English professor Joy and her husband Richard are grieving in the wake of a miscarriage and take a trip to Granada, Spain. While there, Joy meets a handsome stranger who awakens feelings she thought were long dead. When they return home, she’s still grieving and Richard, hurting himself, becomes involved with a free-spirited teacher.
When Joy finds out about the affair, their marriage ends. Joy moves to Virginia and tries to deal with her bitterness. Inspired by the story of Sultan Suleyman and his Russian concubine, Roxelana, Joy decides to take a trip to Turkey and Richard joins her. While there, Richard tells her a startling truth, and their relationship changes forever.
I’m not sure what to say about this novel. I felt sorry for Joy and Richard both, but I also found them unlikable at times. They hurt each other selfishly over-and-over again, and never really seem to learn from their mistakes. The exotic locales were vivid and well-drawn, adding excitement to an otherwise slow-paced narrative.
Kathryn K. Abdul-Baki was born in Washington D.C. and grew up in Iran, Kuwait, Beirut, and Jerusalem. A Marriage in Four Seasons is her new novel.
(Galley provided by She Writes Press in exchange for an honest review.)
Owen Foster is in the middle of a prank war with his best friend Jack when his mom shows up at his fancy New Orleans boarding school. Owen knows it can’t be good news, and it’s not—his dad has disappeared with millions of dollars from the family business that supports most of their small town.
Owen and his mom are the most hated people in town. Most people think they knew what his dad was up to, or at least where he is now, and the threats soon turn to violence. To escape all the anger, Owen finds himself working for Gus on a practically-abandoned pecan farm outside of town.
Owen doesn’t want to believe his father stole the money, but all the evidence points towards him. Soon Owen realizes that someone must have helped his dad, and he’s determined to unravel the mystery and keep his mother safe.
The Lying Woods is told in alternate viewpoints between Owen now, and his father in the past, the year he first came to work for Gus. I’m not generally a fan of male POV characters in YA, but I loved this one. Owen is complex: everything he thinks he knows gets upended in this book, and he has to figure out the new world he inhabits now. He’s hurting from his dad’s betrayal, worried about his mom, and missing his friends, but he learns to see things from other people’s point-of-view as he struggles to right the wrongs he encounters. Definitely read this! I realized after reading this that I’d also read Elston’s The Rules for Disappearing, and it was a great read as well, so she just moved to my must-read list.
Ashley Elston lives and writes in Louisiana. The Lying Woods is her newest novel.
(Galley provided by Disney-Hyperion in exchange for an honest review.)
In 1948, World War II has impacted every corner of the globe and brought change. For Rosie Stanton, it brought an opportunity to live and work away from home for the first time, growing her independent nature even stronger. But now she’s back home on her family’s sugarcane farm, which is foundering thanks to her father’s old-fashioned ideas, sabotage from the inside, and her parents’ grief over the loss of her two brothers. Even worse is her father’s dislike of Italians, especially the Conti family that lives next door.
Thomas Conti left the war behind him when he came to Australia but finds prejudice and hatred here as well. Thomas still struggles with his experiences in the war and wants to keep to himself because he just knows he’ll hurt anyone who cares about him. Rosie wants to get to know Thomas, but when a ghost from his past shows up to ruin his future and a bombshell from Rosie’s past destroys who she thinks she is, they’ll have to turn to each other if they’re to survive.
I’d never read anything from this particular setting, so it was an interesting—and sad—read. So much conflict and hatred towards others…kind of like today. Rosie is an interesting character: caught on the brink of a changing world and society but having to fight for every single step she takes forward. I enjoyed this read quite a bit.
Alli Sinclair is an award-winning author. Burning Fields is her newest novel.
(Galley provided by Kensington Books/Lyrical Press in exchange for an honest review.)
The Montrose family left Boston to escape the rumors claiming a family scandal. Now ensconced in their new country home, Willow Hall, middle daughter Lydia wants nothing more than peace and quiet, to take care of her younger sister Emeline, and no more family scandals.
