REVIEW: Belladonna

Signa is an orphan who has lived in several homes, each touched by unfortunate deaths. As she is coming towards the end of her youth, and about to come into her inheritance, she is once again in a new home. She moves in just as the matriarch of the family has died and the daughter, who is her age, is growing ill. She quickly finds herself embroiled in the mystery, who is responsible for the ill fate of this family and why does death follow her so closely? 

Turns out in this one, Death is a person, not a spoiler… it’s in the blurb. Of course, Death is sexy and mysterious… que the Addie LaRue comparisons. I enjoyed the atmosphere of this one and the plucky heroine but the two “big” twists were super obvious. The first half was a beautiful build but as the reveals began, I found myself a little underwhelmed. I always enjoy Adalyn Grace’s world building but just found the plot a little formulaic of gothic YA fantasy. I’m sure I will still enjoy the sequel however the epilogue cliffhanger was unneccessary.

Thanks to Little Brown for access via Netgalley. All opinions above are my own.

Do you like a murder mystery with some fantastical elements or do you prefer they are straightforward?

REVIEW: The Light Pirate

Wanda is born amidst a hurricane that devastates her family and is indicative of the destruction that is ahead for Florida. This future world has Florida being returned to the wild as storms repeatedly lash it taking life and livelihood. The storytelling is unique and covers the nuts and bolts of survival intertwined with the resilience of humanity when faced with such loss.

Devastating. Honestly this is a heartbreak of a book. Be prepared for that going in. I mean it’s dystopian, so you should expect some strife, but this one is realistic and raw. The writing is very evocative. It does one thing I generally dislike in books, huge time jumps, it did leave me wanting more each time it jumped but on the other hand, I felt like I got why the story needed to be that way. The other thing that I liked but also annoyed me, was that there was a little magic in there but it’s not really explained in the end. This is definitely a beautiful, impactful story of love, loss, grief and survival but just shy of a 5 star read for me.

Thanks to LibroFM via their ALC program for gifted access to this one. All opinions above are my own.

If you were a pirate what would your unique character trait be? Peg leg? Eye patch? Parrot?

REVIEW: Demon Copperhead

“The wonder is that you could start life with nothing, end with nothing, and lose so much in between.”

——————“I don’t know a single person, my age who’s not taking pills.”

——————-

Kingsolver gives you exactly what she promises with this one. This story is stark and heartbreaking with a 2022 view on institutional poverty that well mirrors Dicken’s David Copperfield. Demon has the cards stacked against him from the start and never, not for one second, escapes that fate. He’s a mixed race kid with a dead father, a drug addled mother and a life empty of fulfillment. He lives through abject hunger, the absolute worst of the foster care system and the time in Appalachia where oxys are handed out like candy. He faces all of the adversity you could imagine but he maintains his heart and sharp brain. He always wants better but can never seem to get there. Even the better people in his life can never seem to get him to a better place.

This book is a big swath of America, so while it is an overwhelmingly depressing read, it is a viewpoint that is relevant. I’m glad I did it on audio because I think I would have struggled getting through 500+ pages of sad. There are a lot of deaths and abuse and children who never get the joy of innocence. But it’s powerful and truthful and well worth a read. It tackles well the systemic aspects of keeping the poor uneducated and placated with just enough to not rise up looking for better.

Thanks to LibroFM for gifted access via the ALC program. All opinions above are my own.

What are you planning to read this weekend?

REVIEW: This Woven Kingdom

Alizeh is a djinn living in hiding as a servant. She is a skilled seamstress but lives scrubbing a fancy house, only taking small commissions when she can. One night she is attacked in the street and she accidentally shows just how capable she is… the person who sees her is none other than the prince. He believes her to be the foretold prophecy that will unseat his grandfather the king. He finds himself unduly drawn to her, reluctant to dispose of her as he should. And then banter and plotting ensues with an early reveal of what is really going on and then the unfurling of the prophecy.

Yeesh, why did I sleep on this one? I mean look at that edition, I think I was too afraid to mess it up while reading. So I solved that by getting it on audiobook. The romance aspect dripped of Elizabeth and Darcy, it captured me for sure. I loved the mythology of the djinn, the unusual magic, the beauty of their kingdom and the nods to other fairy tales (like Cinderella). ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I’m glad I waited until the next book is about to be released though because I can’t wait to dive back into this world. What sequel are you anxiously awaiting this year?

REVIEW: Spare

I know there’s a lot of controversy around this one, but it’s definitely unprecedented to have such frank access to a royal family member. This document will be analyzed forever throughout history.

I don’t blame Harry for taking the opportunity to tell his truth. Especially because he feels so deeply that his family didn’t properly support him. He offered to walk away to leave a peaceful quiet life and that was not possible. Not only was it not possible but his family seems to have stoked the fervor with the press that was Harry’s big grievance. I am not judging him for his methodology here, if I could expose all of the grievances I have with my family and had the platform he has, I would take it as well!

I find it super funny that the main narrative in reviews is the selfishness of the royal family. Those folks have to dig back in history, this is nothing. In the old days, it would have been off with this kid’s head!

Truthfully though, I found the memoir as a whole to be quite boring. For someone who had everything at his fingertips, he really didn’t take great advantage of it. I wish him luck with his future life, I really hope he finds peace and purpose from here.

