Tag: women

Book Review: Mother of All, by Jenna Glass

Image belongs to Random House/Del Rey.

In the once male-dominated world of Seven Wells, women now control their own reproduction, but the battle for equality is far from over. Even with two thrones held by women, there are still those who cling to the old ways and are determined to return the world to the way it was.

Now into this struggle comes a darker power. Delnamal, the former King of Aalwell, may have lost his battle to undo the spell that gave women reproductive control, but he has gained a terrible and deadly magic, and he uses these new abilities to raise an army the likes of which the world has never seen. Delnamal and his allies seem like an unstoppable force, destined to crush the fragile new balance between men and women.

Yet sometimes it is possible for determined individuals to stem the tide, and it comes down to a unique triad of women–maiden, mother, and crone–to risk everything…not only to preserve the advances they have won but to change the world one final time.

I did not read the first book in this trilogy—not something that I recommend—but I was able to jump into book two without much problem. And, I very much enjoyed this book, the last in the trilogy. The magic system is unique as are the cultures and societies. Very strong female characters and some of the men are excellent characters as well—although some of them are total jerks. This is a solid fantasy read that I do recommend!

Jenna Glass has been writing since the fifth grade. Mother of All is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Random House/Del Rey in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Widows of Champagne, by Renee Ryan

Image belongs to Harlequin/Love Inspired.

Champagne, 1939

Gabrielle Leblanc Dupree is taking her family’s future into her hands. While she should be preparing for a lavish party to celebrate two centuries of champagne making, she secretly hides Chateau Fouché-Leblanc’s most precious vintages behind a fake wall in the cellar in preparation for the looming war. But when she joins the resistance, the coveted champagne isn’t the most dangerous secret her cellar must conceal…

A former Parisian socialite, Gabrielle’s mother, Hélène, lost her husband to another war. Now her home has been requisitioned by the Germans, who pillage vineyards to satisfy the Third Reich’s thirst for the finest champagne. There’s even more at stake than Hélène dares admit. She has kept her heritage a secret…and no one is safe in Nazi-occupied France.

Josephine, the family matriarch, watches as her beloved vineyard faces its most difficult harvest yet. As her daughter-in-law and granddaughters contend with the enemies and unexpected allies in their midst, Josephine’s deep faith leads to her own path of resistance.

Across years and continents, the Leblanc women will draw on their courage and wits, determined against all odds to preserve their lives, their freedom and their legacy…

This was an incredible read! It wasn’t in the least what I expected, but it was so good. I will say that Hélène wasn’t my favorite character, but it was due more to her reserved and secretive personality than anything, as she was incredibly determined to protect her family. I didn’t care for the youngest daughter at all, but Gabrielle was a great character and I enjoyed her journey so, so much!

Renee Ryan grew up in Florida. The Widows of Champagne is her newest novel.

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

Book Review The Girl in His Shadow, by Audrey Blake

Image belongs to Sourcebooks Landmark.

TitleThe Girl in His Shadow
Author:  Audrey Blake
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating:  5 out of 5

Raised by the eccentric surgeon Dr. Horace Croft after losing her parents to a deadly pandemic, the orphan Nora Beady knows little about conventional life. While other young ladies were raised to busy themselves with needlework and watercolors, Nora was trained to perfect her suturing and anatomical illustrations of dissections.

Women face dire consequences if caught practicing medicine, but in Croft’s private clinic Nora is his most trusted–and secret–assistant. That is until the new surgical resident Dr. Daniel Gibson arrives. Dr. Gibson has no idea that Horace’s bright and quiet young ward is a surgeon more qualified and ingenuitive than even himself. In order to protect Dr. Croft and his practice from scandal and collapse Nora must learn to play a new and uncomfortable role–that of a proper young lady.

But pretense has its limits. Nora cannot turn away and ignore the suffering of patients even if it means giving Gibson the power to ruin everything she’s worked for. And when she makes a discovery that could change the field forever, Nora faces an impossible choice. Remain invisible and let the men around her take credit for her work, or let the world see her for what she is–even if it means being destroyed by her own legacy.

I enjoyed this very much! Sure, it was hard to read about such a capable woman who was ignored because she was female, but Nora is such a great character. She’s different—and she embraces that and is determined to persevere and do what she needs to do, no matter what people say. Even when she cares about people, she doesn’t put aside her own dreams, and she’s willing to risk her future, or at least her reputation, to save lives. Also, this cover is beautiful!

