Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Book Review: "Majesty" by Katharine McGee

All hail Queen Beatrice of America!

Katharine McGee’s American Royals series returns with Majesty, the second book and another enjoyable installment. Beatrice has just been crowned Queen and is trying to figure out how to negotiate a role she has prepared for as long as she can remember, although she wasn't expecting to assume that role so soon.

Beatrice is the first woman to become Queen in American history, but despite living in modern times, there are some who only believe she can govern if she has a husband at her side. And her engagement is fraught with its own tensions.

As her family and the nation move through their grief, there are other issues causing stress—an employee who doesn’t seem to think Beatrice is ready to be Queen; her sister Samantha, who resists being “the spare” and resents Beatrice for so much more than that; and the tensions caused by desperate social climber Daphne.

I enjoyed this book and find the characters so engaging (except Daphne, lord). Because this is the second book there’s less background information about how everything works, which allows for more drama, tension, and character development. (That being said, I loved all of the background McGee shared in the first book.) I liked that a few of the characters really grew into their own in this book, and McGee introduced some interesting social issues into the mix.

I’m fascinated with the idea behind this series. Even when I struggled with some of the melodrama around the characters (which was a little repetitive from the first book) I just felt McGee’s storytelling was so enjoyable. This is a world I wouldn't mind being in, at least for a little while!

Can’t wait for Book 3, although a few people have said a third book isn't definite. Where do I start begging?

Monday, September 28, 2020

Book Review: "A Traveler at the Gates of Wisdom" by John Boyne

A Traveler at the Gates of Wisdom is a sweeping look at love, family, history, and destiny.

Have you ever read a book that you felt you couldn’t describe properly? That’s definitely the way I feel about John Boyne’s newest book. What I can say, however, is once again, his storytelling blew me away.

We start at the dawn of time, 1 AD. A baby is born to a warrior and his wife, amidst his father’s acts of violence. The baby has an older brother, who mostly resents him.

The story shifts as time passes, changing locations, names, certain facts, but the general thrust of the story remains the same, as if to say that what is destined will happen no matter who or where you are. We travel through history, getting glimpses of historical figures and events through time, all the way to the future.

At times this felt more like interconnected short stories than a cohesive novel. This was an interesting concept and I loved what Boyne has to say, that no event or emotion is unique to just one person. In the end, though, I don’t know that this worked for me as much as I hoped it would. But his storytelling transcended it all, so much like I felt about Fredrik Backman's Anxious People, the writing elevated the book, in my opinion.

If you’ve never read Boyne before, please read The Heart’s Invisible Furies, The Absolutist, and A Ladder to the Sky.

NetGalley and Hogarth Books provided me with a complimentary advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making it available!!

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Book Review: "The Roommate" by Rosie Danan

Rosie Danan's The Roommate is fun and super-steamy, and it's built on a really interesting concept.⁣

⁣ Clara has spent most of her life doing the right things, making the safe choices, to avoid her scandal-prone family experiencing any more embarrassment. But when the man she’s had a crush on since childhood invites her to travel across the country, she throws all caution to the wind and moves to California.⁣

⁣ When she arrives, of course, she learns all is not what it seems. Suddenly she’s sharing a house with Josh, a handsome stranger. He seems to “get” her, which makes her a little uncomfortable, but they fall into an easy friendship/flirtation.⁣ She starts tackling her own issues, including overcoming her fear of driving and finding a job.

⁣ And then she finds out what Josh does for a living: he’s a porn star. A popular one with women, at that. But with his contract with his studio trying to force him down a road he doesn’t want to travel, he has to find a new plan. Surprisingly, it comes from Clara—how can women learn to have better sex? It’s an idea sure to gain traction, and one which Clara is becoming ever more interested in the more time she spends with Josh.⁣

⁣ As the project advances, the attraction between them deepens. But can scandal-shy Clara really imagine her family’s reaction if she dates a porn star? What if her crush finally comes to his senses?⁣ Is Josh willing to let his guard down?

⁣ I enjoyed Rosie Danan’s twist on a typical rom-com. Josh and Clara were two really fun and complex characters, and I liked that the book touched on both of their perspectives and desires. It definitely was thought-provoking and, as you’d imagine, pretty hot!!

Book Review: "Watch Over Me" by Nina LaCour

Watch Over Me, Nina LaCour's new novel, is gorgeously lyrical and powerfully moving.

Mila has aged out of the foster care system, so she’s excited when she’s chosen for a teaching job on a farm on the Northern California coast. The couple who own the farm have been fostering children for years and are renowned for their efforts, so this is a real opportunity for Mila.

She is immediately blown away by the beauty and the solitude, and quickly connects with her student and the others on the farm. She longs to be part of a family again, to belong, to be wanted. Like anyone who has experienced the foster care system, she is wary of making mistakes, of doing something that might cause someone not to want her or like her any longer.

But the farm is also a haven for ghosts. While the ghosts mean no harm, they do provoke memories, and Mila starts to become increasingly haunted by the memories she has tried to leave behind. There are secrets few if any know, and as much as she tries to help her student deal with his own memories, she isn't ready to confront hers.

