Book Review: Bethlehem by Karen Kelly

Bethlehem is the story of a strong family and two very different women from two distinctly different times who’ve now come together under one roof: 1960’s housewife Joanna and her 1920’s-era mother-in-law.

This is a slow-growing, character-driven story about the invisible ties that develop between people through our lives. The characters (there are a lot to keep track of and it felt overwhelming early on) are richly developed and intriguing, each with a unique history, motivation and voice.

Karen Kelly writes of each era and character in a way that brings them to life without slowing the pace or feeling too showy. The stories of both women are beautifully woven together until the finale beautiful end, which left me a little misty eyed.  

*I received a copy of Bethlehem from St. Martin’s Press and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

April 2019 Book List

My April reading & audiobook listening habits were a bit varied–and kind of busy! I had a number of ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) to read for books that are/were about to be released. I also went back and revisited some old favorites on audio. I have to say, I love listening to audiobooks and I knock out a number of my monthly “reading” items while getting ready for work, driving, walking, cleaning the house and doing yard work.

I’ll admit that I wasn’t initially excited about one of the books I read this month, but once I opened it, I couldn’t put it down. Five hours later, my mind was blown and I was in love with this book! I’ll lead with it!

Also, as I’m leaving for London and Scotland soon, I’ve started to binge on all the Philippa Gregory novels to get me in the right mind for my travels.

The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister

(Available May 21, 2019)

Erica Bauermeister, the national bestselling author of The School of Essential Ingredients, presents a moving and evocative coming-of-age novel about childhood stories, families lost and found, and how a fragrance conjures memories capable of shaping the course of our lives.

Emmeline lives an enchanted childhood on a remote island with her father, who teaches her about the natural world through her senses. What he won’t explain are the mysterious scents stored in the drawers that line the walls of their cabin, or the origin of the machine that creates them. As Emmeline grows, however, so too does her curiosity, until one day the unforeseen happens, and Emmeline is vaulted out into the real world–a place of love, betrayal, ambition, and revenge. To understand her past, Emmeline must unlock the clues to her identity, a quest that challenges the limits of her heart and imagination.

Lyrical and immersive, The Scent Keeper explores the provocative beauty of scent, the way it can reveal hidden truths, lead us to the person we seek, and even help us find our way back home.

Montauk by Nicola Harrison

Montauk: A Novel

Montauk, Long Island, 1938.

For three months, this humble fishing village will serve as the playground for New York City’s wealthy elite. Beatrice Bordeaux was looking forward to a summer of reigniting the passion between her and her husband, Harry. Instead, tasked with furthering his investment interest in Montauk as a resort destination, she learns she’ll be spending twelve weeks sequestered with the high society wives at The Montauk Manor―a two-hundred room seaside hotel―while Harry pursues other interests in the city.

College educated, but raised a modest country girl in Pennsylvania, Bea has never felt fully comfortable among these privileged women, whose days are devoted not to their children but to leisure activities and charities that seemingly benefit no one but themselves. She longs to be a mother herself, as well as a loving wife, but after five years of marriage she remains childless while Harry is increasingly remote and distracted. Despite lavish parties at the Manor and the Yacht Club, Bea is lost and lonely and befriends the manor’s laundress whose work ethic and family life stir memories of who she once was.

As she drifts further from the society women and their preoccupations and closer toward Montauk’s natural beauty and community spirit, Bea finds herself drawn to a man nothing like her husband –stoic, plain spoken and enigmatic. Inspiring a strength and courage she had almost forgotten, his presence forces her to face a haunting tragedy of her past and question her future.

Desperate to embrace moments of happiness, no matter how fleeting, she soon discovers that such moments may be all she has, when fates conspire to tear her world apart…

Lucid by Kristy Fairlamb

A Terrifying Power. A Horrifying Curse.

Lucy Piper lives a lonely existence on the precipice between life and death. She possesses the horrifying ability to resurrect real-life tragic events in her nightmares, reliving over and over, as if she were there, the last few moments before the victim takes their final breath. Car accidents, drownings, plane crashes – Lucy has seen it all. No one understands what it’s like living death by night and fearing sleep by day.

When Tyler Sims and his family move to town to escape past traumas, Lucy is drawn to him. The two of them are linked through their dreams, and with Tyler’s trust and friendship, hope for a brighter future returns to Lucy’s world. But Tyler’s presence awakens something else in Lucy, and with this new knowledge she will be forced to make impossible decisions. Decisions that will change history, and the future.

Storm and Fury by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Available June 11, 2019

Enter a world of gargoyle protectors, rising demons and one girl with an explosive secret.

