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Category: Book Review

Book Review: A Secret History of Witches

Hello, readers!

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a traditional book review, but I’m back and ready to report on what I’m reading and what you should be reading, too! You can expect to see a more balanced output of posts on lifestyle, literature, and faith coming from me this fall. I’m starting mid-month, but September is the other January – so here we go!

And now . . . the review. I would like to thank the publisher, Orbit Books, for providing me with a digital advanced copy of this book via netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I was so excited to be approved as this book is SO in my wheelhouse. A historical family saga about witches? Yes, please. Give me all the access.

Here’s the copy from Goodreads:

After Grandmére Ursule gives her life to save her tribe, her magic seems to die with her. Even so, her family keeps the Old Faith, practicing the spells and rites that have been handed from mother to daughter for generations. Until one day, Ursule’s young granddaughter steps into the circle, and magic flows anew.

From early 19th century Brittany to London during the Second World War, five generations of witches fight the battles of their time, deciding how far they are willing to go to protect their family, their heritage, and ultimately, all of our futures.

Sounds great, right? I have been hesitant to write this review because, honestly, A Secret History of Witches theoretically rang all my bells but failed to live up to my expectations. This was a so-so read for me. I’m not sorry I read it. However, it’s not going to be a book that I recommend. The writing is solid. It’s the story and character development that is problematic.

Although I typically love family sagas, this one is composed of stories that are too similar. The five women all have the same struggles and basic journey, so it felt like I was reading the same story again and again. Also, their stories felt incomplete. Each character’s journey was cut off just when it was getting interesting to make way for the next character. In order to fulfill my expectations, this book would have had to have been significantly longer.

Another issue I had is that the women are so unlikable! The majority are selfish, vain, ungrateful things. I just couldn’t handle it. I appreciate that this book featured a cast of independent women. I like to see that in my fiction. But in this case, it wasn’t a positive representation, which is unfortunate.

I would have loved to have seen the author delve deeper into the historical time periods, and explore how this factored in to change things for each individual character more, as the blurb implies. I thought this plot aspect was underdeveloped in the actual book.

Another reader might really enjoy this book. It’s well-written in a technical sense and has a beautiful cover to draw the reader in. It just wasn’t for me.

Anna

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New Release Tuesday: The Girl Who Knew Too Much by Amanda Quick

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When Hollywood moguls and stars want privacy, they head to the exclusive Burning Cove Hotel . That’s where reporter Irene Glasson finds herself staring down at a beautiful actress at the bottom of a pool.

Seeking the truth, Irene finds herself drawn to the mysterous Oliver Ward. Formerly a world-famous magician and now the owner of the Burning Cove Hotel, Oliver can’t let scandal threaten his livelihood, even if it means trusting Irene.

With Oliver’s help, Irene soon learns that the glamorous paradise of Burning Cove hides dark and dangerous secrets. And that the past—always just out of sight—could drag them both under…

Overall, I found this a fun, fast read and a satisfying mystery/romance novel. It wasn’t perfect, but it was very enjoyable, with some gasp-worthy moments and a hero that I fell for. Oliver is handsome, in control, and has a very interesting backstory. He also has a disabled leg, and I’m always here for a non-cookie-cutter romantic hero. Most importantly, he’s a gentleman, not an alpha male.

The mystery—I should say, mysteries—were intriguing and kept me turning the pages. The Girl Who Knew Too Much has a lot of deaths in it, but Quick’s storytelling never gets too dark. I give the romance a moderate heat rating of 3/5 stars, with just one heated scene containing an explicit reference that soon fades to black.

I read this in two sittings and was completely content. Readers who are willing to go along for the ride will love it! Having read and liked ‘Til Death Do Us Part, I got exactly what I was expecting.