At first, things at Willow Hall are peaceful. Emeline cares only about looking for mermaids in the pond, and Catherine can’t seem to make up her mind if she’ll pursue their father’s new partner, John, or his best friend. Reading sounds much better to Lydia, at least at first.
But soon Lydia hears a woman wailing in the night and sees a pale boy in the gardens. The oppressive air around Willow Hall closes in around the family, and darkness hovers, along with memories from Lydia’s childhood. Lydia will have to discover the truth about Willow Hall—and herself—to grasp peace.
This novel is almost Gothic, almost a romance, and all spellbinding. Lydia was a wonderful character. I loved her from the beginning. She cares so much about her family—even the horrible ones—and does her best to save them from themselves. She’s dutiful, but she’s not blind to the faults around her. I’d actually love to read more about her. The Gothic feel of this novel is well-done, without being overpowering or too creepy. Catherine was such an inconsistent character. Sometimes, I almost liked her. The rest of the time, not at all. A very enjoyable book that I read straight through!
Hester Fox is an artist and author. The Witch of Willow Hall is her first novel.
(Galley provided by Harlequin/Graydon House in exchange for an honest review.)
Seventeen-year-old June Hardie does not fit in. In 1951, young women are expected to want marriage and a family, and to know how to cook and clean and take care of their husband. June wants to write stories about alien abductions and travel the world as a writer. Her father forces her into a relationship with his partner’s son, and June finds herself practically engaged to the domineering boy, her dreams of becoming a writer shattering, along with June herself.
June ends up in an asylum, a hospital to help women get better. But things there don’t make sense. The words of the other girls make her realize she’s not the only one who thinks this, but those who speak up disappear or worse. And there’s something odd about the head nurse and the doctor. Maybe June really is losing or mind—or maybe there’s more to her story than she ever imagined.
This is marketed as horror, but I didn’t think it was scary—and I’m a big chicken. Instead, it was just weird. Okay, the complete lack of women’s rights plus what was expected of women was horrifying, but the rest of the books was just odd. June is an unreliable narrator at best, and I spent the entire book wondering what, exactly, the point was. The cover is beautiful, though.
Amy Lukavics writes horror fiction. Nightingale is her newest novel.
Vashti left Catalina Cove Louisiana over ten years ago after a teen pregnancy left her heartbroken and childless. She never had any desire to return. But with the death of her aunt and an inheritance of her beloved B & B, Vashti returns. And immediately gets a speeding ticket from Sheriff Sawyer Grisham.
Some things never change in Catalina Cove, but Vashti discovers that some things have changed. Despite that, she’s determined to leave the cove behind her for good. Until fate—and an unexpected benefactor—intervene, and she finds herself restoring the old B & B to its former glory, so she can run it.
When the biggest secret of her life comes to light, Vashi discovers that thing she thought to be true aren’t—and unimaginable change lies in their wake. And Sawyer and his daughter are right there beside her. Will she be able to face her new future, or will the past continue to haunt her?
I probably picked this up because it’s set near New Orleans, a city I love. I’m not sure if I’ve ever read any of Brenda Jackson’s books before, but I enjoyed this book a lot, and I’m interested to read the rest of the Catalina Cove series. Vashti was an interesting character, but I liked how honest she was with herself. I did see the “big” surprises coming, but they were handled very well, regardless, and I read this straight through in one sitting.
Brenda Jackson is a bestselling and award-winning author. Love in Catalina Cove is her newest novel, the first in the Catalina Cove series.
(Galley provided by Harlequin in exchange for an honest review.)
When Evie Dasher agrees to go to a club where humans and Luxen can both hang out, she never expects to be caught up in a police raid. Nor does she expect to find herself talking to the very attractive Luc, who annoys her from the beginning. But, one lost cell phone later and Evie finds herself back at the club in search of Luc.
