Tag: book review

Book Review:  The Stolen Book of Evelyn Aubrey, by Serena Burdick

Image belongs to Harlequin/Park Row.

Title: The Stolen Book of Evelyn Aubrey    
Author:  Serena Burdick  
Genre:   historical fiction
Rating:  5 out of 5

What if you could write a new ending for yourself?

England, 1898. When Evelyn first married the famous novelist William Aubrey, she was dazzled by his brilliance. But their newlywed bliss is brief when William is gripped by writer’s block, and he becomes jealous of Evelyn’s writing talent. When he commits the ultimate betrayal–stealing a draft of her novel and passing it off as his own–Evelyn decides to write her way out of their unhappy marriage.

California, 2006. Abigail always wondered about her father, his identity forever lost when her mother unexpectedly died. Or so Abigail thought, until she stumbled upon his photo and a message that her great-great-grandmother was the author Evelyn Aubrey, leading Abigail on a journey to England in search for answers. There, she learns of Evelyn’s shocking disappearance and how London society believed she was murdered. But from what she uncovers about Evelyn, Abigail believes her brilliant great-great-grandmother had another plot up her sleeve.

When I first started reading this, Abby was such a self-absorbed, selfish person that I almost stopped reading. I held out until she went to England, and then, as she started growing, I got more interested. Following the mystery of Evelyn made her a much more interesting character—and learning more about her own parents, especially her messed-up mother, allowed her to work through her own issues.

Evelyn was my favorite character:  she ended up caught in a very tough situation, but she was smart enough to figure a way out. I wanted to smack her husband—and his mistress—several times, but she somehow managed to turn the other cheek and make a life of safety for herself. This ended up being a fascinating and engrossing read—despite the slow (due to a character issue) start.

Serena Burdick lives in Massachusetts. The Stolen Book of Evelyn Aubrey is her newest novel.

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

What I Read in October (2022)

Books Read in October: 14
Books Read for the Year:  190/250
Topical Books/Monthly Goal Books:
The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning (spiritual). Really enjoyed this read!

Luke’s Story by Tim LaHaye (spiritual). I enjoyed this re-read!

The Paradigm, by Jonathan Cahn (TBR). This was disturbing on a lot of levels.

The Oracle, by Jonathan Cahn (TBR). Cahn’s books are always so detailed.

Monster by Frank Peretti (TBR). This was pretty creepy at first, but I ended up enjoying it.

For Review:

Lark Ascending, by Silas House. I really felt like this book was missing a plot and a point.

Treachery on Tenth Street, by Kate Belli. This was a solid mystery read, and I enjoyed the characters.

To Capture His Heart, by Nancy Campbell Allen. Another solid read, with a bit of mystery thrown in.

When We Had Wings, by by Ariel Lawhon, Kristina McMorris and Susan Meissner. This was a fantastic read! I enjoyed WWII historical fiction, but I really loved this–I actually loved all three viewpoint characters equally, which is unusual for me.

Marlowe Banks, Redesigned, by Jacqueline Firkins. This was a fun, if somewhat predictable read.

We Are All We Have, by Marina Budhos. I almost didn’t finish this. And I kind of wished I hadn’t.

The Stolen Book of Evelyn Aubrey, by Serena Burdick (review forthcoming). this took me a little bit to get into, but then I became engrossed! I enjoyed the past timeline the most.

Just Because:

The Passage, by Justin Cronin. This took me a looong time to read! I enjoyed it, but I’m not sure I’ll read the others.

Think, Learn, Succeed, by Caroline Leaf (audiobook). This was fascinating, but I think I’d have been better off with a physical copy.

Left Unfinished:

The Truth About Everything, by Bridget Farr. I only got about 10% of the way through this, because the idea of parents leaving their daughter so uneducated about basic life facts completely horrified me.

Closer to Okay, by Amy Watson. This felt very scattered, erratic, and unrealistic to me.

