Sunday, December 31, 2023

Book Review - Dreams of Falling by Karen White


Dreams of Falling by Karen White is about a woman, Larkin Lanier, who returns home after her beloved mother goes missing. Many years ago, three young girls spent most of their lives together. Their childhoods were intertwined with each other and they were rarely apart. They decided to write their hopes and dreams on ribbons and stow it in a special tree for their wishes to come true. Their most important one was that whatever happens, they will remain friends forever.

Larkin left her home in Georgetown, South Carolina, nine years ago humiliated. She felt that she could never go back and face her friends after an embarrassing incident.  However, when she receives a call that her mother has gone missing, she realizes that she has no choice but to return back home. She is excited to see her family who missed her and wants her to come back home, but dreads running into her childhood friends who remember the incident that caused her to leave.

Larkin’s mother, Ivy, is discovered near the burned out wreckage of her family’s home. She is unconscious and badly injured when she is found. No one knows why Ivy decided to go to the house and Larkin is desperate to find answers. As she digs for answers, she discovers the reason why her mother went to the house. The secrets that she uncovers dates back fifty years ago and it began with those three girls whose friendship was tested in the most heartbreaking ways.

This was the second book I read by the author. I felt that the author is skilled at creating realistic Southern characters but it feels to me that her main female characters are always unlikeable. I didn’t care for Larkin’s storyline as much because I found her to be annoying. She was rude and assumed the worst of her best friends without any reason but she gave the benefit of the doubt to a guy who was constantly rude and mean to her. Larkin was dismissive when her childhood friends were trying to make amends or hang out but willingly hung out with a guy who was demeaning to her on multiple occasions. I didn’t understand why her friends were so loyal and understanding to Larkin when she wasn’t very nice to them in turn. Larkin acted like the entire world revolved around her and didn’t really care about anyone else’s feelings and she kept acting like “woe is me”.

The book was told from alternating points of view and timelines. I found it difficult to keep track of the different characters because there were so many and each one was related to each other. I felt that Ivy’s chapters didn’t add much to the story. In the majority of her chapters, she spent time trying to figure out what is keeping her attached to Earth, or she was pining for her dead boyfriend, Ellis. I felt like the chapters would have a bigger impact if we got more details about their relationship.

I didn’t like that the characters refused to share information with each other until Ivy woke up from her coma or there was another interruption that caused the delay. I felt that  caused the story to drag on longer than necessary. The book was slow moving with pages of nothing happening. Aside from the annoying main character and the predictable twists, I found the book to be an okay read. I would be open to reading more books by the author.

Friday, December 29, 2023

Book Review - Thornhedge by T. Kingfisher


Thornhedge by T. Kingfisher is a retelling of a fairytale about a princess, Princess Fayette, who is trapped in a tower and the creature that protects it. 

When Toadling was born to her human family, she was stolen by fairies and switched with a Changeling.  She is taken to the swamp where she spends most of her childhood. Toadling is transformed from a human girl into a toad shaped being that can transform into an actual toad. She is surrounded and loved by the faeries at the swamp. They teach her how to use magic and coddle her. They are the only family she has ever known.

Toadling enjoys her time there and when she reaches adulthood, one of the fae asks her for a favor. Toadling is to return to the human world and offer a blessing of protection to a newborn baby. She is given her mission and is offered training to help her succeed with her quest. However, as much as Toadling is prepared, nothing is as easy as imagined and something always goes wrong. Toadling fumbles the blessing and the faerie child’s power grows uncontrollably along with unleashing her evil side. As a last resort, Toadling placed the child under a curse that put her asleep to prevent her from using her evil powers.

Centuries have passed since Toadling was asked to pass her blessing to the child. A knight has stopped by a wall that is surrounded by brambles and thorns. He has heard that there is a curse and rumors of a hidden treasure beyond the thorn covered wall. Toadling is serving as the guardian of the wall and will stop at nothing to make sure that the curse isn’t broken.

I was excited to read the novella and was able to finish it in a day. I heard many good things about the author and was excited to read the book. However, I was a bit disappointed with the story. I found the novella hard to get into and the writing clunky and hard to follow. I found myself re-reading the same sentence a few times to try to understand what was going on.

There are a lot of things that I found confusing. For example, the timeframe and world the story takes place in. It wasn’t very clear to me when or where the story takes place. The family of the Princess was called a King and Queen but when they were describing the property they loved in, it seems like they were more like a lower level lord and lady.  The book was an okay read but I would be open to reading other books by the author.

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Book Review - Dominicana by Angie Cruz


Dominicana by Angie Cruz is about a teenager named Ana Cancion who moves to America with her husband from the Dominican Republic. Fifteen year old Ana never imagined that she would be going to America. She thought she would spend her entire life in the Dominican countryside. However, when Juan Ruiz proposes to her, her entire life changes. He is twice her age and she doesn’t love him but she is excited about the opportunity to go to America. She knows that it is an opportunity for her family to eventually immigrate over and it’s an opportunity that many people wish they had but might never get.

In 1965, on New Year’s Day, Ana packs up her belongings and leaves everything she knows behind. In New York City, she becomes Ana Ruiz. She spends most of her time in their apartment and the rest of the time is spent taking care of Juan and his younger brother, Cesar. Ana is miserable and isolated with her new life as her new husband turns out to be abusive towards her. She decides to run away and hatches a plan to escape. However, while at the bus terminal, she crosses paths with Cesar and he convinces her to stay.