Thanks to the publisher for providing me with an ARC of this book via netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Reading Snapshots: Four Books You Should Pick Up

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The Wicked City by Beatriz Williams

I thoroughly enjoyed The Wicked City! The novel features two narratives connected by the New York City building in which they take place—one is set in the 1920s, one in the 1990s. The stories each had their own flavor and individual aspects that I loved. The characters are true to life, the setting is vividly rendered, and both timelines are equally engaging. I breezed through this novel in a single sitting! I thought the romance could have used a little more building up but really liked the book overall. The folks at William Morrow wrote up an excellent blurb for this book, and as a copywriter I can appreciate a job well done. Here’s their teaser:

New York Times bestselling author Beatriz Williams recreates the New York City of A Certain Age in this deliciously spicy adventure that mixes past and present and centers on a Jazz age love triangle involving a rugged Prohibition agent, a saucy redheaded flapper, and a debonair Princetonian from a wealthy family.

 Thank you, William Morrow, for providing me with an ARC of this book!

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Someone to Hold by Mary Balogh

Westcott #2

This is such a sweet romance! Mary Balogh shines in this tale of family, self-worth, and the love we choose to accept. Centered on an orphanage in Bath, England, Someone to Hold features two protagonists who live with the social stigma of being illegitimate. After a terrible first impression, the two become reluctant friends and eventually—spoiler alert!—fall in love. I particularly enjoyed the many facets of the female protagonist, Camille. She has far more depth than your average romance heroine! I also found her current situation and Joel’s long-term experience growing up as an orphan to be a fascinating and thought-provoking contrast. Note: This is technically book two in the Westcott series, but I didn’t read book one and felt no confusion.

The premise:

Humphrey Wescott, Earl of Riverdale, has died, leaving behind a fortune and a scandalous secret that will forever alter the lives of his family—sending one daughter on a journey of self-discovery. . . .

Thanks to Berkley Books for giving me access to an ARC via netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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A Perilous Undertaking by Deanna Raybourn

 A Veronica Speedwell Mystery

This was simply delightful!
*witty banter to the max
*Victorian murder mystery
*art colony + Hellfire Club + opium den
*will they or won’t they?
*I don’t even care, I love them just as they are!

Who are they? The grouchiest, most eccentric and outlandish pair of natural-scientist-amateur-investigators in London. Do look them up!

(But be sure to start with the first Veronica Speedwell Mystery, A Curious Beginning. Read my review here.)

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The Abundance by Annie Dillard

Wow. This collection from masterful essayist Annie Dillard was beautiful, crisp, and very inspiring to me as a writer. The prose, the metaphors, the way she describes things—nature, especially—is absolutely breathtaking. If you are at all interested in exposing yourself to a whole new level of literary talent, this book of essays is your introduction to a pro.

Graphic Novel Review: Wires and Nerve #1,written by Marissa Meyer and illustrated by Doug Holgate

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If you haven’t read THE LUNAR CHRONICLES by Marissa Meyer, check out my previous Series Starter blog post to see why it’s worth reading!

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Wires and Nerve, Volume 1

written by Marissa Meyer and illustrated by Doug Holgate

Today I’m recommending the graphic novel, Wires and Nerve, Volume 1, which follows up this series and the short story collection Stars Above. Wires and Nerve wasn’t as good as getting another novel for me—but only because I’m not a huge graphic novel person. It was great seeing all my favorite characters again, especially because we got so much more of Iko!

The artwork was fantastic, and I thought the color scheme was perfect for the story. The cool shades of blue are so fitting for the Lunar world. Of course, the characters weren’t quite as I imagined but were wonderfully drawn. I hadn’t realized at first that this was just the first volume of an ongoing series, but I’ll gladly continue reading them. This is a must-read for all Marissa Meyer fans.

Book Details:

Hardcover, 240 pages | Published January 31, 2017

Buy it from BN!

Buy it from Amazon!

 

 

New Release Tuesday: The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon (The Bone Season #3)

Source: Netgalley – Thank you, Bloomsbury USA! I received a free eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Release Day: TODAY! March 7, 2017

I could not wait to get my hands on The Song Rising and was lucky enough to get an early copy. I absolutely LOVED the first two novels in this series, The Bone Season and The Mime Order.

