Book Reviews · Recommendations

A Royal Pain (Her Royal Spyness 2) by Rhys Bowen

A Royal Pain
(Her Royal Spyness, 2)
By: Rhys Bowen
Narrated by: Katherine Kellgren

Book Cover

Published: July 2008
Published by: Berkley
Format Read: Paperback, Audio Book, Audible
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis

It’s 1930s London, and Lady Georgiana — thirty-fourth in line to the throne — has a lot on her plate, but little in her cupboards, in this national bestseller…

Baked beans and boiled eggs. That’s what my houseguest, the Bavarian princess, will have to eat if I don’t get help posthaste. The Queen of England has requested I entertain said princess, placing her in the playboy prince’s path, in hopes he might finally marry.

But queens never consider money, of which I have little. And which is why I moonlight as a maid-in-disguise. My plans:
1) Clean house in manner of palace.
2) Blackmail brother, Binky, into sending a few quid.
3) Unteach Princess Hanni English from gangster movies — lest she address the queen as “old broad.”
4) Keep eye on princess at parties, where she drinks like a fish.

Then there’s the matter of the body in the bookshop and Hanni’s unwitting involvement with the communist party. It’s enough to drive a girl mad…

My Thoughts

Rhys Bowen’s Her Royal Spyness series follows 34th in line to the British throne; the fictional Lady Georgiana. She may be of royal relation, but like the majority of the world during the 1930’s she is struggling to make ends meet and live up to her social standing. In this second installment of the series, Lady Georgiana is tasked by the Queen to host a young Princess from Bavaria, in hope that she will win the heart of the Prince. Tie in a Communist plot, high society and three deaths, then you have A Royal Pain.

I had so much fun reading this novel. The situations Lady Georgiana gets herself in are always entertaining. The addition of an American gangster film loving Princess Hanni was hilarious.

I alternated between reading a paperback and listening to the audiobook. Katherine Kellgren’s narration of Lady Georgiana reminded me of Lady Mary Crowley from Downton Abbey, only less snooty and with a better sense of humor.

I highly recommend A Royal Pain and the Royal Spyness series to fans of humorous historical mysteries.

Book Reviews · Charlie's Corner · Recommendations

Charlie’s Corner: Waiting for Snow by Marsha Diane Arnold

Welcome to Charlie’s Corner, named after my little boy. Here I will share children’s product and book reviews.

Waiting for Snow
By: Marsha Diane Arnold
Illustrated by: Renata Liwska

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Published: November 2016
Published by: HMH Books for Young Readers
Format Read: eBook, Library book, Libby App.
Genre: Children’s fiction, Picture Book

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis

Badger cannot wait one more minute for it to snow. When his friend Hedgehog explains that everything comes in its time, Badger is as unconvinced and impatient as ever. But Badger’s friends have a few tricks up their sleeve to try to get the snow’s attention and distract their pal in the meantime. In the end, Badger sees there’s no trick—only waiting—until at last, it’s time. 

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

Badger can’t wait for snow so he and his animal friends try to think of ways they can bring on the weather. In this cute picture books, children are taught the importance of patients. Waiting for Snow by Marsha Diane Arnold and illustrated by Renata Liwska is the perfect read for those little ones who can’t wait to get out and build a snowman or go for a sled ride.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

The Lieutenant’s Nurse by Sara Ackerman

The Lieutenant’s Nurse
By: Sara Ackerman
Narrated by: Lauren Ezzo

Book Cover

Published: March 2019
Published by: Harlequin Audio
Format Read: Audio book, Audible
Genre: Historical Fiction

Rating: 3/5

Note: I was sent a copy of Sara Ackerman’s The Lieutenant’s Nurse, from the publisher via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. However I wasn’t able to read the eBook, so this is my review of the Audiobook.

