Sundays are for Writing #62

I got in three out of four planned writing sessions this week. I got some upsetting news at work this week and I didn’t sleep well all week (Hello, 3 a.m….), so by Friday, I was too exhausted to think straight.

Book Review: The Deep, by Alma Katsu

THE-DEEP-cover-final-678x1024
Image belongs to Penguin Group/Putnam.

Title:  The Deep
AuthorAlma Katsu
Genre:  Historical, psychological thriller
Rating:  4 out of 5

The Titanic is haunted. Sudden deaths, mysterious disappearances, objects that aren’t where they’re supposed to be, and visions…something is plaguing the ship. Annie Hebley serves on the maiden voyage of the celebrated ship, assigned to care for Mark Fletcher and his family. Early in the voyage, Annie realizes something strange is going on with the Fletchers—but then disaster strikes.

Years later, Annie, having miraculously survived the Titanic’s sinking, finds herself working on its sister ship, The Britannic, a hospital ship during the war. Memories of that other fateful voyage haunt her, then she sees a wounded soldier on the verge of death—Mark Fletcher, whom she thought died years ago in the frigid waters around Titanic. Annie doesn’t know how he survived, and soon comes to believe he didn’t.

Whatever haunted The Titanic is now on board The Britannic. And it wants what it lost.

I found The Deep a little hard to follow, as there was so much disjointedness in both time periods. Annie was an unreliable narrator—but so was everyone else—so knowing what was really going on wasn’t easy. I’ve always been fascinated and saddened by stories of The Titanic, so that was part was wonderful, but some of the secondary characters here—the boxers—seemed…kind of pointless to the storyline.

Alma Katsu lives outside Washington, D.C. The Deep is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Penguin Group/Putnam in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: What the Other Three Don’t Know, by Spencer Hyde

what the other 3 don't know
Image belongs to Shadow Mountain Publishing.

Title:  What the Other Three Don’t Know
Author:  Spencer Hyde
Genre:  YA
Rating:  3.8 out of 5

When Indie lost her mom to the river, her world crumbled around her. Now she’s the loner, the quiet one, the one no one else notices—living only for the day she can leave her small town behind and go where no one knows her. She never wants to set foot near the river that took her mom again.

But for her journalism class, that’s exactly what she must do:  take a rafting trip with three almost-strangers from her class. India would rather do anything else, but she has no choice. What she doesn’t realize is the other three have secrets just like she does. And this rafting trip will bring all of them to the surface.

I enjoyed What the Other Three Don’t Know, but it was fairly predictable. And…the “secrets” weren’t exactly earth-shattering. I thought the four teens bonded really quickly, so that felt a little off to me, but their banter alone made the book worth reading.

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

Book Review: Lost at Sea, by Erica Boyce

lost at sea
Image belongs to Sourcebooks Landmark.

Title:  Lost at Sea
AuthorErica Boyce
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

When fisherman John Staybrook vanishes one night during a storm, his disappearance raises questions. His daughter, Ella, is convinced he’s still alive and someone in the town is hiding secrets—and the key to his disappearance.

Her friend and former babysitter, Lacey, helps Ella investigate her father’s disappearance. Lacey is struggling with her own demons—her addiction to painkillers after a knee injury, the “beetle” in her brain that makes her question everything around her and that’s only quieted by the pills—and secrets from her own past, but she and the rest of the town also wonder why an experienced fisherman like John was out in that deadly storm.

This novel, like Boyce’s previous novel, The Fifteen Wonders of Daniel Green, has a slow, easy pace that nevertheless keeps the reader intrigued to find out just what’s going on. So many secrets—and so few answers—keep that pace alive. Lacey’s struggle is at the heart of this novel, although Ella’s pain also holds a key place. With secrets from the past spilling over into the present, this novel manages to turn what seem to be random threads into a complex tapestry.

Erica Boyce is a member of the Massachusetts bar and an editor. Lost at Sea is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Grace Kelly Dress, by Brenda Janowitz

the grace kelly dress
Image belongs to Harlequin/Graydon House.

Title:  The Grace Kelly Dress
AuthorBrenda Janowitz
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  5 out of 5

Two years after Grace Kelly’s royal wedding, her iconic dress is still all the rage in Paris—and one replica, and the secrets it carries, will inspire three generations of women to forge their own paths in life and in love.

Paris, 1958: Rose, a seamstress at a fashionable atelier, has been entrusted with sewing a Grace Kelly—look-alike gown for a wealthy bride-to-be. But when, against better judgment, she finds herself falling in love with the bride’s handsome brother, Rose must make an impossible choice, one that could put all she’s worked for at risk: love, security and of course, the dress.

