Tag: books

Book Review: American Princess, by Stephanie Thornton

american princess
Image belongs to Berkely.

Title:  American Princess
Author:  Stephanie Thornton
Genre:  Historical
Rating:  4 out of 5

Alice Roosevelt is the oldest daughter of Teddy Roosevelt, who becomes president unexpectedly. Life in the White House isn’t what Alice expected, and she chafes at the restrictions and rules she’s expected to follow, until she decides that doing her own thing is the way to be and becomes the darling of the press.

But Washington is not for the faint of heart, and Alice will be pushed to her limits to survive, love, marriage, and raising a family—all while keeping her political hat in the ring. Through two world wars and more loss than anyone should have to endure, Alice remains America’s princess.

Honestly, I wasn’t even aware that Teddy Roosevelt had a daughter (two, actually). I know basically nothing about his presidency or his family, but Alice is a fascinating character. It’s interesting watching her grow up in the public eye—as if growing up and navigating love isn’t hard enough by itself—but watching her adroit political maneuvering was even more fascinating. This is a solid historical read.

Stephanie Thornton is a writer and a history teacher. American Princess is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Berkley via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

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Book Review: Woman 99, by Greer Macallister

woman 99
Image belongs to SOURCEBOOKS Landmark.

Title:  Woman 99
Author:  Greer Macallister
Genre:  historical fiction
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Charlotte Smith’s family is wealthy, and she is expected to marry well and improve the family’s fortunes. She and her sister are to never do anything to embarrass the family. So, when Charlotte’ sister, Phoebe does embarrass the family with her behavior, she’s sent to the notorious Goldengrove Asylum.

Charlotte knows it’s her fault Phoebe was sent away, but she’s determined to make it right, so she disguises herself as a destitute woman with mental health issues and becomes Woman 99 at the asylum.

It’s not what she expected. Some of the women desperately need the help the asylum could provide—if it weren’t twisted by greed and power—but some of the women are there because they are merely inconvenient to their families. As Charlotte searches for Phoebe in the asylum, she realizes there are deeper wrongs to be righted.

I found Woman 99 engrossing from the first page. I love a good historical, and I thought this one was extremely well-done. Charlotte’s growth through the book is wonderful to see:  from a compliant, agreeable young woman to a strong and forthright woman who is not afraid to challenge the status quo. Definitely worth reading!

Greer Macallister is a USA Today-bestselling author. Woman 99 is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of SOURCEBOOKS Landmark via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Of Fire and Lions, by Mesu Andrews

of fire and lions
Image belongs to WaterBrook.

Title:  Of Fire and Lions
Author:  Mesu Andrews
Genre:  Christian fiction, historical
Rating:  5 out of 5

Abigail is just a girl when the Babylonians destroy Jerusalem—and the temple. Abigail is taken captive and finds herself serving four Hebrew boys destined to become powerful princes in Babylon, including the kind and caring Daniel. Abigail falls in love with Daniel, but the king’s machinations keep them apart, and soon Abigail finds herself lost in another city, with nowhere to turn.

Seventy years later, Daniel and Abigail have been married for years and have children and grandchildren when Daniel is once again called to serve the new king. Abigail’s family is full of anger and malice, but she’s kept secrets about her early years, secrets that might tear Daniel from her for good, and secrets that might have a chance of mending the rift in her family. But she will have to overcome her fear with faith if she’s ever to know true fulfillment.

Of Fire and Lions is a richly imagined tale that brings Biblical stories to life. Daniel and the lions’ dent. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and the fiery furnace. The exile of the Hebrews. These things come to mesmerizing life on the page. And Abigail—Belili—and Daniel come to life as well:  their struggles, their trials, and their faith drawing the reader in. This is an exceptionally detailed and vivid re-telling of some familiar Bible tales, but with so much life added to the story.

