Category: characters

Book Review: Son of the Poison Rose, by Jonathan Maberry   

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:  Son of the Poison Rose     
Author:   Jonathan Maberry
Genre: Fantasy    
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

The Silver Empire is in ruins. War is in the wind. Kagen and his allies are on the run from the Witch-king. Wild magic is running rampant everywhere. Spies and secret cabals plot from the shadows of golden thrones.

Kagen Vale is the most wanted man in the world, with a death sentence on his head and a reward for him—dead or alive—that would tempt a saint.

The Witch-king has new allies who bring a terrible weapon—a cursed disease that drives people into a murderous rage. If the disease is allowed to spread, the whole of the West will tear itself apart.

In order to build an army of resistance fighters and unearth magical weapons of his own, Kagen and his friends have to survive attacks and storms at sea, brave the haunted wastelands of the snowy north, fight their way across the deadly Cathedral Mountains, and rediscover a lost city filled with cannibal warriors, old ghosts, and monsters from other worlds. Along with his reckless adventurer brothers, Kagen races against time to save more than the old empire… if he fails the world will be drenched in a tsunami of bloodshed and horror.

I enjoyed this read a lot! It took a while to read, but that wasn’t a bad thing. The first book, it took me a bit to get into. This one did not. Kagen’s banter with his friends is the best part to me, but I loved all the action and trying to guess what would happen next. This is a very solid epic fantasy—and I can’t wait to read the next one.

Jonathan Maberry is a bestselling author. Son of the Poison Rose is his newest novel.

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

Book Review: Against the Currant, by Olivia Matthews   

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title: Against the Currant     
Author:  Olivia Matthews   
Genre: Mystery    
Rating:  4 out of 5

Little Caribbean, Brooklyn, New York: Lyndsay Murray is opening Spice Isle Bakery with her family, and it’s everything she’s ever wanted. The West Indian bakery is her way to give back to the community she loves, stay connected to her Grenadian roots, and work side-by-side with her family. The only thing getting a rise out of Lyndsay is Claudio Fabrizi, a disgruntled fellow bakery owner who does not want any competition.

On opening day, he comes into the bakery threatening to shut them down. Fed up, Lyndsay takes him to task in front of what seems to be the whole neighborhood. So when Claudio turns up dead a day later—murdered—Lyndsay is unfortunately the prime suspect. To get the scent of suspicion off her and her bakery, Lyndsay has to prove she’s innocent—under the watchful eyes of her overprotective brother, anxious parents, and meddlesome extended family—what could go wrong?

I really liked the cultural aspects in this book! They absolutely fascinated me. I found myself looking up soca music and some of the foods—which sounded amazing—just to settle myself a little more deeply into the characters’ culture. I think Lyndsay is a great character:  she’s grown a lot from childhood, but she’s still fighting not to go back to old habits. And this isn’t a romance—unusual for a cozy mystery—although the potential is there for the future. The vibrant characters kept me engaged, and there was never a dull moment while reading this.

Olivia Matthews is a bestselling author. Against the Currant is her newest novel.

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

Book Review:   One Duke Down, by Anna Bennett

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title: One Duke Down       
Author:   Anna Bennett  
Genre:  Romance   
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

A FISHERMAN’S DAUGHTER
Miss Poppy Summers is determined to keep her family’s fishing business afloat. Her poor widowed father has fallen ill, and her foolhardy brother has moved to London, leaving her precious little time to read or pursue her own dreams. But she’ll do anything for her family, so she cheerfully spends mornings in her rowboat, casting her nets. The very last thing Poppy expects or wants to find tangled in them is a dangerously attractive man. Especially one with a head wound—who’s convinced he’s a duke.

AND A DUKE OUT OF WATER
Andrew Keane is the Duke of Hawking, but he’s having the devil of a time convincing his fiery-haired rescuer of that fact. The truth is he came to the seaside resort of Bellehaven Bay to escape his life in London. Unfortunately, someone in Bellehaven wants to kill him—and he intends to find out who. He implores Poppy to tend to his injuries and hide him on her beach, reasoning it will be easier to find his attacker if that man assumes Keane is already dead. She wants no part of the scheme but can’t refuse the generous sum he offers in exchange for food and shelter while he recovers. It’s a mutually beneficial business arrangement…nothing more.

