Splinters of Scarlet by Emily Bain Murphy Book Review

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: July 21, 2020
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Rating: ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ out of ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️

Synopsis:

Enchantée meets Downton Abbey in this atmospheric YA historical fantasy set in nineteenth-century Denmark, where secrets can kill and magic is a deadly gift.

For Marit Olsen, magic is all about strategy: it flows freely through her blood, but every use leaves behind a deadly, ice-like build-up within her veins called the Firn. Marit knows how dangerous it is to let too much Firn build up—after all, it killed her sister—and she has vowed never to use her thread magic. But when Eve, a fellow orphan whom Marit views like a little sister, is adopted by the wealthy Helene Vestergaard, Marit will do anything to stay by Eve’s side. She decides to risk the Firn and uses magic to secure a job as a seamstress in the Vestergaard household.

But Marit has a second, hidden agenda: her father died while working in the Vestergaards’ jewel mines—and it might not have been an accident. The closer Marit gets to the truth about the Vestergaard family, the more she realizes she and everyone she’s come to love are in danger. When she finds herself in the middle of a treacherous deception that goes all the way up to the king of Denmark, magic may be the only thing that can save her—if it doesn’t kill her first.

Thoughts:

I first have to thank the publisher, HMH Books for Young Readers for providing me with an e-arc of Splinters of Scarlet in exchange for an honest review.

I really enjoyed this book and the magic system the author created. One of the things that I found really interesting were the ways in which the author took an actual period in Denmark’s history, complete with actual historical characters such as Hans Christian Andersen and King Christian IX and used them to incorporate into the magical world she was building with her fictional characters. I especially enjoyed that not only were these real life people mentioned, but that they actually interacted with the main characters of the story and even helped to fuel the motivations and actions of the characters.

Most readers and fans of fictional worlds with a magical system will be familiar with the concept that “magic comes with a price”, something which holds true in this book as well. In Splinters of Scarlet, those who have magic and use it, do so knowing that the price they will pay is to have their veins slowly fill with the ice build up of the Firn until it finally kills them. The main character Marit, makes every attempt to use her magic, a type of thread magic that enables her to make beautiful clothing far beyond a simple seamstresses ability, as sparingly as possible so as not to succumb to the inevitable. Unfortunately though, Marit finds herself having to use her magic more and more in order to ensure that fellow orphan Eve, whom Marit views as a younger sister, remains safe within her new adoptive life.

Marit was an interesting and complex character who quickly lodged herself within my heart. I loved seeing Marit opening up and learning to trust other people as she got to know the other servants in Helene Vestergaard’s home. It was wonderful how with slowly allowing herself to give and receive trust and friendship that she was able to find a family like she’d never known before and the lengths to which they would all go to to save one another from something that went beyond any of their imaginings.

Although this story got off to a bit of a slow start for me, I found that things really started to pick up once Eve and Marit arrived at the Vestergaard house and Marit began to uncover the truth about what actually happened to her father all those years before in the Vestergaard mine. As Marit drew closer to the truth and the book drew closer to it’s chilling climax, I found myself unable to put the book down for even a moment. This book was so beautiful in it’s writing and descriptions that I was sad when the book came to an end and I had to leave this magical world.

The book releases this Tuesday, July 21st. Be sure to get a copy for yourself, links are included below.

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Mayhem by Estelle Laure Review

Publisher: Wednesday Books
Genre: Young Adult, Magical Realism
Rating: ✈️ ✈️ out of ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️

Blurb

The Lost Boys meets Wilder Girls in this supernatural feminist YA novel.

It’s 1987 and unfortunately it’s not all Madonna and cherry lip balm. Mayhem Brayburn has always known there was something off about her and her mother, Roxy. Maybe it has to do with Roxy’s constant physical pain, or maybe with Mayhem’s own irresistible pull to water. Either way, she knows they aren’t like everyone else.

