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The Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan

The Tropic of Serpents by Marie BrennanThe Tropic of Serpents (The Memoirs of Lady Trent #2) by Marie Brennan
Series: The Memoirs of Lady Trent #2
Published by Tor Books on March 4th 2014
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 331
Source: Purchased: ebook
Goodreads

The thrilling adventure of Lady Trent continues in Marie Brennan's The Tropic of Serpents . . .

Attentive readers of Lady Trent’s earlier memoir, A Natural History of Dragons, are already familiar with how a bookish and determined young woman named Isabella first set out on the historic course that would one day lead her to becoming the world’s premier dragon naturalist. Now, in this remarkably candid second volume, Lady Trent looks back at the next stage of her illustrious (and occasionally scandalous) career.

Three years after her fateful journeys through the forbidding mountains of Vystrana, Mrs. Camherst defies family and convention to embark on an expedition to the war-torn continent of Eriga, home of such exotic draconian species as the grass-dwelling snakes of the savannah, arboreal tree snakes, and, most elusive of all, the legendary swamp-wyrms of the tropics.

The expedition is not an easy one. Accompanied by both an old associate and a runaway heiress, Isabella must brave oppressive heat, merciless fevers, palace intrigues, gossip, and other hazards in order to satisfy her boundless fascination with all things draconian, even if it means venturing deep into the forbidden jungle known as the Green Hell . . . where her courage, resourcefulness, and scientific curiosity will be tested as never before.

This was the third time I’ve read this book, and each time I like it a little bit more. I reread it in preparation for the third book, The Voyage of the Basilisk, because for some reason, I haven’t kept current on this series, in spite of the fact that it is one of my favorites on the strength of the first two books. Books 3 & 4 have been released, and the final book in the series, Within the Sanctuary of Wings, is scheduled for release on April 25.

In terms of the the plot, if you plan to read this series, and you haven’t finished book 1, it’s really impossible to discuss this book without spoiling two significant changes in Isabella’s life. When we left her at the end of book 1, she had just returned from Vystrana, after undertaking her first voyage of discovery as a “naturalist.” She returns, not as a wife, but as a widow, Brennan having conveniently disposed of Jacob, her husband. She also returns pregnant. The Tropic of Serpents picks up three years later, after Isabella’s son is born, as she begins to hunger for dragon-based adventures and discovery once again.

This series is actually more about women in science and in public life than it is about dragons. Dragons are the fiction around which Brennan builds her society, which is modeled on our own, late 19th century, world. Isabella’s scientific aptitude, her ambitious, intrepid nature and her unwillingness to be relegated to a traditional female role is the true north of the series. Everything else is an exploration of this – from her unfeminine interest in dragons (as opposed to more socially acceptable interests like horses or dogs) to her lack of interest in maternal things (which is acceptable in ladies only when their interest is diverted by frivolities, like dresses and gossip). Isabella is a deeply substantive woman, in a culture that doesn’t really know what to do with substantive women. And, aside from Lord Hilford, who manages to see her as a fully-realized human being and more than simply a walking womb, the men who surround her really have no idea what to do with her. She is changing the men she encounters as much as she is changing herself.

Reading that Mike Pence refuses to consume a meal alone with a woman peer immediately after reading this book is a disheartening reminder that, while we’ve come a long way baby, we apparently haven’t come far enough, and that there are still plenty of 21st century men who seem to be unable to view women as anything other than an ambulatory, speech-capable vagina.

On this outing, Isabella heads to the fictional Eriga, which seems to be somewhere in Africa, and gets involved in local politics. She manages to muddle about, immerse herself in the local (native) culture, and accomplish a feat of great environmental conservation all the while coping with a culture that is just as skeptical of women who act like men as her own. She plunges headlong into the swamp known as the Green Hell, and learns to fly, both literally and figuratively. We also meet Natalie, another young woman who is entirely disinterested in a typical female life, and I hope to learn more about Natalie in later books.

I am very excited for the Voyage of the Basilisks, as it sounds very much like the trip that Charles Darwin took on the The Beagle, a voyage that has captured my imagination since the moment I heard about it.

The Last of August by Brittany Cavallaro

The Last of August by Brittany CavallaroThe Last of August by Brittany Cavallaro
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on February 14th 2017
Genres: YA
Pages: 336
Source: Borrowed: ebook
Goodreads
one-star

Watson and Holmes: A match made in disaster.

Jamie Watson and Charlotte Holmes are looking for a winter-break reprieve after a fall semester that almost got them killed. But Charlotte isn’t the only Holmes with secrets, and the mood at her family’s Sussex estate is palpably tense. On top of everything else, Holmes and Watson could be becoming more than friends—but still, the darkness in Charlotte’s past is a wall between them.

A distraction arises soon enough, because Charlotte’s beloved uncle Leander goes missing from the estate—after being oddly private about his latest assignment in a German art forgery ring. The game is afoot once again, and Charlotte is single-minded in her pursuit.

Their first stop? Berlin. Their first contact? August Moriarty (formerly Charlotte’s obsession, currently believed by most to be dead), whose powerful family has been ripping off famous paintings for the last hundred years. But as they follow the gritty underground scene in Berlin to glittering art houses in Prague, Holmes and Watson begin to realize that this is a much more complicated case than a disappearance. Much more dangerous, too.

What they learn might change everything they know about their families, themselves, and each other.

