Tag: book tour

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Emperor’s Wolves, by Michelle Sagara

Image belongs to harlequin/MIRA.

Title: The Emperor’s Wolves
Author:   Michelle Sagara  
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 5 out of 5

As an orphan scrounging in the lawless slums, young Severn Handred didn’t have the luxury of believing in anything beyond his own survival. Now he’s crossed the river and entered the heart of the empire: the city of Elantra. When Severn is spotted tailing some lawmen of the Hawks—a not insignificant feat to go otherwise undetected—the recruiter for the Imperial Wolves thinks he should join their ranks. The Wolves are a small, select group that work within the Halls of Law, reporting directly to the Eternal Emperor. Severn hopes to avoid the law—he certainly had no intention of joining it.

In order to become a wolf—even on probation—Severn must face the investigators most dreaded throughout the Empire: The Tha’alani, readers of minds. No secret is safe from their prying, no knowledge can remain buried. But Severn’s secret, never shared before, is not enough to prevent the Wolves from adopting him as one of their own. All men have secrets, after all. Severn’s first job will be joining a hunt, but between the treacherous politics of the High Court, the almost unnatural interest of one of the Lords, and those who wish long-held secrets to remain buried forever, the trick will be surviving it.

I’ll start off by saying that I’m a huge fan of Michelle Sagara’s Chronicles of Elantra series—and Severn is one of my favorite characters. Reading this novel made me want to re-read that entire series…except I don’t have time right now. I love the voice in that series so much—and Kaylin is such a great character and finds herself in so many situations that keep my attention riveted.

Fittingly, the voice in this prequel spin-off isn’t the same. There are still hints of snark, but, as we’re following Severn, there’s not the same rushing-headlong-into-trouble-and-other-people’s-business plot going on here. Fantastic writing, setting, and characterization as the other series, but the action in this is more thought-out—whereas Kaylin rushes into everything, Severn actually thinks things through before acting.

I really loved seeing things from his eyes and learning more about his past and Kaylin’s. I can’t wait to read more in this spin-off series!

Michelle Sagara is an author, book­seller, and lover of liter­ature based in Toronto.

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

Blog Tour and Book Review: A Golden Fury, by Samantha Cohoe

Image belongs to Wednesday Books.

Title: A Golden Fury
Author: Samantha Cohoe    
Genre: YA, fantasy
Rating: 4.0 out of 5

Thea Hope longs to be an alchemist out of the shadow of her famous mother. The two of them are close to creating the legendary Philosopher’s Stone—whose properties include immortality and can turn any metal into gold—but just when the promise of the Stone’s riches is in their grasp, Thea’s mother destroys the Stone in a sudden fit of violent madness.

While combing through her mother’s notes, Thea learns that there’s a curse on the Stone that causes anyone who tries to make it to lose their sanity. With the threat of the French Revolution looming, Thea is sent to Oxford for her safety, to live with the father who doesn’t know she exists.

But in Oxford, there are alchemists after the Stone who don’t believe Thea’s warning about the curse—instead, they’ll stop at nothing to steal Thea’s knowledge of how to create the Stone. But Thea can only run for so long, and soon she will have to choose: create the Stone and sacrifice her sanity, or let the people she loves die.  

The first half of this was fantastic: action and intrigue, a bit of romance, adventure…I feel like the second half got a bit off-track, with a dip into things I expected to happen. The writing is outstanding, and the setting was vividly drawn. The latter part of the book felt really similar to Lisa Shearin’s Raine Benares novels (without the humor) to me.

Thea is a bit naïve, so I could see some things coming which she clearly couldn’t, and her family left a bit to be desired. Her mom was on quite the power/control trip even before she went mad and her dad did not get off on the right foot with her.

Samantha Cohoe lives in Denver. A Golden Fury is her newest novel.

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

Blog Tour and Book Review: Confessions on the 7:45, by Lisa Unger

Image belongs to Harlequin/Park Row.

Title: Confessions on the 7:45
Author:  Lisa Unger  
Genre:  Suspense
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Be careful to whom you tell your darkest secrets…

Selena Murphy is commuting home from her job in the city when the train stalls out on the tracks. She strikes up a conversation with a beautiful stranger in the next seat, and their connection is fast and easy. The woman introduces herself as Martha and confesses that she’s been stuck in an affair with her boss. Selena, in turn, confesses that she suspects her husband is sleeping with the nanny. When the train arrives at Selena’s station, the two women part ways, presumably never to meet again.

But days later, Selena’s nanny disappears.

Soon Selena finds her once-perfect life upended. As she is pulled into the mystery of the missing nanny, and as the fractures in her marriage grow deeper, Selena begins to wonder, who was Martha really? But she is hardly prepared for what she’ll discover.

