Tag: readers and writers

Book Review: Of Fire and Lions, by Mesu Andrews

of fire and lions
Image belongs to WaterBrook.

Title:  Of Fire and Lions
Author:  Mesu Andrews
Genre:  Christian fiction, historical
Rating:  5 out of 5

Abigail is just a girl when the Babylonians destroy Jerusalem—and the temple. Abigail is taken captive and finds herself serving four Hebrew boys destined to become powerful princes in Babylon, including the kind and caring Daniel. Abigail falls in love with Daniel, but the king’s machinations keep them apart, and soon Abigail finds herself lost in another city, with nowhere to turn.

Seventy years later, Daniel and Abigail have been married for years and have children and grandchildren when Daniel is once again called to serve the new king. Abigail’s family is full of anger and malice, but she’s kept secrets about her early years, secrets that might tear Daniel from her for good, and secrets that might have a chance of mending the rift in her family. But she will have to overcome her fear with faith if she’s ever to know true fulfillment.

Of Fire and Lions is a richly imagined tale that brings Biblical stories to life. Daniel and the lions’ dent. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and the fiery furnace. The exile of the Hebrews. These things come to mesmerizing life on the page. And Abigail—Belili—and Daniel come to life as well:  their struggles, their trials, and their faith drawing the reader in. This is an exceptionally detailed and vivid re-telling of some familiar Bible tales, but with so much life added to the story.

Mesu Andrews writes biblical fiction. Of Fire and Lions is her newest novel.

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

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Book Review: The Manic Pixie Dream Boy Improvement Project, by Lenore Appelhans

manix pixie
Image belongs to Lerner Publishing Group.

Title:  The Manic Pixie Dream Boy Improvement Project
Author:  Lenore Appelhans
Genre:  YA, fantasy
Rating:  4 out of 5

Riley is a Manic Pixie Dream Boy—the trope’s token boy—in trouble for speaking out in his last novel role. He’s sentenced to do therapy in TropeTown with other Manic Pixies who have behaved outside of their roles. Riley isn’t sure therapy is going to help him, until he meets Zelda, another Manic Pixie, and decides maybe it won’t be so bad.

But the Manic Pixies have been causing trouble, and now they might be terminated. All the Manic Pixies will have to work together to save their trope from destruction, and Riley will have to choose between a secure future, and the chance to seize his greatest dreams.

I saw a comment that Riley might be a character from The Fault in Our Stars—although that’s never stated, obviously—but I’ve never read that, so I can’t comment on any similarities (I’m sure it’s a wonderful book, but I don’t read anything I know ahead of time will make me cry). This novel is ironic and lighthearted. It’s an easy read, and there are a few moments of surprising depth—like the lesson about other, now-retired tropes being terminated because of their racist characteristics—but at heart, it’s just a fun read.

Lenore Appelhans’s new book is The Manic Pixie Dream Boy Improvement Project.

(Galley courtesy of Lerner Publishing Group via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

The Best Books I Read in February (2019)

I read 14 books in February, four less than in January. My top three picks for the month include one book for review, one for pleasure, and one nonfiction.

wow

Warrior of the Wild, by Tricia Levenseller.  I really enjoyed this book. It has a sort-of-Viking culture, and a heroine who was raised as a warrior. When she’s betrayed and fails her challenge, she’s banished to live in the deadly wilds until she kills the god her village pays tribute to every year. She’s a strong character, but she’s haunted by fear of failure and betrayal. I enjoyed this so much!

I’d Rather be Reading, by Anne Bogel. Anne writes the wonderful Modern Mrs. Darcy blog.  I love reading all her posts, although I haven’t ventured into the world of podcasts yet. And Book Club is amazing, too. A book about reading? I’m so there!

Cast in Oblivion, by Michelle Sagara. I really love this series, and have read all of them. And loved them. Kaylin is a great character:  flawed but so loyal and brave. Awesome world-building as well.

