Category: reading

Book Review: The Southern Side of Paradise, by Kristy Woodson Harvey

southern side of paradise
Image belongs to Gallery Books.

Title:  The Southern Side of Paradise
Author:  Kristy Woodson Harvey
Genre:  Southern fiction
Rating:  2 out of 5

Ansley Murphy has everything she’s ever wanted…finally. The man she’s always loved is back in her life. Her three daughters are in town and happy. Her business is taking off. Ansley can’t help but feel like the other shoe is about to drop.

Her youngest daughter, Emerson, and actress and recently engaged, just landed a dream role and got engaged, but her health is worrying her, and she feels like she’s missing something when she should be focused on planning her wedding. When secrets that were never meant to be told come out, the sisters’ bond with their mother turns fragile, as all stand on the brink of life-changing decisions.

I’m just going to be up-front:  I could not stand these characters, and that made me dislike this book intensely. This is clearly my own issue. The writing is great, and the small southern town setting is very well done. But…seriously? Ansley spends half her time justifying the fact that she cheated on her husband for years…so they could have children. She knew it was wrong, but she makes excuses to herself anyway. Emerson is whiny and childish, prone to throwing a fit if she doesn’t get her way, and she’s so self-absorbed she can’t even see the person standing right next to her. She’s also pretty heartless, and her morals are highly questionable (Wonder where she learned that from?) Sister Caroline is a controlling witch, who also makes excuses for her bad behavior (Yes, her husband cheated on her very publicly, which was terrible, but that doesn’t mean you get to treat everyone around you badly). Sloane wasn’t enough of a presence for me to actually care about her, but she was the only one who was likable. I’d read this author again, but not these characters.

Kristy Woodson Harvey is a bestselling author. The Southern Side of Paradise is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Gallery Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

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Book Review: This is Not a Love Scene, by S.C. Megale

 

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

Title:  This is Not a Love Scene
Author:  S.C. Megale
Genre:  YA
Rating:  4 out of 5

Maeve and all her friends are obsessed with their senior film project and their portfolios to get into film school. Maeve would be, too, but having MS means her options are different than her friends. Maeve loves filmmaking. And guys. Especially the guy starring in their senior project:  Cole. But leading men don’t go for girls in wheelchairs, right?

But the chemistry between Maeve and the always-in-motion Cole is intense, and suddenly Maeve is dealing with typical dating mishaps and juggling the film project and her disease. Maeve is so used to being rejected, that she’s just not sure she can trust Cole, who seems far too good to be true. But Maeve will have to deal with her own fears if she’s ever to find out the truth about Cole’s feelings for her.

Maeve is an incredibly strong character, but she does have some issues that made her a little hard for me to read. I loved seeing how she viewed the world and her experiences in a life with MS, but she can be quite awkward and a little needy. She also comes across as very selfish, to the point where she completely ignores the sometimes-major problems her friends are having in favor of obsessing about her own issues. I didn’t find her all that likable, but she is a very strong character.

S.C. Megale is a writer, a filmmaker, and a philanthropist. This is Not a Love Scene is her debut novel.

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

Book Review: How We Disappeared, by Jing-Jing Lee

how we disappeared
Image belongs to Hanover Square Press.

Title:  How We Disappeared
Author:  Jing-Jing Lee
Genre:  Fiction/historical fiction
Rating:  4.2 out of 5

In 1942 Singapore, the world is at war, but it becomes personal when soldiers ransack a village and murder everyone, leaving only two survivors. In a nearby village, girls are taken captive and forced to become “comfort women”—prostitutes—earning them the shame and disdain of their families—if they are fortunate enough to survive and escape. Wang Di was one of these women, and after sixty years of silence, she is finally ready to talk about the horrors she experienced.

In the year 2000, twelve-year-old Kevin is going blind, so he records everything he hears. Including the dying confession of his beloved grandmother…who isn’t really his grandmother at all. Kevin knows this secret is bigger than he is, but he’s determined to find out the truth—and share it.

How We Disappeared isn’t an easy book to read. It’s full of the sometimes-horrific experiences of these characters, but there are glimpses of hope as well. The settings are realistic—good and bad—and, though the book gets off to a slow start, it is well-worth reading.

Jing-Jing Lee is an author and a poet. How We Disappeared is her debut novel.

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

Book Review: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, by Kim Michele Richardson

the book woman
Image belongs to Sourcebooks Landmark.

