28 February 2021

An Unexpected Peril - Book Review

 

An Unexpected Peril (Veronica Speedwell #6) by Deanna Raybourn
Publication date: March 2, 2021
Pages: 336 pages
Genre: Mystery, Historical, Victorian
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars ☆☆☆☆
Strengths: Story, unique characters, necessary details included to read without all the previous books in the series
Weaknesses: Not a lot of depth


I wish I'd found this series a long time ago - so fun! 

Veronica Speedwell and her lover Revelstoke Templeton-Vane (better known as Stoker) are adventurers, even when they are intending to stay out of trouble. In this installment, they're working on a tribute exhibition to a climber who lost her life at too early an age on what should have been a pretty easy climb for her. As they go through Alice's belongings to put together the exhibit, they find a climbing rope that appears to have been cut! The proper authorities are notified, and Veronica is sure an investigation will follow.

When they're summoned to the hotel suite where the chancellor who was informed is staying, Veronica and Stoker are surprised to find the case is not being pursued. Instead, the visiting government has an altogether different task they'd like Veronica's help with. They'd like Veronica to impersonate a princess who has a habit of wandering off at a couple of events that require her attendance. Veronica is happy to help, and to follow her own leads in finding out the true cause of Alice's untimely demise.

Veronica and Stoker are so true and adorable together. Their sweetness had me originally thinking this was a YA series, and then as I sat down to read again, they had some...obvious intimacy. Yeah, sex. So not a schoolkid book, but the rest of their characters' parts in the book have an innocent sort of charm that was refreshing.

I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars and would recommend the whole series to someone who enjoys historical mysteries without a lot of negative drama. Veronica is a strong female character who of course has strenghts and weaknesses, but is overall supremely likable. Stoker plays a great supportive male who deals with issues of his own. Together, they are a winning pair against all the shenanigans they stumble into.


Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for my free ecopy of this book. Receiving the book for free did not influence my review.

26 February 2021

Five Things for Friday

Look at me, making a post that isn't a book review. LOL That doesn't mean I won't mention books - let's not get crazy :D

  1. Find me on Twinkl’s Library Lover's Campaign, to take part, visit their Library Lover's Day 2021 blog
    Okay, while my whole post isn't about this adorable infographic, I had to share because I LOVE this cute lil thang! Declan from Library Lovers Day 2021 made it up for me. Lots of other fun peeps and great book recommendations over there too - go visit!
  2. I have re-entered the workforce! I actually started working full time again this month, for the first time since my daughter's due date in 2007. I'm working in consumer support addressing regulatory complaints. It's A LOT of new info to learn, but it really feels right and I'm enjoying it. Anyone who can do their job remotely is at home until at least June 14, so that's a plus for my adjusting - no driving in the snow!
  3. I felt like I had so much to say, but most of my life is working or reading. Hahahaha.... 
  4. Hubs and I had an absolutely delightful date night last weekend. A friend of his has set up the perfect socially-distanced and safe hang-out spot. While it was 7 degrees Fahrenheit outside, we sat with our friends in their yard with a fire pit in the middle of the four of us, and heat lamps (the nice professional restaurant ones) in between each couple. We even enjoyed dinner together - local BBQ carryout on our own individual tv tables. It's been a long time, and the casual socializing with good people was really appreciated. My coat still smells like smoke, but it just brings back the good memory, right?
  5. I am so happy that our daylight time is getting longer again! It's almost getting a little light out as I start working at 7:30am, and I love having it light enough to run an errand or two after work. Can't wait to start bringing my front porch and garden back to life.
Hope all is well for you and yours. Stay healthy and make good choices!

25 February 2021

Malorie - Book Review

 

Malorie (Bird Box #2) by Josh Malerman
Publication date: July 21, 2020
Pages: 301 pages
Genre: Horror, fiction, post-apocalyptic
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars ☆☆☆☆☆
Strengths: Incredible story, great characters, unexpected plot
Weaknesses: Sounds like the end of the story?


