Category: awesomeness

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.)

Book Review: Maggie Finds Her Muse, by Dee Ernst

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

TitleMaggie Finds Her Muse
AuthorDee Ernst
Genre:  Romantic comedy
Rating:  5 out of 5

All Maggie Bliss needs to do is write. Forty-eight years old and newly single (again!), she ventures to Paris in a last-ditch effort to finish her manuscript. With a marvelous apartment at her fingertips and an elegant housekeeper to meet her every need, a finished book—and her dream of finally taking her career over the top—is surely within her grasp. After all, how could she find anything except inspiration in Paris, with its sophistication, food, and romance in the air?

But the clock is running out, and between her charming ex-husband arriving in France for vacation and a handsome Frenchman appearing one morning in her bathtub, Maggie’s previously undisturbed peace goes by the wayside.

I loved this book! This is a quick, fun read with a totally relatable heroine who manages to stumble (and eat) her way through Paris as she finally figures out what she wants out of life—and love. Maggie isn’t the perfect young heroine, and her love interest isn’t a typical brawny male. She’s a bit older than me, which made her so easy for me to put myself in her shoes, and she’s still struggling to figure out things. Same, girl. This would make an excellent vacation read, or just savor it over the weekend!

Dee Ernst lives in New Jersey. Maggie Finds Her Muse is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Blessed Monsters, by Emily A. Duncan

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

TitleBlessed Monsters
AuthorEmily A. Duncan
Genre:  Fantasy
Rating:  5 out of 5

The girl, the monster, the prince, the queen.

They broke the world.

And some things can never be undone.

I’ll admit, the blurb for this novel is a big sparse, but the novel itself is not. Like the rest of this trilogy, this is a very dark and fantastical story. Dark. Very dark. The cultures, the history, the people, are all brimming with life and magic and so vibrant they leap off the page.

But this is not a fluffy bunny story (and if there were any fluffy bunnies, they’d probably die a gruesome and tragic death immediately). Instead, it’s full of chilling sensory details (seriously, maybe read this on a hot summer day) and definitely read the other two books first. This is a compelling and engrossing novel, just don’t expect sweetness and light.

Emily A. Duncan is a bestselling author. Blessed Monsters is her newest novel, the final installment in the Something Dark and Holy series.

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

Best Books I Read in March (2021)

In March, I read 21 books toward my goal of reading 250 books this year. Normally, I re-cap the best three books I read each month, but this time there are more than three.

I Don’t Wait Anymore, by Grace Thornton. This book spoke to me on so many levels! Very uplifting, motivating, and full of hope.

The Sweet Taste of Muscadines, by Pamela Terry. I love well-done Southern fiction, and this one was top-notch. The voice was just incredible, and the settings were so vibrant I felt like I was there.

Namesake, by Adrienne Young. I loved the first book in this duology, and I enjoyed this one just as much. What’s not to like about adventure on the high seas?

Odin’s Child, by Siri Pettersen. This is a bestseller finally translated into English, and it’s a phenomenal read! The mythology and culture are wonderfully realized, and I loved the characters so much.

Firekeeper’s Daughter, by Angeline Boulley. I’m not really a sports fan, but even the bits of this book about hockey were engrossing. The cultural details and struggles this book is about were very well-done, and the main character—and the women surrounding her—were strong and determined.

What I Read in March (2021)

Books Read in March: 21

Books Read for the Year:  55/250

Topical Books/Monthly Goal Books:

I Don’t Wait Anymore, by Grace Thornton (TBR). This books. Man. All the feels.

The Secret Keeper, by Beverly Lewis (TBR). I genuinely love Amish fiction—and I have no idea why. This is an excellent read!

The Circle Maker, by Mark Batterson (spiritual). This book is wonderful.

The Love That Split the World, by Emily Henry (TBR). I loved this. The characters are fantastic.

A Million Junes, by Emily Henry (TBR). Okay, I am just now this very second realizing that Emily Henry wrote both these books—and I adored both of them! Looks like she’s now an auto-read.

For Review:

The Jigsaw Man, by Nadine Matheson. I feel like this took me a looong time to read, but it was a busy week. I enjoyed this, although the crime scene descriptions were pretty revolting.

The Last Garden in England, by Julia Kelly. I enjoyed all three timelines in this novel a lot, which is unusual. I loved reading about the lives of these determined women and what they experienced.

