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Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

Maggie Holt is used to such questions. Twenty-five years ago, she and her parents, Ewan and Jess, moved into Baneberry Hall, a rambling Victorian estate in the Vermont woods. They spent three weeks there before fleeing in the dead of night, an ordeal Ewan later recounted in a nonfiction book called House of Horrors. His tale of ghostly happenings and encounters with malevolent spirits became a worldwide phenomenon, rivaling The Amityville Horror in popularity—and skepticism.

Today, Maggie is a restorer of old homes and too young to remember any of the events mentioned in her father’s book. But she also doesn’t believe a word of it. Ghosts, after all, don’t exist. When Maggie inherits Baneberry Hall after her father’s death, she returns to renovate the place to prepare it for sale. But her homecoming is anything but warm. People from the past, chronicled in House of Horrors, lurk in the shadows. And locals aren’t thrilled that their small town has been made infamous thanks to Maggie’s father. Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself—a place filled with relics from another era that hint at a history of dark deeds. As Maggie experiences strange occurrences straight out of her father’s book, she starts to believe that what he wrote was more fact than fiction.

In the latest thriller from New York Times bestseller Riley Sager, a woman returns to the house made famous by her father’s bestselling horror memoir. Is the place really haunted by evil forces, as her father claimed? Or are there more earthbound—and dangerous—secrets hidden within its walls?

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I was really drawn into this one. I think it was because there were so many moving parts and it had all the mysterious elements that make for an interesting story. There were some issues with the writing and the story itself, however I was along for the ride anyway.

I read this one for the Literally Dead Book Club. I listened to the audiobook version, narrated by Cady McClain and Jon Lindstrom which I enjoyed.

The story.
I liked the build up. I liked the atmosphere, the setting, the elements of backstory and going back in real time with changing POVs to meet somewhere in the middle. I couldn’t decide whether it was going to be based on my lack of information, or psychological, or supernatural, or a simple thought-experiment, it kept me on my toes. I also like to go in blind with books, barely skimming the descriptions, looking for themes and key words that either turn me on or off to a story and diving in from there and this book was easy for me to get into based on just a few interests of mine, mostly having to do with a Victorian estate.

I liked how it played heavily on the emotions of scare tactics. There were unmentioned assumptions which were well played. Assumptions that people freak out over snakes, startled by creeps of hidden floor boards, flickering lights, music, appealing to a multitude of senses, creating a frightening scene and letting the reader play on those emotions and reactions, indulge in risking that readers would respond in such a way author intended without drawing unnecessary attention to itself as a thriller and doing more of the show instead of tell which went a long way.

This book was great, it definitely got super messy though. Mostly related to the composition of the plot which left loose ends, relied on convenient amnesia, question of plausibility, underlying lack of communication which created a sort of drama fatigue with ever-changing new leads and secrecy that started off convincing, yet only to a point.

The characters.
Ali had some characteristics I had expected from a daughter but came off as then it is but then it’s not, the relationship with her family was this, then it wasn’t. Flipped back and forth. Emotionally expressive verbally with adoration for her father but emotionally absent in every other way. I wanted the personal threats to the female main character to feel a little more personal in a realistic way. For her to be very much in the headspace of denial with counter arguments that don’t hold much weight with her continued action to pursue sleuthing, then it kind of fell apart from that aspect.

Character roles.
Surprised at word choice of professionals such as the chief saying crime scene guys instead of detectives. Contradictory whether the old furniture had any value or obvious signs of water damage for someone who renovates houses, also no home inspection, no blue prints, even for a historic home were just some things that were amiss for me.

The ending.
And the ending? So unsatisfying. A cover up? No thought to age of reason?

But I liked this book anyway, go figure. I was just in the mood for a read like this and it delivered in ways that were outside of the shortcomings I felt it had and I really enjoyed it.



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Book Blog Book Reviews Featured Fiction Romance

Spring Tides at Swallowtail Bay (Swallowtail Bay, Book 1) by Katie Ginger

Licking her wounds from her divorce, Stella impulsively buys a gift shop and two holiday lets in glorious Swallowtail Bay, hoping for a fresh start with her King Charles Spaniel Frank.

