Adunni is a fourteen-year-old Nigerian girl who dreams of finishing her education and becoming a teacher. Before her mother died, she made her father promise Adunni wouldn’t be forced to marry, but her father now disregards that promise and gives her to be the third wife to a local man who demands that she gives him sons—and his first wife terrorizes her.
So Adunni runs away—and finds herself as the house slave to a wealthy couple in the city. The wife forces Adunni to scrub the house with a toothbrush and beats her whenever the whim strikes. The husband is a threat of a different kind, and Adunni realizes if she is ever to have “a louding voice”—the ability to speak and stand up for herself—she will have to act despite her fear. For herself. For the ones who came before her. And for those who will come after.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget how blessed I am, but this book paints it in stark relief in comparison to Adunni’s life. The strength and determination it would take to stand up to centuries of tradition and cultural habits is amazing. Adunni has suffered unspeakable things at the hands of those around her—yet she’s still upbeat and determined to seize her dreams in both hands. An excellent read—but not light and fluffy.
Abi Daré grew up in Nigeria and now lives in the UK. The Girl with the Louding Voice is her debut novel.
(Galley courtesy of Penguin Group/Dutton in exchange for an honest review.)
Jacob and Moses Stein are staying with their aunt amidst the Nazi occupation, while their parents search for a safe place for the family to be reunited. Before they can, the French gendarmes round up the Jews and detain them in the massive Vélodrome d’Hiver. Jacob and Moses are determined to escape and find their parents, but all they have is a handful of letters to lead them across the Nazi-filled countryside. Along the way they cross paths with many people who are determined to help them find their parents—no matter the cost.
Children of the Stars was a good historical read, but it was a little too…nice to be believable for me. Despite the harrowing time period, I never felt the boys were truly in danger, and I always knew they would find their parents in the end. Don’t get me wrong, I like happy endings, but this tone felt wrong for the story. These boys are alone in the midst of atrocities and horror, but those stakes never seemed to touch them, making this much less believable for me, although I enjoyed the characters themselves. This felt like a book aimed at a younger audience, with its characters who were never truly in danger.
Mario Escobar loves history. Children of the Stars is his new novel.
(Galley courtesy of Thomas Nelson in exchange for an honest review.)
In 2018, Morgan Christopher’s life has been put on hold. Serving three years for a crime she didn’t commit, she’s given up all hope of a career in art and just wants her prison stay to be over—until a stranger offers her a deal that will mean her immediate release: restore an old mural in a small southern town. Morgan knows nothing about art restoration, and the deadline is something not even an experienced restoration artist could meet, but as Morgan starts work on the painting, she realizes it hides evidence of madness, murder, and lies in a small town.
In 1940, Anna Dale wins a contest to paint a post office mural in North Carolina. She’s thrilled for the opportunity—but Edenton isn’t what she expected at all. Her life in New York gives her no frame of reference for understanding this small southern town—full of prejudice, secrets, and expectations she refuses to meet—which just might end in murder.
I didn’t immediately connect with the characters, but I ended up loving this book! I connected with both Morgan and Anna, and I admired them both. They are such strong women. They don’t always make the best choices, but they do stay true to themselves and grow from their experiences.
Diane Chamberlain is a bestselling author. Big Lies in a Small Town is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)
In 1852, Maggie has a young daughter who’s been abused and an abusive husband who will kill her if he can find her, so she signs up to join a wagon train to California with 43 other women eager to find husbands. Maggie doesn’t care about the husband part; she just wants to keep her daughter safe. She’s not even sure her own husband is alive—if he’s not, she’s sure to be accused of his murder.
She soon learns she’s not the only woman in the group with secrets: Mary, whose family treated her like a slave, just wants freedom, and on the trail her large size is good thing. One of the women used to be a prostitute. One is also running from an abusive man. One is hiding a secret in plain sight. Throughout the journey the women—and the two minsters accompanying them—must learn how to fend for themselves and become more than who they were.
I loved the premise of Westering Women. I was a bit disappointed in the execution, though. The women’s stories are amazing, but their presence on the page was scattered and fuzzy at best. Even Maggie, supposedly the main character, seemed more like a bit player most of the time. Some of the transitions were very abrupt and came out of nowhere, too (when the men one of the girls was running from showed up randomly). A great historical jaunt, but the writing didn’t do it justice. Judging from other reviews I’ve seen, this is clearly a case of the book just not being a good fit for me.
Sandra Dallas is a New York Times-bestselling author. Westering Women is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)
Sarah Smith loves her little bookstore in tiny Ashford, Connecticut. She swears her books talk to her, and she’s happy with her life, her tight-knit group of friends—and their pastries—and her boyfriend, globe-trotting journalist Ridge. Except he’s gone so much, and Sarah is a little bit bored. So, when her Parisian friend Sophie offers a six-month bookshop exchange, Sarah finds herself flying to Paris to take care of Once Upon a Time, a famous, and popular, bookstore on the Seine.
