Category: books

Book Review: Little Broken Things, by Nicole Baart

Image belongs to Atria Books.

Quinn Cruz hasn’t had much to do with her family for years, until she and her husband moved back to her hometown a few months ago. Her brother is too busy. Her mother is too intrusive. And her sister has been aloof for years. So, when Quinn receives a text from Nora one night, “I have something for you,” she jumps at the chance to meet up with her sister.

That “something” is a frightened little girl named Lucy, whom Nora begs Quinn not to speak a word about to anyone before Nora vanishes into the night. Lucy’s haunted eyes trouble Quinn, and she struggles to connect with the girl who is terrified of “him.” Quinn doesn’t know the evil that Nora is facing, but the two of them are desperate to keep one little girl safe, and find out the truth of who she is.

Little Broken Things is extremely well-written, with a pace that builds slow momentum to a breakneck finish. Lucy is so innocent and so broken the reader will immediately care for her, and want to know her truths. Quinn and Nora’s family is broken, and has been for years. The sisters are united in their desire to keep Lucy safe, but the secrets still lurking in the dark may tear the family apart.

Nicole Baart’s books have been nominated for awards, and she is the co-founder of One Body One Hope. Little Broken Things is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Atria Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)


Book Review: Seventh Decimate, by Stephen R. Donaldson

Image belongs to Berkely.

Belleger and Amika have been at war for centuries, with their sorcerers hurling destruction and pestilence at each other and tearing the nations apart. Then Belleger’s sorcerers are stripped of their magic, and Belleger is on the verge of falling. But Prince Bifalt refuses to let that happen.

He sets out in search of the library that is the repository of the sorcerers’ knowledge, to find a decimate greater than the one used against his land, but what he really wants is to destroy all sorcerers. Through battles, desert, and near-starvation, Prince Bifalt searches for the repository, unaware that there are greater things in motion than he can even imagine.

I’ve read the Thomas Covenant books several times, and enjoyed them, but Covenant is not a likeable character. And neither is Prince Bifalt. Frequently, I felt the urge to shake him, for his blindness and refusal to consider anything but his own beliefs. Donaldson creates a vivid world, but I had a really hard time connecting with the Prince, and that made the book drag a bit for me.

Stephen R. Donaldson was born in Ohio, but grew up in India. His is the author of the Thomas Covenant books. His newest novel, Seventh Decimate, is the first in The Great God’s War trilogy.

(Galley provided by Berkely via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Austen Escape, by Katherine Reay

Image belongs to Thomas Nelson.

Mary Davies is an industrial engineer in Austin, Texas. She’s happy with her job and her life, although she wishes there was a bit more going on with cute, funny consultant Nathan. Then Mary’s childhood friend, Isabel, offers her a trip to England, for a two-week immersive stay in a Regency-style manor house, where everyone will be living as Jane Austen characters. Mary wants distance between her and her beautiful, manipulative, vindictive friend, but finds herself agreeing.

At first, the experience is fun, as Mary meets a group of people all pretending to be her favorite characters, but then Isabel wakes up one morning really thinking she is her chosen character, and with no memory of reality. Mary finds herself dependent on strangers as she waits for Isabel to regain her memory. Then Mary realizes she and Isabel’s lives are more entwined than she thought, and must decide if she’ll let her pain go and move on with her life, or hold it against Isabel forever.

I loved this book! This is my first (but not last) Katherine Reay book, and I loved the voice, the characters, and the setting. An immersive Jane Austen vacation? Yes, please! (I do love Austen.). Mary is such a complex character, given to spur-of-the-moment impulses and jumping to conclusions (That’s my own personal form of exercise, too.) Her friendship with Isabel is fraught with tension bordering on anger, and the relationship is vividly portrayed on the pages of this novel.

Katherine Reay has lived in Texas, England, Ireland, Washington, and now Chicago. The Austen Escape is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Thomas Nelson via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Dark Intercept, by Julia Keller

the dark intercept
Image belongs to Macmillan-Tor/Forge


Violet Crowley is the sixteen-year-old daughter of the founder of New Earth, the safe home of people with the right to leave the sordid conditions of Earth behind. The Intercept keeps New Earth residents safe, and it monitors emotions and occasionally uses them to keep that safety intact. Julia has never known anything different, but when Danny, a cop and her long-time crush, is almost killed on Old Earth, Violet decides to investigate what he’s up to, and ends up finding out secrets she never imagined.