Eighteen-year-old Trinity Marrow may be going blind, but she can see and communicate with ghosts and spirits. Her unique gift is part of a secret so dangerous that she’s been in hiding for years in an isolated compound fiercely guarded by Wardens—gargoyle shape-shifters who protect humankind from demons. If the demons discover the truth about Trinity, they’ll devour her, flesh and bone, to enhance their own powers.

When Wardens from another clan arrive with disturbing reports that something out there is killing both demons and Wardens, Trinity’s safe world implodes. Not the least because one of the outsiders is the most annoying and fascinating person she’s ever met. Zayne has secrets of his own that will upend her world yet again—but working together becomes imperative once demons breach the compound and Trinity’s secret comes to light. To save her family and maybe the world, she’ll have to put her trust in Zayne. But all bets are off as a supernatural war is unleashed…

A Walk In the Woods by Bill Bryson

Back in America after twenty years in Britain, Bill Bryson decided to reacquaint himself with his native country by walking the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail, which stretches from Georgia to Maine. The AT offers an astonishing landscape of silent forests and sparkling lakesand to a writer with the comic genius of Bill Bryson, it also provides endless opportunities to witness the majestic silliness of his fellow human beings.

For a start there’s the gloriously out-of-shape Stephen Katz, a buddy from Iowa along for the walk. Despite Katz’s overwhelming desire to find cozy restaurants, he and Bryson eventually settle into their stride, and while on the trail they meet a bizarre assortment of hilarious characters. But A Walk in the Woods is more than just a laugh-out-loud hike. Bryson’s acute eye is a wise witness to this beautiful but fragile trail, and as he tells its fascinating history, he makes a moving plea for the conservation of America’s last great wilderness. An adventure, a comedy, and a celebration, A Walk in the Woods has become a modern classic of travel literature.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

A powerful, blazingly honest memoir: the story of an eleven-hundred-mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe—and built her back up again.

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life: to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and to do it alone. She had no experience as a long-distance hiker, and the trail was little more than “an idea, vague and outlandish and full of promise.” But it was a promise of piecing back together a life that had come undone. 

Strayed faces down rattlesnakes and black bears, intense heat and record snowfalls, and both the beauty and loneliness of the trail. Told with great suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild vividly captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling

For twelve long years, the dread fortress of Azkaban held an infamous prisoner named Sirius Black. Convicted of killing thirteen people with a single curse, he was said to be the heir apparent to the Dark Lord, Voldemort.

Now he has escaped, leaving only two clues as to where he might be headed: Harry Potter’s defeat of You-Know-Who was Black’s downfall as well. And the Azkaban guards heard Black muttering in his sleep, “He’s at Hogwarts . . . he’s at Hogwarts.”

Harry Potter isn’t safe, not even within the walls of his magical school, surrounded by his friends. Because on top of it all, there may well be a traitor in their midst.

The Wicked King by Holly Black

The Wicked King (The Folk of the Air, #2)

You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring.

The first lesson is to make yourself strong.

After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her younger brother safe. To do so, she has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were easy to control. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her even as his fascination with her remains undiminished.

When it becomes all too clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her, threatening her own life and the lives of everyone she loves, Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan to maintain control as a mortal in a Faerie world. 

The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory

The Lady of the Rivers (The Plantagenet and Tudor Novels, #1)

Jacquetta, daughter of the Count of Luxembourg and kinswoman to half the royalty of Europe, was married to the great Englishman John, Duke of Bedford, uncle to Henry VI. Widowed at the age of 19, she took the extraordinary risk of marrying a gentleman of her household for love, and then carved out a new life for herself.

The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

The White Queen (The Plantagenet and Tudor Novels, #2)

Brother turns on brother. The throne of England is at stake. The deadly Wars of the Roses have begun. . . .”They ruled England before the Tudors, and now internationally bestselling author Philippa Gregory brings the Plantagenets to life through the dramatic and intimate stories of the secret players: the indomitable women.”Elizabeth Woodville, a woman of extraordinary beauty and ambition, secretly marries the newly crowned boy king. While she rises to the demands of her exalted position and fights for the success of her family, her two sons become the central figures in a famous unsolved mystery that has confounded historians for centuries: the lost princes in the Tower of London. Philippa Gregory brings the artistry and intellect of a master writer and storyteller to a new era in history and begins what is sure to be another bestselling classic series.

The White Princess by Philippa Gregory

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Caught between loyalties, the mother of the Tudors must choose between the red rose and the white.

When Henry Tudor picks up the crown of England from the mud of Bosworth field, he knows he must marry the princess of the enemy house—Elizabeth of York—to unify a country divided by war for nearly two decades.

But his bride is still in love with his slain enemy, Richard III—and her mother and half of England dream of a missing heir, sent into the unknown by the White Queen. While the new monarchy can win power, it cannot win hearts in an England that plots for the triumphant return of the House of York.

