Quantcast

Sunday, October 24, 2021

The Moon, the Stars, and Madame Burova by Ruth Hogan

 

In keeping with my magical, mysterious reads for October, I grabbed Ruth Hogan's latest novel featuring a fortune telling woman who keeps everyone's secrets, no matter what. 

This story bounces back and forth between present day and 1973 in the English seaside town of Brighton. Imelda Burova is young and full of life. She's taking over her mother's fortune telling business on the pier, and she's very, very good at it. Imelda spends her whole life reading fortunes, and after decades of business, she decides its time to retire. 

Only retirement and Imelda just don't quite go together. As a keeper of promises and secrets, Imelda has one whopper of a secret she just can't share. She can, however, do some digging and make contact with the woman who was left as an infant in front of Imelda's storefront on the pier. 

Enter Billie, who has just sold her parent's home and laid her father to rest. Newly divorced and without a job, she is at a crossroads in life. Two letters turn her life upside down. One is from her father, telling her she was adopted, and the second is from Imelda, inviting her to tea in Brighton so she can talk to Billie. Shocked her parents never told her she was adopted, Billie decides that yes, she does want to know where she came from, and maybe Madam Burova has some of the answers she is seeking. 

As Billie and Imelda meet and get to know each other, Billie has more questions than answers. The cast of characters in Brighton are all charming, and all have ties to Imelda's past, and ties to what was once a wildly popular entertainment venue, the Larkin Holiday Park. Are Billie's parents entertainers from the park? 

This was a charming story full of characters who all made some great and not so great choices in their youth. Now, they all have chances to try again. Billie has a chance to start completely over in life; will she remain in Brighton or return to London? Will Imelda finally get the answers her broken heart needs after almost fifty years of heartache? 

This is a great read for an afternoon in front of the fireplace, sipping tea. It took me a bit to click into the story; I confess I was a bit confused at the beginning--mostly because I stopped and started a lot. But once I sat down and read for a bit, it all clicked and I was curious how everything would play out. 

Rating: 3/6 for a charming novel about second chances, secrets, and love. 

Available in paperback, ebook, and audio. 

**“As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases made through links on this site.**

Sunday, October 17, 2021

The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco

 

I picked up a few creepy tales from B&N a few weeks ago and finally managed to read one of them. I'll confess I've been starting books, then picking up another one, over and over this month so far and not making progress on too many of them. Super restless reading-wise this month. However, I stuck with this and after a few "I'm not so sure about this one" moments, it clicked and wow, this was a great read. Just enough spooky to make you sit up and take notice, but not so much that you can't sleep at night. At least, for me it wasn't so scary. 

This novel is actually the first in a series about Okiku, a three hundred-year old spirit of a young woman who was brutally murdered in Japan. She was tortured, then tossed down a well, breaking her neck. She died upside down. So now, she spends a lot of time upside down, hanging from ceilings. She can look pretty gruesome, too. But sometimes she reverts back to what she looked like as a servant girl all those years ago. Her mission is to seek and destroy (yes, kill) people who murder children. She's pretty brutal about it, too. These serial killers carry the souls of those children with them--literally these souls are chained to these people (who are completely unaware of them). But Okiku can see them, and the only way to free those poor souls is to kill the horrible person who keeps them trapped. 

So, Okiku has been doing this for hundreds of years. Now she's taken an interest in Tark, a young teen boy who moves to a new community with his father. Tark has something strange about him--he has black tattoos covering his arms, chest and back. These tattoos look like they move, which is a bit freaky. Tark's mother gave those tattoos to him when he was five years old, and they are a symbol of something truly horrible living in Tark and trying to get out. Okiku sees what that horrible creature is, and is strong enough to defend Tark against it, but a final showdown can only come about if Tark and his father travel to a special shrine in Japan and undergo a dangerous ritual. 

Tark's cousin Callie can see Okiku, too. Freaked out a bit by her, but eventually gets a little more comfortable once she understands Okiku is there to protect Tark. Callie joins Tark in Japan and together they uncover the story of Okiku and the horrible spirit that lives inside Tark and is desperate to be free and kill, kill, kill. 

Sounds dark, right? It is actually a really well written story, full of Japanese mysticism, ritual, and legends. Fascinating look at how other cultures deal with death, spirits, and the afterworld. Okiku is even referenced as the inspiration for the movie The Ring. Her story continues in the next novel: The Suffering

This novel was published in 2015, so it's not new. Wow, it really was a gripping read. If you're easily queasy, don't read it. It's not super gory, but it has some moments. I'd read more of Rin Chupeco's novels any day. 

Rating: 5/6 for a truly creepy read, based in Japanese folklore and mysticism. Took me a bit to get into it, but BAM! it suddenly became unputdownable and I got completely sucked into it. 

Available in paperback, ebook, and audio.


**“As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases made through links on this site.**



Sunday, October 10, 2021

The Inheritance of Orquidea Divina by Zoraida Cordova

 

The Montoya family is an interesting group of people; their matriarch Orquidea Divina is especially interesting and different. She's quite magical, too. Appearing in Four Winds decades before as a very young woman, she created an oasis out of nothing, leaving the townspeople to whisper about her and send the sheriff out on occasion to try to get her to leave. 

However, Orquidea stayed. She never left her little oasis, where food was always plentiful, the weather was beautiful, and there was a definite other-worldliness about it. 

Now Orquidea is calling her children and grandchildren back to Four Winds because she is dying and it's time to leave each of them an inheritance. When her family arrives, they are shocked to see Orquidea is not only dying, but is slowly transforming into a tree. Questions abound!

Now it's seven years later, and two of her grandchildren and one great-grandchild have gifts that are definitely odd: Rey, Marimar, and Rhiannon all have flowers growing out of their flesh. None of them understand why or what the flowers mean. 

Soon it becomes clear something is stalking the Montoya family, and it wants to destroy them. Seeking to figure out what is killing family members, they travel to Ecuador, Orquidea's home, to discover where her story began and to uncover the truth before they are all destroyed. 

Wow. This was one heck of a great read. Magic is everywhere in this story, and toss in a circus with a mysterious connection to Orquidea and you've got quite an interesting tale of bad decisions, promises made and broken, and heartbreak that never goes away. Revenge weaves its way through Orquidea's life story, and a big theme is the damage done to children by parents who do not love or care for them. Those children grow up to inflict damage on themselves and others, because of their rage, sorrow, and unanswered questions. 