Book Review: Roam, by C.H. Armstrong

roam
Image belongs to Central Avenue Publishing.

Title:  Roam
Author:  C.H. Armstrong
Genre:  YA
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Abby is 17, new to town, and she and her family are living on the streets as a result of her mother’s bad decision. They had to leave Omaha behind because of the backlash—and the friends who abandoned them.

Now they’re ready to make a fresh start. Abby dreams of having a boyfriend, going to college, and a career in music, but the winter is bad, and they never know where their next meal is coming from. Her stepfather is having trouble finding a job. Her mother is similarly out of luck. Abby’s family needs help, but she’s afraid to tell her new friends the truth, after the devastation of losing all her friends at her old school.

Roam was a difficult book to read. The subject matter is heavy—and sad. I cannot imagine being homeless, much less homeless with two kids. Abby is a strong person, but guarded, after everything she’s been through. Sometimes, asking for help is the hardest thing to do.

C.H. Armstrong holds a B.A. in Journalism, and lives in Minnesota. Roam is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Central Avenue Publishing via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

 

 

The Best Books I Read in January (2019)

While I’ll continue to post my monthly reading re-caps—my goal is an ambitious 175 books this year—I thought it would be nice to also focus a bit on the three books I enjoyed the most in the previous month.

 

For January, that was:

white stag

White Stag, by Kara Barbieri.

This book had a very dark aesthetic, but I loved so much about it! Janneke was a character I connected with from the first page:  she’s scarred and ugly (in her eyes), she’s weak (compared to the goblins around her), she has no magic, and she longs to go back home (she thinks).  But she’s the strongest character in the book! I love her smart mouth, her sarcasm, and her kick-butt-and-take-names attitude.

Find out more about this author here.

Unmarriageable, by Soniah Kamal.

unmarriageable

Can I say again how much I loved this? I love reading about different cultures, and I love Pride and Prejudice, so this was a win-win read for me. I was fascinated by both the differences and the similarities between this and the original, and I love when a talented author re-does something I love…and does it justice!

Check out the author’s site here.

winter of the witch

And Winter of the Witch, by Katherine Arden.

This book. This book. I’ve loved this entire trilogy so much. It’s dark. It’s cold. And the legends and magic are riveting. The layers of history and culture entwine with fantasy to create this fascinating mixture that is almost impossible to put down.

Find out more about the author here—she’s led an interesting life.

What I Read in January (2019)

Books Read in January: 18

Books Read for the Year: 18/175

Topical Books/Monthly Goal Books:

Perlambria, by C.S. Lewist (classic). Loved this. Can’t believe I didn’t know Lewis wrote a space trilogy.

My Plain Jane, Cynthia Hand (TBR). I loved the premise of this, but…the writers make a habit of inserting themselves into the story and speaking directly to the reader in a somewhat juvenile tone, and that detracted from the story a lot for me.

De-Cluttering at the Speed of Life, by Dana K. White (non-fiction). A few interesting tips here, but not totally life-changing. I like the container concept.

Where the Wind Leads, by Vinh Chung (cultural). An excellent read about a refugee family from Vietnam. A little odd to read about Fort Smith, a place I used to live close to.

Follow Me,  by Mary Jo Pierce (spiritual).

For Review:

an anonymous girl

An Anonymous Girl, by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen. Jess lies to get into a psychology study—she needs the money—and thinks it will just be answering a few questions and collecting her money. But she finds herself drawn in, and soon she realizes Dr. Shields is using Jessica to test her estranged husband’s fidelity, and Jessica is caught in one of the doctor’s tangled, dark experiments. Yeah, I finished this book—but I didn’t care for any of the characters.

white stag

White Stag, by Kara Barbieri. Fantastic read! Loved the goblin society, and the concept of this story was riveting. This felt a little dark, but Janneke was a character I loved from the first page. Soran was compelling, the world was fantastic, and I can’t wait to keep reading this series!

