Coral By Sara Ella
Inspired by “The Little Mermaid,” Coral explores what it means to be human in a world where humanity often seems lost.
Coral has always been different, standing out from her mermaid sisters in a society where blending in is key. She fears she has been afflicted with the dreaded Disease said to be carried by humans: emotions. Her sister had the Disease, and Red Tide took her away. Will it come for Coral next?
Above the sea, Brooke has nothing left to give. Depression and anxiety have left her feeling isolated. Forgotten. The only thing she can rely on is the numbness she finds within the cool and comforting ocean waves. If only she weren’t stuck at a new group-therapy home that promises a second chance at life. But what’s the point of living if her soul is destined to bleed?
Merrick may be San Francisco’s golden boy, but he wants nothing more than to escape his controlling father. When his younger sister’s suicide attempt sends Merrick to his breaking point, escape becomes the only option. If he can find their mom, everything will be made right again—right?
When their worlds collide, all three will do whatever it takes to survive. But what—and who—must they leave behind for life to finally begin?
This is an odd book to try and review.
I had been considering reading this book for a good long while, but honestly got scared away by its trigger warning on Amazon. Years passed, and suddenly, I realized I was an adult who could stop reading if it gave me bad vibes. Story Embers also conveniently ran a book study on it right about that time.
With that in mind, I checked it out from my local library and dove in.
It’s a lot. I do not have triggers related to the subject matter in the book (which sounds very cold to say, but there it is), and there were a couple times I had to take some time to process after reading it. It doesn’t pull any punches. It is both tactful and frank about mental health and suicide, which is honestly refreshing.
But on the other hand, while we’re dealing with deep darkness, we also have this floofy beach romance going on. That’s the best way to describe it. I don’t normally fawn over romance, so after a while, I was ready for Coral and Merrick to just explain their feelings to each other. But it also illustrated really well what living with someone with mental illness is like.
Also, the pinkie promise scene is possibly the best romantic scene I’ve ever read. So.
A couple times, when it veered into floofy territory, I feared losing interest. I was still struggling to figure out what these three characters had to do with each other at all, and felt like I was trying to read three stories at once. But about halfway through the book, some clues get dropped that everything wasn’t as it seemed. It had me racing for theories and waiting to see the payoff. Yeah, none of my theories were right. Those twists alone would make me read it again. The ending doesn't go as anyone had planned, and forces the characters to acknowledge the hard places.
Plus, the settings are gorgeous. Crystal clear, the kind of read that immediately transports you into summer.
The trigger warning is not a joke. This is some deep, heavy stuff. I, as a reader who am ordinarily not triggered by any of the ones described, still needed to process some of the harder scenes.
(A couple that spring to mind off the top of my head was one where the protagonist walks in on the *non-graphic* aftermath of a suicide attempt, as well as a scene where a mentally ill character who has been generally encouraging is revealed to have gone back and committed suicide.)
So if you are triggered by anything of the type, you might want to find someone who can read it with you or just avoid the title for now.
Coral is a perfect beach read, as long as you’re looking for a book to dive into and not just dip your toes in, and as long as those trigger warnings aren’t a concern to you.
Lucy Claremont's family treasured the magic of the past, and her childhood fascination with stories of the high seas led her to become a marine archaeologist. But when tragedy strikes, it's Dashel, an American forensic astronomer, and his knowledge of the stars that may help her unearth the truth behind the puzzle she's discovered in her family home.
Two hundred years earlier, the seeds of love are sown between a boy and a girl who spend their days playing in a secret sea cave, while the privileged young son of the estate looks on, wishing to join. As the children grow and war leads to unthinkable heartbreak, a story of love, betrayal, sacrifice, and redemption unfolds, held secret by the passage of time.
As Lucy and Dash journey to a mysterious old estate on the East Sussex coast, their search leads them to a community of souls and a long-hidden tale that may hold the answers--and the healing--they so desperately seek.
