2017 Book #37 – The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

515qNGaUTcLTitle: The Bear and the Nightingale
Author: Katherine Arden
Date finished: 4/24/17
Genre: Fiction, fantasy, magical realism
Publisher: Del Rey
Publication Date: January 10, 2017
Pages in book: 336
Stand alone or series: Book #1 of trilogy
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:

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.
After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.
And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.
As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

My rating:  4.5 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 Vasilisa Vladimirovich, a girl born with the second sight, whose mother dies right after childbirth. Her father, Pyotr, loved her mother, Marina, fiercely and was devastated when she died. And it made him angry that Marina knew this child would most likely kill her and she chose to have it anyways. Vasya is a sweet and generous child though, and it is almost impossible not to love her. As she grows she learns the ways of her land and learns from the different magical creatures that haunt the stables and the house. As she grows older though she is in danger from a shadow in the forest, and as the old ways are forgotten for fear of God, the whole village is in danger of the Bear devil in the forest.
Overall I really liked this book a lot. The Russian terms made the story a little harder to get into at first but once I was engaged with the story line I didn’t want to put it down. It was a beautifully woven fairy tale with just enough of the fantastical to make it feel perfectly magical. Vasya was fierce and brave, I loved her character. The plot line was thrilling and filled with danger and excitement. I’m excited to see where the story will take us in the next installment of the trilogy.

The bottom line: I loved this book. While it took a little time to get into the story, it turned out to be an utterly captivating story and I can’t wait to read more.

Link to author website

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2017 Book #35 – The Young Widower’s Handbook by Tom McAllister

51kxyLgkYMLTitle: The Young Widower’s Handbook
Author: Tom McAllister
Date finished: 4/19/17
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Publication Date: February 7, 2017
Pages in book: 282
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: LibraryThing NOTE: I received this book for free from LibraryThing 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:

For Hunter Cady, meeting Kaitlyn is the greatest thing that has ever happened to him. Whereas he had spent most of his days accomplishing very little, now his life has a purpose. Smart, funny, and one of a kind, Kait is somehow charmed by Hunter’s awkwardness and droll humor, and her love gives him reason to want to be a better man.
And then, suddenly, Kait is gone, her death as unexpected as the happiness she had brought to Hunter. Numb with grief, he stumbles forward in the only way he knows how: by running away. He heads due west from his Philadelphia home, taking Kait’s ashes with him.
Kait and Hunter had always meant to travel. Now, with no real plan in mind, Hunter is swept into the adventures of fellow travelers on the road, among them a renegade Renaissance Faire worker; a boisterous yet sympathetic troop of bachelorettes; a Midwest couple and Elvis, their pet parrot; and an older man on an endless cross-country journey in search of a wife who walked out on him many years before. Along the way readers get glimpses of Hunter and Kait’s lovely, flawed, and very real marriage, and the strength Hunter draws from it, even when contemplating a future without it. And each encounter, in its own peculiar way, teaches him what it means to be a husband and what it takes to be a man.
Written in the spirit of Jonathan Tropper and Matthew Quick, with poignant insight and wry humor, The Young Widower’s Handbook is a testament to the enduring power of love.

My rating:  3.25 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 Hunter Cody, whose wife dies suddenly and tragically at a very young age (I can’t remember exact age but it was 25-ish I think). Hunter has always been an oddball and an anti-social person, and Kait is the only one he felt has ever understood him and loved him for who he really is. He loves her immensely, and while their marriage has the same ups and downs of a normal marriage, they are truly happy together. When Kait dies suddenly, Hunter is grief stricken and lost. He decides to travel from Philidelphia to California with Kait’s ashes, trying to give Kait the vacation they had always talked about but never taken. Along the way he discovers some things he never knew about himself and he starts to learn how he will manage to continue to live after Kait.
Overall I didn’t end up being a huge fan of this book. I wanted to like this book SO BADLY!! It started out with such promise, and I have so many quotes (listed below) from the book that really spoke to me and that I really loved. The story line was just too repetitive for me and I just could not connect to Hunter’s character. At first I found the prose enchanting but in the end it was just too selfish/whiny/repetitive. I really wanted to love this book but I just couldn’t. I would still reommend it, I thought it had some really great commentary for married couples.

The bottom line: I wanted to like this book so much but it got to be too repetitive and whiny for me.

Favorite Quotes:
“Romance is temporary, predicated on countless variables working synchronously to create something memorable that vaguely recalls a scene from a familiar movie… Love, it’s this other thing, a thing that manifests itself in the most unremarkable moments.”

