Posted in Reviews

Review: Real Men Knit by Kwana Jackson

Real Men Knit by Kwana Jackson – ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Recommended: yup
For healthy attitudes towards sex, for endless tension, for investigations into family dynamics and systemic societal racial prejudices. And the occasional mention of knitting
Expected Release: May 19, 2020

Summary:
Jesse Strong is known for two things: his devotion to his adoptive mom, Mama Joy, and his reputation for breaking hearts in Harlem. When Mama Joy unexpectedly passes away, he and his brothers have different plans on what to do with Strong Knits, their neighborhood knitting store: Jesse wants to keep the store open; his brothers want to shut it down. Jesse makes an impassioned plea to Kerry Fuller, his childhood friend who has had a crush on him her entire life, to help him figure out how to run the business. Kerry agrees to help him reinvent the store and show him the knitty-gritty of the business, but the more time they spend together, the more the chemistry builds. Kerry, knowing Jesse’s history, doesn’t believe this relationship will exist longer than one can knit one, purl one. But Jesse is determined to prove to her that he can be the man for her—after all, real men knit.

Thoughts:
While this was quite different from what I expected, I still really liked it! There was a much stronger focus on how Jesse and Kerry felt about each other than I expected. That was the majority of the story, it seemed: alternating between then thinking about the other. The aspect of the business having to be saved and working to restart it seemed almost like a subplot at most, and not much happened with it until about 70% into the book.

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Review: Stories We Never Told by Sonja Yoerg

Stories We Never Told by Sonja Yoerg

Recommended: sure
For a pretty general suspense thriller novel, for female relationships that aren’t as expected, for an unusual ending to a thriller (as far as my limited experience has seen), for a non-graphic thriller focused more on mental manipulation

barefoot?

Summary:
Psychology professor Jackie Strelitz thought she was over her ex-lover and colleague, Harlan Crispin. Why should she care if Harlan springs a new “friend” on her? After all, Jackie has everything she ever wanted: a loving husband and a thriving career. Still, she can’t help but be curious about Harlan’s latest. Nasira Amari is graceful, smart, and young. Worse, she’s the new member of Jackie’s research team. For five years, Harlan enforced rules limiting his relationship with Jackie. With Nasira he’s breaking every single one. Why her? Fixated by the couple, Jackie’s curiosity becomes obsession. But she soon learns that nothing is quite what it seems, and that to her surprise—and peril—she may not be the only one bho can’t let go.

Thoughts:
I like the way this progressed, and it felt like it built up to the climax well. The big event was kind of predictable, mostly due to the little prologue at the beginning, but still enjoyable. The antagonist was fascinating, and I liked to getting to see inside their mind. However the chapters that were about other characters randomly were not my favorite. Yes, they gave some additional depth to the people around Jackie, but they were somewhat jarring in how offset they were in time and place.

I appreciated that this book included modern elements that are sometimes completely ignored, like how most people never change their account passwords, or those new video doorbells. That might seem silly, but to me it was a huge boon because it made it actually seem realistic.

Overall I generally enjoyed this, but it was also a pretty quick read. I don’t think I would have stuck with it if it were slower, because it just didn’t feel like there was that much new or original that would maintain my attention more than a few hours. It’s good for a stormy weekend night or a trip to the beach.

This was definitely worth it for one of the free Amazon first read picks!

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Review: The Little Bookshop on the Seine by Rebecca Raisin

The Little Bookshop on the Seine by Rebecca Raisin – ⭐⭐⭐
Didn’t love the start but the second half was much stronger. Absolutely love the way the romance line was handled.

