Reviews: September Book Releases That Should Be on Your Reading List

 

Happy September everyone!  Today I’m sharing my thoughts on some great books that you’re going to want to add to your reading list.  If you enjoy historical romance,  YA fantasy, and/or YA contemporary, you’re going to want to check these out.

 

Reviews:  September Book Releases That Should Be on Your Reading ListRecommended for You Goodreads

Author: Laura Silverman

Publication Date: September 1, 2020

Publisher:  Margaret K. McElderry Books

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

Laura Silverman’s new novel Recommended For You is an absolute delight.  I was in love with it from the moment I saw that adorable cover and my love only grew as I started reading.  The story is set at Once Upon, a popular Indie bookstore, over the holiday season and follows Shoshanna Greenberg, a Jewish teen and veteran bookseller at Once Upon.  When we meet Shoshanna, it becomes clear right away that she views the bookstore as her home away from home and her escape from the stress in her life.  It also becomes clear that Shoshanna is dealing with some pretty major stress:  1) there are money issues and her car is on its last legs, and 2) there is a tension between her mothers that she has never seen before and she’s worried they may split up.  There’s a light at the end of the tunnel with respect to her car when her boss announces a holiday contest – whoever sells the most books will receive a cash bonus.  Shoshanna is stoked because she knows she can outsell everyone…that is, until Once Upon’s newest employee, Jake Kaplan arrives on the scene and throws a kink into Shoshanna’s plans.  Shoshanna can’t stand Jake from the moment she meets him and the tension mounts the more they try to outsell each other.  Who will be the last bookseller standing?

I really adored both Shoshanna and Jake.  Shoshanna is a messy and flawed character who often acts without thinking.  Even with her flaws though, she’s still completely lovable because she has such a huge heart.  Nearly every impulsive thing she does is because she’s trying to help someone she cares about.  Even though she sometimes does more harm than good, her heart is always in the right place.  One of my favorite parts about Recommended For You was watching Shoshanna learn and grow as a person when she has to deal with the fallout from some of her more impulsive moves.  It’s a very personal journey for her.  Jake is also just an adorable character.  Even though Shoshanna wants to hate him because he’s not even a reader and he’s standing between her and that cash bonus, he still manages to eventually win her over.  Since Recommended For You is being advertised as a rom-com, I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say there’s an enemies/rivals to friends/more than friends vibe going on between Shoshanna and Jake.  I think the coming of age aspect of the book takes center stage over the romantic vibes, but it’s definitely still there as the sparks and witty barbs fly between these two competitive booksellers.

Recommended For You is a fun and heartwarming read about love, friendship, and personal growth. Everything Shoshanna goes through kept me fully invested in her journey, and the adrenaline rush of the book competition kept me fully entertained and chuckling to myself as I was reading.  If you love coming of age stories with a side of romance and family drama, and of course Indie bookstores, Laura Silverman’s Recommended for You is the book you’re looking for.  4 STARS

 

Reviews:  September Book Releases That Should Be on Your Reading ListA Rogue of One's Own (A League of Extraordinary Women, #2) Goodreads

Author: Evie Dunmore

Publication Date: September 1, 2020

Publisher:  Berkley

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

In the past I haven’t been much of a Historical Romance reader.  Last year I decided to give Evie Dunmore’s A League of Extraordinary Women series a try because I loved that it centered on the women’s suffrage movement.  I ended up pleasantly surprised by the first book and so was eager to get my hands on the latest offering from the series, A Rogue of One’s Own.  I’m thrilled to say that as much as I enjoyed the first book, this new book is even better!  It was just so much fun to visit again with this merry band of feminists and see what they’re up to.

This time the story focuses on Lucie, the leader of the group, and Lucie is on a mission.  She is trying to secure controlling interest in a major publishing company because to do so would make it all the easier for her group to push forward with their feminist agenda.  It’s unheard of for a woman to control a publishing house, but Lucie could give a flying fig for what’s heard of or unheard of.  There’s just one unexpected obstacle standing in her way…the handsome Lord Tristan Ballentine who has, unbeknownst to her, just purchased 50% ownership of the publishing company in question.  The situation is made all the more complicated by the fact that Lucie and Tristan have a history, specifically, Lucie has loathed Tristan since she was a child and he used to spend his summers at her home, making her life miserable at every turn.  How will she possibly manage to wrestle publishing control over a man who lives to torment her?  Yep, you guessed it; it’s an enemies to lovers story, my favorite!

As much as I enjoyed Annabelle in the first book, it’s Lucie that has really captured my heart. I just love her determination and grit and the fact that she’s doing everything she’s doing for the women’s movement in spite of the fact that her family has cast her off and refuses to have anything to do with her.  I love a scrappy underdog and Lucie fits the bill.  Tristan is a fantastic character as well.  I love that he’s a bit of a rogue, but that there’s also a lot more to him than first meets the eye.  He’s used to having ladies practically swoon at his feet, so it’s hilarious to watch him try to win Lucie over knowing that she can’t stand him.  The battle of wills between the two of them as they each try to secure what they want, all the while fighting their obvious attraction to one another, is so entertaining!

I will say that there was one moment in the story that gave me pause and it involved a tattoo of a naked dancer that was apparently inspired by a Hindu God. It was on the chest of a white man and while the tattoo itself serves a purpose later in the story, that particular choice of tattoo felt unnecessary and potentially offensive.  It didn’t ruin my overall enjoyment of the book, but since this is an honest review, I wanted to mention it.