When the neighbours meet her with a warm welcome, Stella knows she’s found the new home she was looking for. Even gorgeous but grumpy local Miles can’t take the shine off things. But then her ex-husband announces he’s getting married again, and someone in the village starts gossiping about Stella…

Is Stella’s dream over already? Or, with her new friends behind her, can Stella fight back and save her new life – and find the happy ever after she’s been waiting for?

Spring Tides at Swallowtail Bay by Katie Ginger

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


This was ok, sort of liked it, sort of teetering on my opinion about it. I really wanted to like this one more than I did though. I couldn’t stay focused on it. I think those who like a slow, easy feeling read will enjoy this one more than I did.

I loved the idea of the story, the business, the shops, the bay, the small town, people being friendly, learning about the character circumstances, how they got there, how they were coming to be, the things everyone was doing, the setting.

But getting through loads of descriptors after the first 20-30 pages really bogged down my reading experience.

I felt like I was wading around the surf in JNCO jeans. Almost two pages dedicated to describing the flat was unappealing to me. The overly detailed descriptions didn’t add much depth or interest, rather they became incredibly distracting as I read on.

Just the flat, knowing everything about it being dirty, the layout, the furniture, actually leading to repetition and over-emphasis throughout the book. Then the activities of walking up to meet someone, reaching for a knob, opening doors, closing doors, glancing out windows, putting a cup to their mouth, setting the cup down, using a napkin, picking up a fork, loading the fork with cake, taking a bite, setting the fork down, their every physical move documented with every interaction.

It was just too slow-paced and bulky, cluttered for my style, obstacles to my enjoyment of what I thought was actually a really story so I will look forward to exploring more from that aspect.

I’m interested in checking out the others in the series and seeing what they are like.



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The Guest List by Lucy Foley

On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom a rising television star. The bride 
a magazine publisher.

It’s a wedding for a magazine in a remote location. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. And then someone turns up dead.

Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why?

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This was great!

The story. The story was so well thought out. I think the effect was there, an enjoyable thriller, winding tighter and tighter, chapters transitioning from back story, to real time action, shortening in length as they went on, the intensity increasing like a tether ball winding around the pole at 4th grade recess.

Weddings are stressful for everyone and all the elements of wedding bliss and actual outcome were captured in the most dynamic way. I liked that this was an isolated closed mystery story taking place on an exclusive island with a fitting topography and Celtic history that drove the plot forward.

And it’s one of those books I think, predictable or not, if you wanted to by all sleuthy, there’s enough satisfaction in the story and satisfaction in the writing that an early lightbulb moment would be just as fulfilling reading onward.

The writing. I loved the strategically placed words, hinting about what was to come related to someone not leaving the island the way they arrived. I liked the strategically placed red herrings, the foreshadowing with words like… well I won’t quote the phrases, but they were letting me know something very specific was going to take place.

I really liked the way the POVs were done. First person narrative was done well with quite a bit of varied sentence structure and presented with a style of foreknowledge and knowledge acquisition in a really fresh and interesting way, especially when it came to description of physical traits which aimed for unbelabored accuracy in just a few words.

It was not as linear as I had expected in the beginning. Parts felt like chapters were missing with the multiple POVs, foretelling mixed with current events. I realized though how much I dove in, speed mode, by the time I got to page 30, realizing I was finally starting to commit things to memory and so I decided to restart the book and then it all made so much better sense to me.

Characters. First off the character roles were perfect, the couple, the plus one, the single… A wedding party composed of friends and family, reminiscing over everything you see and experience from the social aspect at wedding festivities from shared memories, childhood crushes, deviant behavior, life successes and failures, talents, desires.

I thought it was all well done especially when it came to character distinction, partly in due because of the age range/generational similarities and the author made them all shine in their own way.

Personalities from dialogue to inner monologue, action, all following suit and each had attachments of deeper connectivity, defining life stories with hopes and dreams, insecurities, consistent with life stages, elements of what could have been and nostalgia of pasts relationships, regret, even down to the awkwardness of joining conversation, all interwoven in such a way I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next. All of it nicely curated to fit perfectly within the story being told.

