Category: characters

The Best Books I Read in February (2020)

I read 22 books in February, bringing my total for the year to 42.

The three best of these were:

the robe

The Robe, by Lloyd C. Douglas. I first read this so long ago that I remembered nothing about it, but it’s the story of Marcellus, a Roman soldier who wins Christ’s robe at Golgotha, and then sets out to find out the truth about the Nazarene carpenter. I enjoyed so much seeing Biblical figures come to life!

isaiah's legacy

Isaiah’s Legacy, by Mesu Andrews. The story of Manasseh, a biblical king who did great evil, and how he comes to know Yahweh. I love Mesu Andrews’ way of bringing biblical tales to life, and this was a wonderful read.

the grace kelly dress

The Grace Kelly Dress, by Brenda Janowitz. Three women. Three weddings. One dress. The story of three generations of women and the dress they all wore at their wedding. I loved this!

Book Review: Isaiah’s Legacy, by Mesu Andrews

isaiah's legacy
Image belongs to WaterBrook.

Title:  Isaiah’s Legacy
AuthorMesu Andrews  
Genre:  Biblical fiction, historical
Rating:  5 out of 5

Eight-year-old Shulle only knows a simple life in her small village, caring for her father, who’s different from everyone else. He may be different, but Shulle loves him deeply, and does her best to help him every day. Then her uncle, Shebna, arrives, and asks her to return to Jerusalem to help him teach young Prince Manasseh, who shares many of her father’s oddities, and Shulle agrees to help the prince.

Once in Jerusalem, she befriends Manasseh, who soon grows dependent on her. But Shebna teaches her about the starry hosts, whose power she admires and yearns for, while her father reveres Yahweh, the god of the Hebrews. Shulle tempts Manasseh with powers of the starry hosts, turning the prince away from the god of his fathers.

When Manasseh becomes king at a young age, he insists on marrying Shulle and whisking her away on an extended trip. Assyria’s crown prince turns Manasseh to cruelty—and far from Yahweh’s love. When Manasseh’s cruelty grows, Shulle must turn to the god she never knew as the only one who can comfort her—and save her family.

I loved this story! Mesu Andrew’s writing brings this biblical story to life in heartrending detail and entranced me from the very beginning. She’s a wonderful writer, and I love how she brings biblical stories off the pages and makes the characters living, breathing people. This story is sad in places, horrifying in others, but every word feels truthful.

Mesu Andrews lives in the Appalachian Mountains. Isaiah’s Legacy is her newest novel.

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

What I Read In January (2020)

Books Read in January: 20

Books Read for the Year: 20/200

Topical Books/Monthly Goal Books:

I changed it up a bit this year. Instead of reading one book in each of my five categories (spiritual, classic, nonfiction, cultural, TBR), I’m still reading five books…but one classical, one spiritual, and three from my TBR, which has gotten completely out of control.

Keep It Shut, by Karen Ehman (spiritual). This was a good read, full of solid suggestions.

The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame (classic). Eh. Toad was annoying enough to kind of ruin the whole thing for me.

Nine Perfect Strangers, by Liane Moriarity (TBR). I really wasn’t impressed with this at all. I had high hopes, but it was very slow.

A Conspiracy in Belgravia, by Sherry Thomas (TBR). I thoroughly enjoyed this! Charlotte and her multiple chins…

All That’s Bright and Strange, by James Market (TBR). This was quite odd.

