Category: book review

Book Review: State of Lies, by Siri Mitchell

 

state of lies
Image belongs to Thomas Nelson.

Title:   State of Lies
Author:   Siri Mitchell
Genre:   Mystery, thriller
Rating:   4 out of 5

Georgie Brennan is a physicist, a mother, a wife, and the daughter of the next possible secretary of defense. Then her husband Sean is killed by a hit-and-run driver, and she can barely make it through each day. Her son is struggling to cope with his father’s death. Her parents are consumed with their ambitions for her father’s career. And getting out of bed sometimes just seems like too much effort.

Then Georgie discovers that Sean was lying to her about where he was going the day he died. She realizes his computer—and his knife—is missing. She hears strange noises under the house and starts seeing strange faces in the neighborhood. Soon Georgie realizes she can’t trust a soul:  not her parents, not her friends, and, as the mysteries pile up, maybe not even herself.

I liked Georgie from the first page of State of Lies. She’s smart—very smart, which is always a plus in a protagonist—and even when dealt a crippling blow, she keeps moving forward. The writing is tight, and the plotting kept me guessing what was really going on up until the end—and there were several surprises I never saw coming. This will keep you reading even if you’re supposed to be doing something else.

Siri Mitchell has a business degree and experience working in the government. State of Lies is her newest novel.

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

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Book Review: The Silence Between Us, by Alison Gervais

the silence between us
Image belongs to Blink Publishing.

Title:   The Silence Between Us
Author:   Alison Gervais
Genre:   YA
Rating:   4 out of 5

Maya didn’t want to move halfway across the country right before senior year. She didn’t want to leave her school for the deaf for a hearing school, either. She wants to go into the medical field, so she needs the grades to do that, and she’s determined to get them. She’s happy being deaf, but Engelmann High has never had a deaf student, so some of the students don’t know what to make of her.

Beau is the student body president and resident overachiever, so Maya is wary when he starts learning sign language, but it’s nice to be able to talk to someone instead of lip-reading. Maya never thought a deaf/hearing relationship would work, but she’s happy with Beau. Until he starts encouraging her to get a cochlear implant, and she begins to wonder why he doesn’t accept her for who she truly is.

I’m not sure I’ve ever read any book from a deaf person’s point-of-view, so this was eye-opening. So many “little” things I never considered have a huge impact on Maya’s life. She is such a strong, determined character with a solid sense of identity, and she’s determined to make those around her accept her for who she is—not who they wish she was.

Alison Gervais has an English degree she’s not sure what she wants to do with. The Silence Between Us is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Never Have I Ever, by Joshilyn Jackson

never have i ever
Image belongs to HarperCollins/William Morrow.

Title:   Never Have I Ever
Author:  Joshilyn Jackson
Genre:   Domestic suspense
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

Amy Whey is happy with her life:  professor husband, fifteen-year-old stepdaughter, baby son, best friend Charlotte. Sure, she doesn’t get to dive as much as she used to since the baby was born, but she wouldn’t trade her family for anything. She’s helping Charlotte with the neighborhood book club when new neighbor Roux shows up.

Roux charms the neighborhood women, and soon they’re drinking wine and spilling secrets. They all think it’s innocent fun, but Amy knows better. She sees the darkness in Roux’s eyes  and sees the first tiny ripples of hurt she causes. When Roux tells Amy she knows the truth about what Amy did years ago—and she’ll tell that horrible secret if Amy doesn’t give her exactly what she wants—Amy wonders if she can beat the devil at her own game.

Secrets upon secrets unravel as Amy races to find out the truth about Roux before the women spills Amy’s secrets and ruins her life for good.

I do love Joshilyn Jackson’s writing, and, while I’m disappointed this one isn’t Southern fiction (my favorite), Never Have I Ever is an excellent, engrossing book. Amy’s been running from the truth for a long time, and she’s desperate to keep her secret and the life she loves safe. Roux is a terrifying kind of evil—if only she’d used her powers for good!—and Amy will do whatever is necessary to keep her family—and her secret—safe. Highly readable, and I cannot recommend this enough.

Joshilyn Jackson is an award-winning author. Never Have I Ever is her newest novel.

Blog Tour for The Last Hope, by Krista and Becca Ritchie

The Last Hope_Cover
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press/Wednesday Books.