Synopsis

November, 1941. She’s never even seen the ocean before, but Eva Cassidy has her reasons for making the crossing to Hawaii, and they run a lot deeper than escaping a harsh Michigan winter. Newly enlisted as an Army Corps nurse, Eva is stunned by the splendor she experiences aboard the steamship SS Lurline; even more so by Lt. Clark Spencer, a man she is drawn to but who clearly has secrets of his own. But Eva’s past—and the future she’s trying to create—means that she’s not free to follow her heart. Clark is a navy intelligence officer, and he warns her that the United States won’t be able to hold off joining the war for long, but nothing can prepare them for the surprise attack that will change the world they know.
In the wake of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Eva and her fellow nurses band together for the immense duty of keeping the American wounded alive. And the danger that finds Eva threatens everything she holds dear. Amid the chaos and heartbreak, Eva will have to decide whom to trust and how far she will go to protect those she loves.
Set in the vibrant tropical surroundings of the Pacific, The Lieutenant’s Nurse is an evocative, emotional WWII story of love, friendship and the resilient spirit of the heroic nurses of Pearl Harbor.

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

Army Corps nurse Eva Cassidy is eager to get away from a difficult situation in her home state of Michigan and embarks on a journey to her assigned station in Hawaii. While aboard the S.S. Lurline, she befriends a Lt. Spencer and becomes accidentally privy to some classified information. However, it isn’t long after they arrive in paradise that the unimaginable happens; Pearl Harbor is attacked by the Japanese.

I have been looking for a historical fiction set in Pearl Harbor for quite some time. When I read the synopsis for The Lieutenants Nurse, I jumped at the change to add it to my TBR list.

Not only was the island setting absolutely beautiful, but I really enjoyed Eva’s trip aboard the steamship as well.

Although I didn’t have any particular issued with the narration of this novel, at times my interest in listening to it waned and I found myself wishing I could turn to a physical copy or eBook version to read.

My final impression of The Lieutenants Nurse was that it was interesting and at times fast paced. I would recommend it to those who enjoy historical fiction with romance.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

The Lake of Dreams by Kim Edwards

The Lake of Dreams
By: Kim Edwards

Book Cover

Published: November 2010
Published by: Penguin Books
Format Read: Trade Paperback
Genre: Contemporary fiction, Literary fiction

Rating: 3/5

Note: I won a copy of Kim Edwards The Lake of Dreams from the publisher via Goodreads Giveaways. This is my honest review.

Synopsis

From Kim Edwards, the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, an arresting novel of one family’s secret history

Imbued with all the lyricism, compassion, and suspense of her bestselling novel, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, Kim Edwards’s The Lake of Dreams is a powerful family drama and an unforgettable story of love lost and found.

Lucy Jarrett is at a crossroads in her life, still haunted by her father’s unresolved death a decade earlier. She returns to her hometown in Upstate New York, The Lake of Dreams, and, late one night, she cracks the lock of a window seat and discovers a collection of objects. They appear to be idle curiosities, but soon Lucy realizes that she has stumbled across a dark secret from her family’s past, one that will radically change her—and the future of her family—forever.

The Lake of Dreams 
will delight those who loved The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, as well as fans of Anna Quindlen and Sue Miller.

My Thoughts

Estranged from her Upstate New York home, Lucy returns after years spent abroad. After all the time that had passed the same animosities and grief remains. However the small lakeside town has advanced with the times, much to her dismay. While Lucy struggles with her guilt, she uncovers a missing link in her families history that might result in further upsetting changes.

The Lake of Dreams read (to me) like a literary fiction; a genre I don’t normally read. I feel that this contributed to why I struggled to connect with the main character. The tone of this novel was very melancholy, as was Lucy.

My favourite aspect was the uncovering of the Jarrett family genealogy. I thought the environmental storyline that was presented at the beginning of the novel could have taken the plot down an interesting path. Lucy even had to knowledge to stand up and fight more to protect the marshland from being developed. However I was disappointed that this potential was lost.

Although I wasn’t able to connect with The Lake of Dreams like I hoped, I would still recommend this book to those who like literary fiction.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

For the Love of Friends by Sara Goodman Confino

For the Love of Friends
By: Sara Goodman Confino

Book Cover

Published: August 2021
Published by: Lake Union Publishing
Format Read: ebook, Net Galley, Kindle
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Romance

Rating: 3/5

Note: I was sent a copy of For the Love of Friends by Sara Goodman Confino, from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis

A sharp and hilariously relatable novel about the business of weddings, the toll they can take, and the lengths one exasperated bridesmaid will go to for the love of friends.

