Tag: books

Book Review:  Wildblood, by Lauren Blackwood

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:    Wildblood    
Author:   Lauren Blackwood  
Genre:  Fantasy, YA   
Rating:  2.5 out of 5

Eighteen-year-old Victoria is a Wildblood. Kidnapped at the age of six and manipulated by the Exotic Lands Touring Company, she’s worked as a tour guide ever since with a team of fellow Wildbloods who take turns using their magic to protect travelers in a Jamaican jungle teeming with ghostly monsters.

When the boss denies Victoria an earned promotion to team leader in favor of Dean, her backstabbing ex, she’s determined to prove herself. Her magic may be the most powerful on the team, but she’s not the image the boss wants to send their new client, Thorn, a renowned goldminer determined to reach an untouched gold supply deep in the jungle.

Thorn is everything Victoria isn’t – confident, impossibly kind, and so handsome he leaves her speechless. And when he entrusts the mission to her, kindness turns to mutual respect, turns to affection, turns to love. But the jungle is treacherous, and between hypnotic river spirits, soul-devouring women that shed their skin like snakes, and her ex out for revenge, Victoria has to decide – is promotion at a corrupt company really what she wants?

This started off great:  vibrant characters, fascinating setting, interesting backstory. And then, about a third of the way in, it lost most of its cohesion. Everything—characters, actions, reactions, plot—seemed to become just random. Suddenly, Thorn was a “Christian”—when there’d never been any mention of faith in the story at all (And, I have to say, he was a Christian in name only, because he was still okay with murder, violence, and random sex—while claiming to be a changed man.). Dean, who had not shown even a glimpse of being anything other than a jerk, suddenly had noble reasons for his horrible behavior.

We get a revelation (actually, two) about Victoria’s history that changes everything, including the worldview of the setting, yet there’d been no hints of anything before. In short, this just did not work for me. If there’s been some breadcrumbs cropped along the way, this all would have been fine, but I felt like the author kept writing herself into a corner or against a wall and had to just pull something out of a bag.

Lauren Blackwood lives in Jamaica. Wildblood is her newest novel.

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

The Best Books I Read in January (2023)

I read 17 books in January, out of my goal of 225 books for the year, and DNFed one (I feel like that is a record for me).

Of those, I considered four of them 5-star reads….and I’d previously read three of them.

The Magician’s Nephew and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. I decided to re-read this series this year because I love C.S. Lewis. He is such a genius and a remarkably gifted writer.

Poison Princess and Endless Knight by Kresley Cole. I’m re-reading this series in preparation for the final book coming out—finally—in April. I absolutely love these books and cannot put them down.

And I loved The Letter Keeper, by Charles Martin. I have loved everything Charles Martin has written–including his two nonfiction books–and I almost can’t put them down. Binge read? Yes, please.

Book Review: Son of the Poison Rose, by Jonathan Maberry   

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:  Son of the Poison Rose     
Author:   Jonathan Maberry
Genre: Fantasy    
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

The Silver Empire is in ruins. War is in the wind. Kagen and his allies are on the run from the Witch-king. Wild magic is running rampant everywhere. Spies and secret cabals plot from the shadows of golden thrones.

Kagen Vale is the most wanted man in the world, with a death sentence on his head and a reward for him—dead or alive—that would tempt a saint.

The Witch-king has new allies who bring a terrible weapon—a cursed disease that drives people into a murderous rage. If the disease is allowed to spread, the whole of the West will tear itself apart.

In order to build an army of resistance fighters and unearth magical weapons of his own, Kagen and his friends have to survive attacks and storms at sea, brave the haunted wastelands of the snowy north, fight their way across the deadly Cathedral Mountains, and rediscover a lost city filled with cannibal warriors, old ghosts, and monsters from other worlds. Along with his reckless adventurer brothers, Kagen races against time to save more than the old empire… if he fails the world will be drenched in a tsunami of bloodshed and horror.

I enjoyed this read a lot! It took a while to read, but that wasn’t a bad thing. The first book, it took me a bit to get into. This one did not. Kagen’s banter with his friends is the best part to me, but I loved all the action and trying to guess what would happen next. This is a very solid epic fantasy—and I can’t wait to read the next one.

Jonathan Maberry is a bestselling author. Son of the Poison Rose is his newest novel.

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

Book Review: Against the Currant, by Olivia Matthews   

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title: Against the Currant     
Author:  Olivia Matthews   
Genre: Mystery    
Rating:  4 out of 5

Little Caribbean, Brooklyn, New York: Lyndsay Murray is opening Spice Isle Bakery with her family, and it’s everything she’s ever wanted. The West Indian bakery is her way to give back to the community she loves, stay connected to her Grenadian roots, and work side-by-side with her family. The only thing getting a rise out of Lyndsay is Claudio Fabrizi, a disgruntled fellow bakery owner who does not want any competition.

