Book Reviews

ARC Review: The Woman in the Lake by Nicola Cornick

39973246Summary: London, 1765

Lady Isabella Gerard, a respectable member of Georgian society, orders her maid to take her new golden gown and destroy it, its shimmering beauty tainted by the actions of her brutal husband the night before.

Three months later, Lord Gerard stands at the shoreline of the lake, looking down at a woman wearing the golden gown. As the body slowly rolls over to reveal her face, it’s clear this was not his intended victim…

250 Years Later…

When a gown she stole from a historic home as a child is mysteriously returned to Fenella Brightwell, it begins to possess her in exactly the same way that it did as a girl. Soon the fragile new life Fen has created for herself away from her abusive ex-husband is threatened at its foundations by the gown’s power over her until she can’t tell what is real and what is imaginary.

As Fen uncovers more about the gown and Isabella’s story, she begins to see the parallels with her own life. When each piece of history is revealed, the gown—and its past—seems to possess her more and more, culminating in a dramatic revelation set to destroy her sanity.

*I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley and HARLEQUIN- Graydon House Books in return for an honest review*

RELEASE DATE: Febuary 26th, 2019


My Thoughts: This book caught my eye on Netgalley right away, as I am a sucker for historical fiction- especially with interwoven timelines.  It did not disappoint.  It had a mysterious gothic fiction vibe, which I loved, and a gripping plot.  I couldn’t put it down because the pacing was spectacular.  The mysteries slowly unraveled and kept me guessing the entire time with some great twists and reveals.  The supernatural elements were subtle and unexplained, which only added to the tension.  There were three different narrators, all with unique and specific points of view, and the way they worked to flesh out different parts of the story was super compelling and addicting.  Fenella’s storyline was my favorite, and I really loved her chemistry with her love interest.  The parallels between Isabella in the past and Fen in the present were interesting, but I wish there would have been a stronger a connection between them and that they would have been a bit more entwined.  The writing, while not super elegant, was entertaining and painted nice pictures of both the characters and the world.  Overall, this book isn’t a game changer, but it is a great quick and consuming read for any historical fiction fan.

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Book Reviews

ARC Review: Dark of the West by Joanna Hathaway

32949202Summary: He was raised in revolution. She was raised in a palace. Can their love stop a war? Code Name Verity meets The Winner’s Curse in Joanna Hathaway’s Dark of the West, a breathtaking YA fantasy debut.

Aurelia Isendare is a princess of a small kingdom in the North, raised in privilege but shielded from politics as her brother prepares to step up to the throne. Halfway around the world, Athan Dakar, the youngest son of a ruthless general, is a fighter pilot longing for a life away from the front lines. When Athan’s mother is shot and killed, his father is convinced it’s the work of his old rival, the Queen of Etania—Aurelia’s mother. Determined to avenge his wife’s murder, he devises a plot to overthrow the Queen, a plot which sends Athan undercover to Etania to gain intel from her children.

Athan’s mission becomes complicated when he finds himself falling for the girl he’s been tasked with spying upon. Aurelia feels the same attraction, all the while desperately seeking to stop the war threatening to break between the Southern territory and the old Northern kingdoms that control it—a war in which Athan’s father is determined to play a role. As diplomatic ties manage to just barely hold, the two teens struggle to remain loyal to their families and each other as they learn that war is not as black and white as they’ve been raised to believe.

*I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge! Thank you for the opportunity!*

