Audiobooks Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Historical Fiction

Centennial by James A. Michener


Written to commemorate the Bicentennial in 1976, James A. Michener’s magnificent saga of the West is an enthralling celebration of the frontier.

Brimming with the glory of America’s past, the story of Colorado—the Centennial State—is manifested through its people: Lame Beaver, the Arapaho chieftain and warrior, and his Comanche and Pawnee enemies; Levi Zendt, fleeing with his child bride from the Amish country; the cowboy, Jim Lloyd, who falls in love with a wealthy and cultured Englishwoman, Charlotte Seccombe.

Centennial by James A. Michener

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love these books.

I listened to this one via audiobook narrated by Larry McKeever, who was just the perfect narrator for this series once again. Easy to listen to and I liked his pronunciation of Arkansas.

In today’s world, it is so hard to imagine travel of the time. It took all day just to go 15 miles. The whole family in tow and none of the luxuries of radio, audiobooks, podcasts, A/C or heating, readily available maps, petrol stations, ice chests, or favorite road trip snacks like Black Forest Gummy Bears, Cheetos, or a grande, hot, white chocolate mocha with 2.5 pumps of white chocolate, 1/2 pump of peppermint, with whipped cream- my go-to travel drink from Starbucks.

I started this one over summer, traveling through the mountains of Colorado, it was neat to hear to the commentary of the terrain while visually seeing granite rock layered like a tilted stack of pancakes with edges toward the sky. The erosion, hoodoos, those top heavy rock formations that look like they could topple at any time. Hearing about how it took years of volcanic ash to just drift its way over, the violent collision of tectonic plates, forming areas where mastodons and bison would eventually wander around, once a place where ocean deposited sediment as it peacefully filled the basin of land from melting glacier.

Originally published in 1974, it marries nonfiction accounts of the formation of the Midwest, geographically, population settlement, industry, and relationships with sweet, interesting, sometimes brutal tales of fictional characters so seamlessly integrated into what daily life may have been like in a fascinating, yet incredibly comprehensive historical novel.

50 hours and 5 minutes actually.

Michener was just so clever. I loved the themes, the pacing, the wealth of information.

I loved Rufus the bull story, the beavers, the real origin of horses, and Nacho.


“He tested his scales as carefully as Saint Peter is supposed to test his while weighing souls.”

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Audiobooks Book Reviews Books Fiction Historical Fiction

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

Equal parts powerful family saga, forbidden love story, and piercing political drama, it is the story of an affluent Indian family forever changed by one fateful day in 1969. The seven-year-old twins Estha and Rahel see their world shaken irrevokably by the arrival of their beautiful young cousin, Sophie.

It is an event that will lead to an illicit liaison and tragedies accidental and intentional, exposing “big things [that] lurk unsaid” in a country drifting dangerously toward unrest.

Lush, lyrical, and unnerving, The God of Small Things is an award-winning landmark that started for its author an esteemed career of fiction and political commentary that continues unabated.

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book was interesting in concept and story.

I listened via audiobook, narrated by Sneha Mathan, who spoke soft and smooth, fitting for the story and it was very relaxing to listen to.

I appreciated the observations and personal aspects. I thought I was going to like it more thank I did. There was an abundance of observations and because of the writing style, being more long-winded and overly descriptive for me, it didn’t really move along like I would typically prefer. It was poetic which was beautiful, but too many adjectives for my taste made it difficult for me to develop my own immersion into the story.

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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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Book Clubs Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Historical Fiction

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 Historical Fiction

The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See

Set on the Korean island of Jeju, The Island of Sea Women follows Mi-ja and Young-sook, two girls from very different backgrounds, as they begin working in the sea with their village’s all-female diving collective. Over many decades—through the Japanese colonialism of the 1930s and 1940s, World War II, the Korean War, and the era of cellphones and wet suits for the women divers—Mi-ja and Young-sook develop the closest of bonds. Nevertheless, their differences are impossible to ignore: Mi-ja is the daughter of a Japanese collaborator, forever marking her, and Young-sook was born into a long line of haenyeo and will inherit her mother’s position leading the divers. After hundreds of dives and years of friendship, forces outside their control will push their relationship to the breaking point.

This beautiful, thoughtful novel illuminates a unique and unforgettable culture, one where the women are in charge, engaging in dangerous physical work, and the men take care of the children. A classic Lisa See story—one of women’s friendships and the larger forces that shape them—The Island of Sea Women introduces readers to the fierce female divers of Jeju Island and the dramatic history that shaped their lives.

