2017 Book #88 – Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe by Melissa de la Cruz

51kCQ5EhneLTitle: Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe
Author: Melissa de la Cruz
Date finished: 10/17/17
Genre: Fiction, women’s fiction
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: October 17, 2017
Pages in book: 231
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe from New York Times bestselling author, Melissa de la Cruz, is a sweet, sexy and hilarious gender-swapping, genre-satisfying re-telling, set in contemporary America and featuring one snooty Miss Darcy.

Darcy Fitzwilliam is 29, beautiful, successful, and brilliant. She dates hedge funders and basketball stars and is never without her three cellphones—one for work, one for play, and one to throw at her assistant (just kidding). Darcy’s never fallen in love, never has time for anyone else’s drama, and never goes home for Christmas if she can help it. But when her mother falls ill, she comes home to Pemberley, Ohio, to spend the season with her family.

Her parents throw their annual Christmas bash, where she meets one Luke Bennet, the smart, sardonic slacker son of their neighbor. Luke is 32-years-old and has never left home. He’s a carpenter and makes beautiful furniture, and is content with his simple life. He comes from a family of five brothers, each one less ambitious than the other. When Darcy and Luke fall into bed after too many eggnogs, Darcy thinks it’s just another one night stand. But why can’t she stop thinking of Luke? What is it about him? And can she fall in love, or will her pride and his prejudice against big-city girls stand in their way?

My rating:  1.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book tells the story of Darcy Fitzwilliam, of Pemberley, Ohio. This information may sound familiar but that’s only because of the Darcy from Pride and Prejudice (who **spoiler** doesn’t live in Ohio). The Darcy in this story though is a woman, currently residing in New York City, but is currently home to visit her mother, who recently had a heart attack. While home she keeps running into Luke Bennet, a guy who made her life hell in high school. Add in some ups and downs, some misunderstandings, and a best friend named Bingley Charles and we’ve got a story!

Overall I didn’t like this book. I wanted to so very badly because the idea for the story line was such a great one. And I loved how creatively the author started out and how the story came together as its own story while also having so many fun parallels to the classic Pride and Prejudice story. I just had so much trouble with the character development in this novel, I couldn’t connect with any of the characters. The conversations were awkward and I thought that Darcy was wildly immature for such a successful 29-year old woman. I couldn’t picture a woman like that obsessing over whether a guy liked her or not. Overall the book felt more teen angst-y to me than I would have expected for an adult novel, but this may work for some readers. It wasn’t for me but it was a creative story and I can see how it would appeal to many.

The bottom line: I didn’t particularly care for this book. The premise behind the story I thought was really creative and I liked how the story line went overall. I just didn’t like the character development much and I thought the characters were all really unrealistic and in many areas immature. Interesting story but overall this wasn’t my favorite.

Link to author website

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2017 Book #87 – First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

51ssKKGyVGLTitle: First Frost
Author: Sarah Addison Allen
Date finished: 10/15/17
Genre: Fiction, magical realism
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: January 20, 2015
Pages in book: 291
Stand alone or series: Seems to be a sequel to Garden Spells
Where I got the book from: Terryville Public Library

Blurb from the cover:

Two magical sisters.
One cranky apple tree.

It’s October in Bascom, North Carolina, and autumn will not go quietly.  As temperatures drop and leaves begin to turn, the Waverley women are made restless by the whims of their mischievous apple tree…and the magic that swirls around it. But this year, first frost has much more in store.

Claire Waverley has started a successful new venture, Waverley’s Candies.  Though her handcrafted confections — rose to recall lost love, lavender to promote happiness and lemon verbena to soothe throats and minds — are singularly effective, the business of selling them is costing her the everyday joys of her family, and her belief in her own precious gifts.

Sydney Waverley, too, is losing her balance. With each passing day she longs more for a baby — a namesake for her wonderful Henry. Yet the longer she tries, the more her desire becomes an unquenchable thirst, stealing the pleasure out of the life she already has.

Sydney’s daughter, Bay, has lost her heart to the boy she knows it belongs to…if only he could see it, too. But how can he, when he is so far outside her grasp that he appears to her as little more than a puff of smoke?

