REVIEW: Ashton Hall

“That’s the point of books, isn’t it? To be passed from hand to hand, until they fell apart. Part of the great river of life.”

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When Hannah and her neurodivergent son, Nicky, move from the US to England to care for a family member’s home for the summer they stumble upon a skeleton in a long forgotten part of the house.

Sounds intriguing, right?

Well, unfortunately I found this one to be a bit of a snoozefest. It’s more women’s fiction than historical fiction or mystery. The structure reminded me a little of The Lost Apothecary only instead of seeing the timeline in the past we are told about it, in very brief snippets. Sometimes via long lists of entries in a budget ledger or a library check out list. I like these elements in theory but the execution here didn’t work for me. 

I was frustrated at Hannah about the decisions she was making in her life. Her husband was awful, her son wasn’t getting proper care and yet they had plenty of time to moan about potentially what could have happened to this skeleton. Meanwhile, we didn’t really get enough details about the prior timeline to put real meat on the bones. ⭐️⭐️💫

Thanks to Netgalley for advanced access to this one. All opinions above are my own but just because I didn’t love this one doesn’t mean you won’t.

What’s the last book you had high hopes for but just didn’t work for you?

REVIEW: Fevered Star

Last year’s Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse was a book that took my breath away. It was a new take on high fantasy that echoed with me for a long time. The Pre-Columbian America setting and coupled with magic gave us a unique setting and promoted a culture that we don’t spend enough time with. The struggle for power is motivated by the desire to please the gods and control the resources, including the people. Each culture is quite different and venerates an element: the sky, the earth, the water, light and shadow. Serapio, Xiala and Naranpha were characters that echoed in my soul and I was so interested in what would happen to them after the sun has been shadowed. 

The Fevered Star has a very measured pace, it gives us the same detailed, alternating POVs with each character dealing with the aftermath. At first, I was a little frustrated, looking for some real action but when it happens… it’s as stunning as in the first novel. These characters and their motivations are so unique and singular. The pleathora of gender challenging characters is refreshing. Roanhorse’s writing remains evocative and beautiful. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

If you are a fan of high fantasy and you can step away from elves and Viking inspired settings, this series may surprise you.

Thanks to Netgalley for advanced access to this novel. All opinions above are my own.

Pub Day Audiobook REVIEW: Our Crooked Hearts

“A book worth hiding is a book worth tugging from a dead woman’s cooling fingers…”

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What would you do to protect your secrets? To keep your children from repeating your mistakes?

 When strange things start happening to Ivy, she learns just how far her mother has gone to protect her from finding out her past. We get the story in alternating chapters with one time point narrated by Ivy in the present moment and one by her mother Dana when she was a teenager. Dana and her friends became occultists practicing a very dark form of magic and whatever they have conjured she would do anything to hide. Ivy on the other hand wants nothing more than to the know the truth and she will stop at nothing to get there.

I like that this one focuses a bit on the impact of magic, the idea that witches must live in balance. Young people playing with magic can get them into serious trouble if they don’t know the consequences. We see a darker side of what just a toe dip of magic can do. One timeline was very ‘The Craft’ while the others was more ‘Hocus Pocus’ but surprisingly they pull together nicely.

I did this one on audio and the narrators were really great. ⭐️⭐️⭐⭐

Thanks to Macmillian for access to this audiobook. All opinions above are my own. 

This one is out today. Any new releases you’re excited for?

REVIEW: The Lost Dreamer

The Lost Dreamer takes place in a world where a select few have the ability to dream the future. As you can imagine, this gift is exploited by those in power. When there is a regime change, Indir and her family are targeted and must figure out a way to save themselves and preserve their lineage. Saya is a young girl who is a seer without training but exploited by her mother as they move from place to place. When she removes the necklace that protects her from an unknown danger, she realizes that everything she thought she knew about the world is a lie. We see these two young women struggling for truth, safety and stability as danger grows closer and closer.

We get fully immersed in this beautiful but volatile world so easily. I would say this one skews towards the younger side of YA in tone but the way it comes together in the end completely surprised me and was the great stuff of adult high fantasy.

Read this one if you loved Raybearer. Goodreads says it’s perfect for fans of Tomi Adeyemi but I disagree, I enjoyed this one much more than the Orisha story. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Thanks to Libro.FM for access to an ALC of this novel. I will say the narrator’s breathing bothered me a lot, but that could just be crazy old me – my rating is based on the story not the delivery because as much as I was annoyed I wanted to plow on. All opinions above are my own.

Would you want the ability to see the future if you could?

REVIEW: How We Ricochet

How We Ricochet is a timely YA piece about a family dealing with the aftermath of being present at a mass shooting at a mall. This mother and two daughters are going about their lives and suddenly they are forced to face their own mortality. This leaves them each spinning in wildly different directions. Mom becomes an anti-gun activist, Joy becomes a complete shut-in masking her fears with substances and Betty, our main character, finds herself drawn to the brother of the shooter. Each are trying to understand what happened, why them and how to cope with grief and survivor’s guilt. I thought this was really well thought out, we saw lots of different perspectives of coping with fear and grief as well as some teen angst and adult denial. I really loved the three different perspectives because they each were equal measures rational and irrational. 

This is a quick read but certainly not an easy one. I want to say today’s teens live in a different world but frankly Columbine happened when I was in high school and that was literally decades ago, so unfortunately, the world feels like it’s just repeating itself over and over leaving more victims of grief. This one will definitely tug on your heart and give you plenty to think about.

Thanks to Harper Teen for the gifted copy. All opinions above are my own.

How do you deal with grief?