I loved the mix of legends and magic, folklore and family love and connections. The story goes back and forth between present day (7 years after Orquidea transforms) and decades before, slowly revealing her journey and the price she paid for freedom. It all culminates in a showdown between the evil that stalks the family, and the gifts Orquidea gave her grandchildren. 

If you're looking for books with magic, cultural lore and otherworldliness, you'll enjoy this very much. The cover is just gorgeous. 


Rating: 5/6 for a tale of one woman's choices that create a magic safe place for family that is threatened by an evil that seeks revenge and will stop at nothing to destroy everything. 

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audio. 


Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Witch Please (Fix-It Witches #1) by Ann Aguirre

 

If you'd like some spice with your romance, pick this book up, the first in the Fix-It Witches series.  Hot hot hot! 

Danica Waterhouse lives with her cousin Clem in the small town of St. Claire, Illinois. They own a repair shop--and use their magical witch gifts to fix anything from toasters on the fritz to refrigerators. The latest generation of talented, magical witches from the Waterhouse family, they are both looking for love. Unfortunately, their grandmother is an interfering busy-body and insists if they fall for a "mundane" (non-witchy person) they will lose their magic forever. Danica's mother married a mundane and Grandmother claims her magic is diluted because of it, and her mother completely lost hers as a result. 

Titus runs a local bakery with his sister Maya. He's known around town as the CinnaMan because not only does he make the most divine cinnamon rolls, but he's one gooood looking man. Titus has never been able to have a successful relationship--they always end after a few months, and he can't figure out why. Until he meets Danica, and sparks fly. BIG sparks. These two would make butter melt in seconds, their chemistry is so sizzling hot. 

Titus is a mundane, however. Danica's cousin and grandmother put the pressure on her to end her flirtation with Titus and find a witchy match. Her grandmother even threatens to hex Titus if she doesn't do her bidding. Can Danica follow her heart and have a happy ending? Will she really lose her magic if she decides Titus is worth it?

Wonky magic spells, electronics on the fritz--Danica's magic is definitely not all working as it always does. But she just can't stay away from Titus. And Titus is head  over heels pretty quickly, too. Has CinnaMan finally found his one and only?

This novel has plenty of heart and zippy do dah a heck of a lot of chemistry and steamy scenes between Titus and Danica. I enjoyed getting to know the players in this novel: Maya, Titus' sister; Clem, Danica's cousin, and other friends and family. The magic of the witches is gentle and not over the top. The best part: there's a second book coming out in 2022 which focuses on Clem and her dangerous romance with an honest to God modern witch hunter. Their story begins in this novel, so I am intrigued to read their story. It's way more complicated than Titus and Danica, so I'm eager to see how it all plays out. 

Rating: 4/6. If you want a modern romance with a lot of heart, a heart-tugger of a hero, and a bit of magic tossed in, grab this one. It does have some explicit sex and there are same-sex relationships and talk of bi-sexuality. 

Available in paperback, ebook, and audio.


Second in the series is out in April, 2022:





Thursday, September 30, 2021

October is Here! I Give Myself Permission to Read Spooky Books and Eat All Things Pumpkin

 I set a pretty ambitious goal for reading in September and while I made a serious dent, I didn't quite get everything read. I just started one book and am about 3/4 way through another from my September list. I'll roll them over into October and review them this month. 

October is going to be a busy work month, and of course it's my month to get the yard ready for the approaching winter. My poor hosta plants are just done. Not having my big tree in the back yard to give them some protection, along with a very hot and dry summer, just burned them. Time to cut them back, along with the strange weeds that have appeared this year in my flower beds. Post-Derecho weirdness. I don't think I sat on my back deck more than a handful of times this summer. It was just too dang hot. So in many ways, it feels like a bit of a lost summer. Not much outside enjoyment and near constant a/c running all summer. It's even on today, the last day of September as we get another blast of heat. Hopefully it will cool down soon, in time to enjoy the changing season. 

I do so love to read witchy and ghosty novels. I'm not a huge fan of horror, but I do tend to read more of it this time of year. So many new books out, it's hard to pick what to read this month since I want to read them all. I've tried to narrow down my list to this group:

👻💀 A ghost preys on child killers. Not my usual pick for a read, but the cover got me! 

💀💀👮A bookshop, a murder, and all the elements of a delightful cozy mystery. 

👀👻 This cover creeps me out every time I look at it! 1890's Chicago World Fair, a missing sister, a horrific serial killer, and a monster in human form. 

                                                        


Non-fiction stories about the people who live in Natchez, MS. 

Highly anticipated! 

Historical novel about the woman who was the first to see King Tut's tomb. Did the curse wait fifty years to threaten her life?

A woman discovers an island where her powers aren't unusual, and she may finally find a home.

A second chance at love! 

Love Ruth Hogan! A magical world of 1970's seaside life, complete with tarot readers, magicians, and fortune-telling. 


Yes, most of them are of a supernatural slant, but I've sprinkled in a few historical novels and one non-fiction book that I picked up at B&N and thought looked really interesting. And I've got a stack of cozy mysteries, so I added one of those, too. 

I've also got a few review requests in October, too. I am a busy woman this month in my reading life. I wouldn't have it any other way. 💓💀👻💀💀💀


Happy October friends, and Happy Halloween! 



                Click here to find this gif! 





Sunday, September 26, 2021

Three Words for Goodbye by Hazel Gaynor & Heather Webb

 

I picked this up at B&N on a whim and added it to my TBR stack and forgot about it (as I usually do!) until I was compiling my list for September reads and decided to add it in as a switch from my   otherwise heavy on the magic and literary theme choices. I'm glad I did, because this was perfectly enjoyable. Yes, it's on the eve of World War 2 (1937); the Nazis are rising and unease is building, but I don't think I've ever read a novel that includes the Hindenburg in it! 

This is a novel about two sisters: Clara and Madeleine Sommers. They are from a wealthy East Coast family. Their grandmother, Violet, has terminal cancer and has requested the two women travel to Europe to deliver letters to three people that meant something to Violet. All expenses paid, and they get to travel on the Queen Mary, the Orient Express, and return home on the Hindenburg-the latest in fast, luxurious travel between Europe and the U.S. 

The sisters don't get along--Clara is engaged to a wealthy businessman who treats her like a possession, and Madeleine is a journalist searching for her big break. Nellie Bly was a good friend of Violet, and her spirit is infused in this novel. Both ladies called her Auntie Nellie and remember her fondly. In fact Madeleine was inspired to become a journalist because of her. Clara loves art and is quite talented, but has had to set her talents aside as she prepares to marry Charles. She's not in love, but knows the marriage is what's expected of her. 

