Category: awesomeness

Book Review: Three Ways to Disappear, by Katy Yocom

three ways
Image belongs to Ashland Creek Press.

Title:   Three Ways to Disappear
Author:   Katy Yocom
Genre:   Fiction
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

Sarah and Quinn spent their childhood in India, but a family tragedy drove their mother to return home to the U.S. with the girls years ago. Now, Sarah has decided to leave her life as a journalist behind to return to India to help save Bengal tigers, but the past haunts her every step. Local politics make her new job harder and a secret—and forbidden—love affair adds to the danger every day.

Quinn is afraid of losing her sister in India. Her own marriage is troubled, with her son’s life-threatening illness shadowing every day and her mother’s continued refusal to speak of or deal with the past adding another layer of tension. When Sarah asks Quinn to come to India, Quinn realizes she’ll have to face the past if she’s ever to assuage her guilt over it.

Wow. This book was an incredible read! (Except the ending. Which was so right for the book—but I was hoping for something different, so totally my own issue.) The Indian setting brims with life—colorful and full of spice—and is as much a character as Sarah and Quinn are. The sisters’ relationship is complex and scarred, but they begin to heal together. This book also does an excellent job showing the plight of endangered Bengal tigers—and the work being done to save them.

Katy Yocom is an award-winning author who lives in Louisville, Kentucky. Three Ways to Disappear is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Ashland Creek Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

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Book Review: Crashing the A-List, by Summer Heacock

crashing the a-list
Image belongs to MIRA.

Title:   Crashing the A-List
Author:  Summer Heacock
Genre:   Women’s fiction/romance
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

For an out-of-work editor, finding a new job isn’t easy. So, Clara sleeps on her brother’s couch while she collects unemployment and job-hunts. She signs on for a stint of cleaning out abandoned storage buildings, but she’s not prepared for the trash, the unidentified objects—are those eyeballs?—or the piles of paper. Then she finds the records of an old escort service—complete with the resume of Caspian Tiddleswich, a super-famous British actor.

Clara’s best friend thinks she should sell her find to the tabloids, but Clara can’t imagine doing that. Instead, she tracks down Caspian’s number and leaves a message assuring him his secret is safe. At least, that’s what she thinks she says. But Caspian shows up at her door, accusing her of blackmail—and the paparazzi gets a picture of their confrontation, and suddenly the two of them are news.

Caspian’s PR team jumps on the opportunity—and Caspian isn’t averse to a little blackmail himself, so Clara finds herself posing as his girlfriend to atone for her sins. But as she gets to know Caspian, she realizes there’s far more to the superstar than meets the eye, and their game of pretend becomes something else.

I read this straight through while in the car on a road trip, and I’m pretty sure my brother thought I’d lost my mind because of all the snickering and outright laughter. There’s a lot of profanity, but this story is hysterical! And, let’s face it, who hasn’t daydreamed about some dreamy actor? Clara was such a relatable character, and her best friend is awesome, too. And Caspian—well, there’s a lot of character growth there. You should definitely read this!

Summer Heacock is a writer, a mom, and a wife. Crashing the A-List is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of MIRA via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

The Best Books I Read in June (2019)

I read 20 books in June, bringing my total to the year for 102 books read.

I have to say, this was a case of quantity, not necessarily quality, as there were a few books that I really enjoyed, but most were just solid to mediocre reads.

That being said, two of my monthly goal books and one of the last books I read for review for the month were outstanding.

at the water's edge

At the Water’s Edge, by Sara Gruen. This was my cultural pick of the month. Which, admittedly, was fudging it a bit, since the heroine is American and the books starts in New York in 1942. But…socialite Maddie and her horrid husband, Ellis, and his best friend, Hank, end up in Scotland in search of the Loch Ness monster, so I rationalized it. Fantastic, engrossing book! I would love to go to Loch Ness, and Gruen’s prose is top-notch. Highly recommend this!

backseat saints

Backseat Saints, by Joshilyn Jackson.  This  was from my TBR pile. I discovered Joshilyn Jackson when I read gods in Alabama for the first time several years ago (and re-read it last year and was just as entranced). This was when I discovered Southern fiction was a thing. I’ve read several of her books now–and cannot wait to review her upcoming novel, Never Have I Ever, at the end of the month. Backseat Saints takes a minor character from gods in Alabama and explores her very challenging life. Joshilyn Jackson is an auto buy for me, and that’s a really short list, so…

the stationary shop

The Stationary Shop, by Marjan Kamali. I’m still emotionally reeling from reading this, so I’m not sure I can talk coherently about it. Most of this takes place in 1953 Tehran, when Roya and Bahman fall in love on the edge of a revolution. it’s…not a happy book, which I realzied immediately. Usually, I would have chosen not to finish what I knew would be a sad read, but this was so good that I continued reading.