I don’t want to give anything else away so I’m going to stop here and will just say that if you’re into fun, steamy stories with characters who are passionate and full of heart, you’ll want to check out A Rogue of One’s Own.  4 STARS

 

Reviews:  September Book Releases That Should Be on Your Reading ListFable (Fable, #1) Goodreads

Author: Adrienne Young

Publication Date: September 1, 2020

Publisher:  Wednesday Books

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

Fable, the first book in Adrienne Young’s YA fantasy duology of the same name, is my third read from this author and I swear her writing and storytelling just keeps getting better and better.  Seventeen-year-old Fable is the daughter of a powerful sea trader.  She hasn’t seen her father in four years, not since he abandoned her on a remote island after their ship sank during a terrible storm and her mother drowned.  Since being left on this island to fend for herself, Fable has worked as a dredger, locating gems at the bottom of the sea, and trading them for coin.  Her goal is simple:  to earn enough coin to purchase passage off the island so that she can then track down and confront her father.  Fable’s plans get turned upside down, however, when she runs into unexpected trouble and needs to get off the island sooner than planned.  She begs a young man named West, her primary buyer, to take her on as a passenger.  Even though no one from his crew wants her on board, West reluctantly agrees to help take her to where she thinks her father is.  Fable has no idea what kind of danger she’s getting herself into though, as nothing and no one, including West or her father, is what it seems.

Fable is such a fantastic character.  I love how strong and resilient she is, and how she refuses to take no for an answer.  Most thirteen-year-olds dumped on an island to fend for themselves would probably have died, so the fact that she survived and managed to secure some semblance of a living for herself says a lot about her character.  Fable also possesses a rare gift that was fascinating to read about.  Somehow she is able to actually hear gems when she’s near them.  It’s this gift that made her so successful as a dredger and it’s also something she needs to keep hidden.  If any of the other roguish traders out there knew she could do this, it would put a target on her back.  Aside from Fable, I also really enjoyed West and his crew.  There’s a bit of a ‘found family’ vibe there as they grow to slowly accept Fable’s presence among them.

Aside from great characters, I also thought the worldbuilding was fantastic.  I loved the descriptions of the sea, beautiful and serene one moment, dark and deadly the next.  Young paints an incredibly vivid and realistic portrait of this dangerous environment Fable’s father has thrust her into.  Not only is the sea itself dangerous, but practically everyone around her is a dangerous scoundrel as well.

Fable is a story that is beautifully written on every level. The characters are all so well-drawn and complex, and the story itself is fast-paced and action-packed.  I breezed through it in a day and immediately wanted to get my hands on the second book because this one ends with a major surprise and I just have to know what happens next.

If stories about the sea that feature scrappy resilient heroines, found families, and a hint of magic appeal to you, definitely check out Adrienne Young’s latest novel, Fable.  You won’t be disappointed.  4.5 STARS

Reviews: THE MOTHER CODE & WAYWARD WITCH

 

 

This past week has been busy with my son starting the new school year from home, with socially distanced soccer continuing to gear up, and with me trying to achieve a healthy work/home balance in the middle of all of that.  We’ve had a few hiccups along the way, but overall we’re doing well with our new normal.  I didn’t get much reading done this week, but I did manage to squeeze in a little science fiction and some YA fantasy with The Mother Code and Wayward Witch.

 

Reviews:  THE MOTHER CODE & WAYWARD WITCHThe Mother Code Goodreads

Author: Carole Stivers

Publication Date: August 25, 2020

Publisher:  Berkley

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

Carole Stivers’ The Mother Code is a frightening cautionary tale about what can happen when government officials think they know more than scientific experts.  When the story opens, the U.S. government has deployed a lethal bioweapon without waiting for their team of experts to give final approval for its use.  As they quickly realize, there are serious flaws with the bioweapon and it should not have been deployed.  It begins to spread well beyond the area it was unleashed in and increasing numbers of people start dying, to the point that the government fears they may have just doomed the human race to extinction.

An elite team of scientists is handpicked to try to find a way to stop the bioweapon, or if it can’t be stopped, come up with Plan B, a way to ensure the survival of the human race.  Plan B is to create genetically engineered babies who can withstand the effects of the bioweapon and to have robots nurture and educate them that have been programmed with a computer code they’ve designed called the “Mother Code.”  Their frantic efforts to save mankind become an intense race against the clock that had me riveted the entire time I was reading.

I did struggle with the story a couple of times along the way, mainly because it’s more plot-driven than character-driven.  Since the characters took a backseat to the action of the story, I didn’t really connect with them all that much.  I really like to connect with the characters I’m reading about so this was kind of a bummer.  Also, this is science fiction that is very heavy on the science.  That’s not a bad thing and thankfully the author explains the bioweapon and its fatal flaw in a very accessible way, but it definitely slowed me down as I absorbed and made sense of what I was reading.

Finally, I have to admit that I almost decided against reading Carole Stivers’ The Mother Code.  Since I like to read to escape reality, reading a book about a manmade pandemic while we are actually going through a pandemic seemed counter-intuitive.  I’m glad I decided to go ahead and read it though because The Mother Code is both a riveting story of survival as well as a thought-provoking read about science and ethics.  3.5 STARS

 

Reviews:  THE MOTHER CODE & WAYWARD WITCHWayward Witch (Brooklyn Brujas, #3) Goodreads

Author: Zoraida Córdova

Publication Date: September 1, 2020

Publisher:  Sourcebooks Fire

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

Zoraida Córdova’s new novel Wayward Witch is the third installment in her Brooklyn Brujas series.  For those familiar with this magical series, this book follows Rose, the young Mortiz sister.  Events from the prior books have transformed Rose’s powers into something that is wholly unfamiliar to her. Add to that the return of her father after an unexplained seven year absence and it’s easy to see why Rose is feeling off kilter.  In the middle of an argument with her father, the two of them are kidnapped and dragged off to a fairy realm called Adas.  There she is told that the realm is in danger and she’s the only one who has the power to save it.  Since Rose doesn’t even know what her power is anymore, she’s not sure how that’s supposed to work, but when her captors lock her father in a tower, she decides she better figure it out.

