Category: awesomeness

Book Review: The Secret Book of Flora Lea, by Patti Callahan Henry

Image belongs to Atria Books.

Title:    The Secret Book of Flora Lea   
Author:  Patti Callahan Henry
Genre:  Historical fiction   
Rating:  5 out of 5

In the war-torn London of 1939, fourteen-year-old Hazel and five-year-old Flora are evacuated to a rural village to escape the horrors of the Second World War. Living with the kind Bridie Aberdeen and her teenage son, Harry, in a charming stone cottage along the River Thames, Hazel fills their days with walks and games to distract her young sister, including one that she creates for her sister and her sister alone—a fairy tale about a magical land, a secret place they can escape to that is all their own.

But the unthinkable happens when young Flora suddenly vanishes while playing near the banks of the river. Shattered, Hazel blames herself for her sister’s disappearance, and she carries that guilt into adulthood as a private burden she feels she deserves.

Twenty years later, Hazel is in London, ready to move on from her job at a cozy rare bookstore to a career at Sotheby’s. With a charming boyfriend and her elegantly timeworn Bloomsbury flat, Hazel’s future seems determined. But her tidy life is turned upside down when she unwraps a package containing an illustrated book called Whisperwood and the River of Stars . Hazel never told a soul about the imaginary world she created just for Flora. Could this book hold the secrets to Flora’s disappearance? Could it be a sign that her beloved sister is still alive after all these years?

As Hazel embarks on a feverish quest, revisiting long-dormant relationships and bravely opening wounds from her past, her career and future hang in the balance. An astonishing twist ultimately reveals the truth in this transporting and refreshingly original novel about the bond between sisters, the complications of conflicted love, and the enduring magic of storytelling.

I really enjoyed this read! I do love WWII fiction, but this isn’t a typical one—and it isn’t only WWII fiction. I really loved all of it, and I thought the relationship between the young sisters was so well-done and believable. Hazel is a great character, despite all her thorns and trust issues, and I loved watching the storyline of their childhood meet up with Hazel’s adult life. I highly recommend this!

Patti Callahan Henry is an award-winning and bestselling author. The Secret Book of Flora Lea is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Warrior Girl Unearthed, by Angeline Boulley    

Image belongs to Macmillan Children’s/Henry Holt and Co.

Title: Warrior Girl Unearthed       
Author: Angeline Boulley    
Genre: YA, mystery    
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Perry Firekeeper-Birch was ready for her Summer of Slack but instead, after a fender bender that was entirely not her fault, she’s stuck working to pay back her Auntie Daunis for repairs to the Jeep.

Thankfully she has the other outcasts of the summer program, Team Misfit Toys, and even her twin sister Pauline. Together they ace obstacle courses, plan vigils for missing women in the community, and make sure summer doesn’t feel so lost after all.

But when she attends a meeting at a local university, Perry learns about the “Warrior Girl”, an ancestor whose bones and knife are stored in the museum archives, and everything changes. Perry has to return Warrior Girl to her tribe. Determined to help, she learns all she can about NAGPRA, the federal law that allows tribes to request the return of ancestral remains and sacred items. The university has been using legal loopholes to hold onto Warrior Girl and twelve other Anishinaabe ancestors’ remains, and Perry and the Misfits won’t let it go on any longer.

Using all of their skills and resources, the Misfits realize a heist is the only way to bring back the stolen artifacts and remains for good. But there is more to this repatriation than meets the eye as more women disappear and Pauline’s perfectionism takes a turn for the worse. As secrets and mysteries unfurl, Perry and the Misfits must fight to find a way to make things right – for the ancestors and for their community.

I enjoyed learning so much about the Anishinaabe tribe and culture. I found those details fascinating. Perry was a great character! She truly learned from her mistakes and grew from that knowledge, and she fully embraced her culture and heritage and determined to honor it in every way she could. I also liked the connections to Firekeeper’s Daughter.

Angeline Boulley is from Michigan. Warrior Girl Unearthed is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Macmillan Children’s/Henry Holt and Co. in exchange for an honest review.)

The Best Books I Read in April (2023

In April, I read 16 books, bringing my total books read for the year to 70 books. I also DNFed seven books, which is kind of high for me. Of the 16 books I read, some of them really stood out.