 

 

What I Read in June (2019)

Books Read in June: 20

Books Read for the Year: 102/175

Topical Books/Monthly Goal Books:

Atomic Habits:  An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones, by James Clear (Nonfiction). This was quite an interesting read! I’m looking forward to putting it into practice.

Whisper:  How to Hear the Voice of God, by Mark Batterson (Spiritual). A excellent read!

Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee (Classic). Okay, not really a classic, but I’m totally counting it. This was…not a bad read. But, really, how do you follow-up to To Kill a Mockingbird?

at the water's edge

At the Water’s Edge, by Sara Gruen (Cultural). I was engrossed in this read from the very first page! I love reading about the Loch Ness monster, so this was great. And the culture it’s set in at the time was so interesting.

backseat saints

Backseat Saints, by Joshilyn Jackson (TBR). I am a die-hard Joshilyn Jackson fan. gods in Alabama was the first book of hers I read—when I discovered Southern fiction—so this was a natural choice.

For Review:

time after time

Time After Time, by Lisa Grunwald. A girl from the 20’s who keeps disappearing. A man in the 30’s. Two people who want a life together—even if one of them isn’t quite alive. This book was a great read!

montauk

Montauk, by Nicola Harrison. A society wife who wants more than a society life. I knew this wasn’t going to end like I wanted it to—with a happily-ever-after and sunshine and roses—but I enjoyed it anyway.

theredlabyrinth

Red Labyrinth, by Meredith Tate. I rad this straight through in one sitting. Intriguing dystopian world that pits the Skilled against the Unskilled in a desert land that isn’t quite as it seems. Definitely worth reading!

spin the dawn

Spin the Dawn, by Elizabeth Lim (forthcoming). I found this to be an excellent read. The basic idea is Mulan-like (in that a daughter disguises herself as a son in order to save her father), but the world, set-up, and tale were unique and I fell into the story immediately. Gorgeous cover, too!

a long way down

A Long Way Down, by Randall Silvis. A solid mystery read.

Fireborn

Fireborn, by Katie MacAlister. I thoroughly enjoyed this tale, and look forward to reading more of this story!

nothingwithin_ebook_medium_seal

The Nothing Within, by Andy Giesler. I almost put this down in the beginning, but something kept be going. I’m glad I did. Dystopian fiction with an Amish bent? Yes, please!

A-Family-of-Strangers-Emilie-Richards-680x1024

A Family of Strangers, by Emilie Richards. I would not personally market this as women’s fiction, as it’s more of a murder mystery/crime investigation story, with heaps of family drama thrown in. An excellent read!

once upon a bad boy

Once Upon a Bad Boy, by Melonie Johnson. I like linked standalone series, so you can find out more about characters you loved in previous books. This was a solid read.

Jackson cover

Blog Tour for Jackson, by Emily March. While I loved the Texas setting, parts of this felt rushed and unnatural, and some things were just glossed over/mentioned in passing that I felt should have actually been portrayed.

beau and bett

Book Review: Beau and Bett, by Kathryn Berla.I enjoyed this re-telling of Beauty and the Beast, with Bett being the beast for a change. A light read that touches on some heavier subjects.

the evil queen

The Evil Queen, by Gena Showalter. I’ve been super excited to read this. I love Showalter’s writing, and the idea was fascinating. The execution…was not. Starting with the characters’ names which I found pretty corny, to their personalities—annoying at best—and some very rapid about-faces with no character growth…I can’t say I’d recommend this.

the stationary shop

The Stationary Shop, by Marjan Kamali (review forthcoming). This books was amazing. The setting comes to life (Tehran, then America), and I was drawn to the characters from the first page. I also knew, from the page, that it was not going to be a happy book, but it was so good, I finished it anyway (and I don’t usually read anything that I know will be sad.).

recursion

Recursion, by Blake Couch (review forthcoming). Alternate timelines, false memories, hard science…I can frankly say this book was WAY over my head in a lot of ways, but I read it in one sitting because I was so engrossed.

lunar court

Lunar Court, by Aileen Erin (review forthcoming). I’d actually forgotten I’d read, I think, the first two books in this series years ago. I should probably go back and re-read them and the rest.