But when May’s stepfather finally goes too far, Roxy and Mayhem flee to Santa Maria, California, the coastal beach town that holds the answers to all of Mayhem’s questions about who her mother is, her estranged family, and the mysteries of her own self. There she meets the kids who live with her aunt, and it opens the door to the magic that runs through the female lineage in her family, the very magic Mayhem is next in line to inherit and which will change her life for good.

But when she gets wrapped up in the search for the man who has been kidnapping girls from the beach, her life takes another dangerous turn and she is forced to face the price of vigilante justice and to ask herself whether revenge is worth the cost.

From the acclaimed author of This Raging Light and But Then I Came Back, Estelle Laure offers a riveting and complex story with magical elements about a family of women contending with what appears to be an irreversible destiny, taking control and saying when enough is enough.

Review

I must first thank Wednesday Books for reaching out and providing me with a free e-ARC of Mayhem in exchange for an honest review.

As I excited as I was to read Mayhem because the blurb sounded like something that would be right up my alley for I love The Lost Boys, so how could I not like a book that was inspired by those two movies? What should’ve been an amazing story, complete with a kick butt heroine, sadly did not live up to my hopes and expectations for the book and I was thus left disappointed.

There were two main things that led to my lackluster feelings. One had to do with just how much the author “borrowed” from The Lost Boys. The insertion of the Frog Brothers and their discussion about vampires along with the shirtless playing Sax-man came across more as direct lifting of the characters versus creating new characters inspired by these well known characters from the film. I would’ve rather the author either re-imagine these characters in a new way rather than directly replicate them or leave them out altogether as they didn’t even serve any real purpose to the story that was being told.

The other issue I had with this book, which was in many ways the larger of the issues, was how slow the story moved. The pacing was slow to the point that I found myself nodding off more than once while reading this book. The book didn’t finally start to pick up until it was more than halfway through. Once it did pick up the pendulum shifted to the opposite end of the spectrum where it went from moving at a snail’s pace to lightning speed. I couldn’t help but feel like the author had gotten a point where they themselves were over the story and just wanted to reach the end as quickly as possible. This extreme change in pacing left me feeling as though I had missed something along the way, or even that there was a key part of the book that had been taken out from the story.

There were a couple positive reactions, which kept me from rating it a 1, I had in regards to the book. I found the back story of the Brayburn women and how they came by their powers to quite interesting. I also enjoyed Mayhem’s step-father finally getting his comeuppance, thus allowing Mayhem and her Mom to break away from him once and for all.

Unfortunately, there just weren’t enough positives for me to rate this book any higher than a 2 out of 5. I feel like the book was rushed and that the author should’ve taken more time to fully flesh out the story in order to avoid the exact duplication of characters from a well known 80’s film.

Trigger Warnings: Rape, Violence, Domestic Abuse, Murder, Drug use, Suicide

COVER REVEAL — Caught Up In You by Claire Hastings

Title: Caught Up In You
Series: Indigo Royal Resort #2
Author: Claire Hastings
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Cover Design: Cover Couture
Release Date: August 24, 2020

Blurb

Leona Filipe loves her job. As the head of housekeeping at the luxurious Indigo Royal Resort on St. Thomas, USVI, she has seen it all and has the wild stories to prove it. She works with her best friends, is close enough to see her family often, and has the perfect friends-with-benefits relationship. Life is pretty damn amazing. Except for the two weeks each year that Cullen Cruz stays at the resort. He is the only man who can get under her skin. But that is all he’s getting under. She made that mistake years ago, and it will never happen again.

Fresh off the news of his “retirement” from football, Cullen Cruz cannot wait to get to the Indigo Royal for his annual retreat before returning to England to figure out what’s next. Only this year, it’s been turned into a “working vacation” by his agent, who volunteered Cullen to run a skills camp for local kids. While that wouldn’t normally sit well, extending the trip to teach some kids how to kick a ball does mean two more weeks getting to see the woman he hasn’t been able to stop thinking about since their first, and last, encounter ten years ago.