Juan has to return back to the Dominican Republic as the country is in political turmoil. He needs to secure their family assets and ensure that their restaurant business is coming along okay. Juan leaves Ana behind and asks Cesar to watch over her. 

Ana is overwhelmed and excited by her new freedom.  She can finally do whatever she wants without having to worry about Juan. She can take English lessons, spend time exploring the city, go dancing with Cesar, watch movies and have her own food and clothing repair business. Ana finds that she is finally enjoying her life in America. However, when Juan returns unexpectedly, Ana is torn. Will she  give up her newly found freedom or stay with Juan so her family can have a better life?

The book is an entertaining read. The writing style was easy to read and flowed smoothly. The book was slow during some parts and nothing was happening for quite a bit. The story reminds me of many stories I heard of immigrant families sacrificing to have the opportunity to come to America.

I was saddened to see how trapped Ana must have felt because she had to deal with an abusive husband and then a family who was expecting her to lift them out of poverty. Many times she had to put other people’s happiness before her own. I enjoyed the parts of the story where she was able to find bits of happiness for herself; even if the way she went about it wasn’t the best idea.

The novel is narrated by both Ana and Juan. I thought both perspectives were engaging but I didn’t think it was important or necessary to include Juan’s story. It was interesting to read about his perspective but his story didn’t add much to the main story line as he mostly muses about his love for another married woman. It could have been left out and I wouldn’t have missed it. Perhaps, if his chapters talked about Ana and how he felt towards her, it would have added more to the story. The majority of the novel is narrated by Ana, and Juan’s chapters were a small part of the book. If you like reading stories about women finding their voices, then you might enjoy this book.

Saturday, December 23, 2023

Book Review - One Blood by Denene Millner


One Blood by Denene Millner is about three generations of African American women who are trying to find their place in society. Grace is a teenager who is raised by her beloved grandmother, Maw Maw, in post-segregation Virginia. Grace watches and helps her grandmother deliver babies. She loves her life and living with her grandmother. However, that all changes when, in a span of a few days, Grace’s mother, Bassey, dies and also her grandmother is accused of a crime she didn’t commit. Grace is heartbroken to have her grandmother taken away from her and thrown into jail.  With no other relatives in the area, she is snuck across state lines to live with her Aunt Hattie in the North so she isn’t at risk of being found by persons intending harm.

Aunt Hattie is a formidable and ambitious woman. She wants nothing to do with her Southern roots and wants only to focus on upward mobility. She started a school to teach young girls about manners and hospitality to show that she belongs with the rest of the society. Grace is grateful for having a roof over her head but she quickly learns that her aunt has a different purpose for her. Grace is put to work to take care of the needs of her aunt and her students. She barely has time for herself and she feels trapped because her aunt won’t let her practice any of her Southern rituals that Grace finds comforting. 

Instead, Grace finds comfort with Dale, the son of a prominent family in her aunt’s social circle. Dale believes that the Black community shouldn’t be focused on manners, fancy teas, and pageants. Instead, they should be working towards getting equal rights. He wants them to realize that racism still exists in the North, even though the community likes to pretend otherwise. While attending a protest he gets caught up with the police when the protest turns violent. His mother decides to send him away to avoid Dale getting into more trouble with the police. Dale wanted to spend one last day with Grace before he leaves. The one magical night they spent together leaves Grace pregnant. Grace is scared because she doesn’t know who to trust and she doesn’t have anyone else she can confide in once Dale leaves. When Grace gives birth to her daughter, Hattie takes the baby and gives it up for adoption without telling Grace.

Delores, or Lolo, as she is known to her friends and family is known for her witty and protective nature. She had a hard life growing up and it was filled with heartache and pain. Lolo had a dream of becoming a model but had to put her dreams on hold. She had to find a way to survive with little money and as a Black woman. She decides that having a family and a husband is the best option for her, and she is willing to do anything to obtain and keep her family. 

Lolo finally gets her dream of having a family. She has a doting husband and two kids with a beautiful home. However, when secrets from the past emerge, it threatens to tear apart the family Lolo has worked hard to create. Lolo will do whatever it takes to keep her family and dreams intact.

Rae, Lolo’s willful daughter, finds out she is adopted and learns that is just one of the few secrets that her family has been keeping from her. When Rae finds out that she is about to become a mother herself, she decides to address her past and her family. Will Rae be able to reconcile the truth over her family’s secrets?

I am on the fence for this book. The book was a hefty read and it took some time getting into the writing style. When we were first introduced to Grace, it took some time to understand the Southern dialect. As we get introduced to the later characters (Lolo and Rae), it was easier to read and get into the flow of things.  It was interesting to see how the different characters were connected but at times I was trying to understand the point of the book. Was it to show the demands of motherhood? Is it to show the lengths we go to for the ones we love? Or is it how hard it is and how long it takes before we come into our own? Or perhaps, the decades and generation long struggles of being a woman or a Black woman in society? Or is it the effects of generational trauma and how it affects the future? 

Each of the three main characters were unique and interesting. I didn’t like, though, that after Grace’s chapters were over that we never saw her again. I was interested in learning what happened to her and some of the characters in her story.  I felt attached to some of the characters and wanted to read more about them. I felt like their stories weren’t complete and were left unresolved. The three main characters didn’t really feel connected and their stories felt disjointed. The timelines were also confusing as characters would get older or we would be taken back in time but it wasn’t very clear.

