Invitation to a Bonfire by Adrienne Celt

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Set in the 1920-1930’s and told through letters, newspaper articles, and diary entries about the death of a famous Russian immigrant writer, his wife and a young Russian refugee. 

QUICK GLANCE

  • Mystery
  • Look into life in Russia in the 1920’s
  • Human need for love
  • Slow reading
  • Psychological thriller

LOVE IT OR LOATHE IT

⭐️⭐️

I really loved the premise of Invitation to a Bonfire and I really enjoyed the look at what life was like for the two classes during the Russia Civil War and how neither the monarchs or the poor benefited. I found the writing to have a sophisticated feel to it which I enjoyed. It was the kind of reading where I had to slow down to really get the beauty of the words. However, the plot and details in the story did not match the sophisticated writing. I did not understand the characters at all. So many of their decisions came out of no where and so many of the events seemed so unrealistic. Not only did I not understand the characters but I did not like them. They were selfish and I quickly grew tired of them. When the characters are in America so many of the details and descriptions given did not match the time period. I felt much more like I was in the 1950’s than early 1930. There also were just to many inconsistencies with the characters and their actions that just didn’t work for me. I think this was suppose to be a psychological thriller and maybe that was the reason for the inconsistencies but it just didn’t work for me

My copy of Invitation to a Bonfire was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin

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A look at a Muslim community in Canada as characters Ayesha and Khalid navigate their Muslim community, family, being a part of a larger community, love and discovering who they are. 

QUICK GLANCE

  • Racism
  • Religious freedom
  • Love
  • Marriage

LOVE IT OR LOATHE IT

⭐️⭐️⭐️

I really loved learning more about the Muslim religion and culture and the challenges that a Muslim faces living those beliefs in a community where they are the minority and not understood. 

I struggled with the characters. I didn’t really like any of them. They seemed selfish and I didn’t really feel like they learned from their experiences. I never liked Ayesha. I felt she wanted other people to change but never seemed to look at her life to see how she could be a nicer, more empathetic person. I was sad that Khalid gave up who he was for Ayesha. 

I was also a bit confused about what the author was saying. I felt like the story was showing the prejudices, especially religious prejudices, that people face when their beliefs are different.  But then I felt the story was doing exactly what it was trying to speak up against. If we shouldn’t look down on the religious beliefs of others than why did the book discount the religious belief of arranged marriages? I loved how Khalid stood up for his beliefs and I was disappointed that by the end he did feel a need to change. 

Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves -Glory Edim

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A collection of essays by black women who have found themselves in literature. 

QUICK GLANCE

  • Strength of black women
  • Identity

LOVE IT OR LOATHE IT

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Though I am a white woman, I really enjoyed Well Read Black Girl. I try to read diversely so I can better understand those who are not like me and don’t have the same experiences I do. This book gave me a peek into the way black women feel and helped me understand them a little more and the struggles they experience. At the same time though, I felt that so many of the themes discussed could be applied to so many other people, not just black women. I even saw myself in many essays. This book has a ton of fiction, essays and poetry suggestions written by black women.

My copy of Well- Read Black Girl was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner

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Elise is an 80 year old woman who has Alzheimer’s. When she was 14 years old, living in Iowa, World War ll was in full swing. Her family was sent to an internment camp because her father, who was born in Germany, was feared to be a Nazi sympathizer. While there she became best friends with a Japanese American, Mariko. Their friendship helps Elise survive not only the internment camp but also the tragedies she experiences through the rest of the war and then as she tries to go on with the rest of her life. Now Elise wants to find this dear friend before the memories of her are gone. 

QUICK GLANCE

  • Alzheimer’s 
  • The things that happen to us lay the ground for the person we will be
  • World War ll
  • Heartbreaking
  • Internment camps during World War ll
  • Friendship 
  • Love
  • Self discovery

LOVE IT OR LOATHE IT 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

There were so many things I really loved about The Last Year of the War. I loved the idea of a woman with Alzheimer’s searching for her friend before she can no longer remember her. I loved how Elise named her Alzheimer’s and talked to her. I loved the story of her life in the internment camp and learning more about that time in our county’s history. I knew that Japanese Americans were kept in these camps but I did not know that German Americans also were. I also loved learning about what life was like in these camps. Elise and her family are sent to Germany during the last year of the war and I really liked reading the perspective of a family  living in Germany during the end of the war. I could easily picture what these different experiences were all like and how difficult it was for a young girl. I loved the characters during these times and felt drawn to them and felt their heartbreaks. 

The end of the book was not as good for me as the beginning. I wasn’t really sure about some of the decisions that Elise made and they seemed to come out of no where. The characters in the first part of the book seemed in depth and characters in the last part seemed rushed and I didn’t really feel like I knew them. The ending felt a bit rushed, which after all the details of the beginning was a disappointment. 

My copy of The Last Year of the War was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Aunt Dimity’s Death by Nancy Atherton

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Lori Shepard is shocked to learn Aunt Dimity has died. She thought Aunt Dimity was a fictional character her mother made up to use in bed time stories. Lori has had many misfortunes the last few months and so agrees to go to England and complete a task Aunt Dimity has left for her. 

