Tag: books

Book Review and Blog Tour: Ariadne, by Jennifer Saint

Image belongs to Flat iron Books.

TitleAriadne
Author:  Jennifer Saint
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

As Princesses of Crete and daughters of the fearsome King Minos, Ariadne and her sister Phaedra grow up hearing the hoofbeats and bellows of the Minotaur echo from the Labyrinth beneath the palace. The Minotaur – Minos’s greatest shame and Ariadne’s brother – demands blood every year.

When Theseus, Prince of Athens, arrives in Crete as a sacrifice to the beast, Ariadne falls in love with him. But helping Theseus kill the monster means betraying her family and country, and Ariadne knows only too well that in a world ruled by mercurial gods – drawing their attention can cost you everything.

In a world where women are nothing more than the pawns of powerful men, will Ariadne’s decision to betray Crete for Theseus ensure her happy ending? Or will she find herself sacrificed for her lover’s ambition?

This is not a happy book, so if you’re looking for some light reading, maybe put this one off for a bit. Excellent writing and vivid characters, and I found the story fascinating, especially life in Crete, the “true” story of a legendary hero, and Dionysus—who was not what I expected at all. But, this was not a happy time for women, and that dragged a lot of enjoyment out of the book, realistic though it probably is/was.

Jennifer Saint was a high school English teacher. Ariadne is her debut novel.

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

Book Review: Counting Down with You, by Tashie Bhuiyan

Image belongs to Inkyard Press.

TitleCounting Down with You
AuthorTashie Bhuiyan
Genre:  YA
Rating:  4 out of 5

Karina Ahmed has a plan. Keep her head down, get through high school without a fuss, and follow her parents’ rules—even if it means sacrificing her dreams. When her parents go abroad to Bangladesh for four weeks, Karina expects some peace and quiet. Instead, one simple lie unravels everything.

Karina is my girlfriend.

Tutoring the school’s resident bad boy was already crossing a line. Pretending to date him? Out of the question. But Ace Clyde does everything right—he brings her coffee in the mornings, impresses her friends without trying, and even promises to buy her a dozen books (a week) if she goes along with his fake-dating facade. Though Karina agrees, she can’t help but start counting down the days until her parents come back.

T-minus twenty-eight days until everything returns to normal—but what if Karina no longer wants it to?

I enjoyed this read and learning more about Karina’s life and culture. She’s a fascinating character and a lot of fun—especially when she’s with her two best friends. I did not, however, find Ace believable or realistic in the slightest. Sure, he was wonderful and perfect, but…a 16-year-old boy who’s perfect and always does the right thing is the opposite of believable. He’s not a bad boy. He’s super nice and respectful, and he apparently falls for Karina without knowing a thing about her. So, while I enjoyed this read, I never lost sight of the fact that it wasn’t believable.

Tashie Bhuiyan is based in New York City. Counting Down with You is her debut novel.

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

Blog Tour: A Good Mother, by Lara Bazelon

Image belongs to Harlequin/Hanover Square Press.

TitleA Good Mother
AuthorLara Bazelon
Genre:  Thriller
Rating:  DNF

When young decorated combat veteran Travis Hollis is found stabbed through the heart at a U.S. Army base in Germany, there is no doubt that his wife, Luz, is to blame. But was it an act of self defense? A frenzied attempt to save her infant daughter from domestic abuse? Or the cold blood murder of an innocent man?

As the case heads to trial in Los Angeles, hard-charging attorney Abby Rosenberg is eager to return from maternity leave—and her quickly fracturing home life—to take the case and defend Luz. Abby, a new mother herself, is committed to ensuring Luz avoids prison and retains custody of her daughter. But as the evidence stacks up against Luz, Abby realizes the task proves far more difficult than she suspected – especially when she has to battle for control over the case with her co-counsel, whose dark absorption with Luz only complicates matters further.

As the trial careens toward an outcome no one expects, readers will find themselves in the seat of the jurors, forced to answer the question – what does it mean to be a good mother? A good lawyer? And who is the real monster?

I made it a little way through this book, but I wasn’t in the mindset for a courtroom drama. I found Abby—and her opposing counsel—to be not my type of people, and I just wasn’t interested in reading more about them, despite solid writing and believable characters.

Lara Bazelon is an attorney and journalist. A Good Mother is her new novel.

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

Book Review: Isabelle and Alexander, by Rebecca Anderson

Image belongs to Shadow Mountain Publishing.

TitleIsabelle and Alexander
Author:  Rebecca Anderson
Genre:  Romance
Rating:  4 out of 5

Isabelle Rackham knows she will not marry for love. Though arranged marriages have fallen out of fashion, hers has been settled for some time. Alexander Osgood is handsome, well-known, and wealthy, but he is distant and aloof, spending much of his time at his textile mill.

Moreover, Northern England is nothing like Isabelle’s home in the Lake Country, and her marriage is far from the fairy tale she expected. Conversations with Alexander are awkward, when they happen at all, and Isabelle struggles with loneliness.