I enjoyed The Dark Intercept very much. The concept was unique and intriguing, and the book takes a hard look at what people are willing to put up with for their idea of safety. Technology is taken to the extreme in New Earth, and the idea is terrifying. Violet is pretty typical for a teenager, with her crush and her preconceived ideas of what’s really going on. She matures some in the book, but she still has a tendency to forgive all of Danny’s lies and actions, which is a bit annoying. The characters are rather one-dimensional, but I feel they will develop more as the series continues.

Julia Keller is a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer. The Dark Intercept is her new novel.

Galley provided by Macmillan-Tor/Forge via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Rosemarked, by Livia Blackburne

Image belongs to Disney-Hyperion.

Zivah has barely become a healer when she is tasked with caring for the ill soldiers of the nation oppressing her own. Eager to save as many soldiers as she can—to keep her people safe—she cares for the commander, who survives, but Zivah falls victim to the plague. She knows she’ll die from the plague, she just doesn’t know when.

Given the chance to continue helping her people. Zivah agrees to a spying mission with Dineas, a warrior broken by torture who lives only to overthrow the empire intent on crushing both their people. The two will have only each other to rely on as they journey into the heart of enemy territory, desperate to find any chance of saving their people.

Rosemarked is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. From the first page, I was enthralled by the world, the plot, and especially the characters. The concept of the rose plague is fascinating—a deadly virus that kills most of its victim, leaving only some alive as carriers destined to die, and a few lucky immune, both forever marked by the virus. Zivah struggles with pitting her beliefs against her loyalty to both her people and Dineas, and her conflict weaves throughout the story. Dineas is so emotionally scarred all he can see is revenge, yet he is conflicted after getting to know some of the enemy. The dynamic between the two is absolutely riveting. You MUST read this! I cannot wait for the next book.

Livia Blackburne is the New York Times-bestselling author of the Midnight Thief series. Rosemarked is her newest novel, the first in a new series.

(Galley provided by Disney-Hyperion via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang

beasts of extraordinary circumstance
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Weylyn Grey was orphaned and raised by wolves. He met Mary when she was 11 years old, when he saved her from an angry wolf. Weylyn knows strange things happen around him—like stopping that tornado on Christmas Day—but he prefers to give the credit to his horned pig, Merlin.

Freak storms, trees that grow overnight, hurricanes that mysteriously dissipate; Weylyn has been around them all. Though it all, his love for Mary stays strong, until he realizes that she might come to harm. Then he knows he must move on. Instead of stopping hurricanes, the magic in his life now consists of fireflies who make phosphorescent honey. But, through it all, his love for Mary remains strong. All he needs is the courage to knock on her door.

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance is classified as fantasy/sci-fi, but to me, it’s more magical realism. It’s different from anything else I’ve ever read, and different is a very good thing. This is told not only from Weylyn’s point-of-view, but from that of those who know him. There is magic on every page, and wonder hides here as well.

Ruth Emmie Lang was born in Scotland, but moved to Ohio when she was four. Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance is her first novel.

(Galley provided by St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)



Book Review: Firebrand, by Sarah MacTavish


Way back in…March, I think…I went to a local author event, mainly because Rachel Caine was going to be there, and I love her writing. I’d heard her speak before, and was pleased to have another opportunity. There was another author there, Sarah MacTavish, and I really enjoyed her talk as well. So, I ended up buying her debut novel, Firebrand. And it’s been sitting in that particular TBR pile until last week. Yes, I stockpile books…and then don’t have a chance to read them for months. I have a problem, okay?

When I did pick it up, I finished reading it in less than 24 hours. It was that good. It’s set right before the Civil War, and its about two young abolitionists and the struggles they face. I like historical fiction, but I thought this YA historical was extremely well-written, and I found myself rooting for the characters. (Also, I’m from Texas, not too far from where part of the book is set, and I had no idea about some of the things in the novel.) This book deals with difficult events and topics, but it’s history:  if we don’t learn from it, we’re doomed to repeat it.