The ending was a bit confusing to me as I didn’t quite comprehend what was going on. Did Grace and Rae finally connect with her blood family? I also didn’t quite understand the magical elements in the book. I felt like it took backstage in the middle until the very end. What was the purpose and role of the magical elements? The book is a powerful and emotional read but also has a lot of sad and depressing moments of how people and children were treated.

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Book Review - Down the Hill: My Descent into the Double Murder in Delphi by Susan Hendricks


Down the Hill: My Descent into the Double Murder in Delphi by Susan Hendricks is a nonfiction book about the murders of two young girls in Delphi, Indiana. On February 13, 2017, it was a day that began like all others in the Williams and Germans household. Thirteen year old Abby Williams and fourteen year old Libby German are best friends and decided to spend their day off from school together.

After spending some time together, they decided to explore the popular hiking trails near the Monon High Bridge that is a few minutes drive from Libby’s home. Libby asked her older sister, Kelsi, to drop them off before heading out for her day. Kelsi drops them off at the beginning of the trail and waved before driving off. Little did she know that was the last time Kelsi would see them alive again.

Little less than 24 hours later, the bodies of the two teenagers are found together near the north bank of Deer Creek. It was nearly a mile away from where they were last seen together.  The police have very littles clues to go on and the physical evidence is limited. The investigators did have snippets of a visual and audio encounter with a stranger that occurred just hours before their disappearance. The encounter was unsettling enough to the girls that they made a recording on Libby’s cellphone as it unfolded. It has been years since the murders occurred, and the audio and video recordings have been released to the public. The police released two different composite sketches of the suspect. There were no definite leads until finally in October 2022, a suspect was identified, arrested, and a trial date was set.

The book talks about the impact of the crime on the families, neighbors, and community. It was an interesting read to learn the details but also reading about the reactions of the family and how they were dealing with each development. The book was a quick and easy read but I wish it had gone into details about the trial. The trial was scheduled to take place after the book was published but I would have preferred if they had waited to include details from the trial. It felt a bit incomplete to hear all the facts and read about the community’s reaction but not read about the outcome of the trial.  

There were times that the author talked to experts and went in a different direction than the previous chapters or talked about her personal feelings and life. I felt like she was trying to add more depth to the crime but, at times it seemed like fluff that was irrelevant to the actual story about the two young victims.  In one chapter she spoke to different experts to get their opinion on the arrest but it just seemed like a recap of what was discussed earlier. If you are a true crime fan or have an interest in the case, I think you might enjoy this book.

Sunday, December 17, 2023

Book Review - The Plot - The Graphic Novel, Volume 1 by Michael Moreci


The Plot - The Graphic Novel, Volume 1 by Michael Moreci is about a man, Chase Blaine, who tried running from his family’s past. Chase wanted nothing to do with his family and their wealth. He wanted to live his own life without the weight of his family’s name burdening him. 

When his estranged older brother and sister in law unexpectedly dies, he has no choice but to come back home. He is the only living relative and becomes the guardian of his niece and nephew, MacKenzie and Zach. He decides to move them back to his childhood home in Cape Augusta. He doesn’t have enough space in his current apartment and he doesn’t want the children to live in the home where their parents were killed. Their ancestral home has been in the family for decades and is built on a remote and vast bogland. The home is filled with family secrets  that won’t stay buried forever.

The graphic novel was beautifully illustrated with dark and gloomy colors. The story behind the house and the family’s past was interesting but I felt like I was left with more questions than answers. I felt that the graphic novel hinted at a lot of mysteries and devious things but never actually spent any time explaining it.  I do wish that there was more plot and explanations in the first volume because I can see readers abandoning the series because there wasn’t a lot to keep them hooked. I am open to reading the next volume to see what happens next but I wouldn’t go out of my way to get it.

Thursday, December 14, 2023

Book Review - The Wrong Kind of Woman by Sarah McCraw Crow


The Wrong Kind of Woman by Sarah McCraw Crow is about a mother moving on after her husband’s death. In 1970, Oliver Desmarais and his young teenage daughter, Rebecca, were hanging Christmas lights for the holidays. Virginia is inside when her husband asks for assistance with the lights. When Virginia goes out to help, she finds Oliver sprawled on the floor unresponsive. 

After the unexpected death of husband, Virginia is unsure what she should be doing. Oliver was a professor at the New Hampshire men’s college. Without his salary, Virginia will have a tough time meeting her financial obligations, especially with a child at home. She tries to apply for a teaching position at the same college her late husband taught at. She is more than qualified for the position but she finds that she has a hard time being taken seriously.

At the school, there are four outspoken unmarried women on the faculty, dubbed the Gang of Four by their male counterparts. Oliver didn’t care for them and Virigina had shared his prejudices against them as well. However, with no one else to turn to, Virginia finds herself drawn and depending on them for help.

As Virginia spends more time with the women after Oliver’s death, she joins in their initiative to allow women to attend Clarendon College. Virginia and her friends are trying to institute change to their small community. However, things take an unexpected turn as violent protests across the country start to erupt as women’s rights issues hit the spotlight. The staff at the college is resistant to change and want to control any radical elements of change. Virginia must decide that if she is willing to put herself on the line for a cause that has never felt her own.

The book is told from an alternating perspective: Virginia, Rebecca, and Sam, one of Oliver’s students. I was surprised that they did include Sam’s and Rebecca’s perspective because I thought Virginia would be the main focus. I do think that their stories added to the novel because Virginia’s story by itself was kind of boring. At times, I did struggle to keep track of the different characters and how their stories related to the overarching plot. Sometimes, it was easy and other times it was very convoluted. There were times when a character was having flashbacks and it wasn’t made very clear that the character was revisiting something that happened in the past and it wasn’t something that was happening in the present.