the perfect liar

The Perfect Liar, by Thomas Christopher Green. Another book—in the same week, no less—where I didn’t like any of the characters, but continued reading. Susannah and Max have been married for a while, and he’s everything she thought she wanted and fits into her artsy world perfectly. Susannah ignores all the warning signs, until a note is left on their door,  I know what you did. Susannah’s anxiety/issues made me feel sorry for her, but, seriously? You can’t see hints something is wrong with this guy? And Max is a sociopath. Not a book I’d recommend.

unmarriageable

Unmarriageable, by Soniah Kamal. Pride and Prejudice in Pakistan. You had me at that. Alys Binat is a schoolteacher, and the second of five unmarried daughters. She wants to encourage girls to think for themselves, not follow cultural traditions like sheep. When she meets Valentine Darsee, she’s convinced he’s snobby, judgmental, and prideful, not to mention his dislike of her family. YOU SHOULD ALL READ THIS.

famous in a small town

Famous in a Small Town, by Emma Mills. Sophie is a small-town band geek who just wants the marching parade to go to the Rose Bowl parade. When August moves to town, he joins their group, as Sophie convinces them all to help her convince a local-turned-star help the band in their mission. A lovely read! The friendship in this book is fantastic!

breath of dust & dawn

Breath of Dust & Dawn, by L. Penelope. This is a novella that follows Song of Blood & Stone, and tells the story of one of Jack’s adventures in the past. I enjoyed it a lot. It gave a nice twist to the waiting for book two.

the inbetween days

The In-Between Days, by Eva Woods. Rosie Cook was hit by a bus. Or did she walk in front of it. No one knows, not the doctors, her sister, or even Rosie herself, who’s in a coma in an in-between state. She visits memories from her past, gaining more of her memory back as she struggles to awaken from her coma. This book. Wow. It was both sad and inspiring, and Rosie’s mental wakening while still in a coma to the type of person she was was powerful.

the falconer

The Falconer, by Dana Czapnik. This is a hard book to describe. Set in 1993 NYC. Lucy is a basketball star ignored by the boys and in love with her best friend. She’s surrounded by feminists and is struggling to sort out her identity. I loved Lucy’s growth in this novel, but her best friend is a total jerk.

 

*Updated because I forgot to include:  Roam, by C.H. Armstrong. A great read!

Castle on the Rise, by Kristy Cambron (review forthcoming). I enjoyed this story of the fight for Ireland’s freedom (in two of the timelines), and the current timeline that is based on the histories of the first two.

A Danger to herself and Others, by Alyssa B. Sheinmel (review forthcoming). This wasn’t what I expected at all, but it was a good read.

Just Because

Winter of the Witch, by Katherine Arden. The last of the Winternight trilogy, which makes me sad. These books. Phenomenal. Set in ancient Russia, and centering on Vasya, who is much too independent to be a good Russian woman. Magic in the winter. This book series is magic.

Puddin’, by Julie Murphy. Excellent follow-up to Dumplin’.

Stopped Reading

Restoration Heights, by Wil Medearis. I read half of this because the setting fascinated me, but I just couldn’t suspend my belief that an artist/art handler would be asked by an uber-wealthy stranger to investigate the disappearance of a neighbor’s fiance.

Book Review: The Inbetween Days, by Eva Woods

the inbetween days
Image belongs to Graydon House/Harlequin.

Title:   The Inbetween Days
Author:   Eva Woods
Genre:   Fiction
Rating:   4 out of 5

Rosie Cook wakes up in a hospital, having been hit by a bus, but no one knows she’s awake. Everyone thinks she’s in a coma, on the verge of death. Rosie can’t remember anything:  who she is, what her life is like, or how she got hit by a bus. She just knows she wants to live.

Then Rosie starts remembering things:  a fight with her sister, a walk on a beach, the day her brother was born. But why these memories? And what do they mean? Rosie has trouble facing what the memories reveal about who she was before she woke up, but if she doesn’t make sense of them and figure out who she really is and what she wants, she may never get the chance to try.