For Review:

jan anonymous

Jane Anonymous, by Laurie Faria Stolarz. This was a…I don’t know, sad, hard, inspiring, difficult, take your pick of adjectives…read. Jane has a normal teenage life until she is kidnapped by a stranger and held captive for seven months before she manages to escape. She makes friends with a fellow prisoner, and his support is what helps her make it through.  But going back to her old life is not so simple.

the night country

The Night Country, by Melissa Albert. Dark fairy tales are back in this excellent follow-up to The Hazel Wood. I think I liked it better than the first one!

the little bookshop

The Little Bookshop on the Seine, by Rebecca Raisin. I loved this book! I loved both bookshops, and, although Paris isn’t really on my list of places, I really enjoyed Sarah’s adventures there. Even better that this is not really a romance, but a story of a woman coming into her own.

westering women

Westering Women, by Sandra Dallas. I loved the idea of an all-women wagon train headed west, but the actual execution didn’t live up to my expectation. The writing felt rushed and abrupt in places.

a beginning at the end

A Beginning at the End, by Mike Chen. This was not your typical dystopian novel. It pretty much avoided telling about what exactly happened to kill off most of the world’s population, and instead focused on a detailed look at a handful of characters a few years later, as they struggled with their own problems in a world turned on its head.

i've seen the end of you

I’ve Seen the End of You, by W. Lee Warren, MD. This was an incredible read! Nonfiction, written by a brain surgeon who thinks he knows how each of his patients will fare, which causes him to struggle with his own faith—until he experiences an unfathomable personal tragedy.

everywhere holy

Everywhere Holy, by Kara Lawler. I enjoyed this so much!

THE VANISHED BIRDS

The Vanished Birds, by Simon Jiminez. I’m…a little mad I finished this, because I feel like it was a waste of my time. The writing is great, but the story just wasn’t for me.

big lies in a small town

Big Lies in a Small Town, by Diane Chamberlain. This started off a little slow, but eventually the dual timelines both had me intrigued.

don't read the comments

Don’t Read the Comments, by Eric Smith. Although about a serious subject—cyber-bullying and sexual harassment—the tone was light and made the entire book quick to read.

the prized girl

The Prized Girl, by Amy K. Green. I realized when I finished this that I really didn’t like any of the characters.

echoes between us

Echoes Between Us, by Katie McGarry. I thoroughly enjoyed this! Flawed characters, and the MC’s quirks made me want to hang out with her—and her friends.

Off Script, by Kate Watson (review forthcoming). I’m still a little undecided about this. It was a fun read, but the self-absorbed characters almost did me in.

Highfire, by Eoin Colfer (review forthcoming). This was such a unique take on dragons and their mythology! I really enjoyed it and the tone/voice of the entire book

Everyday Hero, by Laura Trentham (review forthcoming). Redemption and renewal are the focus of this book. I loved snarky Greer, and Emmett was an amazing character!

Left Unfinished:

Lean on Me, by Pat Simmons. I loved the cover! But…the characters felt so cliched —like caricatures—I just could not make myself care.

The Companion, by Kim Taylor Blakemore. Dark, depressing, and all the characters were unlikable.

Zed, by Joanna Kaavenna. I couldn’t get all the cutesy tech/app/AI names straight, and the POV was too distant for me.

Dark Mother Earth, by Kristian Novak. This might have been a really good book—I loved the premise—but the MC started out as someone who just sat around and felt sorry for himself, and I just wasn’t in the right mindset for that.

Followers, by Megan Angelo. Definitely a case of the book just not being a good fit for me. I’m not a fan of social media in general, so a book focused on that just succeeded in annoying me. My issue, not the book.

Book Review: Echoes Between Us, by Katie McGarry

echoes between us
Image belongs to Tor Teen.

Title:  Echoes Between Us
AuthorKatie McGarry
Genre:  YA
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Veronica is the weird girl at school. Before, she had her small circle of friends to keep her grounded, but this year, she’s alone. Veronica sees ghosts. Well, she sees her mother’s ghost. With the blinding headaches—a symptom of her benign brain tumor—she’s afraid to tell anyone she sees ghosts. She doesn’t want to speak the possibility the ghosts are something more into existence—even when the ghosts start bothering the downstairs tenants.

Sawyer is a golden boy at school:  handsome and the star swimmer on the school team. But Sawyer is hiding dark secrets. His mom is an alcoholic, so Sawyer takes care of everything at home and his little sister. And Sawyer is addicted to thrill-seeking. That’s how he broke his arm—although he’s never told anyone the truth. But when Sawyer gets to know Veronica, he realizes that maybe he’s not the only one with demons to conquer.

