Category: reading

Book Review: Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang

beasts of extraordinary circumstance
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Weylyn Grey was orphaned and raised by wolves. He met Mary when she was 11 years old, when he saved her from an angry wolf. Weylyn knows strange things happen around him—like stopping that tornado on Christmas Day—but he prefers to give the credit to his horned pig, Merlin.

Freak storms, trees that grow overnight, hurricanes that mysteriously dissipate; Weylyn has been around them all. Though it all, his love for Mary stays strong, until he realizes that she might come to harm. Then he knows he must move on. Instead of stopping hurricanes, the magic in his life now consists of fireflies who make phosphorescent honey. But, through it all, his love for Mary remains strong. All he needs is the courage to knock on her door.

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance is classified as fantasy/sci-fi, but to me, it’s more magical realism. It’s different from anything else I’ve ever read, and different is a very good thing. This is told not only from Weylyn’s point-of-view, but from that of those who know him. There is magic on every page, and wonder hides here as well.

Ruth Emmie Lang was born in Scotland, but moved to Ohio when she was four. Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance is her first novel.

(Galley provided by St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

 

 

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Book Review: Firebrand, by Sarah MacTavish

firebrand

Way back in…March, I think…I went to a local author event, mainly because Rachel Caine was going to be there, and I love her writing. I’d heard her speak before, and was pleased to have another opportunity. There was another author there, Sarah MacTavish, and I really enjoyed her talk as well. So, I ended up buying her debut novel, Firebrand. And it’s been sitting in that particular TBR pile until last week. Yes, I stockpile books…and then don’t have a chance to read them for months. I have a problem, okay?

When I did pick it up, I finished reading it in less than 24 hours. It was that good. It’s set right before the Civil War, and its about two young abolitionists and the struggles they face. I like historical fiction, but I thought this YA historical was extremely well-written, and I found myself rooting for the characters. (Also, I’m from Texas, not too far from where part of the book is set, and I had no idea about some of the things in the novel.) This book deals with difficult events and topics, but it’s history:  if we don’t learn from it, we’re doomed to repeat it.

Saoirse Callahan and her family are struggling to survive on their small Texas farm that’s a far cry from their home in Ireland. Tempers are short, and after the death of one of her brothers, the whole family seems on the verge of collapsing. Then a series of fires sweep the region, and rumors of a slave uprising spread, leaving vigilante justice in their wake. Saoirse is desperate to find out what really happened, but her questions land her family in even deeper trouble.

Westleigh Kavanagh is safely an abolitionist in Pennsylvania, until he realizes his father’s new boarder is a runaway slave. Westleigh is determined to keep the man’s secret, even from his father, who, as sheriff, is bound to uphold the law, no matter what his personal beliefs are. Then Westleigh finds an old journal, and uncovers secrets his father has long kept hidden from him, secrets that lead him to the Callahans in  Texas.

What I Read in October

I read 19 books in October. I know, right? Not sure where I found the time. But…some of these were REALLY good, and I finished them in less than 24 hours. Especially the last two…and the first one I read in November. 🙂

the indigo girl

The Indigo Girl, by Natasha Boyd (read to review). Fascinating historical fiction about the early efforts to produce indigo in colonial America. Eliza Lucas is a sixteen-year-old left in charge of the family’s estates while her father chases his military dreams. This novel also talks about the early slave uprisings and Eliza’s efforts to teach slaves to read. A very engrossing read, with a bit of romance thrown in for good measure.

merry and bright

Merry and Bright, by Debbie Macomber (read to review). Debbie Macomber is always a good author to turn to for feel-good, uplifting stories, and this one is no exception—even for someone disgusted with the commercialization of Christmas. Merry is so busy she has no time for herself, until her mother and brother set up an online dating profile for her, which leads her to someone she never expected.

select-cvr_large

Select, by Marit Weisenberg (read to review). I’m not sure what to say about this novel. The cover is beautiful, and the premise sounds intriguing, but the execution didn’t live up to the promise. A reclusive group of beautiful people with special traits prepares to separate themselves from the rest of the world, while the leader’s daughter learns there’s a lot more going on than she’s ever been told.

the house at 758

The House at 758, by Kathryn Berla (read to review). Loved this! YA fiction about Krista, still grieving the death of her mother, while her father wants to move on and Krista is obsessed with the mysterious house at 758.