This book explores themes of hope so sweetly and poetically. It’s one of my favorite themes to see popping up in books. The romantic interests really prove their love for each other—they don’t just say it a couple times and kiss several more times and call it good. It also portrays verbal abuse realistically through one of its dual storylines—something sorely lacking in fiction as a whole.
Dash is literally the best. That’s all I have to say.
I’ve decided to include the point of view in the positives, even though it made it hard for me personally to get into the story. I adore first/third person deep point of view so I feel like I’m in a character’s head seeing the world the way they do.
Set the Stars Alight has more of a narrator-feel, like someone from the outside is watching Lucy and Dash and Frederick and Juliette, and telling us very poetically what’s going on. This is a neat addition. It makes us feel like we’re listening to one of Simon’s stories or Killian’s ballads.
But for me, this made it a little tricky for me to get into the character’s head. I didn’t feel like I understood what was driving them to make certain decisions. This isn’t because their motivations weren’t portrayed, I just had a hard time picking up on it because of the format. As a result, it was a little hard for me to get through the book. I also felt like some events were quickly glossed over or I was on the outside looking in for some important events. THIS HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THE AUTHOR. It was simply my reading style.
It was not as fast-paced as I was expecting. I was expecting more of a treasure hunt type feel. Which it does have. But it's really more about the characters discovering themselves and each other. And you know what, I don't even mind, because the emotional tension in this book is on point.
The climax, however, was what sold me. I would buy this book for the climax alone. (And I had lots of other things I loved about it!) Those scenes where Lucy and Dash are trapped in the cave together—perfection.
Also, look at that cover!!! It's gorgeous.
Set the Stars Alight is a unique book that might not be for everyone. But I think it would be a loss to not give it a read.
All Is Calm
It’s going to be an unexpectedly romantic Christmas at Bluebird Ranch.
Brendan Waddell has always considered Bluebird Ranch a little piece of heaven: an idyllic ranch that pairs abused children with abused horses, run by one of his Marine buddies. Now, it seems just the place to spend Christmas recovering from an on-the-job injury.
Lauren Everman first came to the ranch as a foster kid, but now knows it’s the perfect hideout. As the witness to a murder, Lauren needs somewhere to lie low. Her beauty immediately catches Brendan’s attention—but so does her secretive behavior. This Special Ops Intel man knows a woman on the run when he sees one. Can he trust her, or is she putting the ranch at risk? One thing is certain: he’s going to do everything he can to keep her safe so he can see what magic Christmas brings.
All Is Bright
A romantic Christmas wedding at Tidewater Inn gives Delilah’s unique gifts a chance to shine. But will her light be snuffed out before the bride and groom say “I do”?
As manager of the Tidewater Inn, Delilah Carter has been planning a spectacular Christmas wedding for her friend, Elin Summerall. But when Delilah’s car is forced off the road and into the ocean, she finally has to admit that the strange phone calls she’s been receiving lately may be more than just pranks.
Sheriff Tom Bourne has always had a soft spot for Delilah, and he’s determined to protect her. He hopes to win her heart by giving her the surprise gift of a lifetime . . . but first he has to make sure nothing happens to her before Christmas Day.
It’s the season of miracles. But will both Elin and Delilah get the ones they need this holiday season?
All is Calm
It’s hard to get a whole mystery into one novella. It felt like it moved a little fast to me, but that had nothing to do with the writing and everything to do with the amount of words she had to do it with. Lauren and Tonya’s relationship was very intriguing. And the villain blew me away—I could have never guessed.
However, on the romance side, everything seemed to happen a bit fast to be entirely plausible. I mean, Brendan hadn’t even met this girl before, and he knows she’s suspected of murder. So he falls in love with her within a couple days? Decides to believe her within a couple hours? It was probably condensed so it fit in the novella, but still had me a little unconvinced.