On opening day, he comes into the bakery threatening to shut them down. Fed up, Lyndsay takes him to task in front of what seems to be the whole neighborhood. So when Claudio turns up dead a day later—murdered—Lyndsay is unfortunately the prime suspect. To get the scent of suspicion off her and her bakery, Lyndsay has to prove she’s innocent—under the watchful eyes of her overprotective brother, anxious parents, and meddlesome extended family—what could go wrong?

I really liked the cultural aspects in this book! They absolutely fascinated me. I found myself looking up soca music and some of the foods—which sounded amazing—just to settle myself a little more deeply into the characters’ culture. I think Lyndsay is a great character:  she’s grown a lot from childhood, but she’s still fighting not to go back to old habits. And this isn’t a romance—unusual for a cozy mystery—although the potential is there for the future. The vibrant characters kept me engaged, and there was never a dull moment while reading this.

Olivia Matthews is a bestselling author. Against the Currant is her newest novel.

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

Book Review:   One Duke Down, by Anna Bennett

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title: One Duke Down       
Author:   Anna Bennett  
Genre:  Romance   
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

A FISHERMAN’S DAUGHTER
Miss Poppy Summers is determined to keep her family’s fishing business afloat. Her poor widowed father has fallen ill, and her foolhardy brother has moved to London, leaving her precious little time to read or pursue her own dreams. But she’ll do anything for her family, so she cheerfully spends mornings in her rowboat, casting her nets. The very last thing Poppy expects or wants to find tangled in them is a dangerously attractive man. Especially one with a head wound—who’s convinced he’s a duke.

AND A DUKE OUT OF WATER
Andrew Keane is the Duke of Hawking, but he’s having the devil of a time convincing his fiery-haired rescuer of that fact. The truth is he came to the seaside resort of Bellehaven Bay to escape his life in London. Unfortunately, someone in Bellehaven wants to kill him—and he intends to find out who. He implores Poppy to tend to his injuries and hide him on her beach, reasoning it will be easier to find his attacker if that man assumes Keane is already dead. She wants no part of the scheme but can’t refuse the generous sum he offers in exchange for food and shelter while he recovers. It’s a mutually beneficial business arrangement…nothing more.

ARE ABOUT TO MAKE WAVES
Under Poppy’s care, Keane regains his strength—and a sense of purpose. As they work together to solve the puzzle of his would-be murderer, he’s dazzled by her rapier wit and adventurous spirit; she’s intrigued by his mysterious air and protective streak. Though Poppy’s past gives her every reason to mistrust someone like Keane, the seawalls around her heart crumble in the storm of their passion. But when clues hint at the prime suspect in Keane’s attempted murder, Poppy must decide where her loyalties lie. Torn between the world she’s always known and the one she’s always dreamed of, she’ll need true love for a shot at her fairytale ending.

I really enjoyed this read!  I like that it’s a linked standalone in the Rogues to Lovers series, because I really liked the first read in the series, too. I thought Poppy was a great character, and I loved how she took no nonsense from anyone—including her family! Keane was also a great character, and I loved the interplay between he and Poppy. This is a perfect binge read!

Anna Bennett lives in Maryland. One Duke Down is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: A Guide to Being Just Friends, by Sophie Sullivan

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title: A Guide to Being Just Friends       
Author:  Sophie Sullivan   
Genre: Romance    
Rating:  4 out of 5

Hailey Sharp has a one-track mind. Get By the Cup salad shop off the ground. Do literally everything possible to make it a success. Repeat. With a head full of entrepreneurial ideas and a bad ex in her rearview, her one and only focus is living life the way she wants to. No distractions.

Wes Jansen never did understand the fuss about relationships. With a string of lackluster first dates and the pain from his parents’ angry divorce following him around, he’d much rather find someone who he likes, but won’t love. Companionship, not passion, is the name of the game.

When Hailey and Wes find each other in a disastrous meet cute that wasn’t even intended for them, they embarrassingly go their separate ways. But when Wes finds Hailey to apologize for his behavior, they strike a friendship. Because that’s all this can be. Hailey doesn’t want any distractions. Wes doesn’t want to fall in love.

What could possibly go wrong?

First, a confession:  when the previous book in this series came out, I tried it, and could absolutely not stand the main characters. They were both jerks. I didn’t actually realize this until halfway through reading this one.

Hailey’s salad shop totally intrigued me, and I enjoyed her personality and growth a lot. Wes was…a lot. I’m pretty sure I’d have smacked him a time or two. How can any one person be so oblivious to the feelings of other people? (Hang on. Maybe go ask my ex that question.) This ended up being a quick, enjoyable read…but I still wouldn’t recommend that previous book.

Sophie Sullivan is from Canada. A Guide to Being Just Friends is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries, by Heather Fawcett    

Image belongs to Ballantine/Del Rey.

Title: Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries    
Author:  Heather Fawcett   
Genre:  Fantasy   
Rating:  4 out of 5

Cambridge professor Emily Wilde is good at many things: She is the foremost expert on the study of faeries. She is a genius scholar and a meticulous researcher who is writing the world’s first encyclopaedia of faerie lore. But Emily Wilde is not good at people. She could never make small talk at a party–or even get invited to one. And she prefers the company of her books, her dog, Shadow, and the Fair Folk to other people.