I am so annoyed. Since I gave book #1 three stars, I hoped for another three star read or higher this time. But due to the lack of any mysteries to solve and just more teen angst and a love triangle that only one person was interested in (Jamie) I was over this book before the end.

I haven’t read all of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock stories, but I never got from him a sense of disdain for Watson. Or that Sherlock didn’t know right from wrong. I don’t know if putting this in the YA setting is the issue or what. I really enjoyed “A Study in Scarlet Women” so you can have a gender flipped Sherlock Holmes that doesn’t make you loathe the character.

As others may recall based on the last book, the Moriarty family realizes August is alive and they want him back and Charlotte Holmes and her family punished. Charlotte and Jamie head back to England for the holiday break and while there stay at both their homes. While at Charlotte’s family home, Jamie finally meets Leander Holmes. Leander is currently undercover looking into some art forgeries and then goes missing. Jamie and Charlotte believe it may be the Moriarty family or the case he’s working that’s behind his disappearance. The trail leads Charlotte and Jamie to go to Berlin to figure out what’s going on. This leads to the not dynamic duo staying with Milo (Charlotte’s older brother) and Charlotte connecting with August Moriarty again.

Good things:

We get to meet August Moriarty in this one and he’s more developed than most of the other characters. He has a lot more patience for Jamie’s jealously than I would have and the fact that he even speaks to Charlotte is a point in his favor. It’s like everyone but Leander Holmes gets what Charlotte did was wrong with ruining August when he rejected her romantically. He’s too good for Charlotte and I felt the most for him since he is torn between the Holmes family and his. Even with everything we readers get to see, Jamie constantly keeps needing him to be a villain and sorry I was not here for that.

Leander Holmes is another character I enjoyed we just didn’t get to spend much time with. He definitely has a better sense about things than any Holmes besides Charlotte’s mother. We get more insight into him due to emails he sends Jamie’s father, but I don’t think anything Jamie is reading sinks in at all.

I liked the cover.

Everything else:

Dear authors, if one of your characters is raped, and another character who wasn’t raped keeps complaining about how that rape is affecting him throughout the entire book your readers may hate the character. I know I did. As readers know we find out that Charlotte Holmes was raped in the last book. She rightfully is still dealing with the aftermath of that. But due to Jamie being in love with her and wanting to be with her “that way”, he’s frustrated. I hope you enjoy teen fights since that’s a good 2/3 of this book. And Jamie stating he loves Charlotte, but gets angry at her every five seconds. Honestly he acts like a spurned lover and I started hoping something would fall on his head.

Charlotte was a contradiction throughout the book. We do her her POV in this one against me it was welcomed since I wasn’t reading about Jamie and his feelings anymore. But, this character says plainly what she needs from Jamie a lot and then he ignores her. She has bad reactions from him touching her sometimes and tries to do tests to see if she can cure herself of that. I don’t know why, but scenes like that bugged. When we switch to her POV and she mentions seeing Jamie like a knight errant I maybe laughed out loud. Okay I did laugh out loud. Her depiction of him doesn’t gibe with the Jamie we’ve been given for two books.

I wish that Cavallaro had shown more of Charlotte and August interactions when the action moves to Berlin. But we unfortunately do not get that here. And once again we get a book showing Charlotte is not as great as deductions as she think she is.

Cavallaro has pretty much depicted the Holmes family as monsters, the Moriarty’s too, and the Watson’s just enablers of the Holmes.

I actually got Emma Holmes (Charlotte’s mom) more at the end and wished we had gotten a chance to spend more time with this character. Also even though Milo is supposed to dangerous and intelligent he does something beyond stupid at the end of the book that doesn’t even fit.

We get Tom and Lena in this one again and they were not necessary. Actually they felt shoehorned in.

The writing was repetitive after a while. The majority of the book is told from Jamie’s first person POV. He’s in turns rude, angry, jealous, and sad throughout the book. When Jamie meets August he seriously becomes more of a pain, and I didn’t know it was possible. The POV told from Charlotte’s POV was welcome so you could get out of Jamie’s head for a bit. We also get to read emails from Leander Holmes to Jamie’s father and that definitely gives us more clues into their friendship. And honestly I be more interested reading about them then the younger generation at this point.

Also can I say that based on how Jamie’s father acts, he wants Jamie to show up Charlotte and solve the case (Leander’s disappearance) but it definitely doesn’t sound like anything that he would have done while working with Leander.

The flow is actually okay in this one. It’s just nothing happens for a good majority of the book. You find out the how behind the forgeries right away, but solving Leander’s disappearance takes a while.

Moving the setting from the school to England and then Berlin was a bad idea. I didn’t get any sense of Germany in this one. We don’t get much details while they are in Germany besides Jamie describing rooms.

The ending was a travesty. I think this book was set up to be along the lines of His Last Bow maybe. I honestly don’t see how there can be a third book in this series. Jamie and Charlotte have a highly toxic relationship and I am not here for them together. She needs therapy and he needs to get over himself.

one-star

Bridges: A Daphne White Novel

Bridges: A Daphne White NovelBridges by Maria Murnane
Published by Kindle Press on April 4, 2017
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 194
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
four-stars

It’s a piece of news Daphne never expected to hear: Her globe-trotting friend Skylar, who vowed never to get married, is engaged! Time to celebrate in Manhattan—Skylar’s treat, of course. After years scaling the corporate ladder, she can more than afford it.