Lisa Unger is a great writer, and this was very well-written and tightly plotted. But…I didn’t like the characters. Any of them. At all. Which obviously detracted from the read for me. I’d give it four stars based on the writing, but three stars because I disliked the characters so much. These people are horrible. Really.

“Martha” lives her life lying and using people and she doesn’t care who she hurts. Same with the nanny and Pop. Selena’s husband is awful to her. And Selena herself, well, she cares about her kids, but that’s about it. Apart from that, she’s selfish and unfeeling, and that made this a hard, slow read for me.

Lisa Unger is a bestselling author. Confessions on the 7:45 is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Kingdom of Sea and Stone, by Mara Rutherford

Image belongs to Inkyard Press.

Title: Kingdom of Sea and Stone
Author: Mara Rutherford    
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Rating: 5 out of 5

Ever since Nor was forced to go to a nearby kingdom in her sister’s place, she’s wanted nothing more than to return to the place and people she loves. But when her wish comes true, she soon finds herself cast out from both worlds, with a war on the horizon.

As an old enemy resurfaces more powerful than ever, Nor will have to keep the kingdom from falling apart with the help of Prince Talin and Nor’s twin sister, Zadie. There are forces within the world more mysterious than any of them ever guessed—and they’ll need to stay alive long enough to conquer them…

I thoroughly enjoyed this book (And the one before it, A Crown of Coral and Pearl.). And I think the covers are gorgeous!

The world here is unique and distinctive, with different cultures, countries, and beliefs, and it’s fun to explore them with Nor. She knows what’s right and she does it, but she can see both sides of the issues. I love her strength even in the face of overwhelming odds, and her courage to speak up about wrongs—even when it can hurt her in the long run.

Adventure, magic, and a captivating setting all combine in this to make it almost impossible to put down!

Mara Rutherford was born in California but has lived all over the world. Kingdom of Sea and Stone is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Inkyard Press in exchange for an honest review.)

What I Read in September (2020)

Books Read in September: 28

Books Read for the Year: 244/200

Topical Books/Monthly Goal Books: 

Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen (classic). Loved it. Again.

Real Love in an Angry World, by Rick Bezet (spiritual). I think I need to read this again every week, considering the state of the world.

No Place Like Here, by Christina June (TBR). I’ve enjoyed Christina June’s books, and I love how they’re linked.

The Yada Yada Prayer Group Gets Down, by Neta Jackson (TBR).

A Voice in the Wind, by Francine Rivers (TBR). This was a re-read, but I don’t remember it, so it was like the first time reading it again. Wonderful book!

For Review:

The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux, by Samantha Verant. I thoroughly enjoyed this book…and the food descriptions were to-die-for.

All Stirred Up, by Brianne Moore. Another food-related read! I liked this, but many of the characters were obsessed with appearances/social media, and her family basically sucked, but it was still a pleasant read.

Little Bookshop of Murder, by Maggie Blackburn. I enjoy a good cozy mystery and the beach town/book store setting should have been a winner, but I found the main character annoying and whiny, and the secondary characters were enough alike to be confusing.

The Orphan of Cemetery Hill, by Hester Fox. This is another solid read by Fox. A bit creepy and atmospheric and it ended up being an engrossing read.

Chance of a Lifetime, by Jude Deveraux. This was just “meh” to me.

In Case You Missed It, by Lindsey Kelk. I loved the friend group and the mom’s wardrobe malfunctions, but the MC just kept doing stupid stuff and being whiny and annoying.

Anxious People, by Fredrik Backman. I have LOVED everything I’ve read of Backman’s, and this was no exception. As always, his prose is the shining star that had me in stitches.

Broken, by John Rector. This just didn’t work for me. I’m not much for predictable “thrillers” or unlikable characters.

Smash It, by Francina Simone. This is billed as a re-telling of Othello, but…just because the MC is in the school musical of Othello doesn’t make it a re-telling. At all. And the MC was one of the most selfish and self-absorbed characters I’ve ever read, so no.

Don’t Look for Me, by Wendy Walker. This was an interesting thriller. I wasn’t too attached to any of the characters, but it was different enough from the norm that I didn’t get bored.

The Left-Handed Booksellers of London, by Garth Nix. This was a quirky, fun, intriguing read that I thoroughly enjoyed.

The Silvered Serpents, by Roshani Chokshi. This was a great read. I probably should have read the first book first, but it was still very enjoyable.

Knight in Paper Armor, by Nicholas Conley. This near-future dystopian was a bit depressing—but believable—and I enjoyed the read.

