Friday, April 28, 2023

Book Review: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens


Goodreads Overview:

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

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

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

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

Jacque's Review:

This is another book that I decided to read because of all of the hype from Reese's book club. This one did not disappoint. I gave it a solid 5 stars and even watched the movie shortly after I finished reading the book. I felt like Hollywood did a decent job of bringing this book to life without deviating too far from the original story line, but the book is definitely better. Don't take the easy way out and just watch the movie in this case.

Kya lived with her Mom, Dad, and four siblings in the marsh area of Barkley Cove, North Carolina. Her father is a drunk and was often abusive. They do not have any money and live in a shack, so one by one her family leaves to make a better life for themselves somewhere else. Kya is eventually left to fend for herself and lives off the land with some help form Jumpin' and Mabel. They are an African American couple that runs the store where she buys gas for her boat and what food and supplies she can afford. 

She bonds with Tate, a local boy who teaches her how to read. They both love the marsh and its creatures, but he eventually has to leave for college. She is once again left all alone in a town where she is laughed at and ridiculed. Instead of offering a young girl who is obviously in need of help a lifeline, the town turned their backs on her. Surprisingly she becomes friends with Chase Andrews, who was the star quarterback and comes from a relatively wealthy family. When he is found dead, the town immediately believes the marsh girl has to be guilty. 

A large portion of the book centers around the murder investigation and trial. It was a captivating story that had a very surprising conclusion. Discrimination and segregation were prevalent at this time in the south and it could be seen in all aspects of this book. Kya's ability to overcome what most would have considered to be insurmountable odds was remarkable. I couldn't help but root for her to come out on top, even if I wasn't sure if she was guilty or not. 

Thursday, April 27, 2023

BLOG TOUR: An Improbable Season by Rosalyn Eves


I'm so happy to be a part of the official blog tour for this delightful book! It's been a while since I've done a blog tour and I've forgotten how much fun they are. Today, I'm going to share a review. First things first, here is the summary:

Book Summary
When Thalia, Kalliope, and Charis set off to Regency London for their first Season, they each have clear goals—few of which include matrimony. Thalia means to make her mark among the intelligentsia and publish her poetry, Charis hopes to earn her place among the scientific elite, and Kalliope aims to take the fashionable ton by storm. But this Season, it doesn't take long for things to fall apart. Kalli finds herself embroiled in scandal and reliant upon an arranged marriage to redeem her reputation, Thalia's dreams of publication are threatened by her attraction to a charming rake, and Charis finds herself an unexpected social hit—and the source of a family scandal that her heart might not survive. Can this roller-coaster Season find its happily ever after?

Flo's Review
I'm going to be honest -- historical fiction is not really my jam. Usually. So it's pretty crazy that this is the second Regency romance I've read this year, and the second one that I've loved.

The book started off a little slow for me. With 3 POVs, I found it hard to keep track of which girl was which (like, "Thalia, that's right, she's the poet) and travel to then the first few weeks in London were pretty rushed.

But then it hit its stride.

I was so sad for Kalli! I think, with her big heart, she was my favorite character. Even though the outcome of two of the storylines was pretty evident, it was still a fun journey to get there. The third one actually surprised me! I think there could have been some more clues and some more buildup to it so that it didn't seem to be a sudden thing at the end. I also wished that the sisters, who have a falling out pretty early in the book, resolved their right more quickly.

By the end of the book, I literally could not put it down. Did I stay up past my bedtime because I legit could not stop reading? I sure did! Do I have regrets? Well, 10:30 a.m. lull at work Flo did, but current Flo who is remembering how much fun she had with this book does not. I love, love, love it when a book is unputdownable and I'm so happy that was the case here.

I also really enjoy that in a world of duologies, trilogies, and series that this was a standalone. That being said, if Rosalyn wanted to revisit the world -- say, some of Thalia's and Kalli's younger sisters Seasons, with these three making cameos, I would 100% read it.

In conclusion, this book is a fun escape that kept me wanting to turn pages. Recommended!

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Book Review: Scythe by Neal Shusterman


Goodreads Overview:

Thou shalt kill.

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.

