Category: book review

What I Read in June (2022)

Books Read in June: 20
Books Read for the Year:  119/250

Topical Books/Monthly Goal Books:

Heavenly Help, by Sarah Bowling (spiritual).

Praying the Bible, by Donald S. Whitney (spiritual).

Becoming Mrs. Lewis, by Patti Callahan (TBR). I had problems putting this down. I enjoyed it SO much.

Matthew’s Story, by Tim Lahaye (spiritual re-read).

The Iron Flower, by Laurie Forest (re-read). This series is really good!

For Review:

A Proposal They Can’t Refuse, by Natalie Caña. I almost DNFed this, and I’m still not sure finishing it was the best choice.

Nora Goes Off Script, by Annabel Monaghan. I LOVED this! It was sweet, it was funny, I enjoyed every minute of it.

The Limitless Sky, by Christina Kilbourne. This was an interesting dystopian novel. I liked it, and I’d read more books if they existed.

A Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons, by Kate Khavari. I listened to the audio book, and I thoroughly enjoyed this tale!

Breaking Time, by Sasha Alsberg. This was an okay read, but not particularly unique. And a time-traveler from the 1500s should sound like he’s from the 1500s, right?

The Blue Diamond, by Leonard Goldberg. I enjoyed my second foray into The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes series.

The Girls in Queens, by Christine Kandic Torres. This was a tough read (but short). A friendship that I found ugly and lots of horrific behavior from guys.

Ending Forever, by Nicholas Conley. I’ll call this speculative fiction for lack of a better term…quite a unique tale.

Here for the Drama, by Kate Bromley. People who attract drama are not my favorite, so I was hesitant to pick this up, but I enjoyed it so, so much! The banter between Winnie and Liam was fantastic!

Ordinary Monsters, by J. M. Miro. This took a long time to read. It was interesting, but I won’t read more of the series.

The Drowning Sea, by Sarah Stewart Taylor. Love this Irish thriller series, and the setting was such a part of things it made the story sing.

This Vicious Grace, by Emily Thiede. I adored this entire read! The voice was phenomenal, and the two MC were wonderful!

Her Darkest Secret, by Jessica R. Patch. This was an extremely well-done Christian thriller, and I never figured out who the killer was—highly unusual for me.

The Lost, by Jeffrey B. Burton. Mace is such a relatable character to me! I enjoy this series a lot!

Left Unfinished:

The Physicists’ Daughter, by Mary Anna Evans. The first 10% was very slow to me and I lost interest.

Game of Strength and Storm, by Rachel Menard. I didn’t make it very far in this. There was a slew of unfamiliar things and concepts and very little information to make sense of them and ground me, so it didn’t keep my attention.

Fake It Till You Bake It, by Jamie Wesley. I liked Donovan’s voice, but Jada…was awful. Maybe she’s “the most reviled woman in America” for good reason. I couldn’t force myself to read more than 10% of this because she was so horrible.

The Final Strife, by Saara El-Arifi. I wasn’t a fan of the main character in the beginning of the book.

Our Crooked Hearts, by Melissa Albert. Too dark, full of the occult. Just wasn’t for me.

Gone But Not Furgotten, by Cate Conte. Just…kind of bored me. I wasn’t interested in any of the characters.

Donut Disturb, by Ellie Alexander. The setting just didn’t work for me. A small-town bakery that employees like 25 people and is always super busy? Not believable to me.

Book Review:  The Lost, by Jeffrey B. Burton

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

TitleThe Lost    
Author:  Jeffrey B. Burton
Genre:  Mystery
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Glencoe, Illinois: A home invasion turned kidnapping at the mansion of billionaire financier Kenneth J. Druckman brings Mason “Mace” Reid and his cadaver dog, Vira, to this wealthy northern suburb of Chicago. Druckman was assaulted, left behind while his wife and young daughter were taken for ransom.

Brought to the scene by the FBI, Reid specializes in human remains detection, and Vira is the star of his pack of cadaver dogs he’s dubbed The Finders. After Vira finds the dead body of the mother, former supermodel Calley Kurtz, everyone is on high alert to find Druckman’s missing daughter before the five-year-old disappears forever. But the trail Vira finds on the property’s dense woodlands leads right back to Druckman himself.

With the help of Detective Kippy Gimm, Reid and Vira must race against the clock. Nothing is as it appears to be . . . and the red herrings could be lethal.