Release Date: February 5th, 2019


My Thoughts:  This book was different than I had expected.  It is billed as a fantasy novel, but other than being set in a fictional world, there were no fantasy elements whatsoever.  It read more like a historical fiction war story- which is cool, but I kept waiting for the fantasy aspect to emerge and it never did.  The fictional world is really in depth with complicated politics, which was amazing, but I found myself floundering without enough knowledge to fully grasp it all (I didn’t have the map in my ARC, and I think that would have helped me to understand it all better.  There will be map in the official release.) In addition to the fully developed world, the characters were also pretty well formed and interesting- Athan especially.  He was really likable and I empathized with him a lot.  There was a great contrast between him and Aurelia and their relationship was sweet, however; I didn’t feel like it progressed enough.  I loved their star-crossed lovers scenario, but I just wish there would have been a little more heat.  In fact, the whole book was pretty slow and there wasn’t a lot of action.  It was very politically focused, with intricate schemes and plans, and it felt like a set up for later action that didn’t come in this book.  The last few chapters were a bit more exciting as things came to a head, and I did enjoy the twists, but I didn’t feel like there was enough plot driven action for the first book in a series.  Overall, it was beautifully written with an interesting premise and characters, but it was a bit too slow for me to get fully on board.

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Book Reviews

Review: When We Caught Fire by Anna Godbersen

36501779Summary: It’s 1871 and Emmeline Carter is poised to take Chicago’s high society by storm. Between her father’s sudden rise to wealth, and her recent engagement to Chicago’s most eligible bachelor, Emmeline has it all. But she can’t stop thinking about the life she left behind, including her childhood sweetheart, Anders Magnuson. Fiona Byrne, Emmeline’s childhood best friend, is delighted by her friend’s sudden rise to prominence, especially since it means Fiona is free to pursue Anders herself. But when Emmeline risks everything for one final fling with Anders, Fiona feels completely betrayed.

As the summer turns to fall, the city is at a tipping point: friendships are tested, hearts are broken, and the tiniest spark might set everything ablaze. Sweeping, soapy, and romantic, this is a story about an epic love triangle—one that will literally set the city ablaze, and change the lives of three childhood friends forever.


My Thoughts: Anna Godbersen’s The Luxe series is one of my favorite book series of all time.  I was over the moon when I saw that she was coming out with another YA Historical Fiction book set in the 1800’s, since her writing is what originally made me fall in love with that time period.  When We Caught Fire was a super fast and engrossing read.  I love Godbersen’s style and I live for the drama she creates with her characters.  This one did not disappoint with its love triangle and dealings with the societal hierarchy.  Since it was a standalone and not the beginning of a series, I felt that the characters were not as strongly developed as in The Luxe, but it didn’t bother me too much.  I liked the two girls, Emmeline and Fiona, and thought they were an interesting pair.  I wasn’t crazy about Anders, which I think hindered my connection to the love triangle, as I did not see what the fuss was about him.  He seemed shady and it was unclear what his actual feelings were, but my favorite thing about Godbersen’s characters is that they are all flawed, and not always great people.  I loved the back drop of The Great Fire in Chicago, and thought it was a perfect parallel to the plot line.  It was also a historical event that I didn’t have much knowledge of, and I was fascinated with it.  I really enjoyed this fictionalized interpretation of what could have happened, in an event where no one actually knows.  In the end, I was very happy with this book and I couldn’t put it down until I knew what was going to happen with these characters.  It didn’t quite live up to The Luxe for me, but it was still a satisfying read.

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Book Reviews

ARC Review: The Swan Keeper by Milana Marsenich

38336382Summary: Girlhood, courage, nature, and flight from a tyrant’s hand in post-frontier Montana.

The Swan Keeper is an historical, coming of age novel set in Northwest Montana’s Mission Valley in the late 1920s.

Lillian Connelly loves trumpeter swans and vows to protect them from a hunter who is killing them and leaving their carcasses for the wolves and coyotes to ravage.

On her eleventh birthday Lilly’s family visits the Cattail Marsh to see the newly hatched cygnets. The family outing turns tragic when Dean Drake shows up with his shotgun and fires on not only the swans, but on Lilly’s family. Unable to prevent tragedy, Lillian witnesses Drake kill her father, injure her mother, and slaughter the bevy of trumpeter swans.

The sheriff, Charlie West, thinks that Lilly is reacting to the trauma and blaming Drake because of a previous conflict between Drake and her father. Lilly’s mother, sister, and her best friend, Jerome West, the sheriff’s son, all think the same thing: that Lilly is trying to make sense of a senseless accident.