Mesu Andrews writes biblical fiction. Of Fire and Lions is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of WaterBrook via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Manic Pixie Dream Boy Improvement Project, by Lenore Appelhans

manix pixie
Image belongs to Lerner Publishing Group.

Title:  The Manic Pixie Dream Boy Improvement Project
Author:  Lenore Appelhans
Genre:  YA, fantasy
Rating:  4 out of 5

Riley is a Manic Pixie Dream Boy—the trope’s token boy—in trouble for speaking out in his last novel role. He’s sentenced to do therapy in TropeTown with other Manic Pixies who have behaved outside of their roles. Riley isn’t sure therapy is going to help him, until he meets Zelda, another Manic Pixie, and decides maybe it won’t be so bad.

But the Manic Pixies have been causing trouble, and now they might be terminated. All the Manic Pixies will have to work together to save their trope from destruction, and Riley will have to choose between a secure future, and the chance to seize his greatest dreams.

I saw a comment that Riley might be a character from The Fault in Our Stars—although that’s never stated, obviously—but I’ve never read that, so I can’t comment on any similarities (I’m sure it’s a wonderful book, but I don’t read anything I know ahead of time will make me cry). This novel is ironic and lighthearted. It’s an easy read, and there are a few moments of surprising depth—like the lesson about other, now-retired tropes being terminated because of their racist characteristics—but at heart, it’s just a fun read.

Lenore Appelhans’s new book is The Manic Pixie Dream Boy Improvement Project.

(Galley courtesy of Lerner Publishing Group via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Quiet You Carry, by Nikki Barthelmess

the quiet you carry
Image belongs to Flux Books.

Title:  The Quiet You Carry
Author:  Nikki Barthelmess
Genre:  YA
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Victoria Parker lost her mother to cancer a few years ago, but promised she’d always take care of her father. Now he’s remarried, and she has a stepsister a little younger than herself, and her dad’s been acting weird. She knows something isn’t right, but she has no idea how not right it is—until she finds herself locked out of the house at 3 a.m. because her dad called the cops on her.

Now she’s in foster care away from everything she’s every known. The small country school is a nightmare, but she soon has a few friends…but she doesn’t let anyone know she’s in foster care. And she definitely doesn’t talk about why. Her dreams of college are the only things keeping her going. Certainly not her hateful foster mother.

But Victoria can’t stop worrying about her stepsister. She knows she must protect Sarah from her own father, but she can’t do it alone. She’ll have to give up her secrets if she’s to keep Sarah safe.

This is a book about some hard topics:  abuse, foster care, the loss of a parent. Victoria spends a lot of time in denial, but the author takes care to show the reader why she’s in denial, and how she rationalizes things to herself. I found this story both horrifying and sad, but it’s very well-written and engrossing, and I highly recommend it.

Nikki Barthelmess is a journalist and an author. The Quiet You Carry is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of North Star Editions/Flux via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

The Best Books I Read in February (2019)

I read 14 books in February, four less than in January. My top three picks for the month include one book for review, one for pleasure, and one nonfiction.

wow

Warrior of the Wild, by Tricia Levenseller.  I really enjoyed this book. It has a sort-of-Viking culture, and a heroine who was raised as a warrior. When she’s betrayed and fails her challenge, she’s banished to live in the deadly wilds until she kills the god her village pays tribute to every year. She’s a strong character, but she’s haunted by fear of failure and betrayal. I enjoyed this so much!

I’d Rather be Reading, by Anne Bogel. Anne writes the wonderful Modern Mrs. Darcy blog.  I love reading all her posts, although I haven’t ventured into the world of podcasts yet. And Book Club is amazing, too. A book about reading? I’m so there!

Cast in Oblivion, by Michelle Sagara. I really love this series, and have read all of them. And loved them. Kaylin is a great character:  flawed but so loyal and brave. Awesome world-building as well.

Book Review: The Boys Who Woke Up Early, by A.D. Hopkins

the boys who woke up early
Image belongs to Imbrifex Books.