Sixty years later, tech CEO Rachel, who goes by the childhood nickname “Rocky,” has inherited the dress for her upcoming wedding in New York City. But there’s just one problem: Rocky doesn’t want to wear it. A family heirloom dating back to the 1950s, the dress just isn’t her. Rocky knows this admission will break her mother Joan’s heart. But what she doesn’t know is why Joan insists on the dress—or the heartbreaking secret that changed her mother’s life decades before, as she herself prepared to wear it.

As the lives of these three women come together in surprising ways, the revelation of the dress’s history collides with long-buried family heartaches. And in the lead-up to Rocky’s wedding, they’ll have to confront the past before they can embrace the beautiful possibilities of the future.

I enjoyed every page of this novel! Usually, when reading a book with alternating points-of-view like this, I have a favorite viewpoint character, but not this time. Rose’s story was absolutely fascinating, and I loved her strength and determination to do the right thing, no matter how painful. Joan’s story was also interesting, set amidst the contrasting worlds of doing what everyone expects you to do and doing what you want to do. And Rocky was an awesome character! She’s so sure of herself and who she is—until faced with planning a wedding and the dress. I loved how these three women grew in the course of the novel, and their stories laced together to form the history of the dress and their family.

Brenda Janowitz is an author and the Books Correspondent for PopSugar. The Grace Kelly Dress is her newest novel.

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

The Best Books I Read in February (2020)

I read 22 books in February, bringing my total for the year to 42.

The three best of these were:

the robe

The Robe, by Lloyd C. Douglas. I first read this so long ago that I remembered nothing about it, but it’s the story of Marcellus, a Roman soldier who wins Christ’s robe at Golgotha, and then sets out to find out the truth about the Nazarene carpenter. I enjoyed so much seeing Biblical figures come to life!

isaiah's legacy

Isaiah’s Legacy, by Mesu Andrews. The story of Manasseh, a biblical king who did great evil, and how he comes to know Yahweh. I love Mesu Andrews’ way of bringing biblical tales to life, and this was a wonderful read.

the grace kelly dress

The Grace Kelly Dress, by Brenda Janowitz. Three women. Three weddings. One dress. The story of three generations of women and the dress they all wore at their wedding. I loved this!

What I Read in February (2020)

Books Read in February:  22

Books Read for the Year: 42/200

Topical Books/Monthly Goal Books:

The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck (classic). I read this years ago, in high school. I remember it being much better that first time. This time…not so much.

The Robe, by Lloyd C. Douglas(TBR). Also a re-read, and wow! I loved this!

Love Without Limits, by Nick Vujicic (spiritual). This is an inspiring read.

In 27 Days, by Alison Gervais (TBR). I ended up loving this! I see there’s a sequel out there somewhere, too.

Everywhere You Want to Be, by Christina June (TBR). Simple and sweet, and fun to follow these characters farther.

For Review:

Whiteout

Whiteout, by Adriana Anders. This was an enjoyable romantic suspense. The setting was just unbelievable to me—I’m not a fan of cold/snow/ice—and the author definitely brought that to life. This is the first book in a new series.

light changes everything

Light Changes Everything, by Nancy E. Turner. I enjoyed this historical fiction read, set in 1907 in the Arizona Territory. Mary Pearl could stay home and marry her wealthy suitor, but she chases her dreams and goes to art school instead. But trauma plagues Mary Pearl and changes her life and her family forever.

the janes

The Janes, by Louisa Luna. I hadn’t read the first book in the Alice Vega series, but had no problems jumping in with this one. Vega is an interesting character, and seeing how her mind works as she investigates the murders of two unidentified girls was intriguing.

what kind of girl

What Kind of Girl, by Alyssa Heinmel. There was a lot going on in this book about teen dating violence, eating disorders, anxiety…a lot going on. But, it was woven together well and managed to tell all the stories with aplomb and sympathy.

foul is fair

Fair is Foul, by Hannah Capin. I finished this, but I didn’t like the characters. Lots of violence, blood, revenge, and, frankly, straight up evil.

a good neighborhood

A Good Neighborhood, by Therese Anne Fowler. This was a challenging read. Racism in the South is a real thing, and this book captured it realistically enough to make me angry on the characters’ behalves. I did find the portrayal of churches and church-going people to be completely one-sided, judgmental, and unrealistic, however.

the borgia confessions

The Borgia Confessions, by Alyssa Palombo. Another book with zero likable characters, but the writing and setting were superbly done.

