26 Quick Book Reviews: Novel Ideas June 2020
A quick look at all the books Jackie and I read this month. Romance, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, and non-fiction all make the cut! Which ones will you be adding to your to-read pile from Novel Ideas June 2020?
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Thanks to Atria for my review copy. All opinions are my own. If you love Outlander, The Mists of Avalon, or The Clan of the Cave Bear, then you will love this story. Set in Britain when Christianity is poised to become the religion of the country, a future queen swore to the old-ways is learning how to balance the needs of her people and her religion with the role she’s expected to play. Meanwhile, her twin brother is training to be the man history knows as Merlin. The first in a new trilogy about Arthurian legend, I’m looking forward to the next book coming out in September. 4 stars.
It’s on our books like Outlander round-up if you are looking for more Scottish vibes.
The Queen’s Fortune by Allison Pataki
Thanks to Ballantine Books for my review copy. All opinions are my own. The Queen’s Fortune had everything I love in a historical fiction novel – royalty, drama, a touch of romance, a strong female protagonist, and action. This book starts out all action and it doesn’t let up! I devoured the story of Napoleon, his former lover, and the dynasty that he helped her create with her eventual husband, who happened to be his #1 frenemy. They didn’t know what frenemies we’re back then but Napoleon and Bernadotte were the OGs. 3.5 stars
In Sight of the Mountain by Jamie McGillen
Thanks to Jamie McGillian for my review copy. All opinions are my own. If you are a historical fiction reader who loves a bad-ass woman ahead of her time, then In Sight of the Mountain is for you. Set in 1889, Seattle dwelling Anna lives at the foot of Mt. Rainer and dreams of being the first female to reach the summit. As she struggles to balance her dreams of reaching the top of the mountain with the pressures of her gender, she finds her inner strength. The story deals with lots of other subjects including the Great Fire, prostitution, racism towards Indigenous people, and even a treasure hunt. 3 stars.
Head Over Heels by Hannah Orenstein
Thanks to Atria for my review copy. All opinions are my own. A problematic book for me from one of my favorite romance writers. I gave a full review with a few spoilers on Instagram, but ultimately this book was a fail for me. 2 stars.
The Spa at Lavender Lane by Phyllis Melhado
Thanks to Phyllis Melhado for my review copy. All opinions are my own. Do you need a beach read? Then The Spa at Lavender Lane is for you. At the exclusive Lavender Lane Spa, a group of women come to rest, rejuvenate, or reinvent themselves under the guidance of the renowned spa owner.I thought this charming story was the perfect one-sitting read. I was engrossed from the first chapter as I feel in love with the flawed characters….well most of them… The antics these ladies get into, and the struggles they overcome had me thoroughly entertained. I’d love to revisit the spa again, but for now, I’m gonna get this dry hair of mine a hot argan oil treatment. Apparently that’s all I need to give it new life! 3.5 stars.
The House on Fripp Island by Rebecca Kauffman
Thanks to Mariner Books for my review copy. All opinions are my own. Well, that wasn’t what I was expecting. I thought I was going into a family drama like The Vacationers by Emma Straub, but it opened with a murder. I literally sat up at that point and thought “well, well, what have we here?” It was a dynamic family drama with secrets, lies, and tension…and the whole time I was trying to figure out who had committed the murder and why. I loved it! Truly a perfect summer read. 4 stars
The First Emma by Camille Di Maio
Thanks to Camille Di Maio for my review copy. All opinions are my own. I’m on a genre-binge. I can’t stop reading historical fiction biographies.￼ I’ve been loving these stories because they mix facts and entertainment in a way that makes the historic figure come to life. The First Emma is about an incredible women on the forefront of beer brewing in the USA. 🍻 She was also the first Emma in her husband Otto’s life. The next 2 Emmas ended up being her nurses, Otto’s mistresses, and, eventually, one of them murdered Otto!
We get the scoop about the murder in the first chapter but then the story is told from the beginning of Emma’s life. My favorite part was the newspaper clippings about the murder between chapters. This is perfect for historical fiction biographies lovers. 3 stars.