Misleading a Duke, by A.S. Fenichel. I enjoyed this second book in a series about a group of friends who aren’t the typical socialites in their society. This one has spies, being held captive/hostage, and of course, romance.

A Heartfelt Christmas Promise by Nancy Naigle. This book, thankfully, did not have the typical city-girl-come-to-the-country feel, as the MC wasn’t condescending and better than everyone. Instead, she listened to what people were telling her and tried to do the best thing for the town. I liked this sweet, small-town read.

The Code for Love and Heartbreak, by Jillian Canor (review forthcoming). This was an amusing re-telling of Emma, and man, is Emma bad with people. It made me laugh, but also feel sorry for her. I thought this was a great retelling!

Just Because: (Yes, I’m aware of the theme going on here. It is what it is.)

Apollyon by Tim LeHaye.

Assassins, by Tim LeHaye.

Revelation 1-222 Commentary, by John McArthur.

The Indwelling, by Tim LeHaye.

Desecration, by Tim LeHaye.

Revelation: The Christian’s Ultimate Victory, by John MacArthur.

Left Unfinished:

Daughters of the Wild, by Natalka Burian. I made it about 10%, but this just wasn’t for me.

Book Review and Blog Tour: Smash It, by Francina Simone

Image belongs to Inkyard Press.

Title: Smash It
Author: Francina Simone  
Genre: YA
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Olivia “Liv” James is done with letting her insecurities get the best of her. So she does what any self-respecting hot mess of a girl who wants to SMASH junior year does…

After Liv shows up to a Halloween party in khaki shorts–why, God, why?–she decides to set aside her wack AF ways. She makes a list–a F*ck-It list.

1. Be bold–do the thing that scares me.

2. Learn to take a compliment.

3. Stand out instead of back.

She kicks it off by trying out for the school musical, saying yes to a date and making new friends. Life is great when you stop punking yourself! However, with change comes a lot of missteps, and being bold means following her heart. So what happens when Liv’s heart is interested in three different guys–and two of them are her best friends? What is she supposed to do when she gets dumped by a guy she’s not even dating? How does one Smash It! after the humiliation of being friend-zoned?

In Liv’s own words, “F*ck it. What’s the worst that can happen?”

A lot, apparently.

This is billed as a re-telling of Othello, except it’s not. Not even remotely. The school musical Liv ends up doing is Othello (a rap version, no less), but that’s it. Solid writing and diverse characters, but those were the only positives for me of this book.

Liv herself is…immensely selfish. She’s so self-involved she doesn’t even notice her two best friends’ lives imploding—and not in the way Liv’s does (because she’s so selfish she brings disaster on herself). I’m all for owning your own life, but you shouldn’t do it at the expense of those around you. And Liv does. She’s awful to her mom and sister, to the guy who likes her, to hew new friends, and how she treats her two “best” friends is atrocious (With friends like Liv, who needs enemies?).

Francina Simone was born in Germany. Smash It is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Inkyard Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour: Chance of a Lifetime, by Jude Deveraux and Tara Sheets

Image belongs to Harlequin/MIRA.

Title: Chance of a Lifetime
Author: Jude Deveraux and Tara Sheets    
Genre: Romance
Rating: 3.5  out of 5

In one century she loved him madly, and in another she wants nothing to do with him

In 1844 Ireland, Liam O’Connor, a rogue and a thief, fell madly in love with a squire’s daughter and unwittingly altered the future. Shy and naive Cora McLeod thought Liam was the answer to her prayers. But the angels disagreed and they’ve been waiting for the right moment in time to step in.

Now Liam finds himself reunited with his beloved Cora in Providence Falls, North Carolina. The angels have given Liam a task. He must make sure Cora falls in love with another man—the one she was supposed to marry before Liam interfered. But this Cora is very different from the innocent girl who fell for Liam in the past. She’s a cop and has a confidence and independence he wasn’t expecting. She doesn’t remember Liam or their past lives, nor is she impressed with his attempts to guide her in any way.

Liam wants Cora for himself, but with his soul hanging in the balance, he must choose between a stolen moment in time or an eternity of damnation.

This just didn’t work for me. There was too much that didn’t make sense. The blurb says Cora has confidence and independence, but she comes across as more of someone interested in only superficial things and pretty clueless than a tough, observant cop. And Liam, he didn’t work for me, either.

The premise and set-up didn’t really work, either. It was too erratic. The angels gave Liam knowledge of how the world works and he can use a cell phone and drive a car…but he can’t use a computer? And there didn’t seem to be a reason why he couldn’t. It didn’t make a difference to the plot. He was given law enforcement knowledge…but he still thought it was a good idea to hide the fact he was in a relationship with a murder victim’s wife? The whole idea was too clunky to make sense.