ARE ABOUT TO MAKE WAVES
Under Poppy’s care, Keane regains his strength—and a sense of purpose. As they work together to solve the puzzle of his would-be murderer, he’s dazzled by her rapier wit and adventurous spirit; she’s intrigued by his mysterious air and protective streak. Though Poppy’s past gives her every reason to mistrust someone like Keane, the seawalls around her heart crumble in the storm of their passion. But when clues hint at the prime suspect in Keane’s attempted murder, Poppy must decide where her loyalties lie. Torn between the world she’s always known and the one she’s always dreamed of, she’ll need true love for a shot at her fairytale ending.

I really enjoyed this read!  I like that it’s a linked standalone in the Rogues to Lovers series, because I really liked the first read in the series, too. I thought Poppy was a great character, and I loved how she took no nonsense from anyone—including her family! Keane was also a great character, and I loved the interplay between he and Poppy. This is a perfect binge read!

Anna Bennett lives in Maryland. One Duke Down is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: A Guide to Being Just Friends, by Sophie Sullivan

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title: A Guide to Being Just Friends       
Author:  Sophie Sullivan   
Genre: Romance    
Rating:  4 out of 5

Hailey Sharp has a one-track mind. Get By the Cup salad shop off the ground. Do literally everything possible to make it a success. Repeat. With a head full of entrepreneurial ideas and a bad ex in her rearview, her one and only focus is living life the way she wants to. No distractions.

Wes Jansen never did understand the fuss about relationships. With a string of lackluster first dates and the pain from his parents’ angry divorce following him around, he’d much rather find someone who he likes, but won’t love. Companionship, not passion, is the name of the game.

When Hailey and Wes find each other in a disastrous meet cute that wasn’t even intended for them, they embarrassingly go their separate ways. But when Wes finds Hailey to apologize for his behavior, they strike a friendship. Because that’s all this can be. Hailey doesn’t want any distractions. Wes doesn’t want to fall in love.

What could possibly go wrong?

First, a confession:  when the previous book in this series came out, I tried it, and could absolutely not stand the main characters. They were both jerks. I didn’t actually realize this until halfway through reading this one.

Hailey’s salad shop totally intrigued me, and I enjoyed her personality and growth a lot. Wes was…a lot. I’m pretty sure I’d have smacked him a time or two. How can any one person be so oblivious to the feelings of other people? (Hang on. Maybe go ask my ex that question.) This ended up being a quick, enjoyable read…but I still wouldn’t recommend that previous book.

Sophie Sullivan is from Canada. A Guide to Being Just Friends is her newest novel.

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

The Best Books I Read in December (2022)

In December, I read 18 books, bringing my yearly total to 216 books, pretty far short of my goal of 250 books.

I’m going to make an exception this month and pick four “best books,” because two of them are by the same author and are basically connected.

I’m a massive fan of Charles Martin, and will basically devour anything he writes, but this month, I discovered his two non-fiction books, What if It’s True? and They Turned the World Upside Down. I never write in books, but I highlighted in in the second one, cried over both, and listened to the first on audio book (the author narrates, and it was just so wonderful to listen to.) Both were phenomenal reads.

The Secret Society of Salzburg, by Renee Ryan. This was an excellent WWII fiction! I enjoyed every single page.

Saint, by Adrienne Young. I’ve enjoyed all of Young’s books, but reading this prequel to the Fable books was wonderful!

Book Review:  The Secret Society of Salzburg, by Renee Ryan

Image belongs to Harlequin.

Title: The Secret Society of Salzburg      
Author:   Renee Ryan
Genre: Historical fiction   
Rating:  5 out of 5

London, 1933

At first glance, Austrian opera singer Elsa Mayer-Braun has little in common with the young English typist she encounters on tour. Yet she and Hattie Featherstone forge an instant connection—and strike a dangerous alliance. Using their friendship as a cover, they form a secret society with a daring goal: to rescue as many Jews as possible from Nazi persecution.

