Category: awesomeness

Book Review: Defending the Galaxy, by Maria V. Snyder

Image belongs to the author.

Title: Defending the Galaxy
Author: Maria V. Snyder
Genre: YA, sci-fi
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Junior Officer Ara Lawrence here, reporting for duty. Again. It’s situation critical for the security team and everyone in the base – including my parents – with a new attack from the looters imminent, a possible galaxy-wide crime conspiracy and an unstoppable alien threat. But this all pales in the face of my mind-blowing discovery about the Q-net. Of course, no one believes me. I’m not sure I believe me. It could just be a stress-induced delusion. That’s what my parents seem to believe…

Their concern for me is hampering my ability to do my job. I know they love me, but with the Q-net in my corner, I’m the only one who can help the security team beat the shadowy aliens from the pits we discovered. We’re holding them at bay, for now, but the entire Milky Way Galaxy is in danger of being overrun.

With battles on too many fronts, it’s looking dire. But one thing I’ve learned is when people I love are in jeopardy, I’ll never give up trying to save them. Not until my dying breath. Which could very well be today…

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the Sentinels of the Galaxy series! Maria V. Snyder’s writing is fantastic, as always, and this universe is nicely done and intriguing. I’d never considered the effects faster-than-light travel would have on families and friendships, so that was an intriguing detail.

Ara is a lot of fun to read—smart, determined, and with enough snark to make me laugh. She trying to save the universe here, but she’s also concerned with typical teenage things like her boyfriend and what’s going on with him. Lots of action, high stakes, and characters I care about made this a riveting read!

Maria V. Snyder is a bestselling author. Defending the Galaxy is the final book in the Sentinels of the Galaxy series.

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

Book Review: The Garden of Promises and Lies, by Paula Brackston

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title: The Garden of Promises and Lies
Author: Paula Brackston
Genre: Fiction, historical
Rating: 5.0 out of 5

As the bustle of the winter holidays in the Little Shop of Found Things gives way to spring, Xanthe is left to reflect on the strange events of the past year. While she’s tried to keep her time-traveling talents a secret from those close to her, she is forced to take responsibility for having inadvertently transported the dangerous Benedict Fairfax to her own time. Xanthe comes to see that she must use her skills as a spinner if she and Flora are ever to be safe, and turns to the Spinners book for help.

It is then that a beautiful antique wedding dress sings to her. Realizing the dress and her adversary are connected in some way, she answers the call. She finds herself in Bradford-on-Avon in 1815, as if she has stepped into a Jane Austen story.

Now in Xanthe’s time, Fairfax is threatening Xanthe into helping him with his evil doings, and demonstrates all too clearly how much damage he is capable of causing. With Fairfax growing ever more powerful, Xanthe enlists the help of her boyfriend Liam, taking him back in time with her. It is a decision that might just ensure she prevails over her foe, but only by putting her life—and his—on the line.

I think I’ve read the first book in this series—The Little Shop of Found Things—but I’m not positive, and I know I haven’t read the second book. Honestly, that didn’t detract from reading this at all. Sure, it would have added some depth, but a reader coming into this series at book three would be totally lost and unable to figure out what was going on.

I love the quirky characters—Harley especially—and find the whole basic premise fascinating, twining the past and present together like pieces of a puzzle. Brackston is an excellent writer, bringing both modern day and historical settings to vivid life and I’m now going back to read (or maybe re-read) the first two books in this series.

Paula Brackston lives in Wales. The Garden of Promises and Lies is her newest novel, the third book in the Found Things series.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Emperor’s Wolves, by Michelle Sagara

Image belongs to harlequin/MIRA.

Title: The Emperor’s Wolves
Author:   Michelle Sagara  
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 5 out of 5

As an orphan scrounging in the lawless slums, young Severn Handred didn’t have the luxury of believing in anything beyond his own survival. Now he’s crossed the river and entered the heart of the empire: the city of Elantra. When Severn is spotted tailing some lawmen of the Hawks—a not insignificant feat to go otherwise undetected—the recruiter for the Imperial Wolves thinks he should join their ranks. The Wolves are a small, select group that work within the Halls of Law, reporting directly to the Eternal Emperor. Severn hopes to avoid the law—he certainly had no intention of joining it.