Veronica is such a great character! I mean, denial is clearly her modus operandi, but I can’t really blame her for that. She’s strong and feisty, yet she struggles with what she’s lost and is afraid to let anyone else in. Sawyer is just as good at keeping others out, but his secrets affect more than himself. And I love the secondary characters and their friendships with Veronica and Sawyer. I’d love to read more about these characters!

Katie McGarry is a writer and a mom. Echoes Between Us is her newest novel.

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

Blog Tour and Book Review: Cast in Wisdom, by Michelle Sagara

cast in wisdom
Image belongs to Harlequin/MIRA.

Title:  Cast in Wisdom
AuthorMichelle Sagara
Genre:  Fantasy
Rating:  5 out of 5

In the aftermath of the events in the High Halls, there are loose ends. One of those loose ends is the fieflord, Candallar. In an attempt to understand his involvement—with the Barrani, with the High Court, and with the much hated Arcanum—Kaylin has been sent to the fiefs.

 She has mixed feelings about this. There’s nothing mixed about her feelings when she discovers a very unusual building in the border zone between two fiefs, and far more questions are raised than are answered. Her attempt to get answers leads her back to the Imperial Palace and its resident Dragon librarian, the Arkon.

 Things that were lost in the dim past were not, perhaps, destroyed or obliterated—and what remains appears to be in the hands of a fieflord and his allies—allies who would like to destroy Kaylin’s friends, the Emperor, and possibly the Barrani High Court itself. This is bad.

 What’s worse: The librarian who hates to leave his library has a very strong interest in the things that might, just might, have been preserved, and—he is leaving his library to do in person research, no matter what Kaylin, the Hawks, or the Emperor think.

 He is not the only one. Other people are gathering in the border zone; people who believe knowledge is power. But power is also power, and it might be too late for the Empire’s most dedicated Historian—and Kaylin and her friends, who’ve been tasked with his safety.

As always, I love the books in this series! I feel like Kaylin, with her fierce desire to help others, tendency to speak—and act—without thinking, and ability to find trouble even when not looking for it, could be me. The relationships in this series grow deeper and more complex with every novel, and the world and cultures more vibrant. I was eager to see where this adventure led—and of course it did not disappoint! Highly recommended!

Michelle Sagara is the author of The Chronicles of Elantra. Cast in Wisdom is the newest—and fifteenth—book in the series.

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

What I Read in November (2019)

Books Read in November: 22

Books Read for the Year: 210/175

Topical Books/Monthly Goal Books:

Discerning the Voice of God, by Priscilla Shirer (spiritual). Loved this!

Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte, (classic). Can we talk about how much I disliked EVERY SINGLE character? Seriously. I read this 20+ years ago and had forgotten just about all of it. Wishing it had remained that way…

The Knife of Never Letting Go, by Patrick Ness (TBR). Honestly…I thought this sucked. It just wasn’t to my taste at all.

On the Shoulders of Hobbits, by Louis Markos (nonfiction). This was a really fascinating read about faith and fiction.

The Pearl Thief, by Elizabeth E. Wein. (cultural). The first I’ve read by this author, and I enjoyed it.

For Review:

we met in december

We Met in December, by Rosie Curtis. This was such a fun read! I enjoyed discovering London and all Jess’s adventures as she falls for her charming flatmate.

the family upstairs

The Family Upstairs, by Lisa Jewell. This was a creepy read, and one almost unbelievable to me. If everyone sees the signs their life is becoming a cult, why not take action, before people die?

the bake shop

The Bake Shop, by Amy Clipston. I thoroughly enjoyed this Amish romance about Christiana, who opens a bake shop in the Amish marketplace, next to the cranky Jeff, who just can’t seem to get his words to come out right.

