Category: characters

Book Review:   Bloomsbury Girls, by Natalie Jenner

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title: Bloomsbury Girls
AuthorNatalie Jenner
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Bloomsbury Books is an old-fashioned new and rare book store that has persisted and resisted change for a hundred years, run by men and guided by the general manager’s unbreakable fifty-one rules. But in 1950, the world is changing, especially the world of books and publishing, and at Bloomsbury Books, the girls in the shop have plans:

Vivien Lowry: Single since her aristocratic fiance was killed in action during World War II, the brilliant and stylish Vivien has a long list of grievances – most of them well justified and the biggest of which is Alec McDonough, the Head of Fiction.

Grace Perkins: Married with two sons, she’s been working to support the family following her husband’s breakdown in the aftermath of the war. Torn between duty to her family and dreams of her own.

Evie Stone: In the first class of female students from Cambridge permitted to earn a degree, Evie was denied an academic position in favor of her less accomplished male rival. Now she’s working at Bloomsbury Books while she plans to remake her own future.

As they interact with various literary figures of the time – Daphne Du Maurier, Ellen Doubleday, Sonia Blair (widow of George Orwell), Samuel Beckett, Peggy Guggenheim, and others – these three women with their complex web of relationships, goals and dreams are all working to plot out a future that is richer and more rewarding than anything society will allow.

I think this got off to a little bit of a slow start, but it ended up being very good. I loved The Jane Austen Society, and it was so much fun seeing some of those characters again. I loved all three of the main female characters, and I was fully invested in their stories. It was lovely to see famous literary characters come to life, as well as the secondary characters in the bookstore itself.

Natalie Jenner is a bestselling author. The Bloomsbury Girls is her newest novel.

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

Book Review:   Kagen the Damned, by Jonathan Maberry

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:    Kagen the Damned
Author:    Jonathan Maberry
Genre:    Fantasy
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Sworn by Oath

Kagen Vale is the trusted and feared captain of the palace guard, charged with protection the royal children of the Silver Empire. But one night, Kagen is drugged and the entire imperial family is killed, leaving the empire in ruins.

Abandoned by the Gods

Haunted and broken, Kagen is abandoned by his gods and damned forever. He becomes a wanderer, trying to take down as many of this enemies as possible while plotting to assassinate the usurper–the deadly Witch-king of Hakkia. While all around him magic–long banished from the world—returns in strange and terrifying ways.

Fueled by Rage

To find the royal children and exact his vengeance, Kagen must venture into strange lands, battle bizarre and terrifying creatures, and gather allies for a suicide mission into the heart of the Witch-king’s empire.

Kings and gods will fear him.

This book took me a long time to read. Like, two entire weeks. The different cultures were so vivid and realistic, and I very much enjoyed that part of the story. The first third or so seemed to drag on a bit, although I liked Kagen enough to keep reading. I liked Tuke and his colorful language the most, though. Kagen spent a solid amount of time drinking himself into oblivion and feeling sorry for himself, so he kind of got on my nerves at times. I’d definitely keep reading this series though, just to find out how it all plays out.

Jonathan Maberry is a bestselling author. Kaen the Damned is his newest novel.

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

Book Review:  This May End Badly, by Samantha Markum

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

Title:   This May End Badly
Author:   Samantha Markum
Genre:   YA
Rating:  5 out of 5

Pranking mastermind Doe and her motley band of Weston girls are determined to win the century-long war against Winfield Academy before the clock ticks down on their senior year. But when their headmistress announces that The Weston School will merge with its rival the following year, their longtime feud spirals into chaos.

To protect the school that has been her safe haven since her parents’ divorce, Doe puts together a plan to prove once and for all that Winfield boys and Weston girls just don’t mix, starting with a direct hit at Three, Winfield’s boy king and her nemesis. In a desperate move to win, Doe strikes a bargain with Three’s cousin, Wells: If he fake dates her to get under Three’s skin, she’ll help him get back his rightful family heirloom from Three.

As the pranks escalate, so do her feelings for her fake boyfriend, and Doe spins lie after lie to keep up her end of the deal. But when a teacher long suspected of inappropriate behavior messes with a younger Weston girl, Doe has to decide what’s more important: winning a rivalry, or joining forces to protect something far more critical than a prank war legacy.