Watch Over Me is such a beautiful story of the toll grief can take on us and how it feels to be set free from it. It’s also a story about the family we choose and how powerful it can be to feel we belong, when we connect with others without guise or guile.

LaCour is one of my absolute favorite YA authors. There’s so much emotion and poetry in her writing, and she never fails to move me. Books like Hold Still, We Are Okay, and You Know Me Well, which she wrote with David Levithan (another favorite of mine), demonstrate her immense talent.

This book is a little more fantastical than some of her others, and at times I wasn’t sure what was going to happen, but I loved it all the same. Read this, and read her.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Book Review: "Good Girl, Bad Blood" by Holly Jackson

There are times when you can’t shake the need to investigate crimes even when you want to...

Don’t you love sequels that are just as good as their predecessor? That’s truly the case with Good Girl, Bad Blood, Holly Jackson’s sequel to The Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, which I read and absolutely loved earlier this year.

Pippa Fitz-Amobi is done being a detective. After she and her family have put the fallout from the murder case she worked on behind them, she has sworn not to get involved anymore. There’s too much risk. She and her boyfriend work on her podcast and that’s the extent of it, save monitoring the trial that is taking place after the murder case.

When one of her closest friends comes to her and asks for her help in finding his missing brother, she turns him down but tries to use her connections with the police to help. But when the police don’t seem to care, Pip feels as if she has no choice but to try and figure out what happened.

She knows the risks but she knows she can help her friend. And now she has an audience to listen whether she succeeds or fails—but will the culprit know if she’s on to them? Can she get the police to listen before it’s too late?

I think Jackson is a terrific storyteller, and I was hooked from start to finish. She threw lots of twists in, and although I’ll admit I suspected the culprit briefly, I was still surprised. Of course, it’s always dubiously amazing how perceptive amateur detectives can be in books, even suspending my disbelief a little didn’t detract from my enjoyment.

This is suspenseful, thought-provoking, and even surprisingly moving at times. I hope Jackson has a third book planned!!

I got this from Book Depository; it publishes in America in March 2021.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Book Review: "Show Me the Way" by Ashley Farley

It’s such fun returning to characters you love when you read another installment in a great series! Show Me the Way, the second book in Ashley Farley's Hope Springs series was a terrific follow-up.

Presley (yeah, she's named after the King) has always known she was adopted but she’s been too afraid to find out anything about her biological parents. But when her mother dies and she finds a woman’s name and address among her papers, Presley decides it’s time to act.

She goes to Hope Springs, a charming small town in Virginia, where the woman lives. As she tries to learn more about the woman she believes is her mother, she winds up landing her dream job as an event planner at the newly restored Inn at Hope Springs Farm. It’s there she also meets Everett, the Inn’s handsome bartender, with whom she shares some intense chemistry, but she can tell he’s hiding something serious.

Everett is biding his time, hoping he’ll get another opportunity to pursue his music career. But Presley’s arrival upends things, because he knows if he can ever have a chance with her he needs to come clean about the things he’s running from.

Meanwhile, Stella, the still relatively new owner of the Inn, is worried about keeping the business afloat. She’s also not sure about the major decisions she’s making in her life, and she’s worried about one employee with a penchant for causing trouble, but she can’t act too rashly or she could ruin everything.

Hope Springs, the setting of Farley's fantastic Dream Big, Stella!, is the perfect backdrop for another round of drama and romance. I love these characters and the Inn, and I love Hope Springs so much I’d move there in real life if it really existed!!

I was honored to be part of the tour for this book. Kate Rock Book Tours and Ashley Farley provided me with an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making it available!

Show Me the Way publishes 9/29.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Book Review: "Surrender Your Sons" by Adam Sass

Surrender Your Sons is so powerful, suspenseful, and moving. It is an utterly intense and unforgettable book.

Things have been pretty tough for Connor since he came out to his fervently religious mother. She’s taken away his phone and all his technology, she’s roped him into delivering Meals on Wheels with her church, and she watches him like a hawk, so he can almost never see his boyfriend, Ario.

But as bad as it has been, he cannot believe she paid to have him kidnapped in the middle of the night and spirited away to Nightlight Ministries, a conversion camp that “changes” LGBTQ children back to their “normal” selves. It’s a frightening place where the threat of violence and punishment and never being able to leave hang over everyone’s heads.

As devastated and hurt as he feels, as unsure as he is about what he should do, Connor knows things aren’t what they seem at camp. Everyone has something to hide—even the director and the “recovered” counselors—and Connor is determined to uncover the truth. But he’ll be putting himself and his fellow campers in danger, as people will stop at nothing to protect themselves and the way of life they believe in.

Sadly, conversion therapy is still a reality in a number of states and places around the world. While this is fiction, the idea behind it is not, and that is one reason this book feels so powerful.

Surrender Your Sons is intense and suspenseful; it’s sad but ultimately, there are notes of hope. Adam Sass told an incredibly moving story. I had a little bit of a problem with the timeframe of the story—it seemed like things should have occurred over a few days instead of one day only—but I still loved this book so much.

I hope that sometime in the not-too-distant future, conversion therapy will be a thing of the past everywhere, and no one will care who people love, just that they love.