Here’s a summary of the first book in the series with no spoilers:

Set in a future England with a fantasy twist, the series follows “dreamwalker” Paige Mahoney, but her abilities are a dangerous secret. It is not legal to practice clairvoyance in Scion-controlled London. It is not even legal to be clairvoyant. The powerful “mime lord” Jaxon Hall employs her, but even he can’t protect her when she is attacked, kidnapped, and transported to the secret slave city of Oxford. There she learns the terrible truth about the forces behind Scion: an otherworldly race known as the Rephaim.

Paige is assigned to Warden, a Rephaite with mysterious motives. He is her master. Her trainer. Her natural enemy. But if Paige wants to regain her freedom she must allow herself to be nurtured in this prison where she is meant to die.

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Go to Goodreads!

mimeGo to Goodreads!!

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The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon

As this is the third book in the series, the rest of this post has spoilers.

You have been warned.

Let’s talk about The Song Rising.

It was fine. I know—that’s not what I was expecting to say either. I probably would have classified it as good (3/5) if I hadn’t had such high expectations after books one and two. However, I committed to the review on Netgalley, and it was good enough that I’m planning to continue reading the series. Overall, I give it 2.5/5 stars, which is my “it was fine” equivalent. As a result, this is going to be a more critical review than what I usually post. The qualifier that I will state here, for the record, is that my criteria for this author is higher than usual because I expect more from her. The first two books in this series are two of my favorites, so perhaps I’m being overly harsh. But I know what this author is capable of, so I know she can do better!

Publisher’s Summary

Following a bloody battle against foes on every side, Paige Mahoney has risen to the dangerous position of Underqueen, ruling over London’s criminal population. But, having turned her back on Jaxon Hall and with vengeful enemies still at large, the task of stabilizing the fractured underworld has never seemed so challenging. Little does Paige know that her reign may be cut short by the introduction of Senshield, a deadly technology that spells doom for the clairvoyant community and the world as they know it. . . . . (read the rest on Goodreads)

I’ve acknowledged already how much I was looking forward to returning to the world that Samantha Shannon has created and finding out what happens next. However, since she took an extra year to write this book, I admit I expected more. I read this as a galley, but it was immediately apparent that this book is significantly shorter than the other two. Length is not necessarily an issue if the narrative is tight, but The Song Rising also had pacing issues. I was completely immersed in the first two novels in this series, both of which I was unable to put down. This one I didn’t feel as drawn to continue.

That being said, there were still glimpses of the Samantha Shannon we’ve seen before. There are some gripping action-adventure scenes in The Song Rising. These were the bits that kept me turning pages. You want to know what did not? The relationship between Paige and Arcturus. EVEN THOUGH THEY’RE MY FAVORITE PART! Why, you ask? Because their relationship was so static that it barely existed. (Insert dramatic sigh here of disappointment here.)

I found Paige so annoying in this book, and I really liked her before! Her struggle to be a leader may have been more realistic than in a lot of fiction, but it made it hard to root for her as a character. Her inability to see herself as a leader also felt unconvincing, as she’s proven herself several times over at this point. Then, she suddenly accepts her position and goes in way too strong and it’s kind of a shock. Arcturus is unquestionably my favorite character and there is still so much we don’t know about him. I liked learning a little more about his history in this book. It just needed more Arcturus in general. We also learned more about some secondary characters, which I enjoyed. I found Cutthroat especially fascinating! There were other parts that I liked, but it was the less pleasing stuff that stuck with me. I do feel for Samantha. The pressure on her must have been huge. Unfortunately, this one just didn’t do it for me. But I’m not giving up on her yet!

Redeeming Quality:

The Song Rising ended with a promising set up for the next book.

Questions to Ponder:

What is the best thing that could happen at this point, now that the world is being taken over by Scion? Is there even a solution?

Where are all the regular non-extremist people? I feel like there is room for a broader resistance beyond those directly affected by Oxford. There have to be some people out there who aren’t buying all this Scion crap, right?

Predictions for future books, anyone?

~ Anna

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Books for Your TBR Pile!

