Category: characters

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.)

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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: Crashing the A-List, by Summer Heacock

crashing the a-list
Image belongs to MIRA.

Title:   Crashing the A-List
Author:  Summer Heacock
Genre:   Women’s fiction/romance
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

For an out-of-work editor, finding a new job isn’t easy. So, Clara sleeps on her brother’s couch while she collects unemployment and job-hunts. She signs on for a stint of cleaning out abandoned storage buildings, but she’s not prepared for the trash, the unidentified objects—are those eyeballs?—or the piles of paper. Then she finds the records of an old escort service—complete with the resume of Caspian Tiddleswich, a super-famous British actor.

Clara’s best friend thinks she should sell her find to the tabloids, but Clara can’t imagine doing that. Instead, she tracks down Caspian’s number and leaves a message assuring him his secret is safe. At least, that’s what she thinks she says. But Caspian shows up at her door, accusing her of blackmail—and the paparazzi gets a picture of their confrontation, and suddenly the two of them are news.

Caspian’s PR team jumps on the opportunity—and Caspian isn’t averse to a little blackmail himself, so Clara finds herself posing as his girlfriend to atone for her sins. But as she gets to know Caspian, she realizes there’s far more to the superstar than meets the eye, and their game of pretend becomes something else.

I read this straight through while in the car on a road trip, and I’m pretty sure my brother thought I’d lost my mind because of all the snickering and outright laughter. There’s a lot of profanity, but this story is hysterical! And, let’s face it, who hasn’t daydreamed about some dreamy actor? Clara was such a relatable character, and her best friend is awesome, too. And Caspian—well, there’s a lot of character growth there. You should definitely read this!

Summer Heacock is a writer, a mom, and a wife. Crashing the A-List is her newest novel.

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

The Best Books I Read in June (2019)

I read 20 books in June, bringing my total to the year for 102 books read.

I have to say, this was a case of quantity, not necessarily quality, as there were a few books that I really enjoyed, but most were just solid to mediocre reads.

That being said, two of my monthly goal books and one of the last books I read for review for the month were outstanding.

at the water's edge

At the Water’s Edge, by Sara Gruen. This was my cultural pick of the month. Which, admittedly, was fudging it a bit, since the heroine is American and the books starts in New York in 1942. But…socialite Maddie and her horrid husband, Ellis, and his best friend, Hank, end up in Scotland in search of the Loch Ness monster, so I rationalized it. Fantastic, engrossing book! I would love to go to Loch Ness, and Gruen’s prose is top-notch. Highly recommend this!

backseat saints

Backseat Saints, by Joshilyn Jackson.  This  was from my TBR pile. I discovered Joshilyn Jackson when I read gods in Alabama for the first time several years ago (and re-read it last year and was just as entranced). This was when I discovered Southern fiction was a thing. I’ve read several of her books now–and cannot wait to review her upcoming novel, Never Have I Ever, at the end of the month. Backseat Saints takes a minor character from gods in Alabama and explores her very challenging life. Joshilyn Jackson is an auto buy for me, and that’s a really short list, so…

the stationary shop

The Stationary Shop, by Marjan Kamali. I’m still emotionally reeling from reading this, so I’m not sure I can talk coherently about it. Most of this takes place in 1953 Tehran, when Roya and Bahman fall in love on the edge of a revolution. it’s…not a happy book, which I realzied immediately. Usually, I would have chosen not to finish what I knew would be a sad read, but this was so good that I continued reading.

 

 

What I Read in June (2019)

Books Read in June: 20

Books Read for the Year: 102/175

Topical Books/Monthly Goal Books:

Atomic Habits:  An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones, by James Clear (Nonfiction). This was quite an interesting read! I’m looking forward to putting it into practice.

Whisper:  How to Hear the Voice of God, by Mark Batterson (Spiritual). A excellent read!

Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee (Classic). Okay, not really a classic, but I’m totally counting it. This was…not a bad read. But, really, how do you follow-up to To Kill a Mockingbird?

at the water's edge

At the Water’s Edge, by Sara Gruen (Cultural). I was engrossed in this read from the very first page! I love reading about the Loch Ness monster, so this was great. And the culture it’s set in at the time was so interesting.

backseat saints

Backseat Saints, by Joshilyn Jackson (TBR). I am a die-hard Joshilyn Jackson fan. gods in Alabama was the first book of hers I read—when I discovered Southern fiction—so this was a natural choice.

For Review:

time after time

Time After Time, by Lisa Grunwald. A girl from the 20’s who keeps disappearing. A man in the 30’s. Two people who want a life together—even if one of them isn’t quite alive. This book was a great read!

montauk

Montauk, by Nicola Harrison. A society wife who wants more than a society life. I knew this wasn’t going to end like I wanted it to—with a happily-ever-after and sunshine and roses—but I enjoyed it anyway.

theredlabyrinth

Red Labyrinth, by Meredith Tate. I rad this straight through in one sitting. Intriguing dystopian world that pits the Skilled against the Unskilled in a desert land that isn’t quite as it seems. Definitely worth reading!

spin the dawn

Spin the Dawn, by Elizabeth Lim (forthcoming). I found this to be an excellent read. The basic idea is Mulan-like (in that a daughter disguises herself as a son in order to save her father), but the world, set-up, and tale were unique and I fell into the story immediately. Gorgeous cover, too!

a long way down

A Long Way Down, by Randall Silvis. A solid mystery read.