What I have loved about every book in the Brooklyn Brujas series is the focus on family and that same focus is present throughout this book.  Rose is desperate to get back to her sisters and her mother, just as she is equally determined to confront her father about leaving them alone for so many years.  The family dynamics are very complicated in the Mortiz house but as always, the emotions feel so authentic.

I also loved following Rose on her adventure to save the fairy realm. Córdova’s worldbuilding is exquisite, filled with vivid details and infused with mythology as well as Latinx cultural references.  I especially loved the contrast between the healthy parts of the realm, which  are lush and vibrant, versus those parts that have been ravaged by a destructive and evil rot that threatens to consume them all.  Rose is charged with finding and destroying the source of this mysterious rot, and I was completely invested in her journey, both the physical journey and the psychological journey as she discovers who she is as a Bruja now that her powers have so drastically changed.

I believe Wayward Witch is the final installment in the Brooklyn Brujas series and if so, it’s a very satisfying conclusion to the series.  If you enjoy witchy stories that also focus on family and sisterhood, along the lines of Charmed, I definitely recommend this series.  4 STARS.

 

Review: YOU LUCKY DOG by Julia London

Review:  YOU LUCKY DOG by Julia LondonYou Lucky Dog by Julia London
four-stars
Published by Berkley Romance on August 25, 2020
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Romance, Chick Lit
Pages: 320
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks so much to Brittanie from Berkley for inviting me to take part in Berkley’s 2020 Romance blog tour.  Today I’m excited to share my thoughts with you on You Lucky Dog by Julia London.

*****

Julia London’s latest novel, You Lucky Dog, is the perfect choice if you’re looking for a light read filled with dogs, a little romance (including the sweetest meet-cute), and some hilarious dysfunctional family fun.  The story follows Carly and Max, who meet when their beloved basset hounds are accidentally swapped in an incident involving a pot-selling dog walker and an ill-timed encounter with the police.  Although their initial meeting is somewhat awkward because of the circumstances, two things become clear right away:  1) Their dogs, Baxter and Hazel, clearly adore each other, and 2) Carly and Max are attracted to one another as well.

The timing couldn’t be worse for either of them though. Carly is an up and coming publicist who is desperately trying to build her brand and grow her clientele, while Max is a professor of neurology at the local university who is working hard in hopes of achieving tenure this year.  Carly is also dealing with her dysfunctional divorced parents, while Max has his hands full helping his dad care for his brother, Jamie, who has autism.  Even with all of those obstacles in their path, however, after a couple of doggie play dates, Max and Carly can’t deny their attraction any longer and hope they can figure out a way to make things work even though it feels like the deck is stacked against them.

*****

I really loved both main characters in You Lucky Dog.  Carly definitely has her hands full with some pretty quirky and moody clients, but I admired her persistence and determination as she continued to push to make things happen for herself.  Max is literally the sweetest guy and in addition to loving the way he cares for his dog (and for Carly’s), I also adored the scenes with Max and his brother.  Max is such a good brother to Jamie and it just warmed my heart to watch the two of them together. I also, of course, adored Carly and Max together.  At first I was hesitant because it felt a little like insta-love but seriously how can you not bond while watching your adorable basset hounds frolic in the park together?  Scenes like that sold me on their growing chemistry pretty quickly and I was rooting for them to get together, in part because I wanted Baxter and Hazel to have their own happily ever after.

In addition to the cute factor, there’s also a healthy dose of family drama to balance out the reading experience.  Carly’s mother is having a sexual reawakening, which is downright hilarious at times until her awakening actually threatens Carly and Max’s relationship and lends an almost star-crossed lovers vibe to the story.  Don’t let that scare you off if you need a happy ending though. The story is meant to be a rom-com so you know what that means. 😊

If you’re into dogs, meet cutes, and romance, with a side of family drama to keep things interesting, You Lucky Dog is a perfect fit for you.

four-stars

About Julia London

Julia London is the New York Times and USA Today best-selling author of more than thirty romantic fiction novels. She is the author of the popular Cabot Sisters historical series, including The Trouble with Honor, The Devil Takes a Bride, and The Scoundrel and the Debutante. She is also the author of several contemporary romances, including Homecoming Ranch, Return to Homecoming Ranch and The Perfect Homecoming.

Julia is the recipient of the RT Bookclub Award for Best Historical Romance and a six-time finalist for the prestigious RITA award for excellence in romantic fiction.

She lives in Austin, Texas.

Review: HIDDEN by Laura Griffin

Review:  HIDDEN by Laura GriffinHidden by Laura Griffin
four-stars
Series: The Texas Murder Files #1
Published by Berkley Books on August 25, 2020
Genres: Mystery, Thriller, Romance
Pages: 352
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks so much to Brittanie from Berkley for inviting me to take part in Berkley’s 2020 Romance blog tour.  Today I’m excited to share my thoughts with you on Laura Griffin’s latest novel, Hidden.

Hidden is the first installment in Laura Griffin’s new crime thriller series, The Texas Murder Files.  Hidden draws the reader in from the very first page as we follow a jogger on a popular hike-and-bike trail.  As she is jogging, the woman seems nervous and fearful, to the point of paranoia.  When a man with a large knife accosts her, it becomes all too painfully clear that she had a reason to be so nervous.  Investigative journalist Bailey Rhoads is sent to investigate the murder, as is police detective Jacob Merritt.  Bailey approaches Jacob to see if he can give her some details on the case, but instead of being helpful, Jacob is gruff and close-lipped about the case.  When she doesn’t get any assistance from Jacob, Bailey decides to do some digging on her own.