Henry’s greatest fear is that somewhere a prince is waiting to invade and reclaim the throne. When a young man who would be king leads his army and invades England, Elizabeth has to choose between the new husband she is coming to love and the boy who claims to be her beloved lost brother: the rose of York come home at last. 

Book Review: Storm and Fury (The Harbinger #1) by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Storm and Fury is a spinoff of the Lux series (Edited– this is a spinoff to Dark Elements). As a disclaimer, I have not (yet!) read the Lux series, so my review is based entirely on this book.

The world: It’s like ours, but gargoyles (you know, the stone statues!) came off their ledges several years ago and are now protecting humanity from demons (oh, yeah, they also walk the earth). The shape-shifting gargoyles—called Wardens—live in protected communities.

The characters: Trinity is half-human and half something-else who has grown up behind the protected walls of a Warden community. Though she’s slowly going blind, Trinity has the strength and fighting ability far beyond what most of the Wardens think her capable of—and that is part of Trinity’s secret. Misha is a Warden who is bonded to Trinity and serves as her protector. Peanut is a ghost that serves as a side-kick of sorts to Trinity (oh, yeah, she can see ghosts as well!). Zayne is a Warden from the DC area, who has arrived with news about an increasing danger to humans and Wardens.

The storyline: Trinity is an eighteen-year old living in a protected West Virginia community in which very few people actually know why they’re protecting her—or what she really is. She is fierce and a true badass, but she is also slowly going blind. Also, she’s a teenaged girl who dreams of leaving her protected life and experiencing the world. Two Wardens arrive from the DC area, one of which is Zayne, and Trinity eavesdrops on a conversation they have with the lead Warden in Trinity’s community. Something has been killing demons and Wardens. Trinity and Zayne have an immediate connection, as if pulled together by fate. After an attack, when a Warden is taken, Trinity joins Zayne when he returns to DC, where she actually meets demons, as well as witches, and develops a new, and surprising view of the world while trying to discover who—or what—is threatening the world. 

I found the opening of Storm and Fury to be a bit slow. The build up is slow, but once the action begins, it really does move along quite quickly and I was truly caught up in the action. Trinity is smart, sassy/snarky and a real badass. I wasn’t sure about Zayne at first, he seemed like he might be a creep trying to be charming, but I warmed to him pretty quickly. Storm and Fury ends with a hell of a cliffhanger, which leaves me anxious for book 2.

*I received a copy of Storm and Fury from NetGalley and Inkyard Press/Harlequin Teen in exchange for an honest review

Book Review: Lucid by Kristy Fairlamb

Lucy has a gift, which is also a curse. At night, in her dreams, she visits and relives tragedies, watching as strangers across the world take their final breaths. 
And then a familiar boy moves in near Lucy, she knows she’s never met him, but why does she remember his face so clearly? 
Soon Lucy is confronting the realities of her abilities, are there limitations to what she can do in her dreams or has she underestimated herself all this time?
Lucid is an exciting, mind-bending thriller that throws open the “What-If” door and demands to explore every possibility. I can’t wait for book 2!! 

*I received a copy of Lucid from Netgalley and Lakewater Press in exchange for an honest review

Book Review: Cape May by Chip Cheek

   I’ve been reading a lot of historical novels set in seaside locations lately and Cape May seemed as though it would slide nicely into place with the others. As it turns out, Cape May is also about characters—and a country—on the verge of change, played out in a sleepy seaside town, but this book has a darker edge and journey.

   It’s 1957 and newlyweds Henry and Effie have traveled to Cape May on their honeymoon. Having arrived from Georgia during the off season, they find that most of the town is closed down and weather is miserable. Before they can pack up and leave, they come across a trio of wealthy socialites, one of whom Effie knew during her childhood trips to Cape May.  What follows is a gin-fueled, hedonistic loss of naivety and an introduction to evolving sexual dynamics and the consequences of those relationships.

   I’m torn about my feelings toward Cape May, on one hand the setting was spectacularly portrayed and the evolution of Effie and Henry’s relationship intriguing (like any catastrophe would be to watch). On the other, I just didn’t feel any strong ties to any of the characters, so I never felt invested in the story to the point that I would rave about it.     

   *I received a copy of Cape May from NetGalley and Celadon Books in exchange for an honest review

Book Review: Montauk by Nicola Harrison

It’s 1938 and for Beatrice Bordeaux the opportunity to spend the summer in Montauk seems like just what she needs to reignite the passion that’s missing in her marriage. The Manor—an  up-and-coming vacation getaway for the wealthy—promises leisure, sport, and the opportunity for networking.

   But Beatrice’s husband is becoming more distant and spends more time in the city than working on their marriage. After five years, Beatrice is still longing for a child, but pregnancy seems far less likely as her husband’s affections are directed elsewhere.

