Category: awesomeness

The Best Books I Read in December (2022)

In December, I read 18 books, bringing my yearly total to 216 books, pretty far short of my goal of 250 books.

I’m going to make an exception this month and pick four “best books,” because two of them are by the same author and are basically connected.

I’m a massive fan of Charles Martin, and will basically devour anything he writes, but this month, I discovered his two non-fiction books, What if It’s True? and They Turned the World Upside Down. I never write in books, but I highlighted in in the second one, cried over both, and listened to the first on audio book (the author narrates, and it was just so wonderful to listen to.) Both were phenomenal reads.

The Secret Society of Salzburg, by Renee Ryan. This was an excellent WWII fiction! I enjoyed every single page.

Saint, by Adrienne Young. I’ve enjoyed all of Young’s books, but reading this prequel to the Fable books was wonderful!

Book Review:  The Secret Society of Salzburg, by Renee Ryan

Image belongs to Harlequin.

Title: The Secret Society of Salzburg      
Author:   Renee Ryan
Genre: Historical fiction   
Rating:  5 out of 5

London, 1933

At first glance, Austrian opera singer Elsa Mayer-Braun has little in common with the young English typist she encounters on tour. Yet she and Hattie Featherstone forge an instant connection—and strike a dangerous alliance. Using their friendship as a cover, they form a secret society with a daring goal: to rescue as many Jews as possible from Nazi persecution.

Though the war’s outbreak threatens Elsa and Hattie’s network, their efforts attract the covert attention of the British government, offering more opportunities to thwart the Germans. But Elsa’s growing fame as Hitler’s favorite opera singer, coupled with her secret Jewish ancestry, make her both a weapon and a target—until her future, too, hangs in the balance.

From the glamorous stages of Covent Garden and Salzburg to the horrors of Bergen-Belsen, two ordinary women swept up by the tide of war discover an extraordinary friendship—and the courage to save countless lives.

I love World War II historical fiction. That being said, I did DNF one just a couple of weeks ago. I wasn’t ever in danger of putting this book down, though! Both Hattie and Elsa were fascinating characters, and I was fully invested in both of their stories. I wanted to see them succeed beyond their wildest dreams—and it was exhilarating seeing that happen on the page.

World War II was one of the most horrific times in world history, but seeing Hattie and Elsa jump in, determined to help Jewish people despite the danger to themselves was inspiring and uplifting. I truly loved every page of this book!

Renee Ryan grew up in Florida and now lives in Wisconsin. The Secret Society of Salzburg is her newest novel.

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

The Best Books I Read in November (2022)

In November, I only read eight books. EIGHT!! I can’t remember the last month I had only a single-digit reading month. This leaves me at 198 books for the year, waaaaay short of my yearly goal of 250. Oh well. of those, one was fantastic and two were very good.

Greywaren, by Maggie Stiefvater. Man, I love these characters! I kind of feel like some old friends just moved away and left me behind now.

Never Rescue a Rogue, by Virginia Heath. This was a fun read! I enjoyed seeing more of the Merriwell sisters and their antics.

The Wilderwomen by Ruth Emmie Lang. I enjoyed this second novel, and another filled with magical realism. The older sister was a bit of a selfish jerk, and that was almost enough to make me want to put the book down, but I ended up enjoying it.

Book Review:   When We Had Wings, by by Ariel Lawhon, Kristina McMorris and Susan Meissner

Image belongs to Harper Muse.

Title When We Had Wings (audio book)   
Author:  Ariel Lawhon, Kristina McMorris and Susan Meissner  
Genre:   Historical fiction
Rating:  5 out of 5

The Philippines, 1941.

When U.S. Navy nurse Eleanor Lindstrom, U.S. Army nurse Penny Franklin, and Filipina nurse Lita Capel forge a friendship at the Army Navy Club in Manila, they believe they’re living a paradise assignment. All three are seeking a way to escape their pasts, but soon the beauty and promise of their surroundings give way to the heavy mantle of war.

Caught in the crosshairs of a fight between the U.S. military and the Imperial Japanese Army for control of the Philippine Islands, the nurses are forced to serve under combat conditions and, ultimately, endure captivity as the first female prisoners of the Second World War. As their resiliency is tested in the face of squalid living arrangements, food shortages, and the enemy’s blatant disregard for the articles of the Geneva Convention, the women strive to keep their hope— and their fellow inmates—alive, though not without great cost.

In this sweeping story based on the true experiences of nurses dubbed “the Angels of Bataan,” three women shift in and out of each other’s lives through the darkest days of the war, buoyed by their unwavering friendship and distant dreams of liberation.

I really enjoyed this! The narrator was personable and clear, and I was drawn into the story from the very beginning. I loved all three main characters, and even the secondary characters were well-done and became people I cared about. I couldn’t wait to find out how everything worked out for these three women! This is well-worth reading.

Ariel Lawhon, Kristina McMorris and Susan Meissner are bestselling authors. When We Had Wings is their newest novel.

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

The Best Books I Read in September (2022)

I read 17 books in September, bringing my total read for the year to 176 books. I also DNF 8 books. For a change, there were a solid number of really good reads this month. Of the 17 books, I rated nine of them 5 out of 5 stars. My favorites of those nine are:

The Winners, by Fredrick Backman. I LOVE this book! The first book, Beartown, was such a wonderful surprise to me. The second book was stellar, and this one was enthralling from the very first page. Even if you don’t care about hockey (I don’t), you should absolutely pick this up!

Long Way Gone, by Charles Martin. I adore everything this man writes. Everything. No questions.

