Category: reading question

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Black Swan of Paris, by Karen Robards

the black swan of paris
Image belongs to Harlequin/MIRA.

Title:   The Black Swan of Paris
Author:   Karen Robards
Genre:   Fiction
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

Paris, 1944

Celebrated singer Genevieve Dumont is both a star and a smokescreen. An unwilling darling of the Nazis, the chanteuse’s position of privilege allows her to go undetected as an ally to the resistance.

When her estranged mother, Lillian de Rocheford, is captured by Nazis, Genevieve knows it won’t be long before the Gestapo succeeds in torturing information out of Lillian that will derail the upcoming allied invasion. The resistance movement is tasked with silencing her by any means necessary—including assassination. But Genevieve refuses to let her mother become yet one more victim of the war. Reuniting with her long-lost sister, she must find a way to navigate the perilous cross-currents of Occupied France undetected—and in time to save Lillian’s life.

I recently read a novel about Coco Chanel’s time during the Nazi occupation—and Chanel is mentioned in passing at once point during this novel—but I found this story far more engrossing than that one. I liked Genevieve from the beginning, and she only grew more intriguing as more of her story was revealed.

I enjoyed the parts of the story about her singing and performances, her costumes, and her glitzy life, but the mysteries and intrigues she gets into were even more fascinating. I highly recommend reading this!

Karen Robards is a bestselling author. The Black Swan of Paris is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: What the Other Three Don’t Know, by Spencer Hyde

what the other 3 don't know
Image belongs to Shadow Mountain Publishing.

Title:  What the Other Three Don’t Know
Author:  Spencer Hyde
Genre:  YA
Rating:  3.8 out of 5

When Indie lost her mom to the river, her world crumbled around her. Now she’s the loner, the quiet one, the one no one else notices—living only for the day she can leave her small town behind and go where no one knows her. She never wants to set foot near the river that took her mom again.

But for her journalism class, that’s exactly what she must do:  take a rafting trip with three almost-strangers from her class. India would rather do anything else, but she has no choice. What she doesn’t realize is the other three have secrets just like she does. And this rafting trip will bring all of them to the surface.

I enjoyed What the Other Three Don’t Know, but it was fairly predictable. And…the “secrets” weren’t exactly earth-shattering. I thought the four teens bonded really quickly, so that felt a little off to me, but their banter alone made the book worth reading.

(Galley courtesy of Shadow Mountain Publishing in exchange for an honest review.)

What I Read in December (2019)

I feel like I should say:  the last book I finished this year—and therefore this decade—was my all-time favorite book, Gone with the Wind.

Books Read in December:  15

Books Read for the Year: 225/175

Topical Books/Monthly Goal Books:

I changed it up a bit this month.

Take the Day Off, by Robert Morris (spiritual). This has so much truth in it!

Higher Power has a Name, by James Cavanaugh (spiritual). This was quite the interesting read, Christianity from a Millennial point-of-view.

Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell (classic). This is my all-time favorite book, and I used to read it every December, but it’s been a couple of years. Scarlett is such a not self-aware person that it’s mind-boggling. And Rhett, well, he’s Rhett. I still love this book, and I still cry every single time…and I’ve probably read it 20 times at least. And Ashley? No, thank you.

For Review:

Cast in Wisdom, by Michelle Sagara (review forthcoming). I LOVE this series. Enough said.

trace of evil

Trace of Evil, by Alice Blanchard. Why on earth did no adults think it even the tiniest bit odd that every single teenager was in a coven? Seriously? I never figured out who the killer was, either.

the weight of a soul

The Weight of a Soul by Elizabeth Tammi. I really love Vikings and Norse mythology, so I thought I’d love this, but the MC was so unlikable that it seriously detracted from my enjoyment of the setting.

all that's bright and gone

All That’s Bright and Gone, by Eliza Nellums. I’ve never read an murder investigation by a six-year-old, so this was an interesting read.

the dating charade

The Dating Charade, by Melissa Ferguson. This was a sweet, fun romance about two people who are hiding a big secret from each other:  the sudden arrival of three children in their life.