   With her modest upbringing, Bea finds herself growing less comfortable with the society ladies and spends time with the locals, including the handsome man who runs the lighthouse.

   Now Bea finds herself on the precipice of two worlds, tottering between the world she committed to, and the one she longs for. Will Bea get to make a choice between them before fate intervenes?

   Montauk is a descriptive historical novel that explores a woman—as well as a country—on the verge of great change. Author Nicola Harrison has effectively shown the struggle with women’s roles, family life, and class inequality. The setting is vividly depicted and you can imagine yourself sitting on the beach or at the yacht club listening as conversations take place. While the opening may have felt a bit slow to me, I was effectively caught up in the story as it progressed to a somewhat surprising conclusion.   

   Montauk is a satisfying read that’ll transport you to this sleepy summer town on the cusp of notoriety.

*I received a copy of Montauk from NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.

Author Interview: Dea Poirier

Author of: The Next Girl to Die (coming May 1, 2019)

Can you tell me about the first piece you remember writing?

It was a piece for a creative writing class in 9th grade, about a man who was turned into a potted plant (mistakenly) by a witch.  

When did you first realize you wanted to pursue writing as a profession?

I wouldn’t say I’m pursing it as a profession, I have a day job that I love immensely and need a challenge both in writing and in my non-writing career. I try to look at them as different beasts that don’t overlap. One is never going to replace the other. That being said, I started writing my first “novel” in my early twenties. I wrote the beginning of that novel around 437,000 times. Then, probably around 2006, I told myself it was either time to do it or stop thinking about it. I sat down, spent around a year writing the first (AWFUL) draft. The second book I wrote was much easier, and faster (though if you ask me, not much better). Though I did sort-of query the first two books, I wasn’t serious about it. My third project, a YA Paranormal Romance, was the first book I realized I wanted to seriously pursue. It wasn’t until I finished my fifth MS, and queried that, that I ended up signing with an agent.

Is there anyone who went out of their way to help or advise you during your journey to become a published author?

There have been so many amazing people in my life that have helped me on this journey, and of course I can’t name them all here. My critique partner (and one of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met), Elesha Teskey, for one – I don’t know where I’d be without her. A writing group I had while I lived in Connecticut helped me immensely understanding the market, shaping my query, and realizing how much work marketing a book really is. And then my agent, Laura Bradford, has been fabulous and helped me in so many ways on this journey, giving me the advice I need to improve my work, and of course finding a place for it in the world.

Do you exclusively write thrillers or have you written in other genres?

I write thrillers, fantasy, and romantic suspense for the adult market. I also write paranormal romance, historical fantasy, and thrillers for the young adult market.

What is your schedule like when you’re writing a book? Is it difficult to achieve a work, life, write balance?

When I’m writing a draft, I write during my lunch break at work (if I can), and then I write once my son goes to sleep for the night. Typically my writing time is 8pm to 11pm (or midnight, depending on how long the coffee keeps me up). It can be very difficult to maintain work/life balance with writing, especially in the draft stage, because I tend to become completely immersed in the story.

How long does it generally take you to write a first draft? How long do you spend on revisions?

It really varies by project. But my fastest draft (40k words) was two weeks. My most recent draft (60k words) was 17 days, I think. Something like that. On average though, I’d say a first draft takes me 4-6 weeks. Edits are a completely different beast. I usually set something aside to think about it after the draft. So, it can take me anywhere from six months to a year to get through revisions, readers, etc.

Can you describe the preparation/research you do for each book?

It depends on which market I’m writing. Most projects, at the very least, I start out with a very detailed outline, and a character spreadsheet. For my historical projects, I look at the general time period/location I want to write about – then I fill in more of the historical details during the revision period. I have one exception to this, which is a novel that I spent over a month researching because it was very important to me to capture the location/history of the setting – as I saw the setting as its own character in a way.  

Do you have any quirky writing habits (the things you’d never want anyone to know)?

That I’d never want anyone to know? Nah, not really. I’m a pretty open book about being peak-weird. I do find that I do my best writing during thunderstorms. I write all of my drafts/edits on paper. Though I can write on the computer, and I have challenged myself to do one entire MS on the computer instead of long hand, I find it doesn’t flow as well or as easily for me that way. I also have to write with the window open. And when I’m writing/editing a project, I fully immerse myself in similar genres/time periods for all the books, TV shows, and movies I’m watching/reading at the time. The one exception to this is SVU, because SVU transcends all.

Have you ever done a literary pilgrimage—or any interesting research—for your novels? If not, do you have a research destination bucket list?

I haven’t done a literary pilgrimage, though I would LOVE TO. I’m currently editing a project about a sanatorium, and I cannot tell you how badly I want to go traipse around some abandoned sanatoriums. I have gone to walk through an orange grove for inspiration for one particular character. There is also a creepy mansion I’ve visited a few times that appears in one of my novels.