Sensing his wife’s unhappiness, Alexander brings Isabelle to his country estate. During their time together, the couple begins to build a friendship, opening up to each other about the details of their lives. But when a tragic accident leaves Alexander unable to walk, their fledgling relationship is tested.

Isabelle is determined to see to her husband’s recovery, and in caring for him, she discovers within herself an untapped well of strength and courage. In learning to rely on each other, the couple has an opportunity to forge a love connection that they both have longed for but never dreamed could be.

This was a sweet read with the feel of a Jane Austen novel. Isabelle’s life and upbringing have been very limiting, so after her marriage, when she starts experiencing more of life and the world, she changes and steps into her own self. She learns who she is, what she wants, and how to stand up for it. Both Isabelle and Alexander are people who must learn how to be open with others and how to communicate, and I really enjoyed this read.

Rebecca Anderson is a high school English teacher. Isabelle and Alexander is her new novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Summer Seekers, by Sarah Morgan

Image belongs to Harlequin/HQN.

TitleThe Summer Seekers
AuthorSarah Morgan
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  5 out of 5

Kathleen is eighty years old. After she has a run-in with an intruder, her daughter wants her to move into a residential home. But she’s not having any of it. What she craves—what she needs—is adventure.

Liza is drowning in the daily stress of family life. The last thing she needs is her mother jetting off on a wild holiday, making Liza long for a solo summer of her own.

Martha is having a quarter-life crisis. Unemployed, unloved and uninspired, she just can’t get her life together. But she knows something has to change.

When Martha sees Kathleen’s advertisement for a driver and companion to share an epic road trip across America with, she decides this job might be the answer to her prayers. She’s not the world’s best driver, but anything has to be better than living with her parents. And traveling with a stranger? No problem. Anyway, how much trouble can one eighty-year-old woman be?

As these women embark on the journey of a lifetime, they all discover it’s never too late to start over…

I loved this read! Kathleen was so much fun:  I want to be just like her when I’m 80. Liza’s struggle to find herself again was so relatable and Marth doesn’t even know who she wants to be, but both their journeys were relatable and engrossing. This is the perfect light and inspiring read that will make you want to take a summer road trip—or reinvent yourself. Highly recommend!

Sarah Morgan is a bestselling author. The Summer Seekers is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Clover Girls, by Viola Shipman

Image belongs to Harlequin/Graydon House.

TitleThe Clover Girls
AuthorViola Shipman
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

Elizabeth, Veronica, Rachel and Emily met at Camp Birchwood as girls in 1985, where over four summers they were the Clover Girls—inseparable for those magical few weeks of freedom—until the last summer that pulled them apart. Now approaching middle age, the women are facing challenges they never imagined as teens, struggles with their marriages, their children, their careers, and wondering who it is they see when they look in the mirror.

Then Liz, V and Rachel each receive a letter from Emily with devastating news. She implores the girls who were once her best friends to reunite at Camp Birchwood one last time, to spend a week together revisiting the dreams they’d put aside and repair the relationships they’d allowed to sour. But the women are not the same idealistic, confident girls who once ruled Camp Birchwood, and perhaps some friendships aren’t meant to last forever…

I am a little surprised to find out a male author wrote three women and four girls this well. That sounds bad, but usually I can tell when a man is writing female characters. Not this time. The 80’s flashbacks/references were a bit unsettling; although I was fairly young in the 80’s, I still caught the references.

The girls’ friendship was so vivid, so strong it brought back memories (although I never went to summer camp). I enjoyed how much the characters grew as a result of remembering their younger selves—and their friendship. This is a solid, relatable read, perfect for a long, relaxing weekend.

Viola Shipman is the pen name for Wade Rouse, a popular, award-winning memoirist. Rouse chose his grandmother’s name, Viola Shipman, to honor the woman whose heirlooms and family stories inspire his writing. The Clover Girls is his newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Woman with the Blue Star, by Pam Jenoff

Image belongs to Harlequin/Park Row.

TitleThe Woman with the Blue Star
AuthorPam Jenoff
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

1942. Sadie Gault is eighteen and living with her parents in the Kraków Ghetto during World War II. When the Nazis liquidate the ghetto, Sadie and her pregnant mother are forced to seek refuge in the perilous tunnels beneath the city. One day Sadie looks up through a grate and sees a girl about her own age buying flowers.

Ella Stepanek is an affluent Polish girl living a life of relative ease with her stepmother, who has developed close alliances with the occupying Germans. While on an errand in the market, she catches a glimpse of something moving beneath a grate in the street. Upon closer inspection, she realizes it’s a girl hiding.

Ella begins to aid Sadie and the two become close, but as the dangers of the war worsen, their lives are set on a collision course that will test them in the face of overwhelming odds. Inspired by incredible true stories, The Woman with the Blue Star is an unforgettable testament to the power of friendship and the extraordinary strength of the human will to survive.