When fate forces these two to confront what happened between them that night all those years ago, they find that there is more to each other than they realized, and that maybe they don’t annoy each other as much as they thought…


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My review of Can’t Fight This Feeling

AUTHOR BIO

Claire Hastings is a walking, talking awkward moment. She loves Diet Coke, gummi bears, the beach, and books (obvs). When not reading she can usually be found hanging with friends at a soccer match or grabbing food (although she probably still has a book in her purse). She and her husband live in Atlanta with their fur-child Denali.


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“Can’t Fight This Feeling” the Perfect Romance Read During a Pandemic Book Review

Author: Claire Hastings

Publication Date: May 4, 2020

Genre: Romance

Rating: ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ out of ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️

Official Synopsis/Blurb:

From debut author, Claire Hastings, comes a fresh, fun, and unputdownable romance where having a crush on your best friend isn’t the biggest secret at the Indigo Royal!

For as long as Kyle Egan can remember, he has wanted only one thing: to run his own boat charter company. Not that he has much to complain about, as the lead charter boat captain at the Indigo Royal Resort in St. Thomas USVI. He gets to spend his days out on the water, never has to wear a tie, and works alongside his best friend, Drea Miller, who happens to be the only other thing he wants.

Drea Miller has been crushing on her best friend Kyle since the moment she saw him five years ago. Unfortunately, she is fully aware that he doesn’t see her as more than a friend – oh, and the niece of his bosses. Working for the family-owned resort with her three annoyingly overprotective uncles has always been what she wanted, but lately she’s started to wonder what else life might hold. If she can’t have the guy she wants, maybe it’s time that she makes another dream a reality.

When an encounter with a guest brings out the truth, Kyle and Drea are left trying to navigate their feelings, but can their new love survive a revelation they never saw coming?

Thoughts:

First I must thank both Claire and her PR team for providing me with an ARC of Can’t Fight This Feeling along with all of the promotional material. Second, I will be perfectly honest and admit that I am both an old friend and sorority sister of Claire’s; but, despite my affiliation with the author, my thoughts and feelings about this book are completely my own and I received no compensation whatsoever for my rating or review of Claire’s debut. With all that being said, the third thing I must say is that I am not, nor have I ever considered myself to be a romance reader; but, like any good friend I agreed to give my friend’s book a read.

Claire first shared with myself, and another of our dear sorority sisters and friends, about her upcoming book a couple weeks before the end of March. In all honesty, I was in no way surprised when she said that she had written a book, nor was I surprised that I guessed that it was a romance correctly. Immediately upon offering me an advance copy of it, Claire did admit that she knows that “Romance” is not my go to when it comes to reading, but I promised her I would read it with an open mind because she’s one of my best friends, and in all honesty I was intrigued.

The thing that did surprise me however, was just how much I would enjoy this book and find it hard to step away from. The blurb says that this is an unputdownable book, and that statement is perfectly correct. The only reason why I myself put it down was due to the requirement of charging my e-reader when I got down to less than 10%, thus it took me a couple days to read this.

As I’ve previously stated, prior to reading Can’t Fight This Feeling, I would’ve never classified myself as a “reader” or the Romance genre. I’d read a “romance” or “chick-lit” book, a la Bridget Jones’s Diary, every once in awhile, but never with such fervor as I did this book to say I both enjoyed the genre and wanted to read more books within that realm. Needless to say, Claire’s book, along with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that’s wrecking havoc throughout the world, has changed my views and feelings towards romance. Since finishing Claire’s book, I’m all for romance and finding true and lasting love.

Some of the things I loved about Claire’s book are how relatable the characters are. Reading of Drea’s relationship with Kyle made me reflect on the crush I had on my best guy friend when we were in college, and no we did not end up together for those who are wondering, but aside from connecting with Drea on that level I found that I was just as able to recognize aspects of myself in the other characters in Drea’s life like her family and their fierce love and loyalty to one another. I also loved all of the 80’s music references throughout the book, most of the songs are ones I can recall dancing and singing along to over the years, they’re the songs that beg for you to let go and just have fun even it’s just for that brief moment. There were many times throughout this book when I found myself laughing out loud so hard that I almost fell off the couch and caused both my dog and my Mom to look at me out of concern that I had lost my mind.

