Tag: fiction

Book Review: The Nothing Within, by Andy Giesler

nothingwithin_ebook_medium_seal
Image belongs to Humble Quill LLC.

Title:   The Nothing Within
Author:   Andy Giesler
Genre:   Dystopian
Rating:   4 out of 5

In 2161, the world changed. The first chimera appeared, and a year later, twelve billion people were dead. Those that remained called it the Reckoning, and as they struggled to survive in their hostile new world—the World That Is—they became different. More withdrawn. Less tolerant of anyone who was different, anyone who might harbor the Nothing within themselves, bringing danger to all inside the walls that encircle their villages.

Root is the daughter of a Weaver—a village guardian—and her blindness isn’t the only thing that sets her apart. So does her curiosity, her questions about everything around her. For the tradition-bound people she knows, that is her worst offense. Until one day Root hears a voice no one else hears, and soon she’s on a journey to find out the truth about herself, her world, and what happened in the Reckoning that shapes who she is now.

It took me a little bit to get into The Nothing Within. Dystopian fiction set in Amish country? I’ve never even considered the idea, and it kept me hooked. The world here is so unique that it kept my attention, even when I was a bit confused early on. Root is a fascinating character. Her blindness doesn’t stop her, and even gives her more abilities than she’d otherwise have. This is a great read for anyone who just wants to settle into a longer story and get to know a new world.

Andy Giesler lives in Wisconsin. The Nothing Within is his debut novel.

(Galley provided by Humble Quill LLC in exchange for an honest review.)

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Book Review: A Long Way Down , by Randall Silvis

a long way down
Image belongs to Sourcebooks/Poisoned Pen Press.

Title:  A Long Way Down
Author:  Randall Silvis
Genre:  Mystery
Rating:  4 out of 5

Ryan DeMarco didn’t want to come home. But when his estranged wife tries to commit suicide, he’s the one they call. So he finds himself back where he grew up, a place he’s been trying to forget ever since he left. And an old classmate is now sheriff and needs help solving a murder case that might have ties to their high school days.

Ryan and Jayme, his new girlfriend, agree to help with the case, but neither of them has any idea where the case will lead. With the past haunting Ryan’s every step, and the future haunting Jayme’s, neither of them will survive the case unscathed.

It’s not necessary to have read the first two books in the Ryan DeMarco Mystery series to enjoy this book. I had read the first one, but not the second, and I had no problems keeping up. This is a solid read, and I didn’t figure out who the killer was ahead of time, but the characters and their problems are the real focus here, not the mystery.

Randall Silvis is an award-winning author. A Long Way Down is his newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Sourcebooks/Poisoned Pen Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Montauk, by Nicola Harrison

montauk
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:  Montauk
Author:  Nicola Harrison
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

In 1938, Beatrice Bordeaux is looking forward to spending some time during the summer trying to repair her marriage with her husband, Harry. Instead, she realizes she’ll be spending the summer at Montauk, a fishing village turned playground for the wealthy where Harry wants her to foster relationships with the wives of wealthy men than can further his business dealings.

She wants to fix their marriage, but Harry is staying in the city—pursing other interests. And women. Beatrice has never felt at home with the other society wives. She was raised simply and has never gotten over the death of her brother. She just wants a baby, but after five years of marriage, it seems like she’s missed her chance at motherhood.

Bea befriends a laundress who works at the hotel and is drawn to her simple life and the community of the island. Then she meets a man who is her husband’s opposite in every way, and connected to her past, and realizes the life she has is not the life she wants.

Bea’s emotions come through so clearly in this novel. Her fears, her grief, her hopes and dreams. I loved her as a character and wanted a happy ending for her so badly. The society she lives in is so foreign it’s almost impossible for me to imagine, and Montauk is vividly realized, as are most of the characters. This was an engrossing read.

Nicola Harrison is from England but moved to California when she was 14. Montauk is her debut novel.

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

Book Review: Time After Time, by Lisa Grunwald

time after time
Image belongs to Random House.

Title:  Time After Time
Author:  Lisa Grunwald
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

In the Great Depression, Joe Reynolds’s life revolves around Grand Central Terminal and his brother’s family. Joe lives and breathes Grand Central and his job there with the railroad, but one December morning, he meets Nora Lansing, a Manhattan socialite whose flapper clothing and talk of the Roaring Twenties just don’t make sense. When she vanishes as Joe tries to walk her home, he is intrigued—and determined to find her again.