9781335008480.indd

Day Zero, by Kelly deVos. Jinx’s dad is a doomsday prepper, so she’s spent years training for the end of the world. When it happens, though, Jinx is stuck trying to take care of her little brother, her opinionated stepsister, her stepbrother…pretty much everyone, as they struggle to find her dad, accused of causing the destruction. But the truth is far harsher than the rumors.

navigating the stars

Navigating the Stars, by Maria V. Snyder. Sci-fi, YA, romance…Terra Cotta Warriors are found on other planets, and Lyra’s parents are the experts studying them. How cool is that premise? I couldn’t put this one down!

tracking game

Tracking Game, by Margaret Mizushima. I wasn’t really a fan of this K-9 murder mystery. The writing wasn’t solid enough, and the MC was…I don’t know. I just couldn’t connect with her.

chasing the shadows

Chasing the Shadows, by Maria V. Snyder. Loved this second book in the Sentinels of the Galaxy series even more than the first!

mercy road

Mercy Road, by Ann Howard Creel. An excellent historical fiction about Arlene, who joins an all-women team on the front lines of World War I as an ambulance driver.

the confession club

The Confession Club, by Elizabeth Berg. When a group of friends who meet weekly for dinner start confessing secrets in their get-togethers, they aren’t expecting the depths of each other they’ll explore. One of them is in love with a troubled homeless man. Another is hiding the truth from her husband. Will The Confession Club help them deal with their secrets? I thoroughly enjoyed this read!

this really happened

This Really Happened, by Annmarie McQueen. This is told in alternating timelines: Erin’s day-to-day life when she comes to university, where she meets her group of friends and falls in love with one of them, and blog posts she writes in the future, after a tragic accident.

A Silken Thread

A Silken Thread, by Kim Vogel Sawyer. I thoroughly enjoyed this tale sent in Atlanta a few years after the Civil War. The Atlanta Exposition is the setting, and I found it fascinating.

a christmas haven

A Christmas Haven, by Cindy Woodsmall. A sweet Amish romance about Ivy, who wants to leave her faith to start her party-planning business, and Arlan, who’d do anything to keep his sister safe.

the chosen one

The Chosen One, by Walt Gragg. I cannot recommend this military fiction. The POV was too distant, and the (very) few female characters were ridiculous caricatures.

safe harbour

Safe Harbour, by Christina Kilbourne. Harbour has been living in a a tent outside Toronto for months, waiting for her dad to arrive with their sailboat. But winter is approaching and her dad still isn’t here, and Harbour will have to find a way to survive the bitter cold.

lake season

Lake Season, by Denise Hunter (review forthcoming). When Molly’s parts died in a tragic accident, she, her brother, and her sister decided to fulfill their dream of turning their childhood home into an inn. Then Molly finds an unsent letter from 30 years before, and decides to find who wrote it—and deliver it if she can.

synapse

Synapse, by Steven James (review forthcoming). This thriller about a minister and her AI robot seeking to stop a terrorist attack was riveting from the very first page!

southern harm

Southern Harm, by Caroline Fardig (review forthcoming). Another of Fardig’s charming Southern tales has Quinn and her sister investigating a 30-year-old murder that just might hit closer to home than they suspect.

Scared Little Rabbits, by A.V. Geiger (review forthcoming). This ended ip being a total guilty-pleasure read!

Just Because:

Call Down the Hawk, by Maggie Stiefvater. A spin-off series to The Raven Boys? I’m in! Loved this read. A bit…quirky, but the wry humor had me snorting with laughter. Some beautiful sentences in there, too.

Book Review: This Really Happened, by Annmarie McQueen

this really happened
Image belongs to the author.

Title:  This Really Happened
Author:    Annmarie McQueen
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

For Erin, university is her chance to stretch her wings. She’d like to make some friends, but she also must focus on her studies—economics, which her emotionally-distant parents approve of. Then she meets her five flatmates, including Allen, the quiet, creative boy who just seems to get her. Their friendship grows, as do Erin’s feelings for Allen, until one day Allen starts dating Charlotte, another of their flatmates.

