Tag: book review

What I Read in July (2021)

Books Read in July: 23

Books Read for the Year:  152/250

Topical Books/Monthly Goal Books:

For Review:

Not Safe, by Mark Batterson (spiritual). Wonderful read!

A Court of Frost and Starlight, by Sarah J. Maas (TBR). Can we talk about how much I love this series?

Spiritual Warfare in the End Times, by Ron Rhodes.

Odd Apocalypse, by Dean Koontz (re-read). Still loving this series! And this is the last one that’s a re-read.

A Grown Up Kind of Pretty, by Joshilyn Jackson (TBR). The voice in this is Joshilyn Jackson at her best!

For Review:

The One You’re With, by Lauren K. Denton. I usually love Lauren K. Denton’s books, and, while this one was good, I didn’t like it as much as her others….because I feel like the wife was unreasonably mad over something she had absolutely no right to be mad about.

What We Devour, by Linsey Miller. I liked the idea of this and the writing was solid, but there was too much about the culture/history/etc. that was never explained in any way, so I just ended up confused.

Six Crimson Cranes, by Elizabeth Lim. This was a fantastic read! It’s a re-telling of a fairy tale set in a completely different culture and it’s both vivid and evocative. Highly recommended!

Where It All Lands, by Jennie Wexler. This was an interesting read, and it all hinges on a coin toss. The first half of the book tells what would happen if the coin lands on heads, the second half if the coin lands on tails. I enjoyed the story—and the music threaded throughout.

Dog Eat Dog, by David Rosenfelt. This was just a “meh” read for me. The characters are basically talking heads with no setting or actions, so it just didn’t work for me.

The Innkeeper’s Daughter and The Gentleman’s Daughter, by Bianca M. Schwarz. These books kind of felt like a Regency-era copycat of James Bond. The male lead was of course a notorious ladies man—supposedly as “cover” for being a spy, and yet he was actually a big flirt who just wanted to sleep with the ladies in question.

The War Nurse, by Tracey Enerson Wood. This was a solid historical read set in World War I and dealing with war nurses (of course).

The Lights of Sugarberry Cove, by Heather Webber. This was a sweet family story with a hint of magic, dealing with scars from the past.

Mother of All, by Jenna Glass. The final book in a trilogy, and a solid fantasy read.

Radar Girls, by Sara Ackerman. This was a fascinating historical fiction read about something I’d never heard of: the women who became radar operators after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

When a Duke Loves a Governess, by Olivia Drake (review forthcoming). This was a solid yet standard romance read.

The Last Nomad, by Shugri Said Salh (review forthcoming). This was a good nonfiction of a girl who grew up in Somalia and the thing she experienced during the upheaval and war there, before she managed to escape.

A Cup of Silver Linings, by Karen Hawkins (review forthcoming). this is the excellent second book in the Dove Pond series, and I highly recommend it.

A Dragonbird in the Fern, by Laura Rueckert (review forthcoming). I enjoyed this fantasy read. The cultures were unique, and adding a murder mystery into the mix made it stand out.

Just Because:

Praying the Scriptures for Your Life, by Jodie Berndt. I loved this!

The End Times in Chronological Order by Ron Rhodes.

Many Infallible Proofs: Practical and Useful Evidences of Christianity, by Henry M. Morris

Left Unfinished:

Together We Will Go, by J. Michael Straczynski. I tried. I read 30% of this, but the whole concept—a group of people who go on a road trip to commit suicide together—was just too much for me.

Book Review: When a Duke Loves a Governess, by Olivia Drake

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Tessa James has worked and planned tirelessly to open her own millinery shop. All she needs now is a loan from the lord who sired and abandoned her. The only problem is, she doesn’t even know his name. What’s a woman to do to find him but enter the aristocratic world by becoming a governess?