Left alone to bring Dean Drake to justice, Lilly’s effort is subverted when Drake woos her sister, courts her mother, and moves into their home.


*I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review! Thank you to Milana Marsenich for sharing your work with me!*

My Thoughts: I love historical fiction and after reading The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah, I have been intrigued by the American Frontier, so this summary caught my attention right away.  It sounded so exciting, and I couldn’t wait to discover how Lilly coped with witnessing the murder of her father, and nobody believing her about it.  Unfortunately, this book was was way too slow for me.  Nothing happened, and what DID happen just felt like it was repeating the same scenes over and over again.  I kept waiting for the plot to take off, and it never did.  There was so much information about the swans that didn’t feel necessary to the story and I had enough with the first few tidbits to understand their importance.  I did feel for Lilly, and was very frustrated on her behalf when no one believes her because she is just a kid.  Marsenich did a good job of showing us Lilly’s voice and feelings, and creating that barrier between her and the adults in her life.  However; I didn’t feel like Lilly actually had that much of an arc.  She didn’t seem to change at all by the end of the story aside from aging a couple years.  The rest of the characters felt very unimportant and distant.  There were a few very beautiful phrases in the writing, but most of it felt disjointed to me and at times hard to follow what was supposed to be happening.  I really wanted to like this book, but it was too boring for me and I almost DNF’d it.  I managed to push through to the end, but it was a bit of a struggle.

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Book Reviews · Reading Challenges

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah Review

the-great-alone-kristin-hannahGoodreads Summary:  Alaska, 1974.
Unpredictable. Unforgiving. Untamed.
For a family in crisis, the ultimate test of survival.

Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: he will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier.

Thirteen-year-old Leni, a girl coming of age in a tumultuous time, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, dares to hope that a new land will lead to a better future for her family. She is desperate for a place to belong. Her mother, Cora, will do anything and go anywhere for the man she loves, even if it means following him into the unknown

At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers. In a wild, remote corner of the state, they find a fiercely independent community of strong men and even stronger women. The long, sunlit days and the generosity of the locals make up for the Allbrights’ lack of preparation and dwindling resources.

But as winter approaches and darkness descends on Alaska, Ernt’s fragile mental state deteriorates and the family begins to fracture. Soon the perils outside pale in comparison to threats from within. In their small cabin, covered in snow, blanketed in eighteen hours of night, Leni and her mother learn the terrible truth: they are on their own. In the wild, there is no one to save them but themselves.

In this unforgettable portrait of human frailty and resilience, Kristin Hannah reveals the indomitable character of the modern American pioneer and the spirit of a vanishing Alaska―a place of incomparable beauty and danger. The Great Alone is a daring, beautiful, stay-up-all-night story about love and loss, the fight for survival, and the wildness that lives in both man and nature.

My Thoughts: She does it again.  This book is fabulous.  I went into it having no idea what to expect, other than that I have loved every other book by Kristin Hannah.  I was captivated by the premise, and as soon as they made it to Alaska, I was hooked. The way Hannah has of creating real and flawed characters that burrow their way into your heart is unparalleled for me.  I immediately connected with Leni and her family, and felt for their struggles.  I think her mother, Cora, was my favorite.  She was so complex, and I really think that Hannah did an amazing job in creating a vessel for this extremely complicated and difficult subject matter.  All of the characters were wonderfully vivid and unique, and helped to establish the vibrancy of Alaska, which might as well have been a character itself.  The setting was so beautifully fleshed out in great detail and it felt alive.  The time period played such a huge role in the development of the story, from the small pop culture references to the bigger issues, like a woman not being able to get a credit card without her father or husband to sign off on it, or the lack of diagnosis for PTSD.  In another time, the story would have played out very differently.  There was a deep intensity and an underlying sense of foreboding throughout the entire book, and it kept me riveted all the way to the final page, where I was sobbing like a little baby (as her books tend to make me do).  So thank you Kristin Hannah for once again grabbing  hold of my heart and pulling it into your story, where I feel a part of it still is.