In order to become a wolf—even on probation—Severn must face the investigators most dreaded throughout the Empire: The Tha’alani, readers of minds. No secret is safe from their prying, no knowledge can remain buried. But Severn’s secret, never shared before, is not enough to prevent the Wolves from adopting him as one of their own. All men have secrets, after all. Severn’s first job will be joining a hunt, but between the treacherous politics of the High Court, the almost unnatural interest of one of the Lords, and those who wish long-held secrets to remain buried forever, the trick will be surviving it.

I’ll start off by saying that I’m a huge fan of Michelle Sagara’s Chronicles of Elantra series—and Severn is one of my favorite characters. Reading this novel made me want to re-read that entire series…except I don’t have time right now. I love the voice in that series so much—and Kaylin is such a great character and finds herself in so many situations that keep my attention riveted.

Fittingly, the voice in this prequel spin-off isn’t the same. There are still hints of snark, but, as we’re following Severn, there’s not the same rushing-headlong-into-trouble-and-other-people’s-business plot going on here. Fantastic writing, setting, and characterization as the other series, but the action in this is more thought-out—whereas Kaylin rushes into everything, Severn actually thinks things through before acting.

I really loved seeing things from his eyes and learning more about his past and Kaylin’s. I can’t wait to read more in this spin-off series!

Michelle Sagara is an author, book­seller, and lover of liter­ature based in Toronto.

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

Book Review: Kingdom of Sea and Stone, by Mara Rutherford

Image belongs to Inkyard Press.

Title: Kingdom of Sea and Stone
Author: Mara Rutherford    
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Rating: 5 out of 5

Ever since Nor was forced to go to a nearby kingdom in her sister’s place, she’s wanted nothing more than to return to the place and people she loves. But when her wish comes true, she soon finds herself cast out from both worlds, with a war on the horizon.

As an old enemy resurfaces more powerful than ever, Nor will have to keep the kingdom from falling apart with the help of Prince Talin and Nor’s twin sister, Zadie. There are forces within the world more mysterious than any of them ever guessed—and they’ll need to stay alive long enough to conquer them…

I thoroughly enjoyed this book (And the one before it, A Crown of Coral and Pearl.). And I think the covers are gorgeous!

The world here is unique and distinctive, with different cultures, countries, and beliefs, and it’s fun to explore them with Nor. She knows what’s right and she does it, but she can see both sides of the issues. I love her strength even in the face of overwhelming odds, and her courage to speak up about wrongs—even when it can hurt her in the long run.

Adventure, magic, and a captivating setting all combine in this to make it almost impossible to put down!

Mara Rutherford was born in California but has lived all over the world. Kingdom of Sea and Stone is her newest novel.

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

Best Books I Read in September (2020)

In September, I read 28 books, bringing my total for the year to 244 books.

Of those, there were a handful of “meh” books, mostly solid/good books, and a few that were excellent reads!

Like:

A Voice in the Wind, by Francine Rivers. I’m almost positive I read this trilogy years ago, but I’ve basically forgotten it, so it was like a new-to-me read. I love well-done historical, and this was an excellent fiction read set in Rome in the first century.

Anxious People, by Fredrik Backman. I might as well just confess that Backman is now one of my favorite authors. His voice is just so amazing, and I love his characters. This was not what I expected from a bank robbery gone bad, but it was wonderful!

The Silvered Serpents, by Roshani Chokshi. I haven’t actually read the first book in this series, but I had no problems with that. Loved this dark fantasy, full of quirky and well-drawn characters (even the ones that we re jerks).

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.

 

Book Review: Fable, by Adrienne Young

fable
Image belongs to Wednesday Books.

Title: Fable
Author: Adrienne Young
Genre:   4.5 out of 5
Rating: Fantasy, YA

As the daughter of the most powerful trader in the Narrows, the sea is the only home seventeen-year-old Fable has ever known. It’s been four years since the night she watched her mother drown during an unforgiving storm. The next day her father abandoned her on a legendary island filled with thieves and little food. To survive she must keep to herself, learn to trust no one and rely on the unique skills her mother taught her. The only thing that keeps her going is the goal of getting off the island, finding her father and demanding her rightful place beside him and his crew. To do so Fable enlists the help of a young trader named West to get her off the island and across the Narrows to her father.