When a mysterious stranger shows up and challenges the very heart of their family, each of them must make choices they have never confronted before.  And through it all, the Waverley sisters must search for a way to hold their family together through their troublesome season of change, waiting for that extraordinary event that is First Frost.

From the New York Times bestselling author of Garden Spells, lose yourself in Sarah Addison Allen’s enchanting world and fall for her charmed characters in this captivating story that proves that a happily-ever-after is never the real ending to a story. It’s where the real story begins.

My rating:  4.25 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I read this book for the Terryville Library’s Fiction Lover’s Book Discussion group discussion for this month (October). This book has been on my “to read” list for a long time, one of the girl sin my Mom’s quilt guild has been recommending this author to me for years and with my reading schedule in recent years I haven’t had time to pick it up. I’m so glad that someone picked it for book club though and I got to read it this month! This book tells the story of the Waverly women, each of whom have some sort of special ability. Sydney is really good with hair, Claire is good with food and Bay knows where things belong. But knowing where things belong doesn’t help a teenage girl trying to find her way through high school. Nor does it help Bay navigate her suddenly emotional relationship with her mother. This book tells the story of the Waverly women leading up to the First Frost, when the apple tree in the back suddenly blooms. There was so much interesting about this book and I loved the magical realism and how seamlessly the author tied it into the story and made it seem real. This book reminded me a lot of The Simplicity of Cider by Amy E. Reichert and The Glass Kitchen by Linda Francis Lee. I would definitely read more by this author in the future!

The bottom line: This book was very good, I love magical realism and this author did a great job of it. I can’t wait to read more by this author and I would recommend giving this one a read!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2017 Book #85 – The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

61KeAE7JDlLTitle: The Rules of Magic
Author: Alice Hoffman
Date finished: 10/8/17
Genre: Fiction, magical realism
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: October 10, 2017
Pages in book: 384
Stand alone or series: Prequel to Practical Magic
Where I got the book from: Edelweiss NOTE: I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Find your magic.

For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man.

Hundreds of years later, in New York City at the cusp of the sixties, when the whole world is about to change, Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique. Difficult Franny, with skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, shy and beautiful Jet, who can read other people’s thoughts, and charismatic Vincent, who began looking for trouble on the day he could walk.

From the start Susanna sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, in the small Massachusetts town where the Owens family has been blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are. Back in New York City each begins a risky journey as they try to escape the family curse.

The Owens children cannot escape love even if they try, just as they cannot escape the pains of the human heart. The two beautiful sisters will grow up to be the revered, and sometimes feared, aunts in Practical Magic, while Vincent, their beloved brother, will leave an unexpected legacy. Thrilling and exquisite, real and fantastical, The Rules of Magic is a story about the power of love reminding us that the only remedy for being human is to be true to yourself.

My rating:  4.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book tells the story of Sally and Gillian’s aunts, Bridget (Jet) and Frances (Franny). We first met these two when Sally and Gillian were newly orphaned and went to live with their aunts they’ve never met after the death of their parents. In this book though we get to hear about the lives of Jet and Franny before we meet them in Practical Magic, when they were still young and full of hope. They also were affected by a curse that caused anyone the Owen’s women love to die, and it changed they’re lives in a dramatic way. We also learn about their brother Vincent, who we don’t really hear about in Practical Magic. We learn about these three as they grow from adolescence into adulthood and beyond. As they learn about their powers and the curse, and as they fall in love and as they learn about loss and grief. We learn about their family’s history and all the things that led up to where Practical Magic begins.

Overall I really liked this book. I loved returning to this magical world where anything is possible. I loved hearing Franny and Jet and especially Vincent’s story. I loved hearing about the history that brought us to Sally and Gillian and all the magic that was to come. And I really liked that some of my long burning questions (about how Gillian and Sally were related to Franny and Jet) were answered. This book was heart-wrenchingly sad and honestly I sobbed for like the last 5% of the book at least.  There were also some pretty dry parts to the story and some of it was a little hard to get through. I still really enjoyed it though and I would definitely recommend it, especially to anyone who was in love with the Practical Magic story already.

The bottom line: I liked this book a LOT. Although it was slow in parts, it was so wonderful to return to the world of Practical Magic and also it was so heart-wrenchingly sad/beautiful. I loved hearing the back story to Sally & Gillian. I would recommend this to fans of Practical Magic.