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Book Hangover

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Book Reviews

The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill Review

30201327Goodreads Summary: With echoes of The Night Circus, a spellbinding story about two gifted orphans in love with each other since they can remember whose childhood talents allow them to rewrite their future.

The Lonely Hearts Hotel is a love story with the power of legend. An unparalleled tale of charismatic pianos, invisible dance partners, radicalized chorus girls, drug-addicted musicians, brooding clowns, and an underworld whose economy hinges on the price of a kiss. In a landscape like this, it takes great creative gifts to thwart one’s origins. It might also take true love.

Two babies are abandoned in a Montreal orphanage in the winter of 1910. Before long, their talents emerge: Pierrot is a piano prodigy; Rose lights up even the dreariest room with her dancing and comedy. As they travel around the city performing clown routines, the children fall in love with each other and dream up a plan for the most extraordinary and seductive circus show the world has ever seen.

Separated as teenagers, sent off to work as servants during the Great Depression, both descend into the city’s underworld, dabbling in sex, drugs and theft in order to survive. But when Rose and Pierrot finally reunite beneath the snowflakes after years of searching and desperate poverty the possibilities of their childhood dreams are renewed, and they’ll go to extreme lengths to make them come true. Soon, Rose, Pierrot and their troupe of clowns and chorus girls have hit New York, commanding the stage as well as the alleys, and neither the theater nor the underworld will ever look the same.

With her musical language and extravagantly realized world, Heather O’Neill enchants us with a novel so magical there is no escaping its spell.

My Thoughts:  This book was so different than I expected, and I still don’t really understand how I feel about it.  Right away, I loved the prose.  It was stunningly beautiful and poetic, but also very blunt, which I thought was such an interesting mixture.  I definitely understand the comparison to Night Circus.  They were completely different in content, but the vibe was similar.  Speaking of content… I was warned that this book was sexually explicit and usually that never bothers me at all, but I was not prepared for the large quantity of explicitness.  It almost felt like the entire story was sexual, or put into sexual terms, and a lot of the time I felt like it was in there for shock value.  I understand why it was included, and the importance of it to the character’s development, but I didn’t feel like it was necessary all the time.  I started to get annoyed with the frequency of it and it kind of turned me off to reading the book.  I felt like it overshadowed the rest of the story, which was very heart wrenching and beautiful.  The characters were extremely flawed, which I absolutely loved.  Rose in particular was a great character.  I loved her strength and resourcefulness, and also how unapologetically weird she was.  I didn’t like Pierrot as much, and often just pitied him, but it worked in context of their relationship.  The whole story is really tragic, but it’s also hopeful, even in its darkest moments, and that is what still haunts me.  While reading this book, I wasn’t even sure if I was enjoying it, but when it was over my heart hurt so much that I knew it had affected me more than I thought. I was torn between 3 and 4 stars for this one, but after the way I felt when it was over, I bumped it up to 4.

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Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 Books on My Fall TBR List

I love Fall.  I don’t care how basic it is, but I love me a jean jacket, a pumpkin spice latte, and a good pair of boots.  I also love cuddling under a cozy blanket and reading a new book.  This week’s Top Ten Tuesday theme from The Broke and the Bookish celebrates our Fall To Be Read Lists! Here are 10 books I am looking forward to reading this fall!

33571713A Column of Fire by Ken Follett: I have been waiting FOREVER for this book to come out! Ken Follett is my favorite, and his Kingsbridge series are my favorite books of all time.  I am currently reading this one, and loving it.

 

29923707One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake: I can’t wait any longer for this book.  I am dying to find out what is going to happen!! The suspense is killing me!

 

 

25740412The Black Witch by Laurie Forest: This book has a lot of controversy.  It sounds like something I would love, and I’m excited wait to see what all the fuss is about.

 

 

cover118067-mediumSparked by Helena Echlin and Malena Watrous: I requested this book on Netgalley, and have been waiting for the right time to read it.  It sounds kind of spooky, which is perfect for fall.

 

 

cover117283-mediumThe Canary Club by Sherry D. Ficklin: I love the Roaring 20’s, especially after having lived in them on stage for 2 years, and this Netgalley book caught my eye immediately.

