Review: The Last Train to Key West (Chanel Cleeton)

The Last Train to Key West
Author: Chanel Cleeton
Publication Date: June 16, 2020
Publisher: Berkley Books
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased review.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

In 1935 three women are forever changed when one of the most powerful hurricanes in history barrels toward the Florida Keys in New York Times bestselling author Chanel Cleeton’s captivating new novel.

Everyone journeys to Key West searching for something. For the tourists traveling on Henry Flagler’s legendary Overseas Railroad, Labor Day weekend is an opportunity to forget the economic depression gripping the nation. But one person’s paradise can be another’s prison, and Key West-native Helen Berner yearns to escape.

The Cuban Revolution of 1933 left Mirta Perez’s family in a precarious position. After an arranged wedding in Havana, Mirta arrives in the Keys on her honeymoon. While she can’t deny the growing attraction to the stranger she’s married, her new husband’s illicit business interests may threaten not only her relationship, but her life.

Elizabeth Preston’s trip from New York to Key West is a chance to save her once-wealthy family from their troubles as a result of the Wall Street crash. Her quest takes her to the camps occupied by veterans of the Great War and pairs her with an unlikely ally on a treacherous hunt of his own.

Over the course of the holiday weekend, the women’s paths cross unexpectedly, and the danger swirling around them is matched only by the terrifying force of the deadly storm threatening the Keys.


The Last Train to Key West was one of my most anticipated books of 2020, and it didn’t let me down. This book was absolutely fabulous. The writing was everything I’ve come to expect from Chanel Cleeton and the story… Talk about the perfect mixture of heartbreaking and heartwarming. The journey these three women went on emotionally and physically showed just how strong and courageous they were. That was without the horrible hurricane that went on around them. That just added another fascinating aspect to the story. I had no previous knowledge of the hurricane that hit the area in 1935 or of the railroad that used to go to Key West. I felt like I learned so much by reading this book, and I loved that.

The Last Train to Key West is one of my favorite books I’ve read so far this year. If you enjoyed Next Year in Havana or When We Left Cuba, you’re guaranteed to love this book. If you haven’t read either of those two, you should and you should read this one as well. So. Dang. Good.

Review: All the Ugly and Wonderful Things (Bryn Greenwood)

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things
Author: Bryn Greenwood
Publication Date: August 9, 2016
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary

Rating: ★ ★ ★ 

Synopsis:

As the daughter of a meth dealer, Wavy knows not to trust people, not even her own parents. Struggling to raise her little brother, eight-year-old Wavy is the only responsible “adult” around. She finds peace in the starry Midwestern night sky above the fields behind her house. One night everything changes when she witnesses one of her father’s thugs, Kellen, a tattooed ex-con with a heart of gold, wreck his motorcycle. What follows is a powerful and shocking love story between two unlikely people that asks tough questions, reminding us of all the ugly and wonderful things that life has to offer.


I won a copy of All the Ugly and Wonderful Things from Kelly @ Here’s to Happy Endings YEARS ago. Years, people. I’m ashamed to say I didn’t immediately start reading it. To be honest, I was a little scared of it. I had been warned it wasn’t an easy book to stomach, but also told that it was really good. Both of those are correct. This was both a hard and easy book to read. Here’s my thoughts…

All the WONDERFUL things about this book:

  • Bryn Greenwood is a master storyteller. Her words put you right in the story with the characters. Her descriptions and characters are raw and almost too real. She was good at making me question my moral boundaries.
  • The story was told in multiple points of view. That gave more than one opinion and insight into what was going on. In some ways, that eased some of the sting I might have felt otherwise. It made me empathize and sympathize with the characters.
  • The baddest of the bad guys were so well written. I hated all the adults and even some of the kids. I don’t know that I truly liked any of them. Well, except maybe Amy.
  • This book is fascinating like an episode of Dateline is fascinating.

