Tag: fiction

Book Review: The Confession Club, by Elizabeth Berg

the confession club
Image belongs to Random House.

Title:  The Confession Club
Author:    Elizabeth Berg
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

A group of friends in Mason, Missouri start a supper club to talk, share recipes, and have dinner and wine. Except one night one of the ladies confesses something startling—and soon the weekly get-togethers are called The Confession Club, with all the ladies sharing misdeeds, regrets, and secrets.

Like one of the ladies is dating a charming new man…but he’s homeless. And another ran away from New York hiding a secret so big she doesn’t even know what to do with it. The Confession Club gives them a chance to talk about these things, but it’s also a place for love and support.

The Confession Club is a charming read. I haven’t read any of the other Mason books, but had no problems jumping in with book three. Despite being about a big group of women, I had no problems keeping them sorted out, and I was completely invested in their secrets and confessions. Thoroughly enjoyed this!

Elizabeth Berg is an award-winning author. The Confession Club is her newest novel, the third book in the Mason series.

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

Book Review: The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae, by Stephanie Butland

the curious heart of ailsa rae
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:  The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae
Author:  Stephanie Butland
Genre:  Women’s fiction
Rating:  5 out of 5

Ailsa Rae was born with a heart that didn’t work right. Her whole life was spent in protecting herself, being sick, and praying for a transplant—not really living. When she was 28, that wish came true, and now she has a new heart. What she wants is a new life.

Ailsa lost her best friend/boyfriend Lennox when he did not receive the liver transplant he so desperately needed, and sometimes it feels just wrong that she has a new lease on life and Lennox…doesn’t. So Ailsa talks to her blog and asks it for help making decisions, and she talks to her new heart, Apple, as they learn to live together. Ailsa’s rock has always been her mom, Hayley, but some of the dreams Ailsa has are things her mom doesn’t approve it.

Ailsa knew dying was hard, but she never imagined that just living was even harder.

I enjoyed this book so much! I know a good amount about kidney transplants (family history + my job) and a bit about pancreas transplants, but next to nothing about heart transplants. Ailsa was so much fun to read:  her voice, her attitude, her just-like-everyone-else-but-afraid-I’m-different hopes and dreams. She’s incredibly strong from her experiences, but she’s been sheltered her whole life, so she’s like a colt taking its first wobbling steps into the world. An excellent read!

Stephanie Butland is a breast cancer survivor and an author.  The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae is her new novel.

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

Book Review: If Darkness Takes Us , by Brenda Marie Smith

if darkness takes us
Image belongs to Southern Fried Karma.

Title:  If Darkness Takes Us
AuthorBrenda Marie Smith
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

Bea Crenshaw has lived in the Austin suburbs for years, watching the world go to pieces around her. So she starts prepping—doomsday prepping—secretly, letting no one in her family know just how prepared she is. When calamity strikes in the form of a solar pulse, maybe, Bea is ready. But she never imagined how hard the end of the world would be when taking care of her four grandchildren.

Bea knows if they are to survive, they must work together with their neighbors, but that’s easier said than done. Some boys would rather watch the world burn than help the community. Bea just wants her family safe—but will she be able to make that happen, no matter how prepared she thought she was?

A post-apocalyptic novel about a grandmother? That concept was unique enough to catch my attention. I enjoyed the idea and the story enough to finish reading the novel, but the novel did have some issues. The younger grandchildren—actually, all the grandchildren but Keno—seemed to be caricatures of “problem child” kids, not actual people. (Rebellious and defiant teenage girl, bratty little girl, angry pre-teen.) They annoyed me badly enough I didn’t actually care what happened to them. And Bea herself was oblivious to reality and real life—almost willfully so. If it fell outside the neat box she had prepared in her mind, she had no idea how to deal with it, so she went with denial. Not a healthy choice for anyone. I just wasn’t invested in these characters.

Brenda Marie Smith lives in Austin, Texas. If Darkness Takes Us is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Southern Fried Karma via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Grace Year, by Kim Liggett

the grace year
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press/Wednesday Books.

Title:  The Grace Year
AuthorKim Liggett
Genre:  YA
Rating:  5 out of 5

When they turn sixteen, girls in Garner County are told they come into their magic. They have power over men and power to drive other women mad with jealousy. Which is why they are banished to the wilderness for a year:  to get rid of their magic and return ready to be wives. No one speaks of the Grace Year. It is forbidden. No one knows what happens there.