starborn

Starborn, by Katie MacAlister. The second book in the Born Prophecy series. while I enjoyed the snark, this felt a bit rushed to me.

husband material

Husband Material, by Emily Belden. I enjoyed this surprisingly-lighthearted tale of a young widow—who practically no one knows was even married—and how she deals when the ashes of her dead husband show up at her door.

shamus dust

Shamus Dust, by Janet Roger. I prefer my detective noir stories in movie form, but this was a solid, atmospheric read.

smoke screen

Smoke Screen, by Terri Blackstock. Fourteen years ago, Nate and Brenna were teenagers in love when his father was convicted of killing her father. Now she’s fighting a nasty custody battle and he’s recovering from burns when questions arise from the murder so many years ago. They must work together to uncover the truth. A solid, enjoyable read.

the heart of the rebellion

The Heart of the Rebellion, by Sian Ann Bessey. Thoroughly enjoyed this historical fiction set during the Welsh rebellion against English rule. And the cover is gorgeous!

good girls lie

Good Girls Lie, by J.T. Ellison.  I’m still not sure who the bad guy was in this book. Seriously. Was it the one girl…or the other girl?

just don't mention it

Just Don’t Mention It, by Estelle Maskame.  This is the first book in the Did I Mention I Love You trilogy…told from Tyler’s POV, which was an interesting switch.

The Best Books I Read in October (2019)

This was a tough one. I read 21 books in October, bringing my total for the year to 186. And, while several were just “meh,” several of them were really excellent. The best of these:

the library of lost things

The Library of Lost Things, by Laura Taylor Namey.  This is about mental illness, friendship (and SUCH an awesome friendship!), love, and figuring out the future. I loved all of it!

the grace year

The Grace Year, by Kim Liggett.  This book was unusual. Dystopian setting where women have no rights and are treated as nothing (that’s clearly not the unusual part…), and they spend their entire seventeenth year banished outside the town…and not all of them come back. But no one talks about that Grace Year. Completely compelling read.

the curious heart of ailsa rae

The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae, by Stephanie Butland. This was a cute, sweet read that I immensely enjoyed. Ailsa is such a likable and lovely character, and her transition from on the verge of death and needing a heart transplant to a determined survivor was engrossing from the first page.

The Best Books I Read in July (2019)

So…normally, I pick the top three books I read in a month. This time, that’s just not possible. Because I read some really good books in July.

the secret life of Sarah Hollenbeck

The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck, by Bethany Turner. This was from my TBR pile, so I didn’t review it. What happens when a steamy romance writer gets saved and falls in love with a preacher? This made me laugh so much, as, apparently, Sarah and I were separated at birth.

ayesha at last

Ayesha at Last, by Uzma Jalaluddin. This also didn’t get a review, as it was my cultural book of the month. Pride and Prejudice in a Muslim community? Yes, please! I enjoyed this immensely, and I loved the look at a Muslim community. And, of course, a good Pride and Prejudice retelling does not go amiss.

three ways

Three Ways to Disappear, by Katy Yocom. This book was emotional, full of family drama, and tigers. And so good!

the mcavoy sisters

The McAvoy Sisters Book of Secrets, by Molly Fader. More family secrets and drama, but a much happier ending. Life on a Great Lake, secrets from the past, and a troubled relationship between two sisters.

 

the book charmer

The Book Charmer, by Karen Hawkins.  If i could physically give you a copy of this book—I would! I don’t even like small towns, and I’d move to Dove Pond. A librarian who hears books talk to her, a town in trouble, and the outsider who’s the only one who can save it. Please do yourself a favor and read this!

the merciful crow

The Merciful Crow, by Margaret Owen. Have you ever read a fantasy novel that sucked you in from the very first page, that made the culture come alive, and had characters that lived and breathed on the page? This is that book. I’d have read this straight through except work. I could NOT put it down!

Book Review: The Evil Queen, by Gena Showalter

the evil queen
Image belongs to Harlequin TEEN/Inkyard Press.