Title:  The Boys Who Woke Up Early
Author:  A.D. Hopkins
Genre:  Fiction, historical
Rating:  4 out of 5

Western Virginia in the days of the Ku Klux Klan is where Stony starts his junior year of high school. The town is poor, and those who live in town don’t associate with the hillbillies in the woods and hollers. But Stony has a crush on Mary Lou Martin, one of the country girls, and he can’t figure out how to cross the divide.

Then Jack moves to town. Jack dresses like TV detective Peter Gunn and plays jazz clarinet, and soon he and Stony are good friends. Jack convinces Stony they’ll be detectives, and soon the boys are spending more time at the sheriff’s department than at home. If only Stony didn’t have a history as a juvenile delinquent.

Soon the boys run up against the district attorney and find themselves involved in a raid on an illegal speakeasy…just before they face off with the Klan in their attempts to keep their town safe.

I kept telling myself I’d put this book down because the writing wasn’t quite up to par, but I enjoyed the story so much that I finished reading it. This book is decidedly not in favor of the Klan. It’s set just when the fight for equal rights begins, when discrimination is the norm, and only a few people are waking up to the awareness that the way things have always been isn’t the way they should be. I enjoyed the story of Stony’s realization that his small mountain hometown needs to make some changes.

A.D. Hopkins is a former journalist. The Boys Who Woke Up Early is his new novel.

(Galley courtesy of Imbrifex Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

What I Read in February (2019)

Books Read in February:  14

Books Read for the Year: 32/175

Topical Books/Monthly Goal Books:

Beyond Blessed, by Robert Morris (spiritual).

The Color Purple, by Alice Walker (classic). Obviously, this is a good book. But I did not enjoy it, because I don’t like what happened in it. A very accurate portrayal, and I so wish it wasn’t.

Butterfly Island, by Corinna Bomann and Alison Layland (cultural). I loved this so much! Not quite the ending I had hoped for, but an excellent read.

Killman Creek, by Rachel Morgan (TBR). Creepy and riveting.

I’d Rather be Reading, by Anne Bogel (nonfiction). This is a fantastic read…about reading. I related to so many of the pieces in this book.

For Review

the warrior maiden

The Warrior Maiden, by Melanie Dickerson. This is a re-telling of Mulan—my favorite Disney movie—so I was in. I found the story intriguing, but distant. I never felt like I was seeing things from a close perspective of the characters, and this detracted from my enjoyment a lot.

spectacle-red-final

Spectacle, by Jodie Lynn Zdrok. I loved the premise of this:  a 16-year-old girl in 1887 Paris works as the morgue reporter to feed Paris’s fascination with murder victims, and ends up with a link to a serial killer, able to see the murders from the perspective of the murderer. Interesting idea, but the execution was a little flat. The MC was being targeted by a serial killer, but chose to wander into the Paris catacombs…alone. Really? I have a problem with TSTL (too stupid to live) characters, and, while she wasn’t like this always, the few moments she was detracted greatly from my enjoyment of the story.

wow

Warrior of the Wild, by Tricia Levenseller. I highly recommend this Viking-ish tale of a girl banished from her village for failing a trial, who must kill a god to get her old life back.

immoral code
Image belongs to Knopf.

Immoral Code, by Lillian Clark. A genius group of friends work together to steal enough money to pay for MIT from the deadbeat dad of one of the group. This book asks:  does doing the wrong thing for the right reasons make everything okay? I loved the group of friends, even though I wasn’t on board with the ethical decision they made.

mist, metal, & ash

Mist, Metal, and Ash, by Gwendolyn Clare. I do love steampunk, but I should’ve read the first book in this duology first. Love the world, and the action is great.

the psychology of time travel

The Psychology of Time Travel, by Kate Mascarenhas. I’m unsure how I feel about this. It sounds like scifi, but it’s really lit fic about four women who discover time travel. It’s also about their descendants and their future and past selves. And murder.

a soldier and a liar

A Soldier and a Liar, by Caitlin Lochner. Dystopian read about a group of teenagers with super powers in a society where they are the minority, in the midst of rebellion. Excellent read.

