Tag: book review

Book Review and Blog Tour: Lark Ascending, by Silas House  

Image belongs to Algonquin Books.

Title: Lark Ascending    
Author: Silas House   
Genre: Fiction   
Rating: 3 out of 5

As fires devastate most of the United States, Lark and his family secure a place on a refugee boat headed to Ireland, the last country not yet overrun by extremists and rumored to be accepting American refugees. But Lark is the only one to survive the trip, and once ashore, he doesn’t find the safe haven he’d hoped for. As he runs for his life, Lark finds an abandoned dog who becomes his closest companion, and then a woman in search of her lost son. Together they form a makeshift family and attempt to reach Glendalough, a place they believe will offer protection. But can any community provide the safety that they seek?  

Despite the quality of the writing, for me, this was a pointless book. It’s bleak. The plot seemed meandering at best. And the ending didn’t seem to accomplish much. Perhaps it just wasn’t the right choice for me, but the political undertones were narrow-minded enough to make the characters seem very judgmental.

Silas House is a bestselling author. Lark Ascending is his newest novel.

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

The Best Books I Read in September (2022)

I read 17 books in September, bringing my total read for the year to 176 books. I also DNF 8 books. For a change, there were a solid number of really good reads this month. Of the 17 books, I rated nine of them 5 out of 5 stars. My favorites of those nine are:

The Winners, by Fredrick Backman. I LOVE this book! The first book, Beartown, was such a wonderful surprise to me. The second book was stellar, and this one was enthralling from the very first page. Even if you don’t care about hockey (I don’t), you should absolutely pick this up!

Long Way Gone, by Charles Martin. I adore everything this man writes. Everything. No questions.

The Last Legacy, by Adrienne Young. Adrienne Young is a fantastic writer, and the world of Fable/the Narrows is absolutely captivating. Loved this—and read it straight through in one sitting.

Honorable mention:

What I Read In September (2022)

Books Read in September: 17

Books Read for the Year:  176/250

Topical Books/Monthly Goal Books:

Soul Taken, by Patricia Briggs. As usual for this series, I was glued to the page and couldn’t put it down.

No God But One, by Nabeel Qureshi (spiritual, TBR, audio). So much information in this.

The Book Woman’s Daughter, by Kim Michele Richardson (TBR). I enjoyed this as much as the first book.

Elodie’s Library of Second Chances, by Rebecca Raisin (TBR). This was a cute read.

The Return of the Gods, by Jonathan Cahn (spiritual). This was a bit terrifying, but explains so much.

For Review:

Don’t Let In the Cold, by Keely Parrack. This was a solid read. I can’t imagine being trapped outside in a blizzard and being hunted by criminals, but this kept my attention.

Monsters Born and Made, by Tanvi Berwah. The culture/setting in this was quite unique, even if the premise had echoes of The Hunger Games. I ended up enjoying it quite a bit.

The Girl from Guernica, by Karen Robards. This was SO good! I read it in less than a day because I just couldn’t put it down! I was invested in all the characters and on the edge of my seat several times.

The Make-Up Test, by Jenny L. Howe. This wasn’t terrible, but the MC, Allison, was quite full of herself and unable to look past her own selfishness and be considerate of anyone else.

Something in the Heir, by Suzanne Enoch. This was an okay read, but not a standout. I enjoyed the kids very much.

Spells for Forgetting, by Adrienne Young. This was a heck of a read! I love Ms. Young’s YA books, and I’m happy that this was up to their standard. The setting was very dark, but it was so vividly drawn!

The Winners, by Fredrik Backman. This book. Man. All of Backman’s novels, actually. But this one was unbelievably good.

A Place to Land, by Lauren K. Denton. Loved this! Such a compelling story.

Just Because:

Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis (spiritual). Lewis was such a wonderful communicator.

The Final Gambit, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. This was such a fun read!

Long Way Gone, by Charles Martin. I love this guy’s books so, so much!

The Last Legacy, by Adrienne Young. Love this author and this world. So unique and vivid.

Left Unfinished:

The Bachelor and the Bride, by Sarah M. Eden. The writing was fine in this, but the characters bored me, so I put it down.

The Opera Sisters, by Marianne Monson. The distant narrator/point-of-view just did not work for me. I didn’t feel any connection to the characters.