Inspiration comes in many forms. Can you recall the exact moment of inspiration for each of your projects?

For some, yes. For others, it was more than likely a spark of inspiration while driving. My current project actually came upon in a stranger way than usual. This character was meant to be connected to another book, and while writing some of her origin story, I ended up falling down a plotting rabbit hole and writing an entirely different book.

Do you have a specific genre you prefer to read? What are your favorites?

I love thrillers, historical, romantic suspense, anything with kilts, fantasy – and anything creepy or weird.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find or know the real inspiration for?

I haven’t yet – but now I might 😉

Are your characters inspired—in part or whole—by people in your real life?

I don’t base any characters on people I know. I have some characters that have historical influences, but I think that’s the closest I’ll ever get to having a character based on a real person. Usually I start with a base idea for what I think a character is going to be, and halfway through the draft I really know them.

Name one book you think is entirely underappreciated.

Diary by Chuck Palahniuk – Fight Club gets so much attention, but Diary is my favorite book.

Name one book that was a guilty pleasure.

I don’t feel guilty about reading books, so I can’t think of one that I would consider to be a guilty pleasure.

Be honest: Do you Google yourself?

Nope, I let Google do that for me. Google Alerts 😉

As a writer, which animal would you choose as your mascot/avatar/patronus?

Godzilla

Is there one thing you think you, as a writer, should be better at, but secretly struggle with?

Spelling. I am AWFUL at spelling. It was something I always had trouble with in school.

What is one word of advice you’d give to an aspiring writer?

Be patient, keep going no matter what. And don’t edit as you write, edit AFTER your first draft is complete.

What is one word of advice you’d give to a newly published author?

Try to find a balance between promo for your book, and the other things you love. It’s important to remember that the whole world isn’t the book release. And – if you’re feeling overwhelmed, ask for help. Don’t feel like you’re alone with your release. Ask other authors, friends, betas, family members, there are so many people that would love to help.  

In what ways do you “pay it forward” to help other aspiring writers?

Every month on my blog I do critique giveaways, some are for queries, some for queries and pages. I will also do flash query giveaways on twitter sometimes. The writing community was so integral to keeping me writing and helping me find an agent, it’s super important to me to give back.

Want to know more about Dea?

Solving the case will avenge her sister—unless the killer finds her first.

It’s been fifteen years since Claire Calderwood’s sister, Rachel, was brutally murdered in their small hometown in Maine. Claire has finally carved out a life for herself as a homicide detective in Detroit, but the past comes calling when the local police back home ask for her help with a murder eerily similar to Rachel’s.

Still haunted by Rachel’s cold case, Claire returns home, hoping to solve the crime and finally put her grief to rest. As she starts investigating, the last thing she needs is tenacious journalist Noah Washington asking questions she’s not ready to answer. But like her, Noah won’t give up until he finds the truth—and Claire reluctantly finds herself relying on him more and more when disturbing new details about Rachel’s death come to light.

When the killer strikes once again, Claire knows he’s not done. Now he’s set his sights on Claire, who will have to find the courage she needs to survive a deadly confrontation years in the making.

Get your copy of Next Girl to Die on Amazon or Barnes & Noble

Book Review: The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister

   My plan this morning was to skim the first chapter of The Scent Keeper, by Erica Bauermeister, just to get a feel for it. Five hours later, I’ve finished the book and I’m still spell-bound.

   Emmaline and her father live alone on island, surrounded by all the wonders of nature. In their cabin, her father stores small vials, the smells of a thousand memories bottled and sealed in an effort to preserve them forever. But as the scents begin to fade, and Emmaline’s curiosity pushes her farther from her father’s rules, everything she’s known is at risk.

   Through a series of tragic events Emmaline finds herself in the harsh, noisy “real world” where her understanding of smells is the only thing she has to help navigate the new town, school, and relationships she lacked on the island. And beyond it all is the lingering mystery of who Emmaline really is and where she came from.

   The Scent Keeper is a beautifully written, lyrical story that pulls at your heart and engages your senses. The emotions and descriptions are so vivid that you will feel the heartache and smell the scents. It’s a mesmerizing and enchanting journey of self-discovery and self-awareness. All I can say is, just wow. Great writing and a great book.

*I received a copy of The Scent Keeper from NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.  

March 2019 Book List

March was a busy month in my reading and listening habits (which might be why I haven’t gotten much writing done?).

Anyway, the books I enjoyed in March–some more than others, but none of which I detested–are as follows:

Seige and Storm (Shadow and Bone Book 2) by Leigh Bardugo

Soldier. Summoner. Saint. Alina Starkov’s power has grown, but not without a price. She is the Sun Summoner―hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Shadow Fold. But she and Mal can’t outrun their enemies for long.