Falling Down Under, by Errin Krystal. This is billed as a romantic comedy, but I wouldn’t really call it comedy. More of just a light read. The MC showed a lot of character growth, and I enjoyed that, but the secondary characters—undoubtedly slated for their own romances later in the series—were fairly one-dimensional.

Good Eggs, by Rebecca Hardiman. This had a Fredrik Backman feel to it—except set in Ireland—and I enjoyed it quite a bit. The grandmother is quite a character.

The Bounty, by Janet Evanovich. I do love the Stephanie Plum series, and I think I read the first book in this series, too. This was a fun read, but it felt like a big-budget action movie with lots of convenient occurrences and the characters never really in danger.

The Sweet Taste of Muscadines, by Pamela Terry. This book. I’m not sure I have the words to convey how much I loved this. The voice is phenomenal. I mean “Growing up in the South is not for the faint of heart.”…How wonderful is that sentence? This really was a fantastic book!

The Memory Collectors, by Kim Neville. This was a bit odd, I’ll admit, and I really disliked one of the characters, but it was a solid read.

Namesake, by Adrienne Young. Fantastic read! More adventure on the high seas in this sequel to Fable.

Danger in Numbers, by Heather Graham. Yep, I’m definitely not going to visit the Everglades anytime soon. Cults and life on the edge of nowhere? No, thank you. A decent thriller read, though.

Tell No Lies, by Alison Brennan. There was a lot going on here in this thriller set in the desert—the landscape was as much a character as any of the people—but I was totally invested in what was happening.

Odin’s Child, by Siri Pettersen. This was a phenomenal read! I loved all of it and can’t wait to read the rest of the trilogy.

The Girl Who Stole an Elephant, by Nizrana Farook. I don’t usually read middle-grade, but this was cute.

Firekeeper’s Daughter, by Angeline Boulley. I enjoyed this so much! I love how vividly—and well—the culture was portrayed.

Checking Out Crime, by Laurie Crass. This was an easy cozy mystery. I haven’t read any of the others in the series, but that wasn’t a problem.

The Path to Sunshine Cove, by RaeAnne Thayne (review forthcoming). This was a decent read, but not a standout.

Just Because:

A Mind Set Free, by Jimmy Evans.

Left Unfininished:

Just My Luck, by Adele Parks. I think I made it 15% in this, but the characters were just unlikable, so I put it down.

Strongheart, by Jim Fergus. I didn’t make it very far in this at all. I wasn’t a fan of the MC or the voice.

Book Review: Firekeeper’s Daughter, by Angeline Boulley

Image belongs to Macmillan/Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)

TitleFirekeeper’s Daughter
AuthorAngeline Boulley
Genre:  YA
Rating:   5 out of 5

As a biracial, unenrolled tribal member and the product of a scandal, eighteen-year-old Daunis Fontaine has never quite fit in, both in her hometown and on the nearby Ojibwe reservation. Daunis dreams of studying medicine, but when her family is struck by tragedy, she puts her future on hold to care for her fragile mother.

The only bright spot is meeting Jamie, the charming new recruit on her brother Levi’s hockey team. Yet even as Daunis falls for Jamie, certain details don’t add up and she senses the dashing hockey star is hiding something. Everything comes to light when Daunis witnesses a shocking murder, thrusting her into the heart of a criminal investigation.

Reluctantly, Daunis agrees to go undercover, but secretly pursues her own investigation, tracking down the criminals with her knowledge of chemistry and traditional medicine. But the deceptions—and deaths—keep piling up and soon the threat strikes too close to home.

Now, Daunis must learn what it means to be a strong Anishinaabe kwe (Ojibwe woman) and how far she’ll go to protect her community, even if it tears apart the only world she’s ever known.

This is an incredible book! From the very first page, I was invested in Daunis and her story. The cultural details come to shimmering life on the page, and though I’m unfamiliar with the culture, the details made me feel like part of everything—even the hockey, which is a big part of the storyline. Daunis herself is an extraordinary character: a strong woman surrounded by strong women who frequently have their strength stolen or attacked by men. You should definitely read this!

Angeline Boulley has had a career in Indian education at the tribal, state, and national levels and is an enrolled member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. Firekeeper’s Daughter is her debut novel.

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