Wild: The Life of Peter Beard: Photographer, Adventurer, Lover, by Graham Boynton. Solid writing, but Peter Beard himself just didn’t seem like the sort of person I want to spend a few hours reading about. His attitude towards his parents—hateful—was the clincher for me.

The Sacrifice, by Rin Chupeco. Made it about a third of the way through this, but it had some unexpected content, so I stopped reading.

Eyes Turned Skyward, by Alena Dillon. I read about 20% of this—and realized I couldn’t stand the characters. Any of them.

Book Review:  We Are All We Have, by Marina Budhos

Image belongs to Random House Children’s.

TitleWe Are All We Have     
Author:  Marina Budhos  
Genre:  YA  
Rating:  3 out of 5

There’s a knock at the door.
It’s the police.
They’re taking Rania’s mom.

Seventeen-year-old Rania doesn’t understand why—they’ve done all the right things, haven’t they? Her mom said their case with immigration was fine. If this was a lie, what else is?

Alone with her younger brother, Kamal, Rania will have to figure out how to survive. When they wind up in a home with other kids waiting to hear if they can stay in this country, she meets a charming boy named Carlos. He persuades Rania to go to her high school graduation. And from there, they just keep driving.

Searching for freedom while feeling trapped by circumstances beyond their control, Rania begins to fall for Carlos and uncovers painful truths about her family, and this country, where being an asylum seeker or an undocumented immigrant can mean anything but freedom.

I didn’t find Rania or her mother very likable at all. Raina’s mother seems to never tell the truth, and while at first Raina has a problem with that, eventually she seems to think it’s perfectly justified. It’s not. And Raina embraces her identity as a victim and continually runs away from her problems instead of taking responsibility for her actions. Solid writing, plus this being a very quick read were the only things that made me finish reading this.

Marina Budhos is an award-winning author. We Are All We Have is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Random House Children’s in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review:   When We Had Wings, by by Ariel Lawhon, Kristina McMorris and Susan Meissner

Image belongs to Harper Muse.

Title When We Had Wings (audio book)   
Author:  Ariel Lawhon, Kristina McMorris and Susan Meissner  
Genre:   Historical fiction
Rating:  5 out of 5

The Philippines, 1941.

When U.S. Navy nurse Eleanor Lindstrom, U.S. Army nurse Penny Franklin, and Filipina nurse Lita Capel forge a friendship at the Army Navy Club in Manila, they believe they’re living a paradise assignment. All three are seeking a way to escape their pasts, but soon the beauty and promise of their surroundings give way to the heavy mantle of war.

Caught in the crosshairs of a fight between the U.S. military and the Imperial Japanese Army for control of the Philippine Islands, the nurses are forced to serve under combat conditions and, ultimately, endure captivity as the first female prisoners of the Second World War. As their resiliency is tested in the face of squalid living arrangements, food shortages, and the enemy’s blatant disregard for the articles of the Geneva Convention, the women strive to keep their hope— and their fellow inmates—alive, though not without great cost.

In this sweeping story based on the true experiences of nurses dubbed “the Angels of Bataan,” three women shift in and out of each other’s lives through the darkest days of the war, buoyed by their unwavering friendship and distant dreams of liberation.

I really enjoyed this! The narrator was personable and clear, and I was drawn into the story from the very beginning. I loved all three main characters, and even the secondary characters were well-done and became people I cared about. I couldn’t wait to find out how everything worked out for these three women! This is well-worth reading.

Ariel Lawhon, Kristina McMorris and Susan Meissner are bestselling authors. When We Had Wings is their newest novel.

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

Book Review:   Marlowe Banks, Redesigned, by Jacqueline Firkins

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

TitleMarlowe Banks, Redesigned  
Author:  Jacqueline Firkins
Genre: Romance   
Rating:  4 out of 5

Marlowe Banks’s life has come apart at the seams. Her engagement ended abruptly. Her latest costume design was shredded by critics. Her student loans are overdue. Her parents have never been more disappointed. Desperate to hide from her failures, Marlowe flees New York City to embrace invisibility in Los Angeles as a menial Production Assistant on a popular TV show. While sorting socks and taking care of her boss’ spoiled Weimaraner, no one can confront her poor artistic choices or the end of her engagement, the end her ex refuses to accept.