During her low points, Virginia spent more time with the Gang of Four but, I felt like once Virginia figured out her life, they kind of disappeared and were put on the back burner. I would have liked more details about their friendships and how it blossomed or transitioned during this new phase of Virginia’s life. The book was an okay read but I wish it had more going on.

Monday, December 11, 2023

Book Review - Tell Me More: Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I'm Learning to Say by Kelly Corrigan


Tell Me More: Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I'm Learning to Say by Kelly Corrigan is a nonfiction book about the author’s journey to make connections with people. The book explores twelve phrases that can encourage people to bond together and forge a deeper connection. For each of the twelve phrases, she includes personal stories about each around the theme. 

This book was pointless and a waste of time. I understand what the author was trying to do, but it could have been executed better. I found her personal stories boring and at times, I didn’t understand why or how it related to the current chapter’s theme. She would go back and forth between topics and experiences, and it made the stories seem fragmented. I would have liked one or two fully fleshed out stories and then explained what exactly she is trying to say instead of her roundabout way. I felt like she just kept complaining about things and then didn’t really close the loop on what lesson she learned and what she will do better in the future. I don’t know what this book's purpose was because it wasn’t motivational nor inspirational. The only thing I learned is that I do not like this book or care a whit about the author’s trivial stories. I did not need to know that her family pet likes to consume human waste because her family does not flush the toilet on a regular basis.

Friday, December 8, 2023

Book Review - More than Words by Mia Sheridan


More than Words by Mia Sheridan is about two young kids who fall in love and then meet years later. Eleven year old Jessica Creswell likes to believe in fairy tales and loves pretending that her life is a fairytale instead of the mess that it is currently. Her home life is fraught with her parents constantly fighting and bickering.  Her philandering father makes no effort to hide his affairs and her mother is in constant heartache. Jessica’s mother is so desperate for her husband to love her that she even tries to bring the kids into the mix. She would bring the kids to the hotels that her husband is staying in so the kids can see their father cheat on their mom.

Jessica wanders around her city to avoid spending time at home. She crosses paths with Callen Hayes when exploring the railroad tracks. She feels that he is her broken prince as he is also running away from something. Together, the pair find refuge with each other. Their hideout becomes their safe space from their troubled lives. They could be with each other and be themselves without any judgment. Things were going great until one day, Callen kissed her. It was Jessica’s first kiss and then he just disappeared from her world.

Years later, Callen Hayes went from the troubled boy from the wrong side of the tracks to a “somebody”. He is a famous composer and an infamous ladies man. The press loves to follow him and to witness his drunken antics.  Callen is troubled by his inner demons and he is usually able to quiet them with his music. However, lately he has been having issues with writing music which causes him to spiral out of control.

Callen’s agent decides that he needs some time off to recuperate and get his groove back. So, Callen and his friend decide to go to France to revel in the city. He wants to drink and sleep his way through the city. As Callen falls deeper into the darkness within himself, he crosses paths with Jessica. Jessica was the one who introduced Callen to music and inspired him. Callen feels drawn to her and hopes that she can inspire him to write again. However, the pair couldn’t be more different from each other. Will they be able to put their past hurt behind them?

I thought the book was an okay read but I didn’t care for it. It didn’t really have any unexpected twists or turns or plot points that weren't easy to guess. I did find it annoying in the book when Jessica was portrayed as innocent and Callen was the bad boy. That she had to save herself for him — couldn’t she also have been in a previous relationship and still be innocent? I also didn’t like that she kept calling him “my prince”, and then saying she would save him. To me, it made her character seem weak and more often than not. They both needed professional help, not “saving” by each other. I can’t say that I liked any of the characters in the book. The book also had a side plot of an ancient love story that Jessica was translating for work. I found myself more interested in that story than Jessica’s and Callen’s story line. 

The book also has things that don't seem plausible or made little sense to me. One of the main characters isn’t able to read. I find that hard to believe as someone who went to school and was born in the States couldn’t recognize any letters or words. How do they continue passing grades in school? Then during the end of one love scene, they just flushed a condom down the toilet. Almost everyone knows especially, a sex addict like Callen, that it doesn't make sense to do. Then Callen is a famous musical composer who is on the front page of every tabloid and international sensation. I have watched award shows and read the tabloids  but I can’t tell you a single time I have seen any musical composer who isn’t a singer featured. Personally, the book just seems like a fluff nonsensical read.

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Book Review - Who's Your Founding Father?: One Man’s Epic Quest to Uncover the First, True Declaration of Independence by David Fleming


Who's Your Founding Father?: One Man’s Epic Quest to Uncover the First, True Declaration of Independence by David Fleming is about the author’s journey to unravel the true story behind the Declaration of Independence.  In 1819 John Adams comes across a story that can knock his political frenemy Thomas Jefferson down a peg or two. Adams came across an article that claims that Independence was declared fourteen months prior to Jefferson penning the Declaration of Independence. 

The story goes that before Jefferson wrote his document, a band of  fervent Scot-Irish patriots, whiskey loving Princeton scholars, and a well revered fanatical frontier preacher had gathered together in a remote corner of North Carolina to craft their own declaration of Independence. After being bombarded with unreasonable sanctions, tariffs, and laws  from England, they decided to formally declare themselves “free  and independent” from England.

The Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence as it was called came about after an all night session between a few noteworthy prominent citizens of North Carolina. The document was signed on May 20, 1775, a date that is on the state flag. Then the document faded into oblivion and its authenticity has been questioned by politicians and historians alike. The author, David Fleming, decided that he would take up the mantle from Adams and dig into the history of the document and see if The Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence really did come into existence before Jefferson’s Independence document. 

I thought the title of the book was funny but I was a bit hesitant to read the book. I thought it was going to be one of those dull history books. I was actually pleasantly surprised on how much I found the book to be enjoyable. It was fun to read and very entertaining.

The topic wasn’t something I am very familiar with. I have read a few articles about the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence but, it was mostly the authors disproving the existence of the document. I learned a lot of interesting facts about the document from this book but also American history while reading this book. I felt that the book was well researched and goes into elaborate details. However, there were times when the story moved a bit slowly or had a lot of unrelated facts included. While I did enjoy the writing style of the author, some might find it too graphic or off putting and the author does give commentary for certain things. I would be open to reading more books by the author and learning other great things about history!

Saturday, December 2, 2023

Book Review - Lake Silence by Anne Bishop


Lake Silence by Anne Bishop is about a human woman, Vicki DeVine, who is trying to get her life back in order after going through a divorce. Vicki was awarded her husband, Yorrick’s, family resort as part of her divorce settlement. She decides to fix up the place and open it up as a resort for both humans and Others alike. She hopes that she can get enough visitors to help support herself.

In this world, humans and animals are not the only beings that populate the world. There are extraordinary creatures that are called Others. They can be elemental, vampires, shape shifters, and even other scary things that go bump in the night.  The area that her resort is located on, Lake Silence, is controlled by these Others. Human laws do not apply here. It is something that every visitor and resident of Lake Silence must remember because if someone breaks the rules, they will face the consequences. 

As Vicki hopes to finish renovating the resort and start over, her lodger, Aggie Crowe, found a dead body on the property. Aggie is a member of the shape shifting Crow Other group. Vicki worries that the dead body would cause more trouble to be stirred up and may interfere with her renovating plans.

Detectives are called to the scene to help figure out who the victim is. As they investigate the murder, it is made very clear that nothing human could have killed the victim based on the condition the body was left in. However, the detectives still try to pin the death on Vicki. Vicki is desperate to prove that she is innocent and tries to find out who is behind the murder. As Vicki enlists her friends for assistance, it is discovered that someone has broken one of the rules set by the Others, and the Others will stop at nothing to enact punishment.

The novel is a standalone but takes place in the same world as another book series by the author. The book was easy to follow even though I am not familiar with the world. It did move a bit slowly with chapters after chapters of nothing happening. There were a few things I had to learn, like the days of the week in this fictional world, and the different types of Others. The author included a nifty section detailing some aspects of the world to make it easier for readers who are not familiar with her books and characters. I was confused that they put the “Lady of the Lake” on the cover as she was a minor character and didn’t really have much to do with the plot. It was a bit annoying because I had picked up this book based on the cover alone. I guess this teaches me not to judge a book by the cover.

The book started off okay but after a few chapters in I couldn’t stand Vicki DeVine. She was an annoying, blubbering fool. She sits there and feels sorry for herself yet does nothing. The only thing she does is talk about how “yummy” her vampire lawyer is and about various characters’ “vigorous appendages”. This novel reads like amateur and juvenile fan fiction.  Vicki’s behavior doesn’t seem like it would be something a grown woman in her thirties would be acting like. She constantly mentions the sex thoughts about the men around her.  Some of the other elements in the book are just plain laughable. For example, the “club” that the bad men belong to is called the “Tie Clip Club”. That name  seems like something a child came up with, and does not jive with the adult theme of the book.

If the book didn’t include Vicki, I would have enjoyed it alot more. She was a completely useless character and I found her annoying. She and other characters kept mentioning she had body issues and anxiety but the story never did anything to address them. Instead, Vicki would just shut down around men who were mean to her. And for some odd reason, men either acted cruel to her or treated her really nicely. Those same men are the ones who make all of her decisions. It feels at times, she is just a secondary character in her own story.  While I am in no rush in reading more of the author’s books, I will say that she is skilled in creating detailed worlds. In my opinion, her main characters were not so great.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Book Review - My Name Is Iris by Brando Skyhorse


My Name Is Iris by Brando Skyhorse is about a woman, Iris Prince, who is starting over after a divorce.  Iris feels that she needs a change. She feels that she and her husband, Alex, want different things in life. She decides that a divorce will help her find her path again. She and her nine year old daughter, Melanie, move to a new town to start over.

Iris feels that she will have more time to pursue her passions and things she wants to do. She even feels that she will be able to connect and bond with her new neighbors. After spending a few days in her new place, she wakes up one morning and looks out her kitchen window. She noticed a wall appeared in her front yard overnight. The wall wasn’t there last night and it seems to be growing and looks more menacing as time goes by. 

A new law was proposed and passed that requires everyone to wear “the Band”. It is supposedly a convenient way to help people pay bills, get access to utilities, and serves as an ID. The catch is, only people who can prove that their parents are US citizens can have access to the band.

Iris was proud to be a second generation Mexican American woman. Growing up her parents has always told her that no one can take away her citizenship because Iris was born in the US. However, that all changes when Iris is no longer able to qualify for “the Band” since her parents are undocumented.  How far will Iris go to protect what matters to her the most while everything around seems to be closing in on her?

The novel started off okay but then I lost interest towards the middle. The book was boring and didn’t really have much going on. I also didn’t like that some of the characters spoke in Spanish and there was no translation to help readers understand what was going on. After a while, it became too cumbersome to look up every other sentence to figure out what the characters were saying. The ending was especially disappointing as it was mostly in Spanish also. Therefore, I had no idea how it ended and from what I was able to understand it didn’t really seem like it gave the readers any closure.

The book is from people of Mexican descent’s point of view in dealing with the changes due to the “bands”. I would have been interested in reading to see how other minorities dealt with these changes as well. I didn’t find any of the characters interesting or relatable. While they were trying to do the best they could do with the new mandates, I found some of the characters selfish and not loyal to their family members and culture. The book has tons of symbolism  and cultural references that were interesting but, it wasn’t enough to make the story more captivating. The book might be enjoyable if you understand Spanish to better grasp these parts of the story containing Spanish phrases. Otherwise I would say just skip it.

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Book Review - Light Comes to Shadow Mountain by Toni Buzzeo


Light Comes to Shadow Mountain by Toni Buzzeo is about a young girl named Cora who wants to bring electricity to the houses in rural Kentucky.  In 1937, the government sent a notice to the families in the rural areas around the mountains of southeastern Kentucky. It told residents that they can join the electric cooperation to have electricity in their homes, if they paid a fee to join. This notice was sent as part of the Rural Electrification Act. The Act allowed rural areas access to electricity.

When Cora hears about electricity coming to her area, she is ecstatic. Her curious nature propels her to learn everything she can about electricity. As she learns more about it, she is confident that her family and neighbors would benefit from it. She decides to come up with some fundraising ideas to help raise the money to get electricity in her school. She also creates a school newspaper to help her fellow students spread the benefits of electricity to their families. She figured, the more they learned about the benefits, the more likely they would join the cooperative.

However, Cora soon realizes that not everyone is so excited about electricity and her fiercest opponent is closer to home than she realized. Cora’s mother is dead-set against electrification being brought to the holler. She claims that it will affect the landscape and alter their very way of life. Cora’s mother feels that electricity will bring about too many changes and it will affect their community for the worst.

The book was an interesting and emotional read. Cora is a bright young girl who wants to learn new things and try to spread the information to everyone. However, she always comes head to head with her mother. At times, the reader felt for Cora as she was trying to listen to her mother but also trying to follow her heart. I liked reading how Cora and her mother were able to reconnect and repair their bond. I also learned a lot of interesting things like the Electrification Act, how an incubator worked, and about the Pack Horse Library Project.  The author included some additional resources if readers were interested in learning more. I would be open to reading more books by this author.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Book Review - Deep as the Sky, Red as the Sea by Rita Chang-Eppig


Deep as the Sky, Red as the Sea by Rita Chang-Eppig is about a woman pirate, Shek Yeung, seeing her pirate husband, Cheng Yat, die. It’s also about her journey afterwards. Shek Yeung and her husband board a Portuguese ship in hopes that they can claim the ship and crew as their own, to add to their numbers. When they board the ship, they end up in an all out combat with the Portuguese who seem to know that Shek and Cheng were going to attack them.

During the battle, the Portuguese are seen as a worthy enemy in battle and Cheng Yat dies in combat. Shek Yeung knows that she will need to act swiftly to save herself and the rest of her pirate crew. As she and the rest of the crew retreat, she decides that she doesn’t have time to mourn the death of her husband and that her wellbeing is hanging by a thread because she is a woman pirate leader. When her husband was alive, they worked well together as “muscle” and “strategist” but now that he’s gone, she fears the crew will not want her in a leadership role.

She decides that she will marry her husband’s second in command, Cheng Po, and will bear him a son and heir, so she can keep her half of the fleet. Shek Yeung is desperate for the power she has after spending so much of her life not having control over anything, including her life.

Shek Yeung wants to maintain control over the fleet because she knows that she has what they need to survive. She also knows that she would need to be cooperative with the other leaders of the pirate alliance if she wants them to survive as she fears there is a larger threat coming for them. 

The Chinese Emperor in the Qing Dynasty has launched an all out war against the pirates. The Europeans are tired of losing ships, money, and men to the pirates and join forces with the Chinese to help destroy the pirates. As they are being hunted by a crafty enemy, Shek Yeung fears that the enemy might be closer to home. To compound on her worries, Shek Yeung has to navigate motherhood while dealing with a new crisis from every side.

I was super excited to read this book because I thought it was going to be an action packed read. I remember reading about a powerful Chinese female pirate named Zheng Yi Sao. However, I was quickly disappointed because the writing flowed smoothly but it was very clinical and boring. The author mostly spent time talking about politics than spending any time writing and describing the fight scenes. Most of the fight scenes lasted only a few sentences which wasn’t enough to immerse the reader in the high octane pirating lifestyle. I feel like the book is more of an artistic portrayal of the life and struggles of Shek Yeung. 

The book was billed as a “fantasy” and “historical fantasy” novel but there were barely any fantasy elements in the novel. The book was narrated mostly by Shek Yeung and it had stories of Ma Tsu/Ma Zou, the sea goddess weaved in between the chapters. The  Ma Tsu stories were interesting and had similar themes to issues that Shek Yeung was facing but Ma Tsu never herself made an entrance to the story. I feel that the author including snippets of mythology wasn’t enough to consider this novel a fantasy novel. The story did have one character that could read the fortune of other characters but I still don’t think that there are enough “fantasy” elements. 

I did enjoy seeing Shek Yeung’s evolution from a sea loving wild child to being trapped on a flower ship to a pirate wife and then finally a fearless leader. It was interesting reading about some of her inner turmoil and her reasoning behind her decisions. If you like historical fantasy novels that are more about politics, then you might enjoy this book.

Monday, November 20, 2023

Book Review - The Militia House: A Novel by John Milas


The Militia House: A Novel by John Milas is about Corporal Loyette and his squad finding a haunted house. In 2010, Alex Loyette was promoted to Corporal and team lead of his squad. He and his unit are working at a new base in Kajaki, Afghanistan and working to finish up their deployment to go to the next location.

Their duties are straightforward but essential to the new base. They unload and load cargo in and out of helicopters.  When there are no deliveries to be made, the unit finds themselves bored and with limited things to do, they are looking for any opportunity to occupy themselves. 

Before their allied British soldiers leave the base for their next assignment, they tell Loyette and his men about a rumor that is circulating the base. Not too far off from base is an old Soviet-era militia house that they claim is haunted. After spending their days being bored, Loyette and his unit don't need much convincing to make the trip outside of the base to explore the haunted barrack.

They decide to take a short excursion during the day when they are not assigned any duties. They thought it was all a joke about the place being haunted, until they enter the militia house and realize that something doesn’t feel right. In the days that follow, they try to forget the house but they have strange and unsettling dreams. Then weird things start to happen around their own base. They thought it was the stress from being in war but, maybe it’s something else that won’t let them go.

The book was an okay read and moved very slowly. It did have some spooky elements but nothing that might cause nightmares. The book was a bit hard to get into in the beginning as the author used a lot of military terminology and didn't really explain what they meant until much later. The pace also didn’t pick up towards the last quarter of the story.  There were quite a few pages where nothing really happened other than reading about their day to day. It was an interesting glimpse into military processes and procedures. The novel was a quick read but I found the ending disappointing. I wish the author told us why the militia house seemed to target Loyette and his men and what was haunting them. Along with the importance of the stick figures and porcupine needles. It was an okay read and I might be open to reading another book by the author if it's not very military focused.

Friday, November 17, 2023

Book Review - Ashton Hall by Lauren Belfer


Ashton Hall by Lauren Belfer is about an American woman named Hannah Larson and her son, Nicky, finding buried secrets in an old English manor. Hannah and Nicky travel to Ashton Hall, a historic manor house outside Cambridge, England to stay with an ailing relative, who lives there. 

Hannah has given up her academic career to raise her son, who is neurodivergent and experiences the world differently. She is glad for the respite as she left her husband back in New York City. She is afraid what her next steps would be in her marriage after witnessing her husband commit a devastating act of adultery with someone else.

When the pair arrive at the manor, Hannah allows Nicky the freedom to explore the manor unsupervised. Nicky is good at noticing patterns and he was able to find a secret door hidden in the wallpaper. The door leads to a closed off wing and there Nicky finds the skeletal remains of a woman.

Hannah finds herself drawn to this mysterious woman’s story. She and another fellow researcher from the manor dig through personal papers and centuries old ledgers to piece together what happened to the corpse they discovered. As Hannah works to find out the truth, she finds her own life slowly unraveling.

I thought this was going to be a thriller or murder mystery novel as it was classified as a gothic mystery. Instead it was a boring and pointless book. The author goes into such mundane details about everything, that I found myself lulled to sleep while reading. The author would go into detail about what the person read or packed for lunch. However, even though we are given so many pointless details about everything else, we still don’t know what really happened to the dead woman. I think the book is more a research piece on how people lived back in that time period than anything else. 

I also didn’t care for any of the characters. Hannah spent so much time complaining about her husband’s affair and then dealing with his reaction to her confronting him.  Her son was also an unlikeable character. He gets violent to the point where Hannah fears for her safety and locks him in his room at night. She worries if she should tell others but never gives them any warning about his violent tendencies. If this book was billed as women’s contemporary fiction, I wouldn’t have been so disappointed.

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Book Review - Codex Black: A Fire Among Clouds by Camilo Moncada Lozano and Angel De Santiago


Codex Black : A Fire Among Clouds by Camilo Moncada Lozano and Angel De Santiago is about a young Zapotec girl named Donaji, journeying to find her missing father. Donaji is known to be fearless and is a celebrated hero by her village. As she sets out to locate her father, she is accompanied by a god that lives in her poncho.

The poncho is a family heirloom that has been passed down by generations in her family. The god that resides in the poncho blesses the wearer with super strength. He also serves as a guardian and mentor to Donaji.

As she journeys to a village where her father was last spotted, she crosses paths with a young Mexica warrior with wings named Itzcacalotl. They formed a temporary partnership when they encountered a terrifying and dangerous bat monster that was terrorizing an entire village. As the duo spends more time together, their partnership blossoms into a budding friendship.

The graphic novel was colorful and well done. I enjoyed reading Donaji and Itzcacalotl’s adventures and seeing them transform into strangers thrusted into battle together, and then into good friends. I like that the footnotes explain some details about Aztec culture. The book had humor sprinkled with adventure and it’s perfect for young readers. I look forward to reading the next book in the series.

Monday, November 13, 2023

Book Review - The Spanish Diplomat's Secret by Nev March


The Spanish Diplomat's Secret  by Nev March is about a couple who set sail to England on a cruise ship and they witness a murder. In the summer of 1894, Captain Jim Agnihotri and his wife, Lady Diana Framji were going to England for a family visit. Jim is excited to spend some time with his wife as he feels that she has been distant lately.  He hopes that Diana will open up to him and they can repair their bond.

The first evening on the ship, Jim is feeling seasick. As Jim clings to the hand railing of the deck, he crosses paths with another traveler, Don Juan Nepomuceno. The passenger is a Spaniard and a fellow soldier. Jim feels a connection with him and spends a few minutes chatting with Don Juan. Within twenty four hours, Don Juan sent a note to Jim asking to speak with him privately. Before Jim can visit, it is discovered that Don Juan was brutally murdered.

When the ship’s captain learns that Jim is an investigator, he asks Jim to help find the killer before they dock in Liverpool. Jim has six days to find the person behind the crime otherwise the murder can lead to international consequences. Jim’s investigative skills are put to the test as he has to figure out who committed the murder in a locked cabin room and there are over a thousand passengers on board. There were no witnesses to the crime. And to make matters worse, Jim is experiencing seasickness and is struggling to find his sea legs. He doesn’t  want to put Diana in danger but he knows he can’t navigate the high society world of the first class passengers without her help.

When I first saw the book I didn’t realize it was a part of a series. It wasn’t clear to me until I looked up the book online. The book can be read as a standalone but I think certain references to Jim and Diane’s past would have made more sense if I read the previous books.

I was excited to read the book but disappointed at how slow and drawn out the story was. Pages upon pages would go by and nothing new would happen. The mastermind and motive was very obvious but a so-called detective couldn’t see it until the very end. I also didn’t like that the book had so many political details.  I found that it  took away from the story. I did like the historic details about the ship and passengers, though. I felt that I might have enjoyed this book if it was shorter and I got to learn more about the characters, i.e. if I had more details of them from previous books.

Friday, November 10, 2023

Book Review - Every Rising Sun: A Novel by Jamila Ahmed


Every Rising Sun: A Novel by Jamila Ahmed is a retelling of the classic, One Thousand and One Nights. In twelfth century Persia, a young girl, Shaherazade, is the daughter of one of Malik's (the sultan’s) viziers. She spends her day idling around the palace courtyards, reading, and weaving stories to tell to others.

As she explores the palace, she stumbles upon Malik's beloved wife entangled with her lover who isn’t her husband in the middle of the palace grounds where anyone could find the pair. Shaherazade is conflicted on telling Malik about his wife’s betrayal. She is weighed down deeply by this decision.

If Shaherazade keeps her secret and Malik finds out about it, Shaherazade and her family will be at risk because in her mind he would know that she didn’t say anything. However, if she does tell, she worries what Malik might do to the messenger and if he will even believe her. Shaherazade decides that she will tell Malik the truth as she becomes burdened by guilt. She weaves the story of his wife’s betrayal into a story and leaves it anonymously for him to read. Little did she know that her story would set the Seljuk Empire on fire and endanger everything she held dear.

Malik, who was well known for his gentle demeanor is now enraged by his wife’s betrayal. He decides to behead her in the public square to teach her a lesson. However, his anger doesn’t subside even after beheading his wife, whom he genuinely loved. He decides to take a new bride each night and then kill her in the morning, as his wife’s betrayal threatened his manhood.

His province and townspeople are angered by his bloodlust and indiscriminate killings. They are worried about protecting their daughters against Malik and his anger. Shaherazade feels that this is all her fault, and decides to offer herself to Malik for marriage. She hopes that it will calm the people from revolting and help absolve her guilt. 

Shaherazade persuades her beloved and esteemed father to offer her up as a bride to Mailk. She knows that Malik would accept her father’s offer because they are friends. She has loved Malik since she was a child. As a treat to Malik, on their wedding night, she tells him a story to enrapture him. He is spellbound by the story and wants to learn more but she cuts the story short as the sun ascends to ensure that she will live another day. She continues doing that each night in hopes of ensuring her safety from him. Malik attends his royal duties in the daytime and they are only able to spend time together at night.

As much as Malik enjoys her stories, his rage is too deep for Shaherazade alone to quell. Therefore, she and her father persuade Mailk to leave Persia and assist Saladin, an ally,  in the fight against the Crusaders in Palestine. She and her father hope that the fight will help burn out the excess hatred in Mailk. However, her plan doesn’t go exactly as she wishes as she soon realizes that there are plots to overthrow Malik and hurt her people. Will Shaherazade be able to protect her people while saving Malik from his burning rage?

I was excited to read this book but I struggled with getting into it. The author’s writing style was a bit hard for me to find enjoyable to read. The author’s prose felt wordy and bulky.  However, once I did get into the flow of the book it was a bit more enjoyable.

I found myself looking forward to reading Shaherazade’s stories. Some of her stories were standalone while others were connected but at times, it was confusing to keep track of the stories and the characters in them.  That was especially true when combining Shaherazade’s stories with the real events concerning Malik. I found myself preferring the side stories than the main story and I felt that took away from the main story line.  When the pair was faced with dangers and struggles from their journey I didn’t really connect with them. 

I found the book to be boring and moved slowly at times. The book was over 400 pages but moved at a snail’s pace with nothing happening for several pages at a time.  However, the ending came about swiftly and had an unexpected twist. It felt like the author left it up to the readers to decide or there could be room for a sequel. I thought the book was an okay read. I wish the novel just had contained Shaherazade’s stories and that would have been a lot more satisfying to read.