And he does, on another cold December morning. Nora is an aspiring artist who wants to live her own life, and Joe is fascinated by her. When Nora realizes she’s somehow become trapped in Grand Central and its community, she’s determined to make the best of the life she’s been given. She and Joe create a life there in the terminal, their love making their world feel bigger than it actually is.

Until construction of another city landmark threatens their life, and Joe and Nora must decide to face the future or cling to the life they’ve created.

I have no idea what I was expecting from this book—but reading it was a surprise. I’ve always loved reading about the 20’s, so I loved that, and the idea of an entire civilization in Grand Central Terminal was fascinating. Seeing Joe and Nora grow as the years passed was beautiful—and heartbreaking. A lovely read!

Lisa Grunwald is an author and editor. Time After Time is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: A Pack of Vows and Tears, by Olivia Wildenstein

a pack of vows and tears
Image belongs to the author.

Title:  A Pack of Vows and Tears
Author:  Olivia Wildenstein
Genre:  YA
Rating:  4 out of 5

With Liam as the pack’s new Alpha, Ness thinks things will finally calm down. But August is back in town to pledge his loyalty to the new Alpha, and a mating bond manifests between August and Ness, meaning she finds everyone else unattractive—even Liam, her boyfriend. The bond will take months to fade, but Ness thinks her connection with Liam is strong enough to stand the test of time.

Until her cousin claims she helped him elude his death sentence, and Liam believes him and accuses her. She doesn’t want to have anything to do with the pack, but she can’t leave August behind while their bond is intact. When a new pack shows up in town and threatens her own pack, Ness must decide to leave them to their fate or to help the pack that has always treated her as an outsider.

I enjoyed this second book in the Boulder Wolves series, but some of the developments didn’t entirely surprise me. Liam flipping to become so controlling and accusatory—eh, not really a surprise, considering his background—although one revelation about him did surprise me. I liked August from the start of the first book, so I was happy to see him with a bigger role here. This is a solid read in an enjoyable series.

Olivia Wildenstein is a bestselling author. A Pack of Vows and Tears is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Bonavere Howl, by Caitlin Galway

bonavere howl
Image belongs to Guernica Editions.

Title:  Bonavere Howl
Author:  Caitlin Galway
Genre:  Historical fiction, middle grade
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

In New Orleans in 1955, the languid heat presses down on everything. Thirteen-year-old Bonavere, the youngest of the Bonavere sisters, has her best friend Saul to turn to and her two older sisters. Her parents pay the sisters no mind, even when middle sister Constance goes missing.

Some of the blame falls on Saul and his family because of their race, but Bonavere knows that isn’t true, so she sets out to find what really happened to Constance. Her questions lead her to the wealthy Lasalle family, and stories of girls found half-mad in the nearby swamps. Bonavere has no idea what secrets she’ll stir up when she starts asking questions. She just wants her sister back.

I’ll read just about anything set in New Orleans, and this novel captures the feel of the city very well:  the heat, the cobbled streets, the craziness…However, most of the story itself is a bit inexplicable to me. Things happened, but I couldn’t always see the connection to them and anything else, and I’m still not sure exactly what was going on.

Caitlin Galway’s newest novel is Bonavere Howl.

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

Book Review: The Southern Side of Paradise, by Kristy Woodson Harvey

southern side of paradise
Image belongs to Gallery Books.

Title:  The Southern Side of Paradise
Author:  Kristy Woodson Harvey
Genre:  Southern fiction
Rating:  2 out of 5

Ansley Murphy has everything she’s ever wanted…finally. The man she’s always loved is back in her life. Her three daughters are in town and happy. Her business is taking off. Ansley can’t help but feel like the other shoe is about to drop.

Her youngest daughter, Emerson, and actress and recently engaged, just landed a dream role and got engaged, but her health is worrying her, and she feels like she’s missing something when she should be focused on planning her wedding. When secrets that were never meant to be told come out, the sisters’ bond with their mother turns fragile, as all stand on the brink of life-changing decisions.

