Tag: book review

Book Review: Entangled Secrets, by Pat Esden

entangled secrets

Title:   Entangled Secrets
Author Pat Esden
Genre:   Fantasy
Rating:   3 out of 5

The Northern Circle coven’s future is in question once again. But this time, hearts and souls are on the line, making the stakes higher, the magic more crucial, and the battle more fateful than ever before . . .

Pregnant and alone at twenty-one, Chandler Parrish sought refuge within the Northern Circle coven’s secluded complex. Never revealing the identity of her child’s father, Chandler has raised her now eight-year-old son, Peregrine, in peace, and used her talent as an artist and welder to become a renowned metal sculptor. But her world is shaken to the core when Peregrine shows signs of natural faerie sight—a rare and dangerous gift to see through faerie glamour and disguises that could only have come from his father’s genes. Worse yet, the boy has seen a monstrous faerie creature trailing Lionel Parker, a magic-obsessed journalist determined to expose the witching world.

But the very man who threatens the witches’ anonymity may also be key to healing Chandler’s long broken heart. As dangerous desires and shocking secrets entangle, new faerie threats and demonic foes close in on the coven and High Council. Loyalties will be tested. Fierce magics will be called upon. And Chandler will have to face her past to save all she holds dear: her coven, her child—and perhaps even her own soul.

This is the first book of the Northern Circle Coven series I’ve read…and probably the last. I loved the parts talking about the metal sculpting, because I find that fascinating, but the rest of this was just “meh” for me. I’m not a fan of insta-love, and that’s exactly what this felt like to me. This is probably a case of the book just not being a good fit for me, not an actual problem with the book, but I didn’t really care for this. I’ve gotten away from reading paranormal romances like this, so I probably should have skipped this for that reason alone.

Pat Esden lives in Northern Vermont. Entangled Secrets is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Kensington Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Girl, Serpent, Thorn, by Melissa Bashardoust

girl, serpent, thorn
Image belongs to Flatiron Books.

Title:   Girl, Serpent, Thorn
Author Melissa Bashardoust
Genre:   Fantasy, YA
Rating:   4 out of 5

There was and there was not, as all stories begin, a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. But for Soraya, who has lived her life hidden away, apart from her family, safe only in her gardens, it’s not just a story.

As the day of her twin brother’s wedding approaches, Soraya must decide if she’s willing to step outside of the shadows for the first time. Below in the dungeon is a demon who holds knowledge that she craves, the answer to her freedom. And above is a young man who isn’t afraid of her, whose eyes linger not with fear, but with an understanding of who she is beneath the poison.

Soraya thought she knew her place in the world, but when her choices lead to consequences she never imagined, she begins to question who she is and who she is becoming…human or demon. Princess or monster.

I liked the premise of this:  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.

It was cool to see a fantasy culture like this—I thought it was very well-done—and I enjoyed the layers of details, like the stories from the past and the legends from Soraya family. Deception and secrets are threads running throughout the entire novel, and sometimes the reader is deceived just as much as Soraya is.

Melissa Bashardoust lives in California. Girl, Serpent, Thorn is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Flatiron Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: One to Watch, by Kate Stayman-London

 

one to watch
Image belongs to Random House/Dial Press.

Title:   One to Watch
Author:   Kate Stayman-London
Genre:   Fiction, romance
Rating:   4 out of 5

Bea Schumacher is a devastatingly stylish plus-size fashion blogger who has amazing friends, a devoted family, legions of Insta followers—and a massively broken heart. Like the rest of America, Bea indulges in her weekly obsession: the hit reality show Main Squeeze. The fantasy dates! The kiss-off rejections! The surprising amount of guys named Chad! But Bea is sick and tired of the lack of body diversity on the show. Since when is being a size zero a prerequisite for getting engaged on television?

Just when Bea has sworn off dating altogether, she gets an intriguing call: Main Squeeze wants her to be its next star, surrounded by men vying for her affections. Bea agrees, on one condition—under no circumstances will she actually fall in love. She’s in this to supercharge her career, subvert harmful beauty standards, inspire women across America, and get a free hot air balloon ride. That’s it.

But when the cameras start rolling, Bea realizes things are more complicated than she anticipated. She’s in a whirlwind of sumptuous couture, Internet culture wars, sexy suitors, and an opportunity (or two, or five) to find messy, real-life love in the midst of a made-for-TV fairy tale. In this joyful, wickedly observant debut, Bea has to decide whether it might just be worth trusting these men—and herself—for a chance to live happily ever after.