Daphne arrives in NYC with news of her own—the novel she’s finally finished appears to be going nowhere but the trash bin of every publishing house around. She’s devastated but plans to keep her disappointment under wraps, something that becomes trickier when she sees Skylar’s spectacular apartment. Could her life have been like this if she’d chosen a different path?

What Daphne doesn’t know is she’s not the only one with a secret. Skylar and their friend KC are also holding something back, but what? As the trip unfolds, the truth about each woman emerges, along with tears.

And laughter. And love.

The fun-loving trio readers fell for in Wait for the Rain is together once more. Here's to the power of friendship!

Please note that I received this book from the author via NetGalley in return for a honest review.

I previously read the first book in this series, Wait for the Rain, and really enjoyed it, you can see my review here: Wait for the Rain review at Goodreads. So I was happy to see that Maria Murnane had a follow up with Daphne, Skylar, and KC. The only reason why I gave this four stars and not five was that I wish that Murnane had explored going with another POV with this one like Skylar. I would have really enjoyed that. And I thought the ending with things working out for Daphne would have been better if Murnane had actually kept up with the theme of how hard it is to break into being a published writer.

In “Bridges” it’s been about a year since our 3 Musketeers got together and had a vacation in the Caribbean. After the three women have a video conference call and Skylar lets them know that she is engaged and she wants to fly them to NYC in order to celebrate with her. Daphne is happy to celebrate Skylar’s good news, but hoped that she would have good news of her own to share. She took a year and started to write her own novel, based on her adventures with her friends in the Caribbean as well as the relationship she found after her divorce. Unfortunately, Daphne is getting a lot of rejection letters and is worried that maybe her dream of being a published author will never be realized. And she doesn’t know if she is going to be able to fake being happy surrounded by her two friends who are the moon about different things in their lives at this point.

I have to say that once again Maria Murnane nails female friendships. I really enjoyed how she showcased them in this book and her Waverly Bryson series. A lot of the conversations and ability to read your friend when something is off reminds me of my togethers with my two best friends. I also felt for Daphne while reading this book. Feeling stuck after a divorce, and in a so-so relationship with a guy with her daughter about to go to college leaves Daphne at a crossroads. With her best friend seeming to hit pay dirt and finding the one and living the high life in New York would be a lot to take in and be happy for at the same time. What I liked most about Daphne in this one, is that she comes to a couple of different realizations about herself and also about letting go of things with regards to her daughter.

I have to say that I love Skylar the most in this group. Maybe because I am dancing towards 40 and at this point I have not met one guy who has made me even think about forever. I loved that hard nosed Skylar who had a dating rotation fell hard and fast for what appears to be a really great guy. And I got serious house envy reading about how her home was set-up. I can get why Daphne was jealous.

KC is still the uber cheerleader who loses her shine a bit in this one. No spoilers, but there’s a reason.

We also get introduced to a best friend (in NYC) of Skylar’s that I would love to read more about. Her dating adventures had me laughing out loud. Maybe because I have a few stories as well and I think that this fictional character has gone out with real life guys i have went out with too.

We also get some reappearances of secondary characters in this one that Daphne knows. Once again no spoilers. I will say that I was happy with how things resolved though.

The writing was really good. I have to say that it was just nice to read about a group of women being themselves with each other. You can see why these three women have been friends since college. And I am very excited to see if there will be another story starring them in the near future.

The flow was really good. This was a pretty short book for me, so I was able to finish it in under about 3 hours all together.

The setting of New York really comes alive. We have Hamilton references, discussion of the High Line in New York (it’s really fun to do if you have a chance) Shake Shack which had me hungry, and just a dozen or so more references that shows that the author has been in the city and has explored these places. It really makes the book come alive. Due to this, i emailed one of my friends and now we are trying to set up a trip sometime this year to go to NYC and catch a show. Not Hamilton, I do not have Hamilton money, unlike Skylar.

The ending was great, though as I said above, I think it would have been better without the neatly wrapped ending. Not every book has to be wrapped up in a bow at the end. Or at least I prefer it when they are not.

four-stars

Roman Crazy by Alice Clayton and Nina Bocci

Roman Crazy by Alice Clayton and Nina BocciRoman Crazy by Nina Bocci
Published by Gallery Books on September 13th 2016
Genres: Romance
Pages: 326
Source: Purchased: print book
Goodreads
one-star

Avery Bardot steps off the plane in Rome, looking for a fresh start. She’s left behind a soon-to-be ex-husband in Boston and plans to spend the summer with her best friend Daisy, licking her wounds—and perhaps a gelato or two. But when her American-expat friend throws her a welcome party on her first night, Avery’s thrown for a loop when she sees a man she never thought she’d see again: Italian architect Marcello Bianchi.

Marcello was the man—the one who got away. And now her past is colliding with her present, a present where she should be mourning the loss of her marriage and—hey, that fettuccine is delicious! And so is Marcello…

Slipping easily into the good life of summertime in Rome, Avery spends her days exploring a city that makes art historians swoon, and her nights swooning over her unexpected what was old is new again romance. It’s heady, it’s fevered, it’s wanton, and it’s crazy. But could this really be her new life? Or is it just a temporary reprieve before returning to the land of twin-set cardigans and crustless sandwiches?

A celebration of great friendship, passionate romance, and wonderful food, Roman Crazy is a lighthearted story of second chances and living life to the fullest.