All the UGLY things about this book:

  • I felt uncomfortable the entire time I was reading All the Ugly and Wonderful Things because I was captivated by all the things that shouldn’t have been happening. The fact that it’s loosely based on some of the things that happened in Bryn Greenwood’s own childhood made it even more disturbing.
  • I hated where this book went even when it felt true to the characters and their story.
  • At the heart of this book is a love story between a child and a man. Wavy meets Kellan when she’s about 8. He’s 24. Kellan starts out as a protector — sort of friend but almost family. As Wavy gets older and becomes a teenager, their relationship takes a turn it shouldn’t. Their relationship becomes more boyfriend and girlfriend. I couldn’t stomach this.
  • While Greenwood is trying to push boundaries and make people take another look at consent and age, it’s still disturbing. I kept thinking there was something wrong in Wavy and Kellan’s heads.
  • The abuse some of the adults (not Kellan) doled out was horrifying.

All the things I was left thinking about after it was all over:

  • I feel like the author was trying to make the reader understand that in some cases a teenager can be mature enough to consent to a relationship with an adult. I’m just going to have to disagree on that for a lot of reasons.
  • This is not a romance and shouldn’t be categorized as one. Some readers have shipped Wavy and Kellan together. That feels wrong to me. It’s like shipping Mary Kay and Vili together. (If you don’t know who they are, you can Google their story. They’re infamous.)
  • I still can’t decide if I liked the end. It fit the book, but I almost wanted an ending that was even more devastating than the story already was.
  • I am glad I read another one of the author’s books before reading this one because I’m not sure if I would push myself to read another one if I read this one first. It gave me feelings like Tabitha’s Suzuma’s Forbidden gave me feelings. I feel relieved, disturbed, and a little gross after finishing it.

I could probably come up with a bunch more to put under each section, but I need to leave some things for people interested in reading this book. I guess what I would tell people who were interested in reading it would be to go in with an open mind, know your boundaries are going to be pushed, but hang in there for the ride. I probably would have rated All the Ugly and Wonderful Things higher based on the writing and storytelling ability, but I just couldn’t get past the ugliness of some of it.

Review: The Other Side (Kim Holden)

The Other Side
Author: Kim Holden
Publication Date: June 5, 2019
Publisher: Do Epic LLC
Genre: Young Adult, Fiction, Mental Health, Historical Fiction, Romance

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Denver, Colorado
1987

There are two sides to every story.
The surface reality that’s presented to the world.
And then there’s the other side.
The real one.
The one that matters.

Seventeen-year-old, self-proclaimed asshole, Toby Page, is alone.
No friends.
No family.
He trades maintenance work in exchange for room and board.
Every day he fights demons no one else can see.
Every day he wants to give up.
But he can’t.
Not yet.

When Alice Eliot moves in downstairs, she offers Toby some light in his dark world.
At a crossroads and barely hanging on, it’s hard to have perspective.
It’s difficult to see your own worth when you’re the villain in your story.
Luckily for Toby, Alice brings things out in him that no one else ever has.

As the two sides of Toby’s story are revealed, and the full reality comes into view, truth is gained.
Improbable alliances prove that kindness is fundamentally human.
Unlikely heroes emerge.

The question is, Will it all be enough to save him?


When I have to answer the dreaded “What’s your favorite book?” question, I always respond with Bright Side by Kim Holden. There hasn’t been a book since I read Bright Side that has affected me as much. I’m telling you this for a couple of reasons. One, so you know how brilliant of a writer Kim Holden is. Two, because while The Other Side wasn’t exactly another Bright Side, it just as impactful and even more important.

The Other Side is a story about a young man living with suicidal thoughts. I am not going to go anymore into the plot because it’s one of those books you have to read for yourself. (There are some amazing surprises in store!) What I will say is that I was impressed with the story Kim Holden told and the way it was delivered. It definitely made me think about my daily actions, the people around me, and the people I come in contact with. It’s truly one of those stories that young adults (and adults) need to read. I loved what this book gave to me, and I want it to give even more to others.

Review: The Girl He Used to Know (Tracey Garvis Graves)

The Girl He Used to Know
Author: Tracey Garvis Graves
Narrators: Fred Berman, Kathleen McInerney
Publication Date: April 2, 2019
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Historical, Fiction

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Annika (rhymes with Monica) Rose is an English major at the University of Illinois. Anxious in social situations where she finds most people’s behavior confusing, she’d rather be surrounded by the order and discipline of books or the quiet solitude of playing chess.