southern double cross

Southern Double Cross, by Caroline Fardig. This appears to be the third and final installment in the Southern B & B Mystery series, and I enjoyed it just as much as the first two (and the Java Jive Mystery series, also by this author).

isaiah's legacy

Isaiah’s Legacy, by Mesu Andrews. This is a continuation of the Prophets and Kings series. It’s the story of King Manasseh and how his childhood friend–and eventual wife–turns him away from Yahweh and to evil. It’s also the story of how he and his wife, Shulle, realize the truth and turn Israel back to God. Mesu Andrews’ books were my introduction to biblical fiction, and I love how she brings biblical characters and events to Technicolor life! This was another wonderful read!

ten days gone

Ten Days Gone, by Beverly Long. I enjoyed this suspense/ thriller.

master of sorrows

Master of Sorrows, by Justin Call. I enjoyed this fantasy read, and look forward to reading more in this series (I do assume there will be more.)

a highlander in a pickup

A Highlander in a Pickup, by Laura Trentham. An enjoyable entry into the Highland, Georgia series. Gotta love those men in kilts!

tucker

Tucker (Eternity Springs: The McBrides of Texas #2), by Emily March. From men in kilts to Texas men. Neither is a bad thing…another solid romance read.

children of the stars

Children of the Stars, by Mario Escobar. I feel like this one lost something in translation. Set amidst the persecution of the Jews, it skirts the atrocities ever-present then, but the two brothers that are the main characters never felt like they were truly in danger, so it didn’t seem realistic to me.

the girl with the louding voice

The Girl with the Louding Voice, by Abi Daré. A 14-year-old Nigerian girl who has spent her entire life in servitude must fight to make herself heard as she chases her dream. This is a powerful, powerful book.

the grace kelly dress

The Grace Kelly Dress, by Brenda Janowitz (forthcoming). I enjoyed every page of the three different timelines!

lost at sea

Lost at Sea, by Erica Boyce (forthcoming). This was an interesting read. I do recommend it.

Book Review: The Girl with the Louding Voice, by Abi Daré

the girl with the louding voice
Image belongs to Penguin/Dutton.

Title:  The Girl with the Louding Voice
Author:  Abi Daré
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  4.2 out of 5

Adunni is a fourteen-year-old Nigerian girl who dreams of finishing her education and becoming a teacher. Before her mother died, she made her father promise Adunni wouldn’t be forced to marry, but her father now disregards that promise and gives her to be the third wife to a local man who demands that she gives him sons—and his first wife terrorizes her.

So Adunni runs away—and finds herself as the house slave to a wealthy couple in the city. The wife forces Adunni to scrub the house with a toothbrush and beats her whenever the whim strikes. The husband is a threat of a different kind, and Adunni realizes if she is ever to have “a louding voice”—the ability to speak and stand up for herself—she will have to act despite her fear. For herself. For the ones who came before her. And for those who will come after.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget how blessed I am, but this book paints it in stark relief in comparison to Adunni’s life. The strength and determination it would take to stand up to centuries of tradition and cultural habits is amazing. Adunni has suffered unspeakable things at the hands of those around her—yet she’s still upbeat and determined to seize her dreams in both hands. An excellent read—but not light and fluffy.

Abi Daré grew up in Nigeria and now lives in the UK. The Girl with the Louding Voice is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Penguin Group/Dutton in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Children of the Stars, by Mario Escobar

children of the stars
Image belongs to Thomas Nelson.

Title:  Children of the Stars
AuthorMario Escobar
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

Paris, 1942.

Jacob and Moses Stein are staying with their aunt amidst the Nazi occupation, while their parents search for a safe place for the family to be reunited. Before they can, the French gendarmes round up the Jews and detain them in the massive Vélodrome d’Hiver. Jacob and Moses are determined to escape and find their parents, but all they have is a handful of letters to lead them across the Nazi-filled countryside. Along the way they cross paths with many people who are determined to help them find their parents—no matter the cost.

Children of the Stars was a good historical read, but it was a little too…nice to be believable for me. Despite the harrowing time period, I never felt the boys were truly in danger, and I always knew they would find their parents in the end. Don’t get me wrong, I like happy endings, but this tone felt wrong for the story. These boys are alone in the midst of atrocities and horror, but those stakes never seemed to touch them, making this much less believable for me, although I enjoyed the characters themselves. This felt like a book aimed at a younger audience, with its characters who were never truly in danger.

Mario Escobar loves history. Children of the Stars is his new novel.

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