Book Review: The Tinderbox by Beverly Lewis

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on The Tinderbox by Beverly Lewis.

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The Tinderbox follows a young Amish woman, Sylvia Miller, as she goes through the stages of courtship and engagement around the time of the 20th anniversary of her parents’ engagement. However, when she open a tinderbox belonging to her father, she discovers something from his life as an Englischer that represents a secret that he never told anyone – not even his wife. The implications of his secret could cause trouble for the family, but he also knows it needs to come out, otherwise it could have further repercussions for the family later down the road, especially if the whole community finds out.

I liked the Tinderbox, although in my opinion it took too long to get to the plot of the story, which is some some of Beverly Lewis’ more recent books tend to do. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does make it a little bit tricky to get into the book.

I enjoyed getting to know Sylvia and her family, especially her parents – Rhoda and Earnest, both before and after her father’s revelation.

Let’s get to what the secret was. The secret that causes a lot of kerfuffle is that before Earnest joined the Amish community he was briefly married and it ended in divorce when his first wife decided to marry another man. Apparently divorce is a big no-no in the Amish community – I assume so, I wish there had been an author’s note explaining that a bit more. The secret seemed like a very convenient plot device, however, the more I think about it the more I realize that it is something that does happen. It was interesting to watch the change in the family dynamic once everyone found out Earnest’s secret, as well as how it affected his standing in the community.

The Tinderbox is a novel about confession, seeking repentance and forgiveness and how it is never a good idea to hide one’s past, especially from those we love.

Overall, I like this novel even though it took a while for things to get going. Even with that it was still a compelling enough read that me want to find out what happens next in the sequel, The Timepiece. 3.5/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (20 Books of Summer 2022 #7)

Hello Everyone,

Today’s review is on Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens.

About the Book

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet fishing village. Kya Clark is barefoot and wild; unfit for polite society. So in late 1969, when the popular Chase Andrews is found dead, locals immediately suspect her.

But Kya is not what they say. A born naturalist with just one day of school, she takes life’s lessons from the land, learning the real ways of the world from the dishonest signals of fireflies. But while she has the skills to live in solitude forever, the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. Drawn to two young men from town, who are each intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new and startling world—until the unthinkable happens.

In Where the Crawdads Sing, Owens juxtaposes an exquisite ode to the natural world against a profound coming of age story and haunting mystery. Thought-provoking, wise, and deeply moving, Owens’s debut novel reminds us that we are forever shaped by the child within us, while also subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.

The story asks how isolation influences the behavior of a young woman, who like all of us, has the genetic propensity to belong to a group. The clues to the mystery are brushed into the lush habitat and natural histories of its wild creatures.

My Thoughts

I did it. I finally read Where the Crawdads Sing, and I really enjoyed it. I know that I am a little bit late to the game, but I don’t regret just getting around to reading it. I’ll be honest, I was kind of expecting not to love it, however, I found myself hooked from the first page and I could barely put it down.

There are so many things I loved about this book. First, I really liked the historical setting of 1969, as well as the various flashbacks. I also loved how we would have one chapter in the “present,” and then the next chapter would take us back to another point in Kya’s life and how it all leads up to what is taking place in the present day.

I also enjoyed the anecdotes we get about various plants and animals in the marsh and how in some ways we are learning alongside Kya. It was interesting to see how the author drew upon her experience and knowledge as a biologist. Yet she did it in such a way that it didn’t bog down the narrative. I appreciated how the author also tackled prejudice and racism that would have been prevalent in North Carolina t the time, it made the story seem more authentic.

Something else that I enjoyed about Where the Crawdads Sing was that it covers several genres. It is a literary fiction, part romance, part coming of age, part mystery, part court drama, and a historical fiction. And it blends all of these genres flawlessly.

The novel does a great job of exploring how isolation can affect a person, especially when everyone they love abandons them. It was interesting to see how Kya makes a life for herself, but yet struggles with the trauma of abandonment, wile also craving companionship.

I loved getting to know Kya, Tate and even Chase. I also loved Jumpin’ and Mabel and how they try to lookout for Kya as best as they can. I also like how the marsh itself was a character of sorts, it added another layer of depth to the novel.

I will admit, the ending left me guessing a little, but I think that is kind of the point. I don’t think readers are supposed to truly know who did kill Chase Andrews, but the novel ends in such a way that readers can make their own conclusions. I’ll be honest I still don’t know what to believe.

Overall, I really enjoyed Where the Crawdads Sing! It is worth the hype and deserves to be loved by many. This is definitely a book I can see myself revisiting in the future and discovering something new that I might have missed the first time around. I am looking forward to watching the movie when I get the chance, and I eagerly await Delia Owens’ next novel. 4.5/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Mini Reading Evening – Book 1

Hello Everyone,

I just finished my first read of my mini reading evening read-a-thon. I read Yona of the Dawn, Volume 7 by Mizuho Kusanagi.

I really enjoyed this volume, it picked up with the story line from volume 6. Yona and her companions are helping some pirates defeat the leader of the small town of Awa who has been trafficking young women to a neighboring empire. It was interesting, and I liked the conclusion of this story line. There was also a brief incident with a love potion and all of the companions are affected in some way or another.

I am just about to start by next read, which is Scribe by Alyson Hagy, which I know very little about. But I will check when I finish it (or if I decide to turn in for the night, which could happen because it is a slightly longer book than some of the others).

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

A Mini Reading Evening TBR

Hello everyone,

I had an idea since I don’t really have any plans tonight to do a little mini reading evening/read-a-thon. I have a bunch of manga and shorter books that I would like to read, and I figure why not make it interesting and see how many I can read in a few hours. I’m not sure how long I will do this for, probably just 3/4 hours, or whenever I feel like I can’t read another word. But before I get started in a few minutes, I thought I would share the books I could potentially read.

Haikyu!! Volume 1

Kamisama Kiss, Volume 15

Witch Hat Atelier, Volume 7

Yone of the Dawn, Volume 7

The Promised Neverland, Volume 9

One Piece, Volume 35

Nettle & Bone

Upright Women Wanted

A Mirror Mended

Scribe

A Prayer for the Crown-Shy

I’m still trying to decide which one to pick first. But I will post again when I finish my first book. My plan is to post a short update after each book. Let’s see how much I can get read in the next few hours.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

July Wrap-up

Hello everyone,

Welcome to my July Wrap-up. This month was an interesting reading month, I felt like I didn’t read that much, however I still managed 23 books despite being in a reading slump for a couple of weeks. I also listened to a couple of audiobook, which is not normal for me, but I enjoyed it and it helped me plow through a couple of big books that have been on my TBR for a while. I enjoyed it so much that I am on hold for my library’s copies of The Lord of the Rings audiobooks read by Andy Serkis!

I was also a little bit absent from the blog for the last couple of weeks. Along with my reading slump I felt like I also went through a writing slump of sorts, however I am starting to come out of it and hopefully I will have be posting more consistently throughout August! I also have some ideas that I am looking forward to sharing here on the blog soon.

Let’s jump into the wrap-up!

What I Read

Books: 23 | New releases: 5 books | Re-reads: 2 | Graphic Novels and Manga: 9 | DNFs: 0 | Pages: 7,220 pages

Favorite Reads:

Least Favorite:

Re-reads:

July Reads

  1. Blood & Honey by Shelby Mahurin
  2. Yona of the Dawn, Volume 3 by Mizuho Kusanagi
  3. Normal People by Sally Rooney
  4. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
  5. Yona of the Dawn, Volume 4 by Mizuho Kusanagi
  6. Yona of the Dawn, Volume 5 by Mizuho Kusanagi
  7. Yona of the Dawn, Volume 6 by Mizuho Kusanagi
  8. Kamisama Kiss, Volume 9 by Julietta Suzuki
  9. Kamisama Kiss, Volume 10 by Julietta Suzuki
  10. The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han
  11. Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid
  12. Ghost Forest by Pik-Shuen Fung
  13. Gods & Monsters by Shelby Mahurin
  14. What Once Was Mine by Liz Braswell
  15. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares
  16. Roxy by Neal and Jerrod Shusterman
  17. Kamisama Kiss, Volume 11 by Julietta Suzuki
  18. Kamisama Kiss, Volume 12 by Julietta Suzuki
  19. The Second Summer of the Sisterhood by Ann Brashares
  20. Kamisama Kiss, Volume 13 by Julietta Suzuki
  21. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling
  22. Leaving the Fold by Marlene Winell
  23. Rust & Stardust by T. Greenwood

Blog Posts

What I Watched

This month I watched a number of movies. I think the biggest one was Thor: Love and Thunder, which is the only one I watched in theaters. It was okay. Maybe I need to see it again, but it also felt like it relied to much on teenager humor, when it really didn’t need to. However, I did really like the villain and his back story and motivations, it was really interesting and hit a little close to home in some ways. But I felt like the slapstick humor kind of stole away from the story line.

I’ve also been rewatching a bunch of chick flicks I grew up watching. I watched The Devil Wears Prada, Bride Wards and Because I Said So. My husband and I also watched Ferris Bueller’s Day Off for the first time, and I can’t believe it took me this long to finally watch it! I also watched a newer movie that just came out on Hulu on Friday called Not Okay starring Zoey Deutch. I really enjoyed it. However, there are some content things such as language that others might like. I can see people not liking this movie if they go into it not realizing it is a satire of sorts. However, if you watch it from that perspective, it is really funny and good. It definitely has a lot to say about social media, and the whole influencer culture that we have today!

I’ve also been rewatching Parenthood. I am about half-way through season 5, so I’m close to the end. I am enjoying it, but sometimes I have to take a break from it because of some of the drama that takes place.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Magical Readathon: Orilium Academy Autumn Equinox (August TBR)

Hello everyone,

Welcome to my August TBR! This month’s will be a little bit different because I am planning on taking part in the Magical Read-a-thon hosted by G @ BookRoast on Youtube. Here are the links to the the introduction video, and the announcement video for this installment of the readathon.

Orilium Academy – The Novice Path and Orilium Academy – Autumn Equinox.

Before I get into my TBR for the Autumn Equinox, let me share my character’s information, and the classes that I passed in the Spring Equinox semester.

Character Profile:

Guild: Mindwalker

Calling: Storyweaver (and possibly Dreamwalker)

Background: Wilding

Province: Iritheria

Heritage: Earthling – Water

Conduit: Dagger

Classes I Passed in the Spring Equinox:

  • Inscription
  • Art of Illusion
  • Psionics and Divination
  • Lore
  • Spells and Incantations
  • Elemental Studies
  • Animal Studies
  • Alchemy
  • Astronomy
  • Artificery
  • Restoration

For August, my main goal is to get the grades that I need for the Storyweaver calling, however, I would also like to see if I can get the grades for the courses for the Dreamwalker calling as well. There are also a couple of other subjects I’d love to take, like Astronomy.

Here is a break down of the grades I need to get as a Storyweaver and a Dreamwalker.

Storyweaver:

  • O in Inscription
  • Q in Psionics and Divination
  • D in Lore

Dreamwalker:

  • O in Alchemy
  • Q in Art of Illusion
  • O in Spells and Incantations
  • D in Psionics and Diviation
  • O in Lore.

I think I can easily achieve this, especially since there is some overlap with some of the courses.

Here is a break down of my TBR for August broken down by subject and class.

  • Inscription
    • O – Glyph: Recollection – Childhood favorite – Otherwise Known as Shiela the Great by Judy Blume
    • Q – Inking Techniques – Graphic Novel or Manga – Witch Hat Atelier, Volume 7 by Kamome Shirama
    • D – Stilling the Mind – Cozy Read – A Mirror Mended by Alix E. Harrow
  • Psionics and Divination
    • O – Time Theory I – a story featuring time travel – In Five Years by Rebecca Serle
    • Q – Time Theory II – Book with a same word in title as last read. – Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
    • D – Introductory Psalmistry – Secondhand book – The Push by Ashley Audrain
  • Lore
    • O – Aeldia’s Regional Anthropology – a book that has colors similar to your country’s flag – The Bodyguard by Katherine Center
    • Q – Myth of Syldoris – Story featuring a betrayal – Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty/ Yona of the Dawn Volume 7 by Mizuho Kusanagi
    • D – Ancient Caves of Daerune – Desert setting – Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey
  • Alchemy
    • O – Basics of Poisons – Book on someone’s worst list that you might like – The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner
    • Q – Poison: Acidic Amber – an orange book – Girls in Pants by Ann Brashares
    • D – Poison: Willow weed – One word title – Horrid by Katrina Leno
  • Art of Illusion
    • O – Blur Face – A book that I don’t know much about – A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary For Lovers by Xiaolu Guo
    • Q – Minor Illusions – A book under 300 pages – Nettle and Bone by T. Kingfisher OR Scribe by Alyson Hagy
    • D- Cast: De Ja Vu – A prompt from last semester – Shadow Demons – A book with the word “shadow” in the title – Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas
  • Spells and Incantations
    • O – Spell: Recolor – Random color generator – Deep Purple – The Unplanned Life of Josie Hale by Stephanie Eding
    • Q – Incantation: Echo – Pick a book from someone else’s TBR – Red Rising by Pierce Brown
    • D – Hex: Tonguetie – Annotate this book – The Arsonists’ City by Hala Alyan

These are all the books that I am planning on getting to for the read-a-thon. Although, I’m probably not going to complete all of these courses as distinguished, but I do plan on at least getting the grades I need as a Storyweaver. Anything else I complete will be a bonus! I am probably not going to get to all 18 books this month, but I hope to get to at least 7 of them. We’ll see, I’ve been doing a lot of mood reading lately, so it really depends on that!