Divine Rivals, by Rebecca Ross. This fantasy novel started off a teensy bit slow, then turned into a sort of of steampunk/alternate world historical fiction with a WWI feel (that was a super clear description, wasn’t it?). I loved the world and the characters, and I can’t wait to read the next book.

Silver in the Bone, by Alexandra Bracken. I love King Arthur mythology, so that alone would have been enough to make me pick this up, but the world and characters kept me glued to the page (screen) as I read this entire 500-pag-novel in one sitting. I highly recommend this!

Water from My Heart, by Charles Martin. I listened to the audio of this book. Y’all. I don’t even have words for this. Charles Martin is my favorite author—hands down. Favorite like “I’ll buy anything he writes. In hardback.” I just finished reading his Murphy Shepherd books a few months ago, and they blew me away. This book also blew me away—and the narrator was fantastic. I loved the story and the characters—and this was such a fantastic illustration of the Gospel message in a current fiction form.

Sundays Are for Writing #222

I ended up working an extra day this week—and all five days were mentally exhausting—so I only wrote one book review this week, Pieces of Me, by Kate McLaughlin. (Interesting read, but it struck me as a bit sugar-coated.) I also DNFed three books (again), Where Coyotes Howl, The Dutch Orphan, and Under the Cover of Mercy. The first one, I DNFed because there was no conflict in the first 25%, the second, the POV was too distant for my taste, and the last one, the MC felt a bit haughty and distant.

I also wrote four posts on A Little Bit Greener: Green=peace of mind, Time is greener, Sometimes it’s hard to find the light, and tell them they’re pretty. I honestly didn’t realize I wrote that much this week…I ALSO binge read Kresley Cole’s From the Gave , the final book in the Arcana series, which I love.

I also did a solid bit of brainstorming on the new story idea, so I’m very happy with this week of writing!

Happy writing

Book Review: Silver in the Bone, by Alexandra Bracken  

Image belongs to Random House.

Title:  Silver in the Bone   
Author: Alexandra Bracken    
Genre: Fantasy, YA    
Rating: 5 out of 5

Tamsin Lark didn’t ask to be a Hollower. As a mortal with no magical talent, she was never meant to break into ancient crypts, or compete with sorceresses and Cunningfolk for the treasures inside. But after her thieving foster father disappeared without so much as a goodbye, it was the only way to keep herself—and her brother, Cabell—alive.

Ten years later, rumors are swirling that her guardian vanished with a powerful ring from Arthurian legend. A run-in with her rival Emrys ignites Tamsin’s hope that the ring could free Cabell from a curse that threatens both of them. But they aren’t the only ones who covet the ring.

As word spreads, greedy Hollowers start circling, and many would kill to have it for themselves. While Emrys is the last person Tamsin would choose to partner with, she needs all the help she can get to edge out her competitors in the race for the ring. Together, they dive headfirst into a vipers’ nest of dark magic, exposing a deadly secret with the power to awaken ghosts of the past and shatter her last hope of saving her brother. . . .

I read this entire novel in one sitting—yes, all almost-500-pages—if that tells you anything. I found the setting and worldbuilding fascinating, with the mixture of fantastical elements and the mundane everyday swirled together. Tamsin is frequently kind of a jerk, even if I can understand why she’s so prickly. I loved her relationship with her brother, and the snark between her and Emyrs was great. Some of this was creepy as heck, but I loved what the author did with the King Arthur mythos, and I would read the next book in a hot second.

Alexandra Bracken is a bestselling author. Silver in the Bone is her newest novel.

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

Sundays Are for Writing #220

This was a solid writing week: I wrote two book reviews, Fateful Words, by Paige Shelton and The Sinister Booksellers of Bath, by Garth Nix. I also wrote three posts over on A Little Bit Greener: taking the time, Gardening is greener, and I discovered. And, I did a tiny bit of brainstorming on the potential new fiction project.

Happy writing!

