Category: characters

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Viscount Who Vexed Me, by Julia London    

Image belongs to Harlequin/Canary Street Press.

Title: The Viscount Who Vexed Me     
Author: Julia London    
Genre:  Romance   
Rating:  4 out of 5

Daring. Darling. Determined.

Next to the Season’s newest diamond, Harriet (Hattie) Woodchurch feels like a plain Jane. But that’s of no consequence, since Hattie’s plan for her future is to earn enough to live far, far away from her embarrassing family.

That is until Mateo Vincente, Duke of Santiava and newly minted Viscount Abbott, arrives in London. While the shy European’s spoken English is impeccable, his writing is less fluent. The ton is eager to meet the handsome bachelor, and so many invitations flood in that Mateo needs a correspondence secretary.

With her perfect penmanship and way with words, Hattie is recommended, and the two bond over books and the ton’s eligible ladies. But when Hattie’s friend Flora becomes smitten with the viscount, things get complicated. Flora is tongue-tied in his presence. To help, Hattie feeds her information about Mateo’s interests. Soon things turn around and Flora appears on track to become his duchess. Yet for Mateo, something’s not quite right. Conversation with Flora isn’t as scintillating as it is with Hattie…

This was a cute read! Hattie’s family is an absolute nightmare and made my skin crawl. I think I would have lived on the street before putting up with them any longer. They were just so horrible to her. Mateo was an interesting dashing hero, with his reticence and reluctance to be around people (same), but I really liked how their growing relationship changed them both.

Julia London is a bestselling author. The Viscount Who Vexed Me is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/Canary Street Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Emma of 83rd Street, by Audrey Bellezza and Emily Harding     

Image belongs to Gallery Books.

Title: Emma of 83rd Street    
Author:  Audrey Bellezza; Emily Harding   
Genre: Romance    
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Beautiful, clever, and rich, Emma Woodhouse has lived twenty-three years in her tight-knit Upper East Side neighborhood with very little to distress or vex her…that is, until her budding matchmaking hobby results in her sister’s marriage—and subsequent move downtown. Now, with her sister gone and all her friends traveling abroad, Emma must start her final year of grad school grappling with an entirely new emotion: boredom. So when she meets Nadine, a wide-eyed Ohio transplant with a heart of gold and drugstore blonde highlights to match, Emma not only sees a potential new friend but a new project. If only her overbearing neighbor George Knightley would get out of her way.

Handsome, smart, and successful, the only thing that frustrates Knightley more than a corked whiskey is his childhood friend, Emma. Whether it’s her shopping sprees between classes or her revolving door of ill-conceived hobbies, he is only too happy to lecture her on all the finer points of adulthood she’s so hell-bent on ignoring. But despite his gripes—and much to his own chagrin—Knightley can’t help but notice that the girl next door is a woman now…one who he suddenly can’t get out of his head.

As Emma’s best laid plans collide with everyone from hipster baristas to meddling family members to flaky playboy millionaires, these two friends slowly realize their need to always be right has been usurped by a new need entirely, and it’s not long before they discover that even the most familiar stories still have some surprises.

As I first started reading this, I was wavering if it were going to annoy me enough to stop reading. I mean, Mr. Woodhouse’s obsession with the refined sugar content in everything was annoying, and Emma’s background monologue on appearances and the labels on her clothes was low-key irritating, but…she grew on me. She seemed superficial and flighty at first—and she was—but she learned self-awareness and started to be less self-absorbed.

I loved her friendship and banter with Knightley! Their friendship was just so much fun, including their large family/friend group. I ended up thoroughly enjoying this read!

Audrey Bellezza is an Emmy-nominated producer. Emily Harding is a writer and television producer. Emma of 83rd Street is their debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Gallery Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Secret Book of Flora Lea, by Patti Callahan Henry

Image belongs to Atria Books.

Title:    The Secret Book of Flora Lea   
Author:  Patti Callahan Henry
Genre:  Historical fiction   
Rating:  5 out of 5

In the war-torn London of 1939, fourteen-year-old Hazel and five-year-old Flora are evacuated to a rural village to escape the horrors of the Second World War. Living with the kind Bridie Aberdeen and her teenage son, Harry, in a charming stone cottage along the River Thames, Hazel fills their days with walks and games to distract her young sister, including one that she creates for her sister and her sister alone—a fairy tale about a magical land, a secret place they can escape to that is all their own.

But the unthinkable happens when young Flora suddenly vanishes while playing near the banks of the river. Shattered, Hazel blames herself for her sister’s disappearance, and she carries that guilt into adulthood as a private burden she feels she deserves.