Saoirse Callahan and her family are struggling to survive on their small Texas farm that’s a far cry from their home in Ireland. Tempers are short, and after the death of one of her brothers, the whole family seems on the verge of collapsing. Then a series of fires sweep the region, and rumors of a slave uprising spread, leaving vigilante justice in their wake. Saoirse is desperate to find out what really happened, but her questions land her family in even deeper trouble.

Westleigh Kavanagh is safely an abolitionist in Pennsylvania, until he realizes his father’s new boarder is a runaway slave. Westleigh is determined to keep the man’s secret, even from his father, who, as sheriff, is bound to uphold the law, no matter what his personal beliefs are. Then Westleigh finds an old journal, and uncovers secrets his father has long kept hidden from him, secrets that lead him to the Callahans in  Texas.

Book Review: Lilac Lane, by Sherryl Woods

lilac lane

Keira Malone raised her three kids alone when their father decided drinking was more important. When she finally allowed herself to love again, her fiancé died of a heart attack. Now she leaves Ireland behind for Maryland to spend time with her daughter and new granddaughter, and to help her son-in-law with his Irish pub.

She butts heads with Bryan Laramie, the moody chef at the pub, and more than sparks fly as the two try to decide who knows best. Once they reach a truce, Bryan’s long-lost daughter shows up, and he must deal with unresolved issues from the past, when he last saw his daughter as a baby. And Keira has her own issues:  having been so unlucky with love twice, is it even worth the effort? While the two try to sort out their problems, the rest of the town takes sides for the upcoming Fall Festival Irish Stew cook-off, where they will match up to decide who’s really best in the kitchen.

Sherryl Woods is the author of more than 100 novels. Lilac Lane is her newest novel, the 14th book in the Chesapeake Shores series.

(Galley provided by Harlequin/MIRA via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

What I Read in October

I read 19 books in October. I know, right? Not sure where I found the time. But…some of these were REALLY good, and I finished them in less than 24 hours. Especially the last two…and the first one I read in November. 🙂

the indigo girl

The Indigo Girl, by Natasha Boyd (read to review). Fascinating historical fiction about the early efforts to produce indigo in colonial America. Eliza Lucas is a sixteen-year-old left in charge of the family’s estates while her father chases his military dreams. This novel also talks about the early slave uprisings and Eliza’s efforts to teach slaves to read. A very engrossing read, with a bit of romance thrown in for good measure.

merry and bright

Merry and Bright, by Debbie Macomber (read to review). Debbie Macomber is always a good author to turn to for feel-good, uplifting stories, and this one is no exception—even for someone disgusted with the commercialization of Christmas. Merry is so busy she has no time for herself, until her mother and brother set up an online dating profile for her, which leads her to someone she never expected.


Select, by Marit Weisenberg (read to review). I’m not sure what to say about this novel. The cover is beautiful, and the premise sounds intriguing, but the execution didn’t live up to the promise. A reclusive group of beautiful people with special traits prepares to separate themselves from the rest of the world, while the leader’s daughter learns there’s a lot more going on than she’s ever been told.

the house at 758

The House at 758, by Kathryn Berla (read to review). Loved this! YA fiction about Krista, still grieving the death of her mother, while her father wants to move on and Krista is obsessed with the mysterious house at 758.


The Midnight Dance, by Nikki Katz (read to review). Penny and eleven other girls are students at an elite ballet school, hidden away from the world by the Master, a reclusive wealthy man who only wants the best for them. Until Penny’s memories no longer add up, leaving her to wonder if what she remembers is the truth or not. Beautiful cover!

His Majesty’s Dragon, by Naomi Novik (from the TBR pile). This has been on my shelf for years. I’m not sure why I waited to read this, but I loved it! Dragons as military fighters in the war with Napoleon.

Throne of Jade, by Naomi Novik (from the TBR pile). Still loving this series.

the breathless

The Breathless, by Tara Goedjen (read to review). A creepy gothic read about a family with dark secrets struggling to deal with the loss of their oldest daughter–and the secrets she was keeping. I enjoyed this read a lot. Very creepy, but I did not want it to end like it did (yet the ending was very appropriate).