I’m really enjoying this series! Mace and Kippy are both characters I like—especially Mace with his self-deprecating humor—and obviously, Vira is amazing. I liked how the two separate storylines intwined, adding more nuance to both and, as always, I’m fascinated by the talents of cadaver dogs. This is a good, solid mystery.

Jeffrey B. Burton was born in California but now lives in St. Paul. The Lost is his newest novel.

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

Book Review:  Her Darkest Secret, by Jessica R. Patch

Image belongs to Harlequin.

TitleHer Darkest Secret    
Author: Jessica R. Patch  
Genre:   Mystery, Christian
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

The sight of a goose feather at a murder scene modeled after a children’s poem is enough to make FBI special agent Fiona Kelly’s blood turn to ice. Almost two decades ago, a feather was left with her sister’s body—and with every subsequent victim of the Nursery Rhyme Killer. Now he’s back. Only this time, his latest gruesome murder is a message to the only one who ever got away: Fiona.

Finding “Rhyme” is an obsession that’s fueled Fiona’s career—and destroyed her marriage to fellow FBI agent Asa Kodiak. Now Fiona and Asa have to put their past tensions aside and work together one last time. But Rhyme is watching, and catching this killer may force Fiona to reveal her biggest, darkest secret…the one only he knows.

I enjoyed this so much! I never did figure out who the killer was—which rarely happens—and each new twist kept me on the edge of my seat. The team dynamics were very well done, and I’d love to read more about these characters, especially Fiona and Asa. I’ve read a few less than stellar Christian romantic suspense novels, but never a thriller like this, and I loved how the faith was integrated seamlessly into the storyline. I highly recommend this read!

Jessica R. Patch is a bestselling author. Her Darkest Secret is her newest novel.

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

Book Review:  This Vicious Grace, by Emily Thiede

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   This Vicious Grace   
Author: Emily Thiede
Genre: YA, fantasy  
Rating:  5 out of 5

Three weddings. Three funerals. Alessa’s gift from the gods is supposed to magnify a partner’s magic, not kill every suitor she touches.

Now, with only weeks left until a hungry swarm of demons devours everything on her island home, Alessa is running out of time to find a partner and stop the invasion. When a powerful priest convinces the faithful that killing Alessa is the island’s only hope, her own soldiers try to assassinate her.

Desperate to survive, Alessa hires Dante, a cynical outcast marked as a killer, to become her personal bodyguard. But as rebellion explodes outside the gates, Dante’s dark secrets may be the biggest betrayal. He holds the key to her survival and her heart, but is he the one person who can help her master her gift or destroy her once and for all?

This was such a fantastic read! Alessa’s snark is so much fun—and it only gets better when Dante shows up. I really loved their interactions and banter. The world and culture were quite unique to me, and, while it isn’t really a culture I’d want to live in—or visit—the world-building was vividly realized and fascinating to read. I highly recommend this, and I can’t wait to read what happens next.

Emily Thiede lives in Virginia. This Vicious Grace is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: The Drowning Sea, by Sarah Stewart Taylor

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

TitleThe Drowning Sea    
Author:  Sarah Stewart Taylor
Genre:  Thriller
Rating:  4.2 out of 5

For the first time in her adult life, former Long Island homicide detective Maggie D’arcy is unemployed. No cases to focus on, no leads to investigate, just a whole summer on a remote West Cork peninsula with her teenage daughter Lilly and her boyfriend, Conor and his son. The plan is to prepare Lilly for a move to Ireland. But their calm vacation takes a dangerous turn when human remains wash up below the steep cliffs of Ross Head.

When construction worker Lukas Adamik disappeared months ago, everyone assumed he had gone home to Poland. Now that his body has been found, the guards, including Maggie’s friends Roly Byrne and Katya Grzeskiewicz, seem to think he threw himself from the cliffs. But as Maggie gets to know the residents of the nearby village and learns about the history of the peninsula and its abandoned Anglo Irish manor house, once home to a famous Irish painter who died under mysterious circumstances, she starts to think there’s something else going on. Something deadly. And when Lilly starts dating one of the dead man’s friends, Maggie grows worried about her daughter being so close to another investigation and about what the investigation will uncover.