Recommended: sure
For a light read about love, self-discovery, and Paris, for a romance I can cheer for, for heartwarming characters who you can’t help but smile at

Summary:
Bookshop owner Sarah Smith has been offered the opportunity to exchange bookshops with her new Parisian friend for 6 months! And saying yes is a no-brainer – after all, what kind of a romantic would turn down a trip to Paris? Even if it does mean leaving the irresistible Ridge Warner behind, Sarah’s sure she’s in for the holiday of a lifetime – complete with all the books she can read! Picturing days wandering around Shakespeare & Co, munching on croissants, sipping café au laits and people-watching on the Champs-Elysees Sarah boards the plane. But will her dream of a Parisian Happily-Ever-After come true? Or will Sarah realise that the dream isn’t quite as rosy in reality…

Thoughts:
The beginning of this book didn’t show itself to it’s best advantage for me. Typically an MC, especially a female one, who feels insecure or unworthy is very tiring and frustrating to read. I shouldn’t have been surprised to see that first half of the book mostly filled with self-derogatory remarks and pity and angst. I get that happens to everyone, but in books it’s always amplified to a somewhat intolerable level.

If you can get past that, the second half picks up significantly once Sarah stops moaning about her life and starts living it. More threads of plot are woven in the latter half to bring in other characters we come to care about. They are made into more than just a background, but they are still fairly one-dimensional. The sparkle in the book is on the main couple and her closest friend or two.

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Review: The Elements of the Crown by Kay L Moody

The Elements of the Crown by Kay L Moody – ⭐⭐⭐
A strong collection covering a whole lot of ground + and this isn’t even the full story!

Recommended: yes
For a fantasy that covers a lot of elements, for a story that progresses through different interesting stages and plot lines, for an MC who feels real

Summary:
In an empire divided into three rings, seventeen-year-old Talise is from the dangerous and crime-laden outer ring. Her only chance for escape is to become Master Shaper—an honored position in the palace court and military. Each year, the emperor chooses one student to receive the title. After ten years of training at an elite academy, Talise clearly has a gift for manipulating the elements of water, air, earth, and fire. But Aaden, a handsome student from the privileged inner ring, is poised to steal the title away from her. When they come before the emperor, he is impressed with the great skill both Talise and Aaden possess. He presents them with a set of trials, and she knows this is the chance she needs to prove herself. As long as Aaden doesn’t ruin everything. But secrets hide in every corner of the palace, masking a conflict far more dangerous than her previous home in the outer ring. Now, she must play along with the emperor’s lies and games, or else she will lose her life to an enemy she never expected.

Thoughts:
I’m really glad I got the collection of the first four novels, because if I had to stop at the end of any of the different books I would have been mad. And that is always a good sign! I was delighted to learn there’s even another after this set, which I will be picking up soon. I’m not sure if that one is the end of the series or not, and I’m also not sure if I want it to be.

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Review: Daisy Does it Herself by Gracie Player

Daisy Does it Herself by Gracie Player – ⭐⭐⭐
This was a lovely romance with woman-power of a tech savvy heroine, and I’m be damned if I don’t already want more 😍

Recommended: sure!
For a book that makes you cheer for the main character, for a love interest who’s clear but respectful, for a female character who is defined by more than the men around her, for a generally feel-good and silly story

Daisy Does it Herself by Gracie Player
Definitely an eyecatching cover!

Summary:
When 26-year-old Daisy’s life in London comes crashing down around her, the only thing she can think of is getting away – far away. That’s how she found herself stumbling off a train in England’s picturesque Peak District – 150 miles from home, with no idea why she’d gone there and even less idea how she intended to get home. But as Daisy explores the gorgeous village of Upper Finlay, she glimpses the possibility of a different life. The Derbyshire Dales offer up new friends, new opportunities, and a distractingly dishy object of attraction in the form of local bookstore owner Alex (and his bumbling Great Dane.) When Daisy discovers Alex’s business is in trouble she steps in to save the day. But London’s calling – literally. The life Daisy ran away from is calling her back. Why then, is she so reluctant to heed its call? Daisy’s got a decision to make: Will she play it safe, and return to what she knew? Or is she brave enough to take a leap of faith and create a bold, new life for herself in the last place she’d ever expected?

