Boy, was this a long week. But I got a fabulous stack of #bookmail to bring me joy every time I went to the mailbox each day. The bottom four I purchased. Sistersong and The Deception of Harriet Fleet came from Goldsboro Books. Oculta is the Fairyloot special edition sequel to Nocturna. I got People We Meet on Vacation as my Book of the Month to take with me to Hawaii in two weeks.
The top four were all gifted to me by some fabulous publishers. Thanks to Algonquin Books for A Theater for Dreamers and the 15th anniversary edition of Water for Elephants. Thanks to Henry Holt for Test Gods, you know I’m always down for a great space read! And thanks to Booksparks for my #springbookscope books Finding Napoleon and Of Women and Salt.
It’s absolutely pouring rain here today so I’m happy I’ve got such a great stack to choose from for reading materials on this cozy day.
“Even now, the thought of staying here forever felt like a hand squeezing me tighter and tighter – this phantom hand molding me into the shape everyone else wanted me to be.”
Ok, so this was my first cozy mystery… the genre never appealed to me because I generally prefer a grittier story. I choose this however because I adore Filipino culture and the idea of a story wrapped up around food. Those two aspects of this book I really enjoyed.
Lila, to me, was not the most relatable character though. Surrounded by people she has personal relationships dying she didn’t really seem to have deep emotions about any of it. She focused her efforts on finances and food and a seemingly useless search for the killer who was, in my mind, pretty easy to spot.
I was disappointed at the lack of real engagement with her best friend and two love interests which both started out as promising sub-plots but didn’t really get developed in any way. And the connection between her aunt and the detective had promise but we never got clear answers there either.
I did feel the author perfectly encapsulates small town life though. Everyone caught in everyone’s business and having to live up to the expectations of both your family and everyone in town.
I enjoyed the story but felt like it needed a little more development in some areas to reach its full potential. I think it would make a great beach read though.
Thanks to Netgalley for a copy of this novel. All opinions above are my own.
“That’s right. If it has its voice, it is not trapped.”
I don’t know what it is about stories in Havana, but I am enamored. I also really love stories about old Hollywood… So this one was right up my alley. We see our beautiful Estelita hob nob with Desi Arnaz, John Wayne, Angie Dickinson and more glamorous celebrities.
This is the story of a mother and daughter and the trauma which defined their lives. Estelita is brought to America by her mother when she is very young to become a star. They leave the rest of their family behind in politically charged Cuba. Her father is a Batista supporter and this has a huge impact on their lives as the story progresses. Estelita becomes a celebrity and offers her daughter very little attention and care. She’s focused on her career and her love life; the repercussions of those choices will shock you.
I’m not huge on giving trigger warnings but there are several scenes of sexual assault, rape and domestic abuse in this story. Those scenes are especially hard to read as they involve at times children. This novel is based on the true life of Estelita Rodriguez. If this were fiction I would say there is so much violence that it borders on gratuitous and the murder seemed kind of random and unresolved but it was sobering to read knowing that these events actually happened.
This is a powerful story of the survival and resilience of two women. It shows how powerless women were in Cuba and frankly, in America as well in the 50s and 60s. I will say I had a hard time not judging Estelita‘s behavior and its impact on her daughter. But these real stories of women are important deserve to be told. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“Because stealing someone else’s air is how you breathe.”
Mirrorland is a psychological thriller that I imagine won’t be for everyone but boy did I enjoy it! The story follows Cat who travels home to Scotland after her twin sister, El, goes missing. Cat and her sister haven’t spoken in years but were very close as children, what pushed them close and pulled them apart is slowly revealed to you throughout the story. As a coping mechanism, Cat and El built themselves a fantasy world, Mirrorland, which was full of pirates, witches and clowns.
When Cat arrives she is forced to remember the details of that fantasy world as El has left her clues about what really happened to her in the place that only she can access. Through this Cat is forced to face the traumas of her childhood and the realities of her sister’s adulthood.
I really loved the almost reverential tribute to Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, I really reveled in that being a featured fandom in their fantasy world. I would say in the beginning Mirrorworld is a bit of a mess to untangle but stick with it because in the end it all makes sense.
The writing is really evocative and your sense of paranoia will grow with Cat and will begin to suspect everyone and I predict you will really enjoy the ending. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Thanks so much to Netgalley for a copy of this novel. All opinions above are my own.