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If I had been feeling better yesterday and this morning I would have been rage updating all freaking day at Booklikes and Goodreads. This book has ticked me off in so many ways that it’s going to have to be a spoiler review because otherwise you won’t get why this whole book irked me and was even called a romance. Too bad it wasn’t in the New Adult genre so I could at least blame something else on that genre.

“Roman Crazy” starts off with Avery Bardot walking in on her husband (Daniel) having sex with his secretary. She thought they were happy all these years (not really, we will get to that in a second) and can’t believe she’s expected to just ignore what he did in order to get jewelry (per her mother in law). So after having her best friend Daisy on mute during this whole insane conversation, Daisy tells Avery to come to her in Rome and get away from the craziness that is Daniel and Boston at the moment. So far so good right? I liked the beginning and liked Daisy. I stupidly thought the book was going to be differing first person POVs from both Avery and Daisy. Oh, how I wish.

Instead Avery arrives in Rome and is whisked out to meet Daisy’s coworkers and comes across a man named Marcello. See several years ago when Avery was abroad studying, she had a crazy hot affair with Marcello. Problem was that Avery was dating Daniel at the time so she was still keeping in touch with him while doing hot and heavy things with Marcello.

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So I told myself at this point okay, maybe it will get better. I am not a fan of cheating, but maybe this can get cleaned up a bit. No dear friends, it gets worse.

We find out that Avery returned to Boston to break things off with Daniel, but you know, felt comfortable with him again, had sex with him, got pregnant and then promptly ghosted the hell out of Marcello. Daniel proposed, they got married, and they lost their child. I maybe rolled my eyes a million times at this. This all is apparently supposed to be used as reasons why Daniel and Avery were not really meant to be with each other instead of reasons why they both should have saw a damn counselor.

Anyway, tra la la, Avery is back in Italy with Marcello and these two fools start dating. And Avery never tells him that she’s technically still married and anything that really went down years ago.

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So you are reading this book in disbelief at times because I think Clayton thinks we are supposed to be rooting for these two when all I can see is trouble ahead. And trouble we get.

Of course eventually Daniel shows up and everything is resolved in like 5 seconds there. But, what you don’t know is that a woman that Avery saw Marcello with the night they re-met was seeing him the whole time and Marcello has been sleeping with both of them. When Avery finds out to confront him, he calls her a hypocrite due to what she did to him years ago with sleeping with him and still dating Daniel.

I HATE THEM BOTH.

And then Avery runs to Daisy who has the nerve to act like Avery is in the wrong here. I wanted Daisy to tell her that you both are too immature to even date each other and leave each other alone. Nope, Avery goes and apologies and they have some sex and then tra la la, happy ending. There was some other stuff in there, but honestly I hated this book.

The characters were not well developed, and frankly I wish that Clayton had just broken this up into a dual POV with Avery and Daisy. I was wondering what Daisy’s backstory was since she had left Boston behind. Was she in touch with her family (didn’t sound like it). Sounded like she came into her own in the country too. Avery was one dimensional and she sucked. I had to keep reading about how she gave everything up for Daniel, but no one asked her to, she apparently did that herself after the death of their baby. I wish she had been more honest about it and maybe realized she wasn’t ready to be with anyone, let alone some damn guy who was sleeping with another woman cause he didn’t trust her to ghost him again.

The writing was typical Clayton, some raunch here and there. I was just bored and was wishing I could go back and re-read “Nuts” or “Cream of the Crop” again. I honestly got through this one pretty quick. Who knew rage made you read faster? Apparently it does.

The setting of Italy felt stereotypical as hell by the way. Clayton doesn’t really add any depth here unfortunately. I have been to Rome and recall being kind of disappointed it wasn’t all glamorous people all over. I got that when I got Milan and Florence it felt like.

The HEA ends up with Avery deciding to stay in Italy to work and Marcello giving up a great opportunity cause they are in love. I dry heaved. Mainly though cause I was still sick, but also cause this book.

one-star

On Second Thought by Kristan Higgins

On Second Thought by Kristan HigginsOn Second Thought by Kristan Higgins
Published by HQN Books on January 31st 2017
Genres: Romance
Pages: 480
Source: Purchased: print book
Goodreads
four-stars

Ainsley O’Leary is so ready to get married—she’s even found the engagement ring her boyfriend has stashed away. What she doesn’t anticipate is being blindsided by a breakup he chronicles in a blog…which (of course) goes viral. Devastated and humiliated, Ainsley turns to her older half sister, Kate, who’s struggling with a sudden loss of her own.

Kate’s always been the poised, self-assured sister, but becoming a newlywed—and a widow—in the space of four months overwhelms her. Though the sisters were never close, she starts to confide in Ainsley, especially when she learns her late husband was keeping a secret from her.

Despite the murky blended-family dynamic that’s always separated them, Ainsley's and Kate’s heartaches bind their summer together when they come to terms with the inevitable imperfection of relationships and family—and the possibility of one day finding love again.

The biggest issue for me in this romance was besides there not being that much romance to really sink my teeth into, I ended up disliking one of the story-lines in this book. One of my friends who adores romance has one rule that she never breaks. She hates reading romance books when a spouse either dies during the book or has died before the book. That’s because she hates how the authors always either change the backstory of the spouse (ie all of a sudden they had a secret life and didn’t really love the wife/husband as initially thought) or she hates how fast an author has them getting over that death. I tend to not mind it that much. Until now. Now I think I may have to add that rule to my romance reads cause I was a bit incensed while reading this book this past weekend.