Claire has managed to craft together a wonderfully human story of friends becoming lovers without going over the top or making anything too extravagant or over the top. One of my absolute favorite parts of the book is when Drea and Kyle go to Puerto Rico and Drea shares with Kyle all the details about how exactly it was that her parents died when she was an infant. That particular moment was so real and pulled at my heart strings to the point that I completely forgot I was reading about fictional characters and a fictional incident. Finally learning this key piece of information and truly understanding just how much it had affected Drea’s life, I felt much like Kyle in that moment in that I never wanted Drea to ever experience pain or sadness ever again and I hoped with all of my heart that Kyle would be able to ensure that for Drea.

The one piece of negative feedback that I provided Claire with upon finishing the book (of which I’m more than likely in the minority about), was that despite Drea’s story being so sad, she still didn’t fully bring me to tears. I teared up reading it yes, but I wanted for the writing to take that extra step and push me over the edge into full blown tears sliding down my face; she knows this and has promised me she’ll work on that for me. Aside from this very minuscule fact, I absolutely loved this book and I can’t read to read the next one in the series. As someone who has managed to become jaded when it comes to all things related to relationships and long-lasting love, Claire has managed to give me hope that love and happily ever after do exist and that I myself may even find it one day.

I can’t recommend this start to a wonderfully promising debut enough, so be sure to check it out for yourself:

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Add to Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/51982979-can-t-fight-this-feeling

Upcoming Titles in series:

CAUGHT UP IN YOU (Indigo Royal Book 2)

Add to Goodreads Shelf: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/53309026-caught-up-in-you 

WHAT I LIKE ABOUT YOU (Indigo Royal Book 3)

“Wicked As You Wish” A Book That Spoke to My Love of All Things Myth, Fairy Tale, and Folklore Book Review

Author: Rin Chupeco

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Rating: ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️.5 out of ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️

Synopsis:

Wicked As You Wish is a wonderfully diverse book that introduces readers to an alternate history and America in which the fairy tales and folklore that many of us have grown up with are real. In this reality, such legendary literary characters and items as Alice in Wonderland, Koschei the Deathless, the Firebird and Excalibur are all real. Not only does Chupeco manage to bring together all of these pieces of fairy tale and folklore in an imaginative way that works rather well.

The story centers around Prince Alexei, the last member of the royal family of Avalon who has been in hiding since he was a small child when the Snow Queen attacked his country and killed his parents. Since the infamous attack, Alexei has been in hiding, moving around from protector family to protector family. Currently, Alexei finds himself residing in a small town in Arizona that is devoid of magic and where his best friend, Tala, and her family work to keep him safe as they await for the arrival of the Firebird and the eventual return to Avalon to take on the Snow Queen and reclaim the throne.

Thoughts:

Wicked As You Wish was one of my most highly anticipated reads of the year and I’m beyond thrilled that after reading it not only lived up to, but exceeded my expectations. As a life long fan and lover of all things mythology, folklore and fairy tale I was drawn to the book upon first reading the book’s description. This book spoke to my unyielding love of the various stories I grew up reading and studying.

One of the things I have always loved about Rin Chupeco’s writing and world building is how in depth and imaginative her world building is. In this particular book, she not only worked to combine the more popular western stories that many are familiar with, but she also worked to incorporate lesser known stories in her world. Her world was further brought to life through her diverse cast of characters. Not only did her characters represent a range of ethnic diversity, but she also included characters who were diverse in their sexual orientation as well as characters with cultural diversity.

I also loved the commentary, about such hot topics as the immigration debate in the United States, that she introduced in the book. The United States, known as the Royal States of America, is ruled by a tyrant king who wants to harness spelltech from other countries and makes use of ICE agents to not only help in capturing immigrants suspected of having magic, but also persecuting them as terrorists if they refuse to cooperate. Her referencing children being held in cages and separated from their parents at detention centers made for an imaginative way of incorporating real world events that we’ve seen in the last few years into an imaginary alternate world.