Title:   The Last Hope
Author:  Krista and Becca Ritchie
Genre:   YA, sci-fi
Rating:   4 out of 5

Franny, Court, and Mykal have been imprisoned for weeks on an enemy ship. Through their link, they feel everything the others are going through. As if being on the verge of death isn’t enough, they are also reeling from the knowledge that they are human. When a mysterious stranger shows up and offers them a way out, they are skeptical—but eager to survive. They agree to help but keep their link secret.

Stork won’t tell them much, just that there’s one way to save planet earth and the remnants of humanity. He offers tantalizing hints at the answers to all Franny’s questions, and she’s eager to find out the truth. But the truth behind their mission—to find a baby girl, the first of her kind, who can cloak and teleport planets—is far more than the linked trio can begin to comprehend.

So…I didn’t read The Raging Ones. (Not sure how I managed to end up reading the second book without reading the first, as that’s something I wouldn’t normally do.) I struggled a bit at the beginning, trying to catch up to the worldbuilding and what happened in the first book, but the story was compelling enough that I pushed through. The dynamics are interesting between the trio, and Stork is an excellent foil for the three of them. There’s lot of action and adventure here, making this a quick, exciting read.

Krista and Becca Ritchie are twins and bestselling authors. The Last Hope is their newest novel, the second book in The Raging Ones duology.

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

Book Review: Blow: A Love Story, by Tracy Ewens

 

blow a love story
Image belongs to Tracy Ewens.

Title:   Blow: A Love Story
Author:  Tracy Ewens
Genre:   Romance
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

Millie Hart has spent her life writing happy endings, but now she’s decided to write a “serious” book:  one that will impress even her aloof, condescending father. So she rents a cottage in a small seaside town, betting the dark and gloomy oceanside town will inspire her new novel. Instead she finds a quaint community that comes with a loud—and annoying—soundtrack. Not to mention the new neighbor who’s big on crankiness, not understanding.

Drake Branch barely escaped the accident six years ago with his life. Now he’s got his life together, he’s moved on, and he loves his job at BP Glass Works. When he lets a struggling metalworks shop move in next door, he’s not prepared for the PTSD triggered by the screeching noises—so he compensates with loud music. Not ideal for the writer who just moved in next door.

I haven’t read any of the other books in this series—sadly—but I really enjoyed this one! Millie has her issues, but she’s such a great character, and her struggle with her feelings towards her father is so heartfelt and painful. Drake just thinks he’s a tough guy who’s recovered from his tragic accident, but when he meets Millie, he realizes he isn’t healed at all. I loved the characters, the setting, everything about this book!

Tracy Ewens lives and writes in Arizona. Blow:  A Love Story is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: House of Salt and Sorrow, by Erin A. Craig

house of salt and sorrow
Image belongs to Delacorte Press.

Title:   House of Salt and Sorrows
Author:   Erin A. Craig
Genre:   YA, fantasy
Rating:   4 out of 5

Annaleigh Thaumus lives a sheltered life at Highmore. Once there were 12 Thaumus girls, but since her mother died and then four of her sisters, things are grim in the home. Even more grim are the whispers from surrounding villages that the family is cursed by the gods.

Her sisters sneak out every night to attend secret balls, but what is the glitz and glamour hiding? When Annaleigh starts seeing ghostly visions and a handsome stranger arrives, she starts to wonder if her sisters’ tragic deaths were really accidents—or something more.

The culture in House of Salt and Sorrows is vivid and imaginative, with hints of fairy tales and legends sprinkled about. I liked Annaleigh, but I didn’t connect with her as well as I could’ve. Some parts of this book were very creepy, and the myths and the gods were intriguing. I’d have to say I liked the culture itself—and the hints of the cultures of surrounding lands—the most.

Erin A. Craig lives in Memphis, Tennessee. House of Salt and Sorrows is her debut novel.

(Galley provided by Delacorte Press in exchange for an honest review.)

