Category: books

Book Review: Mother of All, by Jenna Glass

Image belongs to Random House/Del Rey.

In the once male-dominated world of Seven Wells, women now control their own reproduction, but the battle for equality is far from over. Even with two thrones held by women, there are still those who cling to the old ways and are determined to return the world to the way it was.

Now into this struggle comes a darker power. Delnamal, the former King of Aalwell, may have lost his battle to undo the spell that gave women reproductive control, but he has gained a terrible and deadly magic, and he uses these new abilities to raise an army the likes of which the world has never seen. Delnamal and his allies seem like an unstoppable force, destined to crush the fragile new balance between men and women.

Yet sometimes it is possible for determined individuals to stem the tide, and it comes down to a unique triad of women–maiden, mother, and crone–to risk everything…not only to preserve the advances they have won but to change the world one final time.

I did not read the first book in this trilogy—not something that I recommend—but I was able to jump into book two without much problem. And, I very much enjoyed this book, the last in the trilogy. The magic system is unique as are the cultures and societies. Very strong female characters and some of the men are excellent characters as well—although some of them are total jerks. This is a solid fantasy read that I do recommend!

Jenna Glass has been writing since the fifth grade. Mother of All is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Random House/Del Rey in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Lights of Sugarberry Cove, by Heather Webber

Image belongs to Macmillan-Tor/Forge.

Sadie Way Scott has been avoiding her family and hometown of Sugarberry Cove, Alabama, since she nearly drowned in the lake just outside her mother’s B&B. Eight years later, Sadie is the host of a much-loved show about southern cooking and family, but despite her success, she wonders why she was saved. What is she supposed to do?

Sadie’s sister, Leala Clare, is still haunted by the guilt she feels over the night her sister almost died. Now, at a crossroads in her marriage, Leala has everything she ever thought she wanted–so why is she so unhappy?

When their mother suffers a minor heart attack just before Sugarberry Cove’s famous water lantern festival, the two sisters come home to run the inn while she recovers. It’s the last place either of them wants to be, but with a little help from the inn’s quirky guests, the sisters may come to terms with their strained relationships, accept the past, and rediscover a little lake magic.

I enjoyed the magical realism in this story! The miscommunication/lack of communication between the characters causes all sorts of problems, but I really enjoyed the B&B setting and how the family worked out all their issues finally. This was a sweet, fun read, perfect for a summer weekend—especially at the lake.

Heather Webber lives new Cincinnati, Ohio. The Lights of Sugarberry Cove is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Macmillan-Tor/Forge in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The War Nurse, by Tracey Enerson Wood

Image belongs to Sourcebooks Landmark.

Superintendent of Nurses Julia Stimson must recruit sixty-five nurses to relieve the battle-worn British, months before American troops are ready to be deployed. She knows that the young nurses serving near the front lines of will face a challenging situation, but nothing could have prepared her for the chaos that awaits when they arrive at British Base Hospital 12 in Rouen, France. The primitive conditions, a convoluted, ineffective system, and horrific battle wounds are enough to discourage the most hardened nurses, and Julia can do nothing but lead by example―even as the military doctors undermine her authority and make her question her very place in the hospital tent.

When trainloads of soldiers stricken by a mysterious respiratory illness arrive one after the other, overwhelming the hospital’s limited resources, and threatening the health of her staff, Julia faces an unthinkable choice―to step outside the bounds of her profession and risk the career she has fought so hard for, or to watch the people she cares for most die in her arms.

I enjoyed this read. Julia was an interesting character:  she has a fairly distant personality—she keeps her emotions in a little box—but she wants to be close to people. She’s motivated by her desire to make things better for the people around her, whether the patients, her fellow nurses, or the doctors.

The blurb makes it sound like the respiratory illness is a HUGE part of the novel, but it really wasn’t. The bulk of this story is Julia’s internal conflict. Even the war itself isn’t an on-screen character, it’s more background and setting. This is a solid read about a fascinating woman.

Tracey Enerson Wood is from New Jersey. The War Nurse is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: The Gentleman’s Daughter, by Bianca M. Schwarz

Image belongs to Central Avenue Publishing.

Sir Henry, secret agent to the crown, must marry a lady above reproach to afford his illegitimate daughter entrance into society. After narrowly escaping marriage to a highborn bigot, he takes an assignment in Brighton, leading him to an abandoned abbey full of dark whispers, and a sinister secret society, the very one Henry has been investigating for three years.