“It’s the arguments that breathed life into the relationship. It’s in the arguments that you ultimately felt the love.”

Link to author website

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

2017 Book #13 – Beautiful Broken Girls by Kim Savage

410vmxoeeqlTitle: Beautiful Broken Girls
Author: Kim Savage
Date finished: 2/25/17
Genre: Fiction, suspense
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: February 21, 2017
Pages in book: 336
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:

Remember the places you touched me.
Mira and Francesca Cillo were beautiful, overprotected by their father, and, frankly, odd. To the neighborhood boys they seemed untouchable. But one boy, Ben, touched seven parts of Mira: her palm, hair, chest, cheek, lips, throat, and heart. After the sisters drown themselves in the quarry lake, a post-mortem letter from Mira arrives in Ben’s mailbox. The letter sends Ben on a quest to find notes in the places where they touched. Note by note, Ben discovers the mystical secret at the heart of Mira and Francesca’s strange world, and he discovers that some things are better left untouched.

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 Ben Lattanzi, who gets a letter from his neighbor Mira a week after she dies. Ben was in love with Mira but she and her sister Francesca had died in what seemed very much to be a suicide (they had rocks in their pockets) at the quarry. Mira tells Ben to go find her notes to him in the 7 places that they had touched each other, to learn her story now after her death. And so Ben travels to the different places in town where they had touched, but each note he finds only confuses him more and more. Will he ever find out why Mira killed herself?
Overall this was not my favorite book. The story itself had a lot of potential and I especially liked the way the book was set up. Each chapter told Ben’s story of remembering where he and Mira had touched and him finding a new note and trying to figure out what the note means. Then the second part of each chapter is Mira telling her piece of the story from her life over the last year. I liked that format, it was just that for me the story had so many holes and so many extra parts that didn’t have anything to do with the story line. I didn’t feel like there was a lot of flow to the story line, it felt choppy and to be honest it was just overwhelmingly sad. And it felt like there was just a whole lot of extra crazy in the book and the characters. It wasn’t my favorite read lately, it wasn’t a bad story just didn’t appeal to me.

The bottom line: While this book didn’t work for me personally, I can see how it would appeal to other readers. Suspense novels are really popular right now and there is just enough mystery, crazy, and sexy in this book to make it worth the read. So I would recommend trying it, just be warned you may end up a little frustrated.

Link to author website

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

2016 Book #116 – Til Death Do Us Part by Amanda Quick

51qlhx3infl-_sx329_bo1204203200_Title: Til Death Do Us Part
Author: Amanda Quick
Date finished: 12/8/16
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: April 19, 2016
Pages in book: 342
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: BookBrowse NOTE:I received this book for free from BookBrowse 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:

Calista Langley operates an exclusive “introduction” agency in Victorian London, catering to respectable ladies and gentlemen who find themselves alone in the world. But now, a dangerously obsessed individual has begun sending her trinkets and gifts suitable only for those in deepest mourning—a black mirror, a funeral wreath, a ring set with black jet stone. Each is engraved with her initials.
Desperate for help and fearing that the police will be of no assistance, Calista turns to Trent Hastings, a reclusive author of popular crime novels. Believing that Calista may be taking advantage of his lonely sister, who has become one of her clients, Trent doesn’t trust her. Scarred by his past, he’s learned to keep his emotions at bay, even as an instant attraction threatens his resolve.
But as Trent and Calista comb through files of rejected clients in hopes of identifying her tormentor, it becomes clear that the danger may be coming from Calista’s own secret past—and that only her death will satisfy the stalker…

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. I received this book from Book Browse in a giveaway a few months back and I finally got some time to read it. This book tells the story of Calista Langley and Trent Hastings. Calista runs an “introduction agency” out of her house, creating a safe environment for people of the gentry to meet new people and learn about new things at the same time. It’s kind of like a modern day singles mixer. And this is how Calista ends up meeting Trent, who comes in to try and prevent his sister from being scammed by a fortune hunter at home of Calista’s singles events. Trent is a well known local author. His Clive Stone detective series has been immensely popular. And when someone begins focusing on Calista in a very deadly way, Trent must pull on all his research and do everything in his power to help protect her.
Overall I liked this book. I enjoy Jayne Ann Krentz books and all her other pen names. This book was fairly predictable for an Amanda Quick novel, it follows a pretty similar story line: independent woman comes under some kind of threat and a stoic and seemingly tamed beastly man comes along to save her. It’s a good story line formula and this book was no exception. The plot was interesting and set at a good pace so the reader doesn’t get bored at any points. Calista is fierce and independent, exactly as I’d expect. The cast of characters were all endearing and the villain was not someone I would have expected, which made it quite a good suspense. Overall I enjoyed this book and I would say if you’ve liked other Quick novels to give this one a read.