Lily Weiss is her mother’s worst nightmare: thirty-two and single—the horror! She’s also a talented writer but hides behind a boring job at a science foundation. To her friends, she’s reliable and selfless, which is how she winds up a bridesmaid in five weddings in six weeks. Anything for her three best friends and two (younger) siblings, right? Even if her own love life is…well, she’d rather not talk about it. To keep her sanity, Lily needs a safe place to vent.

And so her anonymous blog, Bridesmania, is born. The posts start pouring out of her: all the feels about mom-zillas, her vanishing bank balance, the wicked bridesmaids of the west, high-strung brides-to-be, body-shaming dress clerks, bachelorette parties, and Spanx for days, not to mention being deemed guardian of eighty-eight-year-old Granny (who enjoys morning mimosas in the nude) for her brother’s destination wedding.

So far the blog has stayed anonymous. But as everyone knows, few things online remain secret forever…

When all is said and done, can Lily help all five couples make it to happily ever after? And will her own happy ending be close behind?

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

32 years old, single and stuck in a job beneath her talent; that describes Lily, the main character in Sara Goodman Confino’s debut novel. Life was pretty uneventful until she agrees to be in, not one, but five different weddings! That’s five weddings in the span of only 6 weeks! Piece of cake, right? Wrong! Especially when you throw in numerous celebrations, commitments, bridesmaids from hell and a nearly non-existent budget.

Anyone who has ever planned or been in a wedding party can relate to the chaos that occurs in For the Love of Friends. I’ve had the pleasure of standing in two weddings to date and while it was an honor, they were anxiety inducing experiences for sure. I couldn’t imagine juggling five at once, like Lily. This was a character I was able to easily relate to.

The author did a great job of conveying the emotions Lily experienced including; feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. Although the blogging of the mania would get her into hot water, I enjoyed reading about this aspect. Although this is a lighthearted contemporary, I appreciate and was able to relate to the inclusion of body shaming in the wedding industry. Sure, it sounds nice for all the bridesmaids to wear the same dress, but not every women has the same body type. Some of the demands the brides made in this story were way over the top. The hectic pace of this book reminded me of The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger.

I would recommend For the Love of Friends by Sara Goodman Confino to fans of humorous contemporaries with a dash of romance.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Inheriting Edith by Zoe Fishman

Inheriting Edith
By: Zoe Fishman

Book Cover

Published: January 2016
Published by: William Morrow Paperbacks

Format Read: Trade Paperback
Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Rating: 3/5

Note: I won a copy of Inheriting Edith by Zoe Fishman, from the publisher via Goodreads Giveaways. This is my honest review.

Synopsis

A poignant breakout novel, for fans of J. Courtney Sullivan and Elin Hilderbrand, about a single mother who inherits a beautiful beach house with a caveat—she must take care of the ornery elderly woman who lives in it.

For years, Maggie Sheets has been an invisible hand in the glittering homes of wealthy New York City clients, scrubbing, dusting, mopping, and doing all she can to keep her head above water as a single mother. Everything changes when a former employer dies leaving Maggie a staggering inheritance. A house in Sag Harbor. The catch? It comes with an inhabitant: The deceased’s eighty-two-year old mother Edith.

Edith has Alzheimer’s—or so the doctors tell her—but she remembers exactly how her daughter Liza could light up a room, or bring dark clouds in her wake. And now Liza’s gone, by her own hand, and Edith has been left—like a chaise or strand of pearls—to a poorly dressed young woman with a toddler in tow.

Maggie and Edith are both certain this arrangement will be an utter disaster. But as summer days wane, a tenuous bond forms, and Edith, who feels the urgency of her diagnosis, shares a secret that she’s held close for five decades, launching Maggie on a mission that might just lead them each to what they are looking for.