Hello, readers! I’m trying something new today. I didn’t finish any books this past week! So instead of a review, I’m sharing a list of some anticipated future reads. I hope you find something that sounds intriguing.

Recently Added to My To-Be-Read List:

The Lost Book of the Grail by Charlie Lovett

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Average Goodreads Rating: 4.03

Published: February 28, 2017 by Viking

Source: Publishers Weekly listing

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Bookman’s Tale comes a new novel about an obsessive bibliophile’s quest through time to discover a missing manuscript, the unknown history of an English Cathedral, and the secret of the Holy Grail. SOLD!

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The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn by Lori Benton

Average Goodreads Rating: 4.29

Published: April 29, 2014 by WaterBrook

Source: Fan of the author

Western North Carolina, 1787 ~ To escape a threatening stepfather and an unwanted marriage, Tamsen Littlejohn enlists the aid of Jesse Bird, a frontiersman she barely knows, to spirit her away from Morganton, North Carolina, west beyond the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Trouble pursues, as the two men intent on seeing her recovered prove relentless in their hunt. . . . Gaining the freedom she longs for will mean running yet again, to the most unlikely refuge imaginable—the Cherokees, a people balanced on the knife edge of war.

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Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

Average Goodreads Rating: 4.08

Published: October 21, 2008 by Atheneum

Source: Heard wonderful things about this book and the author

As the Revolutionary War begins, thirteen-year-old Isabel wages her own fight . . . for freedom. Promised freedom upon the death of their owner, she and her sister, Ruth, in a cruel twist of fate become the property of a malicious New York City couple, the Locktons, who have no sympathy for the American Revolution and even less for Ruth and Isabel. When Isabel meets Curzon, a slave with ties to the Patriots, he encourages her to spy on her owners, who know details of British plans for invasion. She is reluctant at first, but when the unthinkable happens to Ruth, Isabel realizes her loyalty is available to the bidder who can provide her with freedom.

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Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman

Average Goodreads Rating: 4.05

Published: May 3, 2016 by Atria Books

Source: Litsy

From the bestselling author of A Man Called Ove and My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, a heartwarming and hilarious story of a reluctant outsider who transforms a tiny village and a woman who finds love and second chances in the unlikeliest of places.

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Gracious: A Practical Primer on Charm, Tact, and Unsinkable Strength by Kelly Williams Brown

Average Goodreads Rating: 4.00

To-Be-Published: April 18, 2017 by Rodale Books

Source: Saw it on Goodreads

From New York Times bestselling author of Adulting: How to Become a Grown-Up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps Kelly Williams Brown comes a funny, charming guide to modern civility in these—yes, we’ll say it—rather uncivil times.

Throughout the book, she provides tips on how to deal with the people and circumstances that challenge even the most socially graceful among us, advice on how to practice graciousness in everyday life, and thoughtful discussions on being kind to those around you without ever losing your sense of self.

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Glory Over Everything: Beyond the Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

Average Goodreads Rating: 4.24

Published: April 5, 2016 by Simon and Schuster

Source: Listening to The Kitchen House now and loving it! I heard about that book through a trusted bookish friend.

From the author of the New York Times bestseller and beloved book club favorite The Kitchen House, a novel of family and long-buried secrets along the treacherous Underground Railroad.

Jamie Pyke, son of both a slave and master of Tall Oakes, has a deadly secret that compels him to take a treacherous journey through the Underground Railroad.

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Memoir: Girl in the Dark by Anna Lyndsey

This book touched me on a deeply personal level, and I had to process it for a little while before writing about it. Anna Lyndsey’s amazing memoir is about her experience of a rare and unexplained physical condition that leaves her unable to be in the presence of light—not just sunlight, but soft lamps, LED screens, everything. She can’t even go to a doctor’s office. At first, I couldn’t imagine what this would be like, but her memoir describes her feelings and practical limitations with incredible detail. I was blown away by both the writing and Lyndsey’s keen insights into chronic illness and depression. This receives 5/5 stars from me!

