Category: awesomeness

Book Review: Six Crimson Cranes, by Elizabeth Lim

Image belongs to Random House Children’s/ Knopf Books for Young Readers.

Shiori, the only princess of Kiata, has a secret. Forbidden magic runs through her veins. Normally she conceals it well, but on the morning of her betrothal ceremony, Shiori loses control. At first, her mistake seems like a stroke of luck, forestalling the wedding she never wanted, but it also catches the attention of Raikama, her stepmother.

Raikama has dark magic of her own, and she banishes the young princess, turning her brothers into cranes, and warning Shiori that she must speak of it to no one: for with every word that escapes her lips, one of her brothers will die.

Penniless, voiceless, and alone, Shiori searches for her brothers, and, on her journey, uncovers a conspiracy to overtake the throne—a conspiracy more twisted and deceitful, more cunning and complex, than even Raikama’s betrayal. Only Shiori can set the kingdom to rights, but to do so she must place her trust in the very boy she fought so hard not to marry. And she must embrace the magic she’s been taught all her life to contain—no matter what it costs her.

This was a fantastic read! I love that it’s a retelling of a fairy tale, set in a completely different—and vividly drawn—culture. Some of the brothers kind of blurred together for me; not a surprise, as for the most part they sort of played one part, but the other characters were distinct and believable.

Shiori herself was great. Her journey to realizing and embracing her strength was wonderful, and I loved how she thought for herself and didn’t just go along with what everyone told her. I was up late finishing this because I just couldn’t put it down.

Elizabeth Lin lives in New York City. Six Crimson Cranes is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Random House Children’s/ Knopf Books for Young Readers in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour: Lady Sunshine, by Amy Mason Doan

Image belongs to Harlequin/Graydon House.

Title Lady Sunshine
AuthorAmy Mason Doan
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  5 out of 5

ONE ICONIC FAMILY. ONE SUMMER OF SECRETS. THE DAZZLING SPIRIT OF 1970S CALIFORNIA.

For Jackie Pierce, everything changed the summer of 1979, when she spent three months of infinite freedom at her bohemian uncle’s sprawling estate on the California coast. As musicians, artists, and free spirits gathered at The Sandcastle for the season in pursuit of inspiration and communal living, Jackie and her cousin Willa fell into a fast friendship, testing their limits along the rocky beach and in the wild woods… until the summer abruptly ended in tragedy, and Willa silently slipped away into the night.

Twenty years later, Jackie unexpectedly inherits The Sandcastle and returns to the iconic estate for a short visit to ready it for sale. But she reluctantly extends her stay when she learns that, before her death, her estranged aunt had promised an up-and-coming producer he could record a tribute album to her late uncle at the property’s studio. As her musical guests bring the place to life again with their sun-drenched beach days and late-night bonfires, Jackie begins to notice startling parallels to that summer long ago. And when a piece of the past resurfaces and sparks new questions about Willa’s disappearance, Jackie must discover if the dark secret she’s kept ever since is even the truth at all.

This book was unexpected. That’s the only adjective I can think of to describe it. Parts of it are lyrical, parts are sad, parts are just plain magical. Excellent, vibrant writing—I can practically watch events unfolding in my imagination as the narrative switches between present-day events and those of the past. I highly recommend this!

Amy Mason Doan grew up in California. Lady Sunshine is her newest novel.

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

The Best Books I Read in June (2021)

I read 22 books in June, bringing my total for the year to 129. Halfway through the year, just over halfway to my goal of reading 250 books this year. One of those reads was just bad, 5 were solidly in the “meh” category, and the rest were good reads. Except three that were excellent.

https://tamaramorning.com/2021/07/02/the-best-books-i-read-in-june-2021/(opens in a new tab)

A Court of Wings and Ruin, by Sarah J. Maas. This was one of my reads for June—from the TBR pile—and I am seriously so mad that I read the first one ages ago when it was new, then just forgot about the entire series until a few months ago, when I caught the entire series on sale in ebook. And I am so glad I did! I love this series. The ending to this one almost did me in, and I can’t wait to read the fourth one!

The Widows of Champagne, by Renee Ryan (review forthcoming). This was an excellent read! It wasn’t what I expected: the story of a family of women during the Nazi invasion of France…but there is so much more going on with these women than the surface-level details. I didn’t really care for the mother, as she was pretty aloof, and the youngest daughter was awful, but the grandmother’s struggle with memory loss and the oldest daughter’s journey were enthralling!

The Forest of Vanishing Stars, by Kristin Harmel (review forthcoming). I don’t read that much World War II fiction, much less two excellent ones back-to-back, but here we are. This dealt with something I’d actually not heard of before: the Jews that escaped Polish ghettos and hid in the forest to survive. I enjoyed this so much!

Best Books I Read in May (2021)

In May, I read 29 books, bringing my total for the year to 107 books. I actually DNFed nine other books, which is an usually high number for me. However, I also read some fantastic books in May. Actually, it’s too hard to narrow it down to three, so I’m going to go over a bit.

The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman, by Julietta Henderson. This started off a little bit slow, but it ended up being so, so good! Norman is an awesome character, and I loved his mom and her struggles, too.

