Category: characters

The Best Books I Read in September (2022)

I read 17 books in September, bringing my total read for the year to 176 books. I also DNF 8 books. For a change, there were a solid number of really good reads this month. Of the 17 books, I rated nine of them 5 out of 5 stars. My favorites of those nine are:

The Winners, by Fredrick Backman. I LOVE this book! The first book, Beartown, was such a wonderful surprise to me. The second book was stellar, and this one was enthralling from the very first page. Even if you don’t care about hockey (I don’t), you should absolutely pick this up!

Long Way Gone, by Charles Martin. I adore everything this man writes. Everything. No questions.

The Last Legacy, by Adrienne Young. Adrienne Young is a fantastic writer, and the world of Fable/the Narrows is absolutely captivating. Loved this—and read it straight through in one sitting.

Honorable mention:

What I Read In September (2022)

Books Read in September: 17

Books Read for the Year:  176/250

Topical Books/Monthly Goal Books:

Soul Taken, by Patricia Briggs. As usual for this series, I was glued to the page and couldn’t put it down.

No God But One, by Nabeel Qureshi (spiritual, TBR, audio). So much information in this.

The Book Woman’s Daughter, by Kim Michele Richardson (TBR). I enjoyed this as much as the first book.

Elodie’s Library of Second Chances, by Rebecca Raisin (TBR). This was a cute read.

The Return of the Gods, by Jonathan Cahn (spiritual). This was a bit terrifying, but explains so much.

For Review:

Don’t Let In the Cold, by Keely Parrack. This was a solid read. I can’t imagine being trapped outside in a blizzard and being hunted by criminals, but this kept my attention.

Monsters Born and Made, by Tanvi Berwah. The culture/setting in this was quite unique, even if the premise had echoes of The Hunger Games. I ended up enjoying it quite a bit.

The Girl from Guernica, by Karen Robards. This was SO good! I read it in less than a day because I just couldn’t put it down! I was invested in all the characters and on the edge of my seat several times.

The Make-Up Test, by Jenny L. Howe. This wasn’t terrible, but the MC, Allison, was quite full of herself and unable to look past her own selfishness and be considerate of anyone else.

Something in the Heir, by Suzanne Enoch. This was an okay read, but not a standout. I enjoyed the kids very much.

Spells for Forgetting, by Adrienne Young. This was a heck of a read! I love Ms. Young’s YA books, and I’m happy that this was up to their standard. The setting was very dark, but it was so vividly drawn!

The Winners, by Fredrik Backman. This book. Man. All of Backman’s novels, actually. But this one was unbelievably good.

A Place to Land, by Lauren K. Denton. Loved this! Such a compelling story.

Just Because:

Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis (spiritual). Lewis was such a wonderful communicator.

The Final Gambit, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. This was such a fun read!

Long Way Gone, by Charles Martin. I love this guy’s books so, so much!

The Last Legacy, by Adrienne Young. Love this author and this world. So unique and vivid.

Left Unfinished:

The Bachelor and the Bride, by Sarah M. Eden. The writing was fine in this, but the characters bored me, so I put it down.

The Opera Sisters, by Marianne Monson. The distant narrator/point-of-view just did not work for me. I didn’t feel any connection to the characters.

The Decoy Girlfriend, by Lillie Vale. I loved the premise of this. But the MC were just…not likable people to me, so I had to put it down.

The Only Child, by Kayte Nunn. I read about 30% of this, but the MC just wasn’t for me. She was a bit pushy and aggravating.

The Two Lives of Sara, by Catherine Adel West. Okay, the MC was completely selfish and hateful, and I couldn’t make myself care in the slightest about her.

The Book Hater’s Book Club, by Gretchen Anthony. These people were just kind of hateful to each other, and the beginning dragged on so long I lost patience.

An Affair of Spies, by Ronald H. Balson. The overabundance of technical jargon felt like the author trying to show me how smart he is. The info dumps did not feel natural.

Wishtress by Nadine Brandes. I read the first 10% of this, but it just didn’t capture my attention.

Book Review:   The Winners, by Fredrik Backman

Image belongs to Atria Books.

TitleThe Winners     
Author: Fredrik Backman   
Genre: Fiction   
Rating:  5 out of 5

Two years have passed since the events that no one wants to think about. Everyone has tried to move on, but there’s something about this place that prevents it. The residents continue to grapple with life’s big questions: What is a family? What is a community? And what, if anything, are we willing to sacrifice in order to protect them?

As the locals of Beartown struggle to overcome the past, great change is on the horizon. Someone is coming home after a long time away. Someone will be laid to rest. Someone will fall in love, someone will try to fix their marriage, and someone will do anything to save their children. Someone will submit to hate, someone will fight, and someone will grab a gun and walk towards the ice rink.

So what are the residents of Beartown willing to sacrifice for their home?

This book. I was up until 2 a.m. finishing it, if that tells you anything. Beartown took me completely by surprise. I don’t really care about hockey, and small towns usually give me the creeps, but it was my first introduction to Backman’s writing and I was blown away. Us Against You was the same experience, and so was The Winners.