REVIEW: The Gravity of Missing Things

You’d think as someone who travels for a living, that I wouldn’t read plane crash stories. But the truth is, I can’t resist them. They are always compelling and the mystery of what went wrong is always so interesting to me. In this story, a plane goes missing mysteriously mid-flight and we follow the pilot’s family as they navigate the uncertainty and grief. Violet is a junior in high school and she felt she had a special bond with her mother. That bond has her torn at the seams with fear for her mother. As the investigation begins to uncover her mother’s secrets and query whether perhaps the plane going missing was her fault, Violet goes into investigator mode. She tries to balance her regular life with her sister, best friend, theater commitments and her new crush with this aching grief and uncertainty surrounding her mother’s fate.

I have to say, I didn’t like Violet much. She was quite self-centered and un-empathetic to everyone in her life. What I did like was the other characters calling her on her nonsense, but overall, it was very young YA in tone. There is some growth in Violet and the explanation we get about her mother’s life was a bit unexpected. There are a ton of potential triggers in Violet’s life and pretty good representation. It was a quick easy read that I tackled in one sitting and there was enough in there to get you thinking. 

⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Thanks to Entangled Teen for the gifted copy. All opinions above are my own.

Where did you go on your last flight?

REVIEW: Woman of Light

Woman of Light tells us the story of several generations of a family living in the American West in the early 1900’s. They have indigenous and Mexican roots and therefore are considered less than. At every turn, in every generation we see the limitations of their lives and what they are able to do and achieve, who they are able to love and how easily they are taken advantage of and abused. We get three stories, the most modern of which centers upon Luz and Diego living in the 1930’s – they are both trying to advance themselves and are continually knocked down by the world. But they are also quite short-sighted at the sacrifices and pain their aunt, parents and grandparents had to endure to give them the chances they have. Slowly through alternating chapters we learn more about this family and the generational pain and repeated ways they were taken advantage of.

I love a multi-generational story as well as early American life stories. I am grateful to hear / read one focused on the marginalized, the cultures whose stories were previously told by the white majority and therefore were portrayed as villains or lazy. This story tells you the truth, the ease with which these hardworking people who dreamed of more, were constantly held back. That treatment, the violence and insults are not easy to read, but important to acknowledge and experience. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐

I alternated listening to this one via ALC thanks to Libro.FM and reading it via the generosity of the publisher via Netgalley. The narrator was fabulous in the audio version. I ultimately went on to purchase a copy of the novel. All opinions above are my own.

Audiobook REVIEW: The Taxidermist’s Lover

This book oozes gothic atmosphere – set in the southwest moors of England, Scarlett is a woman who belongs in a century long past. She is a dramatic woman dripping with femininity and sensuality lost in her obsession with the macabre taxidermy creatures designed by her husband. Written in an epistolary style, Scarlett is writing to her husband as her passions turn to obsession, recounting their love, the evolution of his work, the mystery of her past and her descent into madness. Her words are intense and overwrought but beautiful, drawing you into the mundane moments, getting you lost in the fantastical ones, raising the hairs on your spine in the haunting ones and drowning you in the passionate ones.

I did this one on audiobook and the narrator had this beautiful, buttery British accent which helped set the tone of the story for me and had me struggling to turn off the narrative and get back to real life. If you love Frankenstein or Dracula this book will enthrall you with its similar gothic creepiness.⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐

Thanks to Netgalley for access to this audiobook. All opinions above are my own.

What do you think – is taxidermy cool or weird?

You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty

I was absolutely floored by Emezi’s The Death of Vivek Oji, I don’t think I’d ever read a book that left me so shattered. So I was quite looking forward to their new book. Feyi is an artist who lost her husband to an accident and is in a state of stasis. She has avoided relationships and even hook ups. Her best friend convinces her to go out and when we meet her, she’s having her first physical encounter and testing the waters of her emotions. The trauma is still fresh and she does everything she can to push people away. She is pursued by a lovely guy who agrees to take it slow and just be friends until she is ready. Unfortunately, when she is ready the person she has her eye on is in his inner circle and some serious drama ensues. The story really focuses on Feyi’s journey coping with grief and finding hope in love again.

My main issue with the book is that it was quite graphic with the sex scenes, that’s just not my style. I understand that is what makes romances sell these days but there was so many layers to Feyi that filled the page with much more entertaining and probing details. The descriptions of Feyi’s art, gorgeous descriptions of the island and mouthwatering cooking scenes. There were times where I was really annoyed with her choices but I think she got there in the end. This was an enjoyable read that I got through in one sitting.

Check this one out if you liked Queenie or any of Farrah Rochon’s books. ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Thanks to Netgalley for advanced access to this novel. All opinions above are my own.

What are you reading today?

ARC REVIEW: The Island

Dear lord, what did I just read?! There is barely a second of this book that is not pulse pounding action. Probably more horror than your typical thriller, I really loved the survival aspects of this one. It is rife with violence and gory scenes, there are probably 20 trigger warnings so definitely beware if you’re a sensitive person.

We start off with a scene right in the middle of the action, a writing strategy I totally love. Then we get a few calm chapters to set the scene of this family visiting Australia for a conference. Tom is a well to do doctor, married to his younger second wife, Heather. His two children are not fans of their new stepmother and are spoiled little brats, medicated to the hilt. Just befor the conference, the family wants to do a little exploring to see some koalas. The bribe their way onto a private island, a decision they will come to regret.

The family who owns the island are insular and ruthless. When an accident forces Tom and Heather to face the family head on, they’re quickly outmatched. They spend half the time running from the family and half the time trying to survive the harsh Australian island. 

The pages really flew for me on this one. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Thanks to Netgalley for access to this novel. All opinions above are my own.

What’s the last Island you visited?