Two things become clear as both Jacob and Bailey begin to investigate:  1) There is frustratingly little evidence to go on with respect to the murder. Even getting an ID on the victim is proving to be nearly impossible, and 2) Whether they want to admit it or not or even act on it, Bailey and Jacob are attracted to one another.

Hidden was a winner for me for several reasons, the main one being that the murder case itself is very compelling.  From that opening scene, I was hooked on finding out who this woman was and why she was killed in such an awful way.  I became all the more invested in the case when both Jacob and Bailey couldn’t find out anything about the victim. It was like she had gone completely off the grid.  As Jacob and Bailey slowly began to unravel the details of the case and the suspense began to build, I flew through the pages eager to get to the truth about what had happened, especially as it became clear the woman’s murder was a hit job and that the killer wasn’t finished.

I also really loved both of the main characters.  Bailey is a talented and tenacious journalist.  She’s determined to get her story and won’t let anyone, not even a sexy police detective, stand in her way.  Jacob is equally likeable, even though he initially comes off as somewhat gruff and standoffish.  He’s actually just very protective when it comes to his cases. He truly cares about finding justice for his victims and in the case of this victim, is downright ticked off when the FBI comes to take jurisdiction over the case.  I loved his passion and I also thought it was cute how hard he tried to fight his growing attraction to Bailey even though her stubbornness made him crazy. His head keeps telling him it’s a bad idea for a cop to get involved with the media, but his heart has other ideas.  The chemistry between Jacob and Bailey was great too. The way their relationship progressed felt very organic, not to mention both cute and sexy.

Hidden is a very satisfying and entertaining read.  If you enjoy romantic suspense and a riveting murder mystery, be sure to add this gem to your reading list.

four-stars

About Laura Griffin

Laura Griffin is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than twenty-five books and novellas. Her books have been translated into fourteen languages. Laura is a two-time RITA® Award winner (for Scorched and Whisper of Warning) as well as the recipient of the Daphne du Maurier Award (for Untraceable). Her book Desperate Girls was named one of the Best Books of 2018 by Publishers Weekly. Laura lives in Austin, Texas, where she is working on her next novel.

Audiobook Review: THE SWITCH by Beth O’Leary

Audiobook Review:  THE SWITCH by Beth O’LearyThe Switch by Beth O'Leary, Daisy Edgar-Jones, Alison Steadman
four-stars
Published by Macmillan Audio on August 18, 2020
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Women's Fiction, Chick Lit, Romance
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beth O’Leary’s The Switch is a charming and heartwarming story that follows Leena, a young woman who lives and works in London.  When Leena suffers a panic attack at work one day and almost costs her company a huge client, it becomes apparent that she needs a break from her life.  When she confides to her grandmother Eileen about what happened, Eileen confesses that she’s not overly happy with her own life at the moment either.  She’s looking for love, but unfortunately, pickings are slim in rural Yorkshire.  On a whim, Eileen and Leena decide to swap places for a couple of months, the idea being that Leena can relax and revitalize in a charming, slower paced rural setting, while Eileen can kick up her heels and enjoy life in the big city, where there are of course many more opportunities to meet Mr. Right.

I enjoyed The Switch so much!  Both Leena and Eileen are such likeable characters and it was fun to watch them both settle into their new environments.  I thought it was so cute watching Eileen hang out with Leena’s young friends, who helped her set up social media dating profiles, and made sure her time in London was everything she hoped it would be.  I also loved watching Leena interact with her grandmother’s, mostly elderly, neighbors.  Everything about this aspect of the book was just so entertaining and I loved all the quirky characters both in London and in Yorkshire.

It wasn’t all fun and games though. The Switch also deals with some serious and emotional topics as well, such as grief, infidelity, and the hazards of online dating.  There’s an especially moving secondary plot that focuses on the death of Leena’s sister Carla and how the loss of Carla has impacted Leena and Eileen, and especially Leena’s mother, who is really struggling with her grief.

There’s also a little romance.  It’s somewhat secondary to the emotional journeys of both Eileen and Leena, but for those who love a little romance in their women’s fiction, it’s definitely there and will put a smile on your face.

I listened to the audiobook version of The Switch and thought the narration was wonderful.  Leena’s chapters are narrated by Daisy Edgar-Jones, while Eileen’s are narrated by Allison Steadman.  I thought both voices were perfectly suited to the characters they were narrating and that they both really brought these characters to life beautifully.  I also liked that I was able to comfortably listen to the audio at my usual 1.25x speed.

The Switch is a delightful story about love, family, and community.  If you enjoyed Beth O’Leary’s last novel, The Flatshare, I think you’ll love this one too.

four-stars

About Beth O’Leary

Beth studied English at university before going into children’s publishing. She lives as close to the countryside as she can get while still being within reach of London, and wrote her first novel, The Flatshare, on her train journey to and from work.
You’ll usually find her curled up with a book, a cup of tea, and several woolly jumpers (whatever the weather).

Reviews: August Book Releases That Should Be on Your Reading List

I’ve been quiet on the blog for a few days because I found myself lost in some pretty amazing reads.  If these three novels are anything to go by, August is going to be a fabulous month for new releases.  I’m also a big mood reader and my mood was all over the place this week so there’s a little something here for everyone – a heartwarming contemporary, a suspenseful mystery/thriller, and a compelling work of historical fiction.

Reviews:  August Book Releases That Should Be on Your Reading ListVanessa Yu's Magical Paris Tea Shop Goodreads

Author: Roselle Lim

Publication Date: August 4, 2020

Publisher:  Berkley

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

Roselle Lim’s new novel, Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop is a heartwarming story about love, family, second chances, and most importantly, about finding one’s self.  Vanessa Yu, the protagonist, is a fortune teller but wishes she wasn’t.  For most of her life, Vanessa has been unable to control her “gift,” blurting out fortunes at random and driving away friends and potential boyfriends.  Because the gift has been nothing but a curse her entire life, Vanessa longs to just be rid of it so she can live a normal life.  That doesn’t appear to be an option so when her aunt Evelyn, the only other family member who can tell fortunes, offers to train her, Vanessa jumps at the chance, especially once she realizes it means she’ll be traveling with Evelyn to Paris where Evelyn is opening up a new branch of her popular tea shop.

