Tag: fiction

Book Review and Blog Tour: Ariadne, by Jennifer Saint

Image belongs to Flat iron Books.

TitleAriadne
Author:  Jennifer Saint
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

As Princesses of Crete and daughters of the fearsome King Minos, Ariadne and her sister Phaedra grow up hearing the hoofbeats and bellows of the Minotaur echo from the Labyrinth beneath the palace. The Minotaur – Minos’s greatest shame and Ariadne’s brother – demands blood every year.

When Theseus, Prince of Athens, arrives in Crete as a sacrifice to the beast, Ariadne falls in love with him. But helping Theseus kill the monster means betraying her family and country, and Ariadne knows only too well that in a world ruled by mercurial gods – drawing their attention can cost you everything.

In a world where women are nothing more than the pawns of powerful men, will Ariadne’s decision to betray Crete for Theseus ensure her happy ending? Or will she find herself sacrificed for her lover’s ambition?

This is not a happy book, so if you’re looking for some light reading, maybe put this one off for a bit. Excellent writing and vivid characters, and I found the story fascinating, especially life in Crete, the “true” story of a legendary hero, and Dionysus—who was not what I expected at all. But, this was not a happy time for women, and that dragged a lot of enjoyment out of the book, realistic though it probably is/was.

Jennifer Saint was a high school English teacher. Ariadne is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Flat Iron Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour: New Girl in Little Cove, by Damhnait Monaghan

Image belongs to Harlequin/Graydon House.

TitleNew Girl in Little Cove
AuthorDamhnait Monaghan
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:   5 out of 5

After the local French teacher scandalizes the fishing village of Little Cove, Newfoundland, by running off with a priest, the school looks to the mainland to fill the job quickly. They want someone who can uphold their Catholic values and keep a motley group of largely unwilling students in line.

The position is filled by mainlander Rachel O’Brien—technically a Catholic (baptized!), technically a teacher (honors degree!)—who’s desperate to leave her current mess of a life behind. She isn’t surprised that her students don’t see the value of learning French. But she is surprised that she can barely understand their English… Is it a compliment or insult to be called a sleeveen? (Insult.) And the anonymous notes left on her car, telling her to go home, certainly don’t help to make her feel welcome.

Still, she is quickly drawn into the island’s traditional music and culture, and into the personal lives of her crusty but softhearted landlady, Lucille, her reluctant students and her fellow teacher Doug Bishop. But when her beliefs clash with church and community, she makes a decision that throws her career into jeopardy. In trying to help a student, has she gone too far?

This was such a good read! The culture and landscape of Little Cove is a vivid character in this novel, and the author does a stellar job of bringing it to life. The characters are quirky yet relatable, and, despite the setting being such a tiny place, it’s full of life and activity. This was an easy read, but just so warm and comfortable, like a cozy sweater on a cold day.

Damhnait Monaghan is an award-winning writer. New Girl in Little Cove is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/Graydon House in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman, by Julietta Henderson

Image belongs to Harlequin/MIRA.

TitleThe Funny Thing About Norman Foreman
AuthorJulietta Henderson
Genre:  YA
Rating:  5 out of 5

Twelve-year-old Norman Foreman and his best friend, Jax, are a legendary comedic duo in waiting, with a plan to take their act all the way to the Edinburgh Fringe. But when Jax dies, Norman decides the only fitting tribute is to perform at the festival himself. The problem is, Norman’s not the funny one. Jax was.

There’s also another, far more colossal objective on Norman’s new plan that his single mom, Sadie, wasn’t ready for: he wants to find the father he’s never known. Determined to put a smile back on her boy’s face, Sadie resolves to face up to her own messy past, get Norman to the Fringe and help track down a man whose identity is a mystery, even to her.

I’ll be honest, initially, Sadie’s voice almost made me put this down. She just sounded so defeated. I am SO glad I didn’t! This ended up being a fantastic read! Norman is an awesome kid. I have no idea how he has such a positive attitude, considering everything, but he’s so uplifting and inspiring!

And, actually, Sadie is defeated when the book starts out. By life. By all the tragedy and hardship she’s experienced, by her own regrets, by her fears for Norman, and her grief. This story is as much her journey as Norman’s, and it ended up being such an enthralling story, with both laughter and tears, and I enjoyed it immensely.

Julietta Henderson is a full-time writer. The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/MIRA in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Mother May I, by Joshilyn Jackson

Image belongs to William Morrow.

TitleMother May I
AuthorJoshilyn Jackson
Genre:  Fiction, thriller
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

Revenge doesn’t wait for permission.

Growing up poor in rural Georgia, Bree Cabbat was warned by her single mother that the world was a dark and scary place. Bree rejected her mother’s fearful outlook, and life has proved her right. Having married into a family with wealth, power, and connections, Bree now has all a woman could ever dream of: a loving lawyer husband, two talented teenage daughters, a new baby boy, a gorgeous home, and every opportunity in the world.