Though the war’s outbreak threatens Elsa and Hattie’s network, their efforts attract the covert attention of the British government, offering more opportunities to thwart the Germans. But Elsa’s growing fame as Hitler’s favorite opera singer, coupled with her secret Jewish ancestry, make her both a weapon and a target—until her future, too, hangs in the balance.

From the glamorous stages of Covent Garden and Salzburg to the horrors of Bergen-Belsen, two ordinary women swept up by the tide of war discover an extraordinary friendship—and the courage to save countless lives.

I love World War II historical fiction. That being said, I did DNF one just a couple of weeks ago. I wasn’t ever in danger of putting this book down, though! Both Hattie and Elsa were fascinating characters, and I was fully invested in both of their stories. I wanted to see them succeed beyond their wildest dreams—and it was exhilarating seeing that happen on the page.

World War II was one of the most horrific times in world history, but seeing Hattie and Elsa jump in, determined to help Jewish people despite the danger to themselves was inspiring and uplifting. I truly loved every page of this book!

Renee Ryan grew up in Florida and now lives in Wisconsin. The Secret Society of Salzburg is her newest novel.

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

The Best Books I Read in November (2022)

In November, I only read eight books. EIGHT!! I can’t remember the last month I had only a single-digit reading month. This leaves me at 198 books for the year, waaaaay short of my yearly goal of 250. Oh well. of those, one was fantastic and two were very good.

Greywaren, by Maggie Stiefvater. Man, I love these characters! I kind of feel like some old friends just moved away and left me behind now.

Never Rescue a Rogue, by Virginia Heath. This was a fun read! I enjoyed seeing more of the Merriwell sisters and their antics.

The Wilderwomen by Ruth Emmie Lang. I enjoyed this second novel, and another filled with magical realism. The older sister was a bit of a selfish jerk, and that was almost enough to make me want to put the book down, but I ended up enjoying it.

What I Read in November (2022)

Books Read in November: 8

Books Read for the Year:  198/250

Topical Books/Monthly Goal Books:

Greywaren, by Maggie Stiefvater (TBR). Man. I’m sad to see this series end. I love these characters, and I’ve enjoyed all the hours I’ve spent with them through the years. Great read!

The Handwriting on the Wall, by David Jeremiah (spiritual/TBR). This was a fascinating read.

Jane in Love, by Rachel Givney (audio, TBR). This…greatly annoyed me, actually.Jane was beyond annoying—and you don’t mess with Jane Austen like that.

Welcome to the School by the Sea, by Jane Beaton. This was such a fun read!

The Library at the End of the World by Felicity Hayes-McCoy. I enjoyed the setting of this novel immensely. The characters were a bit meh, though.

For Review:

Never Rescue a Rogue by Virginia Health. I enjoyed the first book in this series, and I loved this one, too. Quirky characters that aren’t afraid to be themselves are my jam, and the Merriwell sisters have that attitude in spades. This was a fun read!

The Wilderwomen, by Emmie Ruth Lang. I liked this read, although I wasn’t too sure about the older sister for a while. She was pretty selfish and oblivious to everyone else. I liked this author’s previous book, so it was nice to see this one live up to that. Gorgeous cover, too.

Just Because:

The 28-Day Prayer Journey, by Chrystal Evan Hurst.

Left Unfinished:

Salt and Sugar by Rebecca Carvalho. This felt very juvenile and contrived, and I made it to less than 15%.

What We Never Say, by Paulette Stout. Okay, so…the topic of this book was very intriguing. The execution? Was sub-par, at best. These characters did not feel realistic in the slightest. Kyle’s reactions felt like the reaction a woman would have in the situation, not a man. And Rebecca was selfish and completely unconcerned with Kyle’s feelings, thinking only of herself and how things would make her look.

Children of Ragnarok, by Cinda Williams Chima. I read the first 15% of this and found it boring. Very slow, and the characters just seemed tedious. Solid writing, just not a good fit for me.

The Magic Kingdom, by Russell Banks. This cover is absolutely gorgeous! The book…well, I only made it about 5% of the way into it because it felt sooooo sloooow. I’m not saying the beginning of a book needs to be at warp speed—that definitely depends on the genre—but a leisurely meander was not what was going to keep my attention.

The Hiker by M. J. Ford. I read 20% of this and it didn’t capture my interest at all. It was slow and the two sisters seemed like selfish jerks.