“People will seek to use you or destroy you. If you want to live, you must pick a side. So do not shirk from war, child. Do not flinch from suffering. When you hear screaming, run toward it.”
When we last left Rin, she had done the unthinkable and allowed her Phoenix to destroy with no restraint. The war was won but now that she knew the truth of the intent behind the war, she was bubbling with of shame for more reason than one. She emerges from her opium haze with her eyes set on revenge. She’s found herself a new cause to throw herself into and as with before, she dives in with blind gusto. As time progresses she begins to see that her goals may not align as perfectly with the cause and that she may have to make more compromises than she bargained for to win this war… that is if she still believes this war is the one to won.
What I loved about this story is that Rin is still as idealistic as ever. While she has seen and participated in the atrocities of war, she still doesn’t consider any other way forward. But we do start to see her putting a human face to the destruction and the brushes it has with her inner circle do see her enthusiasm slowly replaced with something much more mature. She, Nezha and Kitay learn how to be strategic and loyal and I adore the three of them. Nehza’s evolution is fantastic and Kitay is the Hermione of this series for me. I also think this series has what most series lack… a great villain! In this case, perhaps more than one of them. The Empress is evil personified and yet as we learn more about her and how she came to be who she is, the layers there are so intriguing. Other great villains emerge but I don’t want to be spoilery, so just rest assured that there are characters with great complex motives that you will question at every step.
I think the things I didn’t love about this book may be setting things up for the next book, so I may look back on my 4 star rating after the series and wish I had rated it higher but we’ll see… ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Dragon Republic was my 70th read of the year. How many books have you read so far this year?
I’m very torn about how to rate this one, I really enjoyed the story but had a few issues with the structure of the story that kept this from being a perfect story for me. I tore through it because I love stories of Ireland and I found Moira to be so endearing and I was so invested in what happened to her.
When she arrives in Ireland, the mystery of her mother’s life and why she left Ireland for America was so compelling. There were good clues along the way and how that story unravels is both interesting and slightly stress as was her fish out of water adventure to learn the language and customs of her new home. I appreciated the word of God being used so liberally and effectively throughout.
I had some small issues with the clarity of the language at times, Gaelic is quite hard and there wasn’t always clear definitions or descriptions in the text itself. There was a glossary but in the text would have been helpful the first time a word or phrase came up would have been helpful.
But my major issue was that I struggled with the quickness of the changes in relationships between the characters there are a few times where friends quickly turn to enemies and vice versa. Emotions were very intense and easily changeable and that seemed like more a YA-type approach than I had anticipated going into this novel. They felt like teenage emotions and these characters were reported as older than that, perhaps it was just small town life but I found it really annoying and perhaps disingenuous. That rankled me a little bit at times, but I could see where it had its role in the plot. So as long as you’re aware of that going in and it’s not a bug bear for you then those parts may not bother you as much as they did me.
Overall a charming story of small town Ireland with a fun toe dip into the lore of magic of the land. ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫
Thanks to Netgalley for a copy of this novel. All opinions are my own.
I read this one as a buddy read with my grandmother, as her family is from Donegal. She hasn’t finished yet but I’ll post her review when she does. What was your last buddy read?
“The past devours those naive enough to forget it.”
“Why punish a seed for not yet being a tree?” ————————–
This just may be my favorite book of the year. The world building in this novel is some of the best I’ve ever experienced in YA fantasy. The world of Sonande is built with such beauty and more epic magic than I’ve seen in a long time. The two points of view we get are so well developed and slowly entangle in the most unexpected way. I’m not sure who I liked more Malik or Karina, they were both equally precocious and brave and reckless and principled.
Karina is the crowned princess who inherited the title following the death of her sister, as the “spare” she did not take the education of royalty seriously and her mother the Queen is frustrated over her lack of commitment to her new role. Malik is as nobody as someone can be, an orphan from a part of the country where the lowest of the low are from. He and his sisters are trying to get into the royal city for the festival that occurs once every 50 years at the appearance of a comet. When Malik makes a blood oath to a spirit in exchange for his sister’s life, he is thrust into Karina’s world and is torn between his loyalty to his family and the glamour of a royal life.
I enjoyed the competition elements for the Champion of the festival and the riddles within. But most of all I loved the elements of culture and epic storytelling weaved throughout. The tribalism and competition between the ethnicities felt so real and built a lot of tension. The ending left a lot of room for progression for these two characters without leaving me feeling wanting. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I’m finding myself heavy into fantasy this spring, what genre are you escaping to most lately?