The two sisters set off on the Queen Mary--and yes, one is messy and wears trousers; the other is neat as a pin and dresses to the nines. One plays by society's rules, and the other drinks whiskey and gambles with men. They rub each other the wrong way and have many clashes. I was actually beginning to think they would never resolve their differences! 

However, as the sisters arrive in Paris to deliver the first letter, family history starts to pull them together. Madeleine feels the sense of unease that has settled over Europe and is eager to write about it. Clara is worried they are in the wrong place at the wrong time. But they promised Violet they would deliver the letters, and so after Paris, they travel to Venice, and then onto Austria. Along the way they discover more family secrets, find moments of sisterhood (followed by arguments, of course!), and start to realize the trip is also about discovering themselves and what they want out of life. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I thought it was well written; the sisters were enough alike and enough different to make their relationship interesting and believable. Their love interests were there to provide some relief from what otherwise would have been too much sister time. The travel sounded marvelous--the clothes and food, divine. 

This kind of novel always reminds me of people digging around their family trees and discovering their ancestors were not perfect, play by the rules people. Clara and Madeleine certainly discover things about their family that would have stayed secret if not for this trip. Discovering those secrets helped them be brave and reach for the lives they truly wanted. 

Fans of World War 2 fiction, or fiction set in the late 1930's are sure to enjoy this novel. Relationships are a central theme, as well as forgiveness and living a life of happiness--even if it means a bit of scandal comes your way. Anyone who likes to read about women traveling and especially Nellie Bly would also enjoy this novel. 

Rating: 4/6 for an entertaining novel about sisters, the golden age of travel, relationships, love, and last wishes. An elegant read. 

Available in hardcover, paperback, audio, and ebook. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Two Reviews in One: Aria's Traveling Book Shop by Rebecca Raisin and The Lights of Sugarberry Cove by Heather Webber




I decided to review two books in one post this week. I was cruising along, reading at a good clip and somehow over the weekend hit a snag. However, some time at home (and I'll confess, a few late nights) had me finishing two books on my September list. 

First is Aria's Traveling Book Shop by Rebecca Raisin. This is a sequel to Rosie's Traveling Tea Shop (read my review here), but definitely isn't really necessary to read it before this one. 

We find Aria and Rosie getting ready to take their campers to France so travel the fete and festival circuit. Aria's camper is chock full of books to sell, while Rosie (a former chef), creates delicious British treats to sell, along with specialty teas that often compliment Aria's books. 

Aria is a young widower, and has firmly shut her heart to any possibility of ever falling in love again. She had her true love, and no one can match it. However, there is Jonathan; a quiet, handsome, and bookish man Aria has one magical encounter with at a music festival. Now it's months later, and Aria runs into Jonathan again, just as she's about to leave for France. Can she open her heart to let Jonathan in, or will she lose him to someone else? 

This novel is all about grief, putting closure on painful memories, and opening up your heart to live and love again. It's also fun to see Rosie and Max and what's in store for them. I hope there is at least one more in this series so I can see where Aria and Jonathan are in the near future. Entertaining, clean (no sex scenes), likable characters. An uplifting novel about the best of friends and, of course, adventure. 



This novel was on my highly-anticipated list! 

And, as per usual, once I got it, I dithered about reading it. It's not a long book, but it took me a few weeks to finish it. I kept finding myself waiting for the big grab, and it just wasn't happening, which annoyed me to no end. However, the big grab did happen at nearly the end of the novel--and that was a really big grab! I love Heather Webber, and while I enjoyed this novel, it wasn't my favorite of the three I've read. 

Sadie Way Scott has to return to her hometown of Sugarberry Cove, Alabama, after her mother has a cardiac incident. Sadie's sister Leala Claire lives in Sugarberry and decides to stay at the B&B their mother runs in order to keep it open and help out. Sadie and Leala haven't gotten along very well for the past eight years, after Sadie's near fatal dive into the magical lake just outside her mother's B&B. Sadie, under water for fifteen minutes, miraculously survives and comes out of the lake with silver, sparkling hair. 

It's not the only change to Sadie, however. She leaves Sugarberry Cove and begins a successful career as a digital storyteller. Now reluctantly, she's back at the one place she never wanted to return to. Family dynamics are really at play in this novel about two sisters, their mother, and the grief and tragedy that changed their lives. Mom Susannah is behind in her bills, and the B&B is looking shaggy. Sadie and Leala decide to help spruce it up in hopes of bringing back business. Will Susannah object? 

While Sadie and Leala are staying at the B&B, so many other players arrive: Teddy and her niece Bree, Uncle Camp, Iona (a potential subject for Sadie's storytelling series), Leala's husband Connor and son Tucker, and neighbor Buzzy. There's a lot of back story to go through with all of these characters, and that's part of the unfolding of the story. The Lady of the Lake saved Sadie that long ago night; will her magic save the family again as they navigate big changes? 

I'd love to stay at this B&B; it sounds heavenly. The myth of the Lady of the Lake is a big driver in this tale, and doesn't disappoint. I think I just got stuck a bit on the drama between the sisters and their mom. But the characters are all fully developed and charming, and misunderstandings are resolved once people are brave enough to speak up and make their wishes known. This novel is about family dynamics, not giving up on dreams, and of course, love. 


I enjoyed both novels and they hit the spot for my September comfort reads. Both novels are a 4/6 on my scale. 

Available in paperback and hardcover, audio and ebook. 

If you're looking for gentle reads, or comfort reads with likable characters, issues that are resolved in a believable way, and of course some beautiful scenery and delish food, either of these books would fit the bill. Love both of these authors. 

Saturday, September 11, 2021

The Last Chance Library by Freya Sampson

 

Followers of my blog should know by now I read pretty much any novels set in and around libraries and bookstores. Lucky for me there are plenty of them! 

The Last Chance Library is a charming novel about a small English town fighting to save their library from closure. June Jones is a library assistant at the same library her mother worked at for years, until her death eight years before. 

June loves working at the library, and does it all: reference, help at the computers, shelving, and recommends--even to crabby old Mrs. B, who says every book she reads "Is shit". Only problem is the library has been left to become rundown due to endless cuts in the budget. Now the city council is going to determine if they should shut the library down completely, and replace it with a bookmobile instead. 

June, along with her faithful library patrons, is horrified and determined to do whatever they can to keep the library open. June, however, has been warned her job is on the line if she is caught working with the protesters. So instead, she goes undercover. 