New Girl in Little Cove, by Damhnait Monaghan. I was enchanted with this from the very beginning. The setting is just as much a character as any of the actual people in this story, and it was so vividly described I could almost see it.

The Summer Seekers, by Sarah Morgan. I loved all three main characters of this and couldn’t put it down!

The Girl in His Shadow, by Audrey Blake. This historical set when women in England couldn’t practice medicine was engrossing—and mildly infuriating—but so good.

Lady Sunshine, by Amy Mason Doan (review forthcoming). I ended up being completely sucked into this novel from the very beginning. It was so unexpected, yet so riveting and I couldn’t wait to find out what happened.

Book Review The Girl in His Shadow, by Audrey Blake

Image belongs to Sourcebooks Landmark.

TitleThe Girl in His Shadow
Author:  Audrey Blake
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating:  5 out of 5

Raised by the eccentric surgeon Dr. Horace Croft after losing her parents to a deadly pandemic, the orphan Nora Beady knows little about conventional life. While other young ladies were raised to busy themselves with needlework and watercolors, Nora was trained to perfect her suturing and anatomical illustrations of dissections.

Women face dire consequences if caught practicing medicine, but in Croft’s private clinic Nora is his most trusted–and secret–assistant. That is until the new surgical resident Dr. Daniel Gibson arrives. Dr. Gibson has no idea that Horace’s bright and quiet young ward is a surgeon more qualified and ingenuitive than even himself. In order to protect Dr. Croft and his practice from scandal and collapse Nora must learn to play a new and uncomfortable role–that of a proper young lady.

But pretense has its limits. Nora cannot turn away and ignore the suffering of patients even if it means giving Gibson the power to ruin everything she’s worked for. And when she makes a discovery that could change the field forever, Nora faces an impossible choice. Remain invisible and let the men around her take credit for her work, or let the world see her for what she is–even if it means being destroyed by her own legacy.

I enjoyed this very much! Sure, it was hard to read about such a capable woman who was ignored because she was female, but Nora is such a great character. She’s different—and she embraces that and is determined to persevere and do what she needs to do, no matter what people say. Even when she cares about people, she doesn’t put aside her own dreams, and she’s willing to risk her future, or at least her reputation, to save lives. Also, this cover is beautiful!

Audrey Blake is the pseudonym of Jaima Fixsen and Regina Sirois. The Girl in His Shadow is their newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Summer Seekers, by Sarah Morgan

Image belongs to Harlequin/HQN.

TitleThe Summer Seekers
AuthorSarah Morgan
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  5 out of 5

Kathleen is eighty years old. After she has a run-in with an intruder, her daughter wants her to move into a residential home. But she’s not having any of it. What she craves—what she needs—is adventure.

Liza is drowning in the daily stress of family life. The last thing she needs is her mother jetting off on a wild holiday, making Liza long for a solo summer of her own.

Martha is having a quarter-life crisis. Unemployed, unloved and uninspired, she just can’t get her life together. But she knows something has to change.

When Martha sees Kathleen’s advertisement for a driver and companion to share an epic road trip across America with, she decides this job might be the answer to her prayers. She’s not the world’s best driver, but anything has to be better than living with her parents. And traveling with a stranger? No problem. Anyway, how much trouble can one eighty-year-old woman be?

As these women embark on the journey of a lifetime, they all discover it’s never too late to start over…

I loved this read! Kathleen was so much fun:  I want to be just like her when I’m 80. Liza’s struggle to find herself again was so relatable and Marth doesn’t even know who she wants to be, but both their journeys were relatable and engrossing. This is the perfect light and inspiring read that will make you want to take a summer road trip—or reinvent yourself. Highly recommend!

Sarah Morgan is a bestselling author. The Summer Seekers is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: New Girl in Little Cove, by Damhnait Monaghan

Image belongs to Harlequin/Graydon House.

TitleNew Girl in Little Cove
AuthorDamhnait Monaghan
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:   5 out of 5

After the local French teacher scandalizes the fishing village of Little Cove, Newfoundland, by running off with a priest, the school looks to the mainland to fill the job quickly. They want someone who can uphold their Catholic values and keep a motley group of largely unwilling students in line.

The position is filled by mainlander Rachel O’Brien—technically a Catholic (baptized!), technically a teacher (honors degree!)—who’s desperate to leave her current mess of a life behind. She isn’t surprised that her students don’t see the value of learning French. But she is surprised that she can barely understand their English… Is it a compliment or insult to be called a sleeveen? (Insult.) And the anonymous notes left on her car, telling her to go home, certainly don’t help to make her feel welcome.

Still, she is quickly drawn into the island’s traditional music and culture, and into the personal lives of her crusty but softhearted landlady, Lucille, her reluctant students and her fellow teacher Doug Bishop. But when her beliefs clash with church and community, she makes a decision that throws her career into jeopardy. In trying to help a student, has she gone too far?

This was such a good read! The culture and landscape of Little Cove is a vivid character in this novel, and the author does a stellar job of bringing it to life. The characters are quirky yet relatable, and, despite the setting being such a tiny place, it’s full of life and activity. This was an easy read, but just so warm and comfortable, like a cozy sweater on a cold day.