Guy Whitby, the new Duke of Carlin, has returned to London after years abroad to discover that his young daughter Sophy has become a wild-child known for scaring away every governess who’s crossed his doorstep. When Tessa James applies for the job, he hires her in desperation despite his misgivings that she’s too bold and beautiful–and that she might be fibbing about her qualifications.

Their blooming attraction leads them on a completely unexpected path to love that neither wants to deny. But when an old enemy threatens Guy’s family, their forbidden romance goes up in flames. Can they still learn to love and trust each other as forces try to tear them apart?

This was a quick, easy read. Sophy was quite the brat to start with, and Guy’s blindness to that was almost enough to make me put the book down, despite the accuracy of the situation (Wealthy absentee father now trying to be involved, thinks his daughter is an angel). This was a solid read, but not an unexpected one. If you’re looking for an HEA-ending, Tessa and her struggles are a good way to spend a few hours.

Olivia Drake is an award-winning author.  When a Duke Loves a Governess is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: Radar Girls, by Sara Ackerman

Image belongs to Harlequin/MIRA.

Daisy Wilder prefers the company of horses to people, bare feet and salt water to high heels and society parties. Then, in the dizzying aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Daisy enlists in a top secret program, replacing male soldiers in a war zone for the first time. Under fear of imminent invasion, the WARDs guide pilots into blacked-out airstrips and track unidentified planes across Pacific skies. 

But not everyone thinks the women are up to the job, and the new recruits must rise above their differences and work side by side despite the resistance and heartache they meet along the way. With America’s future on the line, Daisy is determined to prove herself worthy. And with the man she’s falling for out on the front lines, she cannot fail. From radar towers on remote mountaintops to flooded bomb shelters, she’ll need her new team when the stakes are highest. Because the most important battles are fought—and won—together.

This was a pretty cool read! I loved the historical premise of the novel, of which I’d never heard the slightest bit about:  Hawaiian women being trained to use radar in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The writing is solid, and the characters are unique and believable individuals. I truly enjoyed finding out what happened to these women against the backdrop of war, with the setting of Hawaii as a vibrant character in its own right. A perfect weekend read!

Sara Ackerman lives in Hawaii. Radar Girls is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Mother of All, by Jenna Glass

Image belongs to Random House/Del Rey.

In the once male-dominated world of Seven Wells, women now control their own reproduction, but the battle for equality is far from over. Even with two thrones held by women, there are still those who cling to the old ways and are determined to return the world to the way it was.

Now into this struggle comes a darker power. Delnamal, the former King of Aalwell, may have lost his battle to undo the spell that gave women reproductive control, but he has gained a terrible and deadly magic, and he uses these new abilities to raise an army the likes of which the world has never seen. Delnamal and his allies seem like an unstoppable force, destined to crush the fragile new balance between men and women.

Yet sometimes it is possible for determined individuals to stem the tide, and it comes down to a unique triad of women–maiden, mother, and crone–to risk everything…not only to preserve the advances they have won but to change the world one final time.

I did not read the first book in this trilogy—not something that I recommend—but I was able to jump into book two without much problem. And, I very much enjoyed this book, the last in the trilogy. The magic system is unique as are the cultures and societies. Very strong female characters and some of the men are excellent characters as well—although some of them are total jerks. This is a solid fantasy read that I do recommend!

Jenna Glass has been writing since the fifth grade. Mother of All is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Random House/Del Rey in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Lights of Sugarberry Cove, by Heather Webber

Image belongs to Macmillan-Tor/Forge.

Sadie Way Scott has been avoiding her family and hometown of Sugarberry Cove, Alabama, since she nearly drowned in the lake just outside her mother’s B&B. Eight years later, Sadie is the host of a much-loved show about southern cooking and family, but despite her success, she wonders why she was saved. What is she supposed to do?

Sadie’s sister, Leala Clare, is still haunted by the guilt she feels over the night her sister almost died. Now, at a crossroads in her marriage, Leala has everything she ever thought she wanted–so why is she so unhappy?