Black Powder War, by Naomi Novak. (Just because.)

the beautiful ones

The Beautiful Ones, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (read to review). This was a Regency-ish read with hints of steampunk…maybe magical realism set in a Regency-type society? Nina is used to country living, but she comes to town for the Grand Season and her ice-cold aunt tries to mold her into a society girl. Except Nina keeps forgetting the rules and speaking her mind. Then there’s the telekinetic performer she meets and falls in love with, Hector, who’s hiding dark secrets.

Stay with Me, by Ayobami Adebayo (cultural book of the month.) Okay, I love reading books set in Africa. I’ve felt drawn to it as long as I can remember, and ironically, my boyfriend is from Cameroon. Go figure. This book, set in Nigeria, is about a wife struggling to get pregnant and keep her children alive, and the secrets she and her husband have hidden from each other. It was an emotional read, and I’m still not sure what I think of it.

Lilac Lane, by Sherryl Woods (review forthcoming). A romance about an Irish woman who falls in love with the pub chef, but the problems from their past are great enough to shadow everything around them. I may have to read the rest of this series.

Murder over Mochas

Murder over Mochas, by Caroline Fardig (read to review.) I’m sad that this is the last of the Java Jive series. Funny, light mystery that reminds me quite a bit of the Stephanie Plum books.

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance, by Emmie Ruth Lang (review forthcoming.) I’m still digesting this read about a boy who was raised by wolves, and the man he grows up to be…with powers. A bit of an X-men feel to this one.

The Reason for my Hope, by Billy Graham (spiritual book of the month.) Great read.

Passing, by Nella Larsen (classic book of the month.) I’d never actually heard of or seen this book on any list of classics, but it showed up on a Goodreads search, and I thought it would be an interesting choice, considering the conversations about racism going on. I’m not quite sure what I think about this. I found one of the characters almost unlikable, and the other so conflicted I never got a true sense of her.

Firebrand, by Sarah MacTavish (Just because.) This has been sitting on my TBR pile for WAY too long. About abolitionists just before the Civil War. There was a lot here that I didn’t know about, which is sad, since half the book is set not too far from where I live/grew up. I cannot imagine having lived in such dark times. Wonderful characters, and I’m looking forward to more from this author.

The Dark Intercept, by Julia Keller (Review forthcoming.) I found this version of the future disturbing (but not completely farfetched), and I loved the characters and their conflicts. I enjoyed this immensely and recommend it! Read it in one day.

Rosemarked, by Livia Blackburne (Review forthcoming.) Hands down the best book I read all month! About a healer who catches the illness she’s fighting, and is given an opportunity to help others who suffer from it, while secretly trying to learn more about the enemy that conquered her people, before they can be destroyed by war. Fantastic read! Even better, it’s the first of a series! I blew through this in less than a day.

Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy.

Book Review: Murder Over Mochas, by Caroline Fardig

Murder over Mochas
Image belongs to Random House/Alibi.

Caroline Fardig is the USA Today bestselling author of the Lizzie Hart Mystery series, the Java Jive series, and the Ellie Matthews novels. Murder Over Mochas is her newest novel, the fifth and final story in the Java Jive series.

Juliet Langley finally has her life all sorted out. Sort of. In addition to working at Java Jive, she’s also a private investigator, and is happy with that choice. She just needs to figure out how she feels about Ryder, her sexy ex who is now dating her friend. Her best friend Pete is acting like he wants to be more than friends…maybe. And her cheating, stealing ex-fiancé, Scott, is back and wants to talk to her. So maybe Juliet’s life isn’t quite so sorted out.

But when Scott begs for her help because he’s afraid for his life, then drops dead in front of Juliet, she’ll have to drop everything else to keep herself—and Pete—from becoming murder suspects. Again. Because Juliet’s history with Scott is anything but friendly, and it looks like she’s not the only one with hard feelings against him. She’ll need Ryder’s help to solve this case, and to keep herself and Pete out of jail.

I’ve been fortunate enough to review all the Java Jive series, and I’m sad to see it end. Juliet is a fantastic character:  smart, resourceful, and with a temper and a lack of impulse control that frequently gets her in trouble (I feel her pain). Her friendship with Pete is great; they’ve been through so many ups and downs and have always been there for each other. All the characters add so many layers to this series, and if Java Jive existed, I’d be there every day to hang out. If you want a funny, light read with shades of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, definitely give these a read!

(Galley provided by Random House/Alibi via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)