The Inbetween Days is touted as emotional and comic, but I wouldn’t really say it’s a comic novel. There are some funny moments, and every page is full of emotion, but it’s not a humorous book. Rosie wasn’t a very happy person—or a nice one—and her memories are not usually happy ones. However, the story follows Rosie’s change from a person she can’t stand, to one filled with hope and promise, and this is truly an excellent read, although Rosie’s sister, Daisy was the one I really related to.

Eva Woods is a writer and lecturer. The Inbetween Days is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Graydon House/Harlequin in exchange for an honest review.)

What I Read in 2018

Yearly total:  192 out of a goal of 150 books.

January 2018. (15)

February 2018. (13)

March 2018. (13)

April 2018. (15)

May 2018. (16)

June 2018. (11)

July 2018. (17)

August 2018. (19)

September 2018. (14)

October 2018. (21)

November 2018. (22)

December 2018 (18).

Here’s a link to my Goodreads Challenge page.

 

 

 

What I Read in November (2018)

Books Read in November: 22

Books Read for the Year: 175/150

Topical Books/Monthly Goal Books:

pride

Pride, by Ibi Zoboi. (Cultural.) I’m not sure how I ended up reading two Pride and Prejudice retellings simultaneously, but…I really loved this book! I loved the diversity and seeing how this particular culture came to life. Zure was a little much at first, but I ended up loving her attitude and her pride in herself, her culture, and her family.

AHA, by Kyle Idleman. (Spiritual.) I love Idleman’s voice and his brutally honest and down-to-earth style.

Unequal Affections, by Lara S. Ormiston. (From the TBR.) I loved this re-telling of Pride and Prejudice. I thought it was very well done, and stayed true to the characters and world of the original.

Around the World in 80 Days, by Jules Verne. (Classic.) How have I never read this before? An enjoyable adventure tale!

For Review

nightingale+cover

Nightingale, by Amy Lukavics. This is about a girl in the 1950s who doesn’t want to be a perfect housewife, but wants to write stories about alien abduction. She ends up in an asylum, where she realizes it’s no ordinary hospital. When I finish a book and think WHAT did I just read?, it’s not generally a good thing. This book was odd and just didn’t make sense.

love in catalina cove

Love in Catalina Cove, by Brenda Jackson. A solid read by a good author, about a woman who goes back to her hometown and finds her past is not what she thought at all.

embolden

Forbidden and also Embolden, by Syrie James and Ryan St. James. Two more “meh” reads. I love the idea of angels and Nephilim, but the main character is so selfish and ridiculous that it completely detracted from the interesting idea.

ministry of ordinary places

The Ministry of Ordinary Places, by Shannan Martin. I don’t usually find nonfiction riveting, but this I did. Highly recommended.

shadow of the fox

Shadow of the Fox, by Julie Kagawa. I love the Japanese culture and mythology, and the Iron Fey series was fantastic, so I was excited to read this. But I found this a little predictable, despite my liking for the naive main character.

the witch of willow hall

The Witch of Willow Hall, by Hester Fox . Family scandal, mystery, and secrets in this Gothic tale set in 1821. I enjoyed this a lot!

when the lights go out

When the Lights Go Out, by Mary Kubica. After her mother dies, Jessie Sloane finds out she has the name and social security number of a dead girl. As she tries to figure out what that means, her lack of sleep stretches into days and she starts seeing things that aren’t there—or are they? I enjoyed this quite a bit, and I’ve never wanted a character to get some sleep so much!

the lying woods

The Lying Woods, by Ashley Elston. After Owen’s father disappears with millions of dollars, destroying the lives of most of the people who live in their small town, he moves back home to try to help his mother—and figure out  if his dad really did take the money. What Owen finds is hatred, violence, and the truth about his father. This was a fantastic read!