When their mother suffers a minor heart attack just before Sugarberry Cove’s famous water lantern festival, the two sisters come home to run the inn while she recovers. It’s the last place either of them wants to be, but with a little help from the inn’s quirky guests, the sisters may come to terms with their strained relationships, accept the past, and rediscover a little lake magic.

I enjoyed the magical realism in this story! The miscommunication/lack of communication between the characters causes all sorts of problems, but I really enjoyed the B&B setting and how the family worked out all their issues finally. This was a sweet, fun read, perfect for a summer weekend—especially at the lake.

Heather Webber lives new Cincinnati, Ohio. The Lights of Sugarberry Cove is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Macmillan-Tor/Forge in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The War Nurse, by Tracey Enerson Wood

Image belongs to Sourcebooks Landmark.

Superintendent of Nurses Julia Stimson must recruit sixty-five nurses to relieve the battle-worn British, months before American troops are ready to be deployed. She knows that the young nurses serving near the front lines of will face a challenging situation, but nothing could have prepared her for the chaos that awaits when they arrive at British Base Hospital 12 in Rouen, France. The primitive conditions, a convoluted, ineffective system, and horrific battle wounds are enough to discourage the most hardened nurses, and Julia can do nothing but lead by example―even as the military doctors undermine her authority and make her question her very place in the hospital tent.

When trainloads of soldiers stricken by a mysterious respiratory illness arrive one after the other, overwhelming the hospital’s limited resources, and threatening the health of her staff, Julia faces an unthinkable choice―to step outside the bounds of her profession and risk the career she has fought so hard for, or to watch the people she cares for most die in her arms.

I enjoyed this read. Julia was an interesting character:  she has a fairly distant personality—she keeps her emotions in a little box—but she wants to be close to people. She’s motivated by her desire to make things better for the people around her, whether the patients, her fellow nurses, or the doctors.

The blurb makes it sound like the respiratory illness is a HUGE part of the novel, but it really wasn’t. The bulk of this story is Julia’s internal conflict. Even the war itself isn’t an on-screen character, it’s more background and setting. This is a solid read about a fascinating woman.

Tracey Enerson Wood is from New Jersey. The War Nurse is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: The Gentleman’s Daughter, by Bianca M. Schwarz

Image belongs to Central Avenue Publishing.

Sir Henry, secret agent to the crown, must marry a lady above reproach to afford his illegitimate daughter entrance into society. After narrowly escaping marriage to a highborn bigot, he takes an assignment in Brighton, leading him to an abandoned abbey full of dark whispers, and a sinister secret society, the very one Henry has been investigating for three years.

Isabella is as beautiful as she is talented, but falling in love isn’t part of her plans. She only wants to paint, forget her painful past, and keep her overbearing mother at bay. But gaining one’s independence isn’t easy for a woman in 1823, so Isabella embarks on a fake courtship with Sir Henry. Soon, love and a painting career no longer seem so utterly incompatible.

But when the man Isabella fears most kidnaps her, all appears lost. Realizing the kidnapper is part of the same organization he is investigating, Henry chases after them. Entrapped in a web of secrets, both Henry and Isabella must face old enemies, and fight for their happily ever after.

I had not read the first book in this series, so I read that, first. There was a completely different love interest/live-in significant other in that book—set three years prior to this one—so the change was a little off-putting. I actually liked her quite a bit, so to see Henry just move on without batting an eye was bit much.

I feel like this series is an attempt at a Regency-era James Bond. Henry is a ladies’ man, wealthy, suave, and always manages to land on his feet. But he’s more of a caricature than a believable character, and the abrupt switch from the first book to this one made this just a “meh” read for me.

Bianca M. Schwarz was born in Germany. The Gentleman’s Daughter is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Central Avenue Publishing in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Dog Eat Dog, by David Rosenfelt

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books.