Isabella is as beautiful as she is talented, but falling in love isn’t part of her plans. She only wants to paint, forget her painful past, and keep her overbearing mother at bay. But gaining one’s independence isn’t easy for a woman in 1823, so Isabella embarks on a fake courtship with Sir Henry. Soon, love and a painting career no longer seem so utterly incompatible.

But when the man Isabella fears most kidnaps her, all appears lost. Realizing the kidnapper is part of the same organization he is investigating, Henry chases after them. Entrapped in a web of secrets, both Henry and Isabella must face old enemies, and fight for their happily ever after.

I had not read the first book in this series, so I read that, first. There was a completely different love interest/live-in significant other in that book—set three years prior to this one—so the change was a little off-putting. I actually liked her quite a bit, so to see Henry just move on without batting an eye was bit much.

I feel like this series is an attempt at a Regency-era James Bond. Henry is a ladies’ man, wealthy, suave, and always manages to land on his feet. But he’s more of a caricature than a believable character, and the abrupt switch from the first book to this one made this just a “meh” read for me.

Bianca M. Schwarz was born in Germany. The Gentleman’s Daughter is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Central Avenue Publishing in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Dog Eat Dog, by David Rosenfelt

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books.

Lawyer Andy Carpenter and his wife, Laurie, enjoy walking their dogs, Tara and Sebastian. By this point in their marriage, it’s routine. When out for one of their strolls, their simple ritual isn’t so simple anymore. Across the street, a man is mistreating his dog. Three things happen at once: Andy yells, Laurie runs to stop the abuse, and so does a closer passerby, who so thoroughly beats the owner that both are arrested when the cops arrive.

Andy scoops up the dog and takes him to the Tara Foundation, the dog rescue organization that’s always been his true passion. Meanwhile, at the police station, the passerby is identified as Matthew Jantzen, and he’s wanted for murder. Andy and Laurie are struck by the fact that Jantzen, a man on the run, would nevertheless intervene to help a dog, and decide to find out more.

This is book #23 in a series and…I won’t be reading any more. It wasn’t bad, but it felt like the entire book was populated with talking heads. I got no sense of what the characters or their actions looked like, no feel for the setting or anything. I enjoyed Andy’s self-deprecating humor, but his ego was too much for me, and this just wasn’t a good fit for me at all.

David Rosenfelt is from New Jersey. Dog Eat Dog is his newest novel.

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

Book Review: Where It All Lands, by Jennie Wexler

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Stevie Rosenstein has never made a true friend. Never fallen in love. Moved from city to city by her father’s unrelenting job, it’s too hard to care for someone. Trust in anything. The pain of leaving always hurts too much. But she’ll soon learn to trust, to love.

Twice.

Drew and Shane have been best friends through everything. The painful death of Shane’s dad. The bitter separation of Drew’s parents. Through sleepaway camps and family heartache, basketball games and immeasurable loss, they’ve always been there for each other.

When Stevie meets Drew and Shane, life should go on as normal.

But a simple coin toss alters the course of their year in profound and unexpected ways.

This was an interesting read. The first half of the story is told where Drew wins the coin toss, the second where Shane wins. And, dang. It was interesting to see the two different storylines—the characters (Drew and Shane at least) came across completely differently with that one seemingly small change.

Music runs through all of this novel, and several times I wanted to stop and look up some of the songs to listen. I have zero musical ability, but I love to read about people who have that ability. All in all, this was a solid read, and I loved the split stories.

Jennie Wexler lives in New Jersey. Where It All Lands is her debut novel.

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

Book Review: Six Crimson Cranes, by Elizabeth Lim

Image belongs to Random House Children’s/ Knopf Books for Young Readers.

Shiori, the only princess of Kiata, has a secret. Forbidden magic runs through her veins. Normally she conceals it well, but on the morning of her betrothal ceremony, Shiori loses control. At first, her mistake seems like a stroke of luck, forestalling the wedding she never wanted, but it also catches the attention of Raikama, her stepmother.

Raikama has dark magic of her own, and she banishes the young princess, turning her brothers into cranes, and warning Shiori that she must speak of it to no one: for with every word that escapes her lips, one of her brothers will die.

Penniless, voiceless, and alone, Shiori searches for her brothers, and, on her journey, uncovers a conspiracy to overtake the throne—a conspiracy more twisted and deceitful, more cunning and complex, than even Raikama’s betrayal. Only Shiori can set the kingdom to rights, but to do so she must place her trust in the very boy she fought so hard not to marry. And she must embrace the magic she’s been taught all her life to contain—no matter what it costs her.

This was a fantastic read! I love that it’s a retelling of a fairy tale, set in a completely different—and vividly drawn—culture. Some of the brothers kind of blurred together for me; not a surprise, as for the most part they sort of played one part, but the other characters were distinct and believable.