Some questions, but not deal breakers. I did want to know what happened to a certain character aside from the emotional response that was displayed. Was it a lost one? I don’t know. And I don’t know if it really mattered. I enjoyed reading the story so much anyway, but thought I’d mention it because it did linger in my head.

It did end sort of abruptly after the peak. I kind of wanted to see a bit more character reflection after the reveal, especially of a certain few. I didn’t expect to have full resolution or discourse, but just a little more internal dialogue or character interaction to bring situational awareness to everyone involved as a bit of closure to the post wedding festivities and relationships. Likely my feelings about this are because the greater first 3rd was more about building up character dynamic than action and I would have liked the story to have picked up a bit again from this angle in the end for full circle completeness.

Super good book nonetheless!

MY FAVORITE LINES:

“I look down at the spilled contents, shining gold tubes of mascara and lipsticks rolling in a bid for freedom across the floorboards, an overturned compact leaking a trail of bronzing powder.”



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Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death (Agatha Raisin #1) by M.C. Beaton

“The irascible but endearing personality of Agatha Raisin is like a heady dash of curry. May we have another serving, please?”
DETROIT FREE PRESS
Agatha has moved to a picture-book English village and wants to get in the swing. So she buys herself a quiche for the village quiche-making contest and is more than alarmed when it kills a judge. Hot on the trail of the poisoner, Agatha is fearless, all the while unaware, that she’s become the next victim….

Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death by M.C. Beaton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Ok now that I’ve read the first one, I’m starting to get it, as likely author intended, and will keep coming back to this series, though probably picking and choosing which themes I think I’d like rather than order in series now that the foundation has been set. There are just certain ones I want I’m more drawn to in both title and cover and want to read certain ones sooner than later. We’ll see though.

I listened to this one via audiobook, narrated by Penelope Keith, who was just perfect for this book in both telling of characters quirks and the setting being in Cotswolds, but she just can tell a story with such enthusiasm, multi-dimensional, getting-into-my-thought-pattern type of story narration.

The main character was the perfect example of an unlikeable main protagonist that you just love to read about.

With the story, she fumbles through life, flaws and victories, predicaments self-inflicted but the plot ends up having other contributing factors to her embarrassing situations which kept it curious and more favorably complex than just frustrating character stupidity or poor character development.

There was enough life experiences or knowledge of certain topics built into the story to give credibility to baking and prize winning, a little less to poisoning and criminology, but I enjoyed it thoroughly nonetheless.

As with #3, the climax and character reveal was just so late. I don’t know if this is an ongoing, purposeful theme and writing style of every book. I don’t know. Everything else was just superb but this bit drove me nuts. The stories and characters are interesting enough that if you figure out “whodunnit” early, the story and characters have just enough substance to keep subsequent reading enjoyable and it would actually be more pleasurable to read more post reveal, but maybe the author didn’t know that about herself and perhaps wanted to play it safe and didn’t want the subsequent parts to become a post revelation slump for early sleuthers.

Anyway I’m looking forward to the rest in this series and may revisit my thoughts on them after I read a few more. And I’m actually wondering if it is the audio narration that is so well done that is compelling me to read more, which is something to think about and don’t mind at all because it is actually that enjoyable.



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Book Reviews Books Fantasy Featured Fiction Historical Fiction

The Bear and the Nightingale (Winternight Trilogy #1) by Katherine Arden

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind–she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed–this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I really enjoyed parts of this one, for very specific reasons.

The story was one that took me back to my absolute love for Grimms’ fairy tales. The lure of folklore, fantastical creatures, the mystery of forests, unfolding into an almost creepy, dark parade of characters that share how they came to be with a startling past, connection to the present, and some sort of unsought wisdom and knowledge being imparted to those who interact with them. And then the excitement is waiting to see what the protagonist does with their new found friend/knowledge and follow them along as they fall into traps of deceit, conquests, and satisfying endings. And offer something valuable, entertaining, precious, insightful in the meanwhile.

I enjoyed the ideas put forth in this one, being set in Russia, the atmosphere of village life in winter, the author was great at creating a lovely, solid opening scene for the characters to live in. For me, this was the driving force and bulk of joy I found in the book. The fantastical characters, intelligent and fierce, they had drive, they had something to offer.

