Category: characters

Best Books I Read in September (2020)

In September, I read 28 books, bringing my total for the year to 244 books.

Of those, there were a handful of “meh” books, mostly solid/good books, and a few that were excellent reads!

Like:

A Voice in the Wind, by Francine Rivers. I’m almost positive I read this trilogy years ago, but I’ve basically forgotten it, so it was like a new-to-me read. I love well-done historical, and this was an excellent fiction read set in Rome in the first century.

Anxious People, by Fredrik Backman. I might as well just confess that Backman is now one of my favorite authors. His voice is just so amazing, and I love his characters. This was not what I expected from a bank robbery gone bad, but it was wonderful!

The Silvered Serpents, by Roshani Chokshi. I haven’t actually read the first book in this series, but I had no problems with that. Loved this dark fantasy, full of quirky and well-drawn characters (even the ones that we re jerks).

Book Review: No Woods So Dark as These, by Randall Silvis

no woods so dark as these
Image belongs to Poisoned Pen Press.

Title: No Woods So Dark as These
Author: Randall Silvis
Genre: Thriller
Rating: 4 out of 5 

Former Sergeant Ryan DeMarco’s life has been spent in defiance–he’s defied death, loneliness, and betrayal all while fighting the worst parts of humanity. He’s earned a break, and following the devastation of their last case, DeMarco and his girlfriend Jayme want nothing more than to live quietly in each other’s company. To forget the horrors they’ve experienced and work on making each other whole again.

But dreams of a peaceful life together are shattered when two bodies are discovered in a smoldering car in the woods, and another is found brutally mutilated nearby. Much as he’d like to leave the case to his former colleagues, dark forces are at play and DeMarco cannot escape the vortex of lies, betrayal, and desperation. He and Jayme are dragged back into the fray, where they must confront the shady dealings of a close-knit rural community.

I’ve enjoyed all the books in this series, and I enjoyed this one as well, although there was quite a bit more introspection from the characters than in the previous novels—which seems a bit odd for a thriller. Facing mortality after the events of the previous novel, maybe?

Silvis’s writing is sharp and solid as always, but this book seemed to be more about DeMarco’s mental struggles than the actual case. Jayme is also struggling, but Ryan is the focus here, which I enjoyed.

Randall Silvis is an award-winning author. No Woods So Dark as These is his newest novel.

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

What I Read in June (2020)

Books Read in June: 28

Books Read for the Year: 160/200

Topical Books/Monthly Goal Books:

Without Rival by Lisa Revere (spiritual). Apparently I’d already read this…but it was really good, again.

Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen (classic re-read). this wasn’t as good as P & P (of course), but I enjoyed the re-read.

The Paradise War, by Stephen R. Lawhead (TBR). I really enjoyed this time-travel/ancient Celtic adventure and I intend to read more.

The Edge of Over There, by Shawn Smucker (TBR). This probably would have made more sense if I’d read the previous book, but I enjoyed it anyway.

Miriam, by Mesu Andrews (TBR). Loved this! the tale of the Biblical plagues of England from the POV of Moses’ sister.

For Review:

the library of legends

The Library of Legends, by Janie Chang. I enjoyed this so much! Historical fiction with some fantasy sprinkled in, making this a perfect read for me when the real world was crumbling.

NoOneSawCover

No One Saw, by Beverley Long (review forthcoming). I enjoyed this thriller in the A.L. McKittridge series, about two detectives trying to solve the disappearance of a toddler that might be linked to a similar disappearance over a decade earlier.

a sweet mess

A Sweet Mess, by Jayci Lee (review forthcoming). This was a funny romantic read that will probably make you hungry.

the black swan of paris

The Black Swan of Paris, by Karen Robards (review forthcoming). Loved this! Set during the Nazi occupation of Paris, it’s about Genevieve Dumont, famed for her singing, who is involved with the resistance and secrets of her own.

mayhem

Mayhem, by Estelle Laure (review forthcoming). This had so much potential, but ended up feeling like such a copy of The Lost Boys that it was really unsettling.

the woman before wallis

The Woman Before Wallis, by Bryn Turnbull (review forthcoming). Another wonderful historical read! I’m not sure if I forgot the events around Prince Edward’s abdication of the throne—or if I just didn’t know—but this is the tale of American divorcée Thelma Morgan, who captured the prince’s heart before he met Wallis.