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One of the main reasons to recommend this memoir is Lyndsey’s ability to speak about her completely life-altering struggle with such eloquence, such candor, and such vulnerability. As someone who lives with chronic illness, I had many moments of, “Yes—that’s exactly what that feels like!” while reading this book. However, this is not to say that this book is all inspirational “a-ha” moments. There’s plenty of emotional turmoil here, too, and she doesn’t shy away from sharing those thoughts. Her struggle is real every step of the way—and real again after every setback.

“I am the prisoner only of my skin. Would I could claw that traitorous membrane from my bones.”

When Lyndsey’s skin comes into contact with light at the height of her illness, it literally blisters, and she is in excruciating pain for days. But thankfully she is not alone in her isolation. She has a boyfriend/eventual husband who loves her deeply and walks with her through everything. It is very touching and heartening to witness through words. For most of the time frame covered in this book, Lyndsey spends her days in a completely darkened room with cloth stuffed into the crevices of every window and door. Yet her and her husband still manage to have a meaningful relationship, despite the obstacles and depression her situation entails. This is pretty phenomenal in and of itself.

I found this memoir inspiring even though it contains so much darkness because of the magnitude of Anna’s condition and the way she handles it with strength and grace, particularly as a non-Christian. How does one endure such pain—such isolation—without the belief in the promise of eternal life or in the God who loves you just as you are? At one point, Lyndsey contemplates suicide and decides against it. I cannot imagine living life—particularly her difficult life—without the hope of the Lord, but I really admire Lyndsey for her endurance, her humor, and her choice to live the best life possible day by day.

Upon experiencing a period of remission, Lyndsey writes, “My heart is filled with gratitude and relief. Gratitude that I have been granted another chance. Relief that my worst fear, the fear of permanence, has yet again been proved unfounded.” This is the quintessential fear for so many with chronic illness—the inability to think beyond this moment, the belief that things will not get better. I love that she addressed this outright. It is such a silent, hushed thing—but it is a very real and important thing to talk about, too. I think she expressed it beautifully.

From her sense of self-loss due to periods of isolation to her humorous recitation of the ABCs of chronic illness, I strongly identify with Anna Lyndsey and various aspects of her experience. We are, as another famous Anne once said, “kindred spirits,” I think. Like me, Lyndsey is a booklover. She spends a great deal of her time listening to audiobooks. She speaks very positively about literature, saying, “I can, in my darkness, live so many different lives.” These brief forays into her literary life and the playful “Games to Play in the Dark” sections are the lightest parts of the book. Most of the games have something to do with words. These brief, engaging sections successfully break up the narrative; it was an excellent choice made by Lyndsey.

I was saddened to learn that Lyndsey’s illness continues in its intensity as of the writing of this book. But that is, alas, the nature of chronic ailments. I’ll leave you with the same hopeful words she closes her memoir with:

“Joy lurks in every mundane thing—just waiting to be found. Love is impervious to reason, and words are wonderful.”

~ Anna

 

YA Fantasy: Three Dark Crowns and The Lie Tree

Hello, world!

What with the new year, new commitments, and, as it happens, my birthday (which was lovely), this month has been kind of a whirlwind. I haven’t read as much as usual. Still, I’ve always got something going. Here are my thoughts on the YA fantasy I read this month:

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Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

I was completely enthralled by this story! In this fantasy world, a set of triplets is born to the royal family every generation. These three sisters become three queens, who are separated at a young age and brought up to one day fight each other to the death. One is a poisoner, one is a an “elemental,” and one is a “naturalist.” (AKA, they are all magical.) I really enjoyed the way this book progressed. I thought it was well written and liked how the narrative changed POV with each chapter, alternating between the three sisters. The character development was excellent, and I couldn’t decide which queen I was rooting for until the very end. It has some twists and turns that will take you by surprise. This book is the beginning of a series, so the end is just the starting point of the, for lack of a better word, festivities. They each have one year to kill the other two. The last one standing reigns supreme. I can’t wait to see what happens next!