In this book, bits of the story seemed to be more of a retelling of certain folklore, which was great, but the more I read on, I found myself longing for either a completely original piece of work or a retelling of just a few known fairy tales into one, like Into the Woods for comparison. This was because the number of characters to keep track of became a bit too much. The focus seemed to change from following an intriguing young girl’s story to a compulsion to include numerous characters that were less important in her journey and this took the book in tangents that were less supportive in her development, and for me, really started to become quite boring half way through.

I loved the writing style in the beginning, presenting characters with a balance of intriguing descriptions and dialogue, going into a trajectory where I found myself wanting to know what was going to happen. I couldn’t put the book down. However about the 3rd-4th/5th way through the book, there wasn’t much being added to the overall characterization and storyline to keep my interest and drive to move the plot forward. It became more of an introduction of these multiple characters and I had to put the book down for several weeks because the story became incredibly slow and quite dry at these points.

It was becoming less reliant on character development, which I thought at the beginning was going to be really strong and something I was looking forward to, but instead, it simmered down to an excellent opening, a heavy reliance on atmospheric description which was a major strength at the beginning, followed by introductions of multiple characters with nowhere to go.

The main action was a major, abrupt shift in the story and overtook the plot, the book as a whole. It was characters upon characters interacting with each other on the sidelines, power struggles again and again, like the game of Final Fantasy, battle scenes, sword clinking with sword, sword clinking with sword, and more sword clinking with sword.

And what I really wanted to do is walk around the village more and talk to people. The main characters I got to know, I wanted to know, sort of became lost in the mix and therefore there was this disconnect to the main plot and that’s where I lost most of my interest. The atmospheric presentation, though amazing, was’t enough to carry the story through and the action scenes became somewhat redundant, missing opportunities for character development, building overall trajectory, or solidifying plot.

And then the book just ended. I suppose much was a pacing issue, like an erratic, brake happy driver. It was fine and smooth when getting on the freeway, but the journey became a bit rough, a little dull, and didn’t end with much satisfaction. Upon reading, I didn’t realize it was a trilogy, but still, I wanted more. I wanted justification, I wanted reason, I wanted forethought fleshed out.

But kudos, kudos, kudos to the amazing opener, tempting ideas, and fanciful, luring setting and scene descriptions.



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The Ghost Brigades (Old Man’s War #2) by John Scalzi

The Ghost Brigades are the Special Forces of the Colonial Defense Forces, elite troops created from the DNA of the dead and turned into the perfect soldiers for the CDF’s toughest operations. They’re young, they’re fast and strong, and they’re totally without normal human qualms.

The universe is a dangerous place for humanity—and it’s about to become far more dangerous. Three races that humans have clashed with before have allied to halt our expansion into space. Their linchpin: the turncoat military scientist Charles Boutin, who knows the CDF’s biggest military secrets. To prevail, the CDF must find out why Boutin did what he did.

Jared Dirac is the only human who can provide answers — a superhuman hybrid, created from Boutin’s DNA, Jared’s brain should be able to access Boutin’s electronic memories. But when the memory transplant appears to fail, Jared is given to the Ghost Brigades.

At first, Jared is a perfect soldier, but as Boutin’s memories slowly surface, Jared begins to intuit the reason’s for Boutin’s betrayal. As Jared desperately hunts for his “father,” he must also come to grips with his own choices. Time is running out: The alliance is preparing its offensive, and some of them plan worse things than humanity’s mere military defeat…

The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I just loved the witty humor, the science, the mere confirmation through human observation.

I listened to this one via audiobook, narrated by William Dufris, which was excellent.

I loved the speculation, the licorice, the confrontation, the human discovery. Some parts droned on a bit, I really wanted to know John Perry again, and a little more concrete and emotional connection between the characters (yet while side characters to maintain their distinction) and the direction the overall plot trajectory, but I’m looking forward to continuing on in the series.



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The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.

A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly’s wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I thought this was great. I listened to it via audiobook, narrated by the author himself, which I’d highly recommend.

The writing, the story, really captured the innocence, both literal and magical thinking of a child, yet was palatable as an adult reader.