Jonathan Hoffman joined the chess club and lost his first game–and his heart–to the shy and awkward, yet brilliant and beautiful Annika. He admires her ability to be true to herself, quirks and all, and accepts the challenges involved in pursuing a relationship with her. Jonathan and Annika bring out the best in each other, finding the confidence and courage within themselves to plan a future together. What follows is a tumultuous yet tender love affair that withstands everything except the unforeseen tragedy that forces them apart, shattering their connection and leaving them to navigate their lives alone.

Now, a decade later, fate reunites Annika and Jonathan in Chicago. She’s living the life she wanted as a librarian. He’s a Wall Street whiz, recovering from a divorce and seeking a fresh start. The attraction and strong feelings they once shared are instantly rekindled, but until they confront the fears and anxieties that drove them apart, their second chance will end before it truly begins.


The Girl He Used to Know was one of those books I wanted to read but didn’t really see myself getting to any time soon. After reading some great reviews for it, I decided to request the audiobook version so that I could fit it into my reading schedule faster. I’m happy I did that because I enjoyed listening to it.

The way this story told made it perfect for audio. Both Annika and Jonathan had their own points of view. Annika’s was set in both her 1990’s college years and 2001, but Jonathan’s was only in 2001. I liked that because of the way the story was set up and how the revelations were given. I think limiting Jonathan’s POV gave Annika’s more depth. It just worked so well.

Another great thing about the audio was the narrators. The narrators of The Girl He Used to Know were fantastic! Fred Berman embodied the calm Jonathan well. He (along with the author) gave him a tenderness that I loved. I was especially impressed with Kathleen McInerney as Annika. I couldn’t imagine Annika read any other way. She took on every essence of the character and made her feel like a real person.

As for the story itself, I liked it a lot. Annika was on the autism spectrum. The way her thoughts, emotions, and reactions were processed was interesting and a learning experience in a way. I loved seeing how she related to people and relationships with them. Her relationship with Jonathan fascinated me. I was even more interested in how Jonathan reacted to things she did and didn’t do. I loved that he loved her for the things that made her Annika. It was such a sweet love story with so many surprises.

Annika’s relationships with the other people around her also interested me. I loved her relationship with Janis and her mom. I also loved how her relationship with her brother, Will, played out. The relationships that were harder to like were those with people who didn’t understand her or treated her badly. I hated when she was hurt, but it also made me think a lot.

The thing that surprised me the most about The Girl He Used to Know didn’t really have anything to do with the relationships of this book. This book has a 2001 setting. I didn’t really connect that to September 11th when I started reading. That horrible date in history and the days after are featured toward the end of this book. It might be too much or too soon for some readers. For me, having lived through that time and remembering it now, it was a little hard. It brought back waiting to hear from my close friend who was a United Airlines flight attendant at the time and my husband (then fiancé) who was in Pennsylvania not too far from where the plane went down there. Those worries and disbelief of what was happening being replayed in my head was a little jarring.  It was also fascinating because I felt like the author gave a different look at the topic than some of the other books I’ve read who have broached that time frame. It was uncomfortable, but also something I respected the author for going there and bringing back into focus what people went through at that time in history (like how books do with WWII). It’s important to remember.

Overall, I found The Girl He Used to Know to be an emotional and unique listening experience. I would definitely recommend it.

Review: The Editor (Steven Rowley)

The Editor
Author: Steven Rowley
Publication Date: April 2, 2019
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Genre: Historical Fiction
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

Rating: ★ ★ ½

Synopsis:

From the bestselling author of Lily and the Octopus comes a novel about a struggling writer who gets his big break, with a little help from the most famous woman in America.

After years of trying to make it as a writer in 1990s New York City, James Smale finally sells his novel to an editor at a major publishing house: none other than Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Jackie–or Mrs. Onassis, as she’s known in the office–has fallen in love with James’s candidly autobiographical novel, one that exposes his own dysfunctional family. But when the book’s forthcoming publication threatens to unravel already fragile relationships, both within his family and with his partner, James finds that he can’t bring himself to finish the manuscript.

Jackie and James develop an unexpected friendship, and she pushes him to write an authentic ending, encouraging him to head home to confront the truth about his relationship with his mother. Then a long-held family secret is revealed, and he realizes his editor may have had a larger plan that goes beyond the page…

From the bestselling author of Lily and the Octopus comes a funny, poignant, and highly original novel about an author whose relationship with his very famous book editor will change him forever–both as a writer and a son.