I don’t like reality TV—the very idea is mind-numbing to me—but I actually enjoyed this read quite a bit. The body positivity was fantastic to see, of course and I’m sure the reaction to a plus-size women being on a Bachelor-esque show was pretty true-to-life, sadly.

I was right there with Bea’s best friend, hating on Bea’s crush and hoping Bea did not keep pining after him the entire time. I was so firmly in Bea’s head that I was just as baffled/hurt/shocked at the guys’ behavior as she was. I did love how the story ended, and thought it was very appropriate.

Kate Stayman-London lives in Los Angeles. One to Watch is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Random House/Dial Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Lost City, by Amanda Hocking

the lost city
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press/Wednesday Books.

Title:   The Lost City
Author:   Amanda Hocking
Genre:   YA, fantasy
Rating:   3.5 out of 5

Ulla Tulin was left abandoned in an isolated Kanin city as a baby, taken in by strangers and raised hidden away like many of the trolls of mixed blood. Even knowing this truth, she’s never stopped wondering about her family.

When Ulla is offered an internship working alongside the handsome Pan Soriano at the Mimirin, a prestigious institution, she jumps at the chance to use this opportunity to hopefully find her parents. All she wants is to focus on her job and the search for her parents, but all of her attempts to find them are blocked when she learns her mother may be connected to the Omte royal family.

With little progress made, Ulla and Pan soon find themselves wrapped up in helping Eliana, an amnestic girl with abilities unlike any they have ever seen before—a girl who seems to be running from something. To figure out who she is they must leave the city, and possibly, along the way, they may learn more about Ulla’s parents.

I haven’t read the Trylle series. If I remember correctly, I tried to read the first one and just couldn’t get through it. I made it through this one. I know the characters are trolls, but with a few exceptions, they just seemed like human teenagers.

Honestly, I found bits of this boring…and a few parts interesting. I wasn’t totally sold on the characters, but perhaps with a bit more exposure they’ll grow on me.

Amanda Hocking lives in Minnesota. The Lost City is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: In the Neighborhood of True, by Susan Kaplan Carlton

in the neighborhood of true
Image belongs to Algonquin Young Readers.

Title:   In the Neighborhood of True
Author:   Susan Kaplan Carlton
Genre:   YA
Rating:   4.0 out of 5

After her father’s death, Ruth Robb and her family transplant themselves in the summer of 1958 from New York City to Atlanta—the land of debutantes, sweet tea, and the Ku Klux Klan. In her new hometown, Ruth quickly figures out she can be Jewish or she can be popular, but she can’t be both. Eager to fit in with the blond girls in the “pastel posse,” Ruth decides to hide her religion. Before she knows it, she is falling for the handsome and charming Davis and sipping Cokes with him and his friends at the all-white, all-Christian Club.

Does it matter that Ruth’s mother makes her attend services at the local synagogue every week? Not as long as nobody outside her family knows the truth. At temple Ruth meets Max, who is serious and intense about the fight for social justice, and now she is caught between two worlds, two religions, and two boys. But when a violent hate crime brings the different parts of Ruth’s life into sharp conflict, she will have to choose between all she’s come to love about her new life and standing up for what she believes

Susan Kaplan Carlton lives in New Hampshire. In the Neighborhood of True is newly out in paperback.

I’ve always enjoyed reading about debutante life, because it seems like such a foreign concept to me, even though I was born and raised in the South. The debs Ruth ends up hanging out with were such quintessential southern girls—bless their hearts—sweet as sugar on the surface, but judgmental, mean, and ugly on the inside.

Ruth has had her entire world upended, so her struggles to figure out who she is are relatable, as are her fears. In the land of sweet tea and a façade of manners—Atlanta in the 50s—there isn’t much room for someone who is different, but Ruth’s journey taught her strength and pride in being herself—not who everyone wanted her to be.

(Galley courtesy of Algonquin Young Readers in exchange for an honest review.)

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: The Bright Lands, by John Fram

the bright lands
Image belongs to Harlequin/Hanover Square Press.

Title:   The Bright Lands
AuthorJohn Fram
Genre:   Thriller
Rating:   4 out of 5

The town of Bentley holds two things dear: its football, and its secrets. But when star quarterback Dylan Whitley goes missing, an unremitting fear grips this remote corner of Texas.