Midnight-Dance

The Midnight Dance, by Nikki Katz (read to review). Penny and eleven other girls are students at an elite ballet school, hidden away from the world by the Master, a reclusive wealthy man who only wants the best for them. Until Penny’s memories no longer add up, leaving her to wonder if what she remembers is the truth or not. Beautiful cover!

His Majesty’s Dragon, by Naomi Novik (from the TBR pile). This has been on my shelf for years. I’m not sure why I waited to read this, but I loved it! Dragons as military fighters in the war with Napoleon.

Throne of Jade, by Naomi Novik (from the TBR pile). Still loving this series.

the breathless

The Breathless, by Tara Goedjen (read to review). A creepy gothic read about a family with dark secrets struggling to deal with the loss of their oldest daughter–and the secrets she was keeping. I enjoyed this read a lot. Very creepy, but I did not want it to end like it did (yet the ending was very appropriate).

Black Powder War, by Naomi Novak. (Just because.)

the beautiful ones

The Beautiful Ones, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (read to review). This was a Regency-ish read with hints of steampunk…maybe magical realism set in a Regency-type society? Nina is used to country living, but she comes to town for the Grand Season and her ice-cold aunt tries to mold her into a society girl. Except Nina keeps forgetting the rules and speaking her mind. Then there’s the telekinetic performer she meets and falls in love with, Hector, who’s hiding dark secrets.

Stay with Me, by Ayobami Adebayo (cultural book of the month.) Okay, I love reading books set in Africa. I’ve felt drawn to it as long as I can remember, and ironically, my boyfriend is from Cameroon. Go figure. This book, set in Nigeria, is about a wife struggling to get pregnant and keep her children alive, and the secrets she and her husband have hidden from each other. It was an emotional read, and I’m still not sure what I think of it.

Lilac Lane, by Sherryl Woods (review forthcoming). A romance about an Irish woman who falls in love with the pub chef, but the problems from their past are great enough to shadow everything around them. I may have to read the rest of this series.

Murder over Mochas

Murder over Mochas, by Caroline Fardig (read to review.) I’m sad that this is the last of the Java Jive series. Funny, light mystery that reminds me quite a bit of the Stephanie Plum books.

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance, by Emmie Ruth Lang (review forthcoming.) I’m still digesting this read about a boy who was raised by wolves, and the man he grows up to be…with powers. A bit of an X-men feel to this one.

The Reason for my Hope, by Billy Graham (spiritual book of the month.) Great read.

Passing, by Nella Larsen (classic book of the month.) I’d never actually heard of or seen this book on any list of classics, but it showed up on a Goodreads search, and I thought it would be an interesting choice, considering the conversations about racism going on. I’m not quite sure what I think about this. I found one of the characters almost unlikable, and the other so conflicted I never got a true sense of her.

Firebrand, by Sarah MacTavish (Just because.) This has been sitting on my TBR pile for WAY too long. About abolitionists just before the Civil War. There was a lot here that I didn’t know about, which is sad, since half the book is set not too far from where I live/grew up. I cannot imagine having lived in such dark times. Wonderful characters, and I’m looking forward to more from this author.

The Dark Intercept, by Julia Keller (Review forthcoming.) I found this version of the future disturbing (but not completely farfetched), and I loved the characters and their conflicts. I enjoyed this immensely and recommend it! Read it in one day.

Rosemarked, by Livia Blackburne (Review forthcoming.) Hands down the best book I read all month! About a healer who catches the illness she’s fighting, and is given an opportunity to help others who suffer from it, while secretly trying to learn more about the enemy that conquered her people, before they can be destroyed by war. Fantastic read! Even better, it’s the first of a series! I blew through this in less than a day.

Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy.

Book Review: The Breathless, by Tara Goedjen

the breathless
Image belongs to Delacorte Press.

Roxanne Cole died a year ago, and her family still hasn’t come to terms with her death. Ro was the light of the Cole family, and everything has been dark since her death. Her boyfriend, Cole, vanished the night she died, and no one has seen him since, but when he shows up at the door to Blue Gate Manor asking where Ro is, Mae doesn’t know what to think.

Her sister’s death hit her hard, and Mae is still struggling, but to Cole, Ro was just alive yesterday. When Mae finds the little green book that was never far from Ro’s hands, she also finds dark secrets about her family’s past, and realizes that Ro might be gone now, but that doesn’t mean she has to stay gone.

The Breathless is a creepy Southern gothic mystery that tells three stories:  the present-day tale of Cole and Mae struggling to deal with Ro’s loss, Cole’s memories of his relationship with Ro, and a dark time in the family’s past. The setting adds an eerie layer to an unsettling story, as Mae finds out just what was in that little green book. The storyline about the family’s past does deal with a history of racism that was common in that era, but does not glorify it, instead it reveals the results of such violence and hate.

Tara Goedjen was raised in Alabama and now lives in California. The Breathless is her debut novel.

(Galley provided by Delacorte Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The House at 758, by Kathryn Berla

 

the house at 758
Image belongs to Amberjack Publishing.

As if being 16 weren’t bad enough, Krista is still dealing with the death of her mother. Her father has moved his new girlfriend in and wants Krista to start acting normal again and find something to do. Her best friend is going to Maine for the summer. And Krista feels like she has no one to talk to about her pain.

So, she spends her time in a tent on top of the house, shoplifting, and watching a mysterious house. She’s not ready to act normal again. Then she meets Jake, who works at the store she shoplifts, and her dad tells her that her grandfather, a Hungarian Holocaust survivor, is coming to visit. Krista starts to feel better, but if she never deals with the past, will she ever feel normal again?

The House at 758 took me by surprise. First, I feel like Krista is my spirit animal. Living in a tent on top of the house because you don’t want to be around people? Sign me up for that! Krista is hurting desperately, but she doesn’t want to ask for help. She’d rather brood and act like everything is okay, because shouldn’t people know what she’s going through? Dealing with dark emotions like grief, anger, and guilt isn’t easy, and Krista fights against it for a long time, until she starts to realize that there is more than one side to every story. This was an engrossing read that drew me into Krista’s head and kept me rooting for her to make a breakthrough and start to see light again.

Kathryn Berla is the author of Dream Me, Twelves Hours in Paradise, Going Places, and The Kitty Committee. The House at 758 is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Amberjack Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Select, by Marit Weisenberg

select-cvr_large
Image belongs to Charlesbridge Teen.

Julia Jaynes is part of a group of highly-evolved humans living in Austin, Texas. Rich, beautiful, and powerful, they keep to themselves and try not to draw more attention to their media-popular circle. Then Julia saves her sister from drowning, and the media attention she causes makes her powerful father punish her by sending her to public high school.

There Julia meets John, a tennis prodigy and a nice, regular guy. When Julie discovers she can read his mind—sometimes—she uses the power to encourage John, and her feelings start to grow. Living with the regular humans isn’t as bad as she thought, but Julie is desperate to get back in her controlling father’s good graces, before their circle disappears from society for good.

So…the cover of this book is what caught my eye first, and the premise is fantastic. I read all of it, but Julia was a bit too erratic for me. Does she hate her father? Does she love him? Does she want to stay with the super humans? Does a life of freedom with the regular humans sound more appealing?  What is really going on with the evolved humans and Julia’s powerful father? And why did he separate the younger members and try to destroy the more powerful ones’ talents?

I don’t actually know the answers to any of these questions, and that bothers me. Julia can’t make up her mind, and a first-person narrative should have some insight into the character, but it doesn’t. (I saw several comparisons to Twilight in other reviews, and that is sadly accurate.) I loved the premise of this book, but the execution and character development was lacking.