guarded by the soldier

Guarded by the Soldier, by Laura Scott (review forthcoming). This is a solid romance about a pregnant single mother who becomes the target of a private security/black ops group and is rescued by an ex-soldier.

in the neighborhood of true

In the Neighborhood of True, by Susan Kaplan Carlton (review forthcoming). This explores racism in the South in the ’50s and is an excellent read.

the kids are gonna ask

The Kids Are Gonna Ask, by Anthony Gretchen (review forthcoming). I wasn’t a fan of the twins, who came across as selfish and self-absorbed, with a grandmother who was lenient/willfully blind.

the bright lands

The Bright Lands, by John Fram (review forthcoming). This was…an intriguing read. I had to stop mid-read and make sure this wasn’t written by Stephen King’s son. Very creepy and a bit horrifying, it was an excellent read.

the lost city

The Lost City, by Amanda Hocking (review forthcoming). This is the first of Hocking’s books I’ve ever managed to finish (and, to be fair, I think I’ve only attempted one or two others). Interesting, but I probably won’t read more of the series.

one to watch

One to Watch, by Kate Stayman-London (review forthcoming). I thoroughly enjoyed this read, and the body positivity was great!

girl, serpent, thorn

Girl, Serpent, Thorn, by Melissa Bashardoust (review forthcoming). A princess who has never had human contact because her skin is poisonous makes a terrible mistake, endangering her family and her kingdom and putting them at the mercy of evil…but a sort of charming evil. This was a unique and interesting read.

entangled secrets

Entangled Secrets, by Pat Esden (review forthcoming). This was just a “meh” parnormal romance for me.

what you wish for

What You Wish For, by Katherine Center (review forthcoming). This book made me think something I never thought possible:  I want to be a teacher. Yeah. If you only knew how many times I’d been asked “So you want to be a teacher?” when people found out I was getting an English degree…but I never wanted to be a teacher. The school in this book was pretty awesome though, so I was tempted (briefly), and I loved the Galveston setting. This was just a feel-good book that made me happy.

cut to the bone

Cut to the Bone, by Ellison Cooper (review forthcoming). I got sucked right into this book and these characters. A missing bus full of high schoolers, a clever serial killer with a penchant for Egyptology,  a dastardly boss, and a terrifyingly well-connected psychopath all combine to challenge a stubborn and intuitive FBI agent who finds out things are definitely not what they seem.

the safe place

The Safe Place, by Anna Downes (review forthcoming). I did not like any of these characters, and Emily was the sort of clueless/stupid person I just can’t deal with. This wasn’t a good fit for me.

a walk along the beach

A Walk Along the Beach, by Debbie Macomber (review forthcoming). This made me cry, but it was so good! I love everything Macomber writes.

the vacation

The Vacation, by T.M. Logan (review forthcoming). See…if I don’t care for the characters, it’s a struggle to keep reading. This was the case here. I knew there was more going on that what seemed obvious, but I didn’t really care, because I disliked all the main characters.

how lulu lost her mind

How Lulu Lost her Mind, by Rachel Gibson (review forthcoming).  Oh, man. I enjoyed this a lot, but as someone with a family history of Alzheimer’s, it was also difficult to read. Love the Louisiana setting and culture, though.

tell me your names

Tell Me Your Names and I Will Testify: Essays, by Carolyn Holbrook (review forthcoming). This was an interesting read and a look through the eyes of someone with a wildly different life than mine (although I grew up poor, too). I’m a big believer in personal responsibility, and that wasn’t present in all of this, though, so that bothered me.

life on mission @ work

Life on Mission @ Work, by Tyler Edwards (review forthcoming). This excellent read spoke to something that’s been on my mind lately.

this is my america

This is My America, by Kim Johnson (review forthcoming). This was an interesting and powerful read—and sad.

Stopped Reading: 

Her Perfect Life, by Rebecca Taylor. Excellent, descriptive writing, but I realized at 30% that I just didn’t care about any of the characters (as well as actively disliking some). Just not a good fit.

Those Who Hunger:  An Amish Vampire Thriller, by Owen Banner. The premise of this held a lot of potential. I mean, how unique are Amish vampires? I read a bit of it, probably around 15-20%, but I just wasn’t buying in.

Hurry Home, by Roz Nay. There was nothing wrong with this book. Seriously. Solid writing, intriguing concept…I just didn’t like any of the characters. Just a case of “it’s me, not the book.”