This is all a big change for June. She's a bit of a recluse-works, goes home, and reads every evening. Her life stopped when she lost her mother, and she's been unable to move forward. Will the possibility of the library closing push her to leave her comfort zone?

The characters in this novel are all charming folks. Stanley in particular--he's an older gentleman who is at the library every morning, without fail. He's full of regrets for choices he made earlier in life, and sees Chalcot's library crisis as something he can finally stand up for and work hard to stop. His relationship with June goes beyond librarian and patron--they are friends, even if neither realizes it.

I enjoyed this novel very much and was pleased to see June's metamorphosis from a person living in the shadows to someone stepping out and standing up for herself. This tale shows the importance of libraries in people's lives and how it makes a community. So many people, from all different walks of life step into the library and it makes a huge difference in their lives. For many, it is a life-changing place. 

Rating: 4/6 for a delightful read about the power of community and friendships,  the importance of libraries, and living life to the fullest. 

Available in hardcover, paperback, ebook, and audio. 

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

The Cafe Between Pumpkin and Pie by Marina Adair, Kate Angell, and Stacy Finz

 

I was talking to my cousin Kari on Saturday about books and she said she's been reading romances by the bucketload--a genre she usually doesn't read. I said I hear ya! Cozy mysteries and my beloved Katie Fforde are my comfort reads lately. Kari, I think you'll like this one--it's not a regency romance, but it's got all the feels and guaranteed happy endings!

I'll just state right here and now that I'd like to live in Moonbright, Maine. A small town where there's delicious comfort food on every corner, people stop everything to celebrate Halloween, and there's hot men everywhere.

This is the third anthology set in Moonbright, and I've read each and every one of them. You do not need to read the first and second books before dipping into this, the latest. Each has three short stories about the women of Moonbright finding their perfect match. All take place around Halloween, and a little bit of magic and tradition help push people together. 

The Corner Cafe is the setting for the first romance involving waitress Hannah and motorcycle dude Jake. With his leather jacket, dark hair, and aviator glasses, he's a hard one to resist--even if Hannah thinks her perfect match is a clean cut kind of guy. Will Jake convince her otherwise?

The second romance involves Sydney, an up and coming baker who comes back to Moonlight to settle her grandmother's estate and ready her Victorian home for sale. Sydney's got a well established bakery in San Francisco, a cookbook in the works, and no time for Nick, who is only following orders set by Sydney's grandmother to put a commercial kitchen into the carriage house on the property. It doesn't help Nick and Sydney have a past that stretches back to high school. How will these two manage to fall in love?

The third romance features Mia, who is determined to break a curse--one that began with a whiz bang of a kiss in a closet during a high school party seven years before. Since then, she's been unable to beat that darn kiss from Ford James. Now she's going to corner him, kiss him again, and break the curse so she can move to Los Angeles and start her set director career and move on from the past.

Only thing is....was it really Ford she kissed, or his twin Hudson? He of the smoldering good looks, muscular build, and one who does not tick off any of the boxes on her list for a perfect match?

I enjoyed all the romances, and of course the happy endings. I also enjoyed all of the food in these stories--sheesh! I want all the breakfasts, desserts, and meatloaf sandwiches featured in these stories. This short story collection definitely put me in the mood for September fall weather and seasonal reads. 

Here are the first two books in the Moonbright, Maine series (available online, check your library, or have your local bookstore get them for you!)




Rating: 4/6 for a delightful romance anthology centered around Halloween in small town Maine. Happy endings guaranteed under the harvest moon. 

Available in paperback and Kindle ebook. 



Friday, September 3, 2021

The Book of Magic by Alice Hoffman

 

Not going to lie. It hurt my heart a bit to finish this book. I, along with a whole lot of other readers, don't want to say goodbye to the Owens family. I was dragging my feet finishing this novel simply because I love this series so much. I guess you could call it a series, spread over 25 years. Alice Hoffman didn't expect to write more than the first novel, Practical Magic. That novel (I still have my original paperback) introduced me to Alice Hoffman and I've been a fan since. 

However, fans kept asking for more about the Owens family, so Alice wrote three more books. But now it's time to say goodbye. 

It took me a few chapters to remember the family tree, but heck my eyes were leaking not far into the story. Dang it! This novel centers around Fanny and Jet, and nieces Sally and Gillian. It also brings back brother Vincent, and two more Owens women, Kylie and Antonia, the two daughters of Sally. 

Reading Magic Lessons will set you up for this novel, in which the family curse plays a big role. In order to understand the Owens family today, it's important to understand where they came from, and the where and why of the family curse. What's the curse? No one must fall in love with an Owens. There is no happy ending; usually resulting in the early death of whomever loves an Owens. For generations the women (and men) of the Owens family have suffered under this curse, and now it is time to break the curse once and for all. Who breaks the curse, and how, are what keeps the plot moving forward. 

I fell quickly into this story, and just thought it was wonderful and brought the past and the present together perfectly. It gave me a chance to mourn characters and cheer on characters that will keep living on in my imagination. It gave me hope that love wins in the end, and to stay courageous even in the darkest of situations. It also is a good reminder of the damage people can do to one another when the heart is involved. In the Owens family, that damage didn't end with one generation, but kept on traveling down through each generation, creating more hurt and sorrow. 

I still want to try tipsy cake. I want a garden full of herbs with the potential to heal. Heck, I'd take floating on water any day. Anyone who has spent time with the Owens family through the years will find this a satisfying, albeit sad, ending to a wonderful story of magic, family, love, and devotion. 

This novel will be available October 5th in the U.S. in hardcover, ebook, and audio. 

I would definitely read all of the books in the Practical Magic series before you read this one; otherwise you will be a bit confused. They are: Practical Magic, The Rules of Magic, and Magic Lessons. 

Thank you Alice for the gift of your novels! 

A HUGE Thanks to Simon & Schuster for sending me a copy of the novel. That seriously made my year !

Rating: 6/6 for a heartfelt conclusion to the Owens family story. Loved all of it and reluctantly finished--I just didn't want to say goodbye. 



Wednesday, September 1, 2021

September and All The Books!

 I'm all ready for early nights and reading as summer finally loses its grip on us and I can finally shut off my A/C. I can already tell fall is approaching because I'm sleeping hard in the morning and it's making it difficult to get up and hit my workout goals each week. I'm not a fan of pumpkin spice, although a friend had a pumpkin spice cold brew the other night and it looked tempting...