Tierney James hates how things are. She hates how women turn on each other and how men have all the power. She just wants to survive her Grace Year and get on with her life. She knows she’ll never be a wife, so survival is her goal. But soon she realizes there is more to fear than the wilderness, or even the poachers who fight to steal any of the girls and sell their parts on the black market.

The real danger may lie in each other.

This book. This book. I’ve seen comparisons to The Handmaid’s Tale, and it does have that sort of feel. But I didn’t care for that novel, and I loved this one. This society was horrifying to me. Women are worse than second-class citizens, but even worse than that was the way they treated each other. They are truly horrible to each other—and it made me almost nauseous to read.

This is a tale full of darkness and danger, mistakes and madness, but it’s a tale of hope nonetheless, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Kim Liggett left the rural Midwest for New York City when she was sixteen. The Grace Year is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: The Widow of Rose House, by Diana Biller

the widow of rose house
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:  The Widow of Rose House
Author:    Diana Biller
Genre:  Historical fiction, romance
Rating:  5 out of 5

In 1875, Alva Webster has spent three years developing a tough hide and learning how to ignore the whispers and gossip going around about her. When she left her abusive husband, he crucified her in the press, and the sordid tales followed her from London back home to New York, where she longs for a fresh start. She bought Liefdehuis, an abandoned mansion, in the hopes of repairing it and her hopes for the future.

But rumors of ghosts haunting the mansion make her task impossible, until eccentric professor Samuel Moore turns up, eager to study the phenomena. Sam’s family is famous for its love of science, and Sam himself is beloved by the press—and women—all over, so Alva wants no part of him, no matter how charming and caring he is. But Sam is her only hope of solving the mystery of the ghost in Liefdehuis—and unlocking the secrets in Alva’s heart.

I feel like Sam—and his family—are the stars of this book, although Alva is pretty incredible herself. But Sam…he’s like Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory, except caring, considerate, and funny. I loved him from his first introduction and am quite impressed that Alva resisted for as long as she did. There’s a lot of humor in this novel, a little bit of fright, and it all adds up to an entrancing read.

Diana Biller loves ballet and hiking. The Widow of Rose House is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: A Spell of Murder, by Kennedy Kerr

a spell of murder
Image belongsto Bookouture.

Title:  A Spell of Murder
Author:   Kennedy Kerr
Genre:  Mystery, fantasy
Rating:  4.0

Love’s Curiosities Inc. is a small shop full of odds and ends and curiosities that most people overlook. Temerity Love and her sister Tilda grew up there and now own it. Things have changed a bit since their parents owned the shop but magic still happens there. Tilda is a witch and Temerity is renowned for her ability to touch objects and see where they came from.

When a local schoolteacher is murdered by a poisoned cup of tea, an antique hand mirror is found nearby, and the local investigator asks for Temerity’s help finding the murder. Too bad his new protegee, grumpy out-of-towner Angus isn’t so open-minded. As Temerity starts asking questions, she’s determined to find out who killed the schoolteacher—with or without the help of the townspeople.

I really enjoyed this cozy mystery mixed with magic! The characters are unique and quirky, and the town was vibrantly alive, filled with a sense of history and stories lurking around every corner. The writing is solid, and I just sort of settled into this novel and enjoyed it.

Kennedy Kerr is an author with a love of all things Scottish. A Spell of Murder, the first book in the Lost Maidens Loch Mysteries, is her new novel.

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

Book Review: The Wendy, by Erin Michelle Sky and Steven Brown

the wendy
Image belongs to Trash Dogs Media LLC.

Title: The Wendy
Author:    Erin Michelle Sky and Steven Brown
Genre:  YA, fantasy, fairy tale
Rating:  5 out of 5

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.)

Book Review: Isaiah’s Daughter, by Mesu Andrews

isaiah's daughter
Image belongs to WaterBrook.

Title:   Isaiah’s Daughter
Author:   Mesu Andrews
Genre:   Biblical fiction
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

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.)

Book Review: The Beekeeper of Aleppo, by Christy Lefteri

beekeeper
Image belongs to Ballantine Books.

Title:   The Beekeeper of Aleppo
Author:   Christy Lefteri
Genre:   Fiction
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

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.)

Book Review: State of Lies, by Siri Mitchell

 

state of lies
Image belongs to Thomas Nelson.

Title:   State of Lies
Author:   Siri Mitchell
Genre:   Mystery, thriller
Rating:   4 out of 5

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.)