Are any of you planning on taking part in the Magical Read-a-thon? Let me know about your reading plans for August!

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: Normal People by Sally Rooney

Hello Everyone,

Today’s review is on Normal People by Sally Rooney. Before I jump in, I just wanted to let you know that this review will be a little bit different because it is more stream of consciousness, and it is a collection of the thoughts I had while reading the novel. I hope you like it!

About the Book:

At school Connell and Marianne pretend not to know each other. He’s popular and well-adjusted, star of the school soccer team while she is lonely, proud, and intensely private. But when Connell comes to pick his mother up from her housekeeping job at Marianne’s house, a strange and indelible connection grows between the two teenagers – one they are determined to conceal.

A year later, they’re both studying at Trinity College in Dublin. Marianne has found her feet in a new social world while Connell hangs at the sidelines, shy and uncertain. Throughout their years in college, Marianne and Connell circle one another, straying toward other people and possibilities but always magnetically, irresistibly drawn back together. Then, as she veers into self-destruction and he begins to search for meaning elsewhere, each must confront how far they are willing to go to save the other.

Sally Rooney brings her brilliant psychological acuity and perfectly spare prose to a story that explores the subtleties of class, the electricity of first love, and the complex entanglements of family and friendship.

My Thoughts:

Maybe it’s just that I have been out of high school for so long, but I don’t fully understand why Connell doesn’t want anyone to know that he likes Marianne. I get that he’s popular, but I think that is being a jerk to her. Is it because he is still confused about his feelings for her?

Even though I had seen several reviews that mentioned this, it still took me a while to get used to the no quotation marks when the characters are talking to each other. It is kind of unusual and not something that I have seen done before.

I like college Connell, he seems to have grown up a bit from who he was during the last few months. He does suck at communication thought, especially with what he would like from his relationship with Marianne. He lets her think that he wants to see other people, when he really says that for her benefit. They clearly care about each other, but neither of them wants to say what they really want from the other person.

My heart broke for Marianne when she tells Connell that maybe she deserves to be in relationships where she is physically hurt. She doesn’t, but it’s sad that – apart from Connell – that is kind of all she really knows from her various male relationships. She deserves someone that will lover her with tenderness and compassion. She also deserves a better friend than Peggy.

Ugh! Marianne! You are worthy of so much more than men who beat you up physically and mentally because of their kinks. I know she mentioned before that she is into it, but it is obvious that she isn’t but she believes it is the only love she deserves. I think it proves that wealth doesn’t automatically equate to happiness.

I love how Connell genuinely cares for her, even if it is just as friends.

Normal people is definitely not for everyone, but it will also be a novel that those who read it and enjoy it will love. I will be honest, when i first started it I was debating whether to keep going with it. However, I am so glad that I kept at it and ended up really enjoying it.

The on thing to keep in mind is that this is a novel following two uniquely flawed characters as they try to navigate early adulthood, and their relationship. While there are some things that the characters did that I could not relate to, I found myself relating to their perspectives of themselves. In a lot of ways I found myself relating to Marianne and how she believes she is not worthy of being treated with true love and compassion, and she questions her existence and purpose at times. I would be curious to see where Marianne and Connell would be in the present day.

Without saying too much, then ending kind of wrecked me, but it was a good choice on the author’s part. However, I can also see it being something that a lot of readers won’t like.


Overall, I really enjoyed Normal People. While it took me a while to get into, it was a good character study of two individuals and a character study of their relationship to one another over the course of several years. Also, I recommend reading this if you liked On the Road by Jack Kerouac, and vice versa.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: It Happened One Summer by Tessa Bailey (20 Books of Summer #5)

Hello Everyone,

Today’s review is on It Happened One Summer by Tessa Bailey.

About the Book:

Piper Bellinger is fashionable, influential, and her reputation as a wild child means the paparazzi are constantly on her heels. When too much champagne and an out-of-control rooftop party lands Piper in the slammer, her stepfather decides enough is enough. So he cuts her off, and sends Piper and her sister to learn some responsibility running their late father’s dive bar… in Washington.

Piper hasn’t even been in Westport for five minutes when she meets big, bearded sea captain Brendan, who thinks she won’t last a week outside of Beverly Hills. So what if Piper can’t do math, and the idea of sleeping in a shabby apartment with bunk beds gives her hives. How bad could it really be? She’s determined to show her stepfather—and the hot, grumpy local—that she’s more than a pretty face.

Except it’s a small town and everywhere she turns, she bumps into Brendan. The fun-loving socialite and the gruff fisherman are polar opposites, but there’s an undeniable attraction simmering between them. Piper doesn’t want any distractions, especially feelings for a man who sails off into the sunset for weeks at a time. Yet as she reconnects with her past and begins to feel at home in Westport, Piper starts to wonder if the cold, glamorous life she knew is what she truly wants. LA is calling her name, but Brendan—and this town full of memories—may have already caught her heart. 

Tessa Bailey is back with a Schitt’s Creek-inspired rom-com about a Hollywood “It Girl” who is cut off from her wealthy family and exiled to a small Pacific Northwest beach town… where she butts heads with a surly, sexy local who thinks she doesn’t belong. 

My Thoughts:

I had been putting off reading It Happened One Summer ever since I started hearing about it. However, now that I am starting to get more into romance, I am glad that I finally picked it up.

Before I get started with my review, I do want to let you know that It Happened One Summer can get pretty steamy and if that is something that you are not into, I do not recommend picking it up.

I really liked It Happened One Summer. I liked that it was a fun, light-hearted romantic comedy that provides some escapism, but yet still touches on some serious topics at the same time. Yes, for the most part we are watching a relationship form, but each character undergoes some grow as well – more so Piper.

Even though Piper is fictional, and even if she were a real person, she is very different from me. However, I could relate a lot to her negative thoughts about herself and the self-deprecating things she says. This is something I struggle with and I am working on being kinder to myself. But it is definitely a journey. And just like how Brendan calls her out on it, I am thankful that I also have someone who is willing to call me out on this – my husband, even though it is not his responsibility to do so.

I also liked how Piper helps Brendan see that it is okay to move on and that being shackled to the past can be life-sucking.

I personally found Brendan to be a bit too alpha male for my personal taste, but I also get that some people are into that. And I do think there are times, especially during the third act conflict, where he is too hard on Piper and expects her to have her life planned out after a few short weeks together. There were some big decisions she had to make!

The steamy scenes were pretty steamy, although they contained some rough content, which is personally not my thing. But to each their own, they were still pretty good.

Overall, I really liked It Happened One Summer. it was cute and steamy, with a little bit of an edge. I am looking forward to reading some of Tessa Bailey’s other works in the future. 4/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: Pretty Things by Janelle Brown (20 Books of Summer 2022 #4)

Hello Everyone,

Today’s review is on Pretty Things by Janelle Brown.

About the Book

Two wildly different women – one a grifter, the other an heiress – are brought together by the scam of a lifetime in a page-turner from the New York Times bestselling author of Watch Me Disappear.

Nina once bought into the idea that her fancy liberal arts degree would lead to a fulfilling career. When that dream crashed, she turned to stealing from rich kids in L.A. alongside her wily Irish boyfriend, Lachlan. Nina learned from the best: Her mother was the original con artist, hustling to give her daughter a decent childhood despite their wayward life. But when her mom gets sick, Nina puts everything on the line to help her, even if it means running her most audacious, dangerous scam yet.

Vanessa is a privileged young heiress who wanted to make her mark in the world. Instead she becomes an Instagram influencer—traveling the globe, receiving free clothes and products, and posing for pictures in exotic locales. But behind the covetable façade is a life marked by tragedy. After a broken engagement, Vanessa retreats to her family’s sprawling mountain estate, Stonehaven: a mansion of dark secrets not just from Vanessa’s past, but from that of a lost and troubled girl named Nina.

Nina’s, Vanessa’s, and Lachlan’s paths collide here, on the cold shores of Lake Tahoe, where their intertwined lives give way to a winter of aspiration and desire, duplicity and revenge.

This dazzling, twisty, mesmerizing novel showcases acclaimed author Janelle Brown at her best, as two brilliant, damaged women try to survive the greatest game of deceit and destruction they will ever play.

My Thoughts

I’ll be honest, Pretty Things did not live up to my expectations. It was kind of slow, and bogged down with a lot of back story. I did almost DNF it a couple of times, but there was something that made me want to keep reading and see how it all ends.

The novel is told in duel POVs, Nina – the con artist- and Vanessa – her mark. One thing I enjoyed is that we get to see certain scenes from both perspectives, as well as their different motivations.

At its core, this a revenge novel of sorts, or rather it starts out that way. But by the end things have changed and I kind of liked that. There were things that happened in the third act that I did not expect, however there were still some things that were easy to predict.

I also liked how the novel explores how appearances can be deceiving. More obviously with Nina being a con artist, but also with Vanessa and the persona she portrays online when compared to the reality of her life. It also shows the emptiness that can come from being wealthy and an influence. But I also liked that there was more to Vanessa than just being social media obsessed.

Overall, Pretty Things was just okay. My main issue was that it was too long. I felt like some of the exposition could have been cut down. But, as I have already mentioned, there were also aspects of the novel that I liked. I definitely plan on trying some more of Janelle Brown’s books in the future. 3/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid (20 Books of Summer 2022 #3)

Hello Everyone,

Today’s review is on The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid.

About the Book

Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband has left her, and her professional life is going nowhere. Regardless of why Evelyn has selected her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s luxurious apartment, Monique listens in fascination as the actress tells her story. From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the ‘80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way, Evelyn unspools a tale of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love. Monique begins to feel a very real connection to the legendary star, but as Evelyn’s story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

My Thoughts

I have been meaning to revisit The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo for a few months. One, because I know there is a connection to Malibu Rising, which I am planning on reading soon (at the time of posting, I have just finished Malibu Rising, stay tuned for my review soon!). Second, I read it at a different time in my life where I don’t think I was able to fully enjoy or appreciate it at the time.

I really enjoyed my reread of the novel. it was really good and I struggled to put it down. I found myself thinking about it when I was doing other things. U was also reluctant to finish it. I found myself close to tears at the end too!

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is a metanarrative of sorts because we see Evelyn hire Monique to write her memoirs, but most of the is set up as the recordings of Evelyn telling her life story. And the fact that biography that Monique ends up writing has the same title as the novel. I felt like I was reading the memoir of a real celebrity, and I found myself wishing that Evelyn Hugo was a real person. I also loved the newspaper articles about her that were interspersed throughout the novel.

I appreciate how the novel – as well as the character herself – does not strive to make Evelyn Hugo out to be a saint, but she isn’t a villain either. Rather, she is portrayed as flawed as anyone else, she just happens to be famous and therefore her flaws are in full display for the rest of the world. I can also appreciate that the novel doesn’t shy away from the cost of fame, especially in 1950s Hollywood.

It was also interesting to see Monique’s character development and how her interactions with Evelyn has such a huge impact on her life. While it is implied, I would have loved to have seen how she is faring in life several years after her brief time with Evelyn Hugo.

Overall, when it came to The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, second time was the charm for me. I think I now understand why this is such a beloved book – it is definitely worth the hype. I am looking forward to reading more from Taylor Jenkins Reid in the future. 5/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: Book Lovers by Emily Henry (20 Books of Summer 2022 #2)

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on Book Lovers by Emily Henry.

About the Book:

One summer. Two rivals. A plot twist they didn’t see coming….

Nora Stephens’ life is books—she’s read them all—and she is not that type of heroine. Not the plucky one, not the laidback dream girl, and especially not the sweetheart. In fact, the only people Nora is a heroine for are her clients, for whom she lands enormous deals as a cutthroat literary agent, and her beloved little sister Libby.

Which is why she agrees to go to Sunshine Falls, North Carolina for the month of August when Libby begs her for a sisters’ trip away—with visions of a small-town transformation for Nora, who she’s convinced needs to become the heroine in her own story. But instead of picnics in meadows, or run-ins with a handsome country doctor or bulging-forearmed bartender, Nora keeps bumping into Charlie Lastra, a bookish brooding editor from back in the city. It would be a meet-cute if not for the fact that they’ve met many times and it’s never been cute.