The Island of Sea WomenThe Island of Sea Women by Lisa See

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Such an insightful, moving look into the life of a haenyeo, the women divers, who plunge into the often frigid waters off the coast of Jeju Island, South Korea, retrieving sea objects, creating a livelihood, a culture that is unlike any other.

I listened to this one as an audiobook, narrated by Jennifer Lim. The sound overall could have benefited from some better mixing. I really enjoyed her narration voice when she wasn’t screaming. Also her Korean pronunciation was the best. She had a lot of clarity in her voice so she could get away with running words together for the most part. My ears however were constantly bracing for the screeching that would unexpectedly come up. So much so that I couldn’t bear the fluctuations with headphones or even in the car. Certain characters were too punchy and abrupt in both volume and as characterization, especially the mother. She was depicted as a strict Korean mama, but came off as horribly terse, like a cackling witch from a fairy tale. Wicked, sinister, and demanding. These exaggerated villainous voices were just ear piercing. I experienced so much tension while listening to the book, almost DNFd it several times.

So for the writing, first, this was very interesting topic to capture. See made certain aspects of the story feel alive. She connected thoughts very well and was able to characterize them in a person. She wrote with a certain fluidity of certainty that I didn’t feel I had to question, I think it was most likely attributed to her research done well.

I also loved the telling of history as it was known and perceived, especially the that which was taken from an experiential standpoint. There was no attempt at trying to make the nonfiction aspect fit into a postmodern, PC fiction tale and I really, really appreciated that.

I thought the first person narrative was very fitting.

However for some reason, it didn’t embody any one person on a deeper level but remained surfacy to a certain extent. So most of this review is me figuring out what was lacking on that front.

The story often stayed as observational status mode. The integrity was there, but maybe the reason I felt that way was because of the approach. I imagined it was a difficult balance of interrupting the story to interject backstory, context, feeling, situations, the often difficult part of writing historical fiction.

The story encompassed a very wide time span, not only through the wars chronologically, but also through the women’s lives. Colonial Japanese occupation, suppression, family dynamics, historically speaking, there was a lot to unpack in this book.

With the coverage of so many differing eras and growth stories into one story, I found it wavering in and out. It was reflective of concrete historical events but I would have liked more emotional reflection. The end was a little more self-reflective but the attempts sounded more like a psychiatric analysis.

Instead, I wanted to grow with the characters in their journey. But maybe it was the characters that were just too polished. The main character, while at age 15, would have benefited from incomplete thoughts, fragments, something to convey either a stage or a phase in life to grow from. Or perhaps some sort of personal or physical development that would have been just as insightful and fascinating as the telling of haenyeo. She was too self aware. The dialogue reflected that, it was too polished, too square, to be as effective as it could have been.

Sometimes the story became too informative, rather than integrated into the plot. Example, there was a reference to an interaction where Mi-ja and Young-sook talked a certain way so that the other character would have the sense she was still a young girl. And that was that. Just a reference. Why not make such an interaction part of the story to gain a sense of experience from their point of view?

Perhaps I would liked to have seen something a little more here. Like an unappreciative or rebellious daughter, questioning of life as a haenyeo, perhaps being mentored by her grandmother, maybe like a coming of age story, some type of connectivity…

Maybe it was because it was too retrospective instead of bringing me into the experience at the moment. Perhaps it was just too insightful all around. I would have liked to have experienced her story first hand. I wanted to feel and discover her roots, tradition, and culture as she discovered them. There was a portrayal of deeply personal, heavy-hearted stories stories, but there was so much needed revelation and it took such a long development of time. I would have just liked to have seen growth in the way that the main character saw herself, even if the time frame was substantially shortened and certain facts had to go without saying.

I almost would have liked to have had it read like a women’s gossip group or something like a bunch of Korean women sitting around chit-chatting about life and such. Actually I honestly think one could make a dynamic cozy mystery series out of such an exhilarating group of women.

I don’t know. Maybe it was difficult not knowing exactly how to hone in on such a story because as a writer you may not really know, who your audience will be when writing a story like this. Do they know anything about the haenyeo women? How about war history? Can I provide them with the introspection to understand why the characters would choose this life knowing what they already know? Should I choose a character either an adult or young woman to better relate to a certain demographic and be happy with that? Or take them through the entire lifespan journey of womanhood and assume they will identify with certain aspects?