Fireborn

Fireborn, by Katie MacAlister. I thoroughly enjoyed this tale, and look forward to reading more of this story!

nothingwithin_ebook_medium_seal

The Nothing Within, by Andy Giesler. I almost put this down in the beginning, but something kept be going. I’m glad I did. Dystopian fiction with an Amish bent? Yes, please!

A-Family-of-Strangers-Emilie-Richards-680x1024

A Family of Strangers, by Emilie Richards. I would not personally market this as women’s fiction, as it’s more of a murder mystery/crime investigation story, with heaps of family drama thrown in. An excellent read!

once upon a bad boy

Once Upon a Bad Boy, by Melonie Johnson. I like linked standalone series, so you can find out more about characters you loved in previous books. This was a solid read.

Jackson cover

Blog Tour for Jackson, by Emily March. While I loved the Texas setting, parts of this felt rushed and unnatural, and some things were just glossed over/mentioned in passing that I felt should have actually been portrayed.

beau and bett

Book Review: Beau and Bett, by Kathryn Berla.I enjoyed this re-telling of Beauty and the Beast, with Bett being the beast for a change. A light read that touches on some heavier subjects.

the evil queen

The Evil Queen, by Gena Showalter. I’ve been super excited to read this. I love Showalter’s writing, and the idea was fascinating. The execution…was not. Starting with the characters’ names which I found pretty corny, to their personalities—annoying at best—and some very rapid about-faces with no character growth…I can’t say I’d recommend this.

the stationary shop

The Stationary Shop, by Marjan Kamali (review forthcoming). This books was amazing. The setting comes to life (Tehran, then America), and I was drawn to the characters from the first page. I also knew, from the page, that it was not going to be a happy book, but it was so good, I finished it anyway (and I don’t usually read anything that I know will be sad.).

recursion

Recursion, by Blake Couch (review forthcoming). Alternate timelines, false memories, hard science…I can frankly say this book was WAY over my head in a lot of ways, but I read it in one sitting because I was so engrossed.

lunar court

Lunar Court, by Aileen Erin (review forthcoming). I’d actually forgotten I’d read, I think, the first two books in this series years ago. I should probably go back and re-read them and the rest.

Left Unfinished:

Storm and Fury, by Jennifer L. Armentrout. I like the whole gargoyle/guardian thing, but found the MC to be one that does stupid things knowingly (being rebellious) and the romance angle started with them disliking each other, so it all felt a little too “done” for me. (I know this is a spin-off, and I haven’t read the original. Nor am I likely to.)

The Great Unexpected, by Dan Mooney. My only problem with this—I read 15% of it—was its slow pace. It just wasn’t a good fit for me at this time.

The Burning Chambers, by Kate Mosse. Clearly not the right choice for me, as the 10% I read didn’t catch my attention at all.

Book Review: The Evil Queen, by Gena Showalter

the evil queen
Image belongs to Harlequin TEEN/Inkyard Press.

Title:   The Evil Queen
Author:   Gena Showalter
Genre:   YA, fantasy
Rating:   3.5 out of 5

In Enchantia, fairy tales are real, but they are prophecies of the future. Everly Morrow is raised in the real world and has no idea she’s a princess until she starts to commune with mirrors. Then the truth comes out:  Everly is destined to become the Evil Queen.

Except it’s not that simple. Everly meets Roth Charmaine—Prince Charming—and can’t deny she’s attracted to him. But as a sorcerian, she only draws his hate. As their fairy tale unfolds, she faces countless betrayals as she fights to save her family while deciphering the truth.

I generally love Gena Showalter’s novels, and I loved the idea of The Evil Queen. However. I found this one to be not up to Showalter’s usual high quality. Parts of it were very rough and juvenile—and I’ve seen lots of comments to the effect of “remember it’s YA so that’s okay”—but YA should still be well-written, and the characters should be believable and fully fleshed-out. These seemed very one-dimensional to me, and several times they completely did a 180 without us seeing any character growth to account for that. Everly was frankly quite annoying and egotistical and Roth wasn’t much better. I guess I just expected better from an author I generally love—and whose young adult books I love. I did like the actual answer for who each character was supposed to be in the fairy tale.

Gena Showalter is a bestselling author. The Evil Queen is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin TEEN/Inkyard Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Fireborn, by Katie MacAlister

Fireborn
Image belongs to Kensington Books/Rebel Base Books.

Title:  Fireborn
Author:  Katie MacAlister
Genre:  Fantasy
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Deo was born to fulfill a prophecy and save the world. Allegria is supposed to be just a priestess. Hallow is just an apprentice without a master. That was before invaders appeared in the land of the Starborn, threatening the entire world.

Now Allegria has left the priesthood for a chance to battle the enemy and wield the power of the sun. Hallow becomes the leader he always dreamed of becoming. And Deo wrestles with the power of the invaders, a power he doesn’t understand. Together, the three of them are the only ones who stand a chance at defeating the enemy and saving their world.