Audrey Blake is the pseudonym of Jaima Fixsen and Regina Sirois. The Girl in His Shadow is their newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Clover Girls, by Viola Shipman

Image belongs to Harlequin/Graydon House.

TitleThe Clover Girls
AuthorViola Shipman
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

Elizabeth, Veronica, Rachel and Emily met at Camp Birchwood as girls in 1985, where over four summers they were the Clover Girls—inseparable for those magical few weeks of freedom—until the last summer that pulled them apart. Now approaching middle age, the women are facing challenges they never imagined as teens, struggles with their marriages, their children, their careers, and wondering who it is they see when they look in the mirror.

Then Liz, V and Rachel each receive a letter from Emily with devastating news. She implores the girls who were once her best friends to reunite at Camp Birchwood one last time, to spend a week together revisiting the dreams they’d put aside and repair the relationships they’d allowed to sour. But the women are not the same idealistic, confident girls who once ruled Camp Birchwood, and perhaps some friendships aren’t meant to last forever…

I am a little surprised to find out a male author wrote three women and four girls this well. That sounds bad, but usually I can tell when a man is writing female characters. Not this time. The 80’s flashbacks/references were a bit unsettling; although I was fairly young in the 80’s, I still caught the references.

The girls’ friendship was so vivid, so strong it brought back memories (although I never went to summer camp). I enjoyed how much the characters grew as a result of remembering their younger selves—and their friendship. This is a solid, relatable read, perfect for a long, relaxing weekend.

Viola Shipman is the pen name for Wade Rouse, a popular, award-winning memoirist. Rouse chose his grandmother’s name, Viola Shipman, to honor the woman whose heirlooms and family stories inspire his writing. The Clover Girls is his newest novel.

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

Book Review: The Nature of Fragile Things, by Susan Meissner

Image belongs to Berkley.

TitleThe Nature of Fragile Things
AuthorSusan Meissner
Genre:  Fiction, historical fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

April 18, 1906: A massive earthquake rocks San Francisco just before daybreak, igniting a devouring inferno. Lives are lost, lives are shattered, but some rise from the ashes forever changed.

Sophie Whalen is a young Irish immigrant so desperate to get out of a New York tenement that she answers a mail-order bride ad and agrees to marry a man she knows nothing about. San Francisco widower Martin Hocking proves to be as aloof as he is mesmerizingly handsome. Sophie quickly develops deep affection for Kat, Martin’s silent five-year-old daughter, but Martin’s odd behavior leaves her with the uneasy feeling that something about her newfound situation isn’t right.

Then one early-spring evening, a stranger at the door sets in motion a transforming chain of events. Sophie discovers hidden ties to two other women. The first, pretty and pregnant, is standing on her doorstep. The second is hundreds of miles away in the American Southwest, grieving the loss of everything she once loved.

The fates of these three women intertwine on the eve of the devastating earthquake, thrusting them onto a perilous journey that will test their resiliency and resolve and, ultimately, their belief that love can overcome fear.

This was a very good read! I know almost nothing about the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, so finding out more was very sad. I cannot imagine how terrifying that must have been!

Meissner is superb at sprinkling tiny hints and clues throughout the novel without giving away the truth:  I only had vague ideas about the truth of Sophie’s past and the secrets she was hiding—and I was never sure exactly what happened with Martin. I will say, I loved the ending and thought it very appropriate, tying up all the lose ends at once. Definitely a solid read!

Susan Meissner is a bestselling author. The nature of Fragile Things is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: The Christmas Table, by Donna VanLiere

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title: The Christmas Table
Author:  Donna VanLiere   
Genre: Fiction, women’s fiction
Rating: 4.0 out of 5

In June 1972, John Creighton determines to build his wife Joan a kitchen table. His largest project to date had been picture frames but he promises to have the table ready for Thanksgiving dinner. Inspired to put something delicious on the table, Joan turns to her mother’s recipes she had given to Joan when she and John married.

In June 2012, Lauren Mabrey discovers she’s pregnant. Gloria, Miriam, and the rest of her friends at Glory’s Place begin to pitch in, helping Lauren prepare their home for the baby. On a visit to the local furniture builder, Lauren finds a table that he bought at a garage sale but has recently refinished. Once home, a drawer is discovered under the table which contains a stack of recipe cards. Growing up in one foster home after another, Lauren never learned to cook and is fascinated as she reads through the cards. Personal notes have been written on each one from the mother to her daughter and time and again Lauren wonders where they lived, when they lived, and in a strange way, she feels connected to this mother and her daughter and wants to make the mother proud.