I loved the quotes and facts intermingled with the stories from the haenyeo but they were just put into the plot. They didn’t develop or enhance or portray something the character lacked or strived for. They were not as interwoven in the way I wanted them to be.

I think for this book I mostly enjoyed the facts, but at the same time I wanted something more character-driven because this is the tale I thought it set out to tell. The writing talent was there, but I wanted the characters to close it all in for me. I wanted a sharing of all these interesting facts suited for nonfiction but because it was cited as historical fiction, I also wanted to live it. I suppose I wanted the book to read like a fictional, accessible, creative story keeping sight of a personal message, while maintaining a certain capacity of interesting facts all at the same time.

Again, figuring out what more it was that I wanted from this book, it was just a deeper connection.

All in all, it was an amazing book and I’d highly recommend it for those interested in learning more about the haenyeo and certain aspects of Korean history.

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Audiobooks Biography Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Historical Fiction

No Traveller Returns by Louis L’Amour, Beau L’Amour

Louis L’Amour’s long-lost first novel, faithfully completed by his son, takes readers on a voyage into danger and violence on the high seas.
Fate is a ship.
As the shadows of World War II gather, the SS Lichenfield is westbound across the Pacific carrying eighty thousand barrels of highly explosive naphtha. The cargo alone makes the journey perilous, with the entire crew aware that one careless moment could lead to disaster.
But yet another sort of peril haunts the Lichenfield. Even beyond their day-to-day existence, the lives of the crew are mysteriously intertwined. Though each has his own history, dreams and jealousies, longing and rage, all are connected by a deadly web of chance and circumstance.
Some are desperately fleeing the past; others chase an unknown destiny. A few are driven by the desire for adventure, while their shipmates cling to the Lichenfield as their only true home. In their hearts, these men, as well as the women and children they have left behind, carry the seeds of salvation or destruction. And all of them—kind or cruel, strong or broken—are bound to the fate of the vessel that carries them toward an ever-darkening horizon.
Inspired by Louis L’Amour’s own experiences as a merchant seaman, No Traveller Returns is a revelatory work by a world-renowned author—and a brilliant illustration of a writer discovering his literary voice.

No Traveller ReturnsNo Traveller Returns by Louis L’Amour

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow am I developing such a deep appreciation for stories written by Louis L’Amour!

Maritime is my most favorite subgenre, so this was completely satiating for me. I listened via audiobook, narrated by Scott Brick, which I’d highly recommend.

This story was Louis L’Amour’s first novel length work which tells about the backstory of a missing ship. His work, starting circa 1938, incorporates a self-projected protagonist in a high crimes situation. His personal life was quite interesting as well, with travels and occupations that enhanced his writing, but were not solely sought out for purposes of writing the experiences which I think is distinctive. The work was carefully pieced together by his son, Beau, who was able to publish the story as a finished copy.

The prologue and epilogue were quite fascinating in themselves, particularly noting that the writing embodies a time brought to life using the referenced jargon of sailors, railway men, cowboys, soldiers, and miners, a version of English not taught in any classroom.

As far as content was concerned, it incorporated observations about the successes of civilization with an almost prophetic, philosophic, Orwellian tone. There was talk about machines and powerful statements about the projection of human behavior. The love interest and daily life of struggles and victories depicted in the story were strengthened by this.

And coming to the point where I no longer feel the need to fact check an author’s claims in a story but looking up things just to increase my knowledge is where I glean the most comfort and joy in reading a book. And I have certainly found that to be so in his writing. I had no idea that the Indy 500 existed during this time.


“But most of all our mistakes lay in trying to live what at best was no more than a dream. We were two fortunate people. We had an idyllic moment and then proved ourselves all to human by trying to make a lifetime of it.”

“What was it Hamlet said? That undiscovered country, from who’s born no traveler returns. He was speaking of death. But is not every goodbye, every leave taking a little death? Can a man ever return quite the same as he left? We say goodbye. We leave familiar, well-loved people in places, and the days, weeks, and months pass, perhaps years, when we take the road back and finally stand where we stood before, all is strange. Our very bodies have changed, the dust of many roads, the brine of ancient seas, the air we have breathed, the food we have eaten, the wounds we have received. All these things change us. We have come back, groping in the past for something that is no longer there. A gap that nothing can fill. Old places are better left behind. Old loves better keep as memories. And as the ship steams onward into the days and nights, all that I have known and all that I have loved, I am leaving behind me…”

“She was lying there in a faded neglige reading a magazine. A box of crackers stood open on the table close by. And there were two cups, still mottled with the grounds of coffee. She sat up. A large woman with rust-colored and a heavy, sullen face. Collin looked at her a moment, looked at the stuffy, untidy room of which she was the living expression.”

