In 1789 London, all Wendy Darling wants to be is a ship’s captain. That’s a big dream for any orphan, but for a girl, it’s even more impossible, since women aren’t allowed in the Royal Navy. Then she learns the Home Office is accepting a few women into its ranks, and she’s eager to take the first step to realizing her ultimate dream, fighting an enemy she never imagined: magic.
It’s her job to keep watch for the Everlost, but she doesn’t know what they really are—or if they truly exist. Until she encounters Peter Pan and his flying band of misfits, and realizes she knows nothing about what’s really going on. Peter is the only one who sees beyond her gender, but are the secrets he’s keeping worth betrayal, even if does get her where she’s dreamed of being?
I loved this take on the Peter Pan mythos! Wendy is a great character: spunky, determined, and smart—and she’s not willing to let other people’s perceptions of her stand in her way. Peter Pan is much more the J.M. Barrie version, not the Disney one, so he’s got depth and darkness to go along with his mystery. As for Captain Hook, well, I’m not sure what to think of him just yet, but Disney or Dustin Hoffman he is not. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series!
Erin Michelle Sky and Steven Brown write sci-fi and fantasy. The Wendy is the first in their Tales of the Wendy series.
(Galley courtesy of Trash Dogs Media LLC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
After she loses her family to war, Ishma—desolation—is a child grieving and frightened when she is taken in by the prophet Isaiah and his wife. She grows up in their home but fear still lurks when she sets eyes on a soldier. Since Isaiah is out of favor with the king, he has been tasked with teaching the young noblemen, and Ishma is introduced to young Prince Hezekiah when he is traumatized from his brother’s ritual sacrifice.
Ishma and Hezi are close friends as they grow up, but his father’s evil reign separates them for years, despite their love for each other. Until Isaiah adopts Ishma and gives her a new name, Zibah, delight of the Lord, which also makes her one of the nobility—and eligible to marry the prince. But Zibah must overcome her fears and learn to trust in the Lord if she is ever to end up where she truly wishes to be.
I’ve only read two of Mesu Andrews’ books—so far—but I love how she brings stories from the Bible to vibrant, breathing life! As Ishma grows from a frightened, traumatized child to a loving and faithful adult, the reader is drawn along on her journey—and learns truth along with her. I cannot recommend Mesu Andrews and her novels enough!
Mesu Andrews has been writing since her chronic illness over 20 years ago. Isaiah’s Daughter is the first in the Prophets and Kings series.
(Galley courtesy of WaterBrook via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Nuri is a beekeeper in Syria. His wife, Afra, is an artist. Their life is simple, yet full of beauty and pleasure—from the early morning call to prayer to the market where Afra sells her paintings. Then war comes to Syria and destroys everything they love, including their son—and taking Afra’s sight. They must leave Syria, but the obstacles they face seem insurmountable.
They want to reach England, where Mustafa, Nuri’s lifelong friend and cousin, has an apiary, but England is the most difficult country for refugees to enter. There are dangers everywhere Nuri and Afra turn, and Nuri must navigate through his own grief and Afra’s to heal their broken marriage as they seek desperately for safety.
The Beekeeper of Aleppo started off slowly, and I almost gave up, but I’m so glad I persevered. I’m not even sure how to describe the journey Nuri and Afra experience. There is incredible loss, grief, pain but also hope in their story, and it is well-worth reading.
Christy Lefteri was born in London. The Beekeeper of Aleppo is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Ballantine Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Georgie Brennan is a physicist, a mother, a wife, and the daughter of the next possible secretary of defense. Then her husband Sean is killed by a hit-and-run driver, and she can barely make it through each day. Her son is struggling to cope with his father’s death. Her parents are consumed with their ambitions for her father’s career. And getting out of bed sometimes just seems like too much effort.
Then Georgie discovers that Sean was lying to her about where he was going the day he died. She realizes his computer—and his knife—is missing. She hears strange noises under the house and starts seeing strange faces in the neighborhood. Soon Georgie realizes she can’t trust a soul: not her parents, not her friends, and, as the mysteries pile up, maybe not even herself.
I liked Georgie from the first page of State of Lies. She’s smart—very smart, which is always a plus in a protagonist—and even when dealt a crippling blow, she keeps moving forward. The writing is tight, and the plotting kept me guessing what was really going on up until the end—and there were several surprises I never saw coming. This will keep you reading even if you’re supposed to be doing something else.
Siri Mitchell has a business degree and experience working in the government. State of Lies is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Thomas Nelson via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
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.)