There really isn’t that much to do with Christmas in this novel. I guess I was just expecting something that really had Christmas vibes, instead of just a novel that happens to occur at Christmas.
One final note—if you haven’t read the Bluebird Ranch series, you may be lost on some connections. For instance, I thought the person who wound up being the villain (an original character to the novella) was just another random callback to the series until I reached the end.
All is Bright
As with All is Calm, it moved a bit fast simply due to the fact that it was a short story. The relationship in this one felt more natural, since Delilah and Tom had known each other for a while before the story opened. It didn’t feel as rushed or forced. While the villain wasn’t quite as out of the blue as the first one, it did make perfect sense and provided for a wild ride. It has a few more Christmas vibes than the first, but again, it seems more like a story that happens to occur around Christmas. If the setting had been moved to summer, not much would have changed. As with the first, if you haven’t read the Hope Beach series, you may be a little lost like I was.
All is Calm, All is Bright features two sweet novellas, that, while they probably won’t blow you away, still make for a perfect read under the Christmas lights, especially for fans of her earlier novels.
Catching Christmas By Terri Blackstock
*This review is part of my series of favorite Christmas reads. Click the Christmas category on the sidebar to see the rest.*
An overworked attorney’s grandmother will stop at nothing to find her a date for Christmas in this heartwarming holiday love story about finding what really matters in life.
As a first-year law associate, Sydney Batson knows she will be updating her resume by New Year’s if she loses her current case. So when her grandmother gets inexplicably ill while Sydney is in court, she arranges for a cab to take her grandmother to the clinic.
The last thing cab driver Finn Parrish wants is to be saddled with a wheelchair-bound old lady with dementia. But because Miss Callie reminds him of his own mother, whom he failed miserably in her last days, he can’t say no when she keeps calling him for rides. Once a successful gourmet chef, Finn’s biggest concern now is paying his rent, but half the time Callie doesn’t remember to pay him. And as she starts to feel better, she leads him on wild-goose chases to find a Christmas date for her granddaughter.
When Finn meets Sydney, he’s quite certain she’s never needed help finding a date. Does Miss Callie have an ulterior motive, or is this just a mission driven by delusions? He’s willing to do whatever he can to help fulfill Callie’s Christmas wish. He just never expected to be a vital part of it.
If you take a look around my reads, you’ve probably noticed I don’t read a lot of contemporary. I can’t put my finger on why, but despite all the brilliant books in the genre, it never held much appeal for me. I’ve tried multiple books only to get bored a few chapters in.
But not with Catching Christmas.
This book took me about two days to read. I read it over 2019 and then again this year. I honestly want some film company to pick this one up and make it a Christmas movie so I can watch it and read it every year.
This book is definitely a detour from Terri Blackstock’s usual style, but that doesn’t slow it down at all.
And as I reread it this year, I realized so much of what kept me in it were the characters.
People. How do you not love Finn?! He’s so gruff and sarcastic, and yet he can’t turn down an elderly lady (who has dementia and probably won’t pay him when he really needs money) who needs a cab ride. He gets mad and yells at her daughter over an answering machine for leaving her by herself—because he cares for this lady he just met that much. And he feels his regret of the past very deeply. While Sydney was a great character herself, Finn was who sold the book for me.
The book also rocks the tension and stakes. The further this ridiculous predicament went—Callie having Finn drive her around to try and hunt down a boyfriend for Sydney—the more I wanted to see just how it all settles out.
But don’t think it’s all fun and games here. Part of the sweet element of this book is definitely a bittersweet note. Even in that, the author realistically depicted grief and regret.
I can literally think of nothing negative about this book. I guess that it’s so short? But if it were any longer, maybe it wouldn’t work so well.
This sweet book is one of my favorite Christmas reads and one I’ll read every year. Now if you know of a film company in need of their next Christmas film, let me know, I could help with that.
Hi there! Rachel again. Check out this section for book reviews and cover reveals of some of my favorites!