While I know that many readers have expressed difficulty in following along with story as she introduces a lot of information and characters in a relatively short amount of time, I found that none of this hindered my reading experience or detracted from my love of the story. I will admit that it is a much more complex and densely packed story that her The Bone Witch series, and the world building is many more layers than her previous series, but once you get into the rhythm of it, the payoff of an amazing story that’s not only original but well told is worth it.

For those looking to dive into this one, I would probably caution that it would be a good idea to read her The Bone Witch series to get an idea of how complex of a world she can create and to get a feel for her writing style. I would also highly recommend brushing up on your basic folklore and fairy tales, at least from Western civilization if only to help follow characters and the storyline easier.

As for me, I can’t wait to brush up on my own knowledge of the various stories that are out there that may be brought into the picture in the next book. I also plan on buying a copy of this book (I read a library copy) so that I can read it again and make notes as I make my way through. There’s so much to take in, that I know I missed things and look forward to picking up on them with subsequent reads. Besides, doing this will help me pass the time as I anxiously await the next book in the series since I did not see the ending coming at all.

A note on the rating:

Deducted half a point off a perfect rating due to what I felt was a bit of a slow start to the story. Once the story really got going, it not only grabbed a hold of me but it refused to let go until I had finished.

Trigger warning: Mention of sexual abuse against a child, children separated from parents and held in cages

If you’d like to get a copy of this book for yourself and help Independent Bookstores while you’re at it, then be sure to check out my Bookshop Page* http://bookshop.com/shop/ReadingStewardess

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“Pride” a Reimagining of “Pride and Prejudice” Book Review

Author: Ibi Zoboi

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary

Rating: ✈️ 1/2 out of ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️

Synopsis:

Ibi Zoboi takes Jane Austen’s classic Pride and Prejudice out of its Regency Era English setting and moves it to modern day Brooklyn, New York. Zuri Benitez has deep running pride in her Afro-Latino roots as well as where she comes from, both her neighborhood and family alike. Zuri’s pride runs so deep that she finds herself having difficulty coming to terms with the gentrification her neighborhood is going through to the point this upheaval of her life as she knows it is the focus of her essay topic for her college application.

With the arrival of the wealthy Darcy family moving in across the street, Zuri finds herself butting heads with Darius whom she finds to be arrogant and judgmental. As the two find themselves being forced to interact and learn that they have more in common than they’d like to admit, Zuri finds her world being broadened and her previous conceived notions of others thrown upside down.

Thoughts:

I will be the first to admit that I am not a fan of Pride and Prejudice. I think it’s an all right story, but I fail to understand why so many people love the story as much as they do. Personally, I find Austen’s novel Persuasion to be a much better story, but that is beside the point. Despite my general disregard for Austen’s classic, I decided to give this retelling a try. In the end I’m rather upset with myself for bothering.

I found that reading Zoboi’s story made me dislike Zuri far more than I ever disliked Elizabeth Bennett. For me, Zuri was far too self-righteous in her thinking of and treatment of Blacks who were more privileged than her, to the point she reminded me of actual interactions I’ve had with other Blacks when I was in high school and college. I spent a large amount of time yelling at Zuri that there is no right way to be Black. It annoyed me to no end that just because Darius and his family were well educated, well spoken and wealthy that it meant that they had no respect for the African-American experience or their history within the dialogue. The fact that Zuri refused to broaden her horizons and is proud of the fact that she doesn’t feel the need to learn more or interact with other groups of people, and yet her dream is to go to Howard. Zuri was not only overly judgmental, but she was a complete hyprocrite, rude, was prejudiced and did nothing but bitch and moan throughout the entire book.

The one good thing this book did for me was the fact that it actually made me like Pride and Prejudice a whole lot more than I did prior to reading this. I feel like if Jane Austen were alive she’d be sorely pissed at this take on her classic. Needless to say, I did not keep this book, but rather gave it to a friend who wanted to read it.