“On Second Thought” has half sisters Kate and Ainsley having to deal with sudden changes to their lives. For Kate, she gets hit with sudden widowhood to man (Nathan) that she has only been married to for four months. For Ainsely, it’s realizing (and God one wonders how she just realizes it) that the man (Eric) she has devoted herself to for almost 12 years is a self absorbed asshat that dumps her in order to figure out his journey. FYI, these are not spoilers, this shows up in the synopsis for the book.

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Now per usual when there are multiple characters, there tends to be one that I like more than the other. For me, it was Ainsley this time through. Ainsely reminded me a bit of me honestly. She has to deal with the most surreal upbringing ever (will not go into it here in the review) and due to that has an overwhelming need to belong. Even though a blind man could see that Eric was not about a damn thing she still kept hanging on since he kept telling her that one day they would get married and have kids. It doesn’t help that she adores his family and they adore her. I have to say that all the parts with Eric are rage inducing and they will make you laugh, but also make you wish he was a real life person so that you could knee him over and over again in his crotch.

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I initially liked Kate’s story. I can’t imagine being married such a short time and losing your husband like that. But though Higgins goes a different way in showcasing Ainsley’s storyline, I don’t know why she went for the old you don’t know who your husband really is because reasons. I won’t go into them here, but I had a hard time not rolling my eyes. I rather have seen Kate interact more at her therapy group since it reminded me no lie of “Go On” and I loved that show on NBC.

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If there had been more of that I would have loved it. Instead we get an entirely outrageous story-line resolution for Kate that I had a hard time with. I maybe coughed “BS” a few times and went happily reading Ainsley’s parts.

Higgins does a great job rounding off the other characters in this book. Kate’s mother and Ainsley’s stepmother was a hot mess. I mean seriously. I would love it if someone made this into a movie or tv show cause I was just floored by these people.

Kate and Ainsley’s dad though was not present very much in the book, but you get why when you read the whole story. Kate and Ainsely’s brother though was missing a lot, and I didn’t get a good sense of him or his family besides the fact he and his wife are doctors and she’s African American. I would have loved another perspective in this book from him. It would have maybe rounded it off a bit more for me.

We also get the specter of Nathan (sorry dude, I have nothing good or bad to say about you) and the asshatery of Eric (I swear to you all I have dated this idiot in real life) and also Ainsley’s boss who was written very well too.

I loved the writing cause like I said I was cracking up a lot while reading this book and also shrieking. I shrieked a few times. I can’t say that I cried once though. Maybe if we spent more time with Kate and Nathan and oh yeah if Kate’s storyline didn’t take that left turn for me I would have cared more, but instead I just shrugged and went on my way.

I wish I had my book in front of me to add in some hilarious quotes from the book. But I unfortunately left it at home. Honestly just read the sections when Ainsley starts to realize what a nightmare she has been dating for years. I was snort laughing.

The flow was a bit off due to switching to Kate and then Ainsley’s POV. I also didn’t like how Higgins ended the book and with us finding out about Ainsley via Kate’s final POV. I would have liked it if both sisters got their own goodbye to us readers. And as I said before, Ainsley’s chapters were so funny to me that things didn’t flow back and forth between Ainsley and Kate very well after about the 50 percent mark to me.

The setting of the book is some suburb in New York. I have never heard of it and am too lazy to see if it exists. There is some discussion of Brooklyn a lot though.

The ending of the book ends with Kate and once again I wasn’t buying her storyline resolution. I did love how things ended with Ainsley though.

four-stars

Difficult Women by Roxanne Gay

Difficult Women by Roxanne GayDifficult Women by Roxanne Gay
Published by Grove Press on January 3rd 2017
Genres: Short Stories
Pages: 260
Source: Purchased: print book
Goodreads
four-stars

Award-winning author and powerhouse talent Roxane Gay burst onto the scene with An Untamed State—which earned rave reviews and was selected as one of the best books of the year by the Washington Post, NPR, the Boston Globe, and Kirkus—and her New York Times bestselling essay collection Bad Feminist (Harper Perennial). Gay returns with Difficult Women, a collection of stories of rare force and beauty, of hardscrabble lives, passionate loves, and quirky and vexed human connection.

The women in these stories live lives of privilege and of poverty, are in marriages both loving and haunted by past crimes or emotional blackmail. A pair of sisters, grown now, have been inseparable ever since they were abducted together as children, and must negotiate the marriage of one of them. A woman married to a twin pretends not to realize when her husband and his brother impersonate each other. A stripper putting herself through college fends off the advances of an overzealous customer. A black engineer moves to Upper Michigan for a job and faces the malign curiosity of her colleagues and the difficulty of leaving her past behind. From a girls’ fight club to a wealthy subdivision in Florida where neighbors conform, compete, and spy on each other, Gay delivers a wry, beautiful, haunting vision of modern America reminiscent of Merritt Tierce, Jamie Quatro, and Miranda July.

I honestly didn’t like some of the stories which is why I ended up giving this collection as a whole 4 stars. Gay writes extremely well though. I can honestly say that I could picture everything that she was describing in her stories. To the point a few times I had to hug myself at the end of a story. I am happy that I bought this though since I can see myself in the future re-reading some of my favorite stories, and that’s how you know you have a home-run with me that even without it being a 5 star rated book by me, I have every intention of coming back and thinking about what was written. I honestly wish that Gay would come back and revisit some of these characters in future works.