Title:   The Evil Queen
Author:   Gena Showalter
Genre:   YA, fantasy
Rating:   3.5 out of 5

In Enchantia, fairy tales are real, but they are prophecies of the future. Everly Morrow is raised in the real world and has no idea she’s a princess until she starts to commune with mirrors. Then the truth comes out:  Everly is destined to become the Evil Queen.

Except it’s not that simple. Everly meets Roth Charmaine—Prince Charming—and can’t deny she’s attracted to him. But as a sorcerian, she only draws his hate. As their fairy tale unfolds, she faces countless betrayals as she fights to save her family while deciphering the truth.

I generally love Gena Showalter’s novels, and I loved the idea of The Evil Queen. However. I found this one to be not up to Showalter’s usual high quality. Parts of it were very rough and juvenile—and I’ve seen lots of comments to the effect of “remember it’s YA so that’s okay”—but YA should still be well-written, and the characters should be believable and fully fleshed-out. These seemed very one-dimensional to me, and several times they completely did a 180 without us seeing any character growth to account for that. Everly was frankly quite annoying and egotistical and Roth wasn’t much better. I guess I just expected better from an author I generally love—and whose young adult books I love. I did like the actual answer for who each character was supposed to be in the fairy tale.

Gena Showalter is a bestselling author. The Evil Queen is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin TEEN/Inkyard Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

What I Read in May (2019)

Books Read in May: 17

Books Read for the Year: 84/175

Topical Books/Monthly Goal Books:

The Next Right Thing, by Emily Freeman (non-fiction). Excellent read!

The Spider King’s Daughter, by Chibundu Onuzo (cultural). Eh. I can’t say I recommend this, although it was an interesting glimpse at a different culture.

The Thing with Feathers, by McCall Hoyle (TBR). I really enjoyed this sweet story of a girl who’s been home-schooled her whole life because of her severe epilepsy. She goes to public school and learns to spread her wings.

Kim, by Rudyard Kipling (classic). It was okay.

Real Love in an Angry World, by Rick Bezet (spiritual). I did enjoy this read.

For Review:

the book woman

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, by Kim Michele Richardson. This was an incredible read about the last of the Blue People in Kentucky, and the Pack Horse Librarians.

how we disappeared

How We Disappeared, by Jing-Jing Lee. Historical fiction and secrets.

this-is-not-a-love-scene-cover

This is Not a Love Scene, by S.C. Megale. Maeve has muscular dystrophy. All she wants to do is direct, but leading man Cole wouldn’t be bad either. I didn’t find Maeve terribly likable—she’s selfish, childish, and completely self-centered—but seeing how someone with MD lives was intriguing, and I loved that the main character in this was someone struggling with a disease like this.

southern side of paradise

The Southern Side of Paradise, by Kristy Woodson Harvey. I’m note even sure why I finished this. I love Southern fiction, but…I did not like these characters. Justifying your horrible behavior does not make you a good person.

bonavere howl

Bonavere Howl, by Caitlin Galway. I love the New Orleans setting, but…this felt a bit off. Like it wasn’t fully finished.

two like me and you

Two Like Me and You, by Alan Chad Gibbs. Loved this book! The crazy shenanigans and tall tales had me laughing.

the voice in my head

The Voice in My Head, by Dana L. Davis. Indigo’s identical twin sister, Violet, is terminally ill and plans to die by medically-assisted suicide…until Indigo hears a voice that claims to be God and tells her the entire family must hike The Wave in the desert.

smitten by the brit

Smitten by the Brit, by Meloni Johnson. Bonnie’s known her fiance her entire life, but when she discovers something unexpected about him and their engagement ends, she’s at a loss. Until she meets handsome and dashing Theo, a British man straight out of an Austen novel.

denali-in-hiding-cover-for-kindle

Denali in Hiding, by Caitlin Sinead. Denali has always tried to keep her psi abilities hidden, but now she’s able to learn to use them…except she’s forbidden from helping regular humans. When she learns about a bomb threat, will she follow the rules or help, risking life in prison.

A Pack of Vows and Tears, by Olivia Wildenstein. The second book in the Boulder Wolves series. This was a solid read, but the developments didn’t surprise mu much.