Trigger Warning: Mention of sexual assault

“The German Heiress” Book Review

Author: Anika Scott

Publisher: William Morrow

Publication Date: April 7, 2020

Genre: Historical Fiction

Rating: ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ out of ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️

Synopsis:

It’s been two years since World War II came to an end and German heiress, Clara Falkenberg, finds herself living and hiding under a false identity in Hamelin, Germany. With lingering questions about her family and their true work during the war, Clara returns to her home in Essen where she hopes to seek shelter with her friend, Elisa.

Following a disastrous encounter with Fenshaw, a British officer who is set on arresting her for war crimes, Clara returns home to discover the Essen a city in ruin and both Elisa and Elisa’s son, Willy, missing. Working to discover what happened to Elisa and Willy, while continuing to evade Fenshaw, Clara teams up with an injured former German soldier, Jakob.

As Fenshaw draws closer to capturing her, Clara finds herself being faced with harsh realities about her family and their secrets that even she isn’t truly prepared for.

Thoughts:

First I must thank both Goodreads and publisher, William Morrow for the advance reader’s edition of Anika Scott’s debut novel.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it’s look at post-WWII Germany. I found it to be an engaging read that looked at what German’s went through following the end of the war, from those who were avowed Nazis and managed to escape capture by creating new identities, to those who’s Nazi affiliation is questionable but were still subject to being tried for war crimes, to those who served as soldiers solely because it was required of male German citizens. I found that Scott did a wonderful job of weaving in the historical facts of life in Germany following the war’s end with Clara’s search for Elisa and Willy.

As Clara dug deeper into her friendship with Elisa and her family’s status and work with the Third Reich, I found that I was never confident about how things would end for the characters. Although I was able to foresee some of the eventual outcomes of the story, I was pleasantly surprised and satisfied with the exact ending of the book.

In a market of market of of historical fiction that at times can seem to be over saturated with books about World War II, it was refreshing to read a different take on the history that I as an American know it. I enjoyed reading about and being forced to think about life following the war from the perspective of German citizens. This was a well researched book that I think would make for an engaging book club read and discussion.

Trigger Warning: Brief description of animal cruelty

Oh How I Love My Independent Bookstore

Denver’s LoDo Location of Tattered Cover Bookstore


With more and more businesses, both large and small, having to close their doors for an unknown amount of time due to COVID-19/Coronavirus, I wanted to do what I could to show my support of my much loved local Independent Bookstore, Tattered Cover. Tattered Cover has been a Denver establishment since 1971 and has seen many changes in its 49 year history. They’ve seen various locations open and close around the Denver area, including plans to open up a fifth location in Westminster, Colorado. Original owner and founder Joyce Meskis announced her plans to retire and turn the store over to current owners Author Len Vlahos and his wife, Kristen Gilligan. A complete look at the amazing history of Tattered Cover can be found on their website.

Having long been a reader and lover of books and bookstores, I finally began frequenting Tattered Cover about 11 years ago after moving to Denver and attending my first, of what has become many, author event. Since that first event, I’ve had the pleasure to meet and get to know many of my favorite authors over the years.

Me and my Mom with author, Jessica Brody at 2017 Tattered Cover YA Happy Hour.

I got to spend an evening listening to frequent Tattered Cover visitor, author Kiersten White, discuss her final book in the Slayer duology.

In 2016, Tattered Cover hosted their first ever YA Happy Hour and Teen Book Con. It was at the 2016 YA Happy Hour where I got to meet two new to me authors who’s books I had enjoyed, Sharon Cameron and Cat Winters.

Me and author, Sharon Cameron at the 2016 Tattered Cover YA Happy Hour.

Me with award winning author Cat Winters.

It’s because of Tattered Cover and the book community they’ve fostered that I’ve met my dear friend Janice with whom I attend author events with, try to get together for monthly brunch and/or dinner outings and even go on hiking adventures with our dogs. Tattered Cover further introduced me to New York Times Bestselling Author, Chris Bohjalian and subsequently made it possible for me to be a part of his book tour for his 2018 novel, The Flight Attendant.