This book was just good, plain fun!  Sure, Doe did some pretty crappy things—and I never really understood her animosity towards Three—but I enjoyed this book from the very first page. Doe’s group of friends was great, and I liked that the guys were actually good guys, too, even if the girls couldn’t see that at first. Doe grows a lot in this story, and while sometimes that change was painful, I enjoyed the story very much. Especially the interactions between Doe and Wells. Her “stranger danger” made me laugh a lot.

Samantha Markum lives in St. Louis. This May End Badly is her debut novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour:   Fool Me Once, by Ashley Winstead

Image belongs to Harlequin/Graydon House.

Title:    Fool Me Once
Author:    Ashley Winstead
Genre:    Romance
Rating:  DNF

Lee Stone is a twenty-first-century woman: she kicks butt at her job as a communications director at a women-run electric car company (that’s better than Tesla, thank you) and after work she is “Stoner,” drinking guys under the table and never letting any of them get too comfortable in her bed…

 That’s because Lee’s learned one big lesson: never trust men. After four major heartbreaks set her straight, from her father cheating on her mom all the way to Ben Laderman in grad school—who wasn’t actually cheating, but she could have sworn he was, so she reciprocated in kind.

 Then Ben shows up five years later, working as a policy expert for the most liberal governor in Texas history, just as Lee is trying to get a clean energy bill rolling. Things get complicated—and competitive as Lee and Ben are forced to work together. Tension builds just as old sparks reignite, fanning the flames for a romantic dustup the size of Texas.

I read less than 10% of this before stopping. Lee might have learned never to trust men, but she sure hasn’t learned anything from her own bad behavior, and I just can’t stand to read any characters that are horrible people. And Lee qualifies. So no, thank you. I prefer characters that are decent human beings, not caricatures of a “twenty-first century woman” which, in this case, seems to be code for “selfish, hurtful, and completely frivolous”—and showing no sign of redemption.

 Ashley Winstead lives in Texas. Fool Me Once is her newest novel.

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

 

The Best Books I Read in February (2022)

In February, I had a lot of extra free time due to having surgery on the 1st: I read 26 books, and DNFed nine more (that’s really a lot for me, but if I found it the slightest bit boring, I just couldn’t do it). That brings me to 48 books read so far this year (only 202 to go to hit the goal I missed by six books last year…). Out of those 26, three of them really stood out:

The Bright Side Running Club, by Josie Lloyd. (So, the surgery I had this month was to remove an intermediate melanoma. I was blessed that the surgeon removed everything and the lymph node he removed was negative for metastatic melanoma—despite him thinking it looked very abnormal—so maybe I related to the ladies in this book a bit because of all that.)

This is about a group of women all going through different stages of breast cancer treatment, who meet and form a running club and an unbreakable friendship. This made me laugh and cry, and it was so, so good!

Sword and Shadow, by Michelle Sagara. I love the Chronicles of Elantra series and Severn is one of my favorite characters in that, so reading this series was a no-brainer. Getting to see what he was doing with his life before he and Kaylin met again is just pure enjoyment.

Edgewood, by Kristen Ciccarelli (review forthcoming 3/4). This was just pure magic from the very beginning! I loved everything about it, and couldn’t put it down. And the cover is gorgeous!

What I Read in February (2022)

Books Read in February: 26

Books Read for the Year:  48/250

Topical Books/Monthly Goal Books:

The Hawthorne Legacy, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (TBR). Loved this!

The Mystery of the Shemitah, by Jonathan Cahn (spiritual). Some of the data in this made it hard to absorb the details.

What Happens When Women Say Yes to God, by Lysa TerKeurst (spiritual). Excellent read.

Everything You Need: 8 Essential Steps to a Life of Confidence in the Promises of God, by David Jeremiah (spiritual). I enjoyed this.

Where are the Missing People, by Jimmy Evans (spiritual). This was an interesting read.

Twisted Twenty-Six, by Janet Evanovich (TBR). I needed the laugh Stephanie Plum always provides. #TeamRanger

Quicksilver, by Dean Koontz (TBR). I liked this new release by a favorite author. It reminded me quite a bit of the Odd Thomas books.

For Review:

The Family You Make, by Jill Shalvis. This was a solid romance read. I liked the group of friends in the novel, but didn’t find it very unique.

The Night She Went Missing, by Kristen Bird. I enjoyed this suspense read—at least the first half of it. The rest was…too far-fetched for me.

