Franny, Court, and Mykal have been imprisoned for weeks on an enemy ship. Through their link, they feel everything the others are going through. As if being on the verge of death isn’t enough, they are also reeling from the knowledge that they are human. When a mysterious stranger shows up and offers them a way out, they are skeptical—but eager to survive. They agree to help but keep their link secret.
Stork won’t tell them much, just that there’s one way to save planet earth and the remnants of humanity. He offers tantalizing hints at the answers to all Franny’s questions, and she’s eager to find out the truth. But the truth behind their mission—to find a baby girl, the first of her kind, who can cloak and teleport planets—is far more than the linked trio can begin to comprehend.
So…I didn’t read The Raging Ones. (Not sure how I managed to end up reading the second book without reading the first, as that’s something I wouldn’t normally do.) I struggled a bit at the beginning, trying to catch up to the worldbuilding and what happened in the first book, but the story was compelling enough that I pushed through. The dynamics are interesting between the trio, and Stork is an excellent foil for the three of them. There’s lot of action and adventure here, making this a quick, exciting read.
Krista and Becca Ritchie are twins and bestselling authors. The Last Hope is their newest novel, the second book in The Raging Ones duology.
(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press/Wednesday Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Annaleigh Thaumus lives a sheltered life at Highmore. Once there were 12 Thaumus girls, but since her mother died and then four of her sisters, things are grim in the home. Even more grim are the whispers from surrounding villages that the family is cursed by the gods.
Her sisters sneak out every night to attend secret balls, but what is the glitz and glamour hiding? When Annaleigh starts seeing ghostly visions and a handsome stranger arrives, she starts to wonder if her sisters’ tragic deaths were really accidents—or something more.
The culture in House of Salt and Sorrows is vivid and imaginative, with hints of fairy tales and legends sprinkled about. I liked Annaleigh, but I didn’t connect with her as well as I could’ve. Some parts of this book were very creepy, and the myths and the gods were intriguing. I’d have to say I liked the culture itself—and the hints of the cultures of surrounding lands—the most.
Erin A. Craig lives in Memphis, Tennessee. House of Salt and Sorrows is her debut novel.
(Galley provided by Delacorte Press in exchange for an honest review.)
So…normally, I pick the top three books I read in a month. This time, that’s just not possible. Because I read some really good books in July.
The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck, by Bethany Turner. This was from my TBR pile, so I didn’t review it. What happens when a steamy romance writer gets saved and falls in love with a preacher? This made me laugh so much, as, apparently, Sarah and I were separated at birth.
Ayesha at Last, by Uzma Jalaluddin. This also didn’t get a review, as it was my cultural book of the month. Pride and Prejudice in a Muslim community? Yes, please! I enjoyed this immensely, and I loved the look at a Muslim community. And, of course, a good Pride and Prejudice retelling does not go amiss.
The Book Charmer, by Karen Hawkins. If i could physically give you a copy of this book—I would! I don’t even like small towns, and I’d move to Dove Pond. A librarian who hears books talk to her, a town in trouble, and the outsider who’s the only one who can save it. Please do yourself a favor and read this!
The Merciful Crow, by Margaret Owen. Have you ever read a fantasy novel that sucked you in from the very first page, that made the culture come alive, and had characters that lived and breathed on the page? This is that book. I’d have read this straight through except work. I could NOT put it down!
Legend has it that when the Dove family has seven daughters, something special happens. Sarah Dove is that seventh daughter, and since she was seven years old, books have whispered to her. They tell her which person in town needs them—and the books are always right. So when a cranky old book tells Sarah who is going to save Dove Pond, she listens.
Grace Wheeler moved to Dove Pond because dementia is encroaching on her beloved mother, and she hopes that returning to her mother’s hometown might slow its progress. She also has her niece to care for and giving up her high-powered financial job to move to a small town and take care of family wasn’t in Grace’s plans.
The town of Dove Pond is in trouble, and Grace may be the only one who can save it. But she’ll need the help of Sarah, Travis—her gruff neighbor—and everyone else in Dove Pond if she’s to pull it off.