If Nora knows she’s not an ideal heroine, Charlie knows he’s nobody’s hero, but as they are thrown together again and again—in a series of coincidences no editor worth their salt would allow—what they discover might just unravel the carefully crafted stories they’ve written about themselves.

My Thoughts:

I will admit that the prologue did not necessarily pull me in. In fact, it made me want to read something else. However, once I read the first chapter, I was hooked. I loved the small town setting, and how it didn’t quite live up to Nora’s expectations, but yet she still settles in.

I loved the banter between Nora and Charlie. It is so dry and cynical, yet also humorous. I literally laughed out loud at some of their dialogue, which almost never happens to me when I read a book. I also enjoyed the romance, and that there wasn’t some huge conflict between them. I appreciated how they both had to grow in different ways, and even helped each other to do so.

I did enjoy the setting of Sunny Falls, however, I do wish we could have gotten to know a few more of the townspeople, but that’s probably just my personal preference.

The one character I did not like was Libby. I felt like she was not a great sister to Nora most of the time, and was inconsiderate too. She just seemed somewhat immature for someone who has two kids and a third on the way. I get her reasoning, but she still rubbed me the wrong way.

Overall, I really enjoyed Book Lovers, in a lot of ways I liked it more than Beach Read. I loved the humor and the romance, but I also liked some of the more serious aspects as well. I highly recommend picking it up this summer! 5/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake (20 Books of Summer 2022 #1)

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake.

About the Book:

When kingdom come, there will be one.

In every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born—three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins.

The last queen standing gets the crown. – Taken from Goodreads

My Thoughts:

Honestly, this should have been a duology instead of a quartet. While it is interesting to learn more about Fennbirn and the three queens, it also feels like one long prologue for the actual events of the series. I feel like everything surrounding Beltane was both rushed and confusing. I also feel like there are too many perspectives, especially in Arsinoe’s chapters. The perspectives would also change mid-scene, which was a little bit jarring.

I did like some of the politics that we get see taking place throughout the novel amongst the different groups and why each group wants their queen to win and be the new ruler of Fennbirn.

My favorite of the three questions has to be Arsinoe, I feel like there is a lot more depth to her character. I did not like Mirabella. However, I wish we got to know Katherine more, because she appears a bit less than her sisters and there seems to be more to her than meets the eye.

I also enjoyed getting to know some of the different side characters, my favorite has to be Jules, and I do want to see what happens to her as the story progresses. This is going to be a mild spoiler, but she deserves someone a lot better than Joseph. If you’ve read the book, you know what I’m referring to.

Overall, I liked Three Dark Crowns. Even though I found that it dragged a bit. I am still on the fence on whether I will read the rest of the series. I might read at least the next book and see where I got from there. 3/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

June Wrap Up

Hello everyone,

Welcome to my June Wrap-up! So this month I read a lot. More so than I thought I would. However, most of what I read was manga. For whatever reason, summer is when I want to read all the manga, along with other things. However, I’m expecting to not read as much in July, and I’m okay with that. Let’s jump into the wrap-up!

What I Read

Books: 33 (including graphic novels and manga) | New books: 7| Re-reads: 4 | Graphic Novels and Manga: 22| DNFs: 0 | Pages: 8,080

Favorite Reads:

Least Favorite Reads:

Re-reads:

June Reads:

  1. The Promised Neverland, Volume 7 by Kuai Shirai
  2. By the Book by Jasmine Guillory
  3. The Promised Neverland, Volume 8 by Kuai Shirai
  4. One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle
  5. The Hacienda by Isabel Canas
  6. Yona of the Dawn, Volume 1 by Mizuho Kusanagi
  7. One Piece, Volume 31 by Eiichiro Oda
  8. One Piece, Volume 32 by Eiichiro Oda
  9. Something Wilder by Christina Lauren
  10. Witch Hat Atelier, Volume 2 by Kamome Shirahama
  11. Witch Hat Atelier, Volume 3 by Kamome Shirahama
  12. Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
  13. Witch Hat Atelier, Volume 4 by Kamome Shirahama
  14. Book Lovers by Emily Henry
  15. One Piece, Volume 33 by Eiichiro Oda
  16. One Piece, Volume 34 by Eiichiro Oda
  17. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
  18. Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
  19. Pretty Things by Janelle Brown
  20. Kamisama Kiss, Volume 2 by Julietta Suzuki
  21. Kamisama Kiss, Volume 3 by Julietta Suzuki
  22. Kamisama Kiss, Volume 4 by Julietta Suzuki
  23. Witch Hat Atelier, Volume 5 by Kamome Shirahama
  24. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  25. Giant Days, Volume 1 by John Allison
  26. It Happened One Summer by Tessa Bailey
  27. Lore Olympus, Volume 1 by Rachel Smythe
  28. Kamisama Kiss, Volume 5 by Julietta Suzuki
  29. Witch Hat Atelier, Volume 6 by Kamome Shirahama
  30. Kamisama Kiss, Volume 6 by Julietta Suzuki
  31. Kamisama Kiss, Volume 7 by Julietta Suzuki
  32. Kamisama Kiss, Volume 8 by Julietta Suzuki
  33. Yona of the Dawn, Volume 2 by Mizuho Kusanagi

Blog Posts

What I Watched

This month I went to go see Top Gun: Maverick for a second time with my parents. I really enjoyed it the second time around! It is a great movie, and I highly recommend it for the flight sequences alone!

My husband and I also went to go see Lightyear. It was okay. There were aspects about it I loved, but other aspects I didn’t. It honestly seemed like a movie that Pixar was planning with just a generic astronaut, but decided since they already had Buzz Lightyear to slap his name onto the film. I think it also doesn’t help that I grew up with the Buzz Lightyear of Star Command animated series, so to me that is Buzz Lightyear’s origin story. I think if that didn’t exist it would be more believable. Also, it doesn’t seem like a movie that would have been made in the ’90s (which it’s supposed to be). I probably would have liked it more if it was a different character as the main character.

As far as TV shows go, I was watching Criminal Minds, however it is being taken off Netflix at the end of June, and I kind of need a break from it too. My husband and I also watched Obi-Wan Kenobi on Disney +. We liked it, however we didn’t love it. I don’t want to say anything else because I don’t want to spoil the series for anyone who is planning on watching it.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: Girl Code by Andrea Gonzalez and Sophie Houser

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on Girl Code by Andrea Gonzales and Sophie Houser.

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Andrea Gonzales and Sophie Houser were typical teens just trying to do their best to excel at school. However, the both are intersted in coding and end up attending the Girls Who Code summer camp. They team up and create a game called Tampon Run, a game that addresses the taboo around menstruation, as their final project. At the end of the summer, they decide to release their game to the world, with the hopes of it going viral, but also not expecting it to take off. However, over several days it becomes a viral sensation and they find their lives thrust into the spotlight while both of them are trying to juggle their responsibilities that comes with high school. Even though it comes with its challenges, both girls take part in different opportunities that they might not have gotten.

Girl Code is a memoir about coding and the love for coding, as well as friendship and coming-of-age. The central theme of this book is that of coding and how important it is. As Sophie starts discovering more about how the every-day things rely on code, she states, “If code was essential to almost everything in my daily life, then maybe by learning how to do it I could fulfill my dream of having an impact on lots of people” (28).

Another theme that is woven throughout the memoir is that of feminism and girl power. Both Andy and Sophie are learning what it means to be feminist, and, for Sophie, helping her become more educated about feminism and all the complications surrounding it. Also, Andy’s idea for their final project was to come up with something that tackles the hyper-sexualization of women in video games. They end up developing a game that calls to light the stigma surrounding menstruation when no one bats an eye concerning the gore and violence that is prevalent in video games.

Two other themes that go hand-in-hand together are that of teamwork and how learning coding can be empowering. Two quotes that discuss them are: “I realize that good collaboration means building up your team members and trusting them to accomplish difficult tasks” (93). “Coding is empowering, it’s creative, and it’s fun” (220). This is seen with both Adny and Sophie, but especially with Sophie who previously struggled with public speaking. But with the popularity of Tampon Run, she is pushed out of her comfort zone as she and Andy are invited to a number of speaking engangements and interview. This probably would not have happened if she had not discovered a passion for coding. Andy also discovers that when she is nervous during an interview for an internship she becomes more confident when she starts talking about code.

Girl code is also about how they tried to tackle a subject matter that is taboo – menstruation – and try to make it more normal becuase it is something that every woman has to go through and live with for most of their whole lives. It also explores both Andy and Sophie trying to figure out what they want to do with their lives once they graduate from high school. Andy struggles with this a lot, even though she does enjoy coding and programming, she feels pressure from her parents to excel at it and pursue it as a career, especially since their mantra they’ve always told her is “doctor, lawyer or engineer” in regards to careers.

Overall, this was interesting memoir about coding, but it is definitely target more for teens. 3.5/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

July TBR

Hello everyone!

Today I would like to share with you some of the books I am planning on reading in July. Here are five of the books I will definitely read at some point in July.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Not only is this one of the books on my 22 Books to read in 2022, but I also recently hauled it. Also, the movie comes out this month and I would love to read it, and then watch the movie. I really enjoy it!

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares

I used to love this series – and the movies – when I was a teen, and I think I want to re-read the whole series. My plan is to do a reading journal review for each book as I re-read them that way I can document my thoughts.

The Push by Ashley Audrain

I have heard a lot of great things about this psychological thriller that deals with motherhood. I’m trying to not to know much about it because I don’t want to be spoiled for any of the twists!

Gods & Monsters by Shelby Mahurin

At the time of this post going up, I am currently reading Blood & Honey. I am determined to finally finish this series this month. So far, based on the first book, I do like it. But I also know it has very mixed reviews.

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I currently have this checked out from the library, and I need to read it as soon as possible because there are other people waiting for it. It follows the children of Mick Riva (who makes a short appearance in The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo), and an annual party they throw every summer. It takes place over 24 hours, and it is set in the ’80s. Again, I’ve heard really good things about this book, but I know that there are some people that were let down by it.

And those are all the books I am hoping to get to in July. There will probably be a couple others, as well as some manga.

What are you planning on reading in July?

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on Radio Silence by Alice Oseman.

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Before I get started, I do want to note that while Radio Silence discusses things that I personally do not agree with (more specifically the issue of sexuality), I did think it was a good book about friendship, identity and isolation, as well as a discussion about how university isn’t the only option for high school graduates. This is also a book I would not normally read, but I had to read it for a project I had to do for one of my classes for grad school.

Frances Janvier has one goal in life – to get into Cambridge – and she has done everything she needs to accomplish this goal. She gets good grades and is head girl of her school. However, when she is not at school she has a secret life that not many know about, she is obsessed with a podcast called Radio Silence, and she anonymously creates fan art for the series on Tumblr. One day the creator reaches out to her and asks to collaborate, and she also discovers the creator’s identity – it is none other than the boy who lives across the street, Aled Last. As they work together, they start ot become best friends, and finally Frances feels like she has found a friend who understands her. However, when the summer is over, her anonymity as a fan artist is destroyed and very soon everyone discovers that Aled is Radio Silence and she starts to worry that their friendship will be over.

Even though Radio Silence is almost 500 pages, it is a fairly quick read becayse the “chapters” are short and read more like vignettes that all connected to each other. It also feels like we could be reading Frances journal.

One of the main themes throughout the novel is that of isolation. Aled has felt isolated ever since his sister left and his mother started mentally and emotionally abusing him more. We see him retreat into isolation even more as people discover that he is Radio Silence, especially since he feels betrayed by his friends because he believes that they are the ones who shared his secret. He becomes even more isolated when he goes off to university – which he doesn’t want to do – and he is not living up to his mother’s expectations, and she continues to do heinous things to push him to achieve acadmically. However, when he starts to do things that are a cry for help, Frances does her best to figure out a way to help him and, in a sense, save him from himself as he becomes increasingly more despondent.

Identity is also explored also in terms of what the characters are going to do after they finish high school. Aled is forced to attend university, but flounders because that is not where he wants to be and he hates every moment of it. Frances has convinced herself that she wants to study English Literature at Cambridge, however, during her college interviews, she realizes that she really does not want to study that subject. However, she feels pressure to be academically minded by everyone around her. However, she does end up deciding to pursue art and her mother supports her.

There is also some exploration of fan culture and how it can easily turn toxic. A big example of this in the novel is when Aled posts a “Goodbye” podcast for his show, Universe City, and he gets hate mail, even those fans don’t realize that he already going through a lot of emotional turmoil.