The Lady of Galway Manor, by Jennifer Deibel. I liked this historical fiction read set in Ireland. Sweet and fun.

Beyond the Lavender Fields, by Arlem Hawks. This historical read was set during the French Revolution, and I enjoyed the politics and watching the characters change and grow.

The Bright Side Running Club, by Josie Lloyd. I LOVED this read about women dealing with a breast cancer diagnosis.

Love & Saffron, by Kim Fay. This short historical fiction is told entirely in letters between two women.

Good Girl Complex, by Elle Kennedy. This was…beyond predictable, and most of the characters were kind of horrible people.

Sword and Shadow, by Michelle Sagara. I love the Chronicles of Elantra series, and I’m enjoying this spin-off series as well. Getting to know more about my favorite background character is fascinating.

Last Duke Standing, by Julia London. This was a fun, fluffy read that made me laugh. I’ve read some of the other Westloria books, and I always enjoying seeing familiar characters in the background.

Full Flight, by Ashley Schumacher. I enjoyed this light and fun YA read…until tragedy occurred about 85% of the way through. This tragedy didn’t make sense and seemed pointless, as it accomplished nothing, plot-wise.

The Paradox Hotel, by Rob Hart. This was…not that great. The main character was a horrible person to everyone around her.

The Sultan’s Court, by R.A. Denny. This is a continuation of a time-travel with the Puritans adventure.

Come As You Are, by Jennifer Haupt (review forthcoming). This was a bit dark. It deals with depression and addiction in the Seattle grunge scene. The music is a bit of a flashback.

Edgewood, by Kristen Ciccarelli (review forthcoming). I thought this was pure magic from the very first scene. Loved it!

Daughter, by Kate McLaughlin (review forthcoming). This was a solid read. The things Scarlet and her mom go through because people don’t like her father are horrifying, but I enjoyed the read.

A Far Wilder Magic, by Allison Saft (review forthcoming). This was a decent read. An odd mix of present day cultures and cultures just a bit skewed, but it wasn’t enough to make me stop reading or anything.

The Suite Spot, by Trish Doller (review forthcoming). I loved this read! I enjoyed the first one, too, but I loved the body positivity and the sense of community in this book.

The Valet’s Secret, by Josi S. Kilpack (review forthcoming). This was a decent read, although it seemed a bit far-fetched to me (an earl’s heir and a maid?).

My Darling Husband, by Kimberly Belle (review forthcoming). This was a solid thriller read, although I didn’t care for Cam and all his secrets and lies.

Left Unfinished:

Clean Air, by Sarah Blake. I read about 15% of this, but it just didn’t hold my interest. I don’t read much scifi, and that’s probably why, as the POV and the action just felt too distant for me to enjoy.

The Last Grand Duchess, by Bryn Turnbull. I tried. I really did. I loved Turnbull’s previous book, The Woman Before Wallis, but this one felt so much slower. I made it about 50% of the way through before giving up because every page felt like it was in slow motion. Historical novels about the Romanov family usually fascinate me, so I kept on reading longer than I probably should have, but in the end, this just wasn’t a good fit for me right now. The glimpses of the cluelessness of Olga’s parents drove me crazy, and her own naivete about reality combined with the slow pace were just too much for me.

The Violence, by Delilah S. Dawson. This was…beyond far-fetched to me. The female characters all felt like cookie cutter versions of the same person, with very little knowledge of reality.

The Arc, by Tory Henwood Hoen. I made it 12% before giving up on this pretentious drivel.

The Harbor, by Katrine Engberg. I read 15% of this “thriller” and found myself bored with its leisurely pace and complete lack of urgency.

Red Burning Sky, by Tom Young. I’m very hit or miss with military fiction, so this just wasn’t a good fit for me.

The Lost Dreamer, by Lizz Huerta. I read 20% of this, but it was so slooow. Loved the culture, but the intricacies had me a bit lost, as there was nothing to give context.

Killing Time, by Brenna Ehrlich. Natalie acts like she’s about 12, not a person who just graduated high school. I read about 15% of this—I think—but I was just bored. Natalie’s mom comes across as a tyrant who wants to control every aspect of her daughter’s life without an explanation for why, but Natalie is just pointlessly rebellious in response, and again, childish. The “new boy” in town was borderline creepy. In the end, I just didn’t care enough about these characters to continue reading

The Tsarina’s Daughter, by Ellen Alpsten. I love well-done historical fiction. And this was well-written. I just could not get into it. Elizabeth came across as superficial and spoiled, and this started off so slowly that it lost my interest. Not a bad book, just not a good fit for me at this time.

