June Book Reviews

If you’re out and about, take a book with you on your wanderings. If you’re stuck at home, here are some reads to while away the time.

This month my offering of reviews includes fantasy, historical fiction, poetry, a thriller, a murder mystery, and more. I hope you enjoy browsing my 4 and 5-star reviews.

Click on the covers for Amazon global links.


The Mermaid and the Bear by Ailish Sinclair

I finished this book a few days ago and it’s stuck with me. I didn’t realize until I’d reached the end that it’s historical fiction based loosely on real women in 16th century Scotland when witches were rounded up, tortured, and murdered. Somehow it was easier to read when I thought it was pure fiction. After getting to know the characters, the author might as well have stabbed me in the heart.

The whole book is beautifully written. Beautiful prose, beautiful characterization, deeply emotional. For the first half, the book is a sweet love story between Isobell (mistaken as a mermaid) and Thomas (mistaken as a bear). There are villains and obstacles, but life is full of promise and goodness. Isobell is a strong first-person POV character, and I found her thoroughly engaging, kind, sweet, and courageous.

Then, be prepared, for the story takes a dark turn. The author deftly intertwines the cruelty with kindness and faith, and so the story continues to hold onto its commitment to love. The ending is gorgeous and deeply moving. I had a hard time putting the book down. Highly recommended for readers of historical fiction, love stories, tragedies, and the resilience of love, kindness, and faith.


The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

This is a great read! The four raven boys are students at a private school with a raven mascot. Aglionby caters to the super-wealthy, so class plays a part in defining the characters and their relationships. But the story doesn’t focus on school activities. Instead, it follows the group’s paranormal investigations, led by Gansey, their un-proclaimed leader. The fifth of their party is a local named Blue, the daughter of a clairvoyant. Though a YA story, there isn’t much romance (phew), because Blue happens to know that if she kisses her true love, he’ll die.

The first 50% of the book focuses almost entirely on character development with the plot taking a back seat. It’s time well spent as these are deeply developed characters with complex personalities and relationships. Each character is unique, and by unique, I mean UNIQUE, fascinating in their own right but also as the different personalities blend together and bounce off each other. To a great extent, this is a book about deep friendships and loyalty.

All the character-prep in the first half of the read pays off when the plot ramps up. I was thoroughly invested when things got dicey. The presence of magic increases as sacrifices are set in motion and the number of characters involved in “waking the corpse road” increases. The book ends well with plenty to look forward too as their hunt for an ancient king continues. I’ll definitely be reading onward into this series. It’s well worth it. Highly recommended for fantasy readers.


Wake Robin Ridge by Marcia Meara

Part romance, part thriller, part mystery, part ghost story, part epistolary, and most of all a love story, this first book in the Wake Robin Ridge series has it all, pulled together into a well-crafted tale. It’s quite a feat and thoroughly engaging.

The first half of the book alternates between two stories. One is Ruthie’s narrative, set in the early 1960s. She runs away from an abusive relationship and rebuilds her life in a rural cabin in the Carolinas. Ruthie’s story is definitely a nail-biting thriller, and I wanted to hide under my blankets.

The second narrative belongs to Sarah, who moves into the same cabin in 2011 and starts up a romance with her neighbor, Mac, a man with a secret who’s conflicted about starting a relationship. Romance readers will enjoy many of the tropes that pepper their relationship.

Then in the middle of the book, an event changes everything for both women even though they live 50 years apart. Ruth’s story continues through a series of unmailed letters, and Sarah and Mac are determined to find out what happened to her. The romance and thriller parts of the book fade as the narrative shifts into mature love, grief, loyalty, and sacrifice. There were times when I got a little choked up.

Clearly the book has a lot going on, but it’s beautifully told and kept up a good pace, particularly in the second half. The characters are three-dimensional with rich emotional lives and distinct voices. Ruthie was my favorite and the most sympathetic; it was her story that blurred the eyes. Highly recommended to love story and romance readers who enjoy a bit of a thrill and mystery blended in to add interest to the tale.


Death in a Dacron Sail by N. A. Granger

This is my third Rhe Brewster book, and it was fun to read this character again. Rhe is a mom, wife, ER nurse, and part-time detective, helping out her brother-in-law who’s the sheriff in a small Maine town. A crabber finds a child’s finger in a trap, and Rhe is on the case which quickly grows into a search for four missing girls.

She’s a well-rounded character: witty, competent, brave, and very relatable as she navigates family, relationships, and work. Life is far from perfect, and as a reader, I enjoyed getting to know her on multiple levels. Secondary characters are equally human and engaging. There’s a wide range of relationships from sweet and loyal to distant, violent, and downright pathological.