But Sarah’s dreams of quiet time spent reading, forays to explore Paris, and getting to see Ridge as he travels the world fade quickly once she arrives in Paris. The staff at the bookshop are suspicious and uncooperative. The customers are rude. There’s barely time to breathe, much less read. And instead of spending time with Ridge, their relationship is reduced to occasional quick phone calls. But Sarah has had enough. Christmas is coming and she is determined to get things sorted out, no matter what.
I loved this book! I didn’t realize until I finished it that Rebecca Raisin also wrote Rosie’s Traveling Tea Shop, which was also a lovely read…but it all makes sense now. The Little Bookshop on the Seine made me want to visit Paris, which has never been on my Places to Go list, but I’d pack right up for a chance to work in Once Upon a Time, and Sarah, with her love of books and reading contrasting with her desire to experience life is so me that I related to every page. I highly recommend this!
Rebecca Raisin loves books. The Little Bookshop on the Seine is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/HQN in exchange for an honest review.)
In 1917, Arlene Favier’s home burns to the ground one night. Her father dies in the fire, leaving Arlene to care for her mother and brother and try to rebuild the family’s horse-breeding business. Arlene is determined, but jobs are scarce, especially for women. Until she gets the opportunity to join the American Women’s Hospital as an ambulance driver.
Soon Arlene is part of a trailblazing all-women team of doctors, nurses, and drivers headed to war-torn France. Arlene must work day and night dodging bombs and shells to help civilians and soldiers escape the horrors of war. Somehow, she has caught the attention of Felix Brohammer, a captain who charms everyone he meets—except Arlene, who sees darkness in the man’s eyes.
Arlene also finds Jimmy, a childhood friend who makes her feel things she never imagined. But she’ll have to risk everything—and everyone she loves—to find out the truth about Felix.
I thoroughly enjoyed this historical tale. The courage and bravery of this team of women stuns me. I cannot imagine how much strength it would take to not only work on the front lines of war, but to do so while fighting centuries of tradition and rules preventing women from doing so. Arlene’ strength and determination shine through on every page, and her love for those around her motivates everything she does. Definitely worth reading.
Ann Howard Creel is an award-winning author. Mercy Road is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Lake Union Publishing via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
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.)
Izella and her sister Ola do everything just as their mother, a very religious woman, tells them. Cooking, cleaning, serving…and most of all, staying out of trouble and not getting pregnant. Except Ola didn’t listen to that last one, and now Izella must get her out of trouble somehow.
Their neighbor, Missippi, is also pregnant, through no fault of her own—and she’s too young to understand what the ramifications are. When her father sends her to Chicago to a woman who will take care of her until she has the babies, she meets Sue, also pregnant and the daughter of a pro-life senator.
Four different girls. Four different stories. All facing the same issue.
This book was not what I thought it would be. It’s rougher than I would like not, not fully polished, and while it’s about an emotional topic, I never felt an emotional connection with any of the characters. I found Izella and Ola basically unlikable, although I did like Missippi and Sue. The sisters’ choices show their ignorance of reality—perhaps due to their almost-cloistered upbringing—while Missippi is a character I felt sorry for, making the best of a horrible situation. Sue, on the other hand, is full of great motives, but zero follow-through. She talks a good game, but her rebellion vanishes in the face of opposition.
Randi Pink lives in Birmingham, Alabama. Girls Like Us is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Feiwel & Friends via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Larkin Bennett doesn’t know what to do with herself now: she’s out of the military, trying to heal, and cannot forget what happened in Afghanistan. She knows she must live with the consequences of the choices she made that day, but she’s not sure she has the strength. Until she finds a treasure: the diary of Emily Wilson, who disguised herself as a man to fight for the Union army during the Civil War.
In 1861 Indiana, Emily is happy with farm life with her family. Until her father and one brother leave for the war—and don’t come home. Longing for change, Emily disguises herself as a man—knowing in this case, her own comrades are just as dangerous to her safety as the enemy soldiers. But pretending she’s someone else allows Emily to get to know herself, and her reasons for fighting, even better.
I loved this book! And I don’t generally choose to read or like military books (or movies, for that matter). I loved seeing the journeys of these two women, Larkin and Emily, and the obstacles they faced. Both are strong, believable characters, and I never knew there were so many well-known cases of disguised women soldiers in the past! Now I’m completely intrigued by the subject. An excellent read!
Kelli Estes grew up in Washington state and used to work for an airplane manufacturer, allowing her to travel. Today We Go Home is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Sourcebooks Landmark 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.)