The bottom line: I liked this book, it had an interesting story line and was a good read. It was pretty standard plot line for this author, I would recommend if you’d read and enjoyed other Amanda Quick novels.

Link to author website

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

2016 Book #109 – Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

51tmfgrj45l-_sx332_bo1204203200_Title: Sarah’s Key
Author: Tatiana de Rosnay
Date finished: 11/17/16
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication Date: September 2008
Pages in book: 293
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: Terryville Public Library

Blurb from the cover:

Paris, July 1942: Sarah, a ten year-old girl, is brutally arrested with her family by the French police in the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup, but not before she locks her younger brother in a cupboard in the family’s apartment, thinking that she will be back within a few hours.
Paris, May 2002: On Vel’ d’Hiv’s 60th anniversary, journalist Julia Jarmond is asked to write an article about this black day in France’s past. Through her contemporary investigation, she stumbles onto a trail of long-hidden family secrets that connect her to Sarah. Julia finds herself compelled to retrace the girl’s ordeal, from that terrible term in the Vel d’Hiv’, to the camps, and beyond. As she probes into Sarah’s past, she begins to question her own place in France, and to reevaluate her marriage and her life.
Tatiana de Rosnay offers us a brilliantly subtle, compelling portrait of France under occupation and reveals the taboos and silence that surround this painful episode.

My rating:  4.0 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 (November). This book alternates between telling two stories, that of Sarah from her viewpoint in July of 1942 when she and her parents are arrested by the French police for being Jews, and that of Julia from her viewpoint in the same city in 2002 when she is assigned by her editor to write an article about the tragic events of July 1942. While we hear about Sarah’s story, we also learn of what Julia is uncovering in her research. Julia actually ends up having a fairly close connection in her life to Sarah and it was really interesting to see how the stories were interwoven. This was a tough read as it deals with some horrible subjects and delves deep into some very dark periods of time for humanity as a whole. It was terrible to read about what Sarah had experienced at “the camp” because even though she’s a fictional character, those kinds of things happened to real people. And not just a handful but so, so many. I think it is something that is important for people to realize truly happened though and I would encourage people to read it even if it is difficult. Event with the tough subject matter, I really liked this one and it was an engaging read. I would definitely recommend!

The bottom line: This was a tough book for me, subject matter like this is painful and really gets under your skin. I think that makes it doubly important though for us to experience it and realize that while this is a fiction novel, this actually happened to so many people. I think this is an important book for everyone to read, I would definitely recommend reading it.

Link to author website

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

2016 Book #89 – My Husband’s Son by Deborah O’Connor

5106ouwwd-lTitle: My Husband’s Son
Author: Deborah O’Connor
Date finished: 9/28/16
Genre: Fiction, thriller
Publisher: twenty7
Publication Date: June 16, 2016
Pages in book: 280
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:

Heidi and Jason aren’t like other couples. Six years ago, Heidi’s daughter was murdered. A year later, Jason’s son Barney disappeared. Their shared loss brought them together.
By chance, Heidi meets a boy she’s certain is her husband’s long-missing son – but Jason is equally convinced it’s not him.
Is Heidi mad? Or is Jason hiding something? And can their fragile marriage survive Heidi’s search for the truth . . .

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 is about Heidi and her husband Jason. Heidi and Jason met because they have one very large thing in common, they’ve both lost their children in traumatic ways. Heidi’s daughter was killed while she was still a little girl and Jason’s son disappeared when he was three. But then one day Heidi thinks she sees Barney, Jason’s son who would be eight years old now. Jason doesn’t think its him but Heidi is convinced and tries to think of ways to convince Jason that this boy is Barney. Along the way though she learns some things about her husband, and herself too, that she never knew.
This story and I just did not click. Heidi’s character was utterly infuriating to me, she was just plain bat shit crazy. She’s climbing on top of dumpsters trying to get a picture of a young boy through a window, then skulking around that same boy’s house in the middle of the night, and she doesn’t think people will think anything of this. And then when her and her husband are at his ex-wife’s house and they’re in his missing son’s bedroom and Heidi randomly decides she wants to have sex with Jason? Like what the shit is that? And what the hell was her deal with that Tommy guy? She’s just like oh I’ll go meet him at an abandoned motel and hope that if I spend time with him I’ll get the chance to be around his neighbor’s nephew more? And then when Tommy starts hitting on her in an extremely forward way she doesn’t really seem to resist that much which the whole thing was screwed up. AND THAT ENDING OMG WHAT THE SHIT WAS THAT Who does something like that, like that is probably the most screwed up thing I can imagine a human being doing to another human being. Ok sorry, rant over. Suffice it to say that I didn’t care for the book.