So when she arrives in the hardscrabble village of Hrafnsvik, Emily has no intention of befriending the gruff townsfolk. Nor does she care to spend time with another new arrival: her dashing and insufferably handsome academic rival Wendell Bambleby, who manages to charm the townsfolk, get in the middle of Emily’s research, and utterly confound and frustrate her.

But as Emily gets closer and closer to uncovering the secrets of the Hidden Ones–the most elusive of all faeries–lurking in the shadowy forest outside the town, she also finds herself on the trail of another mystery: Who is Wendell Bambleby, and what does he really want? To find the answer, she’ll have to unlock the greatest mystery of all–her own heart.

I really enjoyed this read! It felt like a bit of a fairy tale to me, which is always enjoyable. I could really relate to Em and her social awkwardness. I wasn’t too sure what to make of Bambleby at first, but he grew on me. I loved the little community of Hrafnsvik and its inhabitants, and I loved how Emily gradually came to fit herself into their midst and feel at home for the first time in her life.

Heather Fawcett lives in British Columbia. Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Fairies is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Ballantine/Del Rey in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review:  The Stranded, by Sarah Daniels  

Image belongs to Sourcebooks Fire.

Title: The Stranded     
Author:  Sarah Daniels  
Genre:   Fantasy, YA  
Rating:  4 out of 5

Welcome to the Arcadia.

Once a luxurious cruise ship, it became a refugee camp after being driven from Europe by an apocalyptic war. Now it floats near the coastline of the Federated States – a leftover piece of a fractured USA.

For forty years, residents of the Arcadia have been prohibited from making landfall. It is a world of extreme haves and have nots, gangs and make-shift shelters.

Esther is a loyal citizen, working flat-out to have the rare chance to live a normal life as a medic on dry land. Nik is a rebel, planning something big to liberate the Arcadia once and for all.

When events throw them both together, their lives, and the lives of everyone on the ship, will change forever . . .

I enjoyed this dystopian read—not sure I’ve read anything with a setting quite like this. Esther is more than a bit naïve—sometimes willfully so—so focused on her pie-in-the-sky dreams of the future that she closes her eyes against reality. The setting and the tangle of rules and micro-cultures on the ship were the most fascinating parts of this story for me, but I liked the main characters, too. Lots of action here, and I’m looking forward to reading the next book.

Sarah Daniels is from the UK. The Stranded is her newest novel.

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

Book Review:  Sam, by Allegra Goodman

Image belongs to Random House/The Dial Press.

Title:  Sam      
Author: Allegra Goodman    
Genre: Fiction    
Rating:  3.0

There is a girl, and her name is Sam. She adores her father, though he isn’t around much. Her mother, Courtney, struggles to make ends meet, and never fails to remind her daughter that her life should be different. Sam doesn’t fit in at school, where the other girls have the right shade of blue jeans and don’t question the rules. Sam doesn’t care about jeans or rules. She just loves to climb–trees, fences, walls, the side of a building. When she’s climbing, she discovers a place she belongs: she can turn off her brain, pain has a purpose, and it’s okay if you want to win.

As Sam grows into her teens, she grapples with self-doubt and insecurity. She yearns for her climbing coach to notice her, but his attention crosses boundaries she doesn’t know how to resist. She wishes her father would leave for good, instead of always coming and going, but once he’s gone, she realizes how much she’s lost. She rages against her mother’s constant pressure to plan for a more secure future. Wrestling with who she wants to be in the face of what she’s expected to do, Sam comes to understand that she alone can make her dreams come true.

This book felt very pointless to me. What was the plot? I’m not sure. What about conflict? Um…Yeah, there wasn’t anything in particular, except for Sam’s self-destructive tendencies. Sam doesn’t just “grapple with self-doubt and insecurity” as the blurb says. She’s flat-out childish and selfish—and frequently astonished when things turn out badly. Maybe this just wasn’t my cup of tea, but I’m not sure why I even bothered finishing this.

Allegra Goodman lives in Massachusetts. Sam is her newest novel.

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

The Best Books I Read in December (2022)

In December, I read 18 books, bringing my yearly total to 216 books, pretty far short of my goal of 250 books.

I’m going to make an exception this month and pick four “best books,” because two of them are by the same author and are basically connected.

I’m a massive fan of Charles Martin, and will basically devour anything he writes, but this month, I discovered his two non-fiction books, What if It’s True? and They Turned the World Upside Down. I never write in books, but I highlighted in in the second one, cried over both, and listened to the first on audio book (the author narrates, and it was just so wonderful to listen to.) Both were phenomenal reads.

The Secret Society of Salzburg, by Renee Ryan. This was an excellent WWII fiction! I enjoyed every single page.

Saint, by Adrienne Young. I’ve enjoyed all of Young’s books, but reading this prequel to the Fable books was wonderful!