Damhnait Monaghan is an award-winning writer. New Girl in Little Cove is her debut novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman, by Julietta Henderson

Image belongs to Harlequin/MIRA.

TitleThe Funny Thing About Norman Foreman
AuthorJulietta Henderson
Genre:  YA
Rating:  5 out of 5

Twelve-year-old Norman Foreman and his best friend, Jax, are a legendary comedic duo in waiting, with a plan to take their act all the way to the Edinburgh Fringe. But when Jax dies, Norman decides the only fitting tribute is to perform at the festival himself. The problem is, Norman’s not the funny one. Jax was.

There’s also another, far more colossal objective on Norman’s new plan that his single mom, Sadie, wasn’t ready for: he wants to find the father he’s never known. Determined to put a smile back on her boy’s face, Sadie resolves to face up to her own messy past, get Norman to the Fringe and help track down a man whose identity is a mystery, even to her.

I’ll be honest, initially, Sadie’s voice almost made me put this down. She just sounded so defeated. I am SO glad I didn’t! This ended up being a fantastic read! Norman is an awesome kid. I have no idea how he has such a positive attitude, considering everything, but he’s so uplifting and inspiring!

And, actually, Sadie is defeated when the book starts out. By life. By all the tragedy and hardship she’s experienced, by her own regrets, by her fears for Norman, and her grief. This story is as much her journey as Norman’s, and it ended up being such an enthralling story, with both laughter and tears, and I enjoyed it immensely.

Julietta Henderson is a full-time writer. The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman is her debut novel.

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

Book Review: Mother May I, by Joshilyn Jackson

Image belongs to William Morrow.

TitleMother May I
AuthorJoshilyn Jackson
Genre:  Fiction, thriller
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

Revenge doesn’t wait for permission.

Growing up poor in rural Georgia, Bree Cabbat was warned by her single mother that the world was a dark and scary place. Bree rejected her mother’s fearful outlook, and life has proved her right. Having married into a family with wealth, power, and connections, Bree now has all a woman could ever dream of: a loving lawyer husband, two talented teenage daughters, a new baby boy, a gorgeous home, and every opportunity in the world.

Until the day she awakens and sees a witch peering into her bedroom window—an old gray-haired woman dressed all in black who vanishes as quickly as she appears. It must be a play of the early morning light or the remnant of a waking dream, Bree tells herself, shaking off the bad feeling that overcomes her.

Later that day though, she spies the old woman again, in the parking lot of her daugh­ters’ private school . . . just minutes before Bree’s infant son, asleep in his car seat only a few feet away, vanishes. It happened so quickly—Bree looked away only for a second. There is a note left in his place, warning her that she is being is being watched; if she wants her baby back, she must not call the police or deviate in any way from the instructions that will follow.

The mysterious woman makes contact, and Bree learns she, too, is a mother. Why would another mother do this? What does she want? And why has she targeted Bree? Of course Bree will pay anything, do anything. It’s her child.

To get her baby back, Bree must complete one small—but critical—task. It seems harmless enough, but her action comes with a devastating price, making her complicit in a tangled web of tragedy and shocking secrets that could destroy everything she loves. It is the beginning of an odyssey that will lead Bree to dangerous places, explosive confrontations, and chilling truths.

Bree will do whatever it takes to protect her family—but what if the cost tears their world apart?

I’m a huge Joshilyn Jackson fan. Her novel gods in Alabama is one of my top 10 favorite books ever. I discovered her quite by accident, fell in love with the voice of her stories, and realized Southern fiction was a thing.

Mother May I is more of a thriller than her other novels, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. The character arc that Bree experiences during the short time period of this novel is incredible to experience, and I was up early finishing up this novel before my day started. Highly recommend! (Also, this cover is perfect!)

Joshilyn Jackson is a bestselling author. Mother May I is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Sweetshop of Dreams, by Jenny Colgan

Image belongs to Sourcebooks Landmark.

TitleSweetshop of Dreams
AuthorJenny Colgan
Genre:  Women’s fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5

Rosie Hopkins has gotten used to busy London life. It’s…comfortable. And though she might like a more rewarding career, and her boyfriend’s not exactly the king of romance, Rosie’s not complaining. And when she visits her Aunt Lilian’s small country village to help sort out her sweetshop, she expects it to be dull at best.

Lilian Hopkins has spent her life running Lipton’s sweetshop, through wartime and family feuds. When her great-niece Rosie arrives to help her with the shop, the last thing Lillian wants to slow down and wrestle with the secret history hidden behind the jars of beautifully colored sweets.

But as Rosie gets Lilian back on her feet, breathes a new life into the candy shop, and gets to know the mysterious and solitary Stephen—whose family seems to own the entire town—she starts to think that settling for what’s comfortable might not be so great after all.

This was such a fun book! Rosie’s boyfriend got on my very last nerve—and he’s fictional! I loved the scenes of life in the little village, and Rosie’s misadventures had me laughing. Reading this was sheer enjoyment!

Jenny Colgan was born in Scotland. Sweetshop of Dreams is her newest novel.

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