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

Inheriting Edith follows a single hardworking mother who un-expectantly inherits a house, after the death of a former friend. The only stipulation is that she must become a caregiver for the woman’s elderly mother.

This was a quick contemporary fiction that I flew through. It was exactly the pace I was looking for at the time. I could easily relate to the main character Maggie, as she dedicated herself to making a better life for her child. Newly diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, Edith was rightly frustrated with her situation and I thought that she was aptly depicted. The brief glimpses of her backstory were interesting as well.

The author presented a story with many points that covered difficult subject matter. Things that could have made for a very emotional reading experience. Unfortunately, in the end, I found this novel just fell flat in those aspects. Issues and potential storylines that could have been more deeply explored, were only briefly touched on. The ideas were there and I believe the author possesses the ability to craft a more in-depth novel, however this was not the case here.

While I enjoyed Finding Edith for the quick story it was, it did leave me somewhat unfulfilled. This book touches on the following topics that might triggers some readers; suicide, grief and mental illness. However they aren’t deeply explored and might not have the impact heavier books with the same topics, might have.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

Clap When You Land
By: Elizabeth Acevedo

Book Cover

Published: May 2020
Published by: HarperTeen
Format Read: eBook, Libby App.
Genre: YA Lit, Contemporary, Poetry

Rating: 5/5

Synopsis

In a novel-in-verse that brims with grief and love, National Book Award-winning and New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Acevedo writes about the devastation of loss, the difficulty of forgiveness, and the bittersweet bonds that shape our lives.

Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people…

In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash.

Separated by distance—and Papi’s secrets—the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered.

And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

Books written in verse isn’t a style I generally gravitate to, however I have heard rave reviews about this author and this novel, so I decided to borrow it from my library.

Clap When You Land is an emotional story of two sisters meeting for the first time after the tragic death of their father. Elizabeth Acevedo took inspiration for this book from a real life tragedy; the crash of flight AA587 in November 2001, which shook the Dominican community in New York. As the two young women wrestle with their grief and the aftermath of their discoveries, I too wrestled with how I felt about their father’s duplicitous life. This moral dilemma would make for a great discussion for book clubs.

I appreciate the diversity that Camino and Yahaira’s story presents, as well as the stark contrast between life in America and the slums of the Dominican Republic. Yet at the same time the author highlighted the traditions and beliefs that were brought to America by immigrants from their homeland. I also found the customs and traditions of the mourning in this culture to be interesting. The meaning behind passengers clapping when they land was profound and made for a great title for the novel.

I would highly recommend Elizabeth Acevedo’s Clap When You Land to fans of the genre who enjoy reading about diverse characters. For those who may be leery to read a book in verse, I say give this one a try. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Note: Content warning for those who may be triggered by such things as; sexual assault and grief.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Dear Haiti, Love Alaine by Maika Moulite & Maritza Moulite

Dear Haiti, Love Alaine
By: Maika Moulite & Maritza Moulite

Book Cover

Published: September 2019
Published by: Inkyard Press
Format Read: Trade Paperback
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary Fiction

Rating: 4/5

NOTE: I won a copy of Maika Moulite and Maritza Moutlie’s Dear Haiti, Love Alaine, from the publisher via Goodreads Giveaways. This is my honest review.

Synopsis

Co-written by sisters Maika and Maritza Moulite, and told in epistolary style through letters, articles, emails, and diary entries, this exceptional debut novel captures a sparkling new voice and irrepressible heroine in a celebration of storytelling sure to thrill fans of Nicola Yoon, Ibi Zoboi and Jenna Evans Welch!

When a school presentation goes very wrong, Alaine Beauparlant finds herself suspended, shipped off to Haiti and writing the report of a lifetime…

You might ask the obvious question: What do I, a seventeen-year-old Haitian American from Miami with way too little life experience, have to say about anything?

Actually, a lot.

Thanks to “the incident” (don’t ask), I’m spending the next two months doing what my school is calling a “spring volunteer immersion project.” It’s definitely no vacation. I’m toiling away under the ever-watchful eyes of Tati Estelle at her new nonprofit. And my lean-in queen of a mother is even here to make sure I do things right. Or she might just be lying low to dodge the media sharks after a much more public incident of her own…and to hide a rather devastating secret.

