Category: books

Book Review: The Morning Flower, by Amanda Hocking

the morning flower
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title: The Morning Flower
Author:  Amanda Hocking
Genre: YA, fantasy
Rating: 3.0 out of 5

When Ulla Tulin took her internship at the Mimirin, the only mystery she thought she’d have to solve was that of her birth parents. After a girl named Eliana gets kidnapped while in her care, Ulla knows she has to find out the truth of who Eliana really is—and the only way to do that means traveling to the Omte capital, the place she suspects her mother is from.

Ulla didn’t expect that when she arrived she would discover the identity of a Skojare man who crossed paths with her mother—a man who could very well be her father. When the head of the Mimirin learns Ulla’s father is connected to the Älvolk, a secret society who believes they were tasked with protecting the First City and the only ones who know its location, he sends Ulla and Pan to Sweden where they find him living among the Älvolk. But all is not what it seems with the Älvolk and their urgent quest to find the Lost Bridge to the First City leaves Ulla feeling uneasy—and possibly in danger.

I like the idea of the troll mythology—although they’re basically humans living secretly among other humans—but I just don’t think Hocking is the best author for me to read. This felt really slow-paced to me, with a lot of unnecessary details and plot points, frankly. And the “romance” was a non-starter.

Ulla spends the whole book trying to figure out who her parents are, then her dad basically comes out of nowhere, knowing he’s her dad and offering her all the secrets of the Älvolk without hesitation, including taking her to their secret city? This was completely unbelievable and came across as heavy-handed deux ex machina.

Amanda Hocking is a YA author. The Morning Flower is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Some Kind of Animal, by Maria Romasco Moore

some kind of animal
Image belongs to Delacorte Press.

Title: Some Kind of Animal
Author: Maria Romasco Moore
Genre: YA
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Jo lives in the same town where her mother disappeared fifteen years ago. Everyone knows what happened to Jo’s mom. Now people are starting to talk about Jo. She’s barely passing her classes and falls asleep at her desk every day. She’s following in her mom’s footsteps. Jo has a secret — she has a twin sister. Her sister is not like most people. She lives in the woods, wild and free. Night after night, as often as she can manage, Jo slips out of her bedroom window and meets her sister in the woods, where together they run, fearlessly.

When Jo’s twin attacks a boy from town, the people in town assume it must have been Jo. Now Jo has to decide whether to tell the world about her sister or to run.

The basic premise of this novel was so far-fetched to me as to make the rest of the story a bit questionable:  I just don’t see how a fifteen-year-old girl has lived in the woods her entire life—and has been sneaking into town every night for years—and no one suspects her existence but her twin sister. You just can’t tell me a child would have been capable of that kind of stealth on a regular basis.

Frankly, the town in question—and its residents—was an ugly, mean place. I’m sure places like this exist, but it had no redeeming qualities—and no nice people living there, either. Jo’s family was awful. Her life was awful. Even her best friend was awful. Jo herself wasn’t the greatest/brightest, even keeping in mind she’s only fifteen. The writing was solid and evocative, but if the basic premise of a story isn’t believable for me, it casts doubt on the entire novel.

Maria Romasco Moore teaches writing. Some Kind of Animal is her debut novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: Lies, Lies, Lies by Adele Parks

someone's listening blog tour

lies lies lies
Image belongs to harlequin/MIRA.

Title: Lies, Lies, Lies
Author: Adele Parks
Genre: Thriller
Rating:  2 out of 5 

Daisy and Simon spent almost a decade hoping for the child that fate cruelly seemed to keep from them. It wasn’t until, with their marriage nearly in shambles and Daisy driven to desperation, little Millie was born. Perfect in every way, healing the Barnes family into a happy unit of three. Ever indulgent Simon hopes for one more miracle, one more baby. But his doctor’s visit shatters the illusion of the family he holds so dear.

Now, Simon has turned to the bottle to deal with his revelation and Daisy is trying to keep both of their secrets from spilling outside of their home. But Daisy’s silence and Simon’s habit begin to build until they set off a catastrophic chain of events that will destroy life as they know it.

It’s a small wonder I actually finished reading this. The characters—to me—were so unlikable as to be almost intolerable. Simon was awful—completely selfish and self-absorbed throughout almost the entire novel, and hateful to boot. Daisy…I’ve never seen someone so passive. Her internal dialogue is full of anger and impulses, but she sits around and lets horrible people do horrible things to her like she’s incapable of doing anything for herself. With all the mystery surrounding Millie’s parentage, the truth was even more horrifying—and disgusting—than I imagined.

Excellent writing and description just could not save this novel from my dislike of and distaste for these characters.