Kittens, staircases, hidden places, wormholes, riddle-like quests. Curiosity, the feeling of getting in trouble, being disciplined, friendships, dangers and fears, and dinner manners. All the themes, concepts, and individual interpretation shared, making for a really compelling read.



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Agatha Raisin and the Potted Gardener (Agatha Raisin #3) by M.C. Beaton

Never say die. That’s the philosophy Agatha Raisin clings to when she comes home to cozy Carsely and finds a new woman ensconced in the affections of her attractive bachelor neighbor, James Lacey. 

The beautiful newcomer, Mary Fortune, is superior in every way, especially when it comes to gardening. And Agatha, that rose with many thorns, hasn’t a green thumb to her name. With garden Open Day approaching, she longs for a nice juicy murder to remind James of her genius for investigation. 

And sure enough, a series of destructive assaults on the finest gardens is followed by an appalling murder. Agatha seizes the moment and immediately starts yanking up village secrets by their roots and digging up all the dirt on the victim. Problem is, Agatha has an awkward secret of her own…

Agatha Raisin and the Potted Gardener by M.C. Beaton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Such a delightful read during summer gardening season.

I listened to this one as an audiobook, narrated by Penelope Keith, who was an amazing story teller for these types of cozy mystery books, especially for the setting of an old English village where the vernacular and voice portrayal made so much sense in both time and place. She also brought out the snarky side of the main character which confirmed that it wasn’t all in my mind.

This was my first in the series, which I chose out of order because of the season, so I’ll have to catch up on the others, but so far, I enjoyed it. It was a short, easy read which made it all the more perfect for the moment for me as a typical mood reader.

The storyline and writing were interesting to follow with unique character quirks that I found delight in. I didn’t know if I was supposed to love or hate the main (or even the side characters), but sometimes it doesn’t matter because the plot was the driving force and it was quite entertaining to be stilted by unconventional characters that brought a different flavor to the mix in each their own way.

I would have liked a bit more integration of gardening subject matter. And sometimes the main character’s remarks in conversation and love interest/crush made me question her whole persona. And the climax/plot reveal were a little too late in an anticipated arrival of a lesser known character and cliffhanger for me, but still, short and sweet so I hung on and finished it with enjoyment anyway.

I’m looking forward to the rest in this series.



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The Hate U Give (The Hate U Give #1) by Angie Thomas

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Such an impactful book. I read this one for Life’s Library Readathon. I’d highly recommend this book to everyone.

I listened to it as an audiobook, narrated by Bahni Turpin, who was an excellent narrator, she told the story with great passion, voice clarity, and character distinction, I’d highly recommend this version.

The story was one of struggle and triumph, coming of age during adolescence, a portrayal of racial, social, and economic disparities both real and perceived by the main character who tells her story, one of personal experience as she navigated her way through life, tragedy, and complex situations.

She questioned her own cultural origins, adaptations, and exchanges, vacillating between two roles she felt she had to play in order to maintain her sense of self and personal value, reflecting upon others, and multicultural influences that shaped her identity in who she was and voice to action events she would be called upon to represent.

The writing was phenomenal in such a way that I was taken right into the story. It was very casual in conversation, very thought-like which was fitting for the telling of such a personal story. Some parts lingered on in detail a bit but at the same time felt deliberate, building reader-character relationship, adding effect by sharing even the mundane of the main character’s daily scenario and how an adolescent of her age would likely react and notice her surroundings and personal interests consistent with the time and setting.

The societal issues brought up in this book are ones of great need for recognition and further discussion. It would make an excellent book club and school summer reading recommendation.



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Blonde Roots by Bernardine Evaristo

What if the history of the transatlantic slave trade had been reversed and Africans had enslaved Europeans? How would that have changed the ways that people justified their inhuman behavior? How would it inform our cultural attitudes and the insidious racism that still lingers today?

We see this tragicomic world turned upside down through the eyes of Doris, an Englishwoman enslaved and taken to the New World, movingly recounting experiences of tremendous hardship and the dreams of the people she has left behind, all while journeying toward an escape into freedom.

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Blonde RootsBlonde Roots by Bernardine Evaristo
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I really liked the concept of this book. Unfortunately that’s where it ended for me. I read this one for Life’s Library Book Club.

The story.