When I saw that Steven Rowley was releasing a new book, I jumped on the chance to read it. I absolutely adored his début Lily and the Octopus and I couldn’t wait to read more of his writing. Unfortunately, The Editor just wasn’t for me.

The Editor had a premise that I was very interested in reading. I don’t know much of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ life, but I was curious how she would fit into this story. Her friendship and professional relationship with author James Smale intrigued me. This was the part of the story that I liked. Mrs. Onassis came off intelligently and with a level of sophistication that I loved. James’ interactions with Jackie were my favorite part of the book.

What I didn’t love was James. I couldn’t connect with his character. He was shrouded in this negativity that was hard for me to like. He, and his mother, were annoying. I couldn’t get myself to care about their passive aggressive relationship. This made it hard to want to continue reading. I really had to push myself to finish the book. That is why this book didn’t rate higher for me. I would still recommend this book to people who have a Kennedy Onassis interest or like historical fiction set in the 1990s.

Review: Daisy Jones & The Six (Taylor Jenkins Reid)

Daisy Jones & The Six
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Narrators:
Jennifer Beals, Pablo Schreiber, Benjamin Bratt, Fred Berman, Ari Fliakos, Judy Greer, January LaVoy, Robinne Lee, Julia Whelan, Jonathan Davis, Henry Leyva, Oliver Wyman, Nancy Wu,  P.J. Ochlan, Arthur Bishop, Holter Graham, Brendan Wayne, Pete Larkin, Alex Jenkins Reid, Robert Petkoff, Sara Arrington
Publication Date: March 5, 2019
Publisher: Random House Audio
Genre: Historical Fiction

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Everyone knows Daisy Jones & The Six, but nobody knows the reason behind their split at the absolute height of their popularity . . . until now.

Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock and roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.

Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road.

Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes that the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend.

The making of that legend is chronicled in this riveting and unforgettable novel, written as an oral history of one of the biggest bands of the seventies. Taylor Jenkins Reid is a talented writer who takes her work to a new level with Daisy Jones & The Six, brilliantly capturing a place and time in an utterly distinctive voice.


Prepare yourself. This is one of those reviews that is probably going to ramble and make little sense. I can’t help it. I’m completely overwhelmed by my feelings for this book — in a good way.

Daisy Jones & The Six is officially my favorite audiobook I have ever listened to. I cannot even begin to explain how amazing listening to this book was. I’ll start with the writing. Taylor Jenkins Reid is a freaking genius. There’s no other way to say it. Listening to Daisy Jones & The Six felt like listening to a memoir of a real live band. I had to stop myself from Googling the band and its members. That’s how real this story felt. Heck, I wish it was real so I could do that. That’s how much I loved this band. A band I have never even heard. How crazy is that? I also have to comment on how deep and moving this book was. That’s something normal for a TJR book, but I didn’t think this particular format would be able to show the depth of emotion it did. It was impressive.

I think what made the audiobook format so priceless was the narration. People, this is the way you MUST experience this book. I am sure reading it is good, too, but the narration was top-notch. I don’t think I have listened to a book with quite so many cast members before. Each narrator was perfect for the portrayal of their character. The textures of their voices layered in the best way and added even more emotion to the story. It also made keeping each character straight easy. Their voices made the band feel all the more real. I was mesmerized by it all.

As for the actual story… It was brilliant. I loved how it started with the history of Daisy Jones, switched to the history of Billy and Graham Dunn and their band The Six, and then the combination of them both. I can’t think of a way to describe it other than a beautiful, unexpected build up. It’s truly the story of a band making it big with little surprised along the way. The story almost feels like it could go on forever until suddenly it’s almost over and I had no idea where it was really leading until I was at the end.

And that end. Man, I still haven’t recovered. It was utter perfection. The best and worst surprise. I don’t cry that often while reading book, but it hit me hard. I was sobbing in those last moments I spent with Daisy Jones & The Six. It’s not like it was the saddest book I’ve read or anything. I just connected with something special in those last moments.