I have soooo many books I want to read this month. That's not different from other months, but something about September and the combination of books I have on my TBR list make me want to drop all responsibilities and just read. 

Here's what I've got on tap this month:




Can you see all of the titles?! Three about books! Can't help myself. I'm finishing up Alice Hoffman's The Book of Magic and will have that review in a few days. It's another book that has me just wanting to sit and read. Also working on Atomic Habits.  Non-fiction always takes me longer, and this book has me adding notes in the book (which is something I usually never, ever do). 

I've got a batch of library books to try and tackle as well. A plethora of good reads, for sure. Welcome, September! 

Titles for September:

Witch Please by Ann Aguirre

Aria's Travelling Book Shop by Rebecca Raisin

The Last Chance Library by Freya Sampson

The Cafe Between Pumpkin and Pie by Marina Adair, Kate Angell, & Stacy Finz

The Lights of Sugarberry Cove by Heather Webber

Three Words for Goodbye by Hazel Gaynor & Heather Webb

The Reading List by Sara Nisha Adams

The Inheritance of Orquidea Divina by Zoraida Cordova

Sunday, August 29, 2021

A Cup of Silver Linings (Dove Pond #2) by Karen Hawkins

 

You know how you wait and wait for something, then it finally arrives, and instead of jumping on it and being happy it's finally here, you dink around and put it off for a bit? That's exactly what I did with this novel, the sequel to 2019's The Book Charmer (you can read my review here).  

I just can't get enough of novels that involve magic. Add in a small town and a family of sisters, and that's pretty much an irresistible trio for me. 

Even though I couldn't wait to read this, I started it earlier this month and didn't get far before I got distracted--and thought oh no! I'm not going to enjoy this. That lead me to setting it aside and reading a few other books. This past week I picked it up again and decided I was going to dive in and finish it before I read anything else. So I did, and it didn't take long before I got over my stuck-ness and bam! I was back in Dove Pond with the Dove sisters and right in the thick of things. 

This, the second in the series, focuses on Ava Dove. She's opening a new tea room and working hard to get it ready. Helping her is teen Kristen, who has just lost her mother Julie to cancer. Ellen Foster, Kristen's grandmother, has arrived and has told Kristen she's selling the house and Kristen will move back to Raleigh with her. Kristen, still deeply grieving her mother, is determined to never leave Dove Pond, nor the house she grew up in and holds so many memories of her mother. Ellen, estranged from Julie and Kristen for years, struggles to grieve and understand her granddaughter. It's a rocky road for the two of them. 

Ava, meanwhile, is having some issues because of a secret she's kept for years and years. That secret is in a box under her bed, wrapped in ribbon and bound tightly with some Dove magic. However, that box has been thumping, pounding, moving around, and causing Ava horrible headaches and sleepless nights. That secret wants to come out. Will Ava have the courage to spill her secret before something horrible happens? And what's going on with the special teas Ava creates for folks who have ailments (both physical and those of the heart)? Three people have returned teas saying they didn't work correctly and had some disastrous results. What could have gone wrong? Ava's reputation is on the line. 

Once I got past my reading block, I inhaled this novel. It took me a bit to familiarize myself again with the Dove sisters and the town. It wasn't hard, and you could read this without reading the first in the series. There are hints of potential romance, and a big change for Sarah and her painful reaction to the town sheriff. 

Themes in this novel involve grief, cancer, death, betrayal, secrets, looking for a biological parent, forgiveness, and friendship. It's a gentle read, and I loved it so much! It was wonderful to return to Dove Pond. I hope I can be patient and wait for the third in the series. There's quite a bit left to discover about the Dove sisters (there are 7 of them!) and the town of Dove Pond, North Carolina. 

Rating: 4/6 for a delightful sequel to The Book Charmer. Characters from the first novel appear, but new characters take center stage--and we find out a big secret that could change everything for Sarah Dove. 

Available in paperback, audiobook, and ebook.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Agatha Arch is Afraid of Everything by Kristin Bair

 

I picked this up at Barnes & Noble last month based on the cover and title. Then I read the blurb on the back and decided it sounded like a fun book. It was entertaining, but also did have some touching moments that I didn't expect from Agatha.

Agatha lives in New England in a lovely home with her husband and two boys. She's an author and oh, she is one sassy Facebook Mom Page commenter. She's not short on snark!

Agatha's happy life comes to an abrupt end when she finds her husband and the local dog walker going at it in their garden shed. She takes a hatchet and proceeds to destroy the shed, leaving the mess in her yard, which quickly makes the rounds of the Facebook Mom page. Before the hour is out, streams of cars are driving past her house to check out the carnage. Agatha, meanwhile, is lying on her front porch, devastated and the victim of a skunk spray. 

Agatha's husband moves in with the dog walker, and her boys spend half their time at her house. Agatha's promised thriller manuscript is not even started, as she can't bring herself to climb the stairs to her office. Bear Gyrlls is her hero, and she carries a bobblehead of him around to give her courage. She decides the best thing to do is to spy on her husband and his girlfriend, so she outfits herself with spy pants, spy gear, and a plan. 

Agatha is a mess. 

Agatha is also endearing, funny, and hurting pretty badly. As she battles with her neighbor over the increasingly overgrown and messy pile of shed garbage in her yard (it's ruining the neighborhood!), battles with other moms on Facebook, and visits her shrink, she is trying really hard to cope with her sudden life change. 

I liked Agatha and the cast of characters. Agatha was funny, annoying, and at times did things I probably would do, too. You'll find yourself hoping Agatha will be able to move forward with her life and find joy again--and be brave. 

This reminded me of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine (which I loved!). Contemporary fiction fans will enjoy this novel. 

Rating: 4/6 for an endearing main character going through some pretty big life changes. Join Agatha on her journey to peace and finding joy again. A cast of characters that flesh out the community Agatha lives in, along with her loving relationship with her two sons all add up to a satisfying read. 

Available in paperback, ebook, and audio.



Wednesday, August 18, 2021

The Guilt Trip by Sandie Jones

 

This book wasn't on my TBR list at all, but as I was cataloging at my library it came across my desk and I thought it looked like a good domestic thriller and a quick read. Boom! Perfect summer read.

This novel takes place in Portugal and involves five friends: Jack and Rachel, Noah and Paige, and Will. Jack and Will are brothers, and they are all gathered to celebrate the wedding of Will and Ali--who really irritates the hell out of everyone but Will. She's bubbly, wears clothing that really accentuates her curves, and is an attention seeker. Will's gaga over her, but no one else really cares for her. Especially Jack. He appears to loathe her--but you're just not sure why. 