The plot is well-paced and multi-layered including not only the investigation, but personal danger to Rhe (who’s pregnant), the deterioration of her marriage, and her boss retaliating for a previous investigation that involved the hospital. Red herrings add to the suspense. I was engaged in each plot thread and the book flew by.

A great read for lovers of mysteries, thrillers, and engaging characters. I hope there’s another in the series because I have to read what happens next…


The Memory by Judith Barrow

The Memory, though fiction, reads like a memoir, chronicling the love-hate relationship between a daughter and mother. The story is told from the point of view of Irene, tracking her life from 1963 to 2002. Irene’s young sister, Rose, has Down’s Syndrome and dies at the age of eight. Irene is devastated. She knows what she saw. The secret of her sister’s death is never once discussed between Irene and her mother, though the rift it creates is ten miles wide.

Though the focus of the book is the arc of Irene’s life, each chapter starts with a glimpse into two days in 2002 when she is caring for her mother who suffers from dementia. Lily is an extremely difficult patient. These glimpses are frequently just a paragraph long, minutes apart, and they clearly convey Irene’s exhaustion. They serve as a backdrop for the longer story that leads up to those final days and moments.

The story is a long one, full of details that create rich well-rounded characters and a sense of time and place. By the end, I knew Irene well, and as a caregiver myself, I found her story moving and authentic. The pace is moderate overall and well suited to the narrative, though there are some tangential details in places that slow it down. Short chapters help keep it moving, and the unspoken secret creates the tension that pulled me through to the end, even though I guessed the truth early on. A beautifully written and edited book, perfect for readers of memoirs, women’s lit, and family dramas.


His Revenge by John W. Howell

His Revenge follows on the heels of the previous book, My GRL. I had fun revisiting a great character, John Cannon, an ordinary nice guy forced into the role of a hero. He’s once again kidnapped and trying to outwit the terrorist mastermind plotting to create havoc in the US. I do recommend reading the books in order, even though the author provides adequate backstory to get the gist of what previously happened.

There’s plenty of action and danger, though less than in the first book. The pace starts out a touch slow, but when it picks up, it charges ahead. John isn’t a macho, gun-toting character, and the solutions to his problems rely more on his wits and a clever plan, along with some strongly developed allies that added depth to the story. The characters face some tough choices that will make the reader squirm.

The bad guys are quite diabolical, heartless, and seemed to cover every base. But they also struck me as a touch gullible, especially since they’ve been outwitted by John before. That said, the rationale backing up the plot is detailed and the solution well-crafted. The writing is professional, the dialog and characterization excellent. I’ll be reading more of John Cannon in the future.


Walk Away Silver Heart by Frank Prem

I purchased this book because I loved the premise of taking a poem (in this case, Amy Lowell’s “Madonna of the Evening Flowers”) and using each line as an inspiration for a wholly new work. The original is beautiful as are Prem’s poems that it inspired.

Prem’s style is different from Lowell’s, more like chains with each link composed of a word or three, yet he captures the tone and language of Lowell’s poem with lovely originality. Each response becomes a glimpse, and combined, they encapsulate a graceful reflection on a loving relationship. There’s a sense of depth and maturity in the feelings it evokes. A beautiful collection.


Father Figure by James J. Cudney

This family drama alternates chapters between two women who, 20 years apart, are transitioning from high school to college. Amalia lives in rural Mississippi under the abusive thumb of her mother. Brianna is from New York City, and though she has a loving mother, she is desperate to know her father’s identity. Her mother, Mollie, refuses to disclose any details of her past.

In a way, the book is a character study, chronicling the two young women’s journeys from adolescence to young adulthood primarily through their sexual experiences and relationships, both positive and negative. This part of the narrative, for me, explored how each woman finally grew into her own skin.

I felt a great deal of empathy for timid Amalia, more so than for Brianna who is so persistent about finding out who her father is that she causes endless problems for everyone around her. It’s Brianna’s search that leads to the climatic end where the mysteries in the book are resolved.

The pace for most of the book felt very slow to me until the last 15% when things started coming together. Otherwise, the writing, characterizations, descriptions, and dialog are all well done. I think this read might be too long and slow for a YA audience, but I recommend it for readers of women’s lit and family dramas.


Guns of Perdition by Jessica Bakkers

This is the first western-horror to cross my Kindle, and the blend of genres was a treat. Jessie is a young man sweeping up a saloon when Grace, one tough and dusty drifter, saunters in. Her face is hidden by a broad Stetson, and her holsters boast a pair of pearl-handled Smith & Wessons. It doesn’t take long before Grace’s guns are blazing, but she isn’t shooting criminals. She’s hunting demons and out to get revenge against the Darksome Gunman. With no idea of what he’s signing up for, Jessie decides to tag along. Oh, Jessie, don’t do it!     (For the full review, click here.)


Happy Reading!