I haven’t really said much about the characters themselves. There are so many of them, it’s hard to know where to start. Maybe with Daisy Jones herself. She was beautifully imperfect. I both loved and hated her. Billy Dunn was the same. Although, I loved him more than hated him. Daisy might have brought on the opposite feelings. I felt the same about all the characters. They were flawed in that real sort of way. That was made me love this book. Flawed characters figuring things out. The magic was in the way they fit together. Does that even make sense? The funny thing is I’m trying to tell you about the characters and the band and they weren’t my favorite character in this book. My favorite character was Camila Dunn. That woman had a strength I could only strive to have. Her truths and actions impressed me. She’s going on my list of all time favorite characters ever.

Everything about this book’s journey was utter perfection and I just can’t get over it. It’s rare for me to buy a book I’ve already read, but I think I am going to need a copy of this one on my shelf. I already want to experience Daisy Jones & The Six all over again. If I didn’t have to return the audiobook to my library, I would listen to it all over again right now. I’m that obsessed with it.

Okay, enough rambling.

Review: What the Wind Knows (Amy Harmon)

What the Wind Knows
Author: Amy Harmon
Publication Date: February 1, 2019 (Hardback), March 1, 2019
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Romance
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

In an unforgettable love story, a woman’s impossible journey through the ages could change everything…

Anne Gallagher grew up enchanted by her grandfather’s stories of Ireland. Heartbroken at his death, she travels to his childhood home to spread his ashes. There, overcome with memories of the man she adored and consumed by a history she never knew, she is pulled into another time.

The Ireland of 1921, teetering on the edge of war, is a dangerous place in which to awaken. But there Anne finds herself, hurt, disoriented, and under the care of Dr. Thomas Smith, guardian to a young boy who is oddly familiar. Mistaken for the boy’s long-missing mother, Anne adopts her identity, convinced the woman’s disappearance is connected to her own.

As tensions rise, Thomas joins the struggle for Ireland’s independence and Anne is drawn into the conflict beside him. Caught between history and her heart, she must decide whether she’s willing to let go of the life she knew for a love she never thought she’d find. But in the end, is the choice actually hers to make?


I feel the need to come clean a bit before I get into my review because I think my thoughts will help some readers decide if What the Wind Knows is for them. I’m a big fan of Amy Harmon’s writing, but I was on the fence about reading this book. I am not a huge historical fiction or fantasy fan. I read both only occasionally. I might not have read it if I hadn’t received an ARC. In a way, that forced me to read What the Wind Knows and I’m extremely glad it did.

What the Wind Knows had my attention from the very beginning. I thought it might take me a bit to get into the story, but it didn’t at all. I became addicted from the first chapter. I loved Anne’s connection with her grandfather, Eion, and how the story was built around the things he shared with her. I was actually more drawn to this relationship than to the love story. There was just something so sweet and pure about their relationship and the closeness they shared. I treasured the moments they had together.

Not that I didn’t enjoy the love story. Anne and Thomas’ connection literally transcended time. I loved how their relationship took time to develop and for their love to blossom. Normally, a time travel relationship would leave me with all sorts of questions. This one did that as well, but not so much that I fixated on them or couldn’t believe in their love. Anne and Thomas’ love story was epic for sure.

Besides the relationships in What the Wind Knows, there were so many fascinating historical gems. I know Amy Harmon took liberty with some things, but I still felt like I learnt a great deal. I really had no idea of what Ireland had gone through in the early 1900s. It was fascinating. I did get a tad bogged down with some of the details, but they all fit so well into this story.

Oh! I really, really need to stop and applaud Amy Harmon for a moment. Not only did she add historical events, she took on some every day activities in the past and showed Anne’s wonderment of them. These little things are always the things I am intrigued by. Or rather I should say they are the things that make me happy I live in the present day. I loved that those little mundane things were talked about.

Overall, What the Wind Knows is a fascinating read. Amy Harmon has once again convinced me that she can write any genre and I will want to read it.