The Boys Who Woke Up Early, by A.D. Hopkings (review forthcoming). Not my usual fare. Stylistically could use some work, but I definitely enjoyed the voice.

Just Because

Cast in Oblivion, by Michelle Sagara. As always, a solid, enjoyable read.

Stopped Reading/DNF

The Dysasters, by P.C. and Kristin Cast. So…I loved The House of Night series by this mother/daughter writing team, and I heard them speak years ago at a writer’s conference. I also enjoyed all of P.C. Cast’s book that I read. This book…Well. I was signed up to be part of the blog tour—giving me even more incentive to read it—but I just couldn’t do it. Starting with Dysasters—why does the spelling have to be weird (like the HON books)? I read about 35% of this—under duress—before giving up. The MC was completely unlikable (Frankly, only one word comes to mind.) and the male lead had almost no personality, except to call her names because of her personality. A lot of action, but it came across as melodrama, and was entirely predictable:  basically, the writing screamed We want a movie deal! Just not a good fit for me, despite my love of YA and these authors.

Book Review: A Soldier and a Liar, by Caitlin Lochner

a soldier and a liar
Image belongs to Swoon Reads.

Title:  A Soldier and a Liar
Author:  Caitlin Lochner
Genre:  YA, fantasy
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Lai is a Nyte, a supernaturally gifted teenager with abilities that frighten the Etioles without abilities—but with numbers and power on their side. Lai is in prison:  by her own choice and for her own reasons. Going back to the military is not what she had in mind, but when a chance to join a special team of Nytes comes her way, she decides that it might suit her own agenda perfectly, if she keeps the truth of her power to herself.

She joins Jay, an uptight perfectionist haunted by his father’s expectations, Al, whose short temper keeps her own secret hidden, and Erik, a surly amnesiac desperate to find out who he really is. Their team has a chance to stop the rising rebellion between Nytes and Etioles, but will the secrets they’re hiding destroy their team before they can?

This is a dystopian story, but without the dystopian feel. The focus is on the two groups, Nytes and Etioles, and the conflict and rebellion between them. Each of these characters has secrets, big ones, and keeps everyone at a distance to keep their secret safe. This novel is about finding trust—for yourself and those closest to you—even in the face of danger. An enjoyable read not bogged down with romance and flirting (although there is a teensy bit).

Caitlin Lochner lives and teaches in Tokyo. A Soldier and a Liar is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Swoon Reads via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Psychology of Time Travel, by Kate Mascarenhas

the psychology of time travel
Image belongs to Crooked Lane Books.

Title:  The Psychology of Time Travel
Author:  Kate Mascarenhas
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

In the 1960s, four women discover time travel. After testing their machine out, one of them has a nervous breakdown on live TV, and her three friends dissociate themselves from her in order to save their own careers, blaming her episode on mental illness.

Fifty years later, her granddaughter knows Bee was involved with time travel, but they never speak of it. Until she receives a newspaper clipping from the future reporting the mysterious death of an elderly lady. A year later, the death has happened, and no one knows how. Or why. But the girl who found the body is determined to do whatever it takes to find out.

I had a hard time keeping track of the various characters in their respective timelines/ages. If a character in 2018 can go back in time and speak with her now-deceased father (or herself in that earlier time) and not change anything…it seems like time travel is a concept with no repercussions or cost, and I just can’t make that work in my mind. (I’m aware of the irony that I can allow time travel…just not time travel with no repercussions.) Solid writing, but the concepts and time-jumping just didn’t work for me.

Kate Mascarenhas is a writer and psychologist. The Psychology of Time Travel is her new novel.

(Galley courtesy of Crooked Lane Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)