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book review

Review: A Conspiracy in Belgravia by Sherry Thomas

Title: A Conspiracy in Belgravia

Author: Sherry Thomas

Publisher: Penguin Group

Genre: mystery, historical fiction

Source: borrowed from sister

Publication Date: 2017

Summary

In A Conspiracy in Belgravia by Sherry Thomas, Charlotte Holmes has never been happier. Cast out by her family in disgrace and shunned by society, she is flourishing. Working under the guise of Sherlock Holmes, Charlotte solves cases for the public, aided by friend and benefactress, Mrs. Watson. Her latest case, however, takes her by surprise. Her dear friend, Lord Ingram’s wife hires Holmes to find her long-lost love, Myron Finch. Although Lady Ingram remains true to her husband, she and Finch meet once a year to gaze at each other across the park. This year, he didn’t come and isn’t answering her increasingly frequent newspaper ads begging him to contact her. Adding a further winkle to the situation is the fact that Myron Finch is Charlotte’s illegitimate brother, whom she’s never met.

While trying to solve the case, Charlotte is met with a surprising proposal, a mysterious stranger woos her sister Livia, and a body turns up where its not expected. There are codes, puzzles, and poisoning… just another day in the life of Sherlock Holmes.

My Thoughts

I highly enjoyed A Conspiracy in Belgravia. The characters continue to charm the pants off of me. Charlotte is smart, funny, arch, and sensual. The way she enjoys food makes me hungry. It’s also a delightful departure from the usual portrayal of an ascetic Sherlock Holmes. Her reaction to he proposal was very good; she doesn’t want to get married, doesn’t want to lose her freedom, but is concerned for he sisters and considered it for their case. Based on what was set up in the first book, this was very in characters.

Speaking of sisters, I love Livia. Her anxiety and neuroticism is so relatable. I could feel her frustration and pain at her own anxiety and inability to mix easily with society. I also highly enjoyed seeing her connect with someone she ends up liking romantically. She’s in her late twenties and tired of being looked over by Society, and suddenly, she’s being singled out by someone who want to connect with her over a passion of hers. And I loved how the suggestion Charlotte made at the end A Study in Scarlet Women, that she write the Sherlock Holmes stories, comes to fruition in this one. Once again, writing is something I connect with her over.

The mystery of this book was interesting. It starts as a simple missing person and then branches out into a tangle mess of intrigue and conspiracy. However, unless you have a very good memory or have just read A Study in Scarlet Women, A Conspiracy in Belgravia can be very hard to understand. It relies on you remembering minor characters and the entire resolution of the first book, and I was so very confused through a lot of this. Once I went back and reread the previous book, this one made much more sense, but it’s twisted and hard to follow. So, fair warning.

However, even with the confusion, this was a very enjoyable book. The characters and relationships are strong and I love how they’ve grown and deepened from the first book. I enjoyed the mysteries that happen and the intrigue, and thought it was well-paced and plotted.

Would I Recommend It?

If you like mysteries, Sherlock Holmes pastiches, and interesting women characters, you should definitely read A Conspiracy in Belgravia.

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book review

Review: The Prince and the Dressmaker

cover of "The Prince and the Dressmaker"

Title: The Prince and the Dressmaker

Author: Jen Wang

Publisher: First Second

Genre: Graphic Novel, Romance

Source: borrowed

Publication Date: 2018

heading "summary"

In The Prince and the Dressmaker, Prince Sebastian is looking for a bride. Well. His parents are and throw a ball in his honor. All the young ladies in Paris are excited and dresses are commissioned. One dress, however, shocks everyone and grabs Sebastian’s attention. He decides to hire the dressmaker, Frances, for a special and secretive purpose: to design the most beautiful dresses for him.

Frances longs to be a famous designer. She quickly agrees to Sebastian’s unusual request and turns him into Lady Crystallia, Paris’s newest fashion icon. She and Sebastian grow closer and closer, but living in secret, unable to take credit for her designs, isn’t how Frances wants to live.

Heading "My thoughts"

My goodness, The Prince and the Dressmaker was just the most adorable and lighthearted story I’ve read in awhile! I loved Sebastian and Frances with all my heart. Sebastian just wants to be free to be himself, someone he feels most like when he’s dressed in beauty. Frances desires the same thing, but faces hard decisions along the way. Not only does she have to decide if she wants to stay a secret, but when given the chance to go public, she has to decide between success and being herself.