Despite her name, Marit Weisenberg is only a quarter Norwegian. She lives in Austin, Texas. Select is the first book in the Select series.

(Galley provided by Charlesbridge Teen via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Books I Read in August

August was a good reading month. I read seventeen books.

any dream will do

Any Dream Will Do, by Debbie Macomber. (Read to review.) I thought this romance was a bit different from this author’s usual fare–not that I’ve read all of her works–but a pastor struggling to raise his kids after his wife’s death and a just-out-of-prison woman working to create a new life for herself made a nice change of pace.

The Almost Sisters, by Joshilyn Jackson. (From my TBR pile.) How can I forget how much I like this author? gods in Alabama introduced me to the world of Southern fiction, and this tale of a comic book author pregnant with a mystery Batman’s baby who goes back to a tiny Southern town when her grandmother starts going crazy and ends up finding a skeleton in a trunk in the attic and a dark family secret is a gripping, wonderful read. bonus points for the sweet tea love and the handling of race issues.

earthquake

Things that Happened Before the Earthquake, by Chiara Barzini(Read to review.) Um. Literary fiction is hit or miss with me. The writing was evocative, but the family this was about was a big turn-off for me. The MC was self-destructive, and I could never get a sense of the why for her actions.

Blackhearts and Blacksouls, by Nicole Castroman (The first has been sitting on my Kindle for months.) I really enjoyed these two books, which are meant to be Blackbeard’s origin story–and romance, of course. Teach and Anne are great characters, and their relationship and backstories are both well-developed. Very enjoyable reads.

wonder

Recapturing The Wonder, by Mike Cosper. (Read to review, plus a spiritual book.) Very good read from an author with a great voice.

if the creek don't rise

If the Creek Don’t Rise, by Leah Weiss (Read to review.). Um…I did not care for this one much. The setting—Appalachia–was tough to read about, as was the poverty and mindset of the characters.

atwg

All the Wicked Girls, by Chris Whitaker (Read to review). Great Southern Gothic about a teenage girl who disappears and the entire town’s search for what happened to her.

mask of shadows

Mask of Shadows, by Linsey Miller (Read to Review.) Fantasy with a gender-fluid main character. This was a pretty unique read that I enjoyed, despite some contradictions.

Dumplin’, by Julie Murphy (Has been languishing on my Kindle for months.) Loved this! A teenage girl grapples with her body image in a small Southern town. The characters in this novel are fantastic! Seriously. You must read this!

Side Effects May Vary, by Julie Murphy (Because I loved Dumplin.) I did not care for the MC, who is a teenage girl with cancer. She was pretty mean to everyone around her, and I found her mostly unlikable.

On the Wings of a Whisper, by Lynette Bonner (From a different culture.) Short. Too short. I enjoyed what there was of it, though.

The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Arthur Conan Doyle (Classic book of the month.) Can’t believe I’ve never read this before!

tgwtrb

The Girl with the Red Balloon, by Katherine Locke (Read to review.) Time-travel via balloon into Berlin Wall-era Germany, Loved the characters, the world, and the story!

Bitter Past, by Caroline Fardig (Review forthcoming.) The beginning of a new series for this author, about a forensics professor asked to assist in a murder investigation that has swept over her small college.

Boundaries, by Dr. Henry Cloud.

The Salt Line, by Holly Goddard Hones (Review forthcoming.) Very unique dystopian tale where America has retreated behind walls to escape the deadly ticks found outside. Not what I was expecting at all!

Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy for Quick Lit.

Books I Read in July

I had an excellent reading month in July and read 16 books.

the mourning parade

The Mourning Parade, by Dawn Reno Langely. (Read to review.) Wow. Just wow. I loved this book! It’s a bit sad, about a veterinarian who goes to Thailand for a year to work with rescued elephants. She’s dealing with PTSD from the loss of her sons, and needs the escape.