Purchase links:

Available Now:

➜ Hardcover: https://amzn.to/2QoYmYi

Pre-order Now:

➜ Kindle: https://amzn.to/2NyJsQq
➜ Paperback: https://amzn.to/2CCbA0I
➜ Audio: https://amzn.to/2N2SfuG

About the author:

Amy Harmon is a Wall Street JournalUSA Today, and New York Times Bestselling author. Amy knew at an early age that writing was something she wanted to do, and she divided her time between writing songs and stories as she grew. Having grown up in the middle of wheat fields without a television, with only her books and her siblings to entertain her, she developed a strong sense of what made a good story. Her books are now being published in eighteen different languages, truly a dream come true for a little country girl from Levan, Utah.

Amy Harmon has written thirteen novels – the USA Today Bestsellers The Smallest Part, The Bird and The Sword, Making Faces and Running Barefoot, as well as the #1 Amazon bestselling historical From Sand and Ash, The Queen and The Cure, The Law of Moses, The Song of David, Infinity + One, Slow Dance in Purgatory, Prom Night in Purgatory, and the New York Times Bestseller, A Different Blue. Her novels The Bird and the Sword and From Sand and Ash were Goodreads Best Books of 2016 and 2017 finalists.

Find Amy online:

Website: www.authoramyharmon.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authoramyharmon
Facebook fan group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/amyharmon
Twitter: https://twitter.com/aharmon_author
Instagram: https://instagram.com/amy.harmon2/
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Amy-Harmon/e/B007V3HXUY
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5829056.Amy_Harmon
BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/amy-harmon
Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/P5AJP
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/authoramyharmon/

Mini Reviews: Salt to the Sea & More Than Word

Salt to the Sea
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Narrators: Jorgeana Marie, Will Damron, Cassandra Morris, Michael Crouch
Publication Date: February 2, 2016
Publisher: Random House
Genre: Historical Fiction, Young Adult

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

The author of Between Shades of Gray returns to WWII in this epic novel that shines a light on one of the war’s most devastating yet unknown tragedies.

In 1945, World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia, and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, almost all of them with something to hide. Among them are Joana, Emilia, and Florian, whose paths converge en route to the ship that promises salvation, the Wilhelm Gustloff. Forced by circumstance to unite, the three find their strength, courage, and trust in each other tested with each step closer toward safety.

Just when it seems freedom is within their grasp, tragedy strikes. Not country, nor culture, nor status matter as all ten thousand people aboard must fight for the same thing: survival.

Told in alternating points of view, and perfect for fans of Anthony Doerr’s Pulitzer Prize-winning , Erik Larson’s critically acclaimed #1 New York Times bestseller Dead Wake, and Elizabeth Wein’s Printz Honor Book Code Name Verity, this masterful work of historical fiction is inspired by the real-life tragedy that was the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff–the greatest maritime disaster in history. As she did in Between Shades of Gray,, Ruta Sepetys unearths a shockingly little-known casualty of a gruesome war, and proves that humanity can prevail, even in the darkest of hours.

Review:

Salt to the Sea is my first Ruta Sepetys novel. I was so very impressed by it. It was such a heartbreaking, beautiful story. I loved the way it switched back and forth between the characters. The way their sad stories intertwined was special. I truly loved listening to the way the narrators brought life to the story. Whether you read or listen to this book, you’re in for an amazing book.


More Than Words
Author: Mia Sheridan
Publication Date: June 12, 2018
Publisher: Forever
Genre: Contemporary Romance, New Adult
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½

Synopsis:

The moment she met Callen Hayes, eleven-year-old Jessica Creswell knew he was a broken prince. Her prince. They became each other’s refuge, a safe and magical place far from their troubled lives. Until the day Callen kissed herJessica’s first real, dreamy kiss—and then disappeared from her life without a word.

Years later, everyone knows who Callen Hayes is. Famous composer. Infamous bad boy. What no one knows is that Callen’s music is now locked deep inside, trapped behind his own inner demons. It’s only when he withdraws to France to drink his way through the darkness that Callen stumbles into the one person who makes the music return. Jessica. His Jessie. And she still tastes of fresh, sweet innocence . . . even as she sets his blood on fire.

But they don’t belong in each other’s worlds anymore. There are too many mistakes. Too many secrets. Too many lies. All they have is that instinctive longing, that need—and something that looks dangerously like love.