Wow. I'm not usually a very generous reviewer, but this book was a solid 5 stars from me. I read it in a day (and as much as I read, I usually don't finish a book in a day lately). Definitely read and/or watch the first one (this is an excellent second half and conclusion) first. I borrowed this from the library after a wait.

When we left the first story, Malorie, her son Tom and her 'adopted' daughter Olympia were safe at the school for the blind, where creatures couldn't drive the blind residents mad, and the facility was safe against them entering. The Netflix version showed a really nice courtyard where the kids could get some fresh air and sunshine, but not actually 'see' outside the walls. So everyone was safe and happily ever after, right?

The second book opens with a bloody rampage by a blind woman who can only be described as having gone mad. Malorie's first priority is to get her children, and then she knows they'll be on the run for somewhere safe again, after ten years of relative stability in the school for the blind. Now Malorie has the added terror of knowing that if a blind person can be driven mad, the creatures must also be transmitting the madness through touch, not just sight. She requires herself and the kids (now 16-years-old) to wear long pants, long sleeves, and hoods whenever they go outside. 

Malorie, Tom, and Olympia move on to a small abandoned camp where the kids can roam a little bit, but they all sleep in the same cabin at Malorie's insistence. It seems they may live forever like this, as long as the creatures are kept at bay. But then a man identifying himself as a census taker arrives at their door. 

The maturing of the characters was very interesting. Malorie seemingly keeps the tragedy of watching the world fall apart fresh in her mind. Their safety is paramount to her, and being safe is her goal, at any cost. Tom thinks his mom overreacts, and he wants to live a little. Like his namesake, he thinks maybe they can invent some ways to deal more safely with the creatures without having their whole lives be so sheltered and limited. Olympia is a peacekeeper. She wants everyone to be content, but Tom's sense of adventure and Malorie's drive for safety frequently seem at odds.

I would recommend this psychological thriller set to anyone who thinks they would enjoy it, or this follow-up of course to anyone who liked the movie or the first book the movie was based on. As stated earlier, this book was 5 out of 5 stars for me.

21 February 2021

Ask Again, Yes - Book Review

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane
Publication date: May 28, 2019
Pages: 390 pages
Genre: Contemporary fiction, family drama
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars ☆☆☆
Strengths: Interesting story
Weaknesses: Forgettable


I finally got this one from the library after it was hyped so much last year. I enjoyed the characters, and the illustration of family patterns being so cyclical, but it never really hit me with a giant 'I'm so glad I read this book!!'

The Gleesons and the Stanhopes live next door to each other on a quiet street in a small town just outside the city. Kate Gleeson is born around the same time as Peter Stanhope. The two become fast friends, although the Gleeson parents feel the Stanhope parents may be a bit shady, and Mrs Anne Stanhope just knows that Kate Gleeson is a rotten she-devil. It all comes to a head one night before the kids even get to high-school age. 

Years later, Kate and Peter still miss each other since they no longer live close to each other, although their parents want the past to stay in the past. Can the reconnect despite the shadows from the past? Can childhood love live on in the face of unique obstacles?

While I did like reading this book, it's only been a few days and parts of it are fading fast. It didn't make a huge impression with me, although it was well written and an interesting story. I'd give this book 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it for those who enjoy contemporary fiction and family drama. 


 

Honey Girl - Book Review

 

Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers
Publication date: February 23, 2021
Pages: 352 pages
Genre: Contemporary fiction, LGBTQ, Young adult
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars ☆☆☆☆
Strengths: Realistic characters, realistic storyline
Weaknesses: Unique characters may be sometimes not relatable


Sometimes coming up with weaknesses is the hardest part of writing my reviews. See, there's no reason I should have found a character written to be a bi-racial lesbian astonomer so relatable. I'm a priveleged old white woman. But her struggles felt universal. 