Overall, while there were some subjects that are not my cup of tea explored in this book, it was still a decent read. 4/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Hello Everyone,

Today’s review is on Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

Ever since I picked up Fahrenheit 451, I have been debating whether to write a review for it. That might sound ridiculous to some, and my reasons for being on the fence seem kind of silly, but I’m scared. I’m scared of people coming after me. But, I do really want to share my thoughts, feelings and opinions what I thought was a really great book! The views that I express in this review are my own, and you don’t have to agree with me – and that is fine. I’m not here to tell you you have to believe or think the way I do, because that is not right. With that being said, here is my review of Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

Fahrenheit 451 follows Guy Montag, who is a fireman, however, instead of putting out fires, he sets them in order to burn illegal possessions – books. In this near future dystopian world, books are illegal, screens are used to entertain the masses, who are kept dumb of what it really happening in the world around them. Pleasure is king, and anyone or anything that seeks to change that is wrong. However, one night, Guy meets a young woman who challenges how he thinks about the world. He then does the unthinkable, he keeps one of the books he was supposed to burn, and his life will never be the same again.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Fahrenheit 451 for the first time, although it was hard not to see how close we are to becoming similar to the society in the novel. We are quickly becoming a society that wants get rid of that which may seem offensive, or may cause us to look and think through beliefs and values that are different than our own. And I’m not calling out one particular group, the fact of the matter is that all groups have been guilty of trying to censor that which “offends” them. I think back to when I was growing up and some groups were trying to “cancel” Harry Potter and His Dark Materials because of the magic systems depicted in those series. All that to say, censorship or “cancel culture” isn’t something new, no matter which way you try to spin it. And censorship is wrong no matter who is calling for it. Books are important because they can inform our worldview, as well as provide lessons on either how people once lived and/or how we can learn from the mistakes of the past and do better.

Overall, I highly recommend Fahrenheit 451 and I think everyone needs to read it! 5/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

20 (15? 10?)Books of Summer TBR

Hello everyone,

This post is kind of late, but I was on the fence on whether I wanted to do 20 Books of Summer again this year. However, since I’ve started to get my blogging mojo back I’ve decided to do it. Although, if I’m being honest it could potentially just be the 10 or 15 books of Summer, but we will see what happens!

But first, what is 20 Books of Summer? 20 Books of Summer is a reading and blogging challenge hosted by Cathy746books. The goal is to read 20 books between June 1st and August 31st, and post a review for each of those books before the last day. I also appreciate how flexible it is too!

I still haven’t narrowed down which books I am reading for this challenge. I have a couple that I have read and have started drafting reviews for, and a few that I read and I’m still debating if I want to review them. Summer is also when I start binging manga, so that will also be a factor into how much I read.

Here is a tentative list of the books I might plan on reading for 20 Books of Summer. The first two, I’ve already started reviews for, so they will definitely be going up.

  • Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
  • Book Lover by Emily Henry
  • Pretty Things by Janelle Brown
  • One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle
  • The Baxters by Karen Kingsbury
  • Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
  • It Happened One Summer by Tessa Bailey
  • The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
  • River of the Gods by Candice Millard
  • The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
  • It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover
  • The Push by Ashley Audrain
  • The Arsonists’ City by Hala Alyan
  • A Prayer for the Crown-Shy by Becky Chambers
  • The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X. R. Pan
  • The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johannsen
  • Ghost Forest by Pik-Shuen Fung
  • Nettle and Bone by T. Kingfisher
  • Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas

Again, this is just a tentative list, and will most likely change. But these are all of the books I am hoping to get to for this challenge.

Also, if you’re interested, check out my 20 Books of Summer Wrap-up from last year which has a list of all the books I read, as well as links to the reviews.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

(A Late) May Wrap-up

Hello everyone!

Welcome to my late May Wrap-up. I will be using the same format that I used in my April Wrap-up, which is a mashup of Merrily Kristin’s and Whispering Stories’ Wrap-ups. Without further ado, let’s jump into the wrap up.

What I Read

Books: 21 | New Books: 14 | Re-read: 7 | DNFs: 2 | Pages Read: 5,205

Favorite Reads

Least Favorite Reads:

Re-reads

May Reads

  1. Woman, Eat Me Whole by Ama Asantewa Diaka
  2. The Swimmers by Julie Otsuka
  3. The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  4. Darling Girl by Liz Michalski
  5. Sense & Second-Degree Murder by Tirzah Price
  6. The Department of Rare Books and Collections by Eva Jurczyk – DNF’d
  7. The Empire of Gold by S. A. Chakraborty
  8. One Piece, Volume 30 by Eiichiro Oda
  9. The Romantic Agenda by Claire Kann
  10. Kamisama Kiss, Volume 1 by Julietta Suzuki
  11. Children of the Whales, Volume 16 by Abi Umeda
  12. The Promised Neverland, Volume 1 by Kuai Shirai
  13. Jade City by Fonda Lee – DNF’d
  14. The Promised Neverland, Volume 2 by Kuai Shirai
  15. The Promised Neverland, Volume 3 by Kuai Shirai
  16. The Promised Neverland, Volume 4 by Kuai Shirai
  17. The Promised Neverland, Volume 5 by Kuai Shirai
  18. Conviction by Denise Mina
  19. Witch Hat Atelier, Volume 1 by Kamome Shirahama
  20. Well Met by Jen DeLuca
  21. The Promised Neverland, Volume 6 by Kuai Shirai

Blog Posts:

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas

Hello Everyone,

Today’s review is on Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas.

So Heir of Fire took me a while to get through, not because it was bad, but because I had some other books I had to get to, and it is a chonky book! However, I am glad I had the chance to read it, and so close to when I finished rereading Crown of Midnight. Before I get started in what the story is about, I do want to give a warning that there are spoilers in this review.

Heir of Fire picks up a few weeks after the end of Crown of Midnight. Celaena is in Wendlyn after being sent there by the king to murder the royal family, however, she decides not to do so and defects from her duties to the crown. While hiding in the shadows she encounters Rowan, who works for the Fae Queen, Maeve. He takes her to her, but is told she cannot enter the Fae realm until she can show that she has Fae powers that would be of use to the queen, and it is up to Rowan to train her how to best use her powers.

Meanwhile, back in Adarlan, Chaol is trying to do more research on the rebel group that wishes to take down the king and hope that the missing Terrasen princess, Aelin Galathynius will take charge. Chaol is the only one that knows that Aelin is truly alive. At the same time, Prince Dorian is unsettled by his possession of magic, especially since he knows that his father would use it for cruel intentions. There is one person who might be able to help him, a young healer, Sorscha, who tries to make different tonics to keep is power suppressed.

We are also introduced to a new character, Manon, who is a witch and part of the Blackteeth clan. Her and the other covens are tasked with training Wyverns given to them by the king, in the hopes that they will aid the king in his quest to rule Erilea and Wendlyn.

There is a lot that happens in Heir of Fire. I think the best place to start is to touch on pacing. While there is a lot going on the pacing did seem to drag at times. I also think that it could be said that this isn’t a plot heavy book, but rather there is a lot of character development and even plot development. I am looking forward to seeing how this all builds up towards the end of the series.

I will say that I got wrecked emotionally by this book, especially when Celaena finds out how the king massacred the slaves in both Calvulla and Endovier. I felt like this added another layer to Celaena’s character, especially as she tries to figure out what her purpose is now that the very people she wanted to save are dead.

Overall, I enjoyed Heir of Fire, especially the second half and the emotional roller-coaster ride it sent me on. Now on to my reread of Queen of Shadows. 4/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

(A Very Overdue) April Wrap Up

Hello everyone!

Welcome to a very long overdue April Wrap-up. There have been a lot of different things going on the past few months, so much so blogging got put on the backburner. However, I’m back and I feel inspired! But I still want to share my April Wrap-up because I want to share what I’ve been reading (because I’ve still been reading quite a bit).

I’m playing around with something different with my wrap-ups, it is going to be a mash-up of wrap-up posts I have seen from Merrily Kristin and Whispering Stories. However, since April was almost 2 months ago, I’m not going to include what I’ve been watching because I really can’t remember – although I’m pretty sure I was watching Criminal Minds.

So first I am going to share some statistics, then my favorite and least favorite books, my re-reads, and then a list of all the books I read in April. After that, I will also include a list of all my posts from April.

What I Read

Books read: 15 | New books: 14 | Re-reads: 1 | DNFs: 0 | Pages Read: 4,632

Favorite Reads:

Least Favorite:

Re-read:

April Reads:

  1. The Visit by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  2. 2043…A Merman I Should Turn to Be by Nisi Shawl
  3. Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev
  4. The Dark Fantastic by Ebony Elizabeth Thomas
  5. Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
  6. Field Notes on Love by Jennifer E. Smith
  7. Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop by Roselle Lim
  8. The Odyssey of Star Wars by Jack Mitchell
  9. The Ghosts of Rose Hill by R. M. Romero
  10. Waiting for Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey
  11. Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel
  12. By the Shore of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  13. The Kingdom of Copper by S. A. Chakraborty
  14. All Your Perfects by Colleen Hoover
  15. The Secret Wife by Mark Lamprell

Blog Posts:

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Haul

Hello everyone!

Today I thought I would share the six books I recently acquired. This last weekend I was in Denver, Colorado to visit my close friend, Allison. As always we had to visit several bookstores, since that is something we like doing when we’re together. I managed to find quite a few books at a local thrift store there, and a couple at 2nd & Charles (which I loved going to when I lived in Ohio, and I wish we had a couple down here in Texas – but we do have Half-Priced Books, which is just as good!). The first four books on this list are the ones I got at the thrift store, and the last two are the ones that I got at 2nd & Charles.

The Push by Ashley Audrain

The Push has been on my radar for a while, and I was able to find this lovely Book of the Month hardcover edition at the thrift store. I don’t know much about it, except that is a domestic thriller about motherhood, and I’ve heard nothing but good reviews from a few people I follow on BookTube. I will definitely be diving into this very soon!

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

I’m sure this book needs no introduction considering how it has taken the world by storm. I feel like I am one of the last holdouts who has yet to read it. However, I am determined to read it by the end of this year. I am looking forward to it, but I’m also nervous because it is so hyped and I really want to love it! I know it is set in the ’60s and set in the marshes of North Carolina following a young woman who longs to be loved, but also finds herself embroiled in some sort of tragedy.

In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren

For the last two Christmas seasons I have wanted to pick up In a Holidaze, but the hold list at the library was always long and by the time my turn came up it was already the New Year. However, I now own it, so I can read it whenever I want to! The novel follows Maelyn Jones, who after a disastrous Christmas at the cabin her family goes to every year, finds herself stuck in a groundhog day time loop repeating the events of Christmas Day.

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I’ll be honest, I don’t know a whole lot about Purple Hibiscus and I kind of want to leave it that way until I start reading it. I have read some of the author’s non-fiction work and really loved it, and I am looking forward to reading one of her novels.

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Strange the Dreamer has been on my TBR ever since it came out, but I just haven’t gotten around to it. I think the size of it is intimidating, but I am looking forward to diving into what I’m sure will be an atmospheric read.

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

So my friend Allison actually got this book for me, we each picked a book for the other while we were at 2nd & Charles. And I’m actually in the middle of reading it. It’s interesting so far. It is set on the island of Fennbirn where each generation triplets are born, and at the age of 16 they must fight to the death to determine which one will be the new queen, and they are each supposed to possess different kinds of powers. Stay tuned for my thoughts once I finish it.

And those are the books I’ve recently hauled. I don’t know how often I’ll do these posts (hopefully not too often), but probably whenever I have about 5-6 books to share. I hope you enjoyed it, I know this is something a little bit different, but I wanted to give it a try.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

P.S. Let me down in the comments which book or books you’ve recently hauled!

Book Review: The Inheritance of Orquidea Divina by Zoraida Cordova

Hello Everyone,

Today’s review is on The Inheritance of Orquidea Divina by Zoraida Cordova.

Summary:

The Montoyas are used to a life without explanations. They know better than to ask why the pantry never seems to run low or empty, or why their matriarch won’t ever leave their home in Four Rivers—even for graduations, weddings, or baptisms. But when Orquídea Divina invites them to her funeral and to collect their inheritance, they hope to learn the secrets that she has held onto so tightly their whole lives. Instead, Orquídea is transformed, leaving them with more questions than answers.

Seven years later, her gifts have manifested in different ways for Marimar, Rey, and Tatinelly’s daughter, Rhiannon, granting them unexpected blessings. But soon, a hidden figure begins to tear through their family tree, picking them off one by one as it seeks to destroy Orquídea’s line. Determined to save what’s left of their family and uncover the truth behind their inheritance, the four descendants travel to Ecuador—to the place where Orquídea buried her secrets and broken promises and never looked back. 
– Taken from GoodReads.