Twenty years later, Hazel is in London, ready to move on from her job at a cozy rare bookstore to a career at Sotheby’s. With a charming boyfriend and her elegantly timeworn Bloomsbury flat, Hazel’s future seems determined. But her tidy life is turned upside down when she unwraps a package containing an illustrated book called Whisperwood and the River of Stars . Hazel never told a soul about the imaginary world she created just for Flora. Could this book hold the secrets to Flora’s disappearance? Could it be a sign that her beloved sister is still alive after all these years?

As Hazel embarks on a feverish quest, revisiting long-dormant relationships and bravely opening wounds from her past, her career and future hang in the balance. An astonishing twist ultimately reveals the truth in this transporting and refreshingly original novel about the bond between sisters, the complications of conflicted love, and the enduring magic of storytelling.

I really enjoyed this read! I do love WWII fiction, but this isn’t a typical one—and it isn’t only WWII fiction. I really loved all of it, and I thought the relationship between the young sisters was so well-done and believable. Hazel is a great character, despite all her thorns and trust issues, and I loved watching the storyline of their childhood meet up with Hazel’s adult life. I highly recommend this!

Patti Callahan Henry is an award-winning and bestselling author. The Secret Book of Flora Lea is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Atria Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Warrior Girl Unearthed, by Angeline Boulley    

Image belongs to Macmillan Children’s/Henry Holt and Co.

Title: Warrior Girl Unearthed       
Author: Angeline Boulley    
Genre: YA, mystery    
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Perry Firekeeper-Birch was ready for her Summer of Slack but instead, after a fender bender that was entirely not her fault, she’s stuck working to pay back her Auntie Daunis for repairs to the Jeep.

Thankfully she has the other outcasts of the summer program, Team Misfit Toys, and even her twin sister Pauline. Together they ace obstacle courses, plan vigils for missing women in the community, and make sure summer doesn’t feel so lost after all.

But when she attends a meeting at a local university, Perry learns about the “Warrior Girl”, an ancestor whose bones and knife are stored in the museum archives, and everything changes. Perry has to return Warrior Girl to her tribe. Determined to help, she learns all she can about NAGPRA, the federal law that allows tribes to request the return of ancestral remains and sacred items. The university has been using legal loopholes to hold onto Warrior Girl and twelve other Anishinaabe ancestors’ remains, and Perry and the Misfits won’t let it go on any longer.

Using all of their skills and resources, the Misfits realize a heist is the only way to bring back the stolen artifacts and remains for good. But there is more to this repatriation than meets the eye as more women disappear and Pauline’s perfectionism takes a turn for the worse. As secrets and mysteries unfurl, Perry and the Misfits must fight to find a way to make things right – for the ancestors and for their community.

I enjoyed learning so much about the Anishinaabe tribe and culture. I found those details fascinating. Perry was a great character! She truly learned from her mistakes and grew from that knowledge, and she fully embraced her culture and heritage and determined to honor it in every way she could. I also liked the connections to Firekeeper’s Daughter.

Angeline Boulley is from Michigan. Warrior Girl Unearthed is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Macmillan Children’s/Henry Holt and Co. in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: In an Orchard Grown from Ash, by Rory Power     

Image belongs to Random House/Ballantine.

Title: In an Orchard Grown from Ash
Author:  Rory Power   
Genre:  Fantasy   
Rating: 3 

The Argyros siblings have lost everything. With their father dead and their family home captured, they’re no longer the rulers of their fractured kingdom—and no longer bound to each other.

In the frozen north, Rhea struggles to wield her newly inherited command over death and to find her place in an increasingly distrustful rebel group. Chrysanthi travels to a distant, war-torn land in search of her elusive brother Nitsos, certain that he is there on a dangerous mission to restore the family to its former glory, this time with himself at its head. And Lexos, now stripped of all his power and a political prisoner of the Domina family, is left to rot in a hauntingly desolate palace with nothing but thoughts of revenge.

Alone and farther apart than they’ve ever been, the siblings must reckon with the pain of their past and find a new path forward—or risk their own destruction.

I really enjoyed the first book in this duology, In a Garden Burning Gold; this one, however, felt like a waste of my time. I will say that I enjoyed Chrysanthi’s growth, although she felt so passive through the first 2/3rds of the story, just letting everything happen to her without taking action herself.

Nitsos was almost a non-presence in this book—and he was pointless. Lexos was useless:  all he did was whine about not having power. And Rhea…man. I really liked her in the first book. In this one, she was a terrible human being, and I just wanted her to hurry up and die already. I do not recommend this read.

Rory Power lives in New England. In an Orchard Grown From Ash is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Random House/Ballantine in exchange for an honest review.)

What I Read in April (2023)

Books Read in April: 16
Books Read for the Year:  70/225

Topical Books/Monthly Goal Books:

Lessons at the School by the Sea, by Jenny Colgan (TBR). I thoroughly enjoyed this. So glad to see more of these characters—and I wish the random, unnecessary drama at the school wasn’t quite so accurate.

The Beauty of Spiritual Language, by Jack Hayford (spiritual).