Jude Devereaux and Tara Sheets are award-winning authors. Chance of a Lifetime is the first book in the Providence Falls series.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Orphan of Cemetery Hill, by Hester Fox

Image belongs to Harlequin/Graydon House.

Title: The Orphan of Cemetery Hill
Author:  Hester Fox
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5

Boston, 1844.

Tabby has a peculiar gift: she can communicate with the recently departed. It makes her special, but it also makes her dangerous.

As an orphaned child, she fled with her sister, Alice, from their charlatan aunt Bellefonte, who wanted only to exploit Tabby’s gift so she could profit from the recent craze for seances.

Now a young woman and tragically separated from Alice, Tabby works with her adopted father, Eli, the kind caretaker of a large Boston cemetery. When a series of macabre grave robberies begins to plague the city, Tabby is ensnared in a deadly plot by the perpetrators, known only as the “Resurrection Men.”

In the end, Tabby’s gift will either save both her and the cemetery—or bring about her own destruction.

I really enjoyed this read. It had a little bit of a creepiness factor, some mystery, romance, and great characters to tie it all together. Caleb wasn’t my favorite, but at least he did show a bit of character growth.

Tabby has been through a lot—but she keeps trying to help those around her. I cannot imagine spending the night in a cemetery—as a child, no less—and not totally freaking out over the smallest sound. This is a very atmospheric novel and a solid historical read.

Hester Fox lives outside Boston. The Orphan of Cemetery Hill is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux, by Samantha Vérant

the secret french recipes
Image belongs to Berkely.

Title: The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux
Author:  Samantha Vérant   
Genre: Women’s fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

A disgraced chef rediscovers her passion for food and her roots in this stunning novel rich in culture and full of delectable recipes.

French-born American chef Sophie Valroux had one dream: to be part of the 1% of female chefs running a Michelin-starred restaurant. From spending summers with her grandmother, who taught her the power of cooking and food, to attending the Culinary Institute of America, Sophie finds herself on the cusp of getting everything she’s dreamed of.

Until her career goes up in flames.

Sabotaged by a fellow chef, Sophie is fired, leaving her reputation ruined and confidence shaken. To add fuel to the fire, Sophie learns that her grandmother has suffered a stroke and takes the red-eye to France. There, Sophie discovers the simple home she remembers from her childhood is now a luxurious château, complete with two restaurants and a vineyard. As Sophie tries to reestablish herself in the kitchen, she comes to understand the lengths people will go to for success and love, and how dreams can change.

First of all, this book made me hungry. The descriptions of the food are to die for! The author really brought the environment of a professional kitchen to life (I assume it’s realistic), and I cannot imagine the stress and pressure these people live with on the daily.

Sophie was a lot of fun. She watches her dreams go up in smoke and wallows in her grief for a while—as we all would—before deciding she’s had enough. Her missteps are believable, and her determination—once she finally finds it—is inspiring. This was an enjoyable read that kind of made me want to visit France.

Samantha Vérant lives in France. The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: Furia, by Yamile Saied Méndez

Image belongs to Algonquin Young Readers.

Title: Furia
Author: Yamile Saied Méndez     
Genre: YA
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Camila Hassan lives a double life. At home, she is a careful daughter, living within her mother’s narrow expectations, in her rising-soccer-star brother’s shadow, and under the abusive rule of her short-tempered father. On the field, she is La Furia, a powerhouse of skill and talent. When her team qualifies for the South American tournament, Camila gets the chance to see just how far her talents can take her. In her wildest dreams, she’d get an athletic scholarship to a North American university, but the path ahead won’t be easy. Her parents, who don’t know about her passion, wouldn’t allow a girl to play fútbol—and she needs their permission to go any farther. Meanwhile, the boy she once loved, Diego, is not only back in town, but has also become an international star, playing in Italy for the renowned team Juventus. Things aren’t the same as when he left: Camila has her own fútbol ambitions now, and La Furia cannot be denied. As her life becomes more complicated, she is forced to face her secrets and make her way in a world with no place for the dreams and passion of a girl like her.

This is an excellent read! The setting comes to life on the page—even for someone who’s never seen an Argentina barrio—and the picture of life there is hard and dark, but with glimmers of light in unexpected places.

Camila is tough as nails, and she keeps her soft spots hidden from everyone:  her parents, her friends, even Diego. I loved reading about her determination to succeed, no matter what obstacles stand in her way.

Yamile Saied Méndez is from Argentina but now lives in Utah. Furia is her newest novel.

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