The story continues to from 1972 to 2012 as Joan battles breast cancer and Lauren learns to cook, preparing for the baby’s arrival. As Christmas nears, can Lauren unlock the mystery of the table, and find the peace she’s always longed for?

This was a sweet tale of two women and their families in two separate decades and their stories. It’s also full of descriptions of delicious food!

“Sweet” is really the perfect adjective for this book:  there’s the food of course—not always desserts—but there’s also the journeys Joan and Lauren go on as they attempt to grow, learn, and thrive with the hands they’ve been dealt. Their friends and family truly surround them on their journeys, helping to get then through to their destinations.

Donna VanLiere is a bestselling author. The Christmas Table is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Friendship List, by Susan Mallery

the friendship list
Image belongs to Harlequin/HQN.

Title: The Friendship List
Author:  Susan Mallery   
Genre: Fiction, romance
Rating: 4 out of 5

Ellen and Unity have been best friends basically since birth, but they couldn’t be more different. Unity married her childhood sweetheart just after high school and became an Army wife, moving from base to base…until her husband’s shocking death in the line of duty leaves her a widow. Grief-stricken, it’s time for Unity to come back home to Ellen—the only person she can trust to help her rebuild her life. But Ellen has troubles of her own. Boys never seemed to notice Ellen…until one got her pregnant in high school and disappeared. Her son is now 17 and she’s wondering what to do with herself now that he’s heading off to college and he’s literally her entire world.

But now that Ellen and Unity are reunited, they’re done with their stale lives. It’s time to shake things up and start living again, knowing that they’ll always have one another to lean on. So they create a list of challenges they have to accomplish–everything from getting a tattoo to skydiving to staying out all night. And whoever completes the most challenges is the winner. But with new adventures and love just around the corner, there’s no such thing as losing…

The friendship between Ellen and Unity was so much fun to read—even when they fought. And I loved the fact that we got to see what the guys were thinking, too. That made everything much more interesting. Unity’s hanging out with all the older adults made the story charming, although her refusal to face reality was slightly annoying. This was a cute, fun read and I enjoyed seeing the characters grow and change.

Susan Mallery is a bestselling author. The Friendship List is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Tell Me Your Names and I Will Testify, by Carolyn Holbrook

tell me your names
Image belongs to University of Minnesota Press.

Title: Tell Me Your Names and I Will Testify
Author: Carolyn Holbrook
Genre:   Nonfiction
Rating:   4 out of 5

Carolyn Holbrook’s life is peopled with ghosts—of the girl she was, the selves she shed and those who have caught up to her, the wounded and kind and malevolent spirits she’s encountered, and also the beloved souls she’s lost and those she never knew who beg to have their stories told. “Now don’t you go stirring things up,” one ghostly aunt counsels. Another smiles encouragingly: “Don’t hold back, child. Someone out there needs to hear what you have to say.”

Once a pregnant sixteen-year-old incarcerated in the Minnesota juvenile justice system, now a celebrated writer, arts activist, and teacher who helps others unlock their creative power, Holbrook has heeded the call to tell the story of her life, and to find among its chapters—the horrific and the holy, the wild and the charmed—the lessons and necessary truths of those who have come before. In a memoir woven of moments of reckoning, she summons stories born of silence, stories held inside, untold stories stifled by pain or prejudice or ignorance. A child’s trauma recalls her own. An abusive marriage returns to haunt her family. She builds a career while raising five children as a single mother; she struggles with depression and grapples with crises immediate and historical, all while countenancing the subtle racism lurking under “Minnesota nice.”

Here Holbrook poignantly traces the path from her troubled childhood to her leadership positions in the Twin Cities literary community, showing how creative writing can be a powerful tool for challenging racism and the healing ways of the storyteller’s art.

Carolyn Holbrook has accomplished wonderful and amazing things—not the least of which is raising five children on her own and earning a doctorate. She encountered obstacles, prejudice, and sexism, and overcame them all, and her story is empowering, uplifting, and inspiring.