Until the day she awakens and sees a witch peering into her bedroom window—an old gray-haired woman dressed all in black who vanishes as quickly as she appears. It must be a play of the early morning light or the remnant of a waking dream, Bree tells herself, shaking off the bad feeling that overcomes her.

Later that day though, she spies the old woman again, in the parking lot of her daugh­ters’ private school . . . just minutes before Bree’s infant son, asleep in his car seat only a few feet away, vanishes. It happened so quickly—Bree looked away only for a second. There is a note left in his place, warning her that she is being is being watched; if she wants her baby back, she must not call the police or deviate in any way from the instructions that will follow.

The mysterious woman makes contact, and Bree learns she, too, is a mother. Why would another mother do this? What does she want? And why has she targeted Bree? Of course Bree will pay anything, do anything. It’s her child.

To get her baby back, Bree must complete one small—but critical—task. It seems harmless enough, but her action comes with a devastating price, making her complicit in a tangled web of tragedy and shocking secrets that could destroy everything she loves. It is the beginning of an odyssey that will lead Bree to dangerous places, explosive confrontations, and chilling truths.

Bree will do whatever it takes to protect her family—but what if the cost tears their world apart?

I’m a huge Joshilyn Jackson fan. Her novel gods in Alabama is one of my top 10 favorite books ever. I discovered her quite by accident, fell in love with the voice of her stories, and realized Southern fiction was a thing.

Mother May I is more of a thriller than her other novels, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. The character arc that Bree experiences during the short time period of this novel is incredible to experience, and I was up early finishing up this novel before my day started. Highly recommend! (Also, this cover is perfect!)

Joshilyn Jackson is a bestselling author. Mother May I is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of William Morrow in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour: Just Get Home, by Bridget Foley

Image belongs to Harlequin/MIRA .

TitleJust Get Home
AuthorBridget Foley
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

Dessa, a single mom, is enjoying a rare night out when a devastating earthquake strikes. Roads and overpasses crumble, cell towers are out everywhere, and now she must cross the ruined city to get back to her three-year-old daughter, not even knowing whether she’s dead or alive. Danger in the streets escalates, as looting and lawlessness erupts. When she witnesses a moment of violence but isn’t able to intervene, it nearly puts Dessa over the edge.

Fate throws Dessa a curveball when the victim of the crime—a smart-talking 15-year-old foster kid named Beegie—shows up again in the role of savior, linking the pair together. Beegie is a troubled teen with a relentless sense of humor and resilient spirit that enables them both to survive. Both women learn to rely on each other in ways they never imagined possible, to permit vulnerability and embrace the truth of their own lives.

I like Beegie quite a bit, but Dessa…not so much. She is far too passive for me, letting life—and the people in it—treat her however it will without standing up for herself. Like, passive to a pathetic degree. Solid writing and description—I’ve never experienced an earthquake and I’d like to keep it that way—enough to place me firmly in the scenes, but my dislike of Dessa was a big problem for me in reading this.

Bridget Foley lives in Idaho. Just Get Home is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/MIRA in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour: Float Plan, by Trish Doller

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

TitleFloat Plan
AuthorTrish Doller
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  5 out of 5

Since the loss of her fiancé, Anna has been shipwrecked by grief—until a reminder goes off about a trip they were supposed to take together. Impulsively, Anna goes to sea in their sailboat, intending to complete the voyage alone.

But after a treacherous night’s sail, she realizes she can’t do it by herself and hires Keane, a professional sailor, to help. Much like Anna, Keane is struggling with a very different future than the one he had planned. As romance rises with the tide, they discover that it’s never too late to chart a new course.

This was a fantastic read! I loved it from the very beginning. Anna grows so much as a character as she grieves, struggles, then realizes life does go on after loss—and she becomes stronger and more capable. I loved reading about all the different places she visited and the people she met. And Keane, well, a handsome man from Ireland is always a bonus! (But he’s a terrific guy, too.)

Trish Doller was born in Germany but now lives in Florida. Float Plan is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: We Run the Tides, by Vendela Vida

Image belongs to Ecco.

TitleWe Run the Tides
Author: Vendela Vida
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  3 out of 5

Teenage Eulabee and her magnetic best friend, Maria Fabiola, own the streets of Sea Cliff, their foggy oceanside San Francisco neighborhood. They know Sea Cliff’s homes and beaches, its hidden corners and eccentric characters—as well as the upscale all-girls’ school they attend. One day, walking to school with friends, they witness a horrible act—or do they? Eulabee and Maria Fabiola vehemently disagree on what happened, and their rupture is followed by Maria Fabiola’s sudden disappearance—a potential kidnapping that shakes the quiet community and threatens to expose unspoken truths.    

This clearly wasn’t a good fit for me. Solid writing, but I found it on the edge of boring. I know it’s about young teenage girls, but it veered between over-the-top dramatic and bland and I just didn’t care about the characters. At all. The author did a wonderful job of bringing the setting—ritzy neighborhood, private school—to life, but I found it almost impossible to relate to the characters.