The Decoy Girlfriend, by Lillie Vale. I loved the premise of this. But the MC were just…not likable people to me, so I had to put it down.

The Only Child, by Kayte Nunn. I read about 30% of this, but the MC just wasn’t for me. She was a bit pushy and aggravating.

The Two Lives of Sara, by Catherine Adel West. Okay, the MC was completely selfish and hateful, and I couldn’t make myself care in the slightest about her.

The Book Hater’s Book Club, by Gretchen Anthony. These people were just kind of hateful to each other, and the beginning dragged on so long I lost patience.

An Affair of Spies, by Ronald H. Balson. The overabundance of technical jargon felt like the author trying to show me how smart he is. The info dumps did not feel natural.

Wishtress by Nadine Brandes. I read the first 10% of this, but it just didn’t capture my attention.

Book Review:  A Place to Land, by Lauren K. Denton

Image belongs to Harper Muse.

Title: A Place to Land    
Author:   Lauren K. Denton
Genre: Fiction
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

A hidden past isn’t past at all.

Violet Figg and her sister Trudy have lived a quiet life in Sugar Bend ever since a night forty years ago stole Trudy’s voice and cemented Violet’s role as Trudy’s fierce and loyal protector. Now, Trudy spends her days making sculptures from found objects and speaking via notes written on scraps of paper, while Violet runs their art shop, monitors the bird activity up and down the water, and tries not to think of her one great love she gave up in order to keep her sister safe.

Eighteen-year-old Maya knows where everyone else belongs, but she’s been searching for her own place ever since her grandmother died seven years ago. Moving in and out of strangers’ houses has left her exhausted, so when she sees a flyer on a gas station window for a place called Sugar Bend, she follows the strange pull she feels and finds herself on the doorstep of an art shop called Two Sisters.

When a boat rises to the surface of Little River in the middle of the night, the present and the no-longer-buried past clash, and the future is at stake for Maya, Violet, and Trudy. As history creeps continually closer to the present and old secrets come to light, the sisters must decide if it’s time to face the truth of what happened forty years ago, or risk losing each other and newly formed bonds with those they’ve come to love.

I loved this book!   Parts of it are very sad—what Violet and Trudy went through 40 years ago and what Violet had to give up—but the entire story was so immersive and lovely. Lauren K. Denton makes small-town life sound appealing, verging on wonderful. The characters, as always for this author, are fascinating and believable, and the reader just feels at home in the story.

Lauren K. Denton is a bestselling author. A Place to Land is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harper Muse in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review:   The Winners, by Fredrik Backman

Image belongs to Atria Books.

Title:  The Winners     
Author: Fredrik Backman   
Genre: Fiction   
Rating:  5 out of 5

Two years have passed since the events that no one wants to think about. Everyone has tried to move on, but there’s something about this place that prevents it. The residents continue to grapple with life’s big questions: What is a family? What is a community? And what, if anything, are we willing to sacrifice in order to protect them?

As the locals of Beartown struggle to overcome the past, great change is on the horizon. Someone is coming home after a long time away. Someone will be laid to rest. Someone will fall in love, someone will try to fix their marriage, and someone will do anything to save their children. Someone will submit to hate, someone will fight, and someone will grab a gun and walk towards the ice rink.

So what are the residents of Beartown willing to sacrifice for their home?

This book. I was up until 2 a.m. finishing it, if that tells you anything. Beartown took me completely by surprise. I don’t really care about hockey, and small towns usually give me the creeps, but it was my first introduction to Backman’s writing and I was blown away. Us Against You was the same experience, and so was The Winners.

I loved these characters and was completely enthralled by the story. Even the seemingly minor characters are compelling in the hands of a master storyteller like this. He is so, so good at creating believable characters that you care about and feel like you’ve met. I’m not super thrilled by what happened to one of my favorite characters, but I laughed, cried, and was in turn awed by the occasional absolutely perfect sentence that truly captured the moment. Go read this.

Fredrik Backman is a bestselling author. The Winners is his newest novel.

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

Book Review: Spells for Forgetting, by Adrienne Young

Image belongs to Random House/Ballantine.