QUICK GLANCE

  • #1 in the Aunt Dimity mystery series
  • Kindness
  • Guilt
  • Love
  • Pain, loss, disappointment
  • Courage, hope, healing
  • Friendship
  • Mystery not involving murder
  • Ghosts

LOVE IT OR LOATHE IT

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I read Aunt Dimity’s Death in one day while home sick. It was the perfect home sick book to read. It had characters that I loved and that I wanted to spend my day with. There were stories about people who had tragedy but overcame that tragedy to find happiness. The plot was engaging and the time reading this story went quickly. I am excited to continue with the series. 

A Cold Day In Paradise by Steve Hamilton

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Alex McNight was a cop in Detroit until his partner was killed and he was shot three times. He retires to a small town in the upper peninsula of Michigan. A couple of murders hit this small town and the killer sends notes to Alex with details that sound like only one person. But this person should be in prison for the murder of Alex’s partner and for the three bullets put in him. 

QUICK GLANCE

  • 1st in the Alex McNight series
  • Quick read
  • Great setting
  • Plot driven

LOVE IT OR LOATH IT

⭐️⭐️⭐️ 

My favorite part of A Cold Day in Paradise was the setting. I lived in the upper part of the lower peninsula for three years and took a few trips to the upper peninsula so I really enjoyed the descriptions and the look into life in that quiet part of the world. The plot kept me going and the ending was a surprise. I’m not really sure yet how I feel about the main character so I will continue with the series. I hope the character of Alex gets more developed and I also hope some of the characters I didn’t like don’t return. 

New York Dead by Stuart Woods

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Walking home late one night police detective, Stone Barrington, witnesses a woman falling from a building. He runs to the building but fails to catch the person leaving the top apartment. When he returns to the place where the woman fell, he discovers that she somehow survived the fall. She is put into an ambulance, and then disappears completely. When the fallen woman turns out to be an anchorwoman all eyes are turned to Stone as he tries to discover what happened and whether or not Sasha Nijinsky is still alive. 

QUICK GLANCE

  • #1 in the Stone Barrington series
  • Look into police departments
  • Explicit content
  • Derogatory comments about women and other minorities
  • Cussing 

LOVE IT OR LOATH IT

⭐️

I really liked the premise of New York Dead. Unfortunately that is all I liked. I became turned off fairly early in the book with Stone’s view of woman and it just went downhill from there. I can’t remember the last time I have rolled my eyes so often in a book. There is nothing that felt realistic, the cussing bothered me, I could tell it was written in 1991, I guessed everything that happened in the end, and I didn’t like a single character. This will be a series I will not be continuing. 

Vandals by Olen Steinhauer

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An FBI agent goes undercover to research an underground left wing movement. 

QUICK GLANCE

  •  Short story prequel to the Middleman series
  • Lots of cussing
  • Violent
  • Betrayal

LOVE IT OR LOATHE IT 

⭐️⭐️⭐️

Vandals was a short story so I didn’t really get very much character development on the main character Rachel. The plot was fast moving and read much like an action movie. Though there was cussing it was easy to skip over without it being burdensome. I’m intrigued enough to continue with the series

The Face of a Stranger by Anne Perry

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William Monk wakes up in a hospital. He has no memory of who he is. He tries to figure out who he is without anyone else knowing he doesn’t know, all while solving a murder. 

QUICK GLANCE

  • #1 in the William Monk mystery series
  • Set in Victorian London
  • Self discovery
  • Strong woman
  • Look into society

LOVE IT OR LOATH IT

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I really enjoyed The Face of a Stranger. I loved the idea of a police detective using those skills to figure out who he really is, without anyone else knowing he has no memory. I loved the self discovery journey that Monk goes on, at times not liking who he believes he was. I found the mystery he was assigned to be intriguing and the ending was a surprise. The characters were all varied and great, I definitely had my favorites, including those who showed great kindness, selflessness and courage. 

Moon Water by Pam Webber

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Set in Virginia in the Blue Ridge Mountains, in 1969, Nettie, a high school senior learns about changes to nature and people. She also learns if she is strong enough to go through those changes that are most difficult.

QUICK GLANCE

  • Historical Fiction
  • Rural setting
  • Journey
  • Faith
  • Native American culture and beliefs
  • Forgiveness

LOVE IT OR LOATH IT

⭐️⭐️⭐️

I really enjoyed the plot, it moved at a good pace, a lot happened and it kept me interested. I loved the setting. The descriptions of the Blue Ridge Mountains were detailed and I could easily picture them. I loved Nibi and reading about how she uses nature. I found what happened to the Blue Ridge Mountains in August of 1969 fascinating and did more research about the events and looked at pictures to see better what happened. 

However, I just never really connected with the characters. Big things were happening to Nettie and she had a lot to process and think about and I wanted to go on that journey with her. Everything ended so nicely and easily for her and it just didn’t feel authentic to me. I didn’t feel the struggle that she must have gone through. 

 

My copy of Moon Water was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review