Lawyer Andy Carpenter and his wife, Laurie, enjoy walking their dogs, Tara and Sebastian. By this point in their marriage, it’s routine. When out for one of their strolls, their simple ritual isn’t so simple anymore. Across the street, a man is mistreating his dog. Three things happen at once: Andy yells, Laurie runs to stop the abuse, and so does a closer passerby, who so thoroughly beats the owner that both are arrested when the cops arrive.

Andy scoops up the dog and takes him to the Tara Foundation, the dog rescue organization that’s always been his true passion. Meanwhile, at the police station, the passerby is identified as Matthew Jantzen, and he’s wanted for murder. Andy and Laurie are struck by the fact that Jantzen, a man on the run, would nevertheless intervene to help a dog, and decide to find out more.

This is book #23 in a series and…I won’t be reading any more. It wasn’t bad, but it felt like the entire book was populated with talking heads. I got no sense of what the characters or their actions looked like, no feel for the setting or anything. I enjoyed Andy’s self-deprecating humor, but his ego was too much for me, and this just wasn’t a good fit for me at all.

David Rosenfelt is from New Jersey. Dog Eat Dog is his newest novel.

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

Book Review: Where It All Lands, by Jennie Wexler

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Stevie Rosenstein has never made a true friend. Never fallen in love. Moved from city to city by her father’s unrelenting job, it’s too hard to care for someone. Trust in anything. The pain of leaving always hurts too much. But she’ll soon learn to trust, to love.

Twice.

Drew and Shane have been best friends through everything. The painful death of Shane’s dad. The bitter separation of Drew’s parents. Through sleepaway camps and family heartache, basketball games and immeasurable loss, they’ve always been there for each other.

When Stevie meets Drew and Shane, life should go on as normal.

But a simple coin toss alters the course of their year in profound and unexpected ways.

This was an interesting read. The first half of the story is told where Drew wins the coin toss, the second where Shane wins. And, dang. It was interesting to see the two different storylines—the characters (Drew and Shane at least) came across completely differently with that one seemingly small change.

Music runs through all of this novel, and several times I wanted to stop and look up some of the songs to listen. I have zero musical ability, but I love to read about people who have that ability. All in all, this was a solid read, and I loved the split stories.

Jennie Wexler lives in New Jersey. Where It All Lands is her debut novel.

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

Book Review: Six Crimson Cranes, by Elizabeth Lim

Image belongs to Random House Children’s/ Knopf Books for Young Readers.

Shiori, the only princess of Kiata, has a secret. Forbidden magic runs through her veins. Normally she conceals it well, but on the morning of her betrothal ceremony, Shiori loses control. At first, her mistake seems like a stroke of luck, forestalling the wedding she never wanted, but it also catches the attention of Raikama, her stepmother.

Raikama has dark magic of her own, and she banishes the young princess, turning her brothers into cranes, and warning Shiori that she must speak of it to no one: for with every word that escapes her lips, one of her brothers will die.

Penniless, voiceless, and alone, Shiori searches for her brothers, and, on her journey, uncovers a conspiracy to overtake the throne—a conspiracy more twisted and deceitful, more cunning and complex, than even Raikama’s betrayal. Only Shiori can set the kingdom to rights, but to do so she must place her trust in the very boy she fought so hard not to marry. And she must embrace the magic she’s been taught all her life to contain—no matter what it costs her.

This was a fantastic read! I love that it’s a retelling of a fairy tale, set in a completely different—and vividly drawn—culture. Some of the brothers kind of blurred together for me; not a surprise, as for the most part they sort of played one part, but the other characters were distinct and believable.

Shiori herself was great. Her journey to realizing and embracing her strength was wonderful, and I loved how she thought for herself and didn’t just go along with what everyone told her. I was up late finishing this because I just couldn’t put it down.

Elizabeth Lin lives in New York City. Six Crimson Cranes is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Random House Children’s/ Knopf Books for Young Readers in exchange for an honest review.)