The story is told from Rachel's point of view. She's happily married to Jack, and they have a 19 year old son. Rachel and Noah were college friends--and secretly slept together just once, confessing their love for each other. It ended with Noah begging Rachel to leave her then new relationship with Jack and come away with him. She refused. Now, twenty years later, they are both married to different people, but that love is still there. That's just one of the things that will bubble over in Portugal. 

As the wedding day draws near, Rachel becomes convinced Ali and Jack are having an affair. What should she do? Confront both of them? How can she let Ali marry Will? Then Ali overhears some pretty explosive stuff between Noah and Rachel, and oh crap what if she tells Jack and Paige? Paige, Rachel's best friend. 

Rachel's thoughts are swirling around and around, and oh boy there is a lot at stake. Wedding day dawns and it will all come crashing down--and not in the way you expect. Not at all. 

This was a quick read, but it wasn't an edge of your seat kind of read. A lot of the novel is spent in Rachel's thoughts and guesses about what is going on. The end kind of fell flat for me. 

Rating: 3/6 for a novel that had some great potential, but just didn't quite make it. Fans of domestic thrillers will want to read this--it's an interesting read about friendship, marriage, past secrets, and making assumptions that prove to be deadly and just plain wrong. 

Available in hardcover ebook, and audio.


Monday, August 16, 2021

When the Reckoning Comes by LaTanya McQueen

 

This is a short novel, but it packs a wallop. When the Reckoning Comes takes place in a small Southern town where Mia has returned reluctantly to attend her childhood best friend's wedding. Mia had escaped Kipsen ten years before, along with the horrifying memory of a trip to Woodsman, an abandoned plantation deep in the woods. 

Mia doesn't want to return but Celine, her only white friend growing up, calls and begs her to attend. Celine, Mia, and Jesse all grew up poor and on the outs with the kids of Kipsen. Celine and Jesse stayed, and now Celine is marrying a rich man at the newly renovated Woodsman plantation. 

Mia arrives, and is horrified by what she sees at the plantation: all black servers, reenactments of slave labor, and a basic white-washing of all the terrible history of Woodsman Plantation. Rumors of ghosts of the slaves still abound, and it's definitely a place that looks beautiful but is rotten at the core. There have been a few weird deaths on or near the plantation over the years, and rumors that the slaves have returned from the dead to exact revenge on townspeople who are descended from the white people who worked and lived at the plantation. Can they be true? And what does Mia believe?

As the wedding morning arrives, Celine is missing from her room and no one can find her. Tensions start to rise, and Jesse and Mia frantically try to figure out what happened to Celine, all the while conscious of supernatural activities ramping up. It appears the ghosts have arrived, and they are angry.

This was truly a spooky read. The horrors of the plantation and the absolute depravity of plantation owner Roman Woodsman made me cringe a few times. The anger of the dead slaves is palpable, and wow I'd be bent on revenge, too. After all, it is said their blood soaked into the soil and has remained there all this time. Not even graves for those who died. 

It's short, brutal, and oh so good. Wow. A powerful novel about slavery, the attempts we have today to gloss over the horror of it; the way it decays a town and poisons generations. The tension in this novel slowly bumps up until your heart just about leaps out of your chest. 

I haven't read horror for a bit, and this was a great way to dip my toe back into this genre. History and horror are an interesting mix. 

Rating: 5/6 for a terrifying novel about revenge, racism, the afterlife, and how true history will always comes out. Some things should be left to rot in the woods. 

Available in paperback, ebook, and audio. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner

 

Well it feels kind of fitting to finish a book about a  natural disaster on the one year anniversary of a natural disaster that hit my hometown on August 10, 2020: the Derecho. An inland hurricane in Iowa. One year later we are still dealing with recovery. And wouldn't you know, we've had one severe storm today, and I can hear rumblings of another getting ready to break tonight. To say folks around here are a bit jumpy wouldn't be an exaggeration. 

The Nature of Fragile Things is about two natural disasters: the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, and the natural disaster of one horrible man causing heartache and havoc (with a side of murder) in the lives of three different women. 

Sophie Whalen arrives in San Francisco ready to marry Martin Hocking and become mother to his young daughter. She's been living in New York after arriving from Ireland, and was miserable living in a tenement and working at a factory. Answering a mail order bride ad in the newspaper brings Sophie to San Francisco and the hope of a new life. Martin Hocking is handsome, no doubt, but there's something just a bit off about him. He's all work and there's not an ounce of warmth in him. His daughter Kat doesn't speak much at all after the death of her mother. Martin makes no attempts to help Kat through her issues and gladly hands her off to Sophie. Sophie of course loves Kat to bits and embraces her role as a mother. 

Things with Martin get even more strange when a woman named Belinda arrives on their doorstep, asking for help. Here's where things get really odd, and the story starts to unfold. But first, there's a major earthquake to survive--but does everyone survive?

Sophie starts out as what seems to be a innocent young woman, just so relieved to finally have a safe place to land. However, it quickly becomes apparent that she's one tough lady, not afraid to protect herself and Kat by any means necessary. Sophie is no pushover. There are hints about her life in Ireland, but it remains in the shadows-you know something happened, just not sure what. 

The story takes a few dips and twists--some which aren't really surprising, but it's an interesting plot. I was a bit disappointed the earthquake wasn't more prominent, but I will have to read some non-fiction books about it to fill my interest in all of it. 

There is a final chapter that helps close some of the questions left in the story; it offers a glimpse of what becomes of Kat, Sophie, and Belinda years down the road.  

An interesting novel that read quickly. The women are all strong, and remain so through their trials and low points. Martin is the true bad guy, who just keeps showing new unpleasant sides to his personality and motives. 

Rating: 3/6 for an interesting historical novel about surviving the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. It's a reminder of the strength of women to overcome bad marriages, abusive spouses, and disappointments; surviving it all to keep going. It's also a novel about female friendship, unbreakable bonds, and the love of a mother and child.  

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audio. 

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Returning to a Favorite Author: A Country Escape by Katie Fforde

 

My bestie Candace and I share a love of Katie Fforde novels. We've been reading them for--oh gosh, about 20 years? Maybe more. First discovered her when B&N featured her novel Wild Designs way back in the 1990's. I bought the hardcover (still have it) read it super fast, and decided I would always read Katie Fforde novels whenever I could. 