Erin is devastated but struggles to be okay with it and be happy for her friends. Then one night leaving a crowded club, Charlotte is struck by a car, and everything changes.

This Really Happened is told in alternating timelines:  Erin’s experiences in the present day and her blog posts about Charlotte’s accident and its aftermath, the times slowly growing closer together as the reader gets closer to the truth. Erin only has one friend—her older sister—when she comes to university. She’s not close to her parents, so having a ready-made group of friends is a heady experience with her.

I enjoyed reading about how the friendships developed and I was fascinated by the alternating timelines. I found Allen a bit annoying, but I can see how he interested Erin. This is a solid read for anyone who likes to be intrigued with their reading choice.

Annmarie McQueen is a London-based writer and blogger who loves tea. This Really Happened is her new novel.

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

Book Review: The Confession Club, by Elizabeth Berg

the confession club
Image belongs to Random House.

Title:  The Confession Club
Author:    Elizabeth Berg
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

A group of friends in Mason, Missouri start a supper club to talk, share recipes, and have dinner and wine. Except one night one of the ladies confesses something startling—and soon the weekly get-togethers are called The Confession Club, with all the ladies sharing misdeeds, regrets, and secrets.

Like one of the ladies is dating a charming new man…but he’s homeless. And another ran away from New York hiding a secret so big she doesn’t even know what to do with it. The Confession Club gives them a chance to talk about these things, but it’s also a place for love and support.

The Confession Club is a charming read. I haven’t read any of the other Mason books, but had no problems jumping in with book three. Despite being about a big group of women, I had no problems keeping them sorted out, and I was completely invested in their secrets and confessions. Thoroughly enjoyed this!

Elizabeth Berg is an award-winning author. The Confession Club is her newest novel, the third book in the Mason series.

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

What I Read in October (2019)

Books Read in October:  21

Books Read for the Year: 186/175

Topical Books/Monthly Goal Books:

The Anatomist’s Wife, by Anna Lee Huber(cultural). Okay, “cultural” might be stretching it a bit…but I loved this take on a female Sherlock Holmes. (I’ve already procured the second one, too.)

Every Exquisite Thing, by Matthew Quick (TBR).  I’m just going to say “eh” on this one. I was not impressed.

More than a Good Bible Study Girl, by Lisa TerKeurst (spiritual). An excellent read!

The Beauty and the Damned (classic). Honestly…I thought this book kinda sucked. I don’t like selfish, self-absorbed people, and the two main characters were nothing if not that, so this was not the right choice for me.

The Obesity Code, by Jason Fung (nonfiction). Interesting reading, but a little dense and repetitive at times.

For Review:

the lies we tell

The Lies We Tell, by Debra Webb. this was the second book in The Undertaker’s Daughter series—I haven’t read the first one—but I had no issues catching up or following along. Kind of a dark family drama/murder mystery, and a solid, enjoyable read.

the speed of falling objects

The Speed of Falling Objects, by Nancy Richardson Fischer. I loved When Elephants Fly, by this author, and this novel was excellent as well. Family angst and a catastrophic rainstorm adventure with a hot movie star? Yep, I’m there. I truly enjoyed this entire novel, and read it straight through in one sitting.

one night gone

One Night Gone, by Tara Laskowski. Sometimes, books with dual timelines just don’t work for me. This one, however, did. Mystery in a seaside town, a girl missing for 30 years…

trinity sight

Book Review: Trinity Sight, by Jennifer Givhan. A dystopian novel with Zuni mythology… When Calliope wakes up and finds all the people are gone, she sets out to find her family. Along the way, she finds creatures from myth and legend. This was an oddly compelling read.

whispers of shadow & flame

Whispers of Shadow & Flame, by L. Penelope. Another excellent read in the Earthsinger Chronicles! I love the different cultures in these books, and the magic system. Can’t wait to read the next one!

a spell of murder

A Spell of Murder, by Kennedy Kerr. Temerity Love runs Love’s Curiosities—and is renowned for her expertise with antiques. When a murder happens in her tiny Scottish town, her services will be needed to solve the crime. I loved this cozy mystery mixed with magic, and look forward to reading more!