“I Will Follow You” (5 stars)-The love that a pair of sisters have for one another. This story sets the stage for the rest of the collection. I actually re-read this one twice just because I wanted to let the story live longer with me. Heartbreaking and full of hope at the same time.

“Water, All Its Weight” (3 stars)-I honestly was confused with this one. It definitely had a fairytale aspect to it. But after reading the previous story, I guess I wasn’t in the headspace for something I found to just be quirky.

“The Mark of Cain” (3 stars)-This one was weird. A woman pulled between two brothers. I honestly didn’t get why she made the choices she did. I think throughout the whole story I was just confused. I don’t know why anyone would say to themselves this is a good life. But maybe that was the lesson that Gay was trying to get across.

“Difficult Women” (5 stars)-I loved how Gay breaks down all of the cliches we have all heard before about women. Breaking things down so that you can see the woman behind the loose, frigid, and crazy. About seeing what mothers and even dead girls think about. Wonderful from beginning to end.

When a Crazy Woman is Misunderstood

It started with a phone call after a third date where she followed him home and they had sex, nothing memorable, but overall, adequate.

They had breakfast at the diner next door.

He ate eggs, scrambled soft.

She had pancakes, doused in syrup and butter.

“I can’t believe you’re a woman who eats,” he said.

“You’re a goddamned dream.

 

FLORDIA (5 stars)-Once again Gay breaks down a community of women that live in a gated community in Florida.

La Negra Blanca (4 stars)-A look at a woman who is passing as white who uses what she has body wise to pay for school. I like the story, but think adding in the customer to it made it a little too Hollywood movie for me. He was also a gross figure and the whole ending left me with chills. I maybe made sure my door was locked at the end of this story.

“Baby Arm” (2 stars)-My least favorite of all of the stories. I don’t know, I feel like this is something that I maybe once upon watched on Adult Swim at night one time. Only in anime form or something. I also started giggling remembering 30 Rock with Liz Lemon.

“North Country” (5 stars)-I loved this story from beginning to end. Reading about a woman learning to love again and a man who works his way into her heart was great. I would love to see this brought to film one day. The narrator’s story of how she ended up where she was to meet Magnus was great.

“How” (3 stars)-Eh. I think that it was just okay. I didn’t have any big takeaways from it. And I hate how the character of Hanna never did reveal what her mother had to say.

“Requiem for a Glass Heart” (2 stars)-I didn’t really care for this story much. Once again based on what went before, it was just okay.

“In the Event of My Father’s Death” (3 stars)-I hated the ending.

“Break All the Way Down” (5 stars)-Once again this story brought to film would be wonderful. I loved it. I also got why the main character was punishing herself. When the reveal comes out you will get it too.

“Bad Priest” (3 stars)-Just made me think about the Thorn Birds. Nothing Earth shattering here.

“Open Marriage” (4 stars)-The shortest of the short stories and the one that did crack me up.

“Best Features” (5 stars)-I loved Milly and sat and thought to myself how many of my friends and even me have had that thing drilled into our heads due to what is considered undesirable. I was made fun of for being light skinned and would often sit outside to make myself darker. For some African American men I am too dark, for others, not light enough, for some white men definitely too dark and for some of them they want someone dark skinned to make things more “exotic.” With Milly being heavy weight she always feels as if she has to give in anytime a man shows her interest since she knows that she is not seen as desirable like thin women are. Just loved the whole story. It really made me think.

“Bone Density” (5 stars)-The ins and outs of marriage. I am pretty happy that I am single after reading this story.

“I Am a Knife” (3 stars)-Once again I didn’t get this until almost the end. But I have to say that I got bored with reading the word knife over and over again.

“The Sacrifice of Darkness” (4.5 stars)-I liked this one though I found most of it to be odd. If you can get your head past the central premise of the story you may like it too.

“Noble Things” (4 stars)-Way too soon after the US election and Gay imagines a world in which we have another Civil War. I liked this story, but thought the ending didn’t quite get there.

“Strange Gods” (5 stars)-A powerful ending to this collection. Until you get to the reveal you don’t get what is happening with our narrator. You just know that she loves the man she’s with and is in a stream of consciousness writing tell him her beginning that he is unaware of right now.

I liked for the most part that in every story that the women/girls within it were not just white and that so many issues were brought up in this collection: rape, spousal abuse, lying, sexual needs, faith, sin, hope, I can go on. Definitely worth a read!

four-stars

A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi

A Crown of Wishes by Roshani ChokshiA Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on March 28, 2017
Genres: YA - Fantasy
Pages: 352
Source: Purchased: ebook
Goodreads
five-stars

Gauri, the princess of Bharata, has been taken as a prisoner of war by her kingdom’s enemies. Faced with a future of exile and scorn, Gauri has nothing left to lose. Hope unexpectedly comes in the form of Vikram, the cunning prince of a neighboring land and her sworn enemy kingdom. Unsatisfied with becoming a mere puppet king, Vikram offers Gauri a chance to win back her kingdom in exchange for her battle prowess. Together, they’ll have to set aside their differences and team up to win the Tournament of Wishes—a competition held in a mythical city where the Lord of Wealth promises a wish to the victor.

Reaching the tournament is just the beginning. Once they arrive, danger takes on new shapes: poisonous courtesans and mischievous story birds, a feast of fears and twisted fairy revels.

Every which way they turn new trials will test their wit and strength. But what Gauri and Vikram will soon discover is that there’s nothing more dangerous than what they most desire.