Unfortunately, they can be hard to get in the U.S. I told Candace we needed to visit the UK just to stock up on novels we can't easily get here. She's up for it. 

I bought a used copy of A Country Escape and I'll confess I stayed up way past my bedtime Monday night so I could finish it. There is something comforting about Katie's novels--almost like having a cozy blanket wrapped around me. Her novels usually involve a female main character who is a bit older (not in her early 20's) and has an interesting career or finds herself doing something completely out of her normal life. In A Country Escape, Fran finds herself leaving London and her career as a chef to move to a small farm she just may inherit if she can keep it going for a year. Fran's distant Aunt Amy has moved to a care home and has asked Fran to take over her farm. What makes this farm special is the herd of cows that Amy has kept on her farm for decades--they are special cows and must not be sold or bred outside of their breed. Lucky for Fran, the farm comes with the brilliant Tig, the gruff yet friendly brilliant keeper of the cows. 

When Fran is faced with an overwhelming amount of milk that may be tossed out, she decides to make soft cheese, hoping she can sell it and keep the farm from going under. That starts her on an interesting path using her chef skills to save Hill Top Farm from a greedy relative who is also trying to inherit the farm. Who will Amy leave the farm to in her will? 

Of course there is romance for Fran--but it's subtle and refreshing. The cast of characters are all charming and heck, I'd love to visit Hill Top Farm myself one day if I could! 

It's been awhile since I've read a Katie Fforde novel, and I kick myself for missing a few over the years. I'll be trading books with Candace as we both try to catch up. These are perfect novels for anyone who wants a charming, quick read with  a full cast of characters who are all pleasantly pleasant. 

Rating: 4/6 for a delightful novel about taking a chance at a new life, using life skills to create opportunities when presented with set backs, and the rewarding, yet hard working life of a farmer. Brew a pot of tea, settle back, and enjoy the British countryside. 

Available in hardcover and ebook. 

Sunday, August 1, 2021

August is Here and Quite Frankly I'm in Denial Summer is Almost Over

 While I have been enjoying some aspects of summer: not wearing a coat, early morning wake ups, and no warming up the car! I do get weary of the warm, sticky, icky weather. I also get a bit crestfallen when I see all of my flowers start to wither under the unrelenting heat. Flowers have done pretty well, but the last few weeks of super hot days have taken the fight right out of them. Iowa hasn't had much rain at all this summer, and it shows. We need rain!!

I woke up this morning and told my partner "Do you realize it's August 1st?" What he said isn't repeatable, so let's just say he was shocked to realize we're in another month. 

August is here, and wow it showed up fast. I've been reflecting a lot on my incredibly slow reading pace this year; sitting with it and thinking about the why of it all. Some of it has to do with being unable to concentrate and really dive into a story. Some of it has to do with spending much more time with my partner than I have in past years. My time to myself has shrunk a bit--not a huge amount, but enough to keep me from reading all weekend like I used to do. I definitely do think some of it has to do with phone distraction. It's too easy to read a page, then check the phone. So starting this month I'm going to put the phone away every night after 6 PM and not look at it. 

I still read every day. I never miss a day. It's not something I can do--it will put me in a crabby mood if I don't read even a few pages. So I squeeze in time early in the morning, try to read at lunch if I can. Always read before bed at night. I've been reading a lot on Twitter other book bloggers who also are struggling with reading since Covid. So I'm hoping next year my reading may return to a more normal level for me. 

Last month I started quite a few books and didn't get through them. I'm reading The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris and I'm having a hard time sitting and reading chunks of it. Mostly because I know something unpleasant is going to happen, and I'm anticipating and dreading it! But I plan on finishing it this month and getting a review out. Some other titles I've got in the hopper:

I just had to grab a Katie Fforde novel. This one is about a young chef who inherits a farm and a herd of very impressive cows. Will she succeed or fail and lose the farm?




AHHHHHH Alice Hoffman!!  This is the sequel to Practical Magic and I was lucky to receive an ARC. I've already started it and cried. This is being published in October. 

I've had a few people recommend this book. Baby steps to creating new habits. I can definitely get onboard with this. 




I picked this up at B&N and thought it looked fun. A woman with huge anxiety is pushed out of her comfort zone when she decides to spy on her husband and a woman she suspects are having an affair. 

OOH!! I've been waiting for this sequel to The Book Charmer for months. It's finally here! A return to Dove Pond and the magical Dove sisters. 

I've had this book in a pile for months and keep forgetting to start it. I need some historical fiction, and this is the ticket. One of the periods in history that fascinate me: the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. 

I've also got a few books on hold at the library, and you know I'm easily distracted by new titles. I'm making myself wait until later in the week before I visit B&N to pick up some new releases. 

Here's to August, the comfort of books, and starting new habits.  


Wednesday, July 21, 2021

That Summer by Jennifer Weiner

 

Last year's Big Summer was the first Jennifer Weiner book I'd read and I enjoyed it very much. That Summer has completely different characters, but Cape Cod plays a big role in this novel, too. 

Diana Scalzi is fifteen years old and has the world ahead of her the summer she spends on Cape Cod, nannying for her mom's friend Dr. Levy. She even meets a boy named Poe who just graduated from Emlen, a private boy's school that is the place to send the sons of the wealthy and powerful. They spend time on the beaches, getting to know one another. Diana is smitten, and believes Poe is, too. 

Until one night, at the end of the summer, when Poe gets her drunk, and rapes her. It changes Diana forever. Revenge comes back years later, just when she thinks she's able to let go and move on. However, Diana finds out revenge isn't that easy.


Diana "Daisy" Shoemaker is married to Hal, an older, handsome lawyer. Their daughter Beatrice is a teenager who recently was kicked out of Hal's alma mater, Emlen. Daisy is the woman who keeps the family running--always putting Hal's needs before her own. She keeps getting the wrong emails-emails for another Diana. Soon they form a friendship and begin meeting each other for lunch and dinner. Who is this new friend, and what does she want from Daisy?

Yes, you guessed it--Daisy's friend is none other than Diana Scalzi. Whatever Diana has planned, she never planned on actually liking Daisy and Beatrice. Does she continue on her path of revenge, or walk away before confronting Hal?

So I've got to admit I was not expecting a story about a teenage rape and the drive to avenge. I didn't really read any blurbs about the novel, so that was surprising. I much preferred Big Summer--it was a much more solid plot This plot seemed a bit thin and there wasn't much driving it forward. I was hoping Daisy would stand up to Hal in a really big way, but had to wait a long time for any kind of tough Daisy. 

