Vandals by Olen Steinhauer

442FA801-5AB9-47ED-905E-0328E9F9A42CBOOK BLURB

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

A Separate Peace by John Knowles

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A coming of age story set during World War ll at a boy’s school

Quick Glance

  • Teenagers 
  • Reflective writing style
  • Character driven
  • Classic
  • Friendship

Love It or Loath It

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I loved most of it. I attended a boarding high school and so I’m pretty picky about the way boarding schools are portrayed. Way to often they are portrayed with the freedom of a college but for teenagers. A boarding school is taking on the responsibility of its under age students. There would be serious consequences if kids kept leaving the school on their own. But, who knows, maybe boarding schools in the 1940’s had no concerns for keeping their students safe.

Other than the leniency in rules and protecting students I enjoyed the book. Teenagers have a way of thinking the world revolves around them as they seek to understand who they are and what their place in the world is. I loved how this coming of age story was done and found it an enjoyable, though hard at times, journey to go on with Gene. I loved the slow, reflective writing style and felt it went well with the internal struggles Gene has. I also loved the different depictions of friendship throughout the book and Gene’s understanding of friendship changing and evolving. 

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.