Defending Alice by Richard Stratton. The premise of this sounded fascinating. The reality of it was excruciatingly drawn out, repetitive, and, frankly, pointless. I love reading about the 20s, but do you really expect me to to believe that this girl of supposedly good character would describe her sex life to a lawyer she barely knows in graphic detail? Really? The repetitive details did nothing at all to enhance the plot, and I was bored in the first ten percent.

Book Review:   The Wilderwomen, by Ruth Emmie Lang

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   The Wilderwomen    
Author:  Ruth Emmie Lang  
Genre:  Fantasy  
Rating:  4 out of 5

Five years ago, Nora Wilder disappeared. The older of her two daughters, Zadie, should have seen it coming, because she can literally see things coming. But not even her psychic abilities were able to prevent their mother from vanishing one morning.

Zadie’s estranged younger sister, Finn, can’t see into the future, but she has an uncannily good memory, so good that she remembers not only her own memories, but the echoes of memories other people have left behind. On the afternoon of her graduation party, Finn is seized by an “echo” more powerful than anything she’s experienced before: a woman singing a song she recognizes, a song about a bird…

When Finn wakes up alone in an aviary with no idea of how she got there, she realizes who the memory belongs to: Nora.

Now, it’s up to Finn to convince her sister that not only is their mom still out there, but that she wants to be found. Against Zadie’s better judgement, she and Finn hit the highway, using Finn’s echoes to retrace Nora’s footsteps and uncover the answer to the question that has been haunting them for years: Why did she leave?

But the more time Finn spends in their mother’s past, the harder it is for her to return to the present, to return to herself. As Zadie feels her sister start to slip away, she will have to decide what lengths she is willing to go to to find their mother, knowing that if she chooses wrong, she could lose them both for good.

At first, I wasn’t sure I was going to like Zadie too much. She tended towards being self-absorbed and oblivious to how she hurt other people’s feelings. She grew on me a bit as she started to become—slightly—more self-aware. Finn seemed so young to me:  doing everything on a whim and a prayer and not bothering to think a single thing through before leaping into thin air. I really enjoyed the sisters’ relationship, and became invested in their search for their mother and finding out what happened to her.

Ruth Emmie Lang was born in Scotland but now lives in Ohio. The Wilderwomen is her newest novel.

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

Book Review:  The Stolen Book of Evelyn Aubrey, by Serena Burdick

Image belongs to Harlequin/Park Row.

Title: The Stolen Book of Evelyn Aubrey    
Author:  Serena Burdick  
Genre:   historical fiction
Rating:  5 out of 5

What if you could write a new ending for yourself?

England, 1898. When Evelyn first married the famous novelist William Aubrey, she was dazzled by his brilliance. But their newlywed bliss is brief when William is gripped by writer’s block, and he becomes jealous of Evelyn’s writing talent. When he commits the ultimate betrayal–stealing a draft of her novel and passing it off as his own–Evelyn decides to write her way out of their unhappy marriage.

California, 2006. Abigail always wondered about her father, his identity forever lost when her mother unexpectedly died. Or so Abigail thought, until she stumbled upon his photo and a message that her great-great-grandmother was the author Evelyn Aubrey, leading Abigail on a journey to England in search for answers. There, she learns of Evelyn’s shocking disappearance and how London society believed she was murdered. But from what she uncovers about Evelyn, Abigail believes her brilliant great-great-grandmother had another plot up her sleeve.

When I first started reading this, Abby was such a self-absorbed, selfish person that I almost stopped reading. I held out until she went to England, and then, as she started growing, I got more interested. Following the mystery of Evelyn made her a much more interesting character—and learning more about her own parents, especially her messed-up mother, allowed her to work through her own issues.

Evelyn was my favorite character:  she ended up caught in a very tough situation, but she was smart enough to figure a way out. I wanted to smack her husband—and his mistress—several times, but she somehow managed to turn the other cheek and make a life of safety for herself. This ended up being a fascinating and engrossing read—despite the slow (due to a character issue) start.

Serena Burdick lives in Massachusetts. The Stolen Book of Evelyn Aubrey is her newest novel.

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