Old secrets, hidden relationships, crime, and village politics are woven throughout this small seaside community, and as the summer progresses, Maggie is pulled deeper into the web of lies, further from those she loves, and closer to the truth.

I’ve really enjoyed the other books in this series, and I loved this one, too. I enjoyed the small-town, Irish setting so much! It felt very vivid and realistic to me, and I enjoyed Maggie’s forays into the town and making friends there. I even shared her worry over Lilly and what she was up to! I didn’t figure out who the killer was before the reveal, either, which almost never happens. I highly recommend this series, and this was an excellent read!

Sarah Stewart Taylor lives in Vermont. The Drowning Sea is her newest novel.

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

Book Review:  Ordinary Monsters, by J. M. Miro

Image belongs to Flatiron Books.

Title: Ordinary Monsters   
Author: J. M. Miro
Genre:  Fantasy
Rating:  4.0 out of 5

England, 1882. In Victorian London, two children with mysterious powers are hunted by a figure of darkness —a man made of smoke.

Sixteen-year-old Charlie Ovid, despite a lifetime of brutality, doesn’t have a scar on him. His body heals itself, whether he wants it to or not. Marlowe, a foundling from a railway freight car, shines with a strange bluish light. He can melt or mend flesh. When two grizzled detectives are recruited to escort them north to safety, they are forced to confront the nature of difference, and belonging, and the shadowy edges of the monstrous.

What follows is a journey from the gaslit streets of London, to an eerie estate outside Edinburgh, where other children with gifts—the Talents—have been gathered. Here, the world of the dead and the world of the living threaten to collide. And as secrets within the Institute unfurl, Marlowe, Charlie and the rest of the Talents will discover the truth about their abilities, and the nature of the force that is stalking them: that the worst monsters sometimes come bearing the sweetest gifts.

This took me a long time to read. It’s long, and I didn’t find it very fast-paced, even though there’s a lot going on. I thought it was fairly dark and a bit depressing, and there are echoes of other books I’ve read in there. There were a few loose threads, too, like Alice’s backstory, that just kind of stopped and I didn’t feel were resolved. Possibly for the rest of the trilogy?

J. M. Miro is from the Pacific Northwest. Ordinary Monsters is the first book in The Talents trilogy.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour:  Here for the Drama, by Kate Bromley

Image belongs to Harlequin,

TitleHere for the Drama  
Author:   Kate Bromley
Genre:  Romance
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Becoming a famous playwright is all Winnie ever dreamed about. For now, though, she’ll have to settle for assisting the celebrated, sharp-witted feminist playwright Juliette Brassard. When an experimental theater company in London, England, decides to stage Juliette’s most renowned play, The Lights of Trafalgar, Winnie and Juliette pack their bags and hop across the pond.

But the trip goes sideways faster than you can say “tea and crumpets.” Juliette stubbornly butts heads with the play’s director and Winnie is left stage-managing their relationship. Meanwhile, Winnie’s own work seems to have stalled, and though Juliette keeps promising to read it, she always has some vague reason why she can’t. Then, Juliette’s nephew, Liam, enters stage left. He’s handsome, he’s smart, he is devastatingly British…and his family ties to Juliette pose a serious problem, forcing Winnie to keep their burgeoning relationship on the down-low. What could go wrong?

Balancing a production seemingly headed for disaster, a secret romance and the sweetest, most rambunctious rescue dog, will Winnie save the play, make her own dreams come true and find love along the way—or will the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune get the best of her?

Winnie’s dramatics made me laugh so many times while reading this! Normally, people who go looking for drama get on my nerves, but her heart was in the right place, so I actually enjoyed her antics. The repartee between her and Liam was spot-on, and I couldn’t wait to see where their banter went next. Juliette was a bit much for me, and I don’t know how Winnie put up with her. Even the secondary characters in this novel—like Oscar—were a delight. This is a great vacation read—or work day escape.

Kate Bromley lives in New York City. Here for the Drama is her newest novel.

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

Book Review:  Ending Forever, by Nicholas Conley

Image belongs to the author.

Title:    Ending Forever
Author:  Nicholas Conley
Genre:   Science Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

Axel Rivers can’t get his head above water. Throughout his life, he’s worn many hats — orphan, musician, veteran, husband, father—but a year ago, a horrific event he now calls The Bad Day tore down everything he’d built. Grief-stricken, unemployed, and drowning in debt, Axel needs cash, however he can find it.