Ship Breaker, by Paola Bacigalupi. (Just because.) Very different distopian set in a future American where the seas have risen, and some have to scavenge items from the past to survive. Nailer rescues a rich girl after one of the city killer hurricanes, and finds that his life will never be the same.

trust

Trust, by Kylie Scott. (Read to review.) I LOVED THIS! From the opening scene all the way to the very end, I couldn’t put it down. Can I tell you how much I loved Edie? Her sass and way of looking at life was fantastic. Bonus points for not being the typical gorgeous and skinny main character. Her interactions with John were so real, and I felt like I was her, experiencing every second. (Speaking of John Cole…I may have made a new collection in my reading bullet journal after reading this book, called Book Boyfriends, just to put him on it…allegedly. He was THAT appealing.)

awkward

The Awkward Path to Getting Lucky, by Summer Heacock. (Read to review.) Another book I loved! (I’ve had fantastic luck with books lately.) This book made me laugh, cringe with embarrassment, and crave a cupcake (several times simultaneously). The scene when the ladies come running out of the kitchen with…toys…clutched in their hands was the greatest!

Gather the Daughters, by Jennie Melamed. (Read to review.) I only read half of this, then I had to stop. The writing is great. The setting–dark dystopian–is believable and realistic. But some of the cultural details…were too disturbing for me to continue reading.

all things new

All Things New, by Lauren Miller. (Read to review.) The MC lives with panic attacks in this novel that deals with serious issues in a relatable way, and Marshall, the love interest, is so quirky and fun that I wanted to hang out with him!

kissing max holden

Kissing Max Holden, by Katy Upperman. (Read to review.) Boy and girl grow up next door to each other. Boy turns rebellious and troublesome, girl’s father catches them making out and forbids her from seeing him ever again….That’s the basic premise, but there’s so much more to this story. From Max’s struggles in the aftermath of his father’s stroke, to Jillian’s about-to-arrive sibling and her parents fighting all the time, this story is full of real-life struggles, along with the tension between Max and Jillian.

Ash and Quill, by Rachel Caine. (Because I love this author. And this series.) The ending of this book emotionally broke me. Jess and his band of friends are so amazing together, in a world where books are both treasured and burned outside the all-powerful Great Library.

emma

Emma in the Night, by Wendy Walker. (Read to review.) This is a disturbing book. Actually, the family it’s about is troubling. When Cass and Emma disappeared 3 years ago, they left no trace. Now Cass is back, desperate for help to find Emma. Not what I was expecting.

the innkeeper's sister

The Innkeeper’s Sister, by Linda Goodnight. (Read to review.) A sweet Southern romance about characters dealing with the sins in their past while trying to solve a Civil War-era mystery.

holding

Holding, by Graham Norton. (Read to review.) A cozy mystery set in rural Ireland. At first, the characters do not seem all that interesting, but they definitely grow on you.

Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. (Cultural book of the month.) I’ve been meaning to read this for a while. Now I kind of wish I hadn’t, since I found it pretty sad.

The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James. (Classic book of the month.) I’m not really a fan of this. I never really figured out what was going on–probably because I wasn’t intrigued enough to care.

One in a Million, Priscilla Shirer. (Spiritual book of the month.) Great read, and Shirer is a fantastic speaker, because I’ve heard her speak at my church.

The List, by Particia Forde. (Review forthcoming). It’s hard to imagine a world where there’s only 500 “approved” words that people can use, but Forde does a fantastic job with this dystopian story about a girl who finds out the truth of her world—and the man who wants to take language away from the human race forever.

Lifeblood, by Gena Showalter. (Just because.) This gets all the stars! I’m a huge fan of Showalter’s work, but this trilogy has such a unique set-up and premise. Loved this!

***

Linking up with Quick Lit at Modern Mrs. Darcy.

Book Review: All Things New, by Lauren Miller

all things new
Image belongs to Three Saints Press.