This is not a happy book. I liked the characters; their strength, determination, and resourcefulness. I cannot even imagine hiding in a sewer for months on end. I did find the idea that Ella could stand in the middle of a street over a sewer grate for long enough to have entire conversations and give Sadie food and no one noticed a bit far-fetched. That wasn’t believable to me, but apart from that, I found the book entirely readable, even if sad.

Pam Jenoff is a bestselling author. The Woman with the Blue Star is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: Confessions from the Quilting Circle, by Maisey Yates

Image belongs to Harlequin/HQN.

Title Confessions from the Quilting Circle
AuthorMaisey Yates
Genre:  Romance   
Rating:  2.5 out of 5

When Lark Ashwood’s beloved grandmother dies, she and her sisters discover an unfinished quilt. Finishing it could be the reason Lark’s been looking for to stop running from the past, but is she ever going to be brave enough to share her biggest secret with the people she ought to be closest to?

Hannah can’t believe she’s back in Bear Creek, the tiny town she sacrificed everything to escape from. The plan? Help her sisters renovate her grandmother’s house and leave as fast as humanly possible. Until she comes face-to-face with a man from her past. But getting close to him again might mean confessing what really drove her away…

Stay-at-home mom Avery has built a perfect life, but at a cost. She’ll need all her family around her, and all her strength, to decide if the price of perfection is one she can afford to keep paying.

This summer, the Ashwood women must lean on each other like never before, if they are to stitch their family back together, one truth at a time…

Billing this as “romance” is a bit of a stretch: this is a novel about family. The so-called romances are subplots, at best. These three sisters…aren’t the most likable characters ever. Hannah is mean and ugly to everyone, all while feeling justified to herself. Avery is the queen of denial and looks down on everyone around her. Lark is flighty and ridiculous at best—and wonders why everyone treats her like that.

There is no hint that each of the sisters are hiding secrets. None. Until maybe a few pages before the reveal of said secrets. There is also no hint that their beloved grandmother had a secret, too, until 90% of the way through the book—no joke—and then it’s resolved on the next page with no conflict. I do not recommend this book.

Maisey Yates is a bestselling author. Confessions from the Quilting Circle is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: New Girl in Little Cove, by Damhnait Monaghan

Image belongs to Harlequin/Graydon House.

TitleNew Girl in Little Cove
AuthorDamhnait Monaghan
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:   5 out of 5

After the local French teacher scandalizes the fishing village of Little Cove, Newfoundland, by running off with a priest, the school looks to the mainland to fill the job quickly. They want someone who can uphold their Catholic values and keep a motley group of largely unwilling students in line.

The position is filled by mainlander Rachel O’Brien—technically a Catholic (baptized!), technically a teacher (honors degree!)—who’s desperate to leave her current mess of a life behind. She isn’t surprised that her students don’t see the value of learning French. But she is surprised that she can barely understand their English… Is it a compliment or insult to be called a sleeveen? (Insult.) And the anonymous notes left on her car, telling her to go home, certainly don’t help to make her feel welcome.

Still, she is quickly drawn into the island’s traditional music and culture, and into the personal lives of her crusty but softhearted landlady, Lucille, her reluctant students and her fellow teacher Doug Bishop. But when her beliefs clash with church and community, she makes a decision that throws her career into jeopardy. In trying to help a student, has she gone too far?

This was such a good read! The culture and landscape of Little Cove is a vivid character in this novel, and the author does a stellar job of bringing it to life. The characters are quirky yet relatable, and, despite the setting being such a tiny place, it’s full of life and activity. This was an easy read, but just so warm and comfortable, like a cozy sweater on a cold day.

Damhnait Monaghan is an award-winning writer. New Girl in Little Cove is her debut novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman, by Julietta Henderson

Image belongs to Harlequin/MIRA.

TitleThe Funny Thing About Norman Foreman
AuthorJulietta Henderson
Genre:  YA
Rating:  5 out of 5

Twelve-year-old Norman Foreman and his best friend, Jax, are a legendary comedic duo in waiting, with a plan to take their act all the way to the Edinburgh Fringe. But when Jax dies, Norman decides the only fitting tribute is to perform at the festival himself. The problem is, Norman’s not the funny one. Jax was.

There’s also another, far more colossal objective on Norman’s new plan that his single mom, Sadie, wasn’t ready for: he wants to find the father he’s never known. Determined to put a smile back on her boy’s face, Sadie resolves to face up to her own messy past, get Norman to the Fringe and help track down a man whose identity is a mystery, even to her.

I’ll be honest, initially, Sadie’s voice almost made me put this down. She just sounded so defeated. I am SO glad I didn’t! This ended up being a fantastic read! Norman is an awesome kid. I have no idea how he has such a positive attitude, considering everything, but he’s so uplifting and inspiring!

And, actually, Sadie is defeated when the book starts out. By life. By all the tragedy and hardship she’s experienced, by her own regrets, by her fears for Norman, and her grief. This story is as much her journey as Norman’s, and it ended up being such an enthralling story, with both laughter and tears, and I enjoyed it immensely.

Julietta Henderson is a full-time writer. The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman is her debut novel.

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