Some parts of the book bogged me down a bit, as they seemed repetitive or jumped around in time and/or subject. I felt that lessened the impact of Holbrook’s message as it allowed the reader to become distracted. I know this is an essay collection ranging over 25 years, so to an extent it’s understandable, but it’s still a distraction for the reader—and some people stop reading as soon as the author loses their interest.

Carolyn Holbrook created SASE: The Write Place; she’s a professor of creative writing and has won awards in her work for the arts. Tell Me Your Names and I Will Testify is her newest book.

(Galley courtesy of University of Minnesota Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: How Lulu Lost Her Mind, by Lulu Gibson

 

how lulu lost her mind
Image belongs to Gallery Books.

Title:   How Lulu Lost Her Mind
Author:  Rachel Gibson
Genre:   Fiction
Rating:   4 out of 5

Lou Ann Hunter’s mother, Patricia, has always had a passionate nature, which explains why she’s been married and divorced five times and spooned enough male patients to be ousted from three elderly care facilities. She also has Alzheimer’s, which is why she wants to spend her remaining months or years surrounded by memories at her family’s decrepit old plantation in Louisiana with her only daughter.

Lou Ann, a.k.a. Lulu the Love Guru, has built an empire preaching sex, love, and relationship advice to the women of America—mostly by defying the example her mother has set for her. But with her mother suddenly in need of a fulltime caretaker, Lou Ann reluctantly agrees to step out of the spotlight and indulge her mother’s wishes, even if it means trading in her Louboutins and Chanel No. 5 for boots and mosquito repellant.

Upon arrival at Sutton Hall, Lou Ann discovers that very little functions at it should, least of all her mother’s mind. She is haunted not only by creaky floorboards and things that go bump in the night, but also by the living ghost sleeping downstairs. Every good day Patricia and Lou Ann have treasure hunting in the attic seems to be followed by two days of meltdowns and cold shoulders. And as Lou Ann adjusts to this new and inevitably temporary dynamic, she is forced to confront the fact that her mother’s fate is completely out of her hands—and the end may be coming quicker than she even thought possible.

I have a family history of Alzheimer’s, with three straight generations of the women on my mother’s side of the family getting it. In that respect, this was a hard read—because I related to the idea so much. Lulu—Lou Ann—is a great, relatable character, but her mother is wonderful. Patricia made me laugh so many times in this novel! I haven’t worn lipstick in years, but I felt the urge to buy some after reading this.

I really enjoyed the journey in this book. It was great seeing how Lulu evolved, and I loved the Cajun flair of the novel!

Rachel Gibson is a bestselling author. How Lulu Lost Her Mind is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: She’s Faking It, by Kristin Rockaway

She's Faking It Blog Tour

she's faking it
Image belongs to Harlequin/Graydon House.

Title:   She’s Faking It
Author:   Kristin Rockaway
Genre:   Fiction
Rating:   4 out of 5

Bree Bozeman isn’t exactly pursuing the life of her dreams. Then again, she isn’t too sure what those dreams are. After dropping out of college, she’s living a pretty chill life in the surf community of Pacific Beach, San Diego…if “chill” means delivering food as a GrubGetter, and if it means “uneventful”.

But when Bree starts a new Instagram account — @breebythesea — one of her posts gets a signal boost from none other than wildly popular self-help guru Demi DiPalma, owner of a lifestyle brand empire. Suddenly, Bree just might be a rising star in the world of Instagram influencing. Is this the direction her life has been lacking? It’s not a career choice she’d ever seriously considered, but maybe it’s a sign from the universe. After all, Demi’s the real deal… right?

Everything is lining up for Bree: life goals, career, and even a blossoming romance with the chiseled guy next door, surf star Trey Cantu. But things are about to go sideways fast, and even the perfect filter’s not gonna fix it. Instagram might be free, but when your life looks flawless on camera, what’s the cost?

This book made me laugh! Bree is the very definition of failing at adulting…except, what if “adulting” isn’t what you want to be or do? Bree just needs to figure out what she wants to do. She is such a relatable character. Her very relatableness made this an immersive read.

It reminded me of Flirting with Forty, in a very tenuous way (At heart, both books are about figuring out what you want and pursing that dream.). I laughed at Bree, I cringed, I hoped she would not make the bad decisions I saw looming…but I was fully invested in her story from the first page.

Kristin Rockaway is a former software engineer. She’s Faking It is her newest novel.

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