All things considered, there are some pretty nice perks…like flirting with Tati’s distractingly cute intern, getting actual face time with my mom and experiencing Haiti for the first time. I’m even exploring my family’s history—which happens to be loaded with betrayals, superstitions and possibly even a family curse.

You know, typical drama. But it’s nothing I can’t handle.

My Thoughts

Sister writing duo Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite draw inspiration from their own Haitian-American upbringing in their debut novel. Readers follow high school senior Alaine as she is sent to her family’s homeland of Haiti after a political scandal and suspension from school.

I had never read a book set in Haiti before, nor did I know much about that culture. I also learned more about the separation (and lack thereof) between the wealthy and those living in poverty in this island country. The vibrant descriptions of the setting were fascinating.

Alaine was a strong female lead with a personality and sarcastic sense of humor, that I could relate to. The multi-media format this book was told in (included; emails, messages, articles and written assignments) made for a quick and enjoyable reading experience.

I was initially leery about the storyline involving the family curse and its historical significance, as this isn’t something that generally interests me. However my curiosity about the final outcome and how it all came together really drew me in.

I would highly recommend Dear Haiti, Love Alaine to those who enjoy reading about strong young women who are intelligent and ambitious. I look forward to reading more from these authors in the future.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

The Vanishing Half
By: Brit Bennett

Narrated by: Shayna Small

Book Cover

Published: June 2020
Published by: Penguin Audio

Format Read: Audiobook, Audible
Genre: Historical Fiction

Rating: 3/5

Synopsis

The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Many years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ storylines intersect?

Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person’s decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half follows the lives of The Vignes twins and the opposite paths they follow. Their stories present a comparison of a lower class African American women to that of her sister who passes as white and lives a privileged life among with her wealthy husband. Readers follow a timeline that spans the 1950’s to the early 1990’s.

I was drawn to this book as I was very interested in the descriptions of society from these two different situations. If I had to use a word to describe The Vanishing Half, I would say that it is a quite read. The events (especially those that were more traumatic) were told in a way that made them seem less shocking and more mater-of-fact. I think that some readers might be turned off by this style of writing. However I thought that Brit Bennett’s use of metaphors showed her talent as an author, beautifully.

Shayna Small’s narration of the characters felt authentic and did justice to the story. Although I thought the ending was abrupt, I would reccommend Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half to those interested in diverse historical fiction. I would also advise caution to those who may be sensitive to such trigger warnings as domestic abuse.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Lumberjanes, Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy

Lumberjanes
Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy
By: Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Shannon Watters, Brooklyn Allen, Maarta Laiho, Aubrey Aiese

Book Cover

Published: April 2015
Published by: BOOM! Box
Format Read: eBook, Libby App.
Genre: Graphic Novel, Comics, Fantasy, Young Adult

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis

FRIENDSHIP TO THE MAX!

At Miss Qiunzilla Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s camp for hard-core lady-types, things are not what they seem. Three-eyed foxes. Secret caves. Anagrams. Luckily, Jo, April, Mal, Molly, and Ripley are five rad, butt-kicking best pals determined to have an awesome summer together… And they’re not gonna let a magical quest or an array of supernatural critters get in their way! The mystery keeps getting bigger, and it all begins here.

Collects Lumberjanes No. 1-4.

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

I picked up this graphic novel on a whim when I saw it was available at my local library via the Libby App. I had heard rave reviews about this first installment and the series as a whole, when it was released. However I didn’t pay much attention to it as I had never been interested in graphic novels before. Thankfully I decided to give it a shot as it was such a fun reading experience.

I was surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did. Although you don’t get as much written detail in this format, the cast of characters are vibrant and unique. If I had to compare it, I would say that Lumberjanes is a combination of Percy Jackson meets a sarcastic troop of Girl Guides. It was clever and humorous, with some great themes. Although I felt it ended abruptly, I am really looking forward to reading the second installment of this series soon.