Shiori herself was great. Her journey to realizing and embracing her strength was wonderful, and I loved how she thought for herself and didn’t just go along with what everyone told her. I was up late finishing this because I just couldn’t put it down.

Elizabeth Lin lives in New York City. Six Crimson Cranes is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Random House Children’s/ Knopf Books for Young Readers in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: What We Devour, by Linsey Miller

Image belongs to Sourcebooks Fire.

Lorena Adler has a secret—she holds the power of the banished gods, the Noble and the Vile, inside her. She has spent her entire life hiding from the world and her past. She’s content to spend her days as an undertaker in a small town, marry her best friend, Julian, and live an unfulfilling life so long as no one uncovers her true nature.

But when the notoriously bloodthirsty and equally Vile crown prince comes to arrest Julian’s father, he immediately recognizes Lorena for what she is. So she makes a deal—a fair trial for her betrothed’s father in exchange for her service to the crown.

The prince is desperate for her help. He’s spent years trying to repair the weakening Door that holds back the Vile…and he’s losing the battle. As Lorena learns more about the Door and the horrifying price it takes to keep it closed, she’ll have to embrace both parts of herself to survive.

I felt like I’d been dumped in the middle of a foreign county without a map, a dictionary, or the slightest understand of the culture or history. And, not in a “Hey, this place is cool!” way. The magic system was detailed—and unique enough—that I really couldn’t appreciate the story fully without some kind of background understanding. Same with the history and culture. Without understanding that the actual plot made little to no sense to me. Which made Lorena herself even more unlikable and unsympathetic. It’s too bad the solid writing was overshadowed by the confusion and dislike.

Linsey Miller grew up in Arkansas. What We Devour is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: The One You’re With, by Lauren K. Denton

Image belongs to Thomas Nelson.

High-school sweethearts Mac and Edie Swan lead a seemingly picture-perfect life in the sleepy-sweet community of Oak Hill, near Mobile, Alabama. Edie is a respected interior designer, Mac is a beloved pediatrician, and they have two great kids and a historic home on tree-lined Linden Avenue. From the outside, the Swan family is the definition of “the good life.” And life is good—mostly. Until a young woman walks into Mac’s office one day. A young woman whose very existence threatens all Mac and Edie have built and all they think they know about each other.

Nineteen years after a summer apart, with a family and established lives and careers, the past that Mac and Edie thought they left behind has come back to greet them. For the first time, constants in their lives are called into question: their roles as parents, their reputation as upstanding members of the community, and the very foundations of their marriage. As they wade through the upheaval in both their family and professional lives, they must each examine choices they made long ago and chart a new course for their future.

I love Lauren K. Denton’s novels and always look forward to their release, so I was excited to read this. I didn’t enjoy this one quite as much as her others. Excellent writing and characters, but Edie’s over-the-top reaction to the past really didn’t sit well with me.

She and Mac were broken up that summer. She doesn’t have any right to be angry about what he did—I can understand the hurt, but to be so furious and unforgiving when she was keeping secrets of her own that same summer is hypocritical at best. Considering her anger was the main thread running through the novel, this was a pretty big problem for me. I kept thinking “Get over yourself. You did the same thing, and now you’re mad at him?”                                                    

Lauren K. Denton is a bestselling author. The One You’re With is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: The Forest of Vanishing Stars, by Kristin Harmel

Image belongs to Gallery Books.

After being stolen from her wealthy German parents and raised in the unforgiving wilderness of eastern Europe, a young woman finds herself alone in 1941 after her kidnapper dies. Her solitary existence is interrupted, however, when she happens upon a group of Jews fleeing the Nazi terror. Stunned to learn what’s happening in the outside world, she vows to teach the group all she can about surviving in the forest—and in turn, they teach her some surprising lessons about opening her heart after years of isolation. But when she is betrayed and escapes into a German-occupied village, her past and present come together in a shocking collision that could change everything.

This was a fantastic read! I had never heard of the historical facts behind the premise and found it both fascinating and heartbreaking. I read a solid amount of World War II-set historical fiction, but this was new territory for much. Surviving in the forest like this required so much strength and resiliency, and I am just in awe of these people.

I liked Yona a lot and seeing her grow from a child to a woman—and how her thoughts evolved—was engrossing to read. I loved how she left her comfort zone behind to help others—she knew it was the right thing to do, even though she’d never been taught that. Proof that people are inherently good (which I tend to forget). Loved this read!

Kristin Harmel is a bestselling author. The Forest of Vanishing Stars is her newest novel.

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