Adele Parks lives in Surrey. Lies, Lies, Lies is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: Child on His Doorstep, by Lee Tobin McClain

child on his doorstep
Image belongs to Harlequin.

Title: Child on His Doorstep
Author:  Lee Tobin McClain   
Genre: Romance
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

An unexpected delivery and fresh start. He needed only a nanny…but in her he’s found so much more. Suddenly a father after his little brother is abandoned on his doorstep, Corbin Beck has no idea how to care for a toddler. Thankfully, former hometown party girl Samantha Alcorn is making a fresh start as a live-in nanny. As Corbin bonds with little Mikey—and sparks fly with Samantha—they begin to feel like a family. But Samantha’s secret could change everything…

I felt like the feelings between Corbin and Samantha developed basically out of nowhere, although Corbin did have a crush on her back in high school. However, he just moves her into his house now with no hesitations or questions or anything, so that struck me as odd. And who would seriously think dropping off a kid on someone’s doorstep and tricking your way into taking care of said child was a good idea? Really?

Apart from the logic leaps that seemed to me to be lacking in logic, I enjoyed the story, more or less. Solid writing and interesting characters. I loved that all Corbin and Samantha’s friends were Christians, and how supportive the town was, it was the characters’ actions that I struggled with making sense of.

Lee Tobin McClain is a bestselling author. Child on His Doorstep is her newest novel.

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

Sundays are for Writing #83

This was a good writing week. I wrote three book reviews plus my Best Books I Read in July post. I did a couple of lessons in the Maggie Stiefvater class and wrote a short outline of the first chapter of the story I’m editing. And, I got in two fiction-writing sessions, so I’m happy with my writing this week.

Happy writing!

Book Review: Talland House, by Maggie Humm

talland house
Image belongs to She Writes Press.

Title:Talland House
Author: Maggie Humm
Genre: Fiction
Rating:  3.8 out of 5

Royal Academy, London 1919: Lily has put her student days in St. Ives, Cornwall, behind her―a time when her substitute mother, Mrs. Ramsay, seemingly disliked Lily’s portrait of her and Louis Grier, her tutor, never seduced her as she hoped he would. In the years since, she’s been a suffragette and a nurse in WWI, and now she’s a successful artist with a painting displayed at the Royal Academy. Then Louis appears at the exhibition with the news that Mrs. Ramsay has died under suspicious circumstances. Talking to Louis, Lily realizes two things: 1) she must find out more about her beloved Mrs. Ramsay’s death (and her sometimes-violent husband, Mr. Ramsay), and 2) She still loves Louis.

Set between 1900 and 1919 in picturesque Cornwall and war-blasted London, Talland House takes Lily Briscoe from the pages of Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse and tells her story outside the confines of Woolf’s novel―as a student in 1900, as a young woman becoming a professional artist, her loves and friendships, mourning her dead mother, and solving the mystery of her friend Mrs. Ramsay’s sudden death. Talland House is both a story for our present time, exploring the tensions women experience between their public careers and private loves, and a story of a specific moment in our past―a time when women first began to be truly independent.

I’ve never read To the Lighthouse, but I did enjoy this book. However, it’s very slow-paced, almost dreamy—which seems sort of appropriate for Lily and her artistic mindset. I feel like she was a bit obsessive over everything in her life—Louis, Mrs. Ramsay, painting, nursing—and a bit clueless, too. However, this was an enjoyable read, even if the answer to the mystery was anti-climatic and downplayed quite a bit.

(Galley courtesy of She Writes Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Friendship List, by Susan Mallery

the friendship list
Image belongs to Harlequin/HQN.

Title: The Friendship List
Author:  Susan Mallery   
Genre: Fiction, romance
Rating: 4 out of 5

Ellen and Unity have been best friends basically since birth, but they couldn’t be more different. Unity married her childhood sweetheart just after high school and became an Army wife, moving from base to base…until her husband’s shocking death in the line of duty leaves her a widow. Grief-stricken, it’s time for Unity to come back home to Ellen—the only person she can trust to help her rebuild her life. But Ellen has troubles of her own. Boys never seemed to notice Ellen…until one got her pregnant in high school and disappeared. Her son is now 17 and she’s wondering what to do with herself now that he’s heading off to college and he’s literally her entire world.