Thoughts:
I totally judged this book by it’s cover, and the cover suits it very well. I love the bright cheery colors, and the poised and cool woman suits Daisy’s growth throughout the book. The title is also perfect, and Daisy does indeed take control even when her whole life seems absolutely out of control.

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Review: RWBY The Official Manga 1 by Bunta Kinami

RWBY THE OFFICIAL MANGA 1 by Bunta Kinami – ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Great to read, but some visuals that were difficult to parse out into elements and movement.
Expected Release: July 21, 2020

Recommended: yes!
For those who like the supernatural-hunter kind of manga, for very clearly defined character personalities, for some intriguing lore and monsters, and of course for anyone who’s seen the Rooster Teeth production it’s based on

Summary:
In the world of Remnant, monsters known as Grimm wreak havoc. They’re kept in check by Huntsmen and Huntresses, highly skilled warriors experienced in monster extermination who utilize their special abilities on the field of battle. Ruby is a ferociously talented young girl who comes to Beacon Academy to hone her skills and serve as a Huntress herself. Alongside her sister Yang Xiao Long, rival Weiss Schnee and newfound friend Blake Belladonna, Ruby leads Team RWBY, the coolest new group at Beacon! Ruby takes her first step on the road to becoming a Huntress by enrolling at Beacon Academy, eager to take on the battery of tests, challenges and difficulties that follow. Ruby knows her talents will take her to her goal, but is she ready to clash with Weiss Schnee, haughty scion of the Schnee Dust Company?

Thoughts:
I’m in an unusual position I think, as I have been aware of this series since it started with Rooster Teeth. However at that time I didn’t enjoy the animation style they used, and wasn’t able to watch more than a few episodes before being turned off despite what seemed like a promising plot. So when I heard there was a manga version of it… WELL. That sounded perfect – I could finally get the story without the animation!

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Review: The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo

The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo – ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Was this what I expected? No. Not even close. It was so much more.

This was a short read packed with so much. This is a great example of what can be done in ~100 pages. This is something you have to think about, and savor, and should not read passively.

Recommended: yes
For a short read that packs a punch, for beautifully lyrical writing, for a story that emerges through clues and fog and whispers, for a surprisingly gorgeous depiction of a life through objects


Summary:
With the heart of an Atwood tale and the visuals of a classic Asian period drama The Empress of Salt and Fortune is a tightly and lushly written narrative about empire, storytelling, and the anger of women. A young royal from the far north is sent south for a political marriage. Alone and sometimes reviled, she has only her servants on her side. This evocative debut chronicles her rise to power through the eyes of her handmaiden, at once feminist high fantasy and a thrilling indictment of monarchy.

Thoughts:
Do not make the mistake of thinking that since this is just over 100 pages that it is sparse in detail or not much happens or you would not have time to learn the characters. We get all of that and more, and in such an elegant way, that it’s stunning to think how few times you actually need to turn the page.

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Review: Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum
Good, not mind blowing. As the author says, more than just a dead mom book. Read this from 3:38am to 7:42am because I couldn’t sleep. Just call me Ethan.

Recommended: sure
For a quick cute read, for those who can suspend disbelief and pretend the world is a nice place, for a fairly predictable and straightforward story, for those who can tolerate a plot that sometimes makes you roll your eyes at the MCs ability to misinterpret obvious things

Yes, I read everything in the cover background.

Summary:
It’s been barely two years since her mother’s death, and because her father eloped with a woman he met online, Jessie has been forced to move across the country to live with her stepmonster and her pretentious teenage son. Just when she’s thinking about hightailing it back to Chicago, she gets an email from a person calling themselves Somebody/Nobody (SN for short), offering to help her navigate the wilds of Wood Valley High School. Is it an elaborate hoax? Or can she rely on SN for some much-needed help? In a leap of faith—or an act of complete desperation—Jessie begins to rely on SN, and SN quickly becomes her lifeline and closest ally. Jessie can’t help wanting to meet SN in person. But are some mysteries better left unsolved?