My Thoughts:

I picked this up because I’d heard a lot of buzz and it sounded interesting. I am sorry to say that it didn’t live up to my expectations. It was slow moving, so much so that I found myself confused for a while about why Orquidea’s family was being targeted. If I am being honest, I loved the story line following how Orquidea became who she was and I would have loved to read just about her life. Overall, it was an entertaining read, but it not live up to the hype. 3/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers

Hello Everyone,

Today’s review is on A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers.

Summary:

After touring the rural areas of Panga, Sibling Dex (a Tea Monk of some renown) and Mosscap (a robot sent on a quest to determine what humanity really needs) turn their attention to the villages and cities of the little moon they call home.

They hope to find the answers they seek, while making new friends, learning new concepts, and experiencing the entropic nature of the universe.

Becky Chambers’s new series continues to ask: in a world where people have what they want, does having more even matter? – Taken from GoodReads.

My Thoughts:

This was a quiet but interesting sci-fi. I loved the setting and I loved getting to know Monk as they try to figure out what they want for their lives. I also enjoyed getting to know the robot and how fascinated it is with the human world. I really liked it and I am looking forward to reading the next book. 3.5/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

Hello Everyone,

Today’s review is on The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren.

Summary:

Olive is always unlucky: in her career, in love, in…well, everything. Her identical twin sister Ami, on the other hand, is probably the luckiest person in the world. Her meet-cute with her fiancé is something out of a romantic comedy (gag) and she’s managed to finance her entire wedding by winning a series of Internet contests (double gag). Worst of all, she’s forcing Olive to spend the day with her sworn enemy, Ethan, who just happens to be the best man.

Olive braces herself to get through 24 hours of wedding hell before she can return to her comfortable, unlucky life. But when the entire wedding party gets food poisoning from eating bad shellfish, the only people who aren’t affected are Olive and Ethan. And now there’s an all-expenses-paid honeymoon in Hawaii up for grabs.

Putting their mutual hatred aside for the sake of a free vacation, Olive and Ethan head for paradise, determined to avoid each other at all costs. But when Olive runs into her future boss, the little white lie she tells him is suddenly at risk to become a whole lot bigger. She and Ethan now have to pretend to be loving newlyweds, and her luck seems worse than ever. But the weird thing is that she doesn’t mind playing pretend. In fact, she feels kind of… lucky. – Taken from GoodReads.

My Thoughts:

This was a cute romance with a little bit of steaminess. I was a bit hesitant to pick i t up because my first read from Christina Lauren, The Soulmate Equation, was a meh experience for me. But I am glad that I didn’t let it deter me me. I loved this enemies-to-lovers story, and I also loved how the source of conflict between the main characters’ was not as a result of miscommunication, but rather something different. I won’t say what it is, but if you know, you know.

This was a great, and it definitely reignited my desire to read some of their other works. 4/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: Disney’s Land by Richard Snow

Hello Everyone,

Today’s review is on Disney’s Land by Richard Snow.

Summary:

A propulsive history chronicling the conception and creation of Disneyland, the masterpiece California theme park, as told like never before by popular historian Richard Snow.

One day in the early 1950s, Walt Disney stood looking over 240 acres of farmland in Anaheim, California, and imagined building a park where people “could live among Mickey Mouse and Snow White in a world still powered by steam and fire for a day or a week or (if the visitor is slightly mad) forever.” Despite his wealth and fame, exactly no one wanted Disney to build such a park. Not his brother Roy, who ran the company’s finances; not the bankers; and not his wife, Lillian. Amusement parks at that time, such as Coney Island, were a generally despised business, sagging and sordid remnants of bygone days. Disney was told that he would only be heading toward financial ruin.

But Walt persevered, initially financing the park against his own life insurance policy and later with sponsorship from ABC and the sale of thousands and thousands of Davy Crockett coonskin caps. Disney assembled a talented team of engineers, architects, artists, animators, landscapers, and even a retired admiral to transform his ideas into a soaring yet soothing wonderland of a park. The catch was that they had only a year and a day in which to build it.

On July 17, 1955, Disneyland opened its gates…and the first day was a disaster. Disney was nearly suicidal with grief that he had failed on a grand scale. But the curious masses kept coming, and the rest is entertainment history. Eight hundred million visitors have flocked to the park since then. In Disney’s Land, Richard Snow brilliantly presents the entire spectacular story, a wild ride from vision to realization, and an epic of innovation and error that reflects the uniqueness of the man determined to build “the happiest place on earth” with a watchmaker’s precision, an artist’s conviction, and the desperate, high-hearted recklessness of a riverboat gambler.

My Thoughts:

It took me a while to get through Disney’s Land due to a bunch of other reading commitments I had in the latter bit of the year. I really liked this thorough look at the making of Disneyland, including what led Walt Disney to decide to build the park.

While this is very much written by someone who loves Disneyland, the author does not shy away from showing some of the not-so-great things that happened behind the scenes, as well as the person of Walt Disney himself. However, he does it in such a way that makes Disney more human, and also makes readers admire him and his work even more. My only complain is that it did get a little bit dry at times, but I still highly recommend it. 4/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis (The Chronicles of Narnia #1)

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis.

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I decided in December 2020 that this year would be the year that I finally reread the Chronicles of Narnia. The last time I had read the whole series was back when I was a senior in high school – in 2012 – and I am glad to finally return to the land of Narnia.

The Magician’s Nephew is the first book in the series (although it was the sixth book published). We are introduced to Digory Kirke and Polly Plummer, two children who meet and become friends. One day, while trying to explore an empty house, they come upon Digory’s uncle’s study. In the study, his uncle gives the two children rings and the adventure begins there. First, they are transported to an in-between land. Secondly, they travel to another world that is dying and due to a foolish move on Digory’s part, they meet Jadis, the ruler of that world, as well as the one responsible for it’s destruction. After a quick jaunt to London, they try to return Jadis back to her own world, but instead end up in a world that is just being born – Narnia, where they also meet the ruler, Aslan.

Rereading The Magician’s Nephew always shows me more things that I missed the previous time around, especially as Christian. While the book as a whole serves as an allegory of the Creation account in Genesis 1-3, I found myself noticing more specific allegorical elements. For instance, how evil is brought into Narnia in the form of Jadis, and how she was brought in by Digory. There is also a scene in the garden where she tries to deceive Digory into breaking his word to Aslan by telling him to steal one of the apples and take it home to his mother, who is ill. A Lot of what she says in this scene reminded me of what the serpent says to Eve in Genesis 3, and how he twisted God’s words to her. There are so many elements that could be discussed at length, but whole books have been written on this topic!

I also loved the references to things that appear in the other books in series. Some examples include how Digory grows up and becomes the Professor that the Penvensies goa nd stay with in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. We also get a description as to how a lamppost ended up in Narnia. We are also introduced to Jadis, who eventually becomes the White Witch. There are so many easter eggs in this book and its fascinating to read and discover them.

In the last chapter there is a passage where Aslan warns Digory that our world could eventually become like Charn, Jadis’ former world, especially if we discover a magic or weapon equivalent to the Deplorable Word that she used to destroy Charn. Part of me wonders if this was C.S. Lewis’ way of critiquing the discovery of nuclear weapons and the Cold War, or if he was referring to something else. I’m just speculating, but it would also make sense.

Overall, I enjoyed my reread of The Magician’s Nephew. It’s not as powerful as The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but it is still a fantastic read. 4/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab.

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Travel to the world of Verity, which used to look pretty similar to our world until the monsters appeared. After years of violence, the capital – V-city – finally came to a truce and was divided into North and South City. One half ruled by Henry Flynn who wants to protect the citizens at whatever cost, as well as three monsters under his care. The other half is ruled by the ruthless Callum Harker who lets the monsters run free and forces people to pay him for protection and the truce between the two cities is close to its breaking point. All Kate Harker wants is to be a family with her father, who keeps sending her to boarding schools, and when she gets kicked out yet again she finally sees it as her chance to live with him. When news gets out that Harker’s daughter is back, Henry Flynn sends his adopted monster son, August, to attend the same school as her to try and keep an eye on the Harkers. But when a planned attack on Kate fails, both her and August find themselves on the run from the sinister minds behind it.

This Savage Song is an interesting novel that deals with hypocrisy, violence and darkness. Essentially the monsters were birthed from the violent acts that the humans committed – in a sense, birthed from the monster within humans.

The novel deals with hypocrisy because Kate’s father puts forth the facade that he is doing what he thinks is best for North City. However, he proves to be more monstrous than some of the monsters that are out there. This is proven when Kate discovers that he was behind the assassination attempt on her, as well as the death of his mother. She confronts him and says, “‘You’re not a father. You’re not even a man. You’re a monster'” (410). This shakes Kate up because all she ever wanted to do was make her father proud, but all of that melts away when she realizes what a monster he truly is, when she does, August tries to help stop her from becoming like her father, and from being the perfect meal for him – he feeds off the souls of sinners.

It was also interesting how music played a big part in the novel and how it is used as a weapon by the Sunai monsters – this is the type of monster that August is. However, there were also some aspects of this world that were left unexplained, such as the origin of all the monsters. It is briefly explained, but it is quickly glossed over and the novel could have done with more exposition on this.

However, the discussion that not all monsters are truly monsters was interesting. For example, August wishes he could be human and live life like a human, he does not want to be a monster and he does not want to give into his dark side. Contrast this to Kate’s father who is truly a monster in all of his actions – having his wife killed, trying to have his daughter killed, starting a war – while claiming to be someone who cares about man kin. This also brings up the question of what makes us human and whether someone like August can even have a shred of humanity without being human.

Overall, this was just an okay read and I am probably not going to finish the rest of duology. However, I am interesting in trying some of the author’s other works, especially those written under V. E. Schwab. 3/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

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

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden.

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The Bear and the Nightingale is a fantasy novel set in medieval Russia. It is set the northern Rus’ and follows Vasilisa, who is a mysterious girl who is born to her mother and her mother dies. Her father then decides to remarry, but his new wife is a devout Chrisitan who seeks to rid the house of demons and, along with the village’s new priest, force the town to turn their backs on the spirits that they have previously believed in to help with the day-to-day of their lives. Once the villagers stop leaving offerings for spirits, calamity continually strikes the village. However, Vasilisa, also known as Vasya, can see the spirits and does what she can to help them while protecting her family. But there is also a foreboding for the coming winter and whether or not there will be a lot of casualties, and Vasya starts to wonder if the frostking that she has heard tales of, actually exists, and there is another ominuous evil that starts stalking the village.

This is a slower read, but only because it is my first foray into adult fantasy – besides The Lord of the Rings. And even though it is a slower read, it is a fascinating story, but I found myself having to take short breaks after every few pages to kind of review what had happened so far and soak in what was going on. It is a very atmospheric read and I found myself captivated by it all.

I enjoyed learning about the different “spirits” that appear in this book, especially since I feel like I have learned a little bit more about medieval Russian folklore. There is also so much that happens in this book and it is hard to summarize properly because there are several different threads going on that then culminate in the climax of the novel.

It was a fascianting look at “pagan” culture vs. Eastern Orthodox Christianity, as well as how pride does really come before the fall in the case of Father Konstantin who serves as a catalyst for the events that lead to the climax. There is also some political intrigue woven throughout the book, mainly involving Anna – Vasya’s stepmother – and Father Konstantin and the reasons that both of them are sent to Vasya’s village.

Father Konstantin reminded me a lot of Frollo from the Hunchback of Notre Dame (the Disney version, I have yet to read the book), and a lot of what he does, especially towards the end proves this. Also, the following quotes that Vasya says to him when he is trying to do the last rites over someone, also shows that he is legalistic and that he has a false piety that uses to gain power over the villagers.

‘”You want my people to love you, so you made them afraid.” Vasya was pale with fury. “I will not have Dunya afraid. Get out.” (209).

The above quotes also shows another aspect of the novel that I enjoyed. I enjoyed watching Vasya grow up and learn to think for herself, instead of just allowing the fear that Father Konstantin instills in the other villagers take over her too. She still takes care of the spirits that take care of her family, especially since she sees how they are hurting because the villagers are ignoring them. She also sees the calamity that is brought to the village because of their neglect of the spirits.

I also appreciate how it is explained that Vasya can see the spirits – she has the gift of second sight because she has magic in her blood. This makes me even more curious about her step mother, Anna, and how and why she seems to have the same gift. It was also interesting that readers get to learn along with Vasya that the frostking is not a mere fairy tale and that he actually exists.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Bear and the Nightingale, and there is so much that happens and it ends on a cliffhanger and I can’t wait to read the next book. This is a great wintry and atmospheric historical fantasy and I highly recommend it! 5/5 Stars

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: Zodiac by Romina Russell

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on Zodiac by Romina Russell.

I don’t know where to start with this review, because overall Zodiac was a disappointing read, but before I jump into my thoughts on the book let me give a quick synopsis of the book.