The Darkling is more determined than ever to claim Alina’s magic and use it to take the Ravkan throne. With nowhere else to turn, Alina enlists the help of an infamous privateer and sets out to lead the Grisha army.

But as the truth of Alina’s destiny unfolds, she slips deeper into the Darkling’s deadly game of forbidden magic, and further away from her humanity. To save her country, Alina will have to choose between her power and the love she thought would always be her shelter. No victory can come without sacrifice―and only she can face the oncoming storm.

The Winter Queen (Stolen Empire, Book 4) by Sherry Ficklin

Far from the shores of England, another Elizabeth was born to rule a nation…

The daughter of Peter the Great, Elizabeth is a princess by birth, yet a warrior by blood. Never content to be a pawn in the game of men, Elizabeth is destined to sit upon a throne. But when her father’s sudden death leaves her mother and sister at the mercy of the scheming Privy Council, she will have to abandon her beloved Russia in order for her family to survive.

This is not a fairy tale.

And Elizabeth is not an average princess.

She is a Romanov—one woman in a line of powerful female rulers who will change the fate of Russia forever.

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris


David Sedaris’ move to Paris from New York inspired these hilarious pieces, including the title essay, about his attempts to learn French from a sadistic teacher who declares that every day spent with you is like having a caesarean section. His family is another inspiration. You Can’t Kill the Rooster is a portrait of his brother, who talks incessant hip-hop slang to his bewildered father. And no one hones a finer fury in response to such modern annoyances as restaurant meals presented in ludicrous towers of food and cashiers with six-inch fingernails.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter’s life is miserable. His parents are dead and he’s stuck with his heartless relatives, who force him to live in a tiny closet under the stairs. But his fortune changes when he receives a letter that tells him the truth about himself: he’s a wizard. A mysterious visitor rescues him from his relatives and takes him to his new home, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

After a lifetime of bottling up his magical powers, Harry finally feels like a normal kid. But even within the Wizarding community, he is special. He is the boy who lived: the only person to have ever survived a killing curse inflicted by the evil Lord Voldemort, who launched a brutal takeover of the Wizarding world, only to vanish after failing to kill Harry.

Though Harry’s first year at Hogwarts is the best of his life, not everything is perfect. There is a dangerous secret object hidden within the castle walls, and Harry believes it’s his responsibility to prevent it from falling into evil hands. But doing so will bring him into contact with forces more terrifying than he ever could have imagined.

Full of sympathetic characters, wildly imaginative situations, and countless exciting details, the first installment in the series assembles an unforgettable magical world and sets the stage for many high-stakes adventures to come.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

The Dursleys were so mean and hideous that summer that all Harry Potter wanted was to get back to the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. But just as he’s packing his bags, Harry receives a warning from a strange, impish creature named Dobby who says that if Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts, disaster will strike

And strike it does. For in Harry’s second year at Hogwarts, fresh torments and horrors arise, including an outrageously stuck-up new professor, Gilderoy Lockhart, a spirit named Moaning Myrtle who haunts the girls’ bathroom, and the unwanted attentions of Ron Weasley’s younger sister, Ginny.

But each of these seem minor annoyances when the real trouble begins, and someone — or something — starts turning Hogwarts students to stone. Could it be Draco Malfoy, a more poisonous rival than ever? Could it possibly be Hagrid, whose mysterious past is finally told? Or could it be the one everyone at Hogwarts most suspects . . . Harry Potter himself?

Baby of the Family by Maura Roosevelt

The money is old, the problems are new.

A wry and addictive debut about a modern-day American dynasty and its unexpected upheaval when the patriarch wills his dwindling fortune to his youngest, adopted son–setting off a chain of events that unearth family secrets and test long-held definitions of love and family.

The Whitbys: a dynasty akin to the Astors, once enormously wealthy real-estate magnates who were considered “the landlords of New York.”

There was a time when the death of a Whitby would have made national news, but when the family patriarch, Roger, dies, he is alone. Word of his death travels from the longtime family lawyer to his clan of children (from four separate marriages) and the news isn’t good. Roger has left everything to his twenty-one-year-old son Nick, a Whitby only in name, including the houses currently occupied by Shelley and Brooke–two of Roger’s daughters from different marriages. And Nick is nowhere to be found.

Brooke, the oldest of the children, who is unexpectedly pregnant, leads the search for Nick, hoping to convince him to let her keep her Boston home and her fragile composure. Shelley hasn’t told anyone she’s dropped out of college just months before graduating, and is living in her childhood apartment while working as an amanuensis for a blind writer named Anandaroop Gupta, with whom she develops a rather complicated relationship. And when Nick, on the run from the law after a misguided and dramatic act of political activism, finally shows up at Shelley’s New York home, worlds officially collide as Nick and Mr. Gupta’s daughter fall in love. Soon, all three siblings are faced with the question they have been running from their whole lives: What do they want their future to look like, if they can finally escape their past?