One of my absolute favorite parts about this book were the author’s lush descriptions of the sights, sounds, and especially the FOOD of Paris.  My mouth was watering with each turn of the page as I read about decadent French pastries and the like.  Vanessa is also a very likeable character, so it was easy to root for her.  I felt so much sympathy for her as she began to fear she would live her entire life alone if she didn’t get control over her abilities. I can’t even imagine that kind of pressure.

The story isn’t just about Vanessa though.  There’s also a fabulous subplot involving Aunt Evelyn. She’s actually leaving the Yu family permanently and relocating to Paris. When it becomes clear to Vanessa that Evelyn’s trip to Paris isn’t a temporary one, she is dying to know why, and since Evelyn isn’t talking, she enlists the wonderful Yu Aunties, who are more than willing to go undercover and find out what Evelyn is up to. I adored the closeness of the Yu family overall and those Yu Aunties are a hilarious addition to what is already an entertaining story.

I don’t want to say much more but I will say that I think this is a story that romance fans are going to love.  Love is in the air for several characters as Vanessa discovers that while she may hate fortune telling, she thoroughly enjoys playing matchmaker and bringing lovers together.  If you’re in the mood for a charming and romantic story that will tug at your heartstrings and leave a smile on your face, be sure to pick up a copy of Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop.  4 STARS

 

Reviews:  August Book Releases That Should Be on Your Reading ListThe Night Swim Goodreads

Author: Megan Goldin

Publication Date: August 4, 2020

Publisher:  St. Martin’s Press

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

With her latest thriller, The Night Swim, Megan Goldin explores the connections between two criminal cases that took place in the same small town 25 years apart.  Rachel Krall, the protagonist of the novel, is a successful crime podcaster.  For the first two seasons of her podcast, “Guilty or Not Guilty, the Podcast that Puts You in the Jury Box”, Rachel looked back at cold cases with a fresh set of eyes.  Now that her show has become immensely popular, Rachel wants to up her game by going to court and sitting in on a live, ongoing trial to present and interpret the evidence to her listeners as it becomes available.  The trial she has chosen in set in a small town and the accused is the town’s golden boy, a talented swimmer who hopes to make the Olympic team someday.  He is accused of brutally raping a high school student who also happens to be the granddaughter of the sheriff.  Tensions are high and opinions are very divided as to whether or not the young man is guilty.

Things take an odd turn, however, when she starts receiving mysterious handwritten letters imploring her to take a look at an old case from 25 years ago.  The case was ruled a drowning because there were no witnesses aside from the victim’s nine-year-old sister who couldn’t really provide any information.  The incident received little press at the time, but the letter writer, who turns out to be the younger sister of the drowning victim, swears her sister’s death was not an accident.  Rachel is laser focused on the current case but the pleading tone of the letters get to her and so she starts to casually ask some of the townsfolk about what happened 25 years ago.  When it becomes clear that no one wants to talk to her about it, Rachel starts to dig deeper and soon discovers some disturbing connections between the old case and the new case.  Will Rachel discover the truth about both of the crimes and thus justice for the victims or will someone try to stop her from exposing long hidden secrets in this small town?

The Night Swim is a riveting mystery that kept me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. The podcast aspect of the novel was also very well done. As Rachel produces each episode, we then get to listen to it before returning to the courthouse to hear more.  I was completely invested in both mysteries and dying to learn the truth as the clues were slowly revealed.  Be forewarned that because this story does deal with rape, there are some violent and heartbreaking scenes as we get closer and closer to the truth.  I found myself near tears a couple of times as the truth came to light.

I enjoyed Megan Goldin’s last thriller, The Escape Room, but I have to say that with her latest effort, The Night Swim, she really knocks it out of the park.  4 STARS.

 

Reviews:  August Book Releases That Should Be on Your Reading ListThe Lions of Fifth Avenue Goodreads

Author: Fiona Davis

Publication Date: August 4, 2020

Publisher:  Dutton Books

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

I love historical fiction and I love New York City, so I’m always drawn to the novels of Fiona Davis because she sets each one in an iconic NYC location.  This time around, Davis has selected the beloved New York Public Library as her setting.

In 1913, Laura Lyons is living in the library with her two young children and her husband, who is the Superintendent of the library.  She aspires to be a journalist and enrolls at Columbia University’s Journalism School.  Her journalism classes take her to the doorstep of an all-women’s club called the Heterodoxy Club. While attending club meetings and listening to “radical” women discuss women’s issues like suffrage and birth control, Laura begins to question her own existence as little more than wife and mother.  There’s a whole world out there she wants to experience.  Her thoughts of taking an alternative path in life are cut short, however, when rare books start disappearing from the library and it’s thought to be an inside job, which places her husband squarely on the suspect list.

In 1993, we meet Sadie Donovan, who also works at the New York Public Library.  Everyone at the library knows Sadie loves her job and is passionate about books, so it’s a given that she’s the best choice to curate the library’s next big exhibit featuring rare books.  What everyone doesn’t know about Sadie is that she’s actually the granddaughter of Laura Lyons.  With her family’s muddled history regarding the library and missing books, Sadie figures the little said about that the better, especially when, to her shock and dismay, rare books she plans to use in her exhibit start to disappear from the library.  As only a small handful of people have keys to the rare books room, it’s considered an inside job and Sadie finds herself on the suspect list.  Sadie becomes determined to find out how the books are being stolen and who is responsible and also hopes deep down that she can somehow redeem the Lyon name and legacy with respect to the library.