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Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Historical Fiction Romance

Bellewether by Susanna Kearsley

It’s 1759 and the world is at war, pulling the North American colonies of Britain and France into the conflict. The times are complicated, as are the loyalties of many New York merchants who have secretly been trading with the French for years, defying Britain’s colonial laws in a game growing ever more treacherous.

When captured French officers are brought to Long Island to be billeted in private homes on their parole of honour, it upends the lives of the Wilde family—deeply involved in the treasonous trade and already divided by war.

Lydia Wilde, struggling to keep the peace in her fracturing family following her mother’s death, has little time or kindness to spare for her unwanted guests. French-Canadian lieutenant Jean-Philippe de Sabran has little desire to be there. But by the war’s end they’ll both learn love, honour, and duty can form tangled bonds that are not broken easily.

Their doomed romance becomes a local legend, told and re-told through the years until the present day, when conflict of a different kind brings Charley Van Hoek to Long Island to be the new curator of the Wilde House Museum.

Charley doesn’t believe in ghosts. But as she starts to delve into the history of Lydia and her French officer, it becomes clear that the Wilde House holds more than just secrets, and Charley discovers the legend might not have been telling the whole story…or the whole truth.

BellewetherBellewether by Susanna Kearsley

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

The premise was super interesting.

However I had difficulty staying connected to it. There was a lot of information dumping, some passages overworked, some underworked. A lot of passive voice. I couldn’t make sense of it all unfortunately. DNFd at Charlie, page 32.

I think most of my dissatisfaction was that I really wanted to dive into it but I wasn’t in the mood to figure out and look past what wasn’t working for me. It lacked a bit of direction and flow. Perhaps it was some untimely changing of POVs, the amount of interruptive backstory in between the dialogue, and very dense less interesting informational releases about the characters which made the reading experience feel a bit stagnant for my taste.

I really liked the idea behind the story though and will definitely be looking forward to exploring other stories from this author.

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Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Historical Fiction

Down the Long Hills by Louis L’Amour

Everyone was dead. Indian raiders massacred the entire wagon train. Only seven-year-old Hardy Collins and three-year-old Betty Sue Powell managed to survive. With a knife, a horse, and the survival lessons his father taught him, Hardy must face the challenges of the open prairie. Using ingenuity and common sense, he builds shelters, searches out water, and forages for food. But as he struggles to keep them alive, he realizes that their survival will depend on his ability to go beyond what his father was able to teach him. Hardy bravely presses on, fighting off the temptation to give up, until a howling blizzard and a pack of hungry wolves force him to make decisions that no seven-year-old boy should ever have to make.

Down the Long HillsDown the Long Hills by Louis L’Amour

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have always been curious about the stories told by Louis L’Amour. I tried to read one from my dad’s complete, hardback collection as a child and never could get into them. I saw this one at a Free Library a while back and thought, why not give it another try?

I think I’m learning to appreciate them now and I thoroughly loved this one!

It was a good, old-fashioned western, true to itself, definitely not politically correct, but tells a story of its time with deep appreciation for animal and human behavior, nature, and the lifestyle of the wild west.

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Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Historical Fiction Mystery

A Quiet Life In The Country (Lady Hardcastle Mysteries #1) by T E Kinsey

Lady Emily Hardcastle is an eccentric widow with a secret past. Florence Armstrong, her maid and confidante, is an expert in martial arts. The year is 1908 and they’ve just moved from London to the country, hoping for a quiet life.

A Quiet Life In The Country (Lady Hardcastle Mysteries, #1)A Quiet Life In The Country by T E Kinsey

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Parts were definitely enjoyable and one I was happy to read. I mostly fell in love with the cover which was enticing and a promising delivery in the actual read.

I loved the characters and the relationships they had, the connections were well-executed. There was a bit of spunk in the main characters and the bantering between them made it much more entertaining to read. For me, it was the driving force of the book. I also liked reading about the setting and overall depiction of country life.

I did get the feeling that as the plot went on, there was something seemingly forced. Both in the spirit of building up the story and attempts at political correctness.

The back-and-forth dialogue of figuring out the crime together both in retrospect and as it unfolded became a bit monotonous especially when I realized half way through the book, maybe the story was more about the character relationships rather than a solving of a crime itself, which is ok, just not what I was looking forward to reading about every time I picked up the book.