Vendela Vida is an award-winning author. We Run the Tides is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Dearest Josephine, by Caroline George

Image belongs to Thomas Nelson.

Title: Dearest Josephine
AuthorCaroline George
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

2020: Chocolate and Earl Grey tea can’t fix Josie De Clare’s horrible year. She mourned the death of her father and suffered a teen-life crisis, which delayed her university plans. But when her father’s will reveals a family-owned property in Northern England, Josie leaves London to find clarity at the secluded manor house. While exploring the estate, she discovers two-hundred-year-old love letters written by an elusive novelist, all addressed to someone named Josephine. And then she discovers a novel in which it seems like she’s the heroine…

1820: Novelist Elias Roch loves a woman he can never be with. Born the bastard son to a nobleman and cast out from society, Elias seeks refuge in his mind with the quirky heroine who draws him into a fantasy world of scandal, betrayal, and unconditional love. Convinced she’s his soulmate, Elias writes letters to her, all of which divulge the tragedy and trials of his personal life.

As fiction blurs into reality, Josie and Elias must decide: How does one live if love can’t wait? Separated by two hundred years, they fight against time to find each other in a story of her, him, and the novel written by the man who loves her.

I’m honestly not sure what to say about this novel. I enjoyed it and the writing was excellent, but to me there was a major question left unanswered. The author tells the story creatively, using emails, texts, letters, a manuscript…There are three storylines—2020, Elias’ letters, and Elias’ manuscript—and I had difficulty telling the two Elias wrote apart, as they were partially very alike.

It seems, for all intents and purposes, that somehow Elias met Josephine in the past, but that “How?” question is never answered. That’s the biggest mystery of the story, and the reader never gets an answer. I loved how the 2020 storyline wrapped up, and Elias’ novel, too, but Elias’ own story was a bit disappointing to me, mainly because of the lack of resolution. Nevertheless, this was a solid read.

Caroline George is an award-winning author. Dearest Josephine is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Thomas Nelson exchange for an honest review.)

Blog Tour and Book Review: How to Build a Heart, by Maria Padian

Image belongs to Algonquin Young Readers.

TitleHow to Build a Heart
AuthorMaria Padian
Genre:  YA
Rating:  4.0 out of 5

All sixteen-year-old Izzy Crawford wants is to feel like she really belongs somewhere. Her father, a marine, died in Iraq six years ago, and Izzy’s moved to a new town nearly every year since, far from the help of her extended family in North Carolina and Puerto Rico. When Izzy’s hardworking mom moves their small family to Virginia, all her dreams start clicking into place. She likes her new school—even if Izzy is careful to keep her scholarship-student status hidden from her well-to-do classmates and her new athletic and popular boyfriend. And best of all: Izzy’s family has been selected by Habitat for Humanity to build and move into a brand-new house. Izzy is this close to the community and permanence she’s been searching for, until all the secret pieces of her life begin to collide.

I’m pleased to say this was nothing like I expected! I liked Izzy a lot. She struggled in this book:  with grief over her dad, her struggles with his family, her identity, and accepting and embracing who she is. Honestly, I expected a mean-girls scenario, and there was a tiny touch of that, but not much.

Izzy friendship with Roz was well-done, and how the two grew and changed in the novel made this a story well worth reading. It’s not a typical YA/romance, although there is romance, it’s not the focus of the story. There were a few loose ends left when the story was over, so it felt a bit unresolved, but this was a solid, heartwarming read.

Maria Padian was born in New York City. How to Build a Heart is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Algonquin Young Readers in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Girl from the Channel Islands, by Jenny Lecoat

Image belongs to Harlequin/Graydon House.

Title:  The Girl from the Channel Islands
Author: Jenny Lecoat
Genre:  Historical fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

The year is 1940, and the world is torn apart by war. In June of that year, Hitler’s army captures the Channel Islands—the only part of Great Britain occupied by German forces. Abandoned by Mr. Churchill, forgotten by the Allies and cut off from all help, the Islands’ situation is increasingly desperate.

Hedy Bercu is a young Jewish girl who fled Vienna for the island of Jersey two years earlier during the Anschluss, only to find herself trapped by the Nazis once more—this time with no escape. Her only hope is to make herself invaluable to the Germans by working as a translator, hiding in plain sight with the help of her friends and community—and a sympathetic German officer. But as the war intensifies, rations dwindle and neighbors are increasingly suspicious of one another. Hedy’s life is in greater danger every day. It will take a definitive, daring act to save her from certain deportation to the concentration camps.

I don’t think I’ve read anything about World War II in the Channel Islands, so this was something new for me, as was the German officer who wasn’t a Nazi (most of the historical fiction set during this time that I’ve read just portrays all German soldiers as monsters).

This time period is so hard to read about. The atrocities Hedy went through and witnessed are terrible, but she comes through with her hope and her spirits intact. I found this to be an excellent read.

Jenny Lecoat was born in the Channel Islands. The Girl from the Channel Islands is her new novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/Graydon House in exchange for an honest review.)