I loved these characters and was completely enthralled by the story. Even the seemingly minor characters are compelling in the hands of a master storyteller like this. He is so, so good at creating believable characters that you care about and feel like you’ve met. I’m not super thrilled by what happened to one of my favorite characters, but I laughed, cried, and was in turn awed by the occasional absolutely perfect sentence that truly captured the moment. Go read this.

Fredrik Backman is a bestselling author. The Winners is his newest novel.

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

Book Review: Spells for Forgetting, by Adrienne Young

Image belongs to Random House/Ballantine.

Title: Spells for Forgetting      
Author:  Adrienne Young  
Genre: mystery, fantasy   
Rating:  5 out of 5

Emery Blackwood’s life changed forever the night her best friend was found dead and the love of her life, August Salt, was accused of murdering her. Years later, she is doing what her teenage self swore she never would: living a quiet existence on the misty, remote shores of Saoirse Island and running the family’s business, Blackwood’s Tea Shoppe Herbal Tonics & Tea Leaf Readings.

But when the island, rooted in folklore and magic, begins to show signs of strange happenings, Emery knows that something is coming. The morning she wakes to find that every single tree on Saoirse has turned color in a single night, August returns for the first time in fourteen years and unearths the past that the town has tried desperately to forget.

August knows he is not welcome on Saiorse, not after the night everything changed. As a fire raged on at the Salt family orchard, Lily Morgan was found dead in the dark woods, shaking the bedrock of their tight-knit community and branding August a murderer. When he returns to bury his mother’s ashes, he must confront the people who turned their backs on him and face the one wound from his past that has never healed—Emery.

The town has more than one reason to want August gone, and the emergence of deep betrayals and hidden promises spanning generations threaten to reveal the truth behind Lily’s mysterious death once and for all.

This book was absolutely engrossing! Young’s writing always draws me in immediately, and this was no exception. Her writing is atmospheric, and Saoirse Island definitely has a vivid and memorable atmosphere. I’m not sure what to say about this novel. It was a compelling read and also quite dark, with only a few glimmers of hope in the darkness, but everything was so vibrant I experienced it right along with Emery.

Adrienne Young is a bestselling author. Spells for Forgetting is her newest novel. (Galley courtesy of Random House/Ballantine in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Book Haters’ Book Club, by Gretchen Anthony

Image belongs to Harlequin/Park Row.

Title: The Book Haters’ Book Club      
Author: Gretchen Anthony
Genre: Fiction   
Rating:  DNF

All it takes is the right book to turn a Book Hater into a Book Lover…

That was Elliott’s belief and the reason why he started The Book Haters’ Book Club—a newsletter of reading recommendations for the self-proclaimed “nonreader.” As the beloved co-owner of Over the Rainbow Bookstore, Elliott’s passion and gift was recommending books to customers. Now, after his sudden death, his grief-ridden business partner, Irma, has agreed to sell Over the Rainbow to a developer who will turn the cozy bookstore into high-rise condos.

But others won’t give up the bookstore without a fight. When Irma breaks the news to her daughters, Bree and Laney, and Elliott’s romantic partner, Thom, they are aghast. Over the Rainbow has been Bree and Laney’s sanctuary since childhood, and Thom would do anything to preserve Elliott’s legacy. Together, Thom, Bree and Laney conspire to save the bookstore, even if it takes some snooping, gossip and minor sabotage.

This just wasn’t a good fit for me. The book started off so slowly, and the characters came across as being hateful and rude to each other, so I just couldn’t read more than 20%–and even that felt like a slog.

Gretchen Anthony lives in Minneapolis. The Book Haters’ Book Club is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour:   The Girl from Guernica, by Karen Robards

Image belongs to Harlequin/MIRA.

TitleThe Girl from Guernica     
Author:   Karen Robards
Genre:  Historical fiction  
Rating:  5 out of 5

On an April day in 1937, the sky opens and fire rains down upon the small Spanish town of Guernica. Seventeen-year-old Sibi and her family are caught up in the horror. Griff, an American military attaché, pulls Sibi from the wreckage, and it’s only the first time he saves her life in a span of hours. When Germany claims no involvement in the attack, insisting the Spanish Republic was responsible, Griff guides Sibi to lie to Nazi officials. If she or her sisters reveal that they saw planes bearing swastikas, the gestapo will silence them—by any means necessary.

As war begins to rage across Europe, Sibi joins the underground resistance, secretly exchanging information with Griff. But as the scope of Germany’s ambitions becomes clear, maintaining the facade of a Nazi-sympathizer becomes ever more difficult. And as Sibi is drawn deeper into a web of secrets, she must find a way to outwit an enemy that threatens to decimate her family once and for all.  

I was hooked on this from the very first page! All the characters were so vivid and so believable, and the author did such a great job with them that I felt like I was right there with Sibi through everything, grieving and struggling and determined to do what was right—no matter what. I cannot recommend this highly enough!

Karen Robards is a bestselling author. The Girl from Guernica is her newest novel.

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

Book Review:  Don’t Let In the Cold, by Keely Parrack

Image belongs to Sourcebooks Fire.