I love satire. Satire that takes a contrasting view and turns it into a narrative that pushes it so far that it becomes believable, relatable, immersed in an idea that can cause you to question reality, cause you question yourself, your own ethos at times.

However I didn’t see the point in this book. It took aspects of African culture and experiences of slaves during the trade and imposed them onto “whytes” as a juxtaposition, which to me, lost the very cause and effect it tried to steer its way through. Its whole foundation, all of its substance, disorientating. Whether satire or not, there was this attempt to draw parallels that just weren’t there.

I would rather have liked the portrayal of satire as an extreme to evoke an empathetic sense. It banked on stereotypes upon stereotypes, trite propositions that did not give rise to irony, sarcasm, or human connectivity. It played it safe. Sardonic but not in a clever or meaningful way.

Apart from the so-called satyrical take, I didn’t feel a stronger connection to it in any sense of the idea that I think the author was trying to convey. I suppose the story is what really felt forced to me. Contrived in such a way that it was running away with itself, losing power, perspective, and what I had high hopes for in achieving the main idea. And the idea was there, but the details to get there were less developed for me. Some parts read like an outline.

The heavy topics seemed to only be there for shock value and it was the explanatory tidbits that followed that really threw me off, especially because the tension seemed to be drawn off of this shock value which didn’t make a strong story of fiction for me in and of itself and were less supported even more so by the over-explanations of them.

Then there was a red-hot poker searing, sending warm bloody tears streaming down your body. Peeling “hairy” skins of a guava. I’ve eaten a lot of guava in my lifetime. I’ve had a guava tree. Had a really good harvest this past year. First, they’re not hairy and second, it’s actually quite common to eat them whole, skins and all. Perhaps the author was thinking of kiwi? There’s also a notable difference between coconut milk and coconut water.

I won’t comment on other discrepancies or even what I thought were less accurate portrayals of rationales behind certain historical events because they’d be tediously beside the point to mention in a story like this, which I felt began to ignore the strengths of context, community, and redemption which would have helped to guide readers and answer the questions proposed in the description in the first place.

The writing.

The writing as a whole wasn’t much of anything new. Read a bit mundane and unoriginal. Fire cackling, wind slapping, cloudy gray skies, heavy wooden door, tan leather boots. The prose toward the end depicted the movement of the story in a more unique way, but then focused more on actual events and became tethered to the dialogue rather than expressing emotional energy, reflection, or perception, which I think was lacking in majority of the book.

There was a lot of explaining away in the narrative. I didn’t feel at ease with the writing style. I wanted imagery and creative language. I had a hard time getting through this book and it wasn’t just the heavy subject matter, but the style in which it was written.

Sentence structure and effect. In recognizing race in a language, the phonic sounds were too formal, too complete and long-winded, too gibberish at the same time, the effect was nonsense to me.

Time. I had the hardest time understanding what time frame it was written in and who it was for. Then realizing it was a mix of time periods and time frames, including a blend of old and modern day vernacular, letting me know early on that this book wasn’t for me. Terms like freaking out, getting mojo back, Inheritance Tax for Dummies along with a twist on geography for role reversal effect wasn’t my cup of tea and was less effective at conveying a message of what I thought of as a more serious and important issue. Time and setting can really solidify a story, this had neither to enhance or support the story in the way I wanted to connect with it more.

POV and tense. The back and forth tenses sort of took me out of the story rather than add to or strengthen the premise. From past to present. There wasn’t a lot going on to drive me forward in the story.

The tone. Monologic tone didn’t fit with the structure of the story. The more graphic parts read just the same as light-hearted ones. Not in a cohesive way, but disjointed actually.

Characters. The growth and development wasn’t there for me. They read the same, not much personality to them. I knew about them but didn’t really know them. As I read on, I even questioned if they were meant to have any emotional capacity, undermining the whole premise.

The voices. The voices were less distinguished. Both main characters read the same people to me.

I will say on my most positive note of the book, “The Middle Passage” was my favorite part of the story and had the most complete concept, thought, and meaningful writing.

Overall this book fell incredibly short for me. I didn’t want to nitpick over this one, but it was just not a good book to me for multiple reasons. I’d be curious to read another book by this author though.