Chris and I celebrate the release of his book, The Flight Attendant.

There was once a time, not too long ago, where Independent Bookstores were disappearing and being forced to close their doors to bigger chain bookstores and online retailers. Many readers found themselves without a local bookstore through which they could support their community and be offered an opportunity to meet their favorite authors. It’s really only been in the last decade or so that independent bookstores began to make a comeback and we started to see once struggling ones rebound and even new ones being established. Once again we find ourselves at the crossroads of many of our local bookstores facing going out of business due to the pandemic. I for one, do not want to see this happen and will do what I can to support both my local indie and to put money back into the community.

Unfortunately, I’m only one person who finds myself having to tighten my purse strings and so I can’t support them on my own. Thus, it is because of my love for not only Tattered Cover, but all independent bookstores and the people who work there that I’m calling on my fellow readers to do what you can to help them weather the storm.

Many of our favorite Indies are offering unprecedented savings on shipping right now. For those who prefer an audiobook, Libro.fm is a wonderful option. Libro.fm not only provides you with immediate access to your next great listen, but for only $14.99 a month you’ll be able to select from over 150,000 books and the entire payment amount goes to your local bookstore. If, like many of us are, you find that you’re having to tighten your purse strings, you can still help your local Indie by talking about them and how to support them through your various social media channels, much as I’m doing with my blog post. Commenting on their posts and liking their posts further helps them out by raising their visibility numbers.

We all recognize that this is a difficult and unprecedented time, but by joining together we not only can, but we will and we must come through this as a collective whole. I think author, Ibram X. Kendi said it best when he reminded us: “As we practice social distancing, let’s not distance ourselves from books. They will keep us company and connect us back to people, back to society.”

“The Red Lotus” Book Review, or Reading a Book About a Plague During the Coronavirus

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Author: Chris Bohjalian

Publisher: Doubleday Books

Publication Date: March 17, 2020

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller

Rating: ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️.5 out of ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️

Synopsis:

New York Times best selling author, Chris Bohjalian, is back at it again;  this time he’s taking readers on a roller coaster of a ride about the possibility of a man-made plague being inadvertently let loose and the havoc it will subsequently wreck amongst the world population. Amid a possible contagion, the reader is introduced to ER doctor Alexis and her boyfriend Austin, a cycling enthusiast who happens to work at the same hospital as her in the research department. What begins as a beautiful and sentimental trip to Vietnam to enjoy cycling through the countryside and subsequently allow Austin an opportunity to visit the parts of Vietnam where his father and uncle served during the war, Alexis soon finds herself searching for her boyfriend who has disappeared on a solo ride.

With Austin’s body finally being found following what on the surface appears to be a simple case of hit and run, Alexis can’t help but tap into her instincts as an emergency room doctor of asking numerous questions when not all the wounds found on Austin’s body match up with those one would expect to find following a collision between a vehicle and a person on a bike. Returning to the States, Alexis continues to question not only what really happened to Austin, but why he told her the lies he did and whether he truly cared for her and her for him.

Thoughts:

First, I must thank both my friend Chris and his publisher, Doubleday, for providing me with an advance readers copy of The Red Lotus. Second, I must further thank Chris for writing an all too timely novel that I know he had no thoughts of it being so when he was writing it.

The Red Lotus got off to a bit of a slow start for me, thus the 4.5 rating versus a 5 rating, I think this was due in no small part to two factors: Bohjalian’s previous novel, The Flight Attendant, shot straight out of the gate and the roller coaster was on a continuous uphill climactic climb until it finally reached its zenith and hurtled to its satisfying conclusion; and knowing that this was a book that dealt with a plague, I expected the plague to be a bigger entity than it ultimately proved to be. I found that once Austin’s body was found, and Alexis returned to the States with more questions than she had answers for that things really took off for me.