Title:  The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek
Author:  Kim Michele Richardson
Genre:  Historical fiction
Rating:  5 out of 5

In 1936 Kentucky, Cussy Mary Carter is the last living woman of the Blue People. With her blue skin, she’s taunted and ridiculed and treated as inferior, but Cussy Mary is a proud member of the Kentucky Pack Horse library service. This job is her way out, an escape from needing to marry in order to survive.

For Cussy Mary, delivering books to the backwoods people on her route is more than a job. For people who rarely see a newspaper—and who are unlikely to be able to read one if they did see it—the Book Woman is a Godsend, a deliverer of outside news, and a glimmer of hope in the darkness of the woods amidst prejudice and poverty so devastating it destroys entire families. Cussy Mary is determined to continue delivering hope to those around her—along with books.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is an incredible read! Yes, the blue-skinned people in Kentucky were real—they had methemoglobinemia, which caused a decrease in oxygenation of their skin. The prejudice and abuse Cussy Mary experiences in this book is heartbreaking, but so is the poverty that surrounds her. This book is vivid and lovely, with every page engraved with the strength of Cussy Mary—and her courage.

Kim Michele Richardson lives and writes in Kentucky. The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Sourcebooks Landmark via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Romanov, by Nadine Brandes

Romanov
Image belongs to Thomas Nelson.

Title:  Romanov
Author:  Nadine Brandes
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

The history books say I died.

They don’t know the half of it.

With Russia in revolution, the Romanov family are held as hostages by the Bolsheviks. For Nastya—Princess Anastasia—this new world is bewildering and frustrating. Her loving family is intact and together, but they are constantly guarded by soldiers. They are barely allowed to go outside. They are constantly under watch. She doesn’t understand why the world is so bloody and dangerous, she just knows it is.

There is an element of truth in what the people say about the Romanovs, but Nastya is not a spellcaster. If she was, she could heal her brother’s hemophilia and her mother’s illness. She could stop herself from falling in love and mend her sister’s broken heart. And she could keep her family from being executed.

But this isn’t the lies spoken about her family by the Bolsheviks. This is her life. And the truth is far stranger than the history books say.

I’ve probably seen the Disney movie Anastasia at some point, but I don’t remember it, and I’ve certainly read bits and pieces about the Romanovs, none of which I remembered before picking this book up. I had no problems understanding what was going on or starting the story after the Romanovs are taken hostage. The love in this family is remarkable and portrayed so well. All the characters are well-done, but Nastya herself is both struggling and strong, and her determination to help her family is something to behold. I enjoyed this read immensely.

Nadine Brandes is the author of the Out of Time series. Romanov is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Thomas Nelson via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Only Ever Her, by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen

only ever her
Image belongs to Lake Union Publishing.

Title:  Only Ever Her
Author:  Marybeth Mayhew Whalen
Genre:  Mystery
Rating:  3 out of 5

When Annie was a little girl, she was found wandering in the woods, not far from her mother’s murdered body. Now grown up, she’s the town’s darling, and her imminent wedding is all anyone talks about. Annie’s ready for her life to change, but can she leave behind this small town—and her support system—to start her new life?

Just days before her wedding, Annie disappears. There’s no sign of her. No sign she might have run. No sign she spoke to anyone before she disappeared. With her mother’s accused murderer freshly released from prison, the town fears the worst, and those who love Annie will have to deal with their own issues as they search for her.

I did not connect with this book at all. The small-town vibe was accurate, but I found Annie herself unlikable, as was her secret friend. I didn’t find this very suspenseful, and everyone had secrets, of course, but the only character I liked was Clary. Just not a good fit for me.

Marybeth Mayhew Whalen lives and writes in North Carolina. Only Ever Her is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Lake Union Publishing via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

The Best Books I Read in April (2019)

I read 18 books in April, and DNF two more, but a handful of books I really enjoyed. One is historical fiction/fantasy, the other are mainstream/women’s fiction with a little romance.

rosie's traveling tea shop

Rosie’s Traveling Tea Shop, by Rebecca Raisin. This was probably my favorite read, and I binge-read all of it last Sunday. Straight through. (Yes, that was exactly as wonderful as it sounds.) The idea of traveling all the time—but with a book shop, not a cooking shop (except the tea idea is tempting)—is strangely alluring for me, and I wish I could work out a way to make that happen.  #thevanlife

Romanov

Romanov, by Nadine Brandes. This is a fantasy version of historical fiction. Well, there are spells and spellmasters in it, so I assume it’s fantasy. But, it’s the story of the Romanov family and their time in exile, and what happens to their daughter, Anastasia. (It’s definitely not the Disney version.)

one summer in paris

One Summer in Paris, by Sarah Morgan. Apparently in April I had a thing for books about women reinventing themselves and starting new lives in foreign places…One Summer in Paris is about two women spending the summer in Paris alone—one because her husband of 25 years decides he wants a divorce, so she goes on the trip without him, and one who’s keeping secrets about her mother as she tries to figure out life on her own—who meet and become friends.