 

The Best Books I Read in July (2019)

So…normally, I pick the top three books I read in a month. This time, that’s just not possible. Because I read some really good books in July.

the secret life of Sarah Hollenbeck

The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck, by Bethany Turner. This was from my TBR pile, so I didn’t review it. What happens when a steamy romance writer gets saved and falls in love with a preacher? This made me laugh so much, as, apparently, Sarah and I were separated at birth.

ayesha at last

Ayesha at Last, by Uzma Jalaluddin. This also didn’t get a review, as it was my cultural book of the month. Pride and Prejudice in a Muslim community? Yes, please! I enjoyed this immensely, and I loved the look at a Muslim community. And, of course, a good Pride and Prejudice retelling does not go amiss.

three ways

Three Ways to Disappear, by Katy Yocom. This book was emotional, full of family drama, and tigers. And so good!

the mcavoy sisters

The McAvoy Sisters Book of Secrets, by Molly Fader. More family secrets and drama, but a much happier ending. Life on a Great Lake, secrets from the past, and a troubled relationship between two sisters.

 

the book charmer

The Book Charmer, by Karen Hawkins.  If i could physically give you a copy of this book—I would! I don’t even like small towns, and I’d move to Dove Pond. A librarian who hears books talk to her, a town in trouble, and the outsider who’s the only one who can save it. Please do yourself a favor and read this!

the merciful crow

The Merciful Crow, by Margaret Owen. Have you ever read a fantasy novel that sucked you in from the very first page, that made the culture come alive, and had characters that lived and breathed on the page? This is that book. I’d have read this straight through except work. I could NOT put it down!

Book Review: The Merciful Crow, by Margaret Owen

the merciful crow
Image belongs to Henry Holt and Co.

Title:   The Merciful Crow
Author:   Margaret Owen
Genre:   Fantasy, YA
Rating:   5 out of 5

Fie is a Crow—a caste of undertakers and mercy-killers immune to the plague and despised and persecuted by society. When her band is tasked with disposing of two royal bodies, they encounter the conniving queen who plans to cheat them of their pay and cost them even more respect. But Fie thwarts the queen—and discovers the two royal bodies aren’t exactly dead.

Instead, the crown prince and his clever body double have faked their own deaths to escape before the murderous queen can kill them. If they can make it to their allies, they have a chance at overthrowing the queen. They strike a deal with Fie:  if she sees them safely to their allies, the prince will protect the Crows when he’s king.

But the queen’s ruthless assassins are on their trail, and Fie might lose everything she cares about to fulfill the promise she made.

From the very first page, I was enthralled. I couldn’t put this book down, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I’ve never read anything like this and found the worldbuilding both vivid and unique. The magic system was odd—teeth?—but compelling, and I adored Fie as a character. She’s tough and prickly and fierce, but she can, eventually, see reason. I fell into this world headlong and did not want to leave.

Margaret Owen is an author and illustrator. The Merciful Crow is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Henry Holt and Co via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

What I Read in July (2019)

Books Read in July: 20

Books Read for the Year: 120/175

Topical Books/Monthly Goal Books:

Secret Adversary, by Agatha Christie (classic). Okay, it may not actually be a classic, but it’s  Agatha Christie.

Braving the Wilderness, by Brene Brown (nonfiction). Brown always has deep, meaningful things to say.

The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck, by Bethany Turner (from the TBR pile). I LOVED this read! I could relate to it so much—and it really made me laugh.

Ayesha at Last, by Uzma Jalaluddin (cultural). Wow. This was really a fantastic read!

Get Out of that Pit, by Beth Moore (spiritual). Pulling no punches here.

For Review:

bethlehem

Bethlehem, by Karen Kelly. I enjoyed this tale set in two different times, about women living in a steel industry town. And love. And complicated family relationships. And secrets…

crashing the a-list

Crashing the A-List, by Summer Heacock. This made me laugh so much! An out-of-work editor discovers a career-ending secret about a famous actor…who thinks she’s trying to blackmail him. He forces her to pose as his girlfriend, and misunderstandings ensue. Such a fun read!

justice makes a killing

Justice Makes a Killing, by Ed Rucker. This tale of a criminal defense lawyer out to prove his client is innocent—vs the private prison industry—was a solid read.

ten years

Ten Years a Nomad, by Matthew Kepnes. Matt Kepnes is known for his travel-writing, but this is more of an autobiography and exploration of why he traveled for ten years.

if you want to make God laugh

If You Want to Make God Laugh, by Bianca Marais. This story is filled with heavy subjects, and strong, strong female characters.