I’ll admit, I am a relative CoHo newbie having only read Verity. That book was such a melon-twister that I gave myself some serious time before trying another of her books. But Regretting You was so utterly different. It had the same heart wrenching emotions, she’s clearly a master at that, but the suspense was not there for this story.
We follow a mother and daughter as they come to terms with the death of their husband/father and sister/aunt. Their lives are utterly destroyed in more ways than one. There were many times where I felt like the progression was predictable and other times where I was frustrated at how immature or noncommunicative they were being with one another and yet I still couldn’t put it down. In the end, there were many things I didn’t like about how the story progressed and the intensity of the emotions felt pretty unrealistic to me. ⭐️⭐️⭐️
I rushed to read this as I’ve decided to get rid of KindleUnlimited and Audible since I’m so behind on my Netgalley queue that I decided I didn’t want to spend money every month on books I never had time to read. So I’m trying to read the few KindleUnlimited books I really wanted to get to before my access disappears on Wed.
What are your thoughts on CoHo books? Do they live up to the hype for you? If you haven’t read any, what’s your favorite KindleUnlimited find?
“Their story didn’t end as it should have. But I know for a fact that they’d live it all over again, even the ending, as long as they could keep their beginning.”
The Prison Healer is well in contention for my favorite read of the year so far. In the harsh environment of the world’s fiercest prison lives the small healing light of Kiva. When she was a young girl who was brought to the prison when her father was captured. Zalindov is a place where no one lives long, the conditions are brutal and she does what she can to care for the prison’s inhabitants as the healer. Her heart is pure and she works tirelessly to treat everyone within it’s walls despite her feelings for them or how they treat her.
Her life is thrown into turmoil with the arrival of two new prisoners to the prison, one is the rebel queen who arrives ill but must face a series of challenges as punishment for her rebellion and another is a mysterious prisoner who she finds herself drawn to despite her vow to keep to herself. As she struggles to keep the queen alive, she must also unravel the mystery of a mysterious plague killing fellow prisoners.
This novel takes place in a brutal prison and there are many scenes of horror that unravel around Kiva, but her sense of purpose and drive to be the savior of those around her is really beautiful. Her relationship with Jaren has a great arc where we see her learning to love and trust again with some unimaginable consequences. I loved the healing aspects of the novel, the herbs and treatments Kiva employs and the scientific method she uses to try to find the origin of what is causing the illness. The world building was unique and the reveal on the last page shows just what a master the author was at hiding the greatest secret at all through the novel. I can’t wait to read the next book now!! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Thanks to Netgalley for a copy of this novel. All opinions above are my own. This one publishes on Tuesday so get your pre-orders in!
“She would drown herself in words, sink into the vanilla-smell of the binding, replace her blood with ink. She’d feast on the worlds and make herself anew.”
The Shadow in the Glass bills itself as a re-telling of the classic Cinderella fairy tale but it’s so much more than that. It’s dark and twisted and has all the elements of a true Grimm’s fairy tale. Eleanor is an orphan taken in by a well-to-do family as a child and loved as one of their own until her foster mother dies. Ella is in her early teens and is relegated down into house staff to languish under the never-ending work of maintaining the grand old house. She is worked to the bone and terrified by the prospect that her employer and former foster father is preying upon the girls in his employ and that she might be next.
Ella is educated beyond her station but has no way out of the miserable life laid before her, until she comes upon a book in the library. A papercut mixes blood and her desperation manifesting a haunting apparition of a woman offering her 7 wishes in exchange for her soul. Young Eleanor thinks she can out smart this ghostly benefactor by accepting the deal and just not using that final wish. As she begins to make her wishes, she realizes there is a terrible price to be paid with each one beyond just her soul.
This story is dark and haunting. You feel for Ella at every turn, she is desperately trying to make her life and the lives of her friends better but the choices she makes get her (and them) in hotter and hotter water with each one. I loved the blend of gothic Victorian London with the dark magic of this mysterious woman. We didn’t get much of a story of what was behind the magic, I think that would have bumped it up to five stars for me but it was still a fabulous story to get lost in. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Thanks to Netgalley for a copy of this novel. All opinions above are my own.
If you had a chance to make seven wishes, what would your first wish be?