Link to author website

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2017 Book #82 – The Visitors by Catherine Burns

51QVQtl5CMLTitle: The Visitors
Author: Catherine Burns
Date finished: 9/22/17
Genre: Fiction, suspense
Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press
Publication Date: September 26, 2017
Pages in book: 304
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

With the smart suspense of Emma Donoghue’s Room and the atmospheric claustrophobia of Grey Gardens, Catherine Burns’s debut novel explores the complex truths we are able to keep hidden from ourselves and the twisted realities that can lurk beneath even the most serene of surfaces.

Marion Zetland lives with her domineering older brother John in a crumbling mansion on the edge of a northern seaside resort. A timid spinster in her fifties who still sleeps with teddy bears, Marion does her best to live by John’s rules, even if it means turning a blind eye to the noises she hears coming from behind the cellar door…and turning a blind eye to the women’s laundry in the hamper that isn’t hers. For years, she’s buried the signs of John’s devastating secret into the deep recesses of her mind—until the day John is crippled by a heart attack, and Marion becomes the only one whose shoulders are fit to bear his secret. Forced to go down to the cellar and face what her brother has kept hidden, Marion discovers more about herself than she ever thought possible. As the truth is slowly unraveled, we finally begin to understand: maybe John isn’t the only one with a dark side….

My rating:  2.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book tells the story of Marion Zetland, an old maid who lives with her brother in their deteriorating house left to them by their mother. Marion seems to be mentally challenged, having had a lot of trouble with her schooling and while she dreams of having a family she never seems to develop beyond adolescence. Having been raised by her pervert of a father and her nut of a mother, its no wonder that she ends up a little worse for the wear. She spends all her time at home, mostly daydreaming, while her brother spends most of his time in the cellar with “the visitors.” Marion tries not to think too much about the women who live downstairs, but when her brother John ends up in the hospital she has to become involved with these women for the first time. And as Marion is forced to come to terms with what her life has become, she questions how her devotion to her brother has led her down the wrong path.
Overall I liked this book ok. It was interesting and there were some good plot twists in the story. There were some wordier parts to the story that I found quite dry but past those the story was good. I just felt so bad for everyone involved, even including Marion who I probably shouldn’t have felt so bad for. Her childhood sounded awful though and its no wonder she developed so poorly as a person. She was a bad person if you think about it though, its hard to sympathize with her and yet she was able to go out and start a new life for herself. The story, while suspenseful, was just very sad. Other than that it was ok though. It was interesting enough that I would recommend it but eh it wasn’t my favorite.

The bottom line: I thought this book was fairly good. There were some pretty good plot twists in the story. Overall it was just very sad and pretty wordy in some parts. Was an interesting story overall but not my favorite.

Link to author website

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2017 Book #81 – Every Boy’s Got One by Meg Cabot

31z6jE0DtYLThis book was a re-read for me as part of the Terryville Public Library‘s Fiction Lover’s Book Discussion group. This book was the (my) pick for September. I had originally thought about changing my pick to something more discussion worthy but we’d been reading a lot of heavier stuff so far this year so I thought some levity might help brighten our spirits. I’m not going to re-post my normal review since I’ve technically already reviewed the book on the blog here. I will say though that I did not enjoy it quite as much as I remember, probably partially due to rushing through to finish for book club and also it felt a bit wordier than last time. Still would recommend though, love her writing.

2017 Book #79 – The Uncertain Season by Ann Howard Creel

51PXLpnvIJLTitle: The Uncertain Season
Author: Ann Howard Creel
Date finished: 9/9/17
Genre: Historical fiction, women’s fiction
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publication Date: August 22, 2017
Pages in book: 320
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

The Hurricane of 1900 devastated Galveston Island, but a storm of betrayal is still brewing.

Nineteen-year-old Grace’s golden age is just beginning. She and her mother live a privileged life. Beautiful and talented, Grace is looking forward to a pleasant summer celebrating her engagement to a wealthy young gentleman.