There is a romance in this, and it’s lovely. Frances and Sebastian grow closer and close throughout the book, and you can really feel the tension between them. It’s done in looks and words and little touches, and it’s just lovely.

The end is wonderful, too. I won’t spoil it for anyone, but it brought tears to my eyes. It’s truly fantastic.

Heading "Would I recommend it"

Yes! Please, go read this book. It will make you very happy!

Other Reviews:

The Hockey Player’s Heart by Jeff Adams and Will Knuass

Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers

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book review netgalley

Review: Starcrossed by Allie Therin

Title: Starcrossed (Magic in Manhattan #2)

Author: Allie Therin

Publisher: Carina Press

Genre: m/m historical romance, paranormal romance

Source: NetGalley

Publication Date: May 18, 2020

Arthur Kenzie has devoted his life to procuring and protecting supernatural relics from those who would misuse them. But now, his life has a new purpose: loving Rory Brodigan, the cranky and irascible psycometric with phenomenal powers that he doesn’t understand. Rory love Arthur, but he can’t help be confront the truth of their disparate social status and despair over their relationship in the long term

Now, a new relic threatens New York and the safety of not only Rory, but Arthur and his family. Rory and Arthur must use every bit of magic at their disposal to counter the new threat, where old enemies become uneasy allies and Rory and Arthur’s love is put to the text.

I absolutely adored this book! It was wonderful from start to finish. Like last book, Arthur’s uprightness, honor, and love bowl me over. I love a man who is protective of his loved ones while being sensitive and honorable at the same time. However, I must admit, I wanted to shake him a few times. There’s a point where honor begins working against happiness, and he hit it. But even that was fun to read. I just love him.

My love for Rory is no less. Quick to anger, quick to defend himself, and overly humble at times, he’s just easy to relate to. I love his explosive temper and the way he’s willing to fight for himself and his loved ones. I also like that, although he’s afraid of his power, he’s curious about it, too, and can’t help but explore it. His heart is in the right place and he loves and cares for others so much. He’s a perfect match for Arthur.

The plot was intriguing as well. There’s a powerful new relic in town. People are dying, magic is being used to hide the perpetrators, and Arthur seems to be the target. Or is he? I loved the twists and turns the book took, and the ending was very exciting.

The strength of this book is the characters. All of them are well done and intriguing in their own right. I would happily read a book about Jade and Zhang. I would also really like to read about Arthur’s adventures prior to meeting Rory, during the war. Everything sounds so intriguing. I love this book.

I definitely recommend this book and series. It’s especially good for people new to the genre. It’s sexy without being overly explicit, and focuses more on romance and intimacy than sex. The characters are wonderful and the plot is action packed. Get Starcrossed immediately when it comes out; I know I will!

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book review

Review: The Beautiful by Renee Ahdieh

Title: The Beautiful

Author: Renee Ahdieh

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Genre: YA, horror, paranormal fantasy

Source: Purchase (Barnes and Noble)

Publication Date: October 8, 2919

Celine Rousseau has fled from her life as a dressmaker in Paris to a convent in New Orleans after a traumatic event. Hoping to start a new life, she struggles to find her place in the convent, as her skills as a dressmaker aren’t in high demand. Then, a woman named Odette, commissions her to sew a costume for a masquerade ball. Celine agrees and finds herself swept into a world she’s never dreamed of. Odette is a member of a mysterious underworld called La Cour des Lion, and Celine quickly becomes entangled with them, especially after catching the eye of the leader Sebastian Saint Germane. The two clash and attract each other, an attraction that quickly becomes suspicion when the body of a convent girl turns up on the doorway of Sebastian’s club.

Now, Celine finds herself both a suspect of the murder and the object of the murderer’s obsession. People connected to her start dying, and she’s determined to uncover the truth. The truth, however, comes with a devastating price.

I really liked this book a lot because I loved Celine so much. She’s strong and dark and a little twisted. She’s a misfit that’s not quite trying to fit in as much as find the place where she belongs. When she discovers La Cour des Lion and Bastien, she’s intrigued and enamored and feels very comfortable. She feels her own desire for power is met in Bastien’s, and she fits easily into the world.

I also really liked her friendship with Pippa, another girl from the convent. Celine is hiding a dreadful secret and it’s a heavy burden for her. She’s afraid to open up, but also desperately wants to. I like her tentative overtures of friendship towards Pippa, and how they are met