Category: awesomeness

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.)

Book Review and Blog Tour:   The Girl from Guernica, by Karen Robards

Image belongs to Harlequin/MIRA.

TitleThe Girl from Guernica     
Author:   Karen Robards
Genre:  Historical fiction  
Rating:  5 out of 5

On an April day in 1937, the sky opens and fire rains down upon the small Spanish town of Guernica. Seventeen-year-old Sibi and her family are caught up in the horror. Griff, an American military attaché, pulls Sibi from the wreckage, and it’s only the first time he saves her life in a span of hours. When Germany claims no involvement in the attack, insisting the Spanish Republic was responsible, Griff guides Sibi to lie to Nazi officials. If she or her sisters reveal that they saw planes bearing swastikas, the gestapo will silence them—by any means necessary.

As war begins to rage across Europe, Sibi joins the underground resistance, secretly exchanging information with Griff. But as the scope of Germany’s ambitions becomes clear, maintaining the facade of a Nazi-sympathizer becomes ever more difficult. And as Sibi is drawn deeper into a web of secrets, she must find a way to outwit an enemy that threatens to decimate her family once and for all.  

I was hooked on this from the very first page! All the characters were so vivid and so believable, and the author did such a great job with them that I felt like I was right there with Sibi through everything, grieving and struggling and determined to do what was right—no matter what. I cannot recommend this highly enough!

Karen Robards is a bestselling author. The Girl from Guernica is her newest novel.

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

The Best Books I read in August (2022)

In August, I read 22 books, bringing my total for the year to 159 books. I also DNFed 12 books—that’s a LOT. There were some solid reads, some “meh” reads, and a handful of really good reads. The three I liked the most were:

Unwritten, by Charles Martin. I haven’t read many of Martin’s books—yet. I’m definitely going to plow through his backlist, because I’ve adored everything I’ve read of his, and this is no exception. His stories and characters just draw me in from the very first page.

Hello, Goodbye, by Kate Stollenwerck. This was at times an emotional read, but I enjoyed every single day. Gigi was such a great character, and I just loved her.

Lucy Checks In, by Dee Ernst. It was so nice to read a middle-aged MC for a change. One that’s having adventures, changing her world, and growing as a person. A lovely read!

Book Review and Blog Tour:   The Thread Collectors, by Shaunna J. Edwards; Alyson Richman

Image belongs to Harlequin/Graydon House.

TitleThe Thread Collectors     
Author:   Shaunna J. Edwards; Alyson Richman
Genre:  Historical fiction
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

1863: In a small Creole cottage in New Orleans, an ingenious young Black woman named Stella embroiders intricate maps on repurposed cloth to help enslaved men flee and join the Union Army. Bound to a man who would kill her if he knew of her clandestine activities, Stella has to hide not only her efforts but her love for William, a Black soldier and a brilliant musician.

Meanwhile, in New York City, a Jewish woman stitches a quilt for her husband, who is stationed in Louisiana with the Union Army. Between abolitionist meetings, Lily rolls bandages and crafts quilts with her sewing circle for other soldiers, too, hoping for their safe return home. But when months go by without word from her husband, Lily resolves to make the perilous journey South to search for him.

As these two women risk everything for love and freedom during the brutal Civil War, their paths converge in New Orleans, where an unexpected encounter leads them to discover that even the most delicate threads have the capacity to save us.

I really enjoyed this read! New Orleans is one of my favorite cities, but I don’t think I’ve ever read anything with quite this setting—it was both heartbreaking and inspirational. I liked all four main characters and was invested in their journeys, and it was lovely to see such hope in the midst of such a dark struggle. I love that this is inspired by both the authors’ family histories, and I truly enjoyed this tale.

Shauna Edwards lives in Harlem and Alyson Richman lives in Long Island. The Thread Collectors is their newest novel.

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

Book Review:   Lucy Checks In, by Dee Ernst

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title: Lucy Checks In    
Author: Dee Ernst   
Genre: Romance   
Rating:  5.0 out of 5

Lucia Giannetti needs a fresh start. Once the hotel manager of a glamorous NYC hotel and intimately involved with the hotel’s owner, Lucy had her entire future planned out. But when the owner disappears, taking millions of dollars with him, Lucy’s life as she knows it falls apart.

Two years later, forty-nine years old and unemployed, Lucy takes a job in Rennes, France to manage the Hotel Paradis. She pictures fur quilts and extravagant chandeliers, but what she finds is wildly different. Lucy is now in charge of turning the run-down, but charming hotel into a bustling tourist attraction. Between painting rooms, building a website, and getting to know Bing, the irritatingly attractive artist, Lucy finds an unexpected home. But can she succeed in bringing the Hotel Paradis to its former glory?

I would like to say:  I’ve never had a desire to visit France—except when I read books that make it seem so magical I absolutely must go. This was one of those books. Except the setting was really the Hotel Paradis, not France itself, so really, I want to go to this hotel and live.

I enjoyed this book immensely. I love that the main character was not a woman in her 20s or early 30s, but one almost 50. I love Lucia’s journey back to finding herself and confidence in herself just as much as the journey to restore the hotel. I also loved that romance took a backseat, not the driver’s seat in this story. This is just a wonderful book!

Dee Ernst is from New Jersey. Lucy Checks In is her newest novel.

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

Book Review:  Hello, Goodbye, by Kate Stollenwerck

Image belongs to SparkPress.

TitleHello, Goodbye    
Author: Kate Stollenwerck
Genre:   YA
Rating:  5.0 out of 5

Fifteen-year-old Hailey Rogers is sure her summer is ruined when her parents force her to spend a few days a week helping her grandmother, Gigi. Although she only lives across town, she never sees her grandmother and knows little about her. But Gigi is full of surprises–and family secrets. Throw in the gorgeous boy down the street, and Hailey’s ruined summer might just be the best of her life.

Then tragedy strikes, lies are uncovered, and Hailey’s life suddenly falls apart. After unearthing clues in an old letter written by her great-grandfather, she takes off on a road trip to solve the family mystery with the only person she can trust. In a forgotten Texas town, the past and the present collide–and Hailey is forced to choose what she truly values in life.

I loved this! I think Hailey is a great character, and I loved seeing how her mind works and how she changed through the course of this book. The family dynamics were intriguing, and I really wanted to know what was going on with Gigi. I enjoyed the Beatles obsession—and the car. I just thoroughly enjoyed this from the very first page.

Kate Stollenwerck lives in Florida. Hello, Goodbye is her debut novel.

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