The Toni Morrison Book Club by Juda Bennett
Thanks to Libro.Fm and University of Wisconsin Press for my review copy. All opinions are my own. I found this novel to be incredibly thought-provoking. 4 authors each write an essay for 2 of Morrison’s work, drawing parallels to their own lives. Not only were the stories powerful, but they made me desperate to read Morrison’s work for myself. To hear from 4 people of different races, genders, and sexual orientations about the profound impact of Beloved, A Mercy, and other works was captivating.
These authors reminded me that a love for certain books can root deeply and last a lifetime, that the lessons we learn from stories can open our hearts and our minds, or speak to our very souls. 4 stars.
Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham
I love Lauren Graham because, in my mind, she’s Lorelai Gilmore. So the fact that this book was billed as a memoir that revolved a great deal around my beloved show had me signing up to listen. I found Graham’s rise to stardom to be an interesting one, but it was the behind-the-scenes look at Gilmore Girls that had me truly enthralled. I loved that she went back and binged it all, filling in her memories and sharing little anecdotes. We don’t learn much about her private life, but it satisfied the fangirl in me regardless. 3 stars.
The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister
I snagged a copy of The Scent Keeper because Reese Witherspoon told me I should. #sorrynotsorry . I usually love her picks and this was no exception. I’ve seen many mixed reviews on this one, but for me, it was a reflective read about what is means to be loved, and the memories that scents hold. The premise of a little girl growing up on an isolated island learning about scents had me picking up the book, but the hard-life lessons she learned along the way kept me flipping the pages. 3.5 stars.
Woah. This story. I was captivated by Nadia, Luke, and Aubrey’s story. I loved listening to the foreshadowing of The Mothers. I was contemplating the what-could-have-beens and the what-will-bes in equal measure. And the last line of the last paragraph just resonated with me as a mother in a long line of mothers. Not I’m jealous that Jackie is reading our copy of The Vanishing Half first, because I’m desperate to be swept away by Brit Bennet’s words again. 5 stars.
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
After reading White Fragility earlier this year, I immediately added So You Want to Talk About Race to my to-read list. While I found White Fragility to be enlightening, it lacked action steps and a first-person account of racism. This book not only explained how deeply rooted our country is in white privilege, but it also gave concrete action steps to take going forward. I have been recommending it to friends left and right as a book to really anchor oneself in what it means to be anti-racist. 5 stars.
Rage and Ruin by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Taking place right where Storm and Fury left off, we are plunged back into the world of Gargoyle Zane and his love interest, Trinity who happens to be a descendant of angels. As the duo work together to stop the Harbinger from taking over the world, they must fight their forbidden love in the process. I love all the pop-culture references in this series and while I predicted some of the plots, the last few chapters left my jaw on the floor. How can I wait another year for the conclusion? 3. 5 stars.
With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
After hearing a lot about this particular story, I quickly snatched it up, and let me tell you, the hype is real. This story is set in Philly (which I love) and features a Black woman of Caribbean descent who is entering into her senior year of college. Emoni wants to be a world-class chef but struggles with pursuing her passions in the kitchen while balancing the responsibilities of having a toddler. It’s a true coming-of-age story that is as delicious to devour as the many recipes described in the book. 4.5 stars.
The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J Klune
I had not heard of it but, it was recommended to me from a few people. The story sounded great and the cover was so beautiful that I could not resist. I absolutely loved this book. The story has just a touch of magic but somehow seems to relevant. Linus baker works as a caseworker in the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. He is sent on a mission to a secret orphanage where 6 of the world’s most dangerous youth live. This story was so much more than the sum of it’s parts. 5.0 stars
Cilkas Journey by Heather Morris
Thank you so much to Atria for my copy of this book. It took me a while to start reading it because of the difficult subject matter. However, I am so glad that I finally did. HEather MOrris has once again written a wonderful book about a difficult subject matter. While some parts are difficult to read, the story was beautifully written and I loved this book. 4 stars.