Jacque's Review:

The Delaware, Ohio Library hosted Neal Shusterman for an author event at one of the local schools. I hadn't read any of his books, but I had heard of him and even had Scythe on my TBR list. I finished reading it a couple of days before the event, so I at least had a clue about some of his writing. He told several stories about the inspiration for his books, which I found fascinating. He worked as a summer camp counselor when he was younger and told stories to keep the kids entertained and in line. He was one of the favorite counselors and the kids couldn't wait to hear his stories each night. He translated that experience into a career writing for middle grade and young adults. In fact, he told stories for the majority of the presentation and the audience was hooked. I added several of his books to my TBR list as he was talking about them. 


The futuristic society in Scythe has conquered death and aging. Citizens can "turn the corner" when they start to look too old and want a more youthful appearance. Of course, people probably don't want to go back to their awkward teenage years, so they return to maybe their 20's or 30's. You could theoretically have generations of family members who all look the same age. In order to keep the population under control, Scythes have a quota of people they have to kill or "glean" each year. There are rules to prevent Scythes from discriminating and there are even ways to grant and receive immunity. On the surface, it all seems to make sense until a group of Scythes band together and start abusing their power. They turn gleanings into major events and start gaining power from the fear they are spreading.

Citra and Rowan are both apprentices under Scythe Faraday. He has been doing the job for a very long time and is compassionate when it comes to his work. We quickly learn at the first of the tri-annual conclaves that there is friction within the scythedom. Not everyone wants to live by the rules that have been set, so they use Faraday's having two apprentices as a way to manipulate the group. They decide to split them up under different trainers and put them head-to-head with the winner having to glean the loser. 

Throughout the rest of the book, we get to see how the different factions operate. Rowen is training under Scythe Goddard, who is part of the group that is conducting the mass killings. Citra trains under Scythe Curie, who is more in line with Scythe Faraday's way of operating. Their training styles are completely different from that point forward and the stark differences between the factions becomes very clear. There is a surprising twist shortly before the final conclave that really brings everything full circle. What is in store for Citra, Rowan, and the future of the scythedom is left hanging in the balance at the end of this book. I purchased a copy of Thunderhead, the second book in the series, at the event and plan on reading it sometime this summer. This was an exceptionally good start to the series and I can't wait to find out what will happen next.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Book Review: Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin


Goodreads Overview:

In this exhilarating novel, two friends--often in love, but never lovers--come together as creative partners in the world of video game design, where success brings them fame, joy, tragedy, duplicity, and, ultimately, a kind of immortality.

On a bitter-cold day, in the December of his junior year at Harvard, Sam Masur exits a subway car and sees, amid the hordes of people waiting on the platform, Sadie Green. He calls her name. For a moment, she pretends she hasn't heard him, but then, she turns, and a game begins: a legendary collaboration that will launch them to stardom. These friends, intimates since childhood, borrow money, beg favors, and, before even graduating college, they have created their first blockbuster, Ichigo. Overnight, the world is theirs. Not even twenty-five years old, Sam and Sadie are brilliant, successful, and rich, but these qualities won't protect them from their own creative ambitions or the betrayals of their hearts.

Spanning thirty years, from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Venice Beach, California, and lands in between and far beyond, Gabrielle Zevin's Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is a dazzling and intricately imagined novel that examines the multifarious nature of identity, disability, failure, the redemptive possibilities in play, and above all, our need to connect: to be loved and to love. Yes, it is a love story, but it is not one you have read before.

Jacque's Review:

I had an opportunity to see Gabrielle Zevin speak at an author event hosted by Columbus Metropolitan Library several years ago. So, when Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow was selected as one of the Books on Tap book club selections, I couldn't pass up the opportunity. It is a book club that meets at a local brewery, but this is the first time they have selected a book I was interested in.

Sam and Sadie meet at a Children's hospital when Sam and Sadie's sister are both there for an extended period. Sam was involved in a car accident and needed numerous surgeries on his foot while Sadie's sister was being treated for cancer. The two connect over video games and become close friends until Sam discovers a secret she has been hiding.