Book Review: Divine Rivals, by Rebecca Ross   

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title: Divine Rivals     
Author: Rebecca Ross     
Genre:  Fantasy, YA   
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

After centuries of sleep, the gods are warring again …

All eighteen-year-old Iris Winnow wants to do is hold her family together. With a brother on the frontline forced to fight on behalf of the Gods now missing from the frontline and a mother drowning her sorrows, Iris’s best bet is winning the columnist promotion at the Oath Gazette.

But when Iris’s letters to her brother fall into the wrong hands – that of the handsome but cold Roman Kitt, her rival at the paper – an unlikely magical connection forms.

Expelled into the middle of a mystical war, magical typewriters in tow, can their bond withstand the fight for the fate of mankind and, most importantly, love?

This started off a bit slow, but it got going quickly. I would have liked to know a bit more about the history of the culture/the gods and how things ended up quite they were with the war and everything going on, but the not-knowing didn’t detract much from the story. I loved the typewriters and their history! That part was really cool. I liked Iris and Roman a lot, and watching their enemies-to-friends-to-lovers journey was a grand adventure. I can’t wait to read more!

Rebecca Ross lives in Georgia. Divine Rivals is her newest novel.

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

The Best Books I Read in March (2023)

I March, I read 21 books, bringing my total for the year to 54. Of those, several were excellent reads. My favorites were:

Off the Map, by Trish Doller. This was such a fun book! I’ve read the other, connected books by this author and loved them, but I think this was my favorite so far. The Irish setting might have had something to do with that…. But I love all the travel and adventures here. So much fun!

West with Giraffes, by Lynda Rutledge. I loved this! I listened to the audio book, and the narrator was great, but this story was just so much fun! I loved all the characters, and couldn’t wait to find out what happened to the giraffes.

Arcana Rising and The Dark Calling by Kresley Cole. I’ve been re-reading this series in preparation for the final book in the series coming out in a couple of weeks, and I just loved all of these. I can’t wait to read the final book—and this is the only time in my life while reading a love triangle that I do not have a favorite I’m hoping will fin.

Sundays Are for Writing #219

This has been a great writing week! I wrote four book reviews: Five Fortunes, by Barbara Venkataraman, Once We Were Home, by Jennifer Rosner, Zora Books Her Happy Ever After, by Taj McCoy, and Oxford Star, by Laura Bradbury. I also wrote my March reading post, and my top three books I read in March. I also wrote a post over on A Little Bit Greener. I’m very happy with writing this week!

Happy writing!

Book Review: Please, Sorry, Thanks, by Mark Batterson

Image belongs to WaterBrook & Multnomah.

Title:  Please, Sorry, Thanks    
Author:  Mark Batterson   
Genre: Christian    
Rating:  5 out of 5

The best predictor of success in life, in love, and in leadership is your proficiency at please, sorry, and thanks. Those three words are the foundation of all healthy relationships and successful careers. Those three words are the only ceiling on achieving your dreams. Those three words will determine how happy you are.

With his trademark blend of personal stories, scientific and historical references, and biblical insight, Pastor Mark Batterson shows how you can change your world with your words:

– A timely please can help you unlock the rule of reciprocity for greater results, discover the power of “we is greater than me,” and honor others above yourself.

– A sincere sorry can lead you to mend broken relationships, strengthen connections through being radically vulnerable, and better understand the degrees of forgiveness.

– A heartfelt thanks paves the way toward a resilient mindset of gratitude and an expectancy to see God move on your behalf.

Whether you’re launching out into a new phase of life or navigating long-established complexities, it’s time to harness the power of those three transformative words and let them propel you wherever God leads you to go.

I loved this!  The concept is simple:  use please, sorry, and thanks frequently—words we all learn as toddlers—to make our relationships and interactions with others more positive and uplifting. Period. As I read, I thought about how seemingly little things in my own life made such a huge difference to me—even something as simple as the older gentleman sitting in front of me at church telling me, with a smile, “It’s so nice to hear someone enjoy singing so much.” My singing is, at best, indifferent, but that compliment made me smile. It took two seconds of his time, but it brightened my day. How many times every single day do I have that same opportunity to show love to other people with three simple words?

Mark Batterson is a bestselling author and lead pastor of National Community Church. Please, Sorry, Thanks is his newest book.

(Galley courtesy of WaterBrook & Multnomah in exchange for an honest review.)