Zodiac is set in another universe/galaxy years in the future. This whole society is based around the 12 signs of the Zodiac and each sign has it’s own “house” that governs over several planets. Rhoma Grace is a sixteen-year-old from the House of Cancer who is just trying to get past her acolyte training and go on to university. However, on the night of a festival, things go very wrong when one of the four moons that make up part of House Cancer’s system is decimated which causes havoc on the other moons, as well as the main Cancerian planet. Rho and several of her friends are the only ones left alive on the moon that their school is on, and they are taken to safety. They soon learn that their guardian was killed by the event and Rho is next in line to succeed her. Rho takes over as the guardian of House Cancer, but when she gets threats from Ophiucus, a villainous being who was believed to just be a myth, she sets out to find him, as well as warn the rest of the Zodiac of his destruction, even though very few people believe her. But soon other houses are attacked by mysterious and suspicious incidents that make some of the other houses realize that there might be some truth to Rho’s claims.

As I mentioned before, Zodiac was a disappointing read. It had it’s good elements, but for the most part it just seemed to drag in a lot of places. It took me over a week to get through it because very little about this story compelled me, the only reason I didn’t DNF it was that I had gotten far enough along in the book that I wanted to see how things ended. However, in some ways I do wish I had just DNF’d it.

One of the main things I didn’t like about Zodiac is that the word-building was a little lackluster even though it was an intricate world that needed a lot of explaining. There were times when I was confused about was going on and even confused various elements within this universe. Some of the concepts that Romina Russell created were fascinating, but there needed to be more details given to the readers.

I also wasn’t a huge fan of the characters. Rho was pretty one-dimensional and I also didn’t like that a love triangle was introduced in this book. While Rho’s determination is admirable, there are times when it felt like she let her leadership get to her head and she refused to listen to other…granted some of the others did also look down on her because of her age.

One of the few characters I actually liked was Hysan. While he supported Rho on her quest and believed that what she said was true, he also tries to caution her about putting to much of herself into the quest, especially since she is now the leader of the House of Cancer.

I really wanted to love this book, but it just wasn’t compelling enough, the plot and world-building was confusing and the characters weren’t always likable. There are three other books in the series and I honestly have no inclination to pick them up to find out what happens next – especially since some of the reviews for the second book have said that quality wise it’s not as good as the first book. 2.5/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Reading Journal: Elsie Dinsmore by Martha Finley

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is more of a reading journal of sorts of my reread of Elsie Dinsmore by Martha Finley. I remember reading these when I was about 12 and enjoying them, but I was curious to see how they hold up now that I am 27. Since this is a reading journal there will be spoilers.

January 22nd, 2022

So far I am enjoying this a lot more than I thought I would. I mean, yes, I do find myself rolling my eyes a bit at how often Elsie cries, as well as her being uber pious and perfect. I don’t know anyone who has been as perfect, or who has been grieved over their own sin. I do really like Miss Allison, and Aunt Chloe (Mammy). I hate how awful her family is to her, at least her grand parents and aunts and uncles. But then again, it also seems it was part of the culture of the South, especially for plantation owners (?). There is a small part of me that thinks I should try and read all of the Elsie books, or at least as many of them as I find myself able to get through.

***

I forgot how much of a jerk her father is…I get that he doesn’t know how to take care of a child. But still. His best friend is able to relate to Elsie a lot more than he does. He doesn’t take the time to get to know her and he is way to stern with her when he has barely said two words to her. Also, I don’t know, but Mr. Travilla creeps me out a bit, but I think it has more to do with the fact that he ends up marrying Elsie in book 4. But again, it was a different time, and I don’t think his kindness to her as an 8 year old is him grooming her. Like I said, it was a different time where a huge age gap was the norm. But it still makes me a little uneasy. Also what 8 year old drinks coffee?

***

January 23rd, 2022

I did not expect to finish the first book so quickly, but I think it has more to do with the fact that I also had a hard time getting to sleep last night, and as a result ended up reading a bit. I kind of had a good time reading it too, which surprises me because I thought I would be mostly rage reading it. Yes, there are still quite a few things that I don’t like about this book (or the series overall), but something about it still made me invested in the story…maybe it’s the nostalgia for the time when I last read it. I don’t know how to explain it.

Elsie is very legalistic and way too perfect. And maybe that had to do with the times in which the book is set (the 1840s). Also, I just find it hard to believe that an 8/9 year old is that well-behaved. But yet I still found something charming about the story…I don’t know. Like I said, I think I just got caught up in the nostalgia.

I can’t stand her father, he is borderline abusive in how he treats her sometimes, and I feel like the author almost glorified that… or maybe it is a way to set up the next novel, where he becomes a Christian and it’s to show the contrast between how different love can look like. I don’t know, maybe I’m just grasping at straws. And then near the end Mr. Travilla makes a comment that was creepy… he tells Elsie that he wished she was ten years older *gag*.

Overall, I liked my reread of Elsie Dinsmore a lot more than I thought I would. However, it is not something I would necessarily recommend to others and I don’t know if I would ever let my own kids read these books. I hadn’t originally planned on it, but I’m curious to see how many of the books I can get through before I get so fed up with them. So I guess I’m going to pick up Elsie’s Holidays at Roselands next.

Happy Reading,
Janelle L. C.

Book Review: Muted by Tami Charles

Hello Everyone,

Today’s review is on Muted by Tami Charles.

Summary:

A ripped-from-the-headlines novel of ambition, music, and innocence lost, perfect for fans of Elizabeth Acevedo and Jason Reynolds!
Be bold. Get seen. Be Heard.


For seventeen-year-old Denver, music is everything. Writing, performing, and her ultimate goal: escaping her very small, very white hometown.

So Denver is more than ready on the day she and her best friends Dali and Shak sing their way into the orbit of the biggest R&B star in the world, Sean “Mercury” Ellis. Merc gives them everything: parties, perks, wild nights — plus hours and hours in the recording studio. Even the painful sacrifices and the lies the girls have to tell are all worth it.

Until they’re not.

Denver begins to realize that she’s trapped in Merc’s world, struggling to hold on to her own voice. As the dream turns into a nightmare, she must make a choice: lose her big break, or get broken.

Inspired by true events, Muted is a fearless exploration of the dark side of the music industry, the business of exploitation, how a girl’s dreams can be used against her — and what it takes to fight back. 

My Thoughts:

Wow! This book was a ride. I was immediately drawn to it because it is a novel-in-verse, and I was curious to see how it addressed the darker side of the music industry. While this reads mostly as a contemporary, there are some thriller aspects to it.

I was hooked from the beginning and I was on the edge of my seat as Denver learns that not everything is as it seems when it comes to her idol, Merc. It was interesting to see how someone can be swayed by deception, and I think it is a cautionary tale about being careful of who you trust, even if it seems like nothing is wrong. It is also a pciture of how sick individuals can use the dreams and ambitions of others for their sick and twisted ways. The ending still haunts me! 4.5/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on The Secret History by Donna Tartt.

Summary:

Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality they slip gradually from obsession to corruption and betrayal, and at last—inexorably—into evil. (Taken from Goodreads).

My Thoughts:

I had seen several of the Booktubers I follow gush about The Secret History. I’d also been hearing the term Dark Academia thrown around on YouTube, and I have been curious to learn if it is something that I liked. It was also recommended as a read-a-like for the movie The Dead Poets’ Society, which is one of my favorite movies. And it just sounded really interesting.

I liked The Secret history and I do think it might be a book that I revisit in the future to get all the nuances. However, it did take a different direction than I was expecting. I thought Julian (the professor) would be involved lot more than he actually was, and in some ways we only get second-hand information of how he has influenced his students. I do wish we had gotten more of a character study of him, but I do think the author does do a great job of his character development, or rather lack thereof, and his hypocrisy.

I found all of the characters unlikable, which I get is the point, but there wasn’t really anyone I could root for. However, it was interesting to see who the dynamic shifted among the group after the murder. It’s also interesting how the author describes the victim, Bunny, in such a way that his murder almost seems justified. And I suppose that is the point since we are being told the story from the perspective of on of the other members of the groups, Richard. It was also interesting to see how each of the characters were affected by their actions.

Overall, I liked The Secret History. it didn’t quite live up to my expectations, but I do plan on revisiting it in a few years and I can understand why it is a well-loved book. 3.75/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: The Woman They Could Not Silence by Kate Moore

If you’ve been following my blog for a few years, you might know that back in 2018 I read a book that became one of my favorite non-fiction books of all-time. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I reread it in 2020, and I probably loved it even more the second time around. That book was Radium Girls by Kate Moore. So when I heard that she was coming out with a new non-fiction book last year, I knew I had to read it. I didn’t know what it was about, but I knew that it would be good.

The Woman They Could Not Silence did not disappoint. Kate Moore does a great job of weaving the story of Elizabeth Packard as she not only fights for own freedom from an asylum, but for those of her fellow inmates who had also been placed in there unjustly. This book not only makes readers glad that the barbaric practices of insane asylums are a thing of the past, however it also brings to the surface the fact that women are still silenced in certain arenas, we are still seen as other. It is a reminder that we have come a long way as far as the treatment of women, but there is still a lot more work to be done.

As I mentioned before, The Woman They Could Not Silence follows Elizabeth Packard in 1861 when her minister husband places her in an insane asylum because she was outspoken about her views on politics and religion, and because she was not the model subservient wife that was considered the societal norm at the time. She also discovers that there are no laws to protect women, especially married women, from being unjustly treated. While trying to prove that she is of sound mind, she also discovers that there are others just like her, women who were declared insane for outrageous reasons. She tries to win favor with the superintendent, who at first seems to be sympathetic to her plight, but soon makes known he too wants to silence her.

After witnessing and experiencing horrible things, Elizabeth realizes that she not only needs to fight for her own freedom, but for the freedom of others who have found themselves in similar situations. She would become a prolific writer, as well as spend the rest of her life trying to bring reform not only to how individuals were committed to asylums, but also for the rights of women. She was truly a remarkable woman, who I had never heard of before.

Kate Moore does a great job of making this read like a novel, however not shying away from the horrors that took place inside insane asylums. There were times I felt sick and angry over what people would have experienced. I also found myself incensed over what was considered to make a woman insane during that time. Let me just say, I am so grateful I am married to someone who appreciates hearing my opinions and engages me in discussions. I am also glad that for the most part women are free to express themselves. However, it also reminded me of the areas where women are still left unheard, or their concerns are brushed aside. Like I said before, there is still a lot more work that needs to be done as far as women being heard.

Overall, I loved The Woman They Could Not Silence. It is a lengthy book and I read it in the span of two days. I could barely put it down, although I also find myself having to do so at times because of how angry parts of it made me. I highly recommend this book for fans of Kate Moore’s work, and for everyone. A lot more people need to know about Elizabeth Packard and the work she did in regards to reformed practices regarding admittance of patients to asylums, as well as women’s rights! 5/5 Stars.

March Wrap-up and April TBR

Hello everyone,

Welcome to my March Wrap-up and April TBR. I’ll be honest, I did not expect to read as much as I did – 22 books! That is wild, especially since some of them were thick. However, there were a few novellas thrown in there too. However, I do have a feeling that I won’t be reading as much this month because I am starting a new job, which will take up a good chunk of my time. As in previous posts, I will be sharing my April TBR at the end. Here are the books I read this month:

Pure by Linda Kay Klein

5/5 Stars

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler

3/5 Stars.

Broken Resolutions by Olivia Dade

3/5 Stars.

On the Plus Side by Tabatha Vargo

3/5 Stars.

Never the Bride by Flora Ferrari

3/5 Stars.

Marshmallow by Megan Wade

3/5 Stars.

Swipe for a Cosmo by Megan Wade

3/5 Stars.

Mixer Upper by Penn Rivers and Desiree LaFawn

3/5 Stars.

Your Good Body by Jennifer Taylor Wagner

5/5 Stars

Cold Brew Corpse by Tara Lush

3.5/5 Stars.

The Unsinkable Greta James by Jennifer E. Smith

4/5 Stars/

Miss Hollywood by Kitty Gallant

3.5/5 Stars

Postcards from the Edge by Carrie Fisher

4/5 Stars.

Apple Children of Aeon, Volume 1 by Ai Tanaka

4/5 Stars.

Anne of Ingleside by L. M. Montgomery

3/5 Stars.

The Making of Biblical Womanhood by Beth Allison Barr

4.5/5 Stars.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik – DNF’d

Dear Fahrenheit 451 by Annie Spence

5/5 Stars.

Desire and the Deep Blue Sea by Olivia Dade

3.5/5 Stars.

The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett

3.5/5 Stars.

Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin

3.5/5 Stars.