Jessa Gray is seventeen, with a boyfriend she loves, a few friends, and a place she belongs. At least, a place she looks like she belongs:  living with her mom and hanging out with her boyfriend’s crowd. But inside, Jessa is a mess, suffering horrible panic attacks that medication and therapy haven’t helped, and always feeling like an outsider. When a terrible accident leaves Jessa with a brain injury, she sees bruises and scars on everyone around her, and thinks she must be going crazy for real. The chance to move to Colorado with her dad and start over is Jessa’s lifeline.

Instead of being the haven she was looking for, the move makes Jessa’s anxiety worse, until she meets Marshall, the quirky boy with a heart defect who makes her see life a whole new way. Though Jessa starts to feel like she belongs in this new life, she still sees wounds on everyone around her, and wonders if she’ll ever be “normal” again.

I’ve never suffered from anxiety quite like Jessa did, although I do have the occasional panic attack that sends my brain into a frenzy and throws the world into chaos. All Things New captures the pandemonium of anxiety and panic attacks, and shows readers just what if feels like to live with these issues. More importantly, it shows what it’s like to survive with them, and to grow. Jessa is entirely relatable, she doesn’t think she’s normal, but she is:  everyone is dealing with something, which she eventually learns. Marshall is funny and sweet, and he helps Jessa look at the world without the veil of her anxiety. Both humorous and heart-wrenching, All Things New is an enthralling read, bursting with vivid life.

Lauren Miller grew up in Georgia, studied at Yale, and now lives in California, where she writes and works. The author of Parallel and Free to Fall, her newest novel is All Things New.

(Galley provided by Three Saints Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Books I Read in May

I read slightly less than I have been reading in May. It felt like a lot less, but it was really only nine books, instead of my usual 10-12. May was crazy for me. Way too much going on. I’m hoping for a more peaceful June.

Here’s what I read:

iswg-final-cover

It Started with Goodbye, by Christina June. (Read to review.) I really enjoyed this! A YA where the MC actually admits she’s wrong, and grows as she learns from her mistakes? Plus, it’s not all about the romance. Great read.

Beneath the Wake, by Ross Pennie. (Read to review…but didn’t.) I don’t even know why I finished this one. It was pretty pointless to me, and the MC…seemed pretty concerned about the intricate meals he ate, but not about the whole people-are-dying-and-I’m-trying-to-figure-out-why thing. (I didn’t review it, but I did give the publisher my feedback. It just wasn’t to my taste. It’s part of a series, so clearly some people like it.)

Turbo Twenty Three, by Janet Evanovich. (Read for fun.) I really love this series, although  I wish Stephanie would just make up her mind already–Ranger. Not Joe. I didn’t think this one measured up, though. It wasn’t really funny, and some of these have had me laughing so hard I cried.

happiness

The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness, by Paula Poundstone. (Read to review.) I like to read some non-fiction now and then, and a comic I used to enjoy seemed like a good option. To me, this book wasn’t really humor–although it had some funny moments–it was just about life. I enjoyed reading it.

hlr

The Half Life of Remorse, by Grant Jarrett. (Read to review.) Deals with some deep issues, including violence, murder, and living on the streets, but with redemption as well.

Palm Trees in the Snow, by Luz Gabas. (Cultural book of the month.) I thought I was picking a Central/South America book, but it turned out to be another one set in Africa. I love reading about Africa, but I though a different culture would be good. Which, actually, this one was, as it was set in a Spanish colony. This was a really good book, and I recommend it.

Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen. (Classic book of the month.) How have I never read this Austen book? I don’t know, but I really enjoyed it.

Be the Message, by Kerry and Chris Shook. (Spiritual book of the month.) An excellent read!

the long run

The Long Run, by Catriona Menzies-Pike. (Read to review.) Another non-fiction choice, and one I found fascinating. The history of women in running was interesting, but a little disheartening. I don’t understand why men found women running so threatening.

Stopped reading: White Fur, by Jardine Libaire, because I found the two main characters were a little too out there for me. I’m okay with crazy. Just not disconnected-from everything-crazy.

(Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy.)