Love her or Lose her by Tessa Bailey
This was a fun read that is very much in line with Tessa Bailey’s first book in this series. It was a cute and fun read. There are some steamy parts so listener beware. Lol. Overall, the story was cute, if not predictable. 3 stars
The Extraordinaries by T.J Klune
Nick Bell is the most popular fanfiction writer of the Extraordinaries. When Nick has an unexpected encounter with Shadow Star, his superhero crush, Nick decides to become a superhero. With the help of his friends- an eclectic group of teens, Nick will do almost anything to become an Extraordinary if his ADHD doesn’t take him off course. This book was laugh-out-loud hilarious. I loved this YA coming of age story. 4 stars
Please See Us by Caitlin Mullen
Thank you to Gallery Books for my copy of this book. I love a good psychological thriller. I found this book to be very well-written but a very slow build. When Jane Doe’s are left in marshlands only the killer knows where they are. The story is told from the point of view of Clara- a psychic, Lily, and each Jane Doe as they are killed one at a time. I liked this book but had a really hard time getting into it. 3 stars
Florence Adler Swims Forever by Rachel Beanland
Thank you so much to Simon and Schuster for my copy of this book. I really like this book but it was not what I was expecting- it was so much more. I thought the book was about Florence Adler. I was very wrong. This book takes place in the United States just before WWII. Every summer the Adler’s rent out their house in Atlantic City. Florence returns from college so she can spend the summer practicing to swim the English Channel. When Florence dies in a tragic accident, the family decides that they cannot tell Florence’s sister who is in the hospital on bed rest after losing a child a year before. I loved the writing, the story and the desire to keep family together at all costs. 4 stars.
Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World and Become a Good Ancestor by Layla F. Saad
There were many parts of this books I found interesting and enlightening. It definitely made me think about things in a new way. However, I didn’t get as much from it as I had hoped. I had so many questions that I felt when unanswered. There are a few other books on the subject of racism that I hope to read. 3 stars
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
After reading another book on the subject of race and not getting out of it what I had hoped, I decided to get this book. I absolutely loved it. The clarity with which the book is written makes very clear all the things that I have taken for granted living in the world we live in. It not only opened my eyes but gave me steps to use and how to move forward. As heavy and the subject is, I didn’t feel that the book weighed me down. 5 stars
The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon
Samiah Brooks becomes an unwilling internet sensation when she discovers her boyfriend is dating two other women. Instead of drama or fighting, Samiah, Taylor, and London form an instant tight bond of strong, smart, independent women and I absolutely loved their relationship with each other. The three women make a pact to spend the next six months bettering themselves and perusing their dreams and supporting each other. Samiah has been thinking about developing a new app for years. Cue: a gorgeous, smart, and thoughtful new co-worker whose chemistry with Samiah is undeniable. I loved so many things about this book especially the candid discussions about the struggles of a black woman in the workplace and the strong, supportive women in the book. 4 stars
The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton
Stuart Turton does it again with The Devil and the Dark Water. Like 71/2 deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, this book is captivating and smart. Turton thinks of every detail and leaves no questions at the end of the book. He writes like it is a puzzle and everything only comes together when the last piece is put into place. Set on a ship that is being haunted by the devil himself, at a time when witchcraft was feared, Samuel Pips and his loyal bodyguard Arent are being transferred to Amsterdam where Sammy will be hanged as a traitor. With Pips, the great problem solver, in chains, the only one that can help solve the mystery of who is killing people on board is Arent. This is such a well-written book and unexpected!
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins
If you have read the Hunger Games then you hate Coriolanus Snow. But, how did he come to be the ruthless ruler of Pam-am? This book takes us back to the morning of the reaping of the 10th Hunger Games. Young Coriolanus is the mentor for the female tribute of district 12- the lowest of the low. Now, their fates are entwined as his success in the capital will be determined by her success. This was not as good as the original trilogy; however, it provides enlightenment, insight and so many answers. I really enjoyed the book, 3.5 stars
The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner
Even though I am not a huge reader of Jane Austen, I adored this book. I listened to a wonderful interview with the author who gave huge insights into the book that I would have never known but, that did not stop me from enjoying every aspect of this book. From the story to the characters, I loved it. 4 stars.