I needed a fantastic book and I savored this one for two days though I wanted to swallow it whole at times. It lingered with me in my sleep and I smiled when I woke up because I was so happy to just keep reading this book. Chokshi includes Indian myths and also just really great characters that you want to keep reading about. We also get appearances from characters from the last book that I was sad to see go when we finished. I often worry when authors start writing a YA book and write a sequel or decide it will be a trilogy. That’s only because not many have held up. This one holds up. I highly recommend.
Spoilers for those who have not read “The Star-Touched Queen.”
Readers were introduced to Gauri in the last book. Sister to Maya, we find out that Guari ended up becoming a soldier. We know that Maya was worried about what would become of her sister due to their awful brother Skanda. When “A Crown of Wishes” starts we have Gauri captured by a rival kingdom (Ujijain). She doesn’t know what is to become of her, but she is determined to escape and rule her own kingdom, Bharata even if it means killing the Prince of Ujijain. And the Prince of Ujijain (Vikram) longs to be seen as the rightful ruler of his people. He is obviously intelligent and wise, but without the council’s blessing, he knows that he would only be a puppet king, and he wants more.
Due to both of them having wishes in their hearts they are afraid to say out loud, these two end up being thrown into a magical journey together, that if they survive, will end up with them winning two wishes if they participate and win the Tournament of Wishes.
Gauri is headstrong but loyal. I loved her from beginning to end. Based on what we find out about her upbringing and what her brother did to those she cared about, it’s natural that she is cautious and not trusting with Vikram. But slowly but surely, Vikram warms her heart and she warms his as well. I loved seeing the growth between the two of them and actually laughed out lout at their back and forth with each other, think of Carey Grant and Rosalind Russell in “His Girl Friday” if you want an apt comparison.
Image result for his girl friday gifs
Vikram was so good. I was having a book boyfriend crush. And that has not happened in a long time. He was cautious, but ultimately optimistic about everything, Vikram more than Gauri had a lot of hope in him for the future. I did love how in certain ways he was strong and in others Gauri was stronger. I loved that Chokshi made the female character in this book a warrior and the man a philosopher. There is a moment when he says as you wish and I maybe squealed out loud.
Image result for as you wish gif
There are too many characters to name in this book, but the most important is Aasha. I loved her and at first didn’t get why we were being introduced to her, but slowly that gets revealed. I would love a short story with her in the future, hint hint.
The writing was lyrical and also flowed wonderfully. I honestly have no complaints. I loved the myths that were wrapped in this story and enjoyed looking up all of the words that I didn’t understand. My only complaint, my Kindle dictionary did not recognize any of the Indian terms so I had to often go Google on my cell phone and look things up in Wikipedia. In the back of the book is a glossary, that was not as extensive as it should have been. Since I bought an e-book it would have been awesome if the words that were in the glossary were connected to the first time they were used in the text so I could click and go and read and click and go back to my place in the book. Just something for next time for the publisher to think about.
The setting of this book was great. Think of an India that exists in myth and legends. The descriptions of everything made my long for this book in a visceral way. I know that a lot of people were oohing and ahhing over the cover, I would have loved it if this book had included illustrations, I would have probably lost my mind in a good way if we had gotten that. For now, my imagination was enough and I daydreamed about forests that dripped with golden fruit and diamonds, women who wear rivers as dresses, people who when they tell a story a bird flies out of their mouths, and a garden of swords.
The ending was fantastic. No spoilers, except I leave you with this:
“i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
i fear
no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is youhere is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)”

five-stars

March 2017 (Books Read This Month)

Image result for march

 

So I definitely had some really good hits this month with a few duds. I read 52 books this month. Out of those 52, I DNF 2 books as well.

My favorite book this month was a tough one, but I went with “A Crown of Wishes.” My least favorite book this month was “What the Night Knows”.

5 stars

The Boy on the Bridge by M.R. CareyThe Sleeping Doll by Jeffery DeaverAll-New Wolverine (2015-) #1 by Tom TaylorThe Labors of Hercules by Agatha Christie

Stephen King's Dark Tower by Robin FurthVisions in Death by J.D. RobbSilence Fallen by Patricia BriggsSurvivor In Death by J.D. Robb

Memory in Death by J.D. RobbMs. Marvel, Vol. 6 by G. Willow WilsonDark Tower by Robin FurthDark Tower by Robin Furth

Dark Tower by Robin FurthThe Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValleMs. Marvel, Vol. 5 by G. Willow WilsonThe Burning Wire by Jeffery Deaver

Death in the Clouds by Agatha ChristieConversations With the Fat Girl by Liza PalmerThe Sandman, Vol. 1 by Neil GaimanA Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi

4 stars

Murder is Easy by Agatha ChristieDark Tower by Robin FurthDark Tower by Robin FurthDark Tower by Robin Furth

The Sandman, Vol. 2 by Neil GaimanBridges by Maria MurnaneIf You Really Loved Me by Ann RuleYou Belong to Me and Other True Cases by Ann Rule

On Second Thought by Kristan HigginsDifficult Women by Roxane GayThe Sandman, Vol. 3 by Neil Gaiman

3 stars

Flying Too High by Kerry GreenwoodDark Tower by Robin FurthDark Tower by Robin FurthMs. Marvel, Vol. 4 by G. Willow Wilson

More Happy Than Not by Adam SilveraWe Are Okay by Nina LaCourThe Secret of Chimneys by Agatha ChristieSeason of Storms by Susanna Kearsley