Enter Kindred Eternal Solutions. Founded by the world’s six wealthiest trillionaires and billionaires, Kindred promises to create eternal life through mastering the science of human resurrection. With the technology still being developed, Kindred seeks paid volunteers to undergo tests that will kill and resurrect their body—again and again—in exchange for a check.

Axel signs up willingly, but when he undergoes the procedure—and comes back, over and over—what will he find on the other side of death?

I can’t imagine agreeing to being killed and brought back…especially ten times. Sounds horrific, even without all the things Axel encounters. This was an intriguing read. Vivid descriptions and an intriguing premise, which are the norm for Conley’s writing. I enjoyed how Axel grew and changed throughout the story, finding his own strength and the will to go on. If you’re looking for something fresh to read, give this a try.

Nicholas Conley lives in New Hampshire. Ending Forever is his newest novel.

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

Book Review:  The Girls in Queens, by Christine Kandic Torres

Image belongs to HarperVia.

Title:   The Girls in Queens
Author: Christine Kandic Torres  
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

Best friends growing up along Clement Moore Avenue in Queens, Brisma and Kelly will do anything for each other. They keep each other’s secrets, from their mother’s hidden heartbreaks to warding off the unwanted advances of creepy neighbors. Their exclusive world shifts when they begin high school and Brisma falls deeply in love with Brian, the local baseball legend. Always the wallflower to the vibrant and alluring Kelly, Brisma is secretly thrilled to be chosen by the popular athlete, to finally have someone that belongs to her alone. But as she, Brian, and Kelly fall into the roles that have been set before them, they ignite a bonfire of unrealized hopes and dreams, smoldering embers that finally find some oxygen to burn.

Years later, Brisma and Kelly haven’t spoken to Brian, ever since a backyard party that went wrong, but their beloved Los Mets are on a historic run for the playoffs and the three friends–no longer children–are reunited. Brisma finds herself once again drawn to her first love. But when Brian is accused of sexual assault, the two friends must make a choice. At first, both rush to support and defend him. But while Kelly remains Brian’s staunch defender, Brisma begins to have doubts as old memories of their relationship surface. As Brisma and Kelly face off in a battle for what they each believe they are owed, these two lifelong friends must decide if their shared past is enough to sustain their future.

This was not an easy read, although it wasn’t too time-consuming. Brisma and Kelly’s friendship was sometimes hard to read, as the way Kelly treated Brisma was at times harsh and ugly. The culture of the neighborhood they grew up in was terrible:  hurtful, angry, and full of pain, but those things affected each girl differently. Their relationship with men was also a challenge to read about, but I enjoyed Brisma’s growth thoroughly, even when I wanted to throw the book across the room a few times.

Christine Kandic Torres was born and raised in Queens. The Girls in Queens is her debut novel.

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

Book Review:  The Queen’s Council #2: Feather and Flame, by Livia Blackburne

Image belongs to Disney.

Title:   The Queen’s Council #2: Feather and Flame
Author:   Livia Blackburne
Genre:   YA
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

The war is over. Now a renowned hero, Mulan spends her days in her home village, training a militia of female warriors. The peace is a welcome one, and she knows it must be protected.

 When Shang arrives with an invitation to the Imperil City, Mulan’s relatively peaceful life is upended once more. The aging emperor decrees that Mulan will be his heir to the throne. Such unimagined power and responsibility terrifies her, but who can say no to the Emperor?

 As Mulan ascends into the halls of power, it becomes clear that not everyone is on her side. Her ministers undermine her, and the Huns sense a weakness in the throne. When hints of treachery appear even amongst those she considers friends, Mulan has no idea whom she can trust.

 But the Queen’s Council helps Mulan uncover her true destiny. With renewed strength and the wisdom of those that came before her, Mulan will own her power, save her country, and prove once again that, crown or helmet, she was always meant to lead.

I really enjoyed this! The Disney Mulan cartoon is my absolute favorite, and I kept seeing those characters in my mind throughout the entire book. I loved how Mulan’s confidence developed, showcasing her strength. She wasn’t afraid to find help from unexpected sources, and she wasn’t so committed to what she thinks is correct that she ignores anything that doesn’t agree with it. I loved the mix of action and romance, and found this a compelling story.

Livia Blackburne is a bestselling author. Feather and Flame is her newest novel.

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