What intrigued me the most about this story is that we learn early on in Sadie’s timeline that Laura Lyons, although now deceased, had become a famous feminist essayist at some point in her life. In addition to being eager to find out how the book thefts were being pulled off in each timeline, I was also even more eager to find out what had transpired in Laura’s life to transform her from wife and mother on the verge of tragedy to world renowned author.  I loved how the author wove these two timelines together to gradually reveal the answers to both questions.

It actually surprised me how emotional I found myself getting as I was reading this book. I actually gasped a few times when certain beloved rare books went missing and in one case, where a page was torn out of a beloved treasure.  If you are passionate about books, libraries, New York, and historical fiction, The Lions of Fifth Avenue is the perfect book for you.  4.5 STARS

Review: EIGHTY DAYS TO ELSEWHERE by K.C. Dyer

Review:  EIGHTY DAYS TO ELSEWHERE by K.C. DyerEighty Days to Elsewhere by K.C. Dyer
four-stars
Published by Berkley Books on August 11, 2020
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Romance, Women's Fiction
Pages: 480
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks so much to Brittanie from Berkley for inviting me to take part in their 2020 Romance blog tours.  Today I’m excited to share my thoughts on K.C. Dyer’s new novel, Eighty Days to Elsewhere with you.

* * * * * *

K.C. Dyer’s new novel, Eighty Days to Elsewhere, is an entertaining romp around the globe that reads like a mash up of the Jules Verne classic, Around the World in 80 Days, The Amazing Race reality TV show, and Eat Pray Love.  The novel follows Ramona (Romy) Keene, a young woman who lives in New York City and works with her uncle in his bookstore in the Village.  Although Romy dreams of being a photographer and of traveling, she instead sticks close to home, the charming bookstore a safe haven from the world.  When an evil new landlord arrives on the scene, jacks up the rent on the bookstore, and threatens to evict them, Romy is desperate to do whatever it takes to save the bookstore.

She applies for a job at a company called ExLibris Expeditions, an unusual company whose mission it is to create custom adventures for clients based on scenes from their favorite books.  (How cool does that sound?!) The custom trips involve a great deal of research, including actually traveling to each destination being considered to figure out transportation, things to see and do, etc.  When Romy applies for the job, as part of her application process, she is tasked with doing the legwork on a custom trip that follows the route taken in Around the World in 80 Days.  There’s a catch, however, a few of them actually:  1) Romy is given significantly less than 80 days to complete her task because of the timeline the client has given ExLibris, 2) Romy is not allowed to travel via commercial airline since that mode of travel didn’t exist at the time of the novel, and 3) Romy is competing against another applicant who is also applying for the job.  Whoever successfully completes the trip first and by the stated deadline will win the job and a $10,000 bonus.

It’s best to watch the adventure portion of the book unfold for yourself, but I did want to share some highlights.

5 Reasons You’ll Want to Read Eighty Days to Elsewhere

  1. It’s a book of journeys. We follow Romy on her actual physical journey around the world, which is perfect for readers like me who love to travel but have been sidelined by the COVID-19 pandemic.  Romy’s trip takes us through London, Paris, Mumbai, Singapore, and so many other incredible destinations.  Even though Romy couldn’t stop at any destination for very long because of the contest, I still loved reading and learning a little something about each place she visited.  In addition to the physical journey, we also follow Romy on a psychological journey.  Romy has been grieving the loss of her parents and that grief has been holding her back from fully living her life.  This trip gives her the opportunity to really live, learn, and grow as a person.  The Romy who comes back to NYC after her journey is definitely not the same Romy who left.
  1. Romy’s misadventures.  I don’t want to give away any spoilers so I’m just going to say that Romy must seriously have the worst luck of anyone on the planet.  If something could go hilariously wrong at any of her destinations, it absolutely did.  It got to the point where I couldn’t wait for her to get to the next country just to see what went wrong next and how she was able to recover from it.  All I kept thinking the whole time I was reading these misadventure scenes was that this book would make a very entertaining movie or series.
  1. Serious topics are tackled as well. It’s not all fun and games on Romy’s trip.  The author also takes on some serious and thought-provoking topics as well, as part of Romy’s journey of growth.  Romy learns about the plight of Somali refugees, racism on a level she has never seen it before, her own privilege, and she even has an encounter with Greenpeace and whale hunters, just to name a few. These encounters make it a very eye-opening trip for Romy.
  1. Show stealers. Romy meets an adorably sassy Somali teen named Sumaya on her trip. When Romy meets her, Sumaya has lost both of her parents and is trying to make her way to find her aunt, who emigrated several years earlier.  Sumaya is a force of nature, determined that no one and nothing will stand in her way, and she also has a pretty mean stand-up routine, as she wants to be a comedian when she grows up. Sumaya not only steals the spotlight once she joins Romy on her travels, she will also steal your heart.
  1. Romance.  Speaking of getting your heart stolen, there is romance in the book as well.  Be forewarned that it’s a slow burn and definitely takes a backseat to Romy’s psychological journey, but it’s still really nice to watch Romy finally let her guard down and let someone in.  I’m not entirely sure what trope it falls under so I’m going to call it a mix of enemies to lovers and rivals to lovers.

Now I will confess that there were a few times along the way when I had to suspend disbelief.  Seriously, no one could have the kind of consistently bad luck Romy has.  Also, a few of the places in Around the World in Eighty Days are probably not places that Americans would be advised to travel to at this point in time.  That said, I finally just told myself that this is fiction and that I needed to stop nitpicking unlikely scenarios and just enjoy the ride.  Once I did that, I enjoyed Eighty Days to Elsewhere immensely and would highly recommend it to anyone looking for an entertaining adventure.

four-stars

About K.C. Dyer

kc dyer loves to travel. When she’s not on the road, she resides in the wilds of British Columbia, where she likes to walk in the woods and write books. Her most recent novel, published by Berkley Books, is arriving in 2020. A romantic comedy, EIGHTY DAYS TO ELSEWHERE is the madcap story of a young woman so desperate to save her family’s bookstore that she undertakes a race around the world, but ends up falling for her competition.