Weaving together multiple perspectives to create a portrait of an American family, and an American dream gone awry, Baby of the Family is a book about family secrets–how they define us, bind us together, and threaten to blow us (and more) apart–as well as an amusing and heartwarming look at the various ways in which a family can be created.

The Gathering by Anne

Anne Enright is a dazzling writer of international stature and one of Ireland’s most singular voices. Now she delivers The Gathering, a moving, evocative portrait of a large Irish family and a shot of fresh blood into the Irish literary tradition, combining the lyricism of the old with the shock of the new. The nine surviving children of the Hegarty clan are gathering in Dublin for the wake of their wayward brother, Liam, drowned in the sea. His sister, Veronica, collects the body and keeps the dead man company, guarding the secret she shares with him—something that happened in their grandmother’s house in the winter of 1968. As Enright traces the line of betrayal and redemption through three generations her distinctive intelligence twists the world a fraction and gives it back to us in a new and unforgettable light. The Gathering is a daring, witty, and insightful family epic, clarified through Anne Enright’s unblinking eye. It is a novel about love and disappointment, about how memories warp and secrets fester, and how fate is written in the body, not in the stars. 

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the stunningly beautiful instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Marie-Laure lives in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where her father works. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, Werner Pfennig, an orphan, grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find that brings them news and stories from places they have never seen or imagined. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments and is enlisted to use his talent to track down the resistance. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another. 

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

Twenty years ago Claire Scott’s eldest sister, Julia, went missing. No one knew where she went – no note, no body. It was a mystery that was never solved and it tore her family apart.

Now another girl has disappeared, with chilling echoes of the past. And it seems that she might not be the only one.

Claire is convinced Julia’s disappearance is linked.

But when she begins to learn the truth about her sister, she is confronted with a shocking discovery, and nothing will ever be the same…

Mr. Mercedes (Bill Hodges, #1) by Stephen King

In a high-suspense race against time, three of the most unlikely heroes Stephen King has ever created try to stop a lone killer from blowing up thousands. “Mr. Mercedes is a rich, resonant, exceptionally readable accomplishment by a man who can write in whatever genre he chooses” (The Washington Post).

In the frigid pre-dawn hours, in a distressed Midwestern city, desperate unemployed folks are lined up for a spot at a job fair. Without warning, a lone driver plows through the crowd in a stolen Mercedes, running over the innocent, backing up, and charging again. Eight people are killed; fifteen are wounded. The killer escapes.

In another part of town, months later, a retired cop named Bill Hodges is still haunted by the unsolved crime. When he gets a crazed letter from someone who self-identifies as the “perk” and threatens an even more diabolical attack, Hodges wakes up from his depressed and vacant retirement, hell-bent on preventing another tragedy.

Brady Hartsfield lives with his alcoholic mother in the house where he was born. He loved the feel of death under the wheels of the Mercedes, and he wants that rush again. Only Bill Hodges, with two new, unusual allies, can apprehend the killer before he strikes again. And they have no time to lose, because Brady’s next mission, if it succeeds, will kill or maim thousands.

Mr. Mercedes is a war between good and evil, from the master of suspense whose insight into the mind of this obsessed, insane killer is chilling and unforgettable. 

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported near-fatal accident in 1999 — and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it — fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.

Romanov by Nadine Brandes

The history books say I died.

They don’t know the half of it.

Anastasia “Nastya” Romanov was given a single mission: to smuggle an ancient spell into her suitcase on her way to exile in Siberia. It might be her family’s only salvation. But the leader of the Bolshevik army is after them . . . and he’s hunted Romanov before.

Nastya’s only chances of survival are to either release the spell, and deal with the consequences, or enlist help from Zash, the handsome soldier who doesn’t act like the average Bolshevik. Nastya’s never dabbled in magic before, but it doesn’t frighten her as much as her growing attraction for Zash. She likes him. She thinks he might even like her . . .

That is, until she’s on one side of a firing squad . . . and he’s on the other.

Within and Without by Deborah Maroulis

Some girls will go to great lengths to fit in. But how far is too far?

A stunning YA debut that touches on a teenage girl’s emotionally haunting journey to self acceptance.

When sixteen-year-old Wren Newmann is forced to move from her small California town to her grandmother’s vineyard after her parent’s divorce, she’s convinced she’ll die a shriveled, wine-country virgin.

Her dating life improves when Jay, the son of Granny’s vintner and her long-time country crush, notices her. She tries to be the girl Jay would want—social, skinny, and sexy. But as their relationship heats up, so does her anxiety and the need for her secret purging sessions. Still, she insists Jay is the perfect boyfriend in spite of everyone’s warnings.