Joel Whitley was shamed out of conservative Bentley ten years ago, and while he’s finally made a life for himself as a gay man in New York, his younger brother’s disappearance soon brings him back to a place he thought he’d escaped for good. Meanwhile, Sheriff’s Deputy Starsha Clark stayed in Bentley; Joel’s return brings back painful memories—not to mention questions—about her own missing brother. And in the high school hallways, Dylan’s friends begin to suspect that their classmates know far more than they’re telling the police. Together, these unlikely allies will stir up secrets their town has long tried to ignore, drawing the attention of dangerous men who will stop at nothing to see that their crimes stay buried.

But no one is quite prepared to face the darkness that’s begun to haunt their nightmares, whispering about a place long thought to be nothing but an urban legend: an empty night, a flicker of light on the horizon—The Bright Lands.

John Fram seems to have a knack for creating believable, sympathetic characters and embroiling them in unbelievable situations. I had to stop reading at one point to make sure the author wasn’t Stephen King or his son, because it had that creepy sort of feel to it. But King’s novels—including the giant spider and the clown in the sewers—are more believable for me than the premise of this novel. Despite the compelling prose, the unbelievability of the main plot idea made me lose faith in the author to a certain extent.

John Fram is from Texas but now lives in New York. The Bright Lands is his debut novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: No One Saw, by Beverly Long

No One Saw Banner

NoOneSawCover
Image belongs to Harlequin/MIRA.

Title:   No One Saw
Author:   Beverly Long
Genre:   Suspense
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

Baywood police department detective A.L. McKittridge is no stranger to tough cases, but when five-year-old Emma Whitman disappears from her day care, there isn’t a single shred of evidence to go on. There are no witnesses, no trace of where she might have gone. There’s only one thing A.L. and his partner, Rena Morgan, are sure of—somebody is lying.

With the clock ticking, A.L. and Rena discover their instincts are correct: all is not as it seems. The Whitmans are a family with many secrets, and A.L. and Rena must untangle a growing web of lies if they’re going to find the thread that leads them to Emma… before it’s too late.

I enjoyed the first book in this series, Ten Days Gone, and this one was right up there with it for suspense, keeping me guessing, and having me racing through it to figure out who had taken Emma. There’s a lot of red herrings and false trails that kept the detectives—and me—guessing.

I love reading series and getting to see how characters grow and change throughout, and although this is only the second book of the series, there has already been change and events to keep up with. The writing here never pulled me out of the story at all—a sure sign this is a winner!

Beverly Long wrote her first book when she was in the fourth grade. No One Saw is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/MIRA 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: She’s Faking It, by Kristin Rockaway

She's Faking It Blog Tour

she's faking it
Image belongs to Harlequin/Graydon House.

Title:   She’s Faking It
Author:   Kristin Rockaway
Genre:   Fiction
Rating:   4 out of 5

Bree Bozeman isn’t exactly pursuing the life of her dreams. Then again, she isn’t too sure what those dreams are. After dropping out of college, she’s living a pretty chill life in the surf community of Pacific Beach, San Diego…if “chill” means delivering food as a GrubGetter, and if it means “uneventful”.

But when Bree starts a new Instagram account — @breebythesea — one of her posts gets a signal boost from none other than wildly popular self-help guru Demi DiPalma, owner of a lifestyle brand empire. Suddenly, Bree just might be a rising star in the world of Instagram influencing. Is this the direction her life has been lacking? It’s not a career choice she’d ever seriously considered, but maybe it’s a sign from the universe. After all, Demi’s the real deal… right?

Everything is lining up for Bree: life goals, career, and even a blossoming romance with the chiseled guy next door, surf star Trey Cantu. But things are about to go sideways fast, and even the perfect filter’s not gonna fix it. Instagram might be free, but when your life looks flawless on camera, what’s the cost?

This book made me laugh! Bree is the very definition of failing at adulting…except, what if “adulting” isn’t what you want to be or do? Bree just needs to figure out what she wants to do. She is such a relatable character. Her very relatableness made this an immersive read.

It reminded me of Flirting with Forty, in a very tenuous way (At heart, both books are about figuring out what you want and pursing that dream.). I laughed at Bree, I cringed, I hoped she would not make the bad decisions I saw looming…but I was fully invested in her story from the first page.

Kristin Rockaway is a former software engineer. She’s Faking It is her newest novel.

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