But when her lovely, charming, and disgraced cousin Etta arrives, Grace finds her place in society—and in her mother’s heart—threatened. Etta enchants everyone as she maneuvers to secure a station in Galveston’s upper echelons. Grace, in a reckless moment, reveals Etta’s scandalous past, and as punishment, she’s sent to work in Galveston’s back alleys, helping the poor. There, a silent waif known only as Miss Girl opens Grace’s eyes to new love and purpose. She’s determined to save this girl who lost her entire family in the hurricane and now slips along the shadows of the unfinished seawall with a mysterious resolve.

Soon, the lives of the three young women will converge as betrayal, mistaken identity, and a family secret sweep them toward a future that defies all expectations.

My rating:  3.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book centers around the stories of cousins Grace and Etta. Grace is a sheltered rich girl who grew up on the island of Galveston, which three years prior to this story was the site of a catastrophic hurricane that killed 6,000 people, including the family of a character we only know as “the girl.” Etta is Grace’s poor cousin who is sent to stay with Grace and her mother after she falls in love with a circus man and defies her mother. It is in Galveston that Etta learns about money and how it can improve your life, and realizes she should marry well and create an easier life for herself. Grace, through a mistake of her own, is sent to work with a local missionary in the alleys of Galveston, where she learns things about life that she never knew existed.

Overall I liked this book a lot. It was really interesting to see the character development in this book, as all the characters end up in a completely different place than where they started. I loved the setting and the history that was included, the hurricane and the devastation it caused were a true part of history and I always find that to be pretty fascinating. I found the book and the plot to be engaging and fairly fast paced, though there were a few dry parts. The ending was left a little more open than I usually like but it didn’t detract from the story for me. I liked this book a lot and I would recommend it.

The bottom line: I liked this book a good deal. I loved the development of the characters and the story line was very interesting. I would recommend it.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2017 Book #76 – Luck, Love and Lemon Pie by Amy E. Reichert

512ycx9OzFLTitle: Luck, Love and Lemon Pie
Author: Amy E. Reichert
Date finished: 9/2/17
Genre: Fiction, women’s fiction
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: July 12, 2016
Pages in book: 320
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

When Milwaukee-area wife and mother MJ Boudreaux notices her husband Chris seems more interested in the casino than her, she’s more bothered that she isn’t upset than by her husband’s absence. She picks up poker as a way for them to spend more time together—and reignite their marital flame.

Although the game doesn’t give her the quality time with Chris that she’d hoped, MJ finds she has a knack for it. Increasingly unhappy at home, she turns to the felt top of the poker table for comfort. Intoxicated with newfound freedom, MJ begins spending more time at the gambling tables and less with her family, finally carving out for herself a place outside her role of wife and mother.

After a string of great wins, MJ finds herself in Vegas, attracting the attention of a certain magnetic poker star. But when she’s forced to choose between her family and her new exciting lifestyle, the stakes may be higher than she thought and MJ will have to play her hand carefully…or risk losing it all.

My rating:  1.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book tells the story of MJ and her struggles with her self and her marriage to husband Chris. When we first meet her, she’s been waiting over three hours for her husband to show up for their anniversary lunch. When he finally does show up (4 hours late) he runs right back to playing poker at the casino. Deciding it may be her only chance to spend time with her husband, MJ asks him to teach her how to play. And while she does find that she’s actually pretty good at this poker thing and even manages to win a local tournament, she doesn’t find that its bringing her any closer in her marriage. In fact just the opposite, Chris and her drift even further apart while she’s off practicing her poker hand.

Overall I very much did not care for this book. I found the plot to be frustrating and even quite angering. Chris takes on absolutely no responsibility for their failing relationship and actually flat out rejects MJ’s repeated attempts to talk to him about it. And then he actually goes and tries to end a twenty year marriage without even having a discussion with her about it first. If it were me I would’ve signed the papers and said see ya round jackass. MJ was a half hour late to dinner and Chris decides that is a good reason to just not come home that night? Where did he go?! But when he is FOUR HOURS late to an anniversary lunch every thing’s perfectly fine!!?? Freaking kidding me. I’m getting mad again thinking about it like a week after reading it. Anyways, as you can tell by my venting this plot had a lot of points I just couldn’t understand or agree with. If you can see past those points I guess give it a try. I like other books by this author, and it isn’t like the writing was bad I just couldn’t identify with the plot.

The bottom line: I did not enjoy this book unfortunately, though I greatly enjoyed Reichert’s Simplicity of Cider. Go read that one instead.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page