Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye

D0A3F37D-AFAB-48B2-8787-5970882B1A58I was sucked into Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye with the first sentence. “Of all my many murders committed for love and better reasons, the first was the most important.” Jane Steele is the tougher version of Jane Eyre. Jane Steele is what Jane Eyre would be when called evil. Jane Steele is promoted as a gothic retelling of Jane Eyre. While many of the events and places were similar to Jane Eyre, and the slow, descriptive writing was similar, I felt that Jane Steele was a much different reading experience. 

Jane takes her happiness in her own hands. She is funny and had me laughing out loud many times. She is a protector and though also a murderess, she loves people with her whole heart. This book had me not only laughing out loud but tearing up and gasping in surprise. 

I don’t want to say to much because I think the reading experience is so much more fun when you can enjoy all the surprises. I will say there is a mystery included and I also learned about the British East India Company in 1845, and did deeper research on Punjab and the Sikh empire. 

I loved this book and want to tell everyone to read it, especially those who did not like Jane Eyre

An Artless Demise by Anna Lee Huber

72D7B622-CA87-4060-A0F0-AED39CFE4288In An Artless Demise, the 7th book in the Lady Darby series by Anna Lee Huber, Kiera and Gage have returned to London. Kiera’s past is brought front and center when a gang of body snatchers are arrested for killing people and selling their bodies to medical schools. Kiera and Gage are also asked to investigate the murders of young men of nobility. Are these murders related to the trial going on with the body snatchers? 

This is a historical fiction mystery and I found the history and the mystery fascinating. The Italian Boy murder and the resurrectionists trial did happen in 1831 and I really enjoyed learning about this moment in history as told in this fictional mystery. I also loved reading about the affect that this time period had on society.

Many people judge Kiera because of her past. They talk bout her, say unkind things, make assumptions, some don’t include her. I like the look into what that feels like for a person to go through. I learned from those who saw her for herself and not her past and were kind to her. Kiera is so worried about how her scandal affects Gage and her friends and family. But they stand by her and let her know she is not alone.

The history in An Artless Demise pulled me into the story, the mystery hooked me and the look at society and the affects of how we treat others kept me enthralled. 

My copy of An Artless Demise was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

The Summer We Lost Her by Tish Cohen

1C74CB31-99EC-4DBF-AA15-8BC339011BD5The Summer We Lost Her by Tish Cohen is a family drama, with a bit of mystery, centered around the Sorensen family. Matt is a Manhattan lawyer from a very prominent family in Lake Placid, New York. Elise is a competitive dressage rider with her sights on the Olympics. Together they have a young daughter, Gracie, who has disability. When they go to Lake Placid to sell some family property to help finance Elise’s Olympic goals they find their time spent there will either save their marriage or end it. 

Elise and Matt are from two very different worlds and The Summer We Lost Her shows how that affects the way they see things and their place in the world. There were many times when this couple frustrated me. They are both very flawed people who both have to come to terms with the past and the demons that have followed them. Though they frustrated me I did find myself engaged and rooting for them. I enjoyed watching as different realizations came to each of them. 

I enjoyed learning more about the sport of dressage and the time, money, and sacrifice that goes into Olympic goals. And the conflict of such an athlete who is also a wife and a mother. 

While in Lake Placid, Matt and Elise’s daughter, Gracie, disappears. I wanted to know who took Gracie, and whether or not she would be found. The answer did surprise me and was something I did not see coming. I felt though that the story was more about how Matt and Elise handled such an awful time rather than about what happened to Gracie. They each handled the tragedy differently and their upbringing and past experiences are shown to contribute to how they handled things and I found that look into their lives very fascinating. 

This is a family drama that I really enjoyed. I enjoyed the look into the complications in a family and also the forgiveness that a family needs to have. Though there were a couple of times that forgiveness came a bit to quickly and easily to make it feel realistic, I did feel the author handled it in a way that I could buy. The story also shows development of self worth and how that worth changes the way you look at life.

My copy of The Summer We Lost Her was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Silence in Hanover Close by Anne Perry

DA735B44-2ACF-4A90-9323-917AF5832859I think the ninth book in the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series, Silence in Hanover Close, by Anne Perry is my favorite book in the series at this point. Inspector Pitt is asked to reopen a three-year-old murder. As often happens in this series, Pitt’s wife, Charlotte,  involves herself and her sister, Emily,  in the investigation against her husbands wishes. This book takes a few different turns in that investigation than other books displayed which made it a really fun read. 