gamers-guide-book-cover

The Gamers Guide to Getting the Girl, by Kristine Scarrow. I enjoyed this light tale of a nerdy gamer guy trapped in a mall during a terrifying storm who ends up surprising himself, his dream girl, and the people he helps save during the danger.

three ways

Three Ways to Disappear, by Katy Yocom. This was a pretty good read. Two sisters. Tigers. India. I loved being immersed in the Indian culture.

evie

Evie and the Upside-Down World of Nevermore, by Birgitte Märgen. This felt almost like middle-grade to me. I loved the different regions Evie traveled to, but her “backwoods” dialect (when it appeared) felt contrived, not natural, since her internal voice didn’t usually include the dialect.

specter

Specter, by Katie Janie Gallagher. Being a teenage is hard enough without seeing ghosts on top of it. Love this cover!

the mcavoy sisters

The McAvoy Sisters Book of Secrets, by Molly Fader. I loved this book! The sisters’ relationship—and their mom—is complex and full of secrets, but this book was so compelling!

The Seekers

The Seekers, by Heather Graham. I don’t do creepy/scary very well, so the beginning of this was almost too much for me, but I enjoyed the way the crimes of the past were connected to the present. I can’t believe there are so many books in this series!

highlander

A Highlander Walks Into a Bar, by Laura Trentham. I thoroughly enjoyed this romance—and the men in kilts! Isabel’s talk-first-think-later statements made me laugh, and I was completely intrigued by the idea of Highland, Georgia. A good, solid read.

the book charmer

Book Review: The Book Charmer, by Karen Hawkins. I loved loved loved this book! Sarah Dove can hear books, and when one cranky old tome tells her Grace is the only one who can save Dove Pond, Sarah knows she has to convince her to stay. This book—its small-town setting, the characters—is so realistic and charming that I loved every page.

the merciful crow

The Merciful Crow, by Margaret Owen (review forthcoming). This was another book I LOVED! I don’t even have the words to tell you how good this was. Just go read it!

Just Because:

BioDiet, by David Harper.

Left Unfinished:

Stars of Alabama, by Sean Dietrich. I just couldn’t get into this. It has great reviews, so it’s clearly just me.

The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt, by Andrea Bobotis. I wanted to like this. The writing was great. But…the main character was very unlikable, and I just couldn’t keep going.

David Mogo, God Hunter, by Suyi Davies Okungbowa. I wanted to read this so much. Nigerian fantasy? Yes, please. I loved the setting and the concept, but after about 50% of it, I realized that I was having so much trouble with the pidgin English dialogue that I was missing a good chunk of what was going on—because I couldn’t understand what was being said and there weren’t any context clues.

Please Send Help, by Gaby Dunn. I think I read about 30% of this before losing all faith in humanity…the absolute selfishness and carelessness of the two main characters almost did me in.

Book Review: The Book Charmer, by Karen Hawkins

the book charmer
Image belongs to Gallery Books.

Title:   The Book Charmer
Author:   Karen Hawkins
Genre:   Fiction
Rating:   5 out of 5

Legend has it that when the Dove family has seven daughters, something special happens. Sarah Dove is that seventh daughter, and since she was seven years old, books have whispered to her. They tell her which person in town needs them—and the books are always  right. So when a cranky old book tells Sarah who is going to save Dove Pond, she listens.

Grace Wheeler moved to Dove Pond because dementia is encroaching on her beloved mother, and she hopes that returning to her mother’s hometown might slow its progress. She also has her niece to care for and giving up her high-powered financial job to move to a small town and take care of family wasn’t in Grace’s plans.

The town of Dove Pond is in trouble, and Grace may be the only one who can save it. But she’ll need the help of Sarah, Travis—her gruff neighbor—and everyone else in Dove Pond if she’s to pull it off.

I loved this book! I grew up in a small town (much smaller than Dove Pond) and have always been grateful that I no longer live there, but I’d move to Dove Pond. The town is such a character in this story. Its people are vibrant and quirky, and I wanted to hang out with all of them. Especially Sarah. As much as I love books and reading, she’s someone I could absolutely be friends with. And Grace is so strong. She’s like a force of nature. I cannot wait to read more of this series! This is labeled as romance, but that’s a secondary plot here, as the book is much more about friendship, family, and saving Dove Pond.

Karen Hawkins is a bestselling author. The Book Charmer, the first book in the Dove Pond series, is her newest novel.

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