It wasn't a bad story; I was just underwhelmed and had hoped for more. Warning there is a rape scene in this novel (it is not graphic) so if this is a sensitive subject for you this may be a tough read. 

I'll keep reading Jennifer Weiner and hope her next novel is a bit different than That Summer. 

Rating: 3/6 for a novel about a woman who is haunted by her tragic past and cannot move forward until she confronts her rapist. In doing so, she finds innocent casualties in her drive for revenge. 

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audio. 

Saturday, July 17, 2021

My Lemon Grove Summer by Jo Thomas

 

Click here to order from Amazon
This was a fun, quick read. Jo Thomas is an English author who reminds me of Katie Fforde novels--contemporary women's fiction with a dash of romance and usually featuring a woman in her 30's-40's.

This novel takes place in Sicily, Italy and involves lemons--which I adore so much. I love everything lemon. Lennie and Zelda are friends who have come to the conclusion that life in England is not going to get better. Neither of them are happy with their humdrum lives. Lennie tells Zelda about an opportunity to move to Italy and live in a small town where they will pay for you to stay and help grow the community. Sounds like a win-win, right? And that pesky part about not finding love? 

Lennie and Zelda made a pact years ago that if they reached age forty without finding true love, they would get married. What could possibly go wrong with marrying your best friend?

Off they go to Italy, and meet a few other people who have also taken the leap and moved in the hope of starting fresh. Only problem is the town folks don't want outsiders moving in, and the houses they were promised are falling down disasters. Someone in the village of Citta d'Ora is pulling all the strings to push Lennie, Zelda, and their new friends out. 

There's also the local legend that says if a marriage doesn't happen in the village every ten years, Etna (volcano!) will show it's displeasure. And wouldn't you know, but that volcano is doing some rumbling...will Lennie and Zelda say "I do", even though it's quite clear they are firmly in the friend zone? Especially when Zelda sees Luca and feels the zip of instant connection...what's a woman to do?

This was a fun, quick read that took me away to Italy. Lemons abound in this novel, and I couldn't help but smell them the whole time I was reading this novel. There are even recipes in the back of the book for lemon-flavored treats. My only annoyance was with Zelda continually talking herself into keeping her promise to Lennie even when it was so very obvious they were not attracted to each other. 

I'll be reading more of Jo Thomas--she's an entertaining writer; romance is part of the story, but it's pretty clean--lots of longing looks and maybe a kiss or two.This novel was all about being true to yourself, taking chances, and using your talents to carve out a new life. 

Rating: 3/6 for a lovely novel set in Sicily, full of lemon groves and a sad, dying town that just needs some loving care to come back to life. Characters are enjoyable and just enough side stories to keep it all interesting and moving towards a satisfying conclusion. 

Available in ebook and paperback. 

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

 

Click here to purchase from Amazon
This memoir has gotten a lot of buzz in the book industry the past few months, but that didn't make me want to read it. I happened to watch CBS' Sunday morning news and they interviewed Michelle Zauner. That did the trick. Then I had to read it, and luckily it was 50% off at B&N so I snagged it. 

Michelle's mother is Korean, and Michelle's father is white. She grew up feeling a bit lost in between, but absolutely loved all of the Korean foods, stories, and family history her mother shared with her. Very rocky teen years full of rebellion and depression created a wedge between Michelle and her mother that was hard to overcome. 

The news that her mother had cancer rocked Michelle's world, and she promptly packed her bags and flew back to Eugene, Oregon to help care for her during treatment. 

This memoir is about Michelle's grief, and how she climbed out of it with the help of her boyfriend Peter, her Korean family, and her memories of her mother. So many regrets, to be sure. But also gratitude for all her mother taught her about her Korean roots, resilience, and the importance of family-whether it's the one you are born into, or the one you make. 

I absolutely loved all of the Korean food descriptions and how many memories came from those special dishes. Michelle's grief is heartbreaking and anyone who has gone through losing a parent understands completely her highs and lows. 

Michelle Zauner is also well known for her musical abilities--she's the lead singer in the band Japanese Breakfast, which is getting a lot of buzz, too. 

I found this a thoughtful and touching memoir from a woman who takes ownership  for her part in a loving but oftentimes difficult mother-daughter relationship. 


Rating: 4/6 for a memoir about loving and losing a parent, and the gifts they leave behind. 

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audio. Michelle's band Japanese Breakfast has albums available on iTunes, Amazon, and other music stores.


Thursday, July 8, 2021

The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict & Victoria Christopher Murray

 

Click here to buy from Amazon
I picked this book up not knowing a whole lot about the subject matter and under a deadline to read it in ten days before returning it to the library. Add in a very busy  July 4th weekend and I only had a few days to read it.  I wasn't sure I'd make it, but happily the story grabbed my attention and I've spent the last few nights reading about an amazing librarian: Belle da Costa Greene.  

Belle became the personal librarian of JP Morgan in 1906. JP Morgan had built an impressive private library to house his already impressive collection of manuscripts and rare books. Belle was hired to organize and develop his collection. What JP and everyone around Belle didn't know was that Belle was an African American woman who passed as white. Her secret would drive her career and personal choices for the rest of her life. 

Belle's family history was definitely one that kept her conflicted about her choice to follow her mother's wish to pass as white in a city and country where African Americans were being lynched, denied rights, and only hired for menial, low paying jobs. Belle's job had her dining with the Vanderbilts, attending the opera with well known New York socialites, and most importantly, garnering JP Morgan's admiration and trust. Belle traveled to Europe to spend millions of JP's money at auctions, all the while building his private collection into one that rivaled most museums. 

Belle was an amazing woman--brilliant, hard working, and self-taught. She gave up a lot to keep her secret, and her place as librarian. I was curious enough to google her, and there's a lot out there about her. The Morgan Library and Museum will have a exhibition on Belle in 2024.  

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel about a woman who blazed a trail during a time when women were struggling to be heard and respected. She was the ultimate career woman and remarkable for her time. 

Both authors have notes in the back of the book detailing their experience writing this novel during the 2020 Pandemic. This would make an interesting discussion for a book club. I'd like to read more about Belle. 

Rating: 4/6 for a fascinating novel about JP Morgan's personal librarian. She was an incredibly smart, talented woman who defied societal norms while creating one of the most important collections of manuscripts, art, and books in the United States. Anyone with a love of libraries, art, or books will find this novel hard to put down. 

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audio.