Book Review and Blog Tour: What Unbreakable Looks Like, by Kate McLaughlin

unbreakable blog tour

what unbreakable looks like
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   What Unbreakable Looks Like
Author: Kate McLaughlin  
Genre:   YA
Rating:   5 out of 5

Lex was taken – trafficked – and now she’s Poppy. Kept in a hotel with other girls, her old life is a distant memory. But when the girls are rescued, she doesn’t quite know how to be Lex again. 

After she moves in with her aunt and uncle, for the first time in a long time, she knows what it is to feel truly safe. Except, she doesn’t trust it. Doesn’t trust her new home. Doesn’t trust her new friend. Doesn’t trust her new life. Instead she trusts what she shouldn’t because that’s what feels right. She doesn’t deserve good things.

 But when she is sexually assaulted by her so-called boyfriend and his friends, Lex is forced to reckon with what happened to her and that just because she is used to it, doesn’t mean it is okay. She’s thrust into the limelight and realizes she has the power to help others. But first she’ll have to confront the monsters of her past with the help of her family, friends, and a new love.

 This book was an incredible read! There isn’t much that’s actually set while Lex is trafficked, as it opens with the cops showing up—but there are many flashbacks to that time. McLaughlin paints a clear, evocative picture, but she doesn’t attempt to wring a response from the reader with the horror of Lex’s situation. The horror just comes naturally, as you see how Lex has been scarred by her past.

The kids at the high school where Lex ends up are awful. AWFUL. But, sadly, completely believable. Zack and Elsa were wonderful secondary characters, and I loved them and Lex’s aunt and uncle. But those other kids…This novel was so well-done, I can’t think of anything bad to say…except its subject matter is horrific and so unbearably sad.

Kate McLaughlin is from Novia Scotia but now lives in Connecticut. What Unbreakable Looks Like is her newest novel.

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

The Best Books I Read in May (2020)

In May, I read 33 books, bringing my total for the year up to 132 books. Some of those books were good, some were okay, some were just “meh.” But three of them were really exceptional!

Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen. Yes, this a re-read. I’m actually not sure how many times I’ve read it, but this time was was just as wonderful. I wish I could re-read this again for the first time! So many laughs at Lizzie’s wit, and so much sympathy for poor Mr. Darcy.

what unbreakable looks like
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

What Unbreakable Looks Like, by Kate McLaughlin. (My review will be up on the 16th as part of the blog tour.) I don’t even know what to say about this book! It opens with the cops rescuing Lex from human trafficking, and tells the story of her life in the aftermath. This book doesn’t pull any punches with what she deals with and how she handles it, and it made me so sad that women and girls experience things like this—and also inspired me with her strength.

juniper jones
Image belongs to Wattpad Books.

The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones, by Daven McQueen. (My review is up on the 11th.) Set in small-town Alabama in 1955, this is the story of Ethan Harper, a biracial kid raised mostly by his white father, who goes to stay with his aunt and uncle for the summer. There he meets prejudice, persecution, and Juniper Jones. Parts of this were awful to read because I know there is truth in this tale. But the friendship between Ethan and Juniper is wonderful and full of hope. (And I love this cover!)

Book Review: The Jane Austen Society, by Natalie Jenner

the jane austen society
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   The Jane Austen Society
Author:   Natalie Jenner
Genre:   Fiction
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

Just after the Second World War, in the small English village of Chawton, an unusual but like-minded group of people band together to attempt something remarkable.

One hundred and fifty years ago, Chawton was the final home of Jane Austen, one of England’s finest novelists. Now it’s home to a few distant relatives and their diminishing estate. With the last bit of Austen’s legacy threatened, a group of disparate individuals come together to preserve both Jane Austen’s home and her legacy. These people—a laborer, a young widow, the local doctor, and a movie star, among others—could not be more different and yet they are united in their love for the works and words of Austen. As each of them endures their own quiet struggle with loss and trauma, some from the recent war, others from more distant tragedies, they rally together to create the Jane Austen Society.

This was such a lovely read! I enjoyed reading each of the characters and their thoughts, and I think Ms. Jenner did her love for Jane Austen credit with this novel. Honestly, this felt almost like an Austen novel, with its village charm and intriguing characters. It’s wonderful to see such a diverse cast of characters—a farmer, a doctor, a movie star, a domestic worker—all brought together by their love of Austen.

Go read this as soon as possible!

Natalie Jenner has been a lawyer, a career coach, and founded an independent bookstore. The Jane Austen Society is her debut novel.

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

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.)