One of the things that I loved the most about this book, and about Bohjalian’s writing overall, is how well written his stories are and the way in which he presents the information to the reader. With alternating viewpoints between Alexis and an anonymous narrator, the reader is left guessing about everything until the very end. Bohjalian continues to prove time and time again that he is a master when it comes to writing stories about vulnerable, flawed women who the reader can’t help but root and even at times sympathize with; and Alexis is no different in this regard. I must that reading this book as daily reports about COVID-19 or Coronavirus continue to pour in made reading it that much more harrowing and timelier. I found myself unable to set it down in hopes that much more harrowing and timelier. I found myself unable to set it down in hopes that Mr. Bohjalian would’ve inadvertently provided scientists with the cure to COVID-19, *spoiler alert: he doesn’t.

Despite my hope that Chris Bohjalian would have inadvertently come up with a cure for the current pandemic running rampant throughout the world, I found myself strangely fascinated by all the knowledge and research Bohjalian was kind enough to share with me, the reader, about rats. I, along with many people, have long known that rats are used in medical experiments to assist in finding cures and treatments for a variety of diseases and illnesses. I did not however know much of the information about rats and the inherent differences they have from mice. I mean, do you know what a “Rat-King” is? I for one did not, but you better believe I learned this fact, as will you when you read the book.

Recommendation:

This is a book I would recommend to current readers of Chris Bohjalian’s, both new and old. I would also highly recommend anyone who enjoys or currently finds themselves on an end of the world due to a pandemic reading kick. This is also a wonderful pick for mystery and thriller lovers alike, plus for those who are participating in the 2020 Read Harder Challenge by Bookriot, this book works perfectly for the third prompt: Read a mystery where the victim(s) is not a woman.

TW: Death, Self-harm

 

“Kingdom of Souls” Book Review

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Author: Rena Barron

Publisher: HarperTeen

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Rating: ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ 1/2 out of ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️

Synopsis:

Rena Barron’s debut novel tells the story of Arrah. The daughter and granddaughter of powerful witchdoctors, Arrah finds herself disappointed year after year as she continues to fail to be able to call upon the powers with which her family has been blessed with. Having accepted the fact that she will never have powers of her own and she will forever be a disappointment to her mother, Arrah resigns herself to her fate. It’s not until the children of the kingdom begin to disappear that Arrah decides she must do that which she has sworn never to do, trade years of her life for magic in order to find and hopefully safe the missing children.

Having become a charlatan, Arrah is presented with something far more horrific than she could’ve ever imagined. Finding herself in the midst of a battle that has long been brewing, Arrah must fight both for and against those she loves if she has any hope of saving the kingdom and neighboring tribes from total destruction.

Thoughts:

When talk about Kingdom of Souls first began circulating on Twitter and Bookstagram, I have to admit, it didn’t appeal to me. Although the cover is stunning and the book features a Black female protagonist, with a supporting cast of Black characters, it just wasn’t speaking to me and I didn’t feel the need to read it. It wasn’t until I learned that Michael B. Jordan had optioned the film rights for it that I decided I should maybe read the book and see what all the hype was about.

I picked this book up with an open mind but low expectations, as with many readers, I’ve read highly rated books only to be disappointed upon reading it for myself. Well, I’m happy to say that for once, all the hype was worth it. Not only is Kingdom of Souls an amazing book, but it drew me in from the beginning. Like any good roller coaster ride, the story shoots out of the gate and begins a slow climb to the top of the first drop, from that drop the story just continued to hurtle up and down hills and through loops all at breakneck speed. I love that I was kept guessing as to what was really going on and why. As for the twist towards the end of the book, although I did not see it coming when I first started the book, and was kept in the dark for most of the book, I did figure it out about two pages before it was actually revealed. But man, even with figuring out the twist, I still couldn’t believe it when I actually read it.

Rena Barron has created a highly engaging and imaginative young adult novel that incorporates West African belief while showcasing a female protagonist who is powerful in her own unique way, even without magic, and who battles constantly with the love she feels for her mother while not wanting to disappoint her all at the same time. Having read this book, I understand why Michael B. Jordan was drawn to this story and has optioned the film rights, the story is beautifully written and empowering all at once. I cannot wait to read next book and to see this series brought to the screen.