 

 

cover115302-mediumThe Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert: This book sounds so interesting, and after reading the first few pages, I think I’m going to like it.  Another book with a perfect fall vibe.

 

 

1278752The House at Riverton by Kate Morton: I fell in love with Kate Morton after I read The Forgotten Garden.  I bought this book a while ago, and have been staring at it on my shelf.  With Morton’s gothic undertones, it sounds like a perfect cold fall snuggle day book.

 

32283133I love Dan Brown.  I have read all of his books, and I can’t wait for this one to come out on October 3rd!  They are always such fun and exciting reads, and I love Robert Langdon!

 

 

16034235Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas: After becoming obsessed with A Court of Thorns and Roses, I figured I HAD to start this series.  Plus I have heard a million great things.

 

Top Ten Tuesday

Top 10 Tuesday: Book Recommendations for People Who Love Downton Abbey

I am SO excited that The Broke and Bookish are back with some new Top Ten Tuesday Topics!  I have recently been binge watching Downton Abbey and I am obsessed.  I love historical fiction and the turn of the century is my absolute favorite time period to read about and watch.  This weeks theme was “Ten Recommendations for….” so I decided to combine my latest obsession with my book obsession.  Here are my Top Ten Recommendations for People Who Love Downton Abbey!

215679No Angel by Penny Vincenzi:  The Spoils of Time is one of my all time favorite trilogies.  It is an epic family saga full of drama, romance, war, scandal, what more could you want?   My favorite thing about this book is the characters.  All of them were so flawed, and yet I fell madly in love with them and their relationships.  The first book, No Angel, was my favorite in the trilogy.

7315573Fall of Giants by Ken Follett:  Ken Follett, made a masterpiece out of this trilogy.  It follows 3 generations of families all over the world, and how their lives intertwine throughout the big events in history.  Fall of Giants follows the first generation during WWI.  The plot is engaging, the characters are complex, and following the links in the families is really exciting.

 

825508A Dangerous Fortune by Ken Follett: Another book by Ken Follett? Yes.  I love him, and this book is incredible.  The social politics and the drama alone are enough to make this book worth while.  Not to mention the characters are lovable (and despicable), the plot is fast paced, and the writing is super juicy.

 

6723017The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton: This book gave me a huge book hangover! It had a darker, gothic tone, which I really enjoyed.  It kept me on the edge of my seat and awake way past my bed time.  You can read my full review here.

 

 

14935Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen: If you’re in the mood for a classic, Downton lovers, Sense and Sensibility has all of the snark of Aunt Violet mixed with the beautiful writing of Jane Austen.  Find my full review here.

 

 

6867Atonement by Ian McEwan: This book is beautiful, tragic, and perfect for Downton fans.  It has a haunting story that will leave you frustrated (in a good way) and questioning every choice you make and the consequences. The movie is also really well done.

 

 

15701533The Ashford Affair by Lauren Willig: Who doesn’t love a good flashback story?  With plenty of dark family secrets, this book will keep you reading and involved in Clementine and Addie’s lives until the very last page.  I got lost in this story on a vacation and I had to be pulled out of it and back to real life.

 

1254951The Luxe by Anna Godbersen: I have raved about this book before on my blog, but I really can’t say enough good things about it.  This is the book that made me fall in love with this time period and its social politics.  Years later, I still vividly remember how invested I was in these characters, and reading it backstage at my dance recital because I couldn’t wait to get home to find out what happened next.

 

9999107The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin:  This book didn’t have the most exciting plot, but the overall feel of it was very grand.  I found it interesting to see the dynamics between the American and the British aristocrats.  It reminds me of what it would have been like for Cora before the start of Downton. Coincidence, the heroine of this book is named Cora too.

 

3682A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray: Now if you love Downton Abbey and Fantasy, then this is the book for you.  I absolutely LOVED this book.  The world created was so unique, and the dark gothic style worked really well.  This book was unlike anything else I’ve read, and the rest of the series continued to be just as good.