I loved this book! I grew up in a small town (much smaller than Dove Pond) and have always been grateful that I no longer live there, but I’d move to Dove Pond. The town is such a character in this story. Its people are vibrant and quirky, and I wanted to hang out with all of them. Especially Sarah. As much as I love books and reading, she’s someone I could absolutely be friends with. And Grace is so strong. She’s like a force of nature. I cannot wait to read more of this series! This is labeled as romance, but that’s a secondary plot here, as the book is much more about friendship, family, and saving Dove Pond.
Karen Hawkins is a bestselling author. The Book Charmer, the first book in the Dove Pond series, is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Gallery Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Isabel Buchanan wasn’t really expecting her mother to bring back a souvenir from Scotland, much less a handsome new boyfriend. The trip was only two weeks long, after all. So Isabel is immediately suspicious of Gareth—and his intentions. But Isabel is too busy worrying about the Highland Games—which she and her mother host every year to support the local community—to waste too much energy on worry…until Alasdair arrives.
Alasdair Blackmoor has been sent to drag his uncle back home and away from a greedy American’s clutches, but when he arrives in Highland, Georgia, he finds Gareth hasn’t told anyone who he really is—and Alasdair wonders just what Isabel and her mother could be up to. Georgia awakens feelings Alasdair thought had died—Georgia and Isabel. Her fiery temper and tendency to say whatever pops into her head makes Alasdair laugh, but soon he’s feeling much more than amusement—and he’s determined to stop the trouble he’s brought to her door.
This book made me laugh so much! Isabel’s speak-first, think-later tendencies lead to some hilarious conversations. I related to her feelings of awkwardness so much ,and the town of Highland was so quirky and so charming! The occasional hot Scotsman in a kilt didn’t hurt, either. Isabel and Alasdair’s attraction grows so naturally and so comfortably, and I loved seeing how it developed and the challenges they overcame.
Laura Trentham is an award-winning author of contemporary and historical romance, including Then He Kissed Me and The Military Wife. She is a member of RWA, and has been a finalist multiple times in the Golden Heart competition. A chemical engineer by training and a lover of books by nature, she lives in South Carolina. Her newest novel is A highlander Walks Into a Bar.
(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Lindy McAvoy was always the wild McAvoy sister: always the talk of the town for her escapades, always into something. Seventeen years ago, she left town—and her mother and sister—behind in search of a better life in the city. Now she’s back in Port to visit her mother, who’s just had a stroke, and her sister, who’s now raising her own daughters.
Delia never even told her sister she’d had another baby, but now that Lindy’s back in town to visit their ailing mother, she knows she’ll have to talk to her—and Delia sees her rebellious sister in the eyes and actions of her own oldest daughter. The McAvoys have never talked about that summer seventeen years ago when their family fell apart and Lindy left town, but now that the family is back together, secrets from long ago fill the air and shape the family they are now.
I loved this book! Lindy and Delia’s relationship is complex and filled with years of history and emotion—not to mention secrets. The town of Port—and life on the shores of a Great Lake—was so vibrant and well-realized I felt like I’d grown up there. I loved all the intricate relationships, and, while the “secret” wasn’t a surprise, the gradual revelation of what really happened was enthralling and kept me engrossed.
Molly Fader lives in Ontario. The McAvoy Book of Secrets is her newest novel.
(Galley provided by Harlequin/Graydon House in exchange for an honest review.)
Sarah and Quinn spent their childhood in India, but a family tragedy drove their mother to return home to the U.S. with the girls years ago. Now, Sarah has decided to leave her life as a journalist behind to return to India to help save Bengal tigers, but the past haunts her every step. Local politics make her new job harder and a secret—and forbidden—love affair adds to the danger every day.
Quinn is afraid of losing her sister in India. Her own marriage is troubled, with her son’s life-threatening illness shadowing every day and her mother’s continued refusal to speak of or deal with the past adding another layer of tension. When Sarah asks Quinn to come to India, Quinn realizes she’ll have to face the past if she’s ever to assuage her guilt over it.