Review:

Years ago, I read Archer’s Voice. That book broke me. I have several other of Mia Sheridan’s books, but have yet to read them. I guess I’ve been scared of the emotional impact. I decided to brave her writing again with More Than Words. There were several things I loved about this book. That initial connection between Jessie and Callie was so sweet. I loved that fate brought them back together, and that they got more than one chance to be together. I also loved how Jessie’s job and her interpretations paralleled with her relationship with Callen. The only thing I wasn’t a big fan of was Callen’s womanizing and drinking. I guess I’m just over that in romances right now. It made it harder for me to emotionally connect to Jessie and Callen’s relationship. Other than, I enjoyed reading More Than Words.

Review: The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

The Great Alone
Author: Kristin Hannah
Publication Date: February 6, 2018
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Fiction, Historical
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Alaska, 1974. Untamed. Unpredictable. A story of a family in crisis struggling to survive at the edge of the world, it is also a story of young and enduring love.

Cora Allbright and her husband Ernt, a recently-returned Vietnam veteran scarred by the war, uproot their thirteen-year-old daughter Leni to start a new life in Alaska. Utterly unprepared for the weather and the isolation, but welcomed by the close-knit community, they fight to build a home in this harsh, beautiful wilderness.

At once an epic story of human survival and love, and an intimate portrait of a family tested beyond endurance, The Great Alone offers a glimpse into a vanishing way of life in America. With her trademark combination of elegant prose and deeply drawn characters, Kristin Hannah has delivered an enormously powerful story that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the remarkable and enduring strength of women. About the highest stakes a family can face and the bonds that can tear a community apart, this is a novel as spectacular and powerful as Alaska itself. It is the finest example of Kristin Hannah’s ability to weave together the deeply personal with the universal.


The Great Alone was wonderfully written and captivating book. The Alaskan setting was both beautiful and brutal. Leni was a fantastic narrator. She, along with her parents and the other characters, were well-developed and had important stories to tell. Everything about The Great Alone was pretty much perfect — except that it was torturous to read at times.

There were just so many tragic moments. It hurt to read about Leni’s life. There was just so much heartbreak. I had to take little breaks to get through much of it. I never felt like I could relax and just enjoy it.

In a way, that’s a compliment to Kristin Hannah’s writing. She really did touch my heart with The Great Alone. She depicted a life that was tough, but never let me give up hope for a brighter tomorrow for Leni. Even though The Great Alone wasn’t a comfortable read, it was a great one. It shared an important story in a fascinating landscape.

Review: A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan

A Secret History of Witches
Author: Louisa Morgan
Publication Date: September 5, 2017
Publisher: Orbit
Genre: Paranormal, Historical Fiction
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

Rating: ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

An ancient and dangerous power is being handed down from mother to daughter through some of the most consequential historic events of the last two centuries.

After Grandmére Ursule gives her life to save her tribe, her magic seems to die with her. Even so, her family keeps the Old Faith, practicing the spells and rites that have been handed from mother to daughter for generations. Until one day, Ursule’s young granddaughter steps into the circle, and magic flows anew.

From early 19th century Brittany to London during the Second World War, five generations of witches fight the battles of their time, deciding how far they are willing to go to protect their family, their heritage, and ultimately, all of our futures.


A Secret History of Witches is a multi-generational tale of witchcraft being passed down in a family throughout the ages through the female bloodline. Normally, I like multi-generational stories, but this one fell a little flat for me.

This book started off very strong. I was very interested in the characters and how their gift had an effect on their lives in the early times. I loved the beginning of the book and then Nanette’s section. After that, I started to get bored. The story became a bit stale as it passed through generations. There were new characters added, but none of them stood out. All seemed to go through the same crisis, and basically used their magic when it came to obtaining a mate. There wasn’t enough action for me. I wanted to see magic used in other circumstances like it was in the beginning of the story.

Don’t get me wrong, there were some other characters who were interesting. Irène especially. She was such a horrible person that she at least stood out. And Veronica. I liked how her gift was tied into the war. I just didn’t like how her story seemed to abruptly ended, and along with it the book.

Overall, Louisa Morgan’s writing and intent were good. For a début novel, it was pretty strong. I just think A Secret History of Witches needed a little more spark and a lot less repetition. I can only imagine Morgan’s writing will grow and flourish with future releases.