When a costume mix-up requires Marlowe to step into in a scene, the camera catches a heated look between her and Angus Gordon, the show’s arrogant bad boy, thrusting Marlowe into the spotlight. As the pair is forced together on set, Marlowe learns she’s not the only one hiding. Walls come down for both of them, revealing a life Marlowe isn’t sure she’s ready for, and when her past comes calling, she has to decide if she’s going to stay invisible or if it’s time for a redesign.

This was a decent read. Marlowe life and all its drama was a bit much for me, but it was believable. There wasn’t anything surprising in the book, but a few funny moments, mainly from Marlow’s clumsiness and general awkwardness. This would make a good beach read.

Jacqueline Firkins lives in British Columbia. Marlowe Banks, Redesigned is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: To Capture His Heart, by Nancy Campbell Allen

Image belongs to Shadow Mountain Publishing.

Title: To Capture His Heart    
Author: Nancy Campbell Allen
Genre:  Romance
Rating:  4 out of 5

Seaside, England, 1886

Eva Caldwell is an accomplished and well-known photographer who often works with the local constabulary to assist in documenting crime scenes, which means she also often works alongside the handsome and charming detective, Nathan Winston. She appreciates his intellect and how he treats her like an equal, but Eva’s heart is still healing from a past relationship, so, for now, she decides to keep her feelings for Nathan a secret.

One evening, Nathan arrives on her doorstep asking for a personal favor. Would Eva be available to photograph his mother’s legendary, week-long dinner party and matchmaking event? The catch is that Eva would also have to pretend they are courting in order for Nathan to avoid the many single women seeking his attention.

Though wary of the charade, Eva agrees. Spending a week with the two things she loves most—her detective and her camera—sounds simple enough. And if she wants to imagine that Nathan’s pretend courtship of her is real, well, what’s the harm in that?

But when a criminal from Nathan’s past threatens revenge on the detective, Nathan must be extra vigilant to keep his mother and the rest of the partygoers safe. He confides in Eva, and as the two work together to solve the mystery and apprehend the criminal, they find that they might capture more than they expected—each other’s heart.

I liked that this wasn’t just a romance novel:  there was the mystery of what was happening with the criminal from Nathan’s past. I absolutely adored Nathan’s four sisters and the family’s relationships, so that added another level of fun. Eva is unconventional, but not blatantly so, and Nathan is open-minded enough to appreciate her fully. This was a fun read.

Nancy Campbell Allen is an award-winning author. To Capture His Heart is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Shadow Mountain Publishing in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review:  Treachery on Tenth Street, by Kate Belli

Image belongs to Crooked Lane Books.

TitleTreachery on Tenth Street     
Author: Kate Belli   
Genre: historical fiction   
Rating:  4 out of 5

As a heat wave engulfs New York in the summer of 1888, the city’s top models begin turning up dead, one by one, suggesting the work of a single killer. Society girl turned investigative journalist Genevieve Stewart is drawn into the case when Beatrice Holler, one of her friend Callie’s fellow models, is found with her throat cut.

Genevieve and her compatriot, wealthy Daniel McCaffrey, are joined by Callie to seek out the suspects, which leads them to search for answers from the members of the elite, notorious gangsters, and the city’s most prominent painters.

In an era when London’s Jack the Ripper murders have everyone on edge, the police want to keep the killings quiet. But the bodies are piling up as fast as the suspects—and unless the killer is found, the simmering New York summer could boil over into madness.

I haven’t read any of the other Gilded Gotham mysteries, but that wasn’t a problem. This was a solid read. I enjoyed the characters and the setting. I liked Genevieve’s independence in a time when that wasn’t a common thing. Even Daniel had depths, with his street punk background and shady friends. This was a fun read, and I’d definitely read more of the series.

Kate Belli lives in Pennsylvania. Treachery on Tenth Street is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Crooked Lane Books in exchange for an honest 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: