A Dangerous Woman From Nowhere by Kris Radish

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My journey into the Western genre has been quite recent. While I usually stick to fantasy or thrillers or sci-fi as my go-to genres, I like to change it up a bit and I’ve found that Western novels are quite interesting! I also liked that this novel featured a badass protagonist who goes off to save her husband – instead of it being the other way around. So with all that in mind, I decided to read this book. Here is my review:

Briar Logan has always felt more comfortable alone. It was just a way of life for her, after having survived a terrible childhood, near starvation, and the harsh western frontier. But just as things are starting to look better for her, Briar’s husband is kidnapped by lawless gold miners. Desperate to save her husband, she is forced to accept the help of a damaged young man and a notorious female horse trainer. As they face thieves, whiskey runners, and dangerous men, the unlikely trio must form an alliance in order to survive – and get what they want. 

This is a very detailed novel that focuses on Briar and is told from her perspective. We learn about her and her relationship with her husband and other loved ones through flashbacks. The language is poetic, and Briar is definitely a strong female character. However, I didn’t really enjoy the story. It moved a lot slower than I had expected and it was hard to tell what this novel was: was it a love story? was it more of action? It felt more like a mashup of 2 novels than one independent story. I also found that the poetic language and the flashbacks impeded my reading experience and detracted from the plot. The other characters were interesting but not so much that I felt drawn or connected to them. While I appreciate the author’s attempt to showcase a strong female as the lead, the rest of the story didn’t work for me. For those reasons, I’m giving it a 2/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

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The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I’ve only read one other book by Alice Hoffman, but I really loved it. So I was super excited for the chance to read this one! This novel is a prequel to Practical Magic, which I have not read before and which the reader does not have to have read in order to understand what is happening in this story. But let me get on with my review:

For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man. Even though it has been hundreds of years, and there have been many changes in the world, Susanna Owens knows that her 3 children are talented – and dangerous. There’s Franny, perpetually grumpy but with an ability to communicate with animals; Jet, who is beautiful and kind, with the ability to read others’ thoughts; and Vincent, charismatic and addictive, with a penchant for getting into trouble. Knowing all this, Susanna has set down rules for her children: no walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they really are. And when they come back home to New York City, each sibling sets off on a risky journey to escape the family curse.

If you think this is just a story about spells and potions, then you would be wrong. This is about so much more than just magic. It’s about families filled with regret, it’s about gaining the courage to live life to the fullest, and it is about daring to love and dream and LIVE. As usual, the author has written a beautiful story about family and love and loss, with gorgeous prose. I really could not stop myself from turning the pages. Every character has been wonderfully created, and it is so easy to feel connected to them; I felt truly invested in their lives and their pursuit for happiness. This novel had me so emotional; I was literally sobbing at times because I could feel their emotions so deeply. One thing is for sure: I am DEFINITELY going to read Practical Magic. If you have never read a book by Alice Hoffman, I urge you to do so ASAP because she is such a talented author and everything she writes is amazing! I’m just glad she’s written as many books as she has, because now I have more books to enjoy!

Happy reading ~

The Tiger’s Daughter by K Arsenault Rivera

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I absolutely adored the premise of this novel. It hinted at Mongolian and Japanese and Chinese influences, so I was really intrigued as to how the author would incorporate that into her story. Plus, fantasy is my all-time favorite and I’m always down for new books in the genre. Let’s begin the review:

The Hokkaran empire has been victorious in defeating all of their enemies and conquering land – but they failed to notice another enemy: the darkness festering within the people. Now, their bordering walls are starting to crumble and demons are on the rampage, killing villagers everywhere. Away on the silver steppes, the nomadic Qorin tribe try to protect themselves, having bartered a treaty with their empire. Now, in the face of evil, two young warriors from across borders must save the world, thus fulfilling their destinies. This is the story of an infamous Qorin warrior, Barsalayaa Shefali, a spoiled divine warrior empress, O Shizuka, and a power that can reach through time and space to save a land from a truly insidious evil.

With a premise like that, how could this novel fail, am I right? WRONG. I had to add this ARC to my DNF pile, and we all know how much I hate doing that. But I simply could not get through this novel. I only got through 20% before I had to give up. So what was so wrong with this story? Well, for starters it begins with a letter. Now, I love letters. But this letter was there simply for info-dumping purposes. I mean, it went on and on for about 4 chapters of the story, pretty much laying all of the groundwork. But since that was the only real world-building that was happening, it made the story very clunky and effectively removed any chance of there actually being a plot line. The worst part is that the letter wasn’t even well-written! It had no nuance, it had no flair, it literally just narrated everything in an awkward way, which really didn’t make for a pleasant experience for the reader. I kept waiting for something to happen with the plot but … well, nothing really happened. that was a real bummer for me. There is clearly romance between the two female protagonists, but it wasn’t executed well, either. The author also makes some very racist remarks that really made me feel uncomfortable; others have also mentioned this on Goodreads so I’m not going to get into it any further. Overall, this novel was quite a let-down. It had garnered a lot of hype and it brought my hopes up. But in the end, it didn’t deliver. For those reasons, I’m giving it a 1/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

 

 

Select by Marit Weisenberg

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Sometimes, all I really want is to read some YA fiction. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen very often given my work and my looooong TBR list. Happily, this was one of the novels on that list so I could shoot two birds with one stone! Here is my review:

17-year-old Julia Jaynes comes from a very wealthy family. She is freakishly athletic, intelligent, and beautiful. But everyone in her community is like that. That’s because they all come from a race of highly-evolved humans living in the heart of Texas. In order to protect themselves and preserve their elite society, Julia’s powerful father has forced her to suppress her abilities. But when she accidentally demonstrates her powers in public, she is banished to the local public high school. Not only must Julia navigate through the confusion that is high school, she must also pretend to be a normal human being, which is not an easy task. Julia just wants to keep her head down and leave as soon as possible – but then she meets John Ford. And there is an instant connection between the two. She can even read his mind! But as Julia’s newfound powers grow, so do her feelings for Josh. When she discovers her father’s secrets, Julia begins to question her restrictive upbringing. Now, she must decide who she truly is – and who she will betray to maintain her new identity.

So what drew me to this book in the first place was the science fiction element. Of course, from the blurb, I knew there was a fair bit of romance. What I wasn’t expecting was that 90% of this novel would be romance and only 10% would be actual science fiction. That part was a big disappointment because I thought there would be more to her powers than what the author had in mind. I think if the author had spent more time developing the science fiction aspect of the story, there would have been more depth to the story. However …. I still really enjoyed the book. I usually don’t like romance novels; they make me cringe with the clichéd phrases. But for some reason, this one worked. Now, I’m not saying that the romance between Josh and Julia was spot-on; there were some definite holes in the way things worked and developed between the two. But it also reminded me of my own high school experiences, the friendships that blossom into something more, and the sweetness of first love. It was cute and sweet and simple and I liked it. I also liked that the author showed how Julia was affected by the actions and thoughts of other characters. While this made the story more of a realistic fiction than science fiction, it was an aspect that was still well done. Now, if you were looking for a good science fiction novel, then this is not the one for you. I mean, it seriously has nothing to offer in terms of that genre. If you like sweet romance mixed with family drama, then you would probably enjoy this story. Because that’s pretty much what it’s all about. Because the science fiction part was misleading but I actually enjoyed the romance part of this story, I’m giving this a 3.5/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

The House At the Edge of Night by Catherine Banner

I was very eager to read this book, not only because of its hype, but also because I thought it was an interesting way to go about telling a historical story. So let me just get right to the chase:

Castellamare is an island far enough away from the mainland to be forgotten, but not far enough to escape from the world’s troubles. On the island is a café called the House at the Edge of Night, where everyone in the community comes to gossip. Amedeo Esposito owns this place and it has helped him make a home for himself and his family. As the story follows the lives of the Esposito family and the islanders who live on Castellamare, we see how the people – and Castellamare – itself are transformed by both world wars and a great recession.

Let me start by saying that this novel is very eloquently written. It has beautiful descriptions and very complex characters that it is easy to become caught up in their world. I loved the way that the author described the island; it made you feel like you were a part of the island community as you were reading. However, I found the novel to be a tad bit boring. There were too many characters, and the story meandered away from the central family to describe details that I really didn’t care about. While there were interesting points, it took a lot of effort to focus and get to those areas. Because of that, I didn’t have the best experience reading the novel. However, I would definitely not discourage others from reading this book; it has a ton of raving reviews on Goodreads so this may just be a one-off situation where the book and I didn’t match. If you like descriptive historical fiction, then definitely add this to your TBR list.

Happy reading ~

The Terracotta Bride by Zen Cho

I really wanted to read a short novel that had an interesting concept so when this one was recommended to me, I grabbed the chance! Here is my review:

In the tenth court of hell, wealthy spirits bribe the bureaucrats of the underworld in order to avoid the torments of hell and not undergo reincarnation. It’s a comfortable place to live, even for those who didn’t necessarily have a choice. Siew Tsin didn’t want to marry the richest man in hell, but she’s made her peace with it. After all, she avoids all of the unpleasant aspects of death and hell. But everything changes when her husband brings home a new bride. Yonghua is an artifical woman made from terracotta. At first, Siew Tsin does not know what to make of her. But as the two sister wives frow closer, the mystery of Yonghua will draw Siew Tsin to choose between eternal life or a very final death.

I quite enjoyed reading this novel. The author did a wonderful job of taking a traditional idea and showing its different nuances. While I may not know much about the Chinese afterlife, the author did a great job of painting a vivid picture of it for readers like me. The story and the ideas it puts out there are complex. They are designed to make the reader pause and think about the implications behind the scenario. I really enjoyed having that opportunity, especially since I wasn’t expecting it. Altogether, this was a short yet thought-provoking read that is sure to delight everyone.

Happy reading ~

The Bohemian Gospel by Dana Chamblee Carpenter

Something about this book just captured my attention right away. Maybe it was the cover, with its medieval times look. Maybe it was the fact that this story combines fantasy, historical fiction, and the Devil. Either way, it’s been on my mind for a while and now seemed like the best time to get into this story (which has a sequel, by the way!) so here is my review:

13th century Bohemia is a religious place, where anything that defies God and the Church is considered a danger to humanity. This makes it a dangerous place for Mouse, a girl born with unnatural powers and an uncanny intellect. Some call her a witch, others call her an angel…. but Mouse doesn’t know who – or what – she is. When young King Ottakar shows up wounded at the Abbey, Mouse breaks church law to save his life. Astounded by her medical abilities, the King insists on taking her with him back to Prague as his personal healer. When Mouse arrives at the castle, she is caught in the midst of court politics. Soon, Ottakar and Mouse find themselves drawn to each other, as they work together to uncover the identities of those who are against him and unravel the mystery of Mouse’s identity. But when Mouse’s unusual gifts give rise to violence and strength, she is forced to ask herself if she is prepared for the future that awaits her.

This is a book that I still haven’t been able to pin an opinion on. There were so many things that I loved about this novel and I read this book in record time. However, there were also certain elements of the novel that didn’t work for me. Let me start by talking about the things I liked:

  • Mouse having powers was the thing that really drew me to this novel. I love fantasy and a female protagonist with “gifts” during a time period when people like her would be considered witches or worse …. well, that is my weakness!
  • I really liked that the author didn’t just focus on Mouse’s powers; she took the time to explore Mouse’s life, her emotions, and all of the other factors that influenced Mouse. It made Mouse come alive, made her more than just your usual protagonist trying to figure out her identity. Mouse falling in love, suffering, and rising from that was just as important to the story as her powers.
  • I liked the historical backdrop of the story a lot. This novel takes place in a variety of different settings and the author does a really great job transitioning from one to the other.
  • While the story has its slow points in the middle, it definitely ramps up closer to the end and it kept me on my toes until the very last minute. It was worth the dull stuff to get to that last page!

So now that I’ve covered the good stuff, here are some of the things I disliked:

  • Mouse’s character was not as strong as I would have liked. For someone who has badass powers, she didn’t really do much to discover them and I wasn’t too happy with the fact that she never properly embraced them.
  • The author made Mouse very submissive … and that bothered me a lot. I understand that she may have wanted to maintain some kind of historical accuracy, as the times in which this novel took place, there was no feminism movements…. but Mouse had POWERS! She really shouldn’t have been placed in such submissive roles, she should have been way more badass and strong. This really bothered me in the story and I wasn’t able to enjoy it as much as I had hoped because of this aspect.
  • The dull moments were … dull. If the author had included some magical power stuff, then it would have been a bit easier to get through those parts.

Overall, this story was gripping and original. I really enjoyed the overall plot and made my way through this book quite quickly. While there were some elements that I didn’t enjoy, the book was mostly amazing and I am definitely going to be reading the sequel!

Happy reading ~

Badlands by Melissa Lenhardt – Sawbones #3

I received this novel as an advanced copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

This was a long time coming. I remember reading the second novel in this series and wanting to get started on this one right away … but life (and other books on my TBR list) got in the way. However, I’ve finally done it and I’m ready to review:

Just when Laura thought things were going to get better, her worst fears have been realized: she is separated from Kindle and is once again on the run. She can’t go back to New York without risking death, and it is almost certain that Kindle will be tried and hanged. The only person Laura has as an ally is a woman that she cannot trust. Will Laura be able to survive? Or is it finally time for her to face her past?

This was a really good conclusion to an interesting series. In this concluding novel, the story was focused almost entirely on Laura, which I really enjoyed. Kindle, while always present, took a backseat in this story and it actually worked for the better. This novel had 2 female protagonists (including Laura) and I really liked reading about how they fought and worked with each other throughout the course of the story. Again, the author did a great job maintaining the historical setting of the novel. All of the open ends were tied up really nice with this book. After all the negative things that occur in this novel, it still ended on a positive note, which I was happy about. This was definitely a successful Western historical fiction series and I would recommend to anyone who is a fan of this genre!

Happy reading ~

The Lost Letter by Jillian Cantor

Thank you to Penguin Random House and their First to Read program for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I’m not a big fan of historical fiction and if you go through my blog, you will see that I haven’t read very many books from this genre. I always feel a bit guilty about not widening my horizons so this time I chose a book that is not only part of the historical fiction genre but also the romance genre (which I also don’t delve into very much).

Austria, 1938.
Kristoff is a young apprentice to a master Jewish stamp engraver. However, when Kristallnacht occurs, Kristoff’s teacher disappears and it is up to Kristoff to deal with the Germans, who want him to engrave stamps for the Fuhrer and his army. With the help of his teacher’s fiery daughter, Elena, the stamps get made …. but for each stamp created for the Fuhrer comes another stamp for the Austrian resistance, along with forged papers to help Jewish Austrians escape. As Kristoff and Elena’s love for each other grows, they must find a way to keep each other safe before they get caught.

Los Angeles, 1989.
Katie Nelson is struggling with her life, as she goes through a divorce and deals with her father’s memory loss. As she cleans up her house, she comes across her father’s beloved stamp collection. When an appraiser, Benjamin, discovers an unusual World War II-era Austrian stamp placed on an old love letter, Katie finds herself intrigued. As she and Benjamin try to get to the bottom of this mystery, they are sent on a journey together that will uncover a story of passion and tragedy spanning decades and continents, behind the just fallen Berlin Wall.

This was a very well-written story and looked at a very different angle of the war than one I’ve previously read about. I’ve heard of Kristallnacht, of course, but this novel took an interesting perspective of it. Even though half of the story takes place during WWII, the emphasis was evenly divided between the relationship of Kristoff and Elena and the resistance effort. I also really liked the other narrative that was happening with Katie and her father’s stamp collection. I learned a lot about stamps and their significance that I was unaware of before this story, and that was a nice surprise. The romance aspect of this novel was really well done; it was believable and simple and touching. I quite enjoyed the read and got a bit emotional at the end, which is always a good sign. This is definitely a strong historical fiction novel with a well written romance angle!

Happy reading ~

Blood Oath by Melissa Lenhardt – Sawbones #2

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Sawbones, the first book in this series, was one of my first forays into the Western genre. And I really liked it. The story was good, the theme was good, nothing felt overdone… it was just a great experience overall. It was with high hopes that I began to read this sequel… so here is my review:

After escaping danger, Laura Elliston and William Kindle are on the run — from the Army and from every bounty hunter after Laura. But the danger isn’t just from those pursuing them. Laura and Kindle can’t escape their past and are haunted by their secrets and trauma. Exhausted, scared, scarred and surrounded by enemies, neither realize the greatest danger is yet to come.

As usual, the author maintained that awesome grittiness that I have started to associate with the Western genre. Laura and Kindle do not get it easy at all in this novel! Every time they turn, there is some struggle or the other – but that’s what I like about this book series. The author does not shy away from difficult themes like the conflict between Natives and the “Westerners”, and the trauma from rape. The story was powerful because of the topics it covered and I think the author did a good job of addressing them. There is a lot more romance in this novel but I think that the chemistry between Laura and Kindle worked very well, so it was a success for me! I will say that this novel is more of a filler between the first book and what is to come; while this novel was interesting, it wasn’t really necessary. However, with all that being said, this is definitely a good Western book series and I cannot wait to see what happens to Laura and Kindle in the next installment!

Happy reading ~