I really loved Thomas, Charlotte and Emily in this book. They each in their own and different from one another ways, learned and grew. They began to see the world in which they live and function in a different way and learned more about people not just like them. 

As always the Victorian London setting was vivid in descriptions and Perry is great at describing everything in a way that is easy to picture. The ending of the mystery took me completely by surprise and was not at all what I was imagining would happen. 

As this book is part of a series with many recurring characters I do think it is helpful to have read the earlier books to understand some of the things that have happened to the characters but it probably isn’t necessary. The plot isn’t affected by past readings of the series but you do gain more understanding of the characters.

The Accidental Beauty Queen by Teri Wilson

6E332FAE-925C-4D49-A760-65DA125BF143This book was so much fun! It was funny and had me laughing out loud.  Though parts were super cheesy, in this case I felt like it had to be or it wouldn’t have been as good of a book. It also had way more substance than I was expecting.

Themes of losing a parent, beauty pageants, acceptance, twins, body image, prejudices.

I listened to the audiobook which I think really added to how much fun the book was.

Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras

9F16FB87-737B-4D0F-BE34-0C450CE95A72Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras is the story of a young girl, Chula, and her family living in Columbia, along with their maid, Petrona. The story of their lives living in a very turbulent Columbia during the time of drug lord, Pablo Escobar and constant guerrilla terror is told in the perspectives of Chula and Petrona. Chula and her family live in a home in a gated community, Chula’s Father has a job, she goes to school, she has a supportive mother and sister. Petrona has lost her father and many of her brothers. She is the sole supporter for her family who live in poverty and includes a sick mother and several young siblings. Through the two perspectives we see how the lives of those with money and those in poverty were different and yet also the same during difficult circumstances such as car bombings, recruitments to gangs or guerrilla organizations, murders, kidnappings and betrayals.

For me the setting of Columbia was a huge part of this book. There was much I learned about Columbia and I did more research on Columbia while reading this book. The events spoken of in the book are actual events. The author grew up in Columbia and experienced many of the things spoken of and I think that is what made so many of the details of Columbia and these events seem so real to me. The writing was descriptive enough for me to get a complete picture but not so descriptive that the characters became lost. 

I really loved the character of Chula and as the story of her life unfolds we see how Columbia not only made her into the person she is by the end of the story but we understand why that is. I did sometimes struggle with the differences in how Petrona was portrayed in Chula’s narration and then when Petrona narrated. She didn’t always seem like the same person but that might have been done on purpose to show that Chula did not know everything about the family maid. 

I really enjoyed this book about fear, love, guilt, and survival. It helped me to understand people who live in a dangerous country and the things that they go through every day. 

My copy of Fruit of the Drunken Tree was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Unmarriageable by Sonia Kamal

C5E49668-5BE2-4463-9A06-9E8F629BC41AUnmarriageable by Sonia Kamal is a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen set in Pakistan. The plot follows Pride and Prejudice almost exactly. 

I felt there was a difference in the character’s personalities but unfortunately that difference was not good for me. I did not like Alys (Elizabeth) for most of the book, she felt uptight and so forceful of her opinion on marriage and women that I just didn’t care for her at all. I understood that the author was sharing her views on the culture of women and marriage but unlike the more subtle way Austen shares those themes I felt like the views were being told and shown to me. I generally prefer to discover on my own when reading rather than having things spelled out to me. Though I love many of the characters in Pride and Prejudice, I can’t think of any character that I liked in Unmarriageable. The Binat sisters were so horribly mean to one another that I cringed whenever they were around. There was also so many rude comments from every character that I came away wondering if that really is the way people speak to each other in Pakistan and if so, I now have no desire to ever go there. There also seemed to be a big focus on the way people looked, from weight to clothes. The author did try to resolve some of the weight focus at the end but by then it was to hard to get the theme of, you have to look perfect to be of any worth, out of my head. 

The setting of Pakistan was what made the book for me. I found the details of life in modern upper class Pakistan fascinating. I have never read anything in such a setting and came away with a very different view and perspective of Pakistan. I listened to the audiobook which is read by the author and I’m really glad I did because it feel much more like a Pakistanian experience than if I was reading it. 