I’m just going to be up-front:  I could not stand these characters, and that made me dislike this book intensely. This is clearly my own issue. The writing is great, and the small southern town setting is very well done. But…seriously? Ansley spends half her time justifying the fact that she cheated on her husband for years…so they could have children. She knew it was wrong, but she makes excuses to herself anyway. Emerson is whiny and childish, prone to throwing a fit if she doesn’t get her way, and she’s so self-absorbed she can’t even see the person standing right next to her. She’s also pretty heartless, and her morals are highly questionable (Wonder where she learned that from?) Sister Caroline is a controlling witch, who also makes excuses for her bad behavior (Yes, her husband cheated on her very publicly, which was terrible, but that doesn’t mean you get to treat everyone around you badly). Sloane wasn’t enough of a presence for me to actually care about her, but she was the only one who was likable. I’d read this author again, but not these characters.

Kristy Woodson Harvey is a bestselling author. The Southern Side of Paradise is her newest novel.

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

Sundays are for Writing #20

So…I didn’t do any actual (fiction) writing this week. The story I was working on, well, I still have no idea where that is going, so working on that is accomplishing nothing. Meanwhile, my re-telling of Camelot has been niggling at the back of my mind.

It’s been over two years since I came up with that idea for the capstone class for my undergraduate degree, but I kept thinking about it over the past month or so, and when I realized how dissatisfied I was with my current project, well, the switch seemed natural.

So, this week I pulled everything I had on the Camelot story and read through it. Some of my ideas came back to me. I did character sketches of the main five characters and outlined the first five scenes. I also came up with a working version of the Sentence—Holly Lisle’s one-sentence story outline technique—to keep me on-track. I’ll start actually writing this week.

I’m excited!

Book Review: How We Disappeared, by Jing-Jing Lee

how we disappeared
Image belongs to Hanover Square Press.

Title:  How We Disappeared
Author:  Jing-Jing Lee
Genre:  Fiction/historical fiction
Rating:  4.2 out of 5

In 1942 Singapore, the world is at war, but it becomes personal when soldiers ransack a village and murder everyone, leaving only two survivors. In a nearby village, girls are taken captive and forced to become “comfort women”—prostitutes—earning them the shame and disdain of their families—if they are fortunate enough to survive and escape. Wang Di was one of these women, and after sixty years of silence, she is finally ready to talk about the horrors she experienced.

In the year 2000, twelve-year-old Kevin is going blind, so he records everything he hears. Including the dying confession of his beloved grandmother…who isn’t really his grandmother at all. Kevin knows this secret is bigger than he is, but he’s determined to find out the truth—and share it.

How We Disappeared isn’t an easy book to read. It’s full of the sometimes-horrific experiences of these characters, but there are glimpses of hope as well. The settings are realistic—good and bad—and, though the book gets off to a slow start, it is well-worth reading.

Jing-Jing Lee is an author and a poet. How We Disappeared is her debut novel.

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

Book Review: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, by Kim Michele Richardson

the book woman
Image belongs to Sourcebooks Landmark.

Title:  The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek
Author:  Kim Michele Richardson
Genre:  Historical fiction
Rating:  5 out of 5

In 1936 Kentucky, Cussy Mary Carter is the last living woman of the Blue People. With her blue skin, she’s taunted and ridiculed and treated as inferior, but Cussy Mary is a proud member of the Kentucky Pack Horse library service. This job is her way out, an escape from needing to marry in order to survive.

For Cussy Mary, delivering books to the backwoods people on her route is more than a job. For people who rarely see a newspaper—and who are unlikely to be able to read one if they did see it—the Book Woman is a Godsend, a deliverer of outside news, and a glimmer of hope in the darkness of the woods amidst prejudice and poverty so devastating it destroys entire families. Cussy Mary is determined to continue delivering hope to those around her—along with books.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is an incredible read! Yes, the blue-skinned people in Kentucky were real—they had methemoglobinemia, which caused a decrease in oxygenation of their skin. The prejudice and abuse Cussy Mary experiences in this book is heartbreaking, but so is the poverty that surrounds her. This book is vivid and lovely, with every page engraved with the strength of Cussy Mary—and her courage.

Kim Michele Richardson lives and writes in Kentucky. The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is her newest novel.

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