The Last Battle, by C.S. Lewis (re-read). Loved this.

The Two Towers, by J.R.R. Tolkien (re-read). No matter how many times I read these books, they are still magical.

Iron Wolf, by Siri Pettersonh (TBR). This was dark but absolutely riveting.

Water from My Heart, by Charles Martin (audio). Wow. I have no words to even tell you how fantastic this was.

For Review:

Divine Rivals, by Rebecca Ross. I enjoyed this read, and found it quite unique. Interesting culture—but I would have liked to know a bit more about the history. I can’t wait to read the next book!

Fateful Words, by Paige Shelton. This was a solid cozy mystery. No surprises, but a fun adventure.

The Sinister Booksellers of Bath, by Garth Nix. I didn’t enjoy this quite as much as I did the first book in the series, but this was a solid read. It did feel a bit low-stakes to me, though, so I wasn’t totally invested in it.

Silver in the Bone, by Alexandra Bracken. I enjoyed this immensely! I do love a good King Arthur tale, so this caught my attention initially, but the setting and Tamsin’s voice kept me engaged—I actually read all 500 pages of this in one sitting! The only thing I didn’t like about this was the cliffhanger ending—which would have been fine if I had access to the next book immediately.

How to Best A Marquess, by Janna MacGregor. This was a fun read! I really enjoyed the characters and how this tied in with the other two books in the series.

Pieces of Me, by Kate McLaughlin. This was an interesting read, although I thought her family’s acceptance of her diagnosis was sugar coated a lot and that made the rest of the story hard to accept, too.

An American Beauty, by Shana Abe. This was a decent read. I felt pretty distant from the MC—and she was keeping secrets even from the reader, so that felt a bit off—but it was interesting.

The Ferryman, by Justin Cronin (review forthcoming). I didn’t really care for this. The writing was solid enough that I finished it, but I didn’t like the characters. The first 60% or so felt very…familiar to me, like I’d seen that basic premise done so much it just felt worn and stale. The last 40% felt like absolute chaos and nothing made sense. Even the “explanation” didn’t make sense or explain everything. I would not recommend this.

In an Orchard Grown from Ash, by Rory Power (review forthcoming). Yeah, no. I loved the first book in this duology, but three out of the four siblings in this one were either horrible, useless, or pointless—and the fourth one was useless for the first 2/3rds of the book.

Just Because:

From the Grave, by Kresley Cole. I have been waiting for this book for years! This is the only love triangle I’ve ever read where I didn’t have a favorite. I loved the rest of the series so much that I think anything would have been a bit of a letdown, so that was no surprise, but it was a fitting ending for these characters, even if I couldn’t quite see it.

Left Unfinished:

The House Is on Fire, by Rachel Beanland. The first 5% of this just absolutely didn’t catch my interest at all.

The Seaside Library, by Brenda Novak. I read about 15% of this, but the story did not feel fresh or new to me—it felt similar to other things I’d read, so I got bored quickly.

Blind Spots, by Thomas Mullen. Solid writing. This just wasn’t a good fit for me at the time.

This Isn’t Going to End Well, by Daniel Wallace. I made it about 20% of the way through this because I liked the voice, but I absolutely did not care for the narrator/author character at all.

Where Coyotes Howl, by Sandra Dallas. I read 25% of this, and, while I enjoyed it, there was no conflict. None. While that sounds good in theory, it doesn’t make for an engaging story, no matter how solid the writing is.

The Dutch Orphan, by Ellen Keith. I didn’t get very far in this, because the POV just didn’t work for me. It felt very distant, and I didn’t care for that.

Under the Cover of Mercy, by Rebecca Connolly. The MC felt very haughty and distant in the first 10%, and I just didn’t feel a connection.

Book Review: An American Beauty, by Shana Abe

Image belongs to Kensington Books.

Title: An American Beauty     
Author: Shana Abe    
Genre: Historical fiction     
Rating:  4 out of 5

1867, Richmond, Virginia: Though she wears the same low-cut purple gown that is the uniform of all the girls who work at Worsham’s gambling parlor, Arabella stands apart. It’s not merely her statuesque beauty and practiced charm. Even at seventeen, Arabella possesses an unyielding grit, and a resolve to escape her background of struggle and poverty.

Collis Huntington, railroad baron and self-made multimillionaire, is drawn to Arabella from their first meeting. Collis is married and thirty years her senior, yet they are well-matched in temperament, and flirtation rapidly escalates into an affair. With Collis’s help, Arabella eventually moves to New York, posing as a genteel, well-to-do Southern widow. Using Collis’s seed money and her own shrewd investing instincts, she begins to amass a fortune.