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The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

This is a beautifully-written, tangled-twisty mess of feminism, deception, and shame. WOW. The Lie Tree is starkly true in so many moments. There are some wonderfully insightful quotes within. I was riveted by how this book portrayed the way lies take on a life of their own and the power that even the smallest fib can wield over our lives and the lives of those around us. The main character Faith, who is fascinated by the science her father practices, is constantly surrounded by temptations in a world that denies her own intelligence and right to have a voice. To listen at the door. To read her father’s books. To say what she thinks. So when she learns of the lie tree, Faith takes that voice and uses it with unforeseen and dangerous consequences. Her intentions weren’t necessarily bad to begin with. She tells herself that she is only doing it to learn the truth about her father–but is that really all there is to it? She becomes entranced by the lie tree. It makes her feel powerful.

The 1860s is the perfect setting for this book–religion and science were seemingly at odds and at the forefront of the public’s mind in the aftermath of Darwin’s On the Origins of Species. There’s a lot to unpack here in terms of the book’s obvious religious parallels, but I’ll keep it brief. At times I could feel my stomach roiling at what was happening in the story, and I even recognized examples of false logic that I have thought to myself within my inner dialog. It was surprisingly revelatory. The parallel between Hardinge’s lie tree and the Scriptural Tree of Knowledge is obvious but not preachy, blatant without being doctrinal. I highly recommend this excellent book.

“Death and life [are] in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.” Proverbs 18:21

That’s all for now. Ta ta!

 

Best of 2016 List

This was a great year for me and books! What with blogging, joining the Litsy community (@annahenke), and just loving the reading life, I’m perfectly content. I read over 120 books in 2016. It’s customary in the blogosphere to do some sort of “Best of” list, and I’m excited to share mine with you. Here’s my list of the best books I read in 2016 by category!

FANTASY

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A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas, A Court of Thorns and Roses #2

I devoured this book! I have loved everything Sarah J. Maas has written so far. The character development in A Court of Mist and Fury is astoundingly good. I really like how Maas handles Feyre’s grief and portrays her PTSD after the events of A Court of Thorns and Roses.  I couldn’t put it down! This is a series that MUST be read in order.

NOTE: This is not a YA book, in my opinion – at least, not in terms of the romance. Full-on steamy. This should have been marketed as adult fantasy.

HISTORICAL FICTION

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Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

What a remarkable story! This fictionalization of the life of trailblazing horse trainer and pilot Beryl Markham blew me away. Set primarily during her formative years and early adulthood in Kenya, this novel about a strong historical woman who wasn’t afraid to smash boundaries is beautifully written. Beryl was flawed but fierce and endured much for “being a woman and daring to think I could be free” (Circling the Sun). I’ve put Beryl’s memoir, West With the Night, on my TBR, and I’m very interested to hear the full story from the woman herself. Beryl was a private person by all accounts, however, so I hear it doesn’t have much in the way of personal relationships, which was a strength of McLain’s fictionalization. But I still need to read it!

MYSTERY

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A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn, Veronica Speedwell Mystery #1

I enjoyed this book so much that I read it twice in one year! I had to prep for the sequel coming out in January 2017. Why I loved it: It’s a Victorian historical mystery featuring an intrepid lady/amateur detective who is also a lepidopterist (specialist on butterflies and moths).  Sold! There is an enigmatic, handsome taxidermist who becomes her reluctant investigative partner. Yes! There is a romance, but it’s very subtle and develops slowly. Just my cup of tea! They take refuge in an abandoned private museum of sorts. Hooray! There is a mystery about the main character’s heritage. Love it! I could go on, but I won’t.

GRAPHIC NOVEL

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The Encyclopedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg

Brilliant! The artwork is amazing and perfectly fits the tone of the story being told. The fictional folktales within are everything one would wish for: clever, funny, poignant, and sweet. I think it’s a must-read for graphic novel fans and a great entry point for newcomers to the format.