Title Don’t Let In the Cold   
Author:  Keely Parrack
Genre: Mystery/thriller    
Rating:  4.0

It was supposed to be just one night in the cabin: one night for Lottie and her brand new stepsister, Jade, to try to get along. When a solar flare causes a massive blackout―no power or cell signal―Lottie knows they’ve got a long night ahead of them.

Then, in the dark, someone else shows up at the cabin―a stranger named Alex, claiming to be lost and needing shelter from the coming snowstorm. But later that night, Lottie spies him in the driveway talking to two mysterious men in a pickup truck, and she’s sure he’s lying about why he’s here.

Before Lottie can find out more, a fire forces her, Jade, and Alex out into the blizzard, where they must rely on one another to get to safety―wherever that is. In the remote, freezing Tahoe wilderness, they have to survive more than just the elements. Soon it becomes clear that Alex’s accomplices are hunting for all three of them, in a scheme that’s gone too far and taken a chilling, deadly turn.

This was a decent read—but only because I’m not reading it in the winter! To me, Alex was a red flag from the very beginning, but I liked him well enough, eventually.  I liked how the story was so focused on these three characters and their world—all the drama was condensed into a small, concentrated package.

Keely Parrack lives in San Francisco. Don’t Let in the Cold is her newest novel.

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

The Best Books I read in August (2022)

In August, I read 22 books, bringing my total for the year to 159 books. I also DNFed 12 books—that’s a LOT. There were some solid reads, some “meh” reads, and a handful of really good reads. The three I liked the most were:

Unwritten, by Charles Martin. I haven’t read many of Martin’s books—yet. I’m definitely going to plow through his backlist, because I’ve adored everything I’ve read of his, and this is no exception. His stories and characters just draw me in from the very first page.

Hello, Goodbye, by Kate Stollenwerck. This was at times an emotional read, but I enjoyed every single day. Gigi was such a great character, and I just loved her.

Lucy Checks In, by Dee Ernst. It was so nice to read a middle-aged MC for a change. One that’s having adventures, changing her world, and growing as a person. A lovely read!

Book Review and Blog Tour:   The Thread Collectors, by Shaunna J. Edwards; Alyson Richman

Image belongs to Harlequin/Graydon House.

TitleThe Thread Collectors     
Author:   Shaunna J. Edwards; Alyson Richman
Genre:  Historical fiction
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

1863: In a small Creole cottage in New Orleans, an ingenious young Black woman named Stella embroiders intricate maps on repurposed cloth to help enslaved men flee and join the Union Army. Bound to a man who would kill her if he knew of her clandestine activities, Stella has to hide not only her efforts but her love for William, a Black soldier and a brilliant musician.

Meanwhile, in New York City, a Jewish woman stitches a quilt for her husband, who is stationed in Louisiana with the Union Army. Between abolitionist meetings, Lily rolls bandages and crafts quilts with her sewing circle for other soldiers, too, hoping for their safe return home. But when months go by without word from her husband, Lily resolves to make the perilous journey South to search for him.

As these two women risk everything for love and freedom during the brutal Civil War, their paths converge in New Orleans, where an unexpected encounter leads them to discover that even the most delicate threads have the capacity to save us.

I really enjoyed this read! New Orleans is one of my favorite cities, but I don’t think I’ve ever read anything with quite this setting—it was both heartbreaking and inspirational. I liked all four main characters and was invested in their journeys, and it was lovely to see such hope in the midst of such a dark struggle. I love that this is inspired by both the authors’ family histories, and I truly enjoyed this tale.

Shauna Edwards lives in Harlem and Alyson Richman lives in Long Island. The Thread Collectors is their newest novel.

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

Book Review:   Lucy Checks In, by Dee Ernst

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title: Lucy Checks In    
Author: Dee Ernst   
Genre: Romance   
Rating:  5.0 out of 5

Lucia Giannetti needs a fresh start. Once the hotel manager of a glamorous NYC hotel and intimately involved with the hotel’s owner, Lucy had her entire future planned out. But when the owner disappears, taking millions of dollars with him, Lucy’s life as she knows it falls apart.

Two years later, forty-nine years old and unemployed, Lucy takes a job in Rennes, France to manage the Hotel Paradis. She pictures fur quilts and extravagant chandeliers, but what she finds is wildly different. Lucy is now in charge of turning the run-down, but charming hotel into a bustling tourist attraction. Between painting rooms, building a website, and getting to know Bing, the irritatingly attractive artist, Lucy finds an unexpected home. But can she succeed in bringing the Hotel Paradis to its former glory?

I would like to say:  I’ve never had a desire to visit France—except when I read books that make it seem so magical I absolutely must go. This was one of those books. Except the setting was really the Hotel Paradis, not France itself, so really, I want to go to this hotel and live.

I enjoyed this book immensely. I love that the main character was not a woman in her 20s or early 30s, but one almost 50. I love Lucia’s journey back to finding herself and confidence in herself just as much as the journey to restore the hotel. I also loved that romance took a backseat, not the driver’s seat in this story. This is just a wonderful book!

Dee Ernst is from New Jersey. Lucy Checks In is her newest novel.

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