Wow. This book was an incredible read! (Except the ending. Which was so right for the book—but I was hoping for something different, so totally my own issue.) The Indian setting brims with life—colorful and full of spice—and is as much a character as Sarah and Quinn are. The sisters’ relationship is complex and scarred, but they begin to heal together. This book also does an excellent job showing the plight of endangered Bengal tigers—and the work being done to save them.
Katy Yocom is an award-winning author who lives in Louisville, Kentucky. Three Ways to Disappear is her debut novel.
(Galley courtesy of Ashland Creek Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
In the 1990s, Zodwa is a 17-year-old girl living in a squatter’s camp on the outskirts of Johannesburg with her mother. The constant threat of civil war and the disappearance of her brother years ago haunts their every step. Overwhelming poverty casts its shadow over their lives—as does the growing AIDS epidemic. And Zodwa, once the hope of her mother, is pregnant.
Ruth might be wealthy, but she’s far from happy. She knows her husband wants a divorce, and when her drinking leads her places she never intended, she ends up living on the empty family farm outside Johannesburg…where the sister she hasn’t seen for decades arrives unannounced. Delilah is a disgraced former nun haunted by a past she’s never spoken of, a past her sister knows nothing about. When they find an abandoned baby on their porch, they are confronted with their own beliefs about motherhood, race, and the secrets of the past.
If You Want to Make God Laugh is not a book meant for light reading. There are some very heavy topics here, and these three women have experienced truly terrible things. They might be broken, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t strong. Poverty and violence shadow their lives and the life of their community. The setting, on the cusp of Nelson Mandela’s presidency in South Africa, is torn by conflict, war, and disease. However, this is a wonderful, wonderful read.
Bianca Marais is from South Africa but now lives in Toronto. If You Want to Make God Laugh is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of G.P. Putnam’s Sons via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Kate Carlson is an L.A. lawyer who’s been accused of murder in a small town, so Bobby Lee thinks he knows what to expect when he takes the case: as a criminal defense lawyer, his job is to negotiate a plea deal for his client, get paid, and go on with his life.
But Kate insists she’s been set-up. Her supposed crime happened in a prison which supports most of the small town’s economy. The billion-dollar private prison industry is no joke—nor is the prison guard’s union. As Bobby Lee starts asking questions, he soon finds his reputation and his very life is in danger as he fights against a conspiracy no one wants to talk about in a battle for Kate’s life—and his own.
I know of the private prison industry, and that’s about it—like all businesses, it exists to make a profit—so I had no preconceived ideas going into this. I have lived in a small town—and one dependent on a single employer—so the people’s loyalty to the prison worked for me. It seemed like every time I thought things couldn’t get worse for Kate, I was wrong. This book also made it seem like basically everyone was a horrible person willing to lie, cheat, and kill for their own personal interests.
Ed Rucker is a former criminal defense lawyer. Justice Makes a Killing is the second book in the Bobby Lee series.
(Galley courtesy of Chickadee Prince Books in exchange for an honest review.)
In the 1960s, Frank and Joanna have moved their two children to Bethlehem, where his mother and grandmother live alone in a grand mansion. Frank works all the time, and Joanna struggles to scratch out a place for herself with a husband who’s always away. Her working-class background leaves her unprepared for Frank’s wealthy home, but she finds a friend in cemetery caretaker Doe, an old friend of Joanna’s mother-in-law—and her enigmatic grandson.
In the 1920s steel town of Bethlehem, the Parrish and Collier families have grown up together. Susannah, a budding flapper on the verge of adulthood, has always known the families expected her to marry Ellis, but then she falls hard for someone she never imagined. When unthinkable tragedy tears her world apart, she’s left holding secrets that can destroy both families.
This book was a slow, smooth ride into story. The two timelines were twisted together so well that they formed one incredibly detailed tapestry. I enjoyed every single page of this book and was so invested in the characters I cried! A must-read!
Karen Kelly has a B.A. in English from Vanderbilt. Bethlehem is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)