But now that Ellen and Unity are reunited, they’re done with their stale lives. It’s time to shake things up and start living again, knowing that they’ll always have one another to lean on. So they create a list of challenges they have to accomplish–everything from getting a tattoo to skydiving to staying out all night. And whoever completes the most challenges is the winner. But with new adventures and love just around the corner, there’s no such thing as losing…

The friendship between Ellen and Unity was so much fun to read—even when they fought. And I loved the fact that we got to see what the guys were thinking, too. That made everything much more interesting. Unity’s hanging out with all the older adults made the story charming, although her refusal to face reality was slightly annoying. This was a cute, fun read and I enjoyed seeing the characters grow and change.

Susan Mallery is a bestselling author. The Friendship List is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Hero of Hope Springs, by Maisey Yates

the hero of hope springs
Image belongs to Harlequin/HQN.

Title: The Hero of Hope Springs
Author:   Maisey Yates  
Genre: Romance
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

For as long as brooding cowboy Ryder Daniels has known Sammy Marshall, she has been his sunshine. Her free spirit and bright smile saved him after the devastating loss of his parents and gave him the strength to care for his orphaned family. Only Ryder knows how vulnerable Sammy is, so he’s kept his attraction for his best friend under wraps for years. But what Sammy’s asking for now might be a step too far…

Something has been missing from Sammy’s life, and she thinks she knows what it is. Deciding she wants a baby is easy; realizing she wants her best friend to be the father is…complicated. Especially when a new heat between them sparks to life! When Sammy discovers she’s pregnant, Ryder makes it clear he wants it all. But having suffered the fallout of her parents’ disastrous relationship, Sammy is wary of letting Ryder too close. This cowboy will have to prove he’s proposing out of more than just honor…

I haven’t read any of the Gold Valley series, but these are all stand-alones, so that was no problem. Solid writing here and vivid scenes, but the characters didn’t keep me engaged. Sammy is a very selfish person. She really doesn’t care how her behavior affects other people or if it affects them. She just wants to do and say what she wants and expects other people to just know that’s her free spirit. I didn’t care for her or her excuses and willful obliviousness at all.

Ryder was a lot more likable, but he’s just about as clueless as Sammy when it comes to a lot of things. Pretty rigid and inflexible when it comes to a lot of things, but he does try, so there’s that.

Maisey Yates is a bestselling author. The Hero of Hope Springs is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: Lobizona, by Romina Garber

lobizona
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:  Lobizona
Author:  Romina Garber  
Genre:     YA, fantasy
Rating:     4 out of 5

Manuela Azul has been crammed into an existence that feels too small for her. As an undocumented immigrant who’s on the run from her father’s Argentine crime-family, Manu is confined to a small apartment and a small life in Miami, Florida.

Until Manu’s protective bubble is shattered.

Her surrogate grandmother is attacked, lifelong lies are exposed, and her mother is arrested by ICE. Without a home, without answers, and finally without shackles, Manu investigates the only clue she has about her past–a mysterious “Z” emblem—which leads her to a secret world buried within our own. A world connected to her dead father and his criminal past. A world straight out of Argentine folklore, where the seventh consecutive daughter is born a bruja and the seventh consecutive son is a lobizón, a werewolf. A world where her unusual eyes allow her to belong.

As Manu uncovers her own story and traces her real heritage all the way back to a cursed city in Argentina, she learns it’s not just her U.S. residency that’s illegal. . . .it’s her entire existence.

This was quite an interesting read. Parts of it felt like I’d fallen into a dreamscape, parts of it felt a tiny bit clichéd, but it was original enough to capture my attention at the start and keep me reading.

It was probably the characters themselves I found clichéd—the mean girl, the brainiac, the hot athlete—but several of the other characters were unique enough to make this a pleasure to read. I did not figure out the big reveal ahead of time and I definitely want to read more.

Romina Garber was born in Buenos Aires and raised in Miami. Logizona is her newest novel.

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

Best Books I Read in July (2020)

How is it August already? This year…

In July, I read 27 books, bringing my total for the year to 187 books. I feel like most of those books ranged from “meh” to “solid,” but there were a few that were excellent reads.

where dreams descend

Where Dreams Descend, by Janella Angeles (review forthcoming). I really enjoyed this! It had a dark, lush feel to it, and I really had no idea what was actually going on, but I loved the vibrant characters and the creepy setting.

upset the world

Upset the World, by Tim Ross. I know there are a lot of different beliefs out there, and nonfiction and Christian books aren’t for everyone, but I really enjoyed this! Pastor Tim’s enthusiasm is so inspiring, and his anecdotes are hilarious. (The one about the carrot cake made me laugh so much.)

tipping point

Tipping Point, by Jimmy Evans. This is another book that’s probably not for everyone, but it was a fascinating read. Pastor Jimmy has been studying the end times for 45 years, so his insights are fascinating and his voice is casual and down-to-earth.