AUDIOBOOK

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Jane Steele by Lindsay Faye, Narrated by Susie Riddell

This book was so strange and I loved it. It’s a Jane Eyre-inspired story with a quirky twist: What if Jane had been a serial killer? The tagline for the marketing was, “Reader, I murdered him.” For those unfamiliar with the real Jane Eyre, the most famous line is, “Reader, I married him.” So clever!  I was hooked by the fascinating premise; however, the book was something of a surprise. Jane was  quite likeable. This is in itself is a remarkable achievement for a writer. I consider myself pretty sensitive to violence, and I don’t enjoy unlikeable characters at all, so I was very impressed that Faye pulled that off. Jane kills multiple people (only bad people, mind), but I was still rooting for her in the end. The audiobook is exceptional. I would not have changed a thing.

As a side note, the premise of this book is so bizarre that it makes a great conversation piece. I had about a twenty-minute conversation with my coworkers about it at the company picnic and they all thought I’d gone mad. 🙂

INSPIRATIONAL NONFICTION

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Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist

I loved what Nyquist had to say about grace, forgiveness, and shame. I learned so much. Read my review here.

INSPIRATIONAL FICTION

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The Wood’s Edge by Lori Benton, The Pathfinders #1

I was so impressed with the diversity, vigor, and historicity of Benton’s writing in this first chapter of a new family saga. The story is wonderful. Read my review here.

ROMANCE

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A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley

I loved this book and look forward to everything Kearsley writes. It contains her signature Scottish history connection, a mystery in a book, and features a beautiful, intelligent heroine who happens to have Asperger’s Syndrome. It’s real, and the romance is so heartwarming and completely believable. Apparently, Susanna’s daughter has Asperger’s, and that shows in the sensitivity and normalcy with which she portrays the social interactions of the main character. I thought it was fantastic! This is a solid, clean romance recommendation.

SCIENCE FICTION

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Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

This one took me a little while to get into, but I was more than amazed by the end of it! Its best qualities are the unorthodox storytelling, the various illustrations, and the gripping action/suspense. I literally gasped at the twists and turns in the last fifty pages. Definitely worth the read! A top-notch YA pick.

That’s all for 2016. 🙂 Happy New Year!

#NonfictionNovember – On Moving and Change

This month has been crazy busy as I’ve moved to a new place! I’ve been very occupied with setting up and settling in. Naturally, my bookshelves were one of the first things I unpacked! Shocking: I added a shelf, so I have empty space. This must be remedied ASAP.

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I have to be honest: I’m TERRIBLE with change. I don’t like it and I don’t know how to deal with it. So there’s a definite theme in my nonfiction choices this month.

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Full Disclosure: I work for a different division of this publisher. This is my personal review.

A great book at the perfect time! I needed this and would recommend to anyone who, like me, struggles with transitions. There were parts that felt a bit slow to me, but that’s likely because she was talking about being a mom and that doesn’t apply to my life. Other chapters, specifically “Settling in the Home Where Your Heart Thrives,” were phenomenal and applicable for any reader.

“We need to be okay with not getting over it and give ourselves permission to feel the upheaval.”—Kristen Strong, from Girl Meets Change

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I learned so much from this book! It’s about being present just as you are—with God, with those around you, and with yourself. Niequist has some interesting things to say about prayer that really spoke to my heart. She talks about a model of prayer where you basically get confession and repentance out of the way first before broaching other topics with God so that you can speak freely and focus on connecting with Him. This is such a refreshing approach. I also really liked what she had to say about grace, forgiveness, and shame. Highly recommended! Now I’m trying to get my hands on everything else Shauna Niequist has written.

tidyingup

While I think the “thank your possessions” and “spark joy” concepts extremely materialistic and slightly ridiculous, there are a lot of practical tips in this book that are very useful. The section on how to fold properly was particularly interesting. My sock drawer has never looked better! This content of this book should be taken with a grain of salt, but there are some nuggets to be found within. I will say that I got rid of more stuff than I probably would have if I had not listened to this book while packing.

That’s all for now! Glad to say I’m finally feeling a little more settled. Until next post!

Anna

P.S. I’m currently listening to SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard. It’s fascinating and very accessible. Any fellow history nerds would enjoy!

spqr