Reading this retelling of Pride and Prejudice set in a different time and culture helped me to see that so many of life’s challenges and themes are universally the same. I loved the reminder that we often have more in common with people different than ourselves than we think.

 I received a copy of Unmarriageable from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

The Reckless Oath We Made by Bryn Greenwood

2AC9F84C-1D4E-4415-A45F-61669B4F3C0DThough The Reckless Oath We Made by Bryn Greenwood is told with multiple narrators, I thought it was the story of a young woman, Zhorzha, who has a temper, a messed up hip from an accident, bills to pay, a housebound hoarder mother, and no home, so she stays with whoever she can until they get tired of her. Then her life gets even more complicated when her sister is kidnapped while volunteering at a prison by two inmates. Zee then adds to her list, care for her five year old nephew and trying to get her sister back, which becomes more difficult when she loses her job, can’t stay at her sister’s and the police take her car. Help comes to Zee in an unlikely form. Her stalker. Gentry is an autistic young man who hears voices that guide him and tell him what to do. He also is a knight who speaks only in Medieval Middle English. Two years ago the voices told him to be Zee’s champion. So Gentry has been following Zee around with the only purpose being to serve her. 

I quickly found myself rooting for Zee. She has had a hard life to navigate. Things have never been easy for her and many of her decisions come because of her childhood and the affects that has had on her. She is tough and has a terrible temper and cusses up a storm which are all qualities that usually turn me off on a character. But I understood why she was the way she was and though I cringed at some of her decisions and felt so bad for her, I just wanted so badly for her to learn from life and her past and have her life become better. 

Gentry was the perfect character. I’m not sure I have ever read a character like him before. He is not his autism. It is not him but what makes him who he is. It felt more like a part of his character than a handicap and I really loved autism being shown in that way. Gentry only wants to serve and I so very much loved reading about a character whose only purpose was service. 

Zee and Gentry are so very different. I loved their interactions and how they come to help one another. They each grow and make their lives better and I love a story where flawed people become even a little better. 

This is a story of promises and broken promises, forgiveness and loyalty. 

My copy of The Reckless Oath We Made was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh

02197D1A-DFA6-4B23-BB47-958BAE7A7F80In Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh I think the less you know going into the book the better. So, in short, you have a serial killer who isn’t on trial, he is on the jury. You have a defendant who is a rising movie star who is on trial for killing his also rising movie star wife and their chief of security. You also have a defense lawyer who used to be a con artist. 

I had so much fun reading this book! I got sucked into the story pretty quickly and I stayed sucked in throughout. I found the plot very engaging and though maybe a bit far fetched at times it was just so much fun to read that I didn’t seem to mind. I could not wait to see how it was all going to play out and I was completely caught off guard a few times at the end. Though this was a plot driven book I did still find the characters engaging. So much so that as this is the fourth book in the Eddie Flynn series I will be going back to read the other books. I wasn’t ever confused by not reading the earlier books and you can definitely read this one first. 

This book is about the killings of a serial killer and while I did not find the descriptions of his murders overly graphic they are there. 

My copy of Thirteen was provided by the publisher, Flatiron Books, in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!

The Alchemist of Lost Souls by Mary Lawrence

56427B14-D16F-4FB1-9F57-1BD4B823044DIn The Alchemist of Lost Souls, the fourth book in the Bianca Goddard mystery series, by Mary Lawrence, Bianca agrees to help her father who she has a strenuous relationship with. Her father, Albern, an Alchemist, created a powerful new element and it has been stolen. Along with trying to placate her father, she finds herself helping in the murder of a women and dealing with the loneliness she feels after her husband, John, is sent off to help in King Henry the VIII’s army. 

This is my favorite book so far in the series. I felt like the plot moved at a good pace. I was intrigued as Bianca searches for the element and tries to discover who the murderer was. We find out a bit more about the Rat Man and how he became the Rat Man and what his purpose is now. I liked Bianca so much more in this book. She actually seemed to love her husband and she seemed less selfish than I felt she was in previous books. She struggles with her relationship with her parents and we learn a bit more about that relationship. She befriends a barmaid, Cammy, who I hope to see in future books. I continued to love the setting and love the look into life in the 1550’s. I also really like learning about what early scientific pursuits might have looked like. 

This is a great cozy mystery but involves alchemy and is set in the 1550’s, both of which are unusual and make the book series different than so many others in this genre. 

Thanks to the publisher Kensington for my copy in exchange for an honest review.