When Panayis, the cute Greek farmhand, insists on being her friend, Wren finds someone who truly sees her—trouble is she can’t bring herself to look at her own reflection, let alone allow anyone else to see her as she is.

When personal tragedy strikes the night of the Spring Break party, Wren is left to pick up the pieces of her broken relationships. Now, she must step up to the plate and decide if the illusion of being loved is worth sacrificing her health, and maybe even her life.

A Spark of Light by Jodi Piccoult

The warm fall day starts like any other at the Center—a women’s reproductive health services clinic—its staff offering care to anyone who passes through its doors. Then, in late morning, a desperate and distraught gunman bursts in and opens fire, taking all inside hostage.

After rushing to the scene, Hugh McElroy, a police hostage negotiator, sets up a perimeter and begins making a plan to communicate with the gunman. As his phone vibrates with incoming text messages he glances at it and, to his horror, finds out that his fifteen-year-old daughter, Wren, is inside the clinic.

But Wren is not alone. She will share the next and tensest few hours of her young life with a cast of unforgettable characters: A nurse who calms her own panic in order save the life of a wounded woman. A doctor who does his work not in spite of his faith but because of it, and who will find that faith tested as never before. A pro-life protester disguised as a patient, who now stands in the cross hairs of the same rage she herself has felt. A young woman who has come to terminate her pregnancy. And the disturbed individual himself, vowing to be heard.

Told in a daring and enthralling narrative structure that counts backward through the hours of the standoff, this is a story that traces its way back to what brought each of these very different individuals to the same place on this fateful day.

Jodi Picoult—one of the most fearless writers of our time—tackles a complicated issue in this gripping and nuanced novel. How do we balance the rights of pregnant women with the rights of the unborn they carry? What does it mean to be a good parent? A Spark of Light will inspire debate, conversation . . . and, hopefully, understanding.

Sunburn by Laura Lippman

One is playing a long game. But which one?

They meet at a local tavern in the small town of Belleville, Delaware. Polly is set on heading west. Adam says he’s also passing through.

Yet she stays and he stays—drawn to this mysterious redhead whose quiet stillness both unnerves and excites him. Over the course of a punishing summer, Polly and Adam abandon themselves to a steamy, inexorable affair. Still, each holds something back from the other—dangerous, even lethal, secrets that begin to accumulate as autumn approaches, feeding the growing doubts they conceal.

Then someone dies. Was it an accident, or part of a plan? By now, Adam and Polly are so ensnared in each other’s lives and lies that neither one knows how to get away—or even if they want to. Is their love strong enough to withstand the truth, or will it ultimately destroy them?

Something—or someone—has to give.

Which one will it be?

All The Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

From bestselling author Maggie Stiefvater, a gripping tale of darkness, miracles, and family. Saints. Miracles. Family. Romance. Death. Redemption.

Here is a thing everyone wants: A miracle.

Here is a thing everyone fears:
What it takes to get one.

Any visitor to Bicho Raro, Colorado is likely to find a landscape of dark saints, forbidden love, scientific dreams, miracle-mad owls, estranged affections, one or two orphans, and a sky full of watchful desert stars.

At the heart of this place you will find the Soria family, who all have the ability to perform unusual miracles. And at the heart of this family are three cousins longing to change its future: Beatriz, the girl without feelings, who wants only to be free to examine her thoughts; Daniel, the Saint of Bicho Raro, who performs miracles for everyone but himself; and Joaquin, who spends his nights running a renegade radio station under the name Diablo Diablo.

They are all looking for a miracle. But the miracles of Bicho Raro are never quite what you expect.

Book Review: The Summer House by Jenny Hale

Callie and her best friend Olivia are looking for a new start in an old place. They’ve purchased a North Carolina beach home that they’ve admired since childhood and are fixing it up. When they’ve finished renovating it, their new B&B should be ready for guests.

The next door neighbor is the rich, handsome Luke, who also happens to be a bit of a playboy. Despite the fact that Callie has little time or energy for a relationship, she finds herself drawn to her enticing neighbor.

When Callie and Olivia unearth a locked and long-forgotten diary that’s filled with town secrets, what they find out might just destroy Callie’s chances at happiness. And before the summer is over, a brewing storm will strike (literally and figuratively!).

The Summer House has all the elements of a perfect summer romance: ocean air, sunny skies, handsome neighbors, and secret pasts. The descriptions are vivid and the essence of summer is palpable as you read. They electricity between Callie and Luke is strong. There are some character development issues that felt left out, but it didn’t interfere with my ability to get lost in the story. The Summer House is a sweet, heartwarming summer read.

I received a copy of The Summer House from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.