burning fields

Burning Fields, by Alli Sinclair. When Rosie returns home during World War II, she finds some things never change, no matter how badly you want them to, but maybe with the help of the Italian man next door, she can find out the truth about her family. A solid, enjoyable read.

a marriage in 4 vseasons

A Marriage in Four Seasons, by Kathryn K. Abdul-Baki. This tale, which opens with a miscarriage, moves to an affair and a divorce, and through to a reconciliation, is a slow, emotional read that is at times painful to follow.

when elephants fly

When Elephants Fly, by Nancy Richardson Fischer. This book was such a good read! Teenager Lily is trying to live a stress-free life to hopefully avoid the genetic curse of schizophrenia. When she was seven, her mother tried to kill her, but Lily has hopes of avoiding her mom’s fate. When she ends up covering the story of a baby elephant abandoned by its mother, she finds herself way too emotionally involved.

little white lies

Little White Lies, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. It’s been a while since I read anything by this author, but I completely enjoyed this tale of Sawyer, from the wrong side of the track, who ends up living in high society for debutante season, as she tries to find out who her father is. The feel of this loosely reminded me of the Gallagher Girls series, except not as comic.

 

love a la mode

Love à la Mode, by Stephanie Kate StrohmA cute read about two teens who get into an elite cooking school in Paris. This book made me hungry!

Second Chance at Two Love Lane, by Kieran Kramer (review forthcoming). I found this kind of underwhelming. There was too-much glossing over of things, so it seemed o skip around, and several of the characters were caricatures and not fully fleshed-out. And one of the sub-plots was basically pointless, with its resolution summed-up and not resolved.

Just Because

Fury, by Rachel Vincent. I was excited to read the conclusion to the Menagerie trilogy. This is a fascinating world, and I love the characters. Great read. I finished it in one sitting, but I was not a fan of the ending.

Girl, Wash Your Face, by Rachel Hollis. I had to stop myself from devouring the whole thing straight through. I want to be friends with Rachel!

Look Alive, Twenty-Five, by Janet Evanovich. I do love this series, but…this one was sadly lacking in humor, apart from Lula’s antics. I think this series is starting to get stale.

What I Read in October (2018)

Books Read in October: 21

Books Read for the Year: 153/150

Topical Books/Monthly Goal Books:

Song of the Lark, by Willa Cather (classic). I totally enjoyed this book, as well as the other two in the group.

A Long Walk to Water, by Linda Sue Park (cultural book). This novel, based on a true story about a survivor of the war in Sudan, was sad yet inspiring. Very quick read.

Year One, by Nora Roberts (TBR). Nora Roberts is one of the few “romance” authors I’ll read, mainly beause most of her books have a strong fantasy element. This isn’t a romance but a dystopian, and I enjoyed it.

Revelation, by Priscilla Shirer (spiritual). Wow. That’s all I can say.

For Review

trouble brewing

Trouble Brewing, by Suzanne Baltsar.  I enjoyed this romance about a woman trying to break into the craft beer scene. Very colorful characters, and the secondary characters were great, too.

seasonofwonder

Season of Wonder, by RaeAnne Thayne.  Sweet, simple romance about a woman with a troubled past who moves to a small town and finds herself attracted to a deputy sheriff.

words we don't say

Words We Don’t Say, by K.J. Reilly. Joel Higgins has almost a thousand unsent text messages on his phone. It’s just easier than actually communicating with people. His best friend is gone. He failed the SATs. And Eli has no idea he’s in love with her. But volunteering at the soup kitchen gives Joel something else to think about, and opens his eyes to the wider world around him. I enjoyed this a lot. Joel is conflicted and complex, and the author really lets the reader get into his head and see from his eyes.

theseventorments

The Seven Torments of Amy and Craig, by Don Zolidis. Nerdy Craig and popular Amy get together and break up, over and over again. This one was just kind of “meh” for me. I liked Craig and his nerdy friends, but Amy was kind of annoying the first half of the book.

my whole truth

My Whole Truth, by Mischa Thrace. This was a powerful book. 17-year-old Seelie has her three best friends, a mother who couldn’t care less about her, and is unpopular, at best, at school. When popular Shane attacks her and Seelie defends herself, killing Shane, she’s charged with murder, and the whole town turns against her. But Seelie can’t bear to talk about what really happened that day. Even if it will keep her from going to prison. You should definitely read this! (Warning:  there are triggers here, so it’s not for everyone.)