All three of these are excellent reads.

Book Review: Belly Up, by Eva Darrows

 

belly up
Image belongs to Harlequin TEEN/Inkyard Press.

Title:  Belly Up
Author:  Eva Darrows
Genre:  YA
Rating:  4 out of 5

It’s bad enough Sara’s boyfriend cheated on her and she found out when she saw sexting pics on his phone. But now he and the other girl are flaunting it around town, when all Sara wants is to get through the summer and spend senior year with her best friend, Devi, and get into an Ivy League school. Surely a drunken hook-up at a party will at least take Sara’s mind off her problems.

Or not.

She forgot to get the guy’s number, and when she finds out she’s pregnant, well, things change. She and her mom move in with her grandmother, and instead of starting senior year with Devi, Sara is the new girl at a new school. She meets some new friends and Leaf, a Romani boy who really gets her, and whose flirting makes her happy. Except she’s also the pregnant new girl. She should probably tell Leaf about that, but she wants to hold on to her happiness for just a little longer.

Belly Up wasn’t quite what I expected. Sara is an amazing character, and her voice is so much fun. This is an incredibly diverse book, and friendship is a main theme, as is love (and not romantic love, either). This was a fun read about serious subjects, and I recommend it.

Eva Darrows/Hillary Monahan is a New York Times-bestselling author. Belly Up is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Getting Hot with the Scot, by Melonie Johnson

Getting Hot with the Scot
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:  Getting Hot with the Scot
Author:  Melonie Johnson
Genre:  Romance
Rating:  4 out of 5

Cassie Crow is a pop culture reporter for a talk show, but she wants to be a “serious” reporter. Even though she’s on the vacation of a lifetime with her friends, her upcoming big interview is all she can think about. Until a mix-up in a Scottish castle leads to a chance encounter with a handsome man in a kilt.

Logan’s career is doing pranks before a camera and making it big is all he can think about. Until he meets Cassie and needs her to agree before he can use the footage that may capture the hearts of his target audience.

What was supposed to be a one-night-stand might become more, but only if Cassie and Logan conquer the fears from their pasts.

Getting Hot with the Scot was a quick, fun read. Running into a sexy Highlander in a kilt—in a castle, no less—is probably the dream of a lot of women, so I found the way the novel took that idea and ran with it to be quite entertaining. The best part of this book, besides Logan’s accent, was the friendship between Cassie and her group of friends.

Melonie Johnson is a writer, a wife, a mother, and many other things, depending on her current interests. Getting Hot with the Scot is the first book in the Sometimes in Love series.

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

Book Review: A Pack of Blood and Lies, by Olivia Wildenstein

 

a pack of blood and lies
Image belongs to Twig Publishing.

Title:  A Pack of Blood and Lies
Author:  Olivia Wildenstein
Genre:  YA/New Adult, paranormal
Rating:  4 out of 5

Ness is almost 18 when she’s forced to return to Boulder. She intended to forget about what happened there, forget about what happened to her mom, and forget all the domineering men in the werewolf pack that had no room for a female. She was happy to think she’d escaped with only her memories.

But now she’s back in boulder and those memories are standing before her. One of them is a friend, but one of them is Liam Kolane, son of Heath, the cruelest man she’d ever imagined. Now Heath is dead, and no one dares challenge Liam for the right to rule the pack.

Except Ness, who isn’t going to let him win without a fight. A fight to the death—if she can convince her heart that’s an acceptable cost.

I found this pretty predictable in most ways, but I enjoyed the read. Lots of chauvinistic alpha males swaggering around, but there are some glimmers of redeeming qualities among them. Coming from a patriarchal society, it’s understandable, even if mildly infuriating.

Bestselling author Olivia Wildenstein lives in Switzerland. A Pack of Blood and Lies is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Twig Publishing via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)