They go their separate ways and eventually reconnect when they bump into each other in a subway station clear across the country. Sam is attending Harvard and Sadie is at MIT. They decide to design a video game together and their lives are an instant success. Sam's friend Marx runs the business side of things while Sam and Sadie design the games. Their "office" quickly moves from Marx's apartment near Boston to an office building in sunny southern California with a full team of employees. 

Sam and Sadie clearly love each other, but the strong competition between them prevents them from ever becoming more than friends. They have periods when they will not even talk to each other, but the minute the other person needs them, they are the first to step up and help. There were quite a few unexpected twists and turns woven into this story, which really kept the pages turning. I do not want to give anything away, so I will simply leave it at that.

I enjoy playing video games on occasion, but you certainly do not need to be a gamer to enjoy this story. It won the Goodreads choice award for best fiction in 2022 and the movie rights have been picked up by Paramount Pictures. It is a story of love, friendship, overcoming disabilities and loss, and even explores topics of ethnic and religious diversity. I really enjoyed Zevin's writing style and look forward to seeing how Hollywood brings this story to life on the big screen. 

Monday, April 24, 2023

Book Review: Twelve Hours in Manhattan by Mean Gabriel


Two worlds. One heart. Twelve hours.

Bianca Maria Curtis is at the brink of losing it all when she meets Eric at a bar in Manhattan. Eric, as it turns out, is the famous Korean drama celebrity Park Hyun Min, and he’s in town for one night to escape the pressures of fame. From walking along Fifth Avenue to eating ice cream at Serendipity to sharing tender moments on top of the Empire State building, sparks fly as Bianca and Eric spend twelve magical hours far away from their respective lives. In that time, they talk about the big stuff: love, life, and happiness, and the freedom they both seek to fully exist and not merely survive.

But real life is more than just a few exhilarating stolen moments in time.

As the clock strikes the twelfth hour, Bianca returns back to the life she detests to face a tragedy that will test her strength and resolve—and the only thing she has to keep going is the memory of a man she loves in secret from a world away.

Twelve Hours in Manhattan promises to be the perfect love story for anyone who enjoys kdramas but unfortunately, it falls short, a few times, feeling much more like a fanfic you might come across online instead. 

Honestly, I wanted to like this book. I enjoy kdramas and love that more books are starting to feature more material that showcases them! Unfortunately, this felt more like someone just decided to write something they thought would be liked because it was “in.” 

I’m an avid fan and reader of fan fiction so it’s not necessarily a negative to be compared to it, I’ve read some amazing fanfics, but this felt more on the side of messy, disorganized, and kind of forced. 

Plots kept piling up in the story that just didn’t need to be there, almost as if they needed to be thrown in to reach a certain word count. 

Beyond the story itself, the characters lacked as well. Sometimes I can read a story and think, “I don’t like this plot but I love this character,” but I never once felt that way with Bianca. 

Bianca just wasn’t likable. Everyone who watches Kdramas knows that the main character is always kind of frustrating and you’re wondering HOW are they the “IT girl” in the story but eventually, they have redeeming qualities and you fall in love with them, swearing to protect them always. Never happened with Bianca for me. The only thing that Bianca left me with was exhaustion. She cries about everything and anything. There were times I couldn’t even remember what it was she was crying about because I was just so tired of her. 

Eric was a perfect cookie-cutter kdrama boy but much like Bianca missed the mark because there wasn’t much substance to him. 

Honestly, the secondary characters were more of a fresh breath of air, which is common in kdramas but even there, there wasn’t enough. 

The book itself is a fine read, especially if maybe you are a bit younger and don’t need more from a book. This story could have made a fine one-shot on a fanfic site or even a hilarious social on Twitter but it just did not need to be an almost 300-page book. 


Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Book Review: The Inheritance Games Series by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Goodreads Overview:

Avery Grambs has a plan for a better future: survive high school, win a scholarship, and get out. But her fortunes change in an instant when billionaire Tobias Hawthorne dies and leaves Avery virtually his entire fortune. The catch? Avery has no idea why -- or even who Tobias Hawthorne is.