It didn’t quite take me back to the time in which it took place like I’d hoped. Perhaps the modernization of the perspective through a few bits of inner thought and dialogue were purposeful to bring the reader into today’s world, maybe something fresh to agree upon, but for me, it took me out of the story. Because of that it seemed there was a missed opportunity to take advantage of the spunk, sharpness, and honesty that the character traits could have built upon.

I would like to explore more stories from this author.

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Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Historical Fiction Mystery

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.

Perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Russell, Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.

Where the Crawdads SingWhere the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This one was a story of resiliency and adaptability which I quite enjoyed. There was a certain depth of longing and belonging that was portrayed well in the writing and within the character development itself. Parts of it were so heartbreaking and there was a sense of major victory in certain aspects of how coping was achieved. I liked the growth of the main character and the voice that she took on.

I’m not sure how to describe this, but I did feel at times there was a dumping of information before asking the question to make up for the parts of the stories that needed to be explained. In addition there was also this sort of passing instead of lingering over the moments where the main character did not seem to encounter any internal conflict where I thought there may be. For me it needed more closure from that perspective, especially toward the end.

But it wasn’t my story to write and I enjoyed it for the most part anyway.

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Book Reviews Books Classics Featured Fiction Historical Fiction

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

This is the testament of Paul Bäumer, who enlists with his classmates in the German army of World War I. These young men become enthusiastic soldiers, but their world of duty, culture, and progress breaks into pieces under the first bombardment in the trenches.

Through years of vivid horror, Paul holds fast to a single vow: to fight against the hatred that meaninglessly pits young men of the same generation but different uniforms against one another – if only he can come out of the war alive.

All Quiet on the Western FrontAll Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An intense, insightful picture of war and all its repercussions brought forth from a soldier’s unfiltered and unapologetic point of view. I’d highly recommend this classic read for everyone. This was a reread for me and it was just as impactful the second time around.

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ARCs Books Featured Fiction Historical Fiction Romance

Someone to Honor (Westcott #6) by Mary Balogh

First appearances deceive in the newest charming and heartwarming Regency romance in the Westcott series from beloved New York Times bestselling author Mary Balogh . . .

Abigail Westcott’s dreams for her future were lost when her father died and she discovered her parents were not legally married. But now, six years later, she enjoys the independence a life without expectation provides a wealthy single woman. Indeed, she’s grown confident enough to scold the careless servant chopping wood outside without his shirt on in the proximity of ladies.

But the man is not a servant. He is Gilbert Bennington, the lieutenant colonel and superior officer who has escorted her wounded brother Harry home from the wars with Napoleon. He’s come to help his friend and junior officer recover, and he doesn’t take lightly to being condescended to – secretly because of his own humble beginnings.

If at first these two seem to embody what the other most despises, they will soon discover how wrong first impressions can be. For behind the appearance of the once grand lady and once humble man are two people who share an understanding of what true honor means, and how only with it can one find love.

Someone to Honor (Westcott, #6)Someone to Honor by Mary Balogh

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

FTC disclosure: I would like to thank Penguin Random House for providing me with an advance reader copy via access to the galley for free through the First to Read program. I did end up purchasing my own audiobook version, which I would highly recommend.

This was a lovely romance story that highlighted family dynamics, courtship, and the coming of age of characters during the time period of the 19th century with a somewhat modern thought. I will say that the beginning did read more like a perpetual prologue, like a never ending overture, taking quite a while to get going. However I did come to appreciate it as it set up the groundwork for me being a first time reader of this series, especially as the later peaking plot arc paid off.

So hang in there early readers, also consider the audiobook version, it made all the difference for me personally. Once I got the audiobook version I ended up quite enjoying listening to the details of the family tree, interpersonal connections, internal conflict, and the direction it was going. It all tied in and became a very solid story.

I would have liked to have seen more integration of 19th century verbiage/slang and perceptive forethought in the writing, but perhaps the lack thereof was intentional, giving it that more modern feel which could prove more likely relatable to today’s reader. This is especially because I did not feel that the circumstances were unique to the time or to how such a character may perceive and respond to such fall out today. As in the bastardization, the fear of abandonment, grief, being a widow, changes in social caste, a less than desirable surname, etc…

All in all, I really liked the expression, the setting, and character traits that were presented. The growth and maturity of the characters were captured quite nicely and I will be looking forward to going back to the start of the series and then continuing on after this book.

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