But her father’s rivalries and the dangers of his trading enterprise have only multiplied since she last saw him and Fable soon finds that West isn’t who he seems. Together, they will have to survive more than the treacherous storms that haunt the Narrows if they’re going to stay alive.

I was intrigued by this from the very first page. Fable is clearly a better person than me, because if I’d been abandoned—basically to die—by my father four years ago, I wouldn’t have gone back looking for him like I cared. It did make her a strong person, though.  The parts on the sea were well-done and vivid, and the land-based settings were vivid and realistic.

I liked all the characters and their relationships were believable. There’s enough escalating tension here to keep me reading late into the night, and I can’t wait to find out what happens in the second book. I saw a post pointing out the similarity between West and The Dread Pirate Roberts from The Princess Bride and now I can’t unsee that…which isn’t a bad thing. I liked the adventure-filled atmosphere and the setting was fascinating.

Adrienne Young is a New York Times-bestselling author. Fable is her newest novel.

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

Best Books I Read in July (2020)

How is it August already? This year…

In July, I read 27 books, bringing my total for the year to 187 books. I feel like most of those books ranged from “meh” to “solid,” but there were a few that were excellent reads.

where dreams descend

Where Dreams Descend, by Janella Angeles (review forthcoming). I really enjoyed this! It had a dark, lush feel to it, and I really had no idea what was actually going on, but I loved the vibrant characters and the creepy setting.

upset the world

Upset the World, by Tim Ross. I know there are a lot of different beliefs out there, and nonfiction and Christian books aren’t for everyone, but I really enjoyed this! Pastor Tim’s enthusiasm is so inspiring, and his anecdotes are hilarious. (The one about the carrot cake made me laugh so much.)

tipping point

Tipping Point, by Jimmy Evans. This is another book that’s probably not for everyone, but it was a fascinating read. Pastor Jimmy has been studying the end times for 45 years, so his insights are fascinating and his voice is casual and down-to-earth.

What I Read in July (2020)

Books Read in July: 27

Books Read for the Year: 187/200

Topical Books/Monthly Goal Books:

Emma, by Jane Austen (classic). Re-read. Better than Sense and Sensibility not as good as P & P.

Upset the World, by Tim Ross (spiritual). I love Pastor Tim, and I thoroughly enjoyed this books. The bit about the carrot cake made me laugh so much. I feel that…

I Am David, by Jimmy Evans (spiritual). Really enjoyed this.

The Pursuit of God, by A.W. Tozer (spiritual/TBR).

Lament, by Maggie Stiefvater (TBR/re-read). I forgot about Stiefvater’s penchant for breaking my heart with her characters.

A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman (TBR). Wow. I really enjoyed this! Ove was such a trip.

For Review:

haze

Haze, by Rebecca Crunden. Lots of normalized drug use in this one (like, it was treated as normal behavior), and the paranormal elements didn’t show up until 2/3 of the way through the novel, so it felt like a surprise shift,  but solid writing.

the rightfulqueen

The Rightful Queen, by Isabell Steger (review forthcoming). This was not a quick read for me and I hadn’t read the previous book in the series, but I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Someone's Listening cover_smp

Someone’s Listening, by Seraphine Nova Glass (review forthcoming). I did not care for the MC here—she did stupid things all the time and was almost willful in her ridiculous decisions—which means I usually stop reading. I actually finished this one, and it ended up being just an okay read, because of my character dislike.

lobizona

Lobizona, by Robina Garber (review forthcoming). Thoroughly enjoyed this magic/paranormal tale, although parts of it felt a bit cliched.

the friendship list

The Friendship List, by Susan Mallery (review forthcoming). This book made me laugh so much! I loved the main characters and their adventures and I highly recommend this!