202 thoughts on “June Book Reviews

  1. Hello!

    How on earth did I miss this post. I wonder if my comment got caught in spam. Either way, I stumbled upon it today and just wanted to say thank you so much. I know I saw it and we chatted when it was on Twitter or Goodreads, but wow… I missed the actual post. Thank you so much!!!!

    I appreciate you. 🙂


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Many thanks for including The Memory amongst all these wonderful books, Diana. I read Noelle’s Death in a Dacron Sail a while back and loved it. And Marcia’s Wake Robin Ridge. Also have John’s His Revenge on my kindle to read. You are so generous. xx

    Liked by 2 people

  3. After reading the interview/review of the last post, I do think Guns of Perdition sounds like the one I’m most likely to read out of this batch!

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Ocean Bream says:

    Oh you have The Raven Boys! I love love love the Raven Boys! And its two sequels. Such a lovely tale, and so well written. The Mermaid and the Bear looks like a great read, I have put it on my to-read list!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Sarah says:

    Oh, these sound all so good and will go right to my TBR, Diana! I’m especially looking forward to read The Mermaid and the Bear (love historical fiction!) and Wake-Robin Ridge! Thanks for the recommendations! ❤

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Sabiscuit says:

    I feel happy when I see published authors supporting other writers. I started working on my first novel a few years ago because of your encouraging words on one of my blog posts. Thank you. After almost giving up on my project several times, I found a publisher last week. Everyone told me it was impossible because no-one reads books anymore. Please continue to shine a light on the authors you enjoy. I’m sure there are others like me who are working to complete their own projects because of you.

    Liked by 4 people

    • OMG What a lovely comment! You’ve warmed my heart. That’s so awesome that you finished your book and found a publisher. It’s hard work, isn’t it? You deserve to do a happy dance and take a bow. And billions of people read books! I can’t wait to hear more about your book. Happy Writing and Happy Reading! ❤

      Liked by 3 people

      • Sabiscuit says:

        They do don’t they? Forgot how many people were on the planet for hot minute. 😂 Writing was relatively easy compared to this other stuff. I’ll do a happy dance when my book is live. The publisher says he’s enjoying reading it. I don’t know what to do with myself after hearing that. Have a lovely weekend and thank you very much again for everything.

        Liked by 2 people

        • I visited your site to cheer you on, but it didn’t allow comments. Sometimes I think writing (despite all the hard work) is much easier than what comes next – the marketing. This is a vocation that requires us to persevere and be in it for the long haul. And remember that the best way to sell your books is to write more books! Happy Writing!

          Liked by 2 people

  7. Erica/Erika says:

    Wonderful book reviews, Diana! Since I began blogging, less than two years ago, I have started reading the books bloggers write. I think the writers are called Indie Authors. Your reviews help me find some gems. I also learn a great deal from the comments on your posts. Thank you!

    Liked by 3 people

    • I read lots of indie books, Erica. It’s fun to know a little about the authors. The books become a little more personal and we get to celebrate each other’s creativity. I’m glad you enjoy the reviews and hope something piques your interest! I hope you’re doing well. Happy Reading, my friend. ❤

      Liked by 3 people

  8. I don’t know how you do it. Read so many books – INDIE books no less – and write encouraging, honest, excellent reviews on them all. I savor your reviews. They’re wonderful.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. bamauthor says:

    What a great selection of reads!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. As always, I’m impressed by how much you accomplish! I popped by to tell you I stayed up till two a.m. finishing The Sorceror’s Garden. 🙂 I just had to find out what happened!

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Sean says:

    Looks like a good batch of books! Glad you enjoyed so many of them!

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Thank you for a great list of interesting book. Very appreciated review. Best wishes, Michael

    Liked by 2 people

  13. acflory says:

    All of the reviews are wonderful, Diana, but I particularly like the one of Frank Prem’s poetry. I’m so not a poetry person, and yet his style is so accessible that it’s touched even me. And he’s another Aussie. 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Mae Clair says:

    Such a great collection of books and authors. I’ve read Wake Robin Ridge and His Revenge. Both were wonderful. I’ve also read other titles by Noelle and James Cudney. I have so much catching up to do. Jessica Bakker’s debut release is on my Kindle and TBR. Congrats to all of these authors!

    Liked by 4 people

  15. What an interesting collection of books Diana. I have read and enjoyed My Grl, so feel compelled to read the follow up. I also enjoyed Father Figure as well as Watching Glass Shatter and three of Jay’s Braxton Campus series. He is a terrific writer.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks for the visit, Brigid. If you like My GRL, I can definitely recommend the next. I’ll be reading the 3rd in the series soon. And I just finished Watching Glass Shatter (the review will be in the July recap. Needless to say, I enjoyed it. Have a lovely day and Happy Reading. Be well.

      Liked by 2 people

Comments are warmly welcomed. Don't be shy .

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s