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Audiobooks Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Romance

Beach Read by Emily Henry

Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast.

They’re polar opposites.

In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they’re living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer’s block.

Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She’ll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he’ll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really.

Beach ReadBeach Read by Emily Henry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A spectacular read! Perfect for the beach, get out of a reading slump, or an escape type of book.

I listened to this one as an audiobook, narrated by Julia Whelan, which I’d highly recommend. Her answering machine voice was just so spot on.

The story itself was lighthearted at times, also uplifting, and with a deeper sentiment, making it a complete and memorable read for me.

I liked the life perspective the author brought out in the characters who celebrated and struggled with feelings of loss, feeling lost, hope, trust, making amends, finding peace, love, and a slew of wavering emotions ranging from hurt and disappointments, as well as wonder and gratitude.

Since it is a book about authors in and of itself, there were some pretty good bits of irony and satyrical takes on the writing process, publishing, and the authorship community. The literary references and sources of writing inspiration were timeless, some, downright hilarious.

As far as the writing goes, I liked the simplicity brought forth with a single timeline and single POV. It wasn’t complicated which was nice and refreshing, one where I could focus on the actual enjoyment of the story. It read like some people I know.

The voices were distinct and the snarky, playful banter was deeply entertaining. A few bits were a little juvenile for the age group and life stage, but they also made it more amusing in a way. The self-reflection was more of a saving-grace for those parts. Yet it was clearly understood why the characters did what they did which made all the difference in connecting and relating to the story and the characters. And to that, it was also an approachable read for most anyone anyway.

All in all, just loved it!

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ARCs Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Romance

A Perfect Cornish Escape (Porthmellow Harbour #3) by Phillipa Ashley

Summer in Cornwall is the perfect time for a fresh start…
Seven years ago, Marina Hudson’s husband was lost at sea. She vowed to love him for the rest of her life – but when kind-hearted Lachlan arrives in Porthmellow, should she deny herself another chance at happiness?

Tiff Trescott was living life to the full as a journalist in London – until her boyfriend’s betrayal brought it all crashing down. Fleeing to her cousin Marina’s cottage, Tiff feels like a fish-out-of-water. And when brooding local Dirk wins a day with her in a charity auction, she’s thrown headfirst into Cornish life.

This summer promises new beginnings for both Tiff and Marina. But are they too good to be true?

A Perfect Cornish Escape by Phillipa Ashley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

FTC disclosure: I would like to thank Avon Books UK for providing me with an advance reader copy via access to the galley for free through the NetGalley program.

The stories in this book were excellent! It read as bright and cheery with unexpected deep sentiment as subjects of loss, grief, PTSD, betrayal, desire, belonging, and ambivalence in navigating life’s way were charted.

As far as writing, I really liked the way the characters were shaped. Guiding me to be drawn in rather quickly and profoundly, embracing and opposing certain characteristics of both the protagonistic and antagonistic qualities of the other, well done.

The incorporation of an inner monologue to help form/validate their actions and ideas was a little bumpy for me at first. It was the ease of reading, something about how much of the dialogue was followed by an underlying explanation for saying/feeling that way much of the time at the beginning. It just felt a little interruptive where instead I wanted the dialogue to be more genuine and more easily identifiable/distinguishable to each voice, to have a better understanding of the characters so it would come as a natural understanding without having it be pointed out in the inner workings of their head as much as it was. But I warmed up to it about 1/3 of the way in. Maybe it was more of a stylistic choice and was less pervasive and bothersome to me as the stories went on.

I also would have liked to have seen a little more involvement from the other friends and families of the characters to confirm character qualities and certain circumstances they found themselves in.

Loved the setting! Beachfront, Cornwall, England, the lifestyle of characters, jobs/businesses, leisure time, homes, all to go with it. It made so much logical sense and added a drawn in, dreamy, escapism-type attribute that complimented the overall themes of the stories and brought magnetic value to the succinct title of the book.

It was such a lovely read as far as plot was concerned. The connectedness and portrayal of relatability and realistic life circumstances, not cheesy, not overdone, nor over simplified. And the similes and metaphors, the pop culture references, I love it when writers take risks and just dive into such stuff.

I will definitely look forward to reading more stories from this author.

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