lies lies lies

Lies, Lies, Lies, by Adele Park (review forthcoming). I seem to be encountering a lot of characters in the past few months that I just don’t like. Is it me…or is it people? Daisy was the most passive character ever, Simon was a horrible person, and they were just disastrous.

the hero of hope springs

The Hero of Hope Springs, by Maisey Yates (review forthcoming). Again, these characters were not my favorite. Sammy was unbelievably selfish and willfully clueless. Ryder was better, but still had some issues. An okay read.

here to stay

Here to Stay, by Adriana Herrera (review forthcoming). I have to admit, this book made me hungry! I enjoyed the cultural diversity in this—and the food descriptions—but the main characters were a bit erratic. Especially Rocco, who was most of the time very polite, respectful, nice…and then devolved into this x-rated character at times. It just didn’t make sense for him. The characters were either very professional and businesslike, or they were very casual and vibrant, but the separate parts of their personalities were never meshed, and that seemed off to me as well.

the dazzling truth

The Dazzling Truth, by Helen Cullen (review forthcoming). This was a very powerful, moving novel, and I’m not sure I can put it into words.

where dreams descend

Where Dreams Descend, by Janella Angeles (review forthcoming). I found this dark fantasy captivating from the very beginning.

child on his doorstep

Child on His Doorstep, by Lee Tobin McClain (review forthcoming). This felt a little rushed and several things were outside the realm of believability for me, but it was a solid read.

mina lee

The Last Story of Mina Lee, by Nancy Jooyoun Kim (review forthcoming). This had a leisurely pace and the main character (the daughter) wasn’t very likable, but this was a good read.

some kind of animal

Some Kind of Animal, by Maria Romasco Moore (review forthcoming). This was…frankly a little too far-fetched to me, and why were all the characters just not-nice people or not smart?

talland house

Talland House, by Maggie Humm (review forthcoming). I enjoyed this book, although it was a bit slow-paced.

Just Because:

Slow Dance in Purgatory and Prom Night in Purgatory, by Amy Harmon. Two quick, fun reads that I enjoyed.

Tribulation Force, by Tim LaHaye. Re-read.

American Dream, by Kim Harrison. Because I love this series, and Rachel gets in more trouble merely by breathing than I can even fathom. Also, Jenks.

Nicolae, by Tim LaHaye. Re-read.

Tipping Point:  The End is Here, by Jimmy Evans (spiritual). This was a fascinating read.

How to Study the Bible for Yourself, by Tim LaHaye.

Stopped Reading:

The Bright Side Sanctuary for Animals, by Beckie Mandelbaum. I read about 30% of this before giving up. I had high hopes for this, but every last character was narrow-minded and actively despised/hated anyone with a different opinion than them. Look, people have different opinions. If you despise everyone who disagrees with you, you’re not a nice person. The conditions the animals lived in were horrible and Mona seemed to think that was fine (and she was hateful and condescending), and Ariel was completely selfish and mean.

 

The Best Books I Read in May (2020)

In May, I read 33 books, bringing my total for the year up to 132 books. Some of those books were good, some were okay, some were just “meh.” But three of them were really exceptional!

Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen. Yes, this a re-read. I’m actually not sure how many times I’ve read it, but this time was was just as wonderful. I wish I could re-read this again for the first time! So many laughs at Lizzie’s wit, and so much sympathy for poor Mr. Darcy.

what unbreakable looks like
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

What Unbreakable Looks Like, by Kate McLaughlin. (My review will be up on the 16th as part of the blog tour.) I don’t even know what to say about this book! It opens with the cops rescuing Lex from human trafficking, and tells the story of her life in the aftermath. This book doesn’t pull any punches with what she deals with and how she handles it, and it made me so sad that women and girls experience things like this—and also inspired me with her strength.

juniper jones
Image belongs to Wattpad Books.

The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones, by Daven McQueen. (My review is up on the 11th.) Set in small-town Alabama in 1955, this is the story of Ethan Harper, a biracial kid raised mostly by his white father, who goes to stay with his aunt and uncle for the summer. There he meets prejudice, persecution, and Juniper Jones. Parts of this were awful to read because I know there is truth in this tale. But the friendship between Ethan and Juniper is wonderful and full of hope. (And I love this cover!)