The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa

The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty

April TBR

The Arsonists’ City by Hala Alyan

Ever since I read the author’s debut novel, Salt Houses, last year, I have been dying to read more of her work. I’m looking forward to picking up another intergenerational novel set in Lebanon and Syria. I know this is going to hit me hard, but it will also make me more empathetic to the experiences to those who have been forced to leave war-torn countries.

Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev

I have started this one already, and I like it so far. I love learning more about Indian culture and family dynamics, and I love the elements from Pride and Prejudice that author uses throughout the novel.

Field Notes on Love by Jennifer E. Smith

I have been meaning to pick this one up for a while, but for whatever reason I just never had. It sounds like a cute romance about a couple that meet under somewhat unusual circumstances and I am looking forward to seeing how they get to know each other.

This is just a small sample of the books I want to read this month. I am hoping to finish both the Davaebad trilogy and the Serpent and Dove trilogy. I also have some other books I want to read, I think I might do a buddy read of A Man Called Ove, or that might be on hold for a few months. Plus, I am planning on going back to the library, so anything I happen to check out from there.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

The Animal Crossing Book Tag

Hello everyone,

Today I want to do something a little bit different than my usual posts. Over a month ago, I saw Riddhi @Whispering Stories ‘s post where she did The Animal Crossing Book Tag, and I knew I had to do it too. I love Animal Crossing: New Horizons, although my poor island has been neglected for a few weeks and I really need to get back into it. This tag was created by Bookish Things and Tea.

Let’s jump into the tag!

Image from Stickpng

Gamecube – A classic that you want to read

Right now, there are two classics I want to read. I really want to read Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell because it has been on my TBR for a very long time. I also want to read The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo, but the length intimidates me, and I am a huge fan of the Disney adaptation and I know that this is a lot darker.

Wild World – Your favorite second book in a series.

This was a hard one because I feel like most of the time I find second books in the series lacking. However, I would have to pick Anne of Avonlea by L. M. Montgomery. I just love how we continue to see Anne growing up, as well as the rest of the Avonlea crew.

New leaf – The best new release you’ve read recently

If recently means so far this year, I would have to say The Unsinkable Greta James by Jennifer E. Smith. I really enjoyed this first adult novel from Jennifer E. Smith, she tackles several different topics and I loved the backdrop of an Alaskan cruise. I highly recommend this for fans of her YA works. I am also planning on having a longer review up in a few weeks.

City Folk – Your favorite book set in a large city

This was a hard one because I usually don’t focus a whole lot on where the book is set, or rather how big the surroundings are, but if I had to pick one I would have to say The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani, which is a thriller set in Paris. I really enjoyed it, and if you’d like to read more of my in-depth thoughts, check out my full-length review that I posted last year.

Isabelle – A book that has been with you through thick and thin

For this one I have two books, I couldn’t decide between either of them. Both are sort of comfort reads and I keep coming back to them every so often. They are Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery and Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. I love both of them for different reasons, but yet each time I read them I enjoy them even more than the previous time.

Bells – A book rich with character

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe by Fannie Flagg. While told mainly in a series of vignettes set in a small town in Alabama, we also get to know several of the characters, and their lives through various trials. I fell in love with the characters and could barely put it down.

Pitfall – A book you wouldn’t mind never seeing again.

Earthlings by Sayaka Murata. I should have DNF’d this, but I didn’t. I get that it was tackling some serious topics but it took a very bizarre and disturbing turn and I was definitely scarred for a few days after reading it.

Fossil – Your favorite history/historical fiction book.

I would definitely have to pick both Radium Girls and The Woman They Could Not Silence by Kate Moore. Both tackle different topics that are somewhat unknown to most people, and Kate Moore writes in such a way that it is hard to put down. I will say that both books have made me angry with various things that happened to the women that are explored, but in a good way. I can see why these books might not be for everyone, but I highly recommend them!

I am tagging anyone who would like to participate in this tag! Here are a few rules if you decide to do it:

  • Please link back to the original creator of the tag, Bookish Things and Tea.
  • Answer the following Animal Crossing themed book questions.
  • Feel free to use graphics, but be sure to credit Bookish Things and Tea.
  • Tag some friends to spread the love!

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: Code Girls by Liza Mundy

Hello Everyone,

Today’s review is on Code Girls by Liza Mundy.

Summary:

In the tradition of Hidden Figures and The Girls of Atomic City, Code Girls is the astonishing, untold story of the young American women who cracked key Axis codes, helping to secure Allied victory and revolutionizing the field of cryptanalysis.

Recruited by the U.S. Army and Navy from small towns and elite colleges, more than ten thousand women served as codebreakers during World War II. While their brothers and boyfriends took up arms, these women moved to Washington and learned the meticulous work of code-breaking. Their efforts shortened the war, saved countless lives, and gave them access to careers previously denied to them. A strict vow of secrecy nearly erased their efforts from history; now, through dazzling research and interviews with surviving code girls, bestselling author Liza Mundy brings to life this riveting and vital story of American courage, service, and scientific accomplishment. – Taken from GoodReads.

My Thoughts:

This was an interesting look at the forgotten women who helped crack the coeds that helped end World War II. I’d heard of the code breakers, but I didn’t realize just how many of them were women, as well as how some of the biggest codes that were cracked were done so by women who did not receive the credit they rightly deserved.

I’ll admit that this was a little bit dry at times, and it seemed to be repetitive. However, I do appreciate the care the author took to describe the different kinds of codes and how they were cracked, as well as the history of coding.

Overall, this was a fascinating read and I highly recommend it for those who are interested in World War II history, as well as the code breaking that took place in that era. 4/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

2022 Library Haul, Vol. 1

Hello everyone,

Welcome to another library haul. I finally ended up signing up for a library card this week with one of my local libraries. I’d been meaning to for a while, but for whatever reason I hadn’t. However, I was at the library for a job interview and the time had come for me to get a library card (by the way, I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned that we moved to Texas in December), as well as check out a few books. I did restrain myself and only checked out 5 books. I think the odds are greatly in my favor that I will actually read all 5 of them before they are do back early next month. Here are the books I checked out:

Dear Fahrenheit 451 by Annie Spence

As I am writing this, I have just finished Dear Fahrenheit 451. I loved it! I highly recommend it! I laughed so much and could relate to a lot of things that the author says as a librarian and a book lover. This is definitely going to be on my favorites list at the end of the year. I loved reading her different thoughts for each book, and it was just really good. Please read this one if you can get your hands on it!

The City of Brass by S. A Chakraborty

If you saw my 22 books to read in 2022, you know that this is one of those books. However, I have been intrigued by it for a couple of year, but I’m also intimidated because I don’t know if I’ll like it. However, I am intrigued to read a Middle Eastern inspired fantasy. I have already started it and so far I am hooked!

Waiting for Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey

Lately I have been really getting into romance, and I have been wanting to read Waiting for Tom Hanks for a while. I was sold by the fact that it is about a woman who loves Sleepless in Seattle (which I still need to read, but I love You’ve Got Mail), and longs to find her own version of Tom Hanks. When she gets the opportunity to work on a movie set, she meets the star of the movie, who is the complete opposite of her ideal man, and well, I guess we kind of know what is going to happen between them.

The Odyssey of Star Wars by Jack Mitchell

First off, how did I not know this existed?! I was sold by the title alone, however I am even more intrigued by the fact that this is Rogue One and all the films of the original trilogy in the form of epic poetry. Yes, I know it’s kind of nerdy, but at the same time I am really looking forward to reading this (it is also a reminder that I still need to read the William Shakespeare’s Star Wars books by Ian Doescher). I also love the cover art. I discovered this purely by accident, I was browsing the new books section at the library, and I saw the title. That’s all I need to be convinced that I needed to check it out and bring it home with me.

The Dark Fantastic by Ebony Elizabeth Thomas

Lately I have had an itch to get back into literary analysis and criticism (more so writing it), I did a lot of it in college as an English major, and by the time I graduated I was burnt out. I have a few ideas of things I want to do with this new found urge to analyze literature and movies, but I also want to read more books on literary analysis and criticism as well. The Dark Fantastic sounded really interesting because it looks at race in four popular book series and tv series, focusing more specifically on the portrayal of young black women in these fictional worlds. I looking forward to reading this and learning a lot more about what the author has to say about race and imagination.

And those are the 5 books I checked our from the library. Like I said at the beginning of this post, I feel optimistic that I will make it through all of them by the time they go back, but even if I don’t – thank goodness for renewals!

Happy Reading,
Janelle L. C.

First Line Fridays #83 – Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

Hello everyone,

Welcome to another installment of First Line Fridays hosted by Reading is My Superpower.

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

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“Mrs. Rachel Lynde lived just where the Avonlea main road dipped down into a little hollow, fringed with alders and ladies’ eardrops, and traversed by a brook that had its source away back in the woods of the old Cuthbert place; it was reputed to be an intricate, headlong brook in its earlier course through those woods, the darkest secrets of pool and cascade, but by the time it reached Lynde’s Hollow it was a quiet, well-conducted little stream, for not even a brook could run past Mrs. Rachel Lynde’s door without due regard for decency and decorum, it probably was conscious that Mrs. Rachel was sitting at her window keeping a sharp eye on everything that passed, from brooks and children, and that is she noticed anything odd or out of place she would never rest until she had ferreted out the whys and wherefores thereof.”

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

22 Books I Want To Read in 2022

Hello everyone,

Today I would like to share the 22 books that I am hoping to read in 2022. Since it is March, I have already read a few of these books, so I have a good feeling that I will make it through all of them by December 31st. A lot of these books are ones that I have been meaning to pick up for several years and for one reason or another I just haven’t, but 2022 is the year I am going to prioritize them!

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

I have been meaning to pick up the Lilac Girls for several years but just haven’t gotten the chance. This year I am determined to read it. I think it will be heartbreaking because it is set during World War II and it is following the lives of three very different women and their experiences during this tumultuous time in history.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

I have heard nothing but great things about Station Eleven. I think the only reason that I’ve been reluctant to pick it up is that it is set during a pandemic, and since we are just coming out of one (I hope!) it just never felt like a good time to read it. However, I feel like I am in a good place to read it, and I’m looking forward to it.

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss

I’m a little embarrassed that it has taken me so long to pick this up. I’ve had it on my shelves since 2018, and it sounds right up my alley. Not only is it a Victorian mystery, but it follows the daughters of several notorious characters from Gothic literature, such as Dr. Jekyll, Victor Frankenstein, Dr. Moreau and others. Also, Sherlock Holmes and Watson also make an appearance. It sounds really good and I am looking forward to seeing how all these characters interact with one another.

News of the World by Paulette Jiles

I’ll be honest, I don’t know a whole lot about this book, except that it is set after the Civil War, and that a movie came out starring Tom Hanks. It sounds really good, and I think I’ll enjoy it.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

Welp, I think it’s about time that I finished reading the Harry Potter series. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to pick up the last book. I think it’s partly because I didn’t grow up with Harry Potter like a lot of my peers, so I’m not as crazed about it. I do want to finish it though, and I think this is the year to do so!

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

I had every intention of picking up The Starless Sea when it came out several years ago, but I never got to it. I’ll admit that I am a bit hesitant to pick it up because I read The Night Circus and wasn’t a huge fan of it. But I have also seen that some who weren’t into The Night Circus have really enjoyed The Starless Sea – I’m hoping I am one of those readers.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Where the Crawdads Sing is another book that I am wanting to pick up because of how beloved it is. Again, I know very little about it, except that it is set in the South in the ’60s and it is part mystery. I’m looking forward to seeing why everyone loves it, however, I’m also worried that it won’t live up to the hype.

The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa

The Memory Police has been on my radar for a while. The concept of memories disappearing, and things just disappearing from existence sounds fascinating and I’m looking forward to seeing how the author pulls it off. Also, I enjoy reading novels in translation, I just find them fascinating because it is written from a different perspective than an American-centric one.

The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang

The Poppy War is a martial fantasy based on China’s bloody history during the 20th century. I also know that it is gory and graphic and does not shy away from the horrors of war, but I’ve also heard nothing but good things about it and I am looking forward to picking it up.

At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon

I’m intrigued to read about the town of Mitford, and it did come recommended for fans of Debbie Macomber’s books. Who knows, maybe this will become a new favorite series.

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

I’ve had The Queen of the Tearling sitting on my Kindle for a while, although I don’t even remember buying it. I’ve heard nothing but good things about it, and I know my friend Allison really enjoyed it. I know it’s a fantasy, but I’ve honestly forgotten the synopsis.

Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin

Serpent & Dove was a book that I heard a lot about on BookTube when it first came out, and it definitely got mixed reviews. However, after hearing Grace from G-Swizzle talk about it and how she found it to be a book that helped her work through deconstruction of some of her beliefs, my interest was piqued. As someone who is working through her own questions and concerns about certain aspects of my beliefs, I’m curious to see how that affects my enjoyment of the book. I’m personally expecting to love it, but who knows!