Grace Porter is strong and determined. These qualities get her through life, all the way to achieving a doctorate degree in astonomy. She's determined to make her father proud of her by being successful in spite of his dream to have her go into medicine. But being a woman, especially a woman of color, in a field dominated and controlled by old white men is hard. After walking out of her graduation ceremony - she assumes from disappointment - her father sends her and two of her close friends to Vegas to celebrate. That's where the book really begins.

In Vegas, Grace meets a girl who she feels really 'sees' her. They get drunk, and married. While Grace feels like it makes her happy, she's pretty sure getting drunken married in Vegas doesn't fall under her father's list of what makes an admirable Porter family member. She keeps it all to herself while she tries to work out what to do in her head.

The story goes on with Grace deciding how she wants to be the best. Does it have to mean working with other respected astronomers? Can it include the adorable wife she's getting to know? Grace's struggles of living up to her parents' expectations, and trying to figure out her own expectations, are way too real. 

I loved Grace, and her close friends who became her chosen family. I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars and would recommend it to women and young adults who like stories about emotional growth.



Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for my electronic copy of this book. Receiving the book did not influence my review.

16 February 2021

The Love Proof - Book Review

 

The Love Proof by Madeleine Henry
Publication date: February 9, 2021
Pages: 304 pages
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars ☆☆☆
Strengths: Original story
Weaknesses: the ending


I was absolultely loving this book. Reading about physics theories naturally made me feel extra smart, and Sophie was so adorable! 

As a parent, I really appreciated the dilemmas Sophie's parents faced in wanting her to have the best education and strive for her potential, but also wanting her to be a joyful child. Jake's upbringing had the same motherly goodwill, but none of the same resources as Sophie's childhood. Somehow, none of that mattered once they met. But Sophie and Jake were both unique and charming characters who had all the signs of spending an eternity together (whatever it is that makes up an eternity...).

Is time what we've always perceived it to be? Is time a block instead of linear - is everything really happening all the time, instead of in a particular order? Are soul mates real? Is love forever? Sophie wants to know all of this and prove it scientifically. Can her experiences with and without Jake contribute to the proof?

Overall, I'd give this book 3/5 stars. I loved the story line with the scientific twist, but I was disappointed when a lot of the book was not about Sophie and Jake. Unfortunately the ending was not what I was expecting exactly either. The story ended like I wanted, but it felt abrupt and dry. I really enjoyed parts of this book and would recommend it for those who enjoy contemporary fiction and academic stories.




Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for my copy of this book. Receiving the kindle copy of this book for free did not influence my review. 



14 February 2021

Native Tongue - Book Review

 

Native Tongue by Suzette Haden Elgin
Publication date: 1984 (yeah, they didn't have months and dates then?)
Pages: 327 pages
Genre: Dystopian/speculative fiction, science fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars ☆☆☆☆
Strengths: Unique and compelling story
Weaknesses: Dry writing


I read this with my book club. I really wanted to like it even more, but I suppose it's enough that I really want to read the next two books in the trilogy, eh? I LOVE the story and I need to know where it goes next.

The writing, while it also felt reflective of the culture represented in the book, was sort of dry to read. The characters didn't feel 'real' to me, I guess. It's hard to explain - I guess I felt engaged in the women's struggle, but since none of the characters were really allowed emotions, the book didn't really communiate much emotion either? The dry style is probably a strength when you consider the story, but it made it less easy to keep reading. I had to stop and keep thinking, but I always came back.

And this is easily turning into my most chaotic review. 

In a nutshell - the book is about women as only second-class citizens without any identity or property of their own. But they're also somehow in charge of communication with the rest of the universe (aliens included) on behalf of the men. Women are too smart for these shenanigans, so they're developing their own language - that also reflects emotion, unlike the men's languages - to use with each other, as their woman-only barren houses thrive as their own community. There are specific individual encounters and events that demonstrate more about the existing dystopian society, but none are very meaningful on their own. They just illustrate the way life is for the men and for the women.