She is the author of FINDING FRASER, an international bestseller in romantic comedy, and published by Berkley Books. US Weekly called FINDING FRASER a “humorous but relateable self-discovery tale”, and Bustle named it a ‘Must-Read for OUTLANDER fans”.

For teens, kc’s most recent work is FACING FIRE, a sequel to the acclaimed novel, A WALK THROUGH A WINDOW, published by Doubleday/Random House. kc is represented by Laura Bradford of Bradford Literary Agency.

kc has spoken before thousands of readers — both kids and adults — across Canada and the US, and in Europe and Asia. She is a director and long-time participant at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference. She has been writer-in-residence at New Westminster Secondary School, and a featured presenter at the National Council of English Teachers in both Philadelphia, PA and Chicago, Ill; YouthWrite in Penticton, BC; Young Authors in Kamloops, BC; WORD Vancouver, Canadian Authors’ Association in Victoria, BC; Ontario Library Association Super-Conference in Toronto, ON; Simon Fraser University Southbank Writers in Surrey, BC; WriteOn Bowen and many others.

Review: THE BLACK KIDS by Christina Hammonds Reed

Review:  THE BLACK KIDS by Christina Hammonds ReedThe Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed
four-stars
Published by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers on August 4, 2020
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Historical Fiction
Pages: 368
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed is a poignant coming of age story set in Los Angeles during the 1992 Rodney King Riots.  It follows Ashley Bennett, a wealthy black teen whose parents have raised her in such a way as to shelter her from the struggles, and particularly, the racism that faces the black community.  Ashley attends a mostly white private school and her childhood friends are all white.  The only black kids she knows are those who attend her school on scholarships, but they keep to themselves and she doesn’t interact with them.  When the novel opens, Ashley’s most pressing concerns are whether to go to school or ditch and hang out with her friends at the pool or beach.

Everything changes, however, when the police officers who were captured on video brutally beating Rodney King, a black man, are acquitted.  Rightfully so, the black community is outraged and so the L.A. riots began.  The beating, acquittal, and subsequent riots is such big news that there’s no way Ashley can be sheltered from it, and it soon becomes a revelation to her that makes her question everything about herself – her privileged life, her disconnect with the black community, and her entire sense of self.

Ashley’s inner monologue was what really made this story so powerful for me.  I just found myself so moved by all of the emotions going through her head as she truly has to re-evaluate everything she has ever known now that she is faced with this new harsher reality.  Ashley is also worried sick about her older sister, who abandoned that sheltered life and is out protesting for justice right in the middle of the riots.  My heart especially broke for Ashley when during an argument with one of her childhood friends, the friend lets the ‘n’ word fly.  Hearing that hate come out of her friend’s mouth for the first time makes her realize that perhaps it’s time to move on and find friends who understand what she is going through and what a mess her head is because of it.  Even though my heart broke for her at the loss of friendship, it also soared for her as she slowly starts to find her way, figure out who she is, and who the best kinds of friends are for her.

Ashley’s journey in The Black Kids is a hard one, but as hard as it was, I still loved watching her learn and grow, and discover a new sense of identity.  I also thought it was very powerful to watch the riots unfold through the eyes of a frightened and confused black teen.  I’m old enough that I remember watching the riots on TV, but Ashley’s perspective is an entirely different one and it really hit me hard as I was reading.  It also made me sad in the sense that it’s now almost 30 years since those riots and we still have so much more work to do when it comes to fighting racial injustice.  I’m glad to see more and more books like The Black Kids and hope they will inspire all of us to understand and to do better.

four-stars

About Christina Hammonds Reed

Christina Hammonds Reed holds an MFA from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. A native of the Los Angeles area, her work has previously appeared in the Santa Monica Review and One Teen Story. The Black Kids is her first novel.

Review: THIS IS MY AMERICA by Kim Johnson

Review:  THIS IS MY AMERICA by Kim JohnsonThis Is My America by Kim Johnson
five-stars
Published by Random House Children's Books on July 28, 2020
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 416
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Set in Galveston, Texas, Kim Johnson’s This Is My America follows Tracy Beaumont, a 17-year old African American who is on a mission to save her father, who is sitting on Death Row, convicted of a murder he did not commit. When the novel opens, he has less than one year before he’s put to death and so Tracy is running out of time. She has spent the past seven years writing weekly letters to Innocence X, an organization devoted to help those who have been wrongly incarcerated, pleading with them to take her father’s case.

The matter becomes all the more urgent when tragedy strikes the Beaumont family all over again. The local police arrive at the Beaumont house late one night with an arrest warrant for Tracy’s older brother Jamal. He is the prime suspect in the murder of Angela Herron, the editor of their school newspaper and also the white girl Jamal has been dating in secret. Jamal has no alibi and the sheriff’s son places him at the scene of the crime. Fearing he’s going to suffer the same fate as his dad, Jamal flees and refuses to come home until he can prove his innocence. With the clock ticking on both her father’s and her brother’s lives and still no response from Innocence X, Tracy decides it’s time to take matters into her own hands and starts looking for the evidence that will set them both free and save her family.