Thoughts:
The primary strength of this book was in the connections created between characters and the portrayal of grief from Jessie. She’s thrown into a crazy situation when around two years after her mother’s death, her father abruptly announces he’s remarried a rich LA lady, and they’re going to move out to California to live with her. Cue Jessie’s entrance into a creme de la creme private school for the rich and glamorous, as well as a bizzaro world of her new “family” in a house that’s more like a museum.

Jessie’s grief stays with her through the story, as a constant point of reflection and pain and growth for her. The author in a note at the end states that this is very personal for her, as she lost her own mother at 14. Because of that painful personal experience, the portrayal in the story of grief — Jessie’s, her father’s, and even her new stepmother & stepbrother’s — are consistent and painfully believable.

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Review: What You Wish For by Katherine Center

What You Wish For by Katherine Center – ⭐⭐⭐
Expected Release: July 14, 2020

Recommended: sure
For teachers, for those who like Center’s writing style, for a blend of teaching pedagogy and medical/personal self-discovery, for a book where you know exactly what to expect, for something uplifting and quotable if you’re having a bad day

Summary:
Samantha Casey loves everything about her job as an elementary school librarian on the sunny, historic island of Galveston, Texas—the goofy kids, the stately Victorian building, the butterfly garden. But when the school suddenly loses its beloved principal, it turns out his replacement will be none other than Duncan Carpenter—a former, unrequited crush of Sam’s from many years before. When Duncan shows up as her new boss, though, he’s nothing like the sweet teacher she once swooned over. He’s become stiff, and humorless, and obsessed with school safety. Now, with Duncan determined to destroy everything Sam loves about her school in the name of security—and turn it into nothing short of a prison—Sam has to stand up for everyone she cares about before the school that’s become her home is gone for good.

Thoughts:
The writing was very familiar to Center’s other works. The MC was very self-aware, and did a good job at calling herself out in cliche situations with clear-eyed bemusement. Overall, I was entertained but not enthralled. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why, but I’ll try.

There were points that felt unnecessarily drawn out; like descriptions that didn’t add to the story, or musings that we had already heard several times before (“I can’t believe how different Duncan is”). I rarely skim in stories, but I was here every now and then.

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Review: Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin

Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin – ⭐⭐⭐

Recommended: for specific people if you’re REALLY interested in this
For those really into witchy stuff, for those who want the “hate to love” romance arc, for a story focused on self-discovery. Stay away if you’re expecting the historical French setting to actually matter or importance in featuring the magic

Summary:
Two years ago, Louise le Blanc fled her coven and took shelter in the city of Cesarine, forsaking all magic and living off whatever she could steal. There, witches like Lou are hunted. They are feared. And they are burned. Sworn to the Church as a Chasseur, Reid Diggory has lived his life by one principle: thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. His path was never meant to cross with Lou’s, but a wicked stunt forces them into an impossible union—holy matrimony. The war between witches and Church is an ancient one, and Lou’s most dangerous enemies bring a fate worse than fire. Unable to ignore her growing feelings, yet powerless to change what she is, a choice must be made. And love makes fools of us all.

Thoughts:
So. As often with crazily hyped books… I wasn’t that impressed. I probably would have waited even longer to read this, but it was a thoughtful gift for Christmas and I was intrigued. In the end this was nearly a 2 star read overall, but a key element of the end bumped it to 3 and made it more likely that I would pick up the next, though not in a hurry. The overall path of reading was like: 4,5,3,2,2,2,3 (that new-read excitement got me hard on this one but helped carry me through).

My gripes are with the romance and the magic. The romance felt abrupt, as the characters only have a few interactions before they’re declaring their newfound feelings, and the interactions they had were mostly antagonistic. I can get behind the enemies-to-lovers thing, but I just wasn’t wooed by their progression in this case.

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