Overall, I'd give this book a strong 4 out of 5 stars. While it's not even on a list of my favorites, I do want to read the rest of the trilogy.

09 February 2021

Show Us Your Books - January 2021

I keep meaning to post about something besides books...

But it doesn't look like that's likely to happen. LOL 

I've even had a few ideas to post about (getting StitchFix boxes again..., Yelp events...), but when the time comes to sit at my computer and put something together, I realize I'd rather be reading. And my book reviews for my blog or Books I Think You Should Read are just my accountability and excuse to keep reading. So I don't have a lot of motivation to write about something else. At least for now. It's my blog, so I could always change my mind again sometime. 

So the only posts I'm committed to continuing, besides the reviews of the books I read, are my monthly book summary posts with Jana Says and Life According to Steph. So welcome back once again to my monthly Show Us Your Books. Here's a bit about the books I read in January. My title links go to Goodreads, and my full review links lead to the review I wrote when I first finished the book. Most of my books are free from the publisher and/or Netgalley, but this does not influence my reviews. 


Finished Reading:

A Stranger at the Door by Jason Pinter - This was the second book in the Rachel Marin series, and I loved it at least as much as the first. Rachel Marin is a total bad-ass, and willing to take care of a bit of vigilante justice when necessary - my favorite! In this book, the bad guys try to involve her son to distract her from what they're doing. And if that's not enough, someone who knows a bit more about her secret past also shows up on her doorstep to discourage her from finding where the evilness is coming from. Of course Rachel is too smart and tough for all of them. Check out my complete 4/5 star review here. ⭐⭐⭐⭐


Lana's War by Anita Abriel - I'm admittedly a little tired of WWII historical fiction. This one was unique in that it took Lana, a widow who also lost her pregnancy while she watched her husband be murdered by Nazi's, and placed her in the lap of parties and fun along the French Riviera as a spy. Her spy job seems considerably less risky than others I've read, and less risky than I'd expect it to be. But sometimes a story without a lot of bad stuff is a nice break. I gave this one 3/5 stars in my full review here. ⭐⭐⭐


What Could Be Saved by Liese O'Halloran Schwarz - Definitely my favorite read so far in 2021. This was a beautiful piece of literary fiction about a family in the 1970s who spends a few years in Thailand while the father is working there. What ends their trip is the disappearance of their 8-year-old son. Most of the story is told by the boy's younger sister (now in her early 50s), and flashbacks to their time in Thailand. All of the characters have been changed by the missing boy, and by his potential return. The location details are engrossing, and the differences in perspective from all the characters are heartfelt and believeable. I gave this book possibly my first 5/5 star review on Books I Think You Should Read. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


Spin by Patricia Cornwell - I was for real so excited when I got the first book in this, the Captian Chase series, a while back. But then it was aimless and I didn't like it at all. I read this one hoping it would tie things together from the first one. It didn't. I gave it 2.5 out of 5 stars in my full review. Someone who really likes scientific stuff may enjoy this one more than I did. There's lots of talk about spy and personal protection equipment. I'm not sure how much of that is real, but it was the best part of the book. ⭐⭐


At the Edge of the Haight by Katherine Seligman - This one has stayed with me since I read it. It's about a homeless girl and the community she's built on the streets. When a boy she doesn't even know is killed, she's the closest thing to a witness, and when the boy's family comes to claim him, they want to 'save' her from her life on the streets. But she's 20-years-old and doesn't consider herself to be a victim, or someone not in control of her own life. The book won an award for socially engaged fiction, and the award is certainly well-deserved. Check out my 3.5 out of 5 star review here. ⭐⭐⭐⭐


In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren - I borrowed this book from the library. While it was intended to be a holiday romance of sorts, I enjoyed it just as much in January. I think this is the first Christina Lauren book I've read, but many books by them have been recommended over the years. I really enjoyed it. It was sort of a groundhog day thing, where Mae starts her holiday family trip over a couple times. Is the universe waiting for her to do it right? It was a fun read, and you can see my full 4/5 star review here. ⭐⭐⭐⭐