This story is hard-hitting on so many levels. As we follow Tracy on what turns out to be an increasingly dangerous journey to find the evidence that will exonerate her family members, the author unflinchingly explores so many tough and all-too-relevant topics, such as systemic racism, corruption in law enforcement, police brutality, the lingering existence of hate groups like the KKK, and the fact that without ample resources, a black person has little chance of successfully defending themselves in our legal system. The deck is just stacked against them. The author really drives her point home though by bringing us into the Beaumont home, where we meet and fall in love with Tracy, Jamal, their mom, and especially with their little sister Corinne, who at only seven years old, has never known her father as a free man. He has always been behind bars. Everything this family has gone through just had me in tears several times while I was reading, especially knowing that even though this account is fictional, the Beaumont’s situation is unfortunately a reality for too many families.

I don’t want to give away anything about the actual murder mysteries, so I’m just going to add that as powerful a read as this is because of its message about racial injustice, it’s also just a flat out fantastic read because the drive to find the real murderers is so riveting.

This Is My America is a hard-hitting exploration of the racial injustices that are so pervasive in American society. It’s a powerful read in that it will make you sad, angry, and frustrated at how little progress we as a society have made to stop the racial injustices, but at the same time, it’s a hopeful story. This is a book I’d love to see as required reading at the high school level because of its message that you’re never too young to start making your voice heard and that no matter how young you are, your voice can actually make a difference.

five-stars

About Kim Johnson

KIM JOHNSON held leadership positions in social justice organizations as a teen and in college. She’s now a college administrator who maintains civic engagement throughout the community while also mentoring Black student activists and leaders. She is also the graduate advisor and member of an historically Black sorority. This Is My America is her debut novel and explores racial injustice against innocent Black men who are criminally sentenced and the families left behind to pick up the pieces. She holds degrees from the University of Oregon and the University of Maryland, College Park.

Reviews: The Year of the Witching & The Pull of the Stars

Today I’m sharing my thoughts on two historical fiction novels that are releasing in July.  The first is an atmospheric tale about witches and curses that is sure to entertain, while the second is a heart-wrenching and thought provoking look at the influenza pandemic of 1918.

 

Reviews:  The Year of the Witching & The Pull of the StarsThe Year of the Witching Goodreads

Author: Alexis Henderson

Publication Date: July 21, 2020

Publisher:  Ace

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

 

I’m always up for a good witchy read so I couldn’t resist picking up a copy of The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson.  That gorgeous cover promises an atmospheric read with hints of the supernatural, and I knew from the moment I opened the book and saw it was divided in parts labeled Blood, Blight, Darkness, and Slaughter that I was in for a wild ride, and boy does this book deliver! The story follows a young woman named Immanuelle Moore, who was labeled as cursed from the moment of her birth, because her mother was unmarried.  Raised by her grandparents after her mother ran off, Immanuelle has spent her entire life trying to live up to the religious ideals of her community and prove that she is not a curse or a threat.  One night, however, Immanuelle finds herself inexplicably drawn to a forbidden place called the Darkwood and it is there that everything changes. She encounters witches there and they present her with her mother’s diary.

When people in her community start falling ill soon after, Immanuelle fears she has unleashed something awful and turns to her mother’s diary for some insight.  The more Immanuelle reads, the more she questions everything she has ever known about her mother, her own life, and the Puritanical, cult-like ways of her community.  I adored Immanuelle because she was so smart, so resourceful and resilient, and because she wasn’t afraid to challenge and question authority, especially if she feels that the authority figures are abusing their power.  I also loved how determined she was to save the people of her community even though they weren’t always as nice to her as they could have been because of her “cursed” status.  I don’t want to spoil anything so I’m just going to say that for me, The Year of the Witching reads like a mashup of Margaret Atwood’s popular dystopian novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, a play about the Salem Witch Trials.  It’s an atmospheric witchy read filled with secrets, lies, and curses, and whose vivid supernatural imagery will keep you glued to its pages.  4 STARS.

 

Reviews:  The Year of the Witching & The Pull of the StarsThe Pull of the Stars Goodreads

Author: Emma Donoghue

Publication Date: July 21, 2020

Publisher:  Little, Brown and Company

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

 

When I first heard about Emma Donoghue’s new novel, The Pull of the Stars, I struggled with whether or not I could handle reading a novel about a pandemic since we’re currently in the middle of one ourselves, ultimately my love of Donoghue’s writing and storytelling won out though and I decided to give it a go.  Set in Dublin, Ireland in 1918, in the middle of both WWI and a deadly influenza pandemic, The Pull of the Stars takes us inside a maternity ward in a hospital in Dublin.  Through the eyes of Nurse Julia Power, we see firsthand what it looks like to work in what has become just as lethal as the battlefield itself.  Nurse Power is tasked with caring for expectant mothers who have contracted the deadly flu.  The hospital is woefully overcrowded and understaffed as the staff continually gets sick while caring for patients.  Nurse Power’s ward honestly isn’t even a ward; it’s a supply closet that has been converted to a ward.  Not only is it cramped, but it means that all of the pregnant women are in one room together.  When tragedy strikes, there’s no dignity and no privacy.  Everyone bears witness to your grief.

I was drawn into the story immediately by Nurse Power’s perspective of what it was like to work as a nurse in this environment and her tireless devotion to keeping these women alive, but what really captivated me was watching each pregnant woman’s story unfold.  The story may mostly take place in a tiny closet, but Donoghue uses the journeys of each woman to explore some huge themes – religion, poverty, sexual abuse, PTSD, and abuse of power, just to name a few, as well as to show how deadly the flu was and how it could strike at any moment.  What takes place in that room is raw, emotional, and so authentic that I found myself tearing up many times while reading, particularly once I learned the significance of the watch on the book’s cover.  I may have been hesitant to start reading The Pull of the Stars, but once I started it, it kept me rapt until the very last page.  While in many ways, it’s a tragic story, The Pull of the Stars is also a quietly, powerful story of hope and survival.  4.5 STARS