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

2 stars

The Shivering Sands by Victoria HoltRoadside Crosses by Jeffery DeaverGood at Games by Jill MansellXO by Jeffery Deaver

1 star

Echoes in Death by J.D. RobbDivine Evil by Nora RobertsThe Horror at Red Hook by H.P. LovecraftThe Last of August by Brittany Cavallaro

What the Night Knows by Dean KoontzRoman Crazy by Alice Clayton

DNF

Black Coffee by Agatha ChristieThe Next Always by Nora Roberts

A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan

A Natural History of Dragons by Marie BrennanA Natural History of Dragons (The Memoirs of Lady Trent #1) by Marie Brennan
Series: The Memoirs of Lady Trent #1
Published by Tor Books on February 5th 2013
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 334
Source: Purchased: ebook
Goodreads

Everyone knows Isabella, Lady Trent, to be the world's preeminent dragon naturalist. Here, at last, in her own words, is the story of a pioneering spirit who risked her reputation, prospects, and her life to satisfy scientific curiosity; of how she sought true love despite her lamentable eccentricities; and of her thrilling expedition to the mountains of Vystrana, where she made discoveries that would change the world.

As part of my Once Upon A Time springtime festival, I decided to finish the Lady Trent series. This has been a favorite series of mine, although I fell behind after the second book. The fifth and final book in the series, Within the Sanctuary of Wings, will be released on April 25, which gives me the opportunity to basically read the series right through in the next month.

I started Once Upon A Time by rereading the first book and reacquainting myself with Isabella. A Natural History of Dragons covers Isabella’s childhood and her early obsession with dragons. It is told in retrospect, by Lady Trent as an elderly woman looking back over her life – this one represents the first in her series of memoirs. By the time she is writing this book, she is a grande dame of society, no longer subject to its strictures by dint of her accomplishments.

Brennan does a fine job establishing Isabella’s character as a child who is deeply attracted to biology, to dissection, to “natural history,” which is really the Victorian name for “biology” at a time when society frowned upon girls being interested in intellectual pursuits. While she has constructed an entirely fantasy world, it is firmly based in the history of this one, with Scirling as a stand-in for Britain, with all of the shibboleths of Victorian culture.

One of the complaints that I read in other reviews of this series was that it was slow-moving, and that there weren’t enough dragons. I understand that criticism. If the reader is looking for a series like Eragon, or even Temeraire, where there is dragon/human interaction and overt magical intrusion, this is not that series. Essentially, Brennan has taken a character like Freya Stark or Isabella Bird and transplanted her into a world where dragons are real. This book shares much more with Charles Darwin than it does with Harry Potter.

This first book in the series also describes Isabella’s first adventure to Vystrana, which is Eastern European in custom and description – a place like Hungary or the Czech Republic. Isabella is really hitting her stride during this expedition and maintains her adherence to many of the upper class customs and niceties of Scirling. She is under the protection of her husband, Jacob, and they are newly married, their explorations thus being both draconic and connubial. Isabella is not an easy wife, and Jacob is uneasy in his decisions. As was the case during that era, Isabella went directly from the protection of her father to the protection of her husband, and her unwillingness to be so limited is evident in both of those relationships.

I don’t want to spoiler too much, so I’m not going to say more in this review. Once I get to book 2, the major spoiler of this book will be revealed, but for now, I will leave it at this. This was a 4-star read for me.

Once Upon A Time: A Springtime Reading Festival

For many years, one of my favorite bloggers held a spring-time festival of all things fantasy, folklore, fairy tale and myth. He called it the Once Upon A Time Challenge, and it generally lasted between the first day of spring (the vernal equinox, which is today) and the first day of summer (summer solstice, June 20). Unfortunately, it seems to have gone by the wayside, since I went looking for it today and was unable to find any sign that it’s coming back in 2017! He also had some of the most wonderful images, which I am recycling for this post!

This is a major bummer for me. As fall, to me, is all about gothic literature, supernatural, terror, and crime, spring, to me, has developed into an opportunity to dive into epic fantasy and fairy tales. In spite of the fact that Once Upon A Time has been consigned, apparently, to the past, I’m going to move forward with the quest.

The Way of Kings/Words of Radiance: I’ve been holding off on starting Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive because I know that Sanderson is planning somewhere in the neighborhood of 8 more books, and therefore it will be frustrating, and I will likely shuffle off this mortal coil before he finishes. Nonetheless, the third book is planned for release in November, so I’m going to read the first two books for this project.

Lady Trent: I’m a huge fan of Marie Brennan’s Lady Trent series, which is all about combining intrepid Victorian lady explorers in skirts with dragons!. I’ve read the first two books, and the fifth and final book is going to be released on 4/25. I’m going to reread the two first books, and then continue on with the final three to complete this series!

Series Rewatch TBD: I’m vacillating here between Grimm and Once Upon A Time. I’ve watched more of Grimm than OUAT, but I’m way behind on both. I’ll advise once the decision is made. Suggestions are welcome.

Multimedia: I’ve been planning on re-reading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell for a while, and while I am at it, I wouldn’t object to watching the companion series.

American Gods: I’ve owned this book for years, and haven’t ever gotten around to reading it. The series begins in April on Starz, and it looks amazing. I need to read this book, and I need to read it soon!

There will be more than this – fairy tales and folklore and fantasy will abound!

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