Left Unfinished:

Storm and Fury, by Jennifer L. Armentrout. I like the whole gargoyle/guardian thing, but found the MC to be one that does stupid things knowingly (being rebellious) and the romance angle started with them disliking each other, so it all felt a little too “done” for me. (I know this is a spin-off, and I haven’t read the original. Nor am I likely to.)

The Great Unexpected, by Dan Mooney. My only problem with this—I read 15% of it—was its slow pace. It just wasn’t a good fit for me at this time.

The Burning Chambers, by Kate Mosse. Clearly not the right choice for me, as the 10% I read didn’t catch my attention at all.

Book Review: Fireborn, by Katie MacAlister

Fireborn
Image belongs to Kensington Books/Rebel Base Books.

Title:  Fireborn
Author:  Katie MacAlister
Genre:  Fantasy
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Deo was born to fulfill a prophecy and save the world. Allegria is supposed to be just a priestess. Hallow is just an apprentice without a master. That was before invaders appeared in the land of the Starborn, threatening the entire world.

Now Allegria has left the priesthood for a chance to battle the enemy and wield the power of the sun. Hallow becomes the leader he always dreamed of becoming. And Deo wrestles with the power of the invaders, a power he doesn’t understand. Together, the three of them are the only ones who stand a chance at defeating the enemy and saving their world.

I loved the characters in this novel! I empathized with all of them (except whiny, angsty young-Deo.) and loved watching their growth. This books has everything from romance to comedy to magic, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

Katie MacAlister is a bestselling author. Fireborn is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Kensington Books/Rebel Base Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, by Kim Michele Richardson

the book woman
Image belongs to Sourcebooks Landmark.

Title:  The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek
Author:  Kim Michele Richardson
Genre:  Historical fiction
Rating:  5 out of 5

In 1936 Kentucky, Cussy Mary Carter is the last living woman of the Blue People. With her blue skin, she’s taunted and ridiculed and treated as inferior, but Cussy Mary is a proud member of the Kentucky Pack Horse library service. This job is her way out, an escape from needing to marry in order to survive.

For Cussy Mary, delivering books to the backwoods people on her route is more than a job. For people who rarely see a newspaper—and who are unlikely to be able to read one if they did see it—the Book Woman is a Godsend, a deliverer of outside news, and a glimmer of hope in the darkness of the woods amidst prejudice and poverty so devastating it destroys entire families. Cussy Mary is determined to continue delivering hope to those around her—along with books.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is an incredible read! Yes, the blue-skinned people in Kentucky were real—they had methemoglobinemia, which caused a decrease in oxygenation of their skin. The prejudice and abuse Cussy Mary experiences in this book is heartbreaking, but so is the poverty that surrounds her. This book is vivid and lovely, with every page engraved with the strength of Cussy Mary—and her courage.

Kim Michele Richardson lives and writes in Kentucky. The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Sourcebooks Landmark via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Redwoods and Whales: Becoming Who You Actually Are, by Phil Joel

 

redwoods and whales
Image belongs to Emanate Books/Thomas Nelson.

Title:  Redwoods and Whales: Becoming Who You Actually Are
Author: Phil Joel
Genre:  Spiritual, Christian
Rating:   5 out of 5

Redwoods and Whales offers a warning and a promise:

The warning: Don’t become that beached whale, trying to live in a foreign environment.

The promise: You will find freedom when your identity is centered under the safety of the Divine.

Life is tough. Depression, addiction, suicide, violence…they’re all commonplace in our society, and they make it hard to know where to turn. Despite the “connectedness” of our social media word, many people feel alone and adrift. But we have a choice:  we can choose to seek God and His true nature, and we can choose to live healthy, purpose-filled lives.

I wasn’t sure what to expect of this book, but Redwoods and Whales brought inspiration and hope while acknowledging the sometimes-bleak world around us. The casual tone combined with the chatting-with-a-friend feel of the book makes it easier to soak in the deep message in this book.

Phil Joel is a musician and an artist. Redwoods and Whales:  Becoming Who You Actually Are is his debut book.

(Galley courtesy of Emanate Books/Thomas Nelson via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Sundays are for Writing #14

Not only did I get in three writing days this week—a bit over my goal of 2,250 words—but I also finished up two lessons in HTWAN! So I hit both goals for the week!