The City of Brass by S. A. Chabkraborty

This is the first book in a Middle Eastern based fantasy series involving djinn, and I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews to the point I want to give it a go. However, I am nervous because I’ve only just recently started dipping my toes into adult fantasy.

Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell

I really need to read Cranford. I have had this on my shelves for almost 7 years! I remember that because I picked it up when I went to The Last Bookstore in L.A. for the first time. I’d meant to read it in preparation for reading my senior thesis, however I ended up writing it on the author’s other work, North & South. I’m looking forward to reading it and seeing whether I enjoy it more or less than North & South.

Earthlings by Sayaka Murata

I read Convenience Store Woman three years ago, and I enjoyed the quirkiness of it. Earthlings is Sayaka Murata’s latest novel (at least the latest that has been translated into English), it sounds a little weird, but it will probably be enjoyable. (*Spoiler alert: I read it in February and did not enjoy it. It was a pretty disturbing read.).

Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala

Arsenic and Adobo is a cozy mystery that centers around food, and I am looking forward to reading it. I’m also intrigued to see how the murder is solved.

The Woman They Could Not Silence by Kate Moore

I loved the author’s previous work, Radium Girls, and before I even knew what this one was about, I knew I had to read it. I am looking forward to reading more about the state of asylums, and even how woman who did not fit into the conventions of society were treated.

The Cape Doctor by E. J. Levy

I’ll be honest, I was first intrigued by this book simply because of the title, and that fact that it is set in Cape Town, South Africa, when it was the Cape Colony. It is follows a young woman who longs to be a doctor, but the only way she can do so is by dressing as a man.

The Doctors Blackwell by Janice P. Nimura

I am excited to read about two of the first female doctors in U.S. and the various obstacles they had to face in the field of medicine. As well as other ways they pioneered the world of medicine. I also like that it seems, based on the synopsis, like the author does not shy away from some of the seemingly problematic beliefs that these two women had.

The Queens of Animation by Nathalia Holt

I am a Disney fanatic, and when I saw that this book was coming out I knew I had to read it. Not only is about Disney animation, but it is about the women who worked on some of the early movies that Disney released. I’m excited because I feel like for a long time the women who worked on these films have been overshadowed by the men, and I am glad that their story is finally being told.

The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker

This sounds like an amazing book featuring magical realism, as well as exploring family dynamics and life in a small town. I don’t want to know to much else about the book, because I do want to just go in and be surprised.

The Arsonists’ City by Hala Alyan

After reading Salt Houses last year, Hala Alyan has become a new favorite author of mine and I want to read everything she puts out. I believe that this is her sophomore novel and it follows several generations of a family where the patriarchs are from war-torn Syria and Lebanon. I expect this to pack a punch and be a hard read at times, but I am still excited to pick it up soon.

And those are the 22 books I will be prioritising this year. Stay tuned to see if I actually make it through this whole list, I think I can do!

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: Once Upon a Dream by Liz Braswell

I had very low expectations going into Once Upon a Dream. Don’t get my wrong, I love Disney and I am intrigued by the Twisted Tales series, however several years ago I read one of the other installments in the series (As Old As Time), and I didn’t enjoy it. Also, Once Upon a Dream does not have the best ratings on Goodreads, which in my mind means that this is not going to be a good read. However, I loved it! I did not expect to enjoy it as much as I did! I can understand while others did not enjoy this, but I don’t know, I found this an intriguing take on Sleeping Beauty, and I felt like Liz Braswell did a great job at fleshing out the characters.

Once Upon a Dream takes Sleeping Beauty and gives it the twist of what would happen if Aurora was not awaken by true love’s kiss. And honestly, I feel like Liz Braswell did a good job at executing this twist. My only complaint is that I feel like the blurb/synopsis gave away way to much of the story. While it was nice going in knowing what trajectory the novel was going to take, I would have loved to have discovered the twist that the majority of the novel is taking place in a dream that Aurora is having during her cursed sleep, which she herself only realizes about halfway through the book.

Even though I already knew from the synopsis that we were in a dreamscape, I’ll be honest the description we are given for the first 100 pages or so really had me. I really believed, like Aurora, that her parents had truly been wicked and Maleficent had stepped in to save the kingdom. And it seemed to be real, which I guess is the point. And I loved that the author was able to do that, to get me to believe that the world we start out in is the “reality” when it ended up being a dreamscape. I don’t know, maybe that’s just me, but I thought it was a very interesting technique.

I also loved how Aurora’s character is fleshed out and how she acts like an actual teenager (which I know was one of the complaints of others). I liked how we see her struggle with whether she has every truly been loved and how she feels abandoned by her parents, and that even the three fairies, her aunts, lied to her about who she truly was. I also like how she questions Philip as to how he can love her when he has only really seen one side of her character, meanwhile there is so much more to her than the parts he has seen. I also appreciated how we see Philip struggle with his role as the prince, and how he struggles with feeling inadequate to one day rule a kingdom.

And then there is Maleficent. She was a great villain, however I wish she was more fleshed out. I still don’t quite get how she was dead but not really dead. Maybe I’m just dumb, but that part did confuse me a lot. I liked how in the dreamscape at first she comes across as somewhat loving, similar to Angelina Jolie’s portrayal in the Maleficent movies. However, we soon discover, along with Aurora that she isn’t kind and she doesn’t truly care for Aurora, but she has a nefarious plan behind why she is doing what she is doing.

I think my only complaint about the book, besides the fact that the synopsis gives quite a bit of the plot away, is that the ending was kind of rushed. I wanted to see more of Aurora coming into her own, especially in her new role as a royal. But maybe that was the author’s intent, to give us a brief glance of what she is like, and leave it up to readers to imagine where her story goes from there.

Overall, I really enjoyed Once Upon a Dream. It took the classic tale, as well as the beloved movie, and turned it on it’s head. Liz Braswell did a great job of fleshing out the characters, especially since they don’t have much character in the original film. This has definitely reignited my interest in reading the rest of the Twisted Tales books and finding out how other beloved Disney films are twisted and the end result. 4/5 Stars.

Book Review: Soaring Earth by Margarita Engle

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on Soaring Earth by Margarita Engle.

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Soaring Earth is the companion memoir to Enchanted Air, and we are following the author through her teen years. She longs to go back to the Cuba she remembers, although it may never be the same again. It also deals with her disdain for the Vietnam War, especially since she hasn’t seen anything good come out of violence.

She has a section about attending Berkley and the dorm not being safe, there are also constant protests, some for equality. She also meets other students who idolize Che Guevara, yet she knows of the cruel acts he did, even to his own revolutionaries, some of them being her family members. It seems like she is commenting on how we as people have a tendency to idolize someone, even when we don’t know their full story and we are not willing to hear anything bad be said about our heroes, even if they have a dubious past.

It was interesting how the author was ostracized by others because she was Cuban-American, and they viewed it as a threat against their ideals. It was heartbreaking to see her get taken advantage of by some of the people she befriends, especially during her year(s) of drifting after she drops out of Berkley.

Even though we follow her as she is lost, the memoir ends on a hopeful note with her discovering her love for science, especially when it comes to agriculture and botany. She also discovers her love for poetry which she had previously abandoned. It is interesting to see her come into her own as a person, even though it takes a while. I loved how it ended with her meeting her husband and how she found hope in their love story.

This memoir touches on several historical events from the ’60s and ’70s, such as the Vietnam War, the anti-war and anti-establishment protests, the farm worker protests led by Cesar Cahvez and even the Charles Manson trials.

I really enjoyed this companion memoir and I loved that it is told in verse. Margarita Engle is definitely fast becoming one of my favorite authors and I can’t to read from her backlist of titles. 4.5/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

February Wrap-Up and March TBR

Hello everyone,

Welcome to my February Wrap-up and March TBR. February was an interesting reading month, mainly in that I did not expect to read as much as I did, especially since it is a shorter month. I’ve also read some really good books, and a book that I wish I had never read or had DNF’d because it was pretty disturbing. I’m going to start by going through the books I read in February, however, I won’t be saying much about them because I plan on having longer reviews for each of them. Here are the 20 books that I read in February:

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

4/5 Stars.

Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes

3/5 Stars.

The Woman They Could Not Silence by Kate Moore

4.5/5 Stars.

The Golden Couple by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

3/5 Stars.

Anne’s House of Dreams by L. M. Montgomery

4/5 Stars.

A Promise to Believe In by Tracie Peterson

3/5 Stars.

On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder

3.75/5 Stars.

Once Upon a Dream by Liz Braswell

4/5 Stars.

The White Coat Diaries by Madi Sinha

4/5 Stars.

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss

3.75/5 Stars.

Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade

3.75/5 Stars.

Earthlings by Sayaka Murata

2/5 Stars.

The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins

4/5 Stars.

All the Feels by Olivia Dade

3.5/5 Stars.

Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga

5/5 Stars.

The Apothecary Diaries, Volume 1 by Natsu Hyuuga

4/5 Stars.

Love is Never Enough by Aaron T. Beck

4/5 Stars.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

4/5 Stars.

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

3/5 Stars.

The Magnolia Palace by Fiona Davis

3/5 Stars.

MARCH TBR

Last month I had a hard time sticking to my TBR, so instead of this being a set list of books I am going to read this month, these are a few books I am hoping to get to in March, depending on if I am in the mood to read them.

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler

This is a modern retelling of the Taming of the Shrew, and I am here for it. The synopsis makes it sound like it is a good one. And I’m looking forward to seeing how Anne Tyler adapts this play into a modern setting.

The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett

Ever since I read Guards! Guards! last year, I have been meaning to read more of the Discworld series. But there are also a lot of other books I want to get to as well. But last month I found a copy of the first installment at Half Price Books and decided to snatch it up. I’m looking forward to being immersed in this absurd but fun world again.

Desire and the Deep Blue Sea by Olivia Dade

Last month I read two of Olivia Dade’s latest releases and loved both of them. I am looking forward to picking up one of her backlist titles which I fully expect to be steamy.

These are only a few of the books I want to get to, I also plan on continuing my reread of the Anne of Green Gables series, The Little House series, and the Throne of Glass series. I also want to get to The Unsinkable Greta James by Jennifer E. Smith, which is the book I chose from Book of the Month for March. Not to mention that I have also gone kind of hog wild in checking out books from the library through Libby so I have a ton of options to choose from.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

January Wrap-Up and February TBR

Hello everyone,

Welcome to my January Wrap-up and February TBR. Today I plan on sharing all the books I managed to read in January – however, I will just be giving the title and my rating, because I plan on having individual reviews for each of these books up on the blog in the coming months, where I will share my more in-depth thoughts on each book. At the end of this post, I will share the three books that I want to read and plan on definitely reading in the month of February.

JANUARY WRAP-UP

Code Girls by Liza Mundy

4/5 Stars

The Walk by Richard Paul Evans

5/5 Stars

At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon

3/5 Stars

Miles to Go by Richard Paul Evans

4/5 Stars

The Road to Grace by Richard Paul Evans

5/5 Stars

Anne of Windy Willows by L. M. Montgomery

4/5 Stars

A Step of Faith by Richard Paul Evans

4.5/5 Stars

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

3/5 Stars

Walking on Water by Richard Paul Evans

4/5 Stars

Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder

4/5 Stars

Home is Not a Country by Safia Elhillo

3/5 Stars

Call Me Athena by Colby Cedar Smith

4.5/5 Stars

Orphan Island by Laurel V. Snyder

3/5 Stars

Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth – DNF’d

Elsie Dinsmore by Martha Finley

Not giving a rating.

Elsie’s Holidays at Roselands by Martha Finley

Not giving a rating.

The Flirtation Experiment by Phylicia Masonheimer and Lisa Jacobsen

5/5 Stars

Elsie’s Girlhood by Martha Finley

Not giving a rating

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

4/5 Stars.

Elsie’s Womanhood by Martha Finley

Not rating.

The Golden Braid by Melanie Dickerson

4/5 Stars.

FEBRUARY TBR

The Woman They Could Not Silence by Kate Moore

This is one my most anticipated non-fiction reads. It is by the same of author of Radium Girls, which I loved. This one sounds really good to, it takes a look at insane asylums, as well as how some of the people placed in the asylums did not need to be there. I’m looking forward to diving into this one really soon.

Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas

I know that this book is going to be hard-hitting because it is set in a town during World War II where a Japanese internment camp has just opened up close by. I’m sure this will evoke a lot of emotions, as well as be informative about a piece of history that I’ve only heard about in passing.

The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker

I’ll be honest, I know very little bit about this one, and it is definitely one that I picked up because it sounded interesting and the little that I did read of the synopsis makes it seem like it might be right up my alley. I don’t know if I want to know a lot going in, because I would like to have some surprises going into it. I do know that it is a multi-generational tale, which is something I’ve found I really enjoy reading.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.