Amazon / Audible rejected this review… I thought Harry was a little over the top with his press paranoia… but then my review is rejected “for not meeting community standards.” Like Harry, I’m ok with that, community standards are ridiculous these days. Do you have reviews that get frequently rejected?

REVIEW: Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries

Emily Wilde is an adjunct professor on the mission of her lifetime in snowy Ljosland where she is looking to catalog the hidden people, faeries who live in the snow and are rarely seen. She is looking to have her name in the spotlight and for once claim the glory of her findings. Her rival Wendell Brambleby is always swooping in and stealing her thunder. She tries to settle in the remote town but struggles with the locals and just as she’s gaining some traction, Wendell shows up and ruins her plans. Then faerie mischief ensues.

Oh, I wanted to like this book so much more than I did. Emily was too prickly. Wendell too annoying. I didn’t buy the relationship between them at all. I liked the information about the faeries but I felt like there wasn’t enough of that, especially in the first half. By the time they got to the second half, I was mostly bored. The language of the read was challenging which made it even less fun. The last 20% reminded me of Midnight in Everwood, which I loved, but it was too little too late to turn my opinion around on this one.

Thanks to Orbit for gifted access via Netgalley. All opinions above are my own.

What’s the last book that was a big let down for you?

Pub Day REVIEW: What Lies in the Woods

Twenty two years ago, three eleven year old best friends used to play imaginary games in the woods. But on one horrible afternoon they were attacked, with Naomi’s testimony a serial killer was arrested. Now a podcaster is looking into the truth of their story and the girls are forced to confront what really happened to them in the woods.

This one was super pacey and insanely twisty. It played on some tropes in the thriller world that I don’t always love… but in this case, it all came together perfectly. The right clues are there, and while I guessed a few of the twists… How they came together in the end was a surprise for sure. This is the perfect read in one sitting type of thriller.

Thanks to Macmillian Audio for gifted access to this audiobook via Netgalley. I did go on to purchase a copy. All opinions above are my own.

Is the idea of a walk in the the woods a fun, adventure for you or haunting and creepy?

REVIEW: In the Time of Our History

This one reminded me of A Woman is No Man or Thrity Umrigar’s Honor. We get a story about the realities of women living in cultures / religions where they are expected to be subservient and less than. Mitra is a modern woman living in the US and although her parents live here as well, their relationship and expectations for their daughters are very traditional. In choosing herself she loses the connection with her family. She also feels incapable of forming a relationship of any substance with any man because she does not want to lose her autonomy. 

After the death of her sister, she is forced home and must confront the truths of their family. There are definitely passages that are hard to read and abuses that break your heart. (For folks who want trigger warnings there is sexual violence, verbal abuse and physical mutilation described.) I always find the idea that being an immigrant leads to this perception that someone can not be American enough and conversely to their own people, in this case Iran, they will never be Irani enough. You’d think after centuries of people moving from place to place these prejudices would fade. That celebrating your culture while enjoying being immersed in another would truly be what the modern world is about. Also the idea that if a woman is raped, she brought it on in some way is always hard to swallow, especially when even women perpetuate this idea.

We do see progress in some family members and that will have to be enough, as is true in our own families. Regardless of our cultures, in families we ignore small slights and sometimes choose to not confront the things that keep us apart. In stories like these, while there are aspects that are new or “foreign” it’s always amazing to me how the human experience is quite the same.

Thanks to Highbridge Audio for gifted access to the audiobook via Netgalley. The narrator was great! All opinions above are my own.

REVIEW: The True Purpose of Vines

Julia is one of the best port winemakers in 1870’s Portugal. Following her husband’s passing she has maintained her vineyard’s status and is working towards fulfilling a contract they have with an English investor. When a man is sent to check on her progress, she is suddenly threatened by a man who can’t believe that a woman can effectively run the business. There are immediately sparks between the two, but another man has eyes on Julia and will stop at nothing to have her. To top it all off, there is a blight threatening the crop and Julia must find a way to stop it before her livelihood is ruined.

I love Portugal, so I was quite happy to read historical fiction set there. Julia is definitely a woman outside of her time, she was cunning, intelligent and headstrong. I am actually surprised she was able to run the place as long as she did in the type of society she was living in. The romance was not heavy handed, although there is some steam for those that need that (it wasn’t too much for folks who don’t like it). I think what I liked the most is that there was some science to the winemaking and grafting of the plants, I felt like I learned something while reading.

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

What’s your favorite wine?

REVIEW: Lessons in Chemistry

Elizabeth Zott is a woman before her time. She is passionate about chemistry in a world that only wants to see her as a housewife. She moves through her career being defined by the men around her. Being used and abused, with no one acknowledging her brain or her talent but rather her looks. When she appropriates some beakers from a man on a different floor of her research institute her life is changed forever. She is finally seen as the chemist she wants to be, although he also tries to put her in the box he wants her in. 

This book offers frustration (especially if you are a woman, double especially if you are a woman in science) and hilarity. Every single woman will relate to Elizabeth as she barrels against every male built wall in her life. You will love her quirky daughter, her amazing dog and her friends will make you cheer. The hurdles she leaps and people she inspires will warm your heart. Not sure how your average white male will feel about this story, it definitely paints them in an awful (but mostly true) light.

Put this one on your reading list for sure!

Tell me about a woman who inspires you…