the widow of rose house

The Widow of Rose Harbor, by Dina Biller. Fantastic read! The love interest, Sam, is just so…lovable. Alva has been tarred and feathered in the press thanks to her horrible husband after she left him. Now that she’s a widow, she wants to come home to New York, but the rumors have followed her and her efforts to restore an abandoned mansion are thwarted by a ghost. Enter Sam, the eccentric genius professor (I really wanted to say “playboy billionaire” there and go of on an Avengers tangent…) obsessed with studying ghosts.

the library of lost things

The Library of Lost Things, by Laura Taylor Namey. Darcy is named for one of literature’s most beloved characters, which satisfies her book-loving soul. Now she’s trying to keep her carefully orchestrated life—and her hoarding mother—from falling apart. When Darcy meets Asher, she yearns to get to know him better, but trust has never been her strong point. Darcy’s BFF Marisol makes this book! (Actually, ALL the supporting characters are marvelous.)

the grace year

The Grace Year, by Kim Liggett. This had the feel of The Handmaid’s Tale…except I didn’t care for that book, and I LOVED this one. In a male-dominated society, when they turn sixteen, girls have to get rid of their magic so they don’t have power over men, so they are banished for one year, The Grace Year. Not all of them will come back. And those that do will be changed.

oracle

The Oracle of Cumae, by Melissa Hardy. It’s possible that reading three books right before this one that were amazing made this less-than-amazing book seem even worse, but…honestly, I liked the premise, but the plot was meandering at best, and really more like pointless.

girls like us

Girls Like Us, by Randi Pink.  This is set in the 70s and is about teenage girls dealing with unplanned pregnancies. It was supposed to be about defying conventions and standing up for yourself…except none of them really did that.

christmas angels

Christmas Angles, by Nancy Naigle. This was a sweet Christmas romance about Liz, who buys the deserted inn that belonged to her grandparents and sets out to restore it.

the middle matters

The Middle Matters, by Lisa-Jo Baker (review forthcoming). A solid, relatable, and inspirational read.

bound in flame

Bound in Flame, by Katherine Kayne. I don’t think I’d ever read anything set in historical Hawaii, so I was excited to read this. But…the writing was shaky at best, and felt very bare-bones (Not in a clean, sparse way, but in an this-is-practically-an-outline-without-details-or-connections way).

if darkness takes us

If Darkness Takes Us, by Brenda Marie Smith. This was a unique concept to me:  secret doomsday-prepper granny left to take care of her four grandchildren after something knocks out all power and the government. Some of the characters seemed more like caricatures than actual people (rebellious teenager, angry pre-teen, verbally abusive husband) and the POV felt more distant than I would have liked, but it was an interesting read.

the curious heart of ailsa rae

The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae, by Stephanie Butland. This was a fantastic read! It’s about a girl who gets a heart transplant after a lifetime of being sick, and how she learns to live again.

Left Unfinished:

I Have No Secrets, by Penny Joelson. I made it about 20% of the way through this, and decided to stop. It was interesting, I just don’t think it was a good fit for me now.

The Best Books I Read in September (2019)

I read 21 books in September, for a total of 165 books so far this year.

Sadly, most of them were just “good,” not “great.”

Here are the top 3.

today we go home

Today We Go Home, Kelli Estes. This two-stories-in-one tale is about Larkin, still struggling to cope with what happened in Afghanistan, and Emily, who disguised herself as a man to fight for the Union in the Civil War. An excellent historical!

the wendy

The Wendy, by Erin Michelle Sky and Steven Brown. This re-telling of Peter Pan was fantastic! Loved all of it, and can’t wait for the next book in the series (out next week).

sword and pen

Sword and Pen, by Rachel Caine. The final book in The Great Library series wasn’t quite as good as I’d hoped, but it was still excellent. I’m sad to see these characters go.