Book Review:  The Bright Side Running Club, by Josie Lloyd

Image belongs to Alcove Press

Title:   The Bright Side Running Club
Author:   Josie Lloyd
Genre:   Fiction
Rating:  5 out of 5

When Keira first receives her breast cancer diagnosis, she never expects to end up joining a running group with three women she’s only just met. Totally blind-sided, all she can think about is how she doesn’t want to tell her family or step back from work. Nor does she want to be part of a group of fellow cancer patients. Cancer is not her club.

 And yet it’s running – hot, sweaty, lycra-clad running in the company of brilliant, funny women all going through treatment – that unexpectedly gives Keira the hope she so urgently needs. Because Keira will not be defined by the C-word. And now, with the Bright Side Running Club cheering her on, she is going to reclaim everything: her family, her identity, and her life.

 One step at a time.

 I enjoyed this book so much! I loved Keira as a character, and I loved all the secondary characters as well (except her horrible coworkers). Her journey was both terrible and inspiring as she deals with a terrifying diagnosis and the treatment that isn’t much better. I loved how much she learned about herself and the people in her life, and I’ll admit the book brought me to tears a time or two. I highly recommend!

Josie Lloyd is from Brighton. The Bright Side Running Club is her newest novel.

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

 

The Best Books I Read in January (2022)

In January I read 21 books towards my goal of 250 books read this year. Most of these were decent or solid reads, but a few stood out.

Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone, by Diana Gaboldon. I just love this series, and these books are always perfect for me: hefty tomes that are fantastically detailed with writing and storytelling that keeps me glued to the page.

Seeing Jesus from the East, by Ravi Zacharias and Abdu Murray. This was a fascinating read that gave me a lot of insight.

The Last House on the Street, by Diane Chamberlain. The historical part of this book almost broke me. That’s really all I can say about it. Highly recommend.

Book Review:  All of Us Villains, by Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman

Image belongs to Macmillan-Tor/Forge, Tor Teen.

Title:   All of Us Villains
Author:   Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman
Genre:   Fantasy, YA
Rating:  4.0 out of 5

The Blood Moon rises. The Blood Veil falls. The Tournament begins. 

Every generation, at the coming of the Blood Moon, seven families in the remote city of Ilvernath each name a champion to compete in a tournament to the death. 

The prize? Exclusive control over a secret wellspring of high magick, the most powerful resource in the world–one thought long depleted. 

This year, thanks to a salacious tell-all book, the seven champions are thrust into worldwide spotlight, granting each of them new information, new means to win, and most importantly: a choice – accept their fate or rewrite their story.

 But this is a story that must be penned in blood. 

This was a pretty dark read. Every time I though I liked a character, they did something awful, stabbed someone in the back, killed someone…Honestly, I’m not sure how I feel about this read. It’s well-written, with strong characters and lots of action, but it’s just so dark.

Amanda Foody lives in Boston. Christine Lynn Herman lives in Brooklyn. All of Us Villians is their new novel.

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

Book Review:  Aria’s Travelling Book Shop, by Rebecca Raisin

Image belongs to Harper 360.

Title: Aria’s Travelling Book Shop  
Author Rebecca Raisin
Genre:   Fiction
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

This summer will change everything! 

Aria Summers knows what she wants. 

A life on the road with best friend Rosie and her beloved camper-van-cum-book-shop, and definitely, definitely, no romance.

 But when Aria finds herself falling – after one too many glasses of wine, from a karaoke stage – into the arms of Jonathan, a part of her comes back to life for the first time in years. 

Since her beloved husband died Aria has sworn off love, unless it’s the kind you can find in the pages of a book. One love of her life is quite enough.

 And so Aria tries to forget Jonathan and sets off for a summer to remember in France. But could this trip change Aria’s life forever…?

This was such a fun read! I enjoyed Rosie’s story before this, and Aria’s story was just as enjoyable. Tea and books:  my favorites. I relished all the literary references, and Aria has such a knack for landing herself in scrapes that it made me laugh. A quick read that’s just pure pleasure.

Rebecca Raisin loves books. Aria’s Travelling Book Shop is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harper 360 in exchange for an honest review.)