Their relationship is an open secret, and no one is surprised when Collis marries Arabella after his wife’s death. But “The Four Hundred”—the elite circle that includes the Astors and Vanderbilts—have their rules. Arabella must earn her place in Society—not just through her vast wealth, but with taste, style, and impeccable behavior. There are some who suspect the scandalous truth, and will blackmail her for it. And then there is another threat—an unexpected, impossible romance that will test her ambition, her loyalties, and her heart . . .

The first 20% of this was a bit slow, and I almost put it down, but it did pick up. Arabella is an interesting character:  she’s very distant and manipulative, and sometimes comes across as cold. She even felt distant towards her family to me, except towards her son. I had to admire all that she accomplished, but using people came as second nature to her, so she’s not the type of person I like. I did like how the author managed to not give away her complete history until towards the end of the book.

Shana Abe is a bestselling author. An American Beauty is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Kensington Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Sundays Are for Writing #222

I ended up working an extra day this week—and all five days were mentally exhausting—so I only wrote one book review this week, Pieces of Me, by Kate McLaughlin. (Interesting read, but it struck me as a bit sugar-coated.) I also DNFed three books (again), Where Coyotes Howl, The Dutch Orphan, and Under the Cover of Mercy. The first one, I DNFed because there was no conflict in the first 25%, the second, the POV was too distant for my taste, and the last one, the MC felt a bit haughty and distant.

I also wrote four posts on A Little Bit Greener: Green=peace of mind, Time is greener, Sometimes it’s hard to find the light, and tell them they’re pretty. I honestly didn’t realize I wrote that much this week…I ALSO binge read Kresley Cole’s From the Gave , the final book in the Arcana series, which I love.

I also did a solid bit of brainstorming on the new story idea, so I’m very happy with this week of writing!

Happy writing

Book Review: Pieces of Me, by Kate McLaughlin   

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title: Pieces of Me        
Author: Kate McLaughlin    
Genre: YA    
Rating:  4 out of 5

When eighteen-year-old Dylan wakes up, she’s in an apartment she doesn’t recognize. The other people there seem to know her, but she doesn’t know them – not even the pretty, chiseled boy who tells her his name is Connor. A voice inside her head keeps saying that everything is okay, but Dylan can’t help but freak out. Especially when she borrows Connor’s phone to call home and realizes she’s been missing for three days.

Dylan has lost time before, but never like this.

Soon after, Dylan is diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder, and must grapple not only with the many people currently crammed inside her head, but that a secret from her past so terrible she’s blocked it out has put them there. Her only distraction is a budding new relationship with Connor. But as she gets closer to finding out the truth, Dylan wonders: will it heal her or fracture her further?

I can’t decide on this:  on the one hand, I loved how supportive Dylan’s family and best friend were of her illness and how they tried to help her. On the other, that struck me as not realistic. There’s no way that every single person in Dylan’s life would have been super supportive and bend over backwards to do everything she thought she needed while going through her diagnosis. Connor especially wasn’t believable to me, being someone she’d just met and completely understanding of what’s going on—even when one of her alters hits on him and another is a guy?

Great writing here, and the author managed to draw me into even the alters’ personalities and POVs, which I would have thought was impossible. This was an engrossing read, I’m just not sure how believable it is.

Kate McLaughlin lives in Connecticut. Pieces of Me is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Silver in the Bone, by Alexandra Bracken  

Image belongs to Random House.

Title:  Silver in the Bone   
Author: Alexandra Bracken    
Genre: Fantasy, YA    
Rating: 5 out of 5

Tamsin Lark didn’t ask to be a Hollower. As a mortal with no magical talent, she was never meant to break into ancient crypts, or compete with sorceresses and Cunningfolk for the treasures inside. But after her thieving foster father disappeared without so much as a goodbye, it was the only way to keep herself—and her brother, Cabell—alive.

Ten years later, rumors are swirling that her guardian vanished with a powerful ring from Arthurian legend. A run-in with her rival Emrys ignites Tamsin’s hope that the ring could free Cabell from a curse that threatens both of them. But they aren’t the only ones who covet the ring.

As word spreads, greedy Hollowers start circling, and many would kill to have it for themselves. While Emrys is the last person Tamsin would choose to partner with, she needs all the help she can get to edge out her competitors in the race for the ring. Together, they dive headfirst into a vipers’ nest of dark magic, exposing a deadly secret with the power to awaken ghosts of the past and shatter her last hope of saving her brother. . . .

I read this entire novel in one sitting—yes, all almost-500-pages—if that tells you anything. I found the setting and worldbuilding fascinating, with the mixture of fantastical elements and the mundane everyday swirled together. Tamsin is frequently kind of a jerk, even if I can understand why she’s so prickly. I loved her relationship with her brother, and the snark between her and Emyrs was great. Some of this was creepy as heck, but I loved what the author did with the King Arthur mythos, and I would read the next book in a hot second.

Alexandra Bracken is a bestselling author. Silver in the Bone is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Random House in exchange for an honest review.)