The bottom line: This book just did not click with me, I found the main character of the book entirely frustrating and completely insance. I thought the story line had a lot of potential but I couldn’t get past certain issues that I had with the plot.

Link to author website

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2016 Book #85 – The Risen by Ron Rash

51f1jklcs4l-_sx324_bo1204203200_Title: The Risen
Author: Ron Rash
Date finished: 9/12/16
Genre: Fiction, family life
Publisher: Ecco
Publication Date: September 6, 2016
Pages in book: 272
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
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:

New York Times bestselling author Ron Rash demonstrates his superb narrative skills in this suspenseful and evocative tale of two brothers whose lives are altered irrevocably by the events of one long-ago summer—and one bewitching young woman—and the secrets that could destroy their lives.
While swimming in a secluded creek on a hot Sunday in 1969, sixteen-year-old Eugene and his older brother, Bill, meet the entrancing Ligeia. A sexy, free-spirited redhead from Daytona Beach banished to their small North Carolina town until the fall, Ligeia will not only bewitch the two brothers, but lure them into a struggle that reveals the hidden differences in their natures.
Drawn in by her raw sensuality and rebellious attitude, Eugene falls deeper under her spell. Ligeia introduces him to the thrills and pleasures of the counterculture movement, then in its headiest moment. But just as the movement’s youthful optimism turns dark elsewhere in the country that summer, so does Eugene and Ligeia’s brief romance. Eugene moves farther and farther away from his brother, the cautious and dutiful Bill, and when Ligeia vanishes as suddenly as she appeared, the growing rift between the two brothers becomes immutable.
Decades later, their relationship is still turbulent, and the once close brothers now lead completely different lives. Bill is a gifted and successful surgeon, a paragon of the community, while Eugene, the town reprobate, is a failed writer and determined alcoholic.
When a shocking reminder of the past unexpectedly surfaces, Eugene is plunged back into that fateful summer, and the girl he cannot forget. The deeper he delves into his memories, the closer he comes to finding the truth. But can Eugene’s recollections be trusted? And will the truth set him free and offer salvation . . . or destroy his damaged life and everyone he loves?

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 tells the story of Eugene and his brother, Bill, who spend their Sunday afternoons during the summer of 1969 with a girl named Ligeia (whose real name is Jane Mosely). The first time Eugene sees Ligeia coming out of the lake, he thinks she is a mermaid, but she is so very human and very flawed. Ligeia wants nothing more than to go live on a commune and do drugs all the time, but instead she’s been forced to come live with her aunt and uncle to be kept from unsavory influences. She convinces Bill to bring her drugs from his grandfather’s medical office one time and then Eugene does it many times after that without Bill knowing. And now 46 years after that summer, Ligeia’s body is found buried by the creek where they used to meet, murdered some 46 years ago. Eugene has been a drunk his whole life but he tries to pull it together long enough to figure out what happened to his first love and why his brother said he put Ligeia on a bus to Charlotte 46 years ago if she was actually dead the whole time. Did Bill murder her? Or are there events from that summer that Eugene was just never aware of?
Overall I liked this book. The story was a bit depressing to me but also suspenseful. I wouldn’t say the book was overly thrilling because I felt like I knew who had killed her as soon as I found out how she died. So I felt like I saw the ending coming but I definitely still enjoyed the story very much. None of the characters were exactly easy to like, thought I did feel especially bad for Eugene as he made an absolute mess of his life. He wanted so badly to reconnec twith his daughter but he was too toxic for her to want him in her life. I thought that this was an interesting and thought-provoking read that was fairly quick and suspenseful. I would recommend it.

The bottom line: I liked this book, it was suspensful and thought-provoking. A quick read and I kind of saw the ending coming but I still liked it. I would recommend.

Link to author website

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