Just Because:

Storm Cursed, by Patricia Briggs. Because I love this series. And I loved this book! Zombie miniature goats and a zombie dragon? Wow.

Queen of Air and Darkness, by Cassandra Clare. I was a little apprehensive to read this, considering how the last one ended, but my fears were unfounded. There will clearly be more books set in this world, which makes me happy.

Left Unfinished:

Tears of the Trufflepig, by Fernando A. Flores. I read 10% of this and nothing happened, so I gave up.

The Best Books I read in March (2019)

I read 18 books in March, bringing my total for the year to 50. Only 125 more to go to reach my Goodreads goal of 175! (Honestly…I’m “secretly” hoping to hit 200, but finishing grad school is taking up a lot of time, so it may not happen.)

The best books I read in March include a historical, biblical fiction, and one book I’m really mad I didn’t read when it first caught my eye months ago!

the things we cannot say

The Things We Cannot Say, by Kelly Rimmer.  I’m just going to say it:  this book made me ugly cry. This story is set in 2019—when Alice is overwhelmed with caring for her autistic son while her grandmother is dying—and 1942 Poland, where Alina gets engaged to Tomasz just before the war comes to Poland. This is a powerful, emotional story.

of fire and lions

Of Fire and Lions, by Mesu Andrews.  This is the tale of Daniel—as in Daniel and the lions’ den—and the Israelites’ 70 years in exile from the Promised Land. It’s also the tale of Belili, another of the Jewish captives and her life in Babylon. This book, while fiction, brought so much to life for me from the biblical stories, and I was absolutely captivated! I can’t wait to read more of Mesu Andrews’ books.

where the crawdads sing

Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens. This book…I heard about it for months before I finally read it—and I cannot believe I waited! Locals call Kya the “March Girl,” but she’s so much more than that. Abandoned as a child, she’s grown up alone in the North Carolina marsh, surrounded by the wildlife she loves. When town golden boy Chase Andrews is found dead, everyone says the Marsh Girl did it, but is sensitive Kya really capable of such violence—no matter what the town thinks? The ending to this book blew me away.

Book Review: Between the Lies, by Michelle Adams

between the lies
Image belongs to St.Martin’s Press.

Title:  Between the Lies
Author:  Michelle Adams
Genre:  Thriller/mystery
Rating:  3 out of 5

Chloe Daniels wakes up in the hospital with no idea how she got there, who she is, o what happened to her. She doesn’t recognize the strangers who call themselves her family, and she desperately wants to find out who she is.

As Chloe starts working to recover, some things just don’t make sense, and she realizes her family is keeping secrets from her. Life-shattering secrets. About her life. Her past. And what really happened the night of the car wreck.

Chloe’s family is horrible, frankly, and they made this novel difficult to read because I disliked them so much. I had trouble relating to Chloe as well, but she’s lost all memories of herself, so that’s a bit understandable. This is a pretty bleak read, but it does have a lot of secrets in it.

Michele Adams was born in the U.K., but now lives in Cyprus. Between the Lies is her newest novel.

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

The Best Books I Read in February (2019)

I read 14 books in February, four less than in January. My top three picks for the month include one book for review, one for pleasure, and one nonfiction.

wow

Warrior of the Wild, by Tricia Levenseller.  I really enjoyed this book. It has a sort-of-Viking culture, and a heroine who was raised as a warrior. When she’s betrayed and fails her challenge, she’s banished to live in the deadly wilds until she kills the god her village pays tribute to every year. She’s a strong character, but she’s haunted by fear of failure and betrayal. I enjoyed this so much!

I’d Rather be Reading, by Anne Bogel. Anne writes the wonderful Modern Mrs. Darcy blog.  I love reading all her posts, although I haven’t ventured into the world of podcasts yet. And Book Club is amazing, too. A book about reading? I’m so there!

Cast in Oblivion, by Michelle Sagara. I really love this series, and have read all of them. And loved them. Kaylin is a great character:  flawed but so loyal and brave. Awesome world-building as well.