To receive her inheritance, Avery must move into sprawling, secret passage-filled Hawthorne House, where every room bears the old man's touch -- and his love of puzzles, riddles, and codes. Unfortunately for Avery, Hawthorne House is also occupied by the family that Tobias Hawthorne just dispossessed. This includes the four Hawthorne grandsons: dangerous, magnetic, brilliant boys who grew up with every expectation that one day, they would inherit billions. Heir apparent Grayson Hawthorne is convinced that Avery must be a conwoman, and he's determined to take her down. His brother, Jameson, views her as their grandfather's last hurrah: a twisted riddle, a puzzle to be solved. Caught in a world of wealth and privilege, with danger around every turn, Avery will have to play the game herself just to survive.


I really enjoyed Jennifer Lynn Barnes's The Naturals series, and this sounded like another sure winner to me. I was correct. Who wouldn't love the Hawthorne brothers? They are all very different from each other, but they are all uniquely appealing. Add in a mansion and family filled with secrets and puzzles and the pages wouldn't stop turning. I read the first book while I was on a ski trip and wanted nothing more than to hole up in the evenings to see what would happen next. I am not usually one to read through an entire series back-to-back, but that is what I did in this case.  I don't think I have done that since I discovered the Twilight series back in 2010. As soon as I finished each book, I requested the next one from the library.  

I am now anxiously awaiting The Brothers Hawthorne, which is scheduled to be released this October. The one loose thread remaining after the original trilogy is Grayson Hawthorne. He was such a lovable character who was ready to take the world by storm until he was passed over by his grandfather in his will. That combined with a dark event that happened prior to the start of the book left him "broken". I really hope he can finally find his happily ever after.

The Final Gambit was filled with HUGE family secrets that I never saw coming. Some things seemed a little far-fetched, but in the end, everything came together nicely. I can't say I would have done what Avery did at the end of this book, but it does make sense given Tobias Hawthorne's original intention in his prior will. I'm just glad she didn't go to his extreme. 

This was another highly entertaining YA series that should appeal to both boys and girls. I struggle trying to find books I think my son will like, but both The Naturals and Inheritance Games series fit the bill. All of the puzzles and mysteries definitely outweigh the romance elements, which he usually loses interest in quickly.

Monday, April 3, 2023

Book Review: Outlawed by Anna North


Goodreads Overview:

In the year of our Lord 1894, I became an outlaw.

The day of her wedding, 17 year old Ada's life looks good; she loves her husband, and she loves working as an apprentice to her mother, a respected midwife. But after a year of marriage and no pregnancy, in a town where barren women are routinely hanged as witches, her survival depends on leaving behind everything she knows.

She joins up with the notorious Hole in the Wall Gang, a band of outlaws led by a preacher-turned-robber known to all as the Kid. Charismatic, grandiose, and mercurial, the Kid is determined to create a safe haven for outcast women. But to make this dream a reality, the Gang hatches a treacherous plan that may get them all killed. And Ada must decide whether she's willing to risk her life for the possibility of a new kind of future for them all.

Featuring an irresistibly no-nonsense, courageous, and determined heroine, Outlawed dusts off the myth of the old West and reignites the glimmering promise of the frontier with an entirely new set of feminist stakes. Anna North has crafted a pulse-racing, page-turning saga about the search for hope in the wake of death, and for truth in a climate of small-mindedness and fear.

Jacque's Review:

This was another Reese's Book Club selection, so I decided to read it. I'm not usually a fan of westerns, but this sounded interesting. While I liked the concept, it was a VERY slow read for me. I kept plugging away thinking there would be an EPIC conclusion that I couldn't miss, but that wasn't the case. In retrospect, I should have pulled the plug and given this a DNF.

The book is set in a time when the belief in witchcraft was prevalent. If someone isn't able to have a child, the woman was to blame. If something happened during childbirth or there was an unexplained plague, it must be the result of witchcraft. That is what this story centers around. There is a community of women who were chased out of town because they were unable to conceive a child or were accused of being witches and are now living as outlaws in a remote camp. They pass themselves off as men and steal when they have to for survival. The law is after them because of their illegal activities, but much like Billy the Kid, the stories about them are legendary. 

I usually like the books Reese selects, so I think this was just a genre that doesn't appeal to me. It has over a 3.5 rating on Goodreads and 52% of the almost 61,000 reviewers have given it 4 and 5 stars. Clearly others are enjoying it, but this one wasn't my cup of tea.