With girls from her high school turning up dead—and left in public places—it’s not safe for Evie to go anywhere, much less with the mysterious Luc. She thinks he might be one of the Luxen, and the girls appear to have been killed by one. But Luc is hiding bigger secrets than that, and soon Evie finds herself right in the middle of a battle.
I’ve never read any of the Luxen books—or anything else by this author—so I was pretty neutral going in. I ended up enjoying the read, despite a few predictable “twists.” Luc was not the most likable character. I found him quite arrogant, and Evie has a few clueless moments, but I still enjoyed the read.
Jennifer L. Armentrout is an award-winning and best-selling author from West Virginia. The Darkest Star is her newest novel.
(Galley provided by Tor Teen in exchange for an honest review.)
Zivah and Dineas failed at their mission and barely escaped with their lives. They have information, but they have no proof of what they know. They desperately need to get home before Ampara attacks their people—who need to be warned of the looming danger.
Dineas spent months thinking he was an Amparan soldier—and now his fellow Shidadi warriors question his loyalty—as does he. Zivah made choices during their mission that broke her healer’s vows, and she’s not sure she can ever regain what she lost—especially when the leaders ask the unthinkable of her. She and the Dineas from Sehmar City were in love, but that Dineas is gone now, leaving both stumbling over their feelings and their history. As Zivah’s plague symptoms return, she struggles to come to terms with her reality—and Dineas fights battles of his own.
I loved Rosemarked, and Umbertouched is just as good! These characters and this world are so vivid and so compelling, that I just can’t put the books down. Zivah is a strong person, but she struggles under so many burdens, afraid to hope as she suffers. And Dineas is torn between two truths: his whole life as a Shidadi warrior, and his brief time as an Amparan soldier.
Livia Blackburne has a PhD in cognitive neuroscience from MIT. Umbertouched is her newest novel.
(Galley provided by Disney Hyperion in exchange for an honest review.)
Nana is a proud stray cat who doesn’t need an owner, but he doesn’t mind the crunchies nice Satoru puts out for him. When Nana is hit by a car, he knows Satoru is the only one who can help him. One visit to a vet and a healed broken leg later, and Nana decides staying with Satoru isn’t so bad.
Life is good until Satoru tries to give him away. But Nana is smart and thwarts the exchange. Satisfied, Nana thinks all is good—until Satoru tries to give him away again. Soon the two are traveling across the country in a silver van as Satoru visits scenes from his childhood—and soon Nana realizes there’s more going on that a cross-country vacation.
This is a charming, heartwarming book, and I ugly-cried at the end. True story. It’s hard to do a book written from an animal’s point-of-view well, and this one is so well done! Nana’s attitude—and his essential catness—is vividly drawn, and he’s one of the best narrators I’ve ever read.
Hiro Arikawa is an award-winning author. The Traveling Cat Chronicles is her newest novel.
(Galley provided by Berkley in exchange for an honest review.)
Ballybucklebo is an Irish village in the countryside. Christmas is barely over when a fire destroys the cottage of Donal Donnally, but the family escapes unharmed. Now the village will have to rally around the family if they are to get back up on their feet. But at least the family—including the three young daughters and the dog—have each other.
Family is everywhere in Ballybucklebo.
Young Doctor Laverty and his wife, Sue, would love to start their own family, but haven’t been so blessed yet, so they turn to modern medicine in their search for a solution. Doctor O’Reilly must be very careful as he advises a married patient on how to avoid another dangerous pregnancy—the church frowns on such things.
This is the second book in this series I’ve read, and, granted, I love to read anything (well, within reason) set in Ireland, but this series is so peaceful. Set in the mid-1900s, it’s a genuinely different world—and one that seems so much better than our world now. An engrossing, quiet novel, full of vivid characters in a setting I’d love to visit.
Patrick Taylor was born in Northern Ireland and now lives in British Columbia. An Irish Country Cottage is his newest novel.
(Galley provided by Macmillan-Tor/Forge in exchange for an honest review.)