TheDreamDaughter-cover

The Dream Daughter, by Diane Chamberlain. In 1970, Caroline receives news that her unborn baby has a serious heart defect and nothing can be done. Not then, anyway. I had a feeling this would be one of those books that don’t necessarily have a happy ending, but I read it anyway. A very well-written read, full of emotion and love.

thebonelessmercies

The Boneless Mercies, by April Genevieve Tucholke. “A dark standalone YA fantasy about a band of mercenary girls in search of female glory.” Mercenary girls, magic, and a Norse-esque setting? Wow. This was a heck of a read.

RoyalRunaway_4-4

The Royal Runaway, by Lindsay Emory. This fun read about a princess who was left at the altar and who teams up with a spy to find out what’s really going on was a quick, entertaining read.

img_20181025_071922_8375716035256080981801.jpg

Fromage a Trois, by Victoria Brownlee. I really enjoyed this light read about Ella, who moves to Paris in the aftermath of a breakup and ends up in a bet to try every type of French cheese as she discovers there’s more to love than she suspected.

returnofthesong

Return of the Song, by Phyllis Clark Nichols.  This felt like a quiet book, but it was good! Caroline, still hurting from the death of her fiance 6 years ago, finds things are changing—even if she’s not sure she wants them to.

IRISH

An Irish Country Cottage, by Patrick Taylor (review forthcoming). Another “slow” read that was very enjoyable. Set in the 50’s in the Irish countryside.

salt

Salt, by Hannah Moskowitz. What if sea monsters were real? What if gypsy-like families sailed the oceans killing the monsters—without the world being any the wiser? Seventeen-year-old Indi has only known the life of hunting monsters, but with his parents gone, it’s only him and his siblings left to carry on. His older sister is intent on revenge. His younger brother seems destined to be a pirate. His younger sister is smart, and deserves a chance at whatever she wants to do. Indi just wants a normal life.

And isn’t the cover awesome?

the traveling cat chronicles

The Traveling Cat Chronicles, by Hiro Arikawa (review forthcoming). First of all, this is a bonus cultural book, since it’s set in Japan and translated from Japanese. This book. All the feels. It’s the story of Nana, a street cat who ends up with a human, and their travels together. So good. Fair warning:  I was sobbing by the end.

chosen for christ

Chosen for Christ, by Heather Holleman (review forthcoming). And this book is a bonus spiritual read. Also a very good read.

umbertouched

Umbertouched, by Livia Blackburne (review forthcoming). I can’t tell you how excited I was to read this! I loved the first book, Rosemarked, and this one was just as good! This continues the story of Zivah and Dineas as they seek to save their people from war with the emperor–and the rose plague.

the darkest star

The Darkest Star, by Jennifer L. Armentrout (review forthcoming). I didn’t intend to read this in one sitting—but I did. Aliens, mystery, angst…this book had a few issues, but I enjoyed it as the entertaining read it was, and I intend to read the series.

Just Because

Smoke and Iron, by Rachel Caine. For some reason, I thought this was the final Great Library book. I’m glad it’s not. I flew through the pages, trying to find out what was going to happen to Jess and the gang. Not what I ever imagined of the Great Library of Alexandria.

Left Unfinished

The Last Sword Maker, by Brian Nelson. I made it about 15% of the way through this. It was supposed to be a technological thriller, but I never got to the thriller part, and the tech explanations just lost me.

Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy for Quick Lit.