Title: Spells for Forgetting      
Author:  Adrienne Young  
Genre: mystery, fantasy   
Rating:  5 out of 5

Emery Blackwood’s life changed forever the night her best friend was found dead and the love of her life, August Salt, was accused of murdering her. Years later, she is doing what her teenage self swore she never would: living a quiet existence on the misty, remote shores of Saoirse Island and running the family’s business, Blackwood’s Tea Shoppe Herbal Tonics & Tea Leaf Readings.

But when the island, rooted in folklore and magic, begins to show signs of strange happenings, Emery knows that something is coming. The morning she wakes to find that every single tree on Saoirse has turned color in a single night, August returns for the first time in fourteen years and unearths the past that the town has tried desperately to forget.

August knows he is not welcome on Saiorse, not after the night everything changed. As a fire raged on at the Salt family orchard, Lily Morgan was found dead in the dark woods, shaking the bedrock of their tight-knit community and branding August a murderer. When he returns to bury his mother’s ashes, he must confront the people who turned their backs on him and face the one wound from his past that has never healed—Emery.

The town has more than one reason to want August gone, and the emergence of deep betrayals and hidden promises spanning generations threaten to reveal the truth behind Lily’s mysterious death once and for all.

This book was absolutely engrossing! Young’s writing always draws me in immediately, and this was no exception. Her writing is atmospheric, and Saoirse Island definitely has a vivid and memorable atmosphere. I’m not sure what to say about this novel. It was a compelling read and also quite dark, with only a few glimmers of hope in the darkness, but everything was so vibrant I experienced it right along with Emery.

Adrienne Young is a bestselling author. Spells for Forgetting is her newest novel. (Galley courtesy of Random House/Ballantine in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Something in the Heir, by Suzanne Enoch    

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:  Something in the Heir     
Author: Suzanne Enoch   
Genre:  fiction  
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

Emmeline and William Pershing have enjoyed a perfectly convenient marriage for eight years. Their relationship is a seamless blend of their talents and goals. They’ve settled into separate, well-ordered lives beneath the same roof, and are content to stay that way—or so Emmeline thinks. And if William has secretly longed for a bit more from the woman he adores, he’s managed to be content with her supreme skills as a hostess and planner, which has helped him advance his career.

Then when Emmeline’s grandfather, the reclusive Duke of Welshire, summons them both for his birthday celebration and demands they bring their two little angelic children, William is stunned to discover that his very proper wife invented not one, but two heirs to fulfill the agreement for living at Winnover. But surely if Emmeline and William team up and borrow two cherubs to call their own, what could go wrong? Enter George, age 8, and Rose, 5—the two most unruly orphans in Britain.

As the insanity unfolds, their careful, professional arrangement takes some surprisingly intimate turns as well. Perhaps it takes a bit of madness to create the perfect happily ever after.

This just barely managed to keep my attention invested enough to keep reading. Solid writing and likable—if sometimes oblivious main characters—made it a decent read, it just felt very predictable to me. The kids were funny, but I enjoyed their slang the most. A decent read, but not an outstanding one. Probably just not a good fit for me right now.

Suzanne Enoch is from California. Something in the Heir is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Book Haters’ Book Club, by Gretchen Anthony

Image belongs to Harlequin/Park Row.

Title: The Book Haters’ Book Club      
Author: Gretchen Anthony
Genre: Fiction   
Rating:  DNF

All it takes is the right book to turn a Book Hater into a Book Lover…

That was Elliott’s belief and the reason why he started The Book Haters’ Book Club—a newsletter of reading recommendations for the self-proclaimed “nonreader.” As the beloved co-owner of Over the Rainbow Bookstore, Elliott’s passion and gift was recommending books to customers. Now, after his sudden death, his grief-ridden business partner, Irma, has agreed to sell Over the Rainbow to a developer who will turn the cozy bookstore into high-rise condos.

But others won’t give up the bookstore without a fight. When Irma breaks the news to her daughters, Bree and Laney, and Elliott’s romantic partner, Thom, they are aghast. Over the Rainbow has been Bree and Laney’s sanctuary since childhood, and Thom would do anything to preserve Elliott’s legacy. Together, Thom, Bree and Laney conspire to save the bookstore, even if it takes some snooping, gossip and minor sabotage.

This just wasn’t a good fit for me. The book started off so slowly, and the characters came across as being hateful and rude to each other, so I just couldn’t read more than 20%–and even that felt like a slog.

Gretchen Anthony lives in Minneapolis. The Book Haters’ Book Club is her newest novel.

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