I loved the characters in this novel! I empathized with all of them (except whiny, angsty young-Deo.) and loved watching their growth. This books has everything from romance to comedy to magic, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

Katie MacAlister is a bestselling author. Fireborn is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Kensington Books/Rebel Base Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

What I Read in May (2019)

Books Read in May: 17

Books Read for the Year: 84/175

Topical Books/Monthly Goal Books:

The Next Right Thing, by Emily Freeman (non-fiction). Excellent read!

The Spider King’s Daughter, by Chibundu Onuzo (cultural). Eh. I can’t say I recommend this, although it was an interesting glimpse at a different culture.

The Thing with Feathers, by McCall Hoyle (TBR). I really enjoyed this sweet story of a girl who’s been home-schooled her whole life because of her severe epilepsy. She goes to public school and learns to spread her wings.

Kim, by Rudyard Kipling (classic). It was okay.

Real Love in an Angry World, by Rick Bezet (spiritual). I did enjoy this read.

For Review:

the book woman

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, by Kim Michele Richardson. This was an incredible read about the last of the Blue People in Kentucky, and the Pack Horse Librarians.

how we disappeared

How We Disappeared, by Jing-Jing Lee. Historical fiction and secrets.

this-is-not-a-love-scene-cover

This is Not a Love Scene, by S.C. Megale. Maeve has muscular dystrophy. All she wants to do is direct, but leading man Cole wouldn’t be bad either. I didn’t find Maeve terribly likable—she’s selfish, childish, and completely self-centered—but seeing how someone with MD lives was intriguing, and I loved that the main character in this was someone struggling with a disease like this.

southern side of paradise

The Southern Side of Paradise, by Kristy Woodson Harvey. I’m note even sure why I finished this. I love Southern fiction, but…I did not like these characters. Justifying your horrible behavior does not make you a good person.

bonavere howl

Bonavere Howl, by Caitlin Galway. I love the New Orleans setting, but…this felt a bit off. Like it wasn’t fully finished.

two like me and you

Two Like Me and You, by Alan Chad Gibbs. Loved this book! The crazy shenanigans and tall tales had me laughing.

the voice in my head

The Voice in My Head, by Dana L. Davis. Indigo’s identical twin sister, Violet, is terminally ill and plans to die by medically-assisted suicide…until Indigo hears a voice that claims to be God and tells her the entire family must hike The Wave in the desert.

smitten by the brit

Smitten by the Brit, by Meloni Johnson. Bonnie’s known her fiance her entire life, but when she discovers something unexpected about him and their engagement ends, she’s at a loss. Until she meets handsome and dashing Theo, a British man straight out of an Austen novel.

denali-in-hiding-cover-for-kindle

Denali in Hiding, by Caitlin Sinead. Denali has always tried to keep her psi abilities hidden, but now she’s able to learn to use them…except she’s forbidden from helping regular humans. When she learns about a bomb threat, will she follow the rules or help, risking life in prison.

A Pack of Vows and Tears, by Olivia Wildenstein. The second book in the Boulder Wolves series. This was a solid read, but the developments didn’t surprise mu much.

Just Because:

Storm Cursed, by Patricia Briggs. Because I love this series. And I loved this book! Zombie miniature goats and a zombie dragon? Wow.

Queen of Air and Darkness, by Cassandra Clare. I was a little apprehensive to read this, considering how the last one ended, but my fears were unfounded. There will clearly be more books set in this world, which makes me happy.

Left Unfinished:

Tears of the Trufflepig, by Fernando A. Flores. I read 10% of this and nothing happened, so I gave up.

Book Review: Romanov, by Nadine Brandes

Romanov
Image belongs to Thomas Nelson.

Title:  Romanov
Author:  Nadine Brandes
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

The history books say I died.

They don’t know the half of it.

With Russia in revolution, the Romanov family are held as hostages by the Bolsheviks. For Nastya—Princess Anastasia—this new world is bewildering and frustrating. Her loving family is intact and together, but they are constantly guarded by soldiers. They are barely allowed to go outside. They are constantly under watch. She doesn’t understand why the world is so bloody and dangerous, she just knows it is.

There is an element of truth in what the people say about the Romanovs, but Nastya is not a spellcaster. If she was, she could heal her brother’s hemophilia and her mother’s illness. She could stop herself from falling in love and mend her sister’s broken heart. And she could keep her family from being executed.

But this isn’t the lies spoken about her family by the Bolsheviks. This is her life. And the truth is far stranger than the history books say.

I’ve probably seen the Disney movie Anastasia at some point, but I don’t remember it, and I’ve certainly read bits and pieces about the Romanovs, none of which I remembered before picking this book up. I had no problems understanding what was going on or starting the story after the Romanovs are taken hostage. The love in this family is remarkable and portrayed so well. All the characters are well-done, but Nastya herself is both struggling and strong, and her determination to help her family is something to behold. I enjoyed this read immensely.

Nadine Brandes is the author of the Out of Time series. Romanov is her newest novel.

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