The Last Legacy, by Adrienne Young. Adrienne Young is a fantastic writer, and the world of Fable/the Narrows is absolutely captivating. Loved this—and read it straight through in one sitting.

Honorable mention:

Book Review:  A Place to Land, by Lauren K. Denton

Image belongs to Harper Muse.

Title: A Place to Land    
Author:   Lauren K. Denton
Genre: Fiction
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

A hidden past isn’t past at all.

Violet Figg and her sister Trudy have lived a quiet life in Sugar Bend ever since a night forty years ago stole Trudy’s voice and cemented Violet’s role as Trudy’s fierce and loyal protector. Now, Trudy spends her days making sculptures from found objects and speaking via notes written on scraps of paper, while Violet runs their art shop, monitors the bird activity up and down the water, and tries not to think of her one great love she gave up in order to keep her sister safe.

Eighteen-year-old Maya knows where everyone else belongs, but she’s been searching for her own place ever since her grandmother died seven years ago. Moving in and out of strangers’ houses has left her exhausted, so when she sees a flyer on a gas station window for a place called Sugar Bend, she follows the strange pull she feels and finds herself on the doorstep of an art shop called Two Sisters.

When a boat rises to the surface of Little River in the middle of the night, the present and the no-longer-buried past clash, and the future is at stake for Maya, Violet, and Trudy. As history creeps continually closer to the present and old secrets come to light, the sisters must decide if it’s time to face the truth of what happened forty years ago, or risk losing each other and newly formed bonds with those they’ve come to love.

I loved this book!   Parts of it are very sad—what Violet and Trudy went through 40 years ago and what Violet had to give up—but the entire story was so immersive and lovely. Lauren K. Denton makes small-town life sound appealing, verging on wonderful. The characters, as always for this author, are fascinating and believable, and the reader just feels at home in the story.

Lauren K. Denton is a bestselling author. A Place to Land is her newest novel.

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

Sundays Are for Writing #192

I only wrote two book reviews this week, but considering which two books they were, I’m okay with that: Spells for Forgetting, by Adrienne Young and The Winners, by Fredrik Backman. Both of these were excellent reads, but I was up until 2 a.n. finishing Backman’s third Beartown novel. So, so good.

Happy writing!

Book Review:   The Winners, by Fredrik Backman

Image belongs to Atria Books.

TitleThe Winners     
Author: Fredrik Backman   
Genre: Fiction   
Rating:  5 out of 5

Two years have passed since the events that no one wants to think about. Everyone has tried to move on, but there’s something about this place that prevents it. The residents continue to grapple with life’s big questions: What is a family? What is a community? And what, if anything, are we willing to sacrifice in order to protect them?

As the locals of Beartown struggle to overcome the past, great change is on the horizon. Someone is coming home after a long time away. Someone will be laid to rest. Someone will fall in love, someone will try to fix their marriage, and someone will do anything to save their children. Someone will submit to hate, someone will fight, and someone will grab a gun and walk towards the ice rink.

So what are the residents of Beartown willing to sacrifice for their home?

This book. I was up until 2 a.m. finishing it, if that tells you anything. Beartown took me completely by surprise. I don’t really care about hockey, and small towns usually give me the creeps, but it was my first introduction to Backman’s writing and I was blown away. Us Against You was the same experience, and so was The Winners.

I loved these characters and was completely enthralled by the story. Even the seemingly minor characters are compelling in the hands of a master storyteller like this. He is so, so good at creating believable characters that you care about and feel like you’ve met. I’m not super thrilled by what happened to one of my favorite characters, but I laughed, cried, and was in turn awed by the occasional absolutely perfect sentence that truly captured the moment. Go read this.

Fredrik Backman is a bestselling author. The Winners is his newest novel.

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

Book Review: Spells for Forgetting, by Adrienne Young

Image belongs to Random House/Ballantine.

Title: Spells for Forgetting      
Author:  Adrienne Young  
Genre: mystery, fantasy   
Rating:  5 out of 5

Emery Blackwood’s life changed forever the night her best friend was found dead and the love of her life, August Salt, was accused of murdering her. Years later, she is doing what her teenage self swore she never would: living a quiet existence on the misty, remote shores of Saoirse Island and running the family’s business, Blackwood’s Tea Shoppe Herbal Tonics & Tea Leaf Readings.

But when the island, rooted in folklore and magic, begins to show signs of strange happenings, Emery knows that something is coming. The morning she wakes to find that every single tree on Saoirse has turned color in a single night, August returns for the first time in fourteen years and unearths the past that the town has tried desperately to forget.

August knows he is not welcome on Saiorse, not after the night everything changed. As a fire raged on at the Salt family orchard, Lily Morgan was found dead in the dark woods, shaking the bedrock of their tight-knit community and branding August a murderer. When he returns to bury his mother’s ashes, he must confront the people who turned their backs on him and face the one wound from his past that has never healed—Emery.

The town has more than one reason to want August gone, and the emergence of deep betrayals and hidden promises spanning generations threaten to reveal the truth behind Lily’s mysterious death once and for all.

This book was absolutely engrossing! Young’s writing always draws me in immediately, and this was no exception. Her writing is atmospheric, and Saoirse Island definitely has a vivid and memorable atmosphere. I’m not sure what to say about this novel. It was a compelling read and also quite dark, with only a few glimmers of hope in the darkness, but everything was so vibrant I experienced it right along with Emery.

Adrienne Young is a bestselling author. Spells for Forgetting is her newest novel. (Galley courtesy of Random House/Ballantine in exchange for an honest review.)