Writing-wise, I’m still wandering, as I have only a bare idea of plot, but my goal for this week—in addition to word count—is to outline five scenes (sentence per scene), so I have some idea where I’m going. I know from experience that I wander when I don’t outline, so it’s time to correct that.

Words. No wandering.

 

The Best Books I read in March (2019)

I read 18 books in March, bringing my total for the year to 50. Only 125 more to go to reach my Goodreads goal of 175! (Honestly…I’m “secretly” hoping to hit 200, but finishing grad school is taking up a lot of time, so it may not happen.)

The best books I read in March include a historical, biblical fiction, and one book I’m really mad I didn’t read when it first caught my eye months ago!

the things we cannot say

The Things We Cannot Say, by Kelly Rimmer.  I’m just going to say it:  this book made me ugly cry. This story is set in 2019—when Alice is overwhelmed with caring for her autistic son while her grandmother is dying—and 1942 Poland, where Alina gets engaged to Tomasz just before the war comes to Poland. This is a powerful, emotional story.

of fire and lions

Of Fire and Lions, by Mesu Andrews.  This is the tale of Daniel—as in Daniel and the lions’ den—and the Israelites’ 70 years in exile from the Promised Land. It’s also the tale of Belili, another of the Jewish captives and her life in Babylon. This book, while fiction, brought so much to life for me from the biblical stories, and I was absolutely captivated! I can’t wait to read more of Mesu Andrews’ books.

where the crawdads sing

Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens. This book…I heard about it for months before I finally read it—and I cannot believe I waited! Locals call Kya the “March Girl,” but she’s so much more than that. Abandoned as a child, she’s grown up alone in the North Carolina marsh, surrounded by the wildlife she loves. When town golden boy Chase Andrews is found dead, everyone says the Marsh Girl did it, but is sensitive Kya really capable of such violence—no matter what the town thinks? The ending to this book blew me away.

Blog Tour for Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan and Author Interview

WickedSaints_BlogTourBanner_AFTER 4.2

Today I am happy to be a part of the blog tour for Wicked Saints, by Emily A. Duncan, which hits stores today! I have a quick interview with the author, then a review of Wicked Saints, which you should definitely go read if you enjoy dark, atmospheric books with complex mythology and magic systems.

Emily A. Duncan
Emily A. Duncan

Author Interview

Q: Tell me a little bit about Wicked Saints.

A:  Tired monastery girl who can talk to the gods! Anxious morally dubious blood mage boy! Exhausted traumatized prince! An assassination plan! A holy war! Eldritch gods! Lots and lots of blood!

Q: Where did your inspiration come for writing Wicked Saints?

A:  Video games and metal music! Specifically, Skyrim in regards to the video games, but it was also fueled by my deep love for metal.

Q:  What is your absolute favorite, read over-and-over again, book?

A:  I mean, I’m very vocal about how much I love the Grisha trilogy, but to answer this slightly differently, the book I’ve reread the most is Til We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis.

Wicked Saints_Cover FINAL
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:  Wicked Saints
Author:   Emily A. Duncan
Genre:  Fantasy
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Nadya is a cleric who can commune with all the gods—unheard of—living in a remote monastery. Kalyazin has been at war with Tranavia for a long time, but the war has never touched the monastery. Until it does, in the form of Tranavian soldiers led by Serefin, High Prince and blood mage. As her friends die around her, Nadya escapes into the wilderness.

She meets Malachiasz, a defector with dark secrets that Nadya isn’t sure she can trust. But Nadya’s powers may be the only thing standing in the way of destruction, so she heads to the seat of Tranavian power, desperate to find a way to stop it. Serefin, used to drinking and fighting, has been called home by his father, but Serefin finds the king in the midst of a horrifying scheme to gain immortality and ultimate power.

Nadya, Serefin, and Malachiasz will have to trust each other if they have any hope of stopping the coming darkness.

Wicked Saints is dark and atmospheric, with a creepy and cold setting reminiscent of Russia. The magic systems are dark and bloody, and there aren’t a lot of happy feelings in this book. I was fascinated from the first page, although I wouldn’t recommend reading it if you’re depressed at the time. Treachery, hatred, lies, deceit…all run through the pages of this novel like blood, until you can’t see what’s coming next.

Emily A. Duncan is a youth services librarian. Wicked Saints is her new novel, the first in the Something Dark and Holy series.

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