess of the Road is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Random House in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Liar’s Girl, by Catherine Ryan Howard

TLG
Image belongs to Blackstone Publishing.

Alison Smith was just a teenager when she moved to Dublin as a freshman at St. John’s College. She’d dreamed of it for years, and the reality was so much more than she imagined. Her best friend, Liz, was with her, and she soon fell in love with Will, a charming boy she spent all her time with.

Then she found out Will was the Canal Killer, who murdered five women by dumping them in the canal—and one of them was Liz. Alison fled to the Netherlands, with no intention of every returning to Dublin. Until the police showed up on her doorstep ten years later, telling of new bodies, a copycat killer, and Will’s request to speak only to her.

After she sees Will, Alison doesn’t know what to think. Could he be telling the truth about his innocence? She’s not sure, but she knows she must find out the truth once and for all. Because she’s the reason Will went to jail in the first place…

Catherine Ryan Howard is an award-winning author from Cork, Ireland. Her newest thriller is The Liar’s Girl.

(Galley provided by Blackstone Publishing in exchange for an honest review.)