Unchosen by Katharyn Blair - This one was way better than I expected. A book about zombie pirates, female empowerment, and oh, yeah - the whole thing takes place in a dystopian future caused by a virus? Somehow this author made it all happen. Charlotte will do anything to protect her sister, the Chosen One who can save the world. Usually it just means staying home while her other sister goes out to fight even and defent their community. But the day their community is invaded is when it all changes. Charlotte offers herself up and says she is the Chosen One, to leave her sisters safe while she is taken hostage to be delivered to the most evil of evil. As time goes on, Charlotte may discover she's capable of more than she ever thought possible. Read my full 4/5 star review here. ⭐⭐⭐⭐


Until it Was by Melissa Brodsky - High school friends Vanessa, Lance, and Donna are still close after more than 30 years. Now in their early 50s, they've been there for each other through marriages and divorces. Are they too close for Vanessa and Lance, now single at the same time, to make their relationship more? I enjoyed this contemporary romance and gave it 3.5 out of 5 stars in my full review here. ⭐⭐⭐⭐


Confessions on the 7:45 by Lisa Unger - This story got a lot of buzz last year, and I was finally able to borrow it from my local library last month. I found it to be a fun psychological thriller. This is good info to have in advance, because the alternating viewpoints at first are a bit confusing. It's supposed to be this way. Eventually we find out how the characters are connected to each other. Selena is the working mom who knows her husband is banging the nanny. When the nanny disappears, who really knows more than they're telling? My full 3.5/5 star review is here. ⭐⭐⭐


365 Days by Blanka Lipinska - Okay. I wasn't a fan of 50 Shades, and I was even less of a fan of this. I think they're both lousy representations of a healthy relationship, whether it's sexual or emotional. In 365 Days in particular, the woman is kidnapped. If she tries to escape, her family will be killed. She is expected to stay with her kidnapper for one year. If she does not fall in love with him within that time, he'll let her go. Her response? Oh, that silly guy! At least he's hot and rich! The sex scenes were tolerable, if repetitive. If you want to read this one, keep in mind it's more a book about rape fantasy than anything having to do with love or romance. My full 2.5/5 star review is here. ⭐⭐


The Summer Breeze by Shail Rajan - This delightful contemporary fiction focused on a great female protagonist, Callie Williams, who left her professionally successful life in New York City and moved back home to the Finger Lakes area to find happiness closer to her family. She chooses a new venture - opening her own quaint bed and breakfast - and is soon successful again, in a very different way. Read my full 3.5/5 star review here. ⭐⭐⭐⭐


Stranger in the Lake by Kimberly Belle - Charlotte is a fun, spunky main character. She comes from teh wrong side of the mountain, but now she'll never worry about being hungry again since she's married Paul Keller. Unfortunately, that means that the people she left behind resent her, and the people she could share activities with don't accept her either. None of this matters when she finds a body in the lake and accidentally begins to piece together how it got there. My 3.5/5 star review is here. ⭐⭐⭐


So my favorite read this month was What Could Be Saved. My least favorite reads are a tie between Spin and 365 Days. Have we read any of the same books this month? Did you agree or disagree with my assessment?


Currently Reading:

Getting this post together on Sunday night, so things could change here, but I'm finishing up Water Memory (Aubrey Sentro #1) by Daniel Pyne in print, and The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner. 


Reading Next:

Hoping to get The Love Proof by Madeleine Henry read and a review posted in time for Valentine's Day. Also on my short list are Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane, and Malorie (Bird Box #2) by Josh Malerman, both on loan from the library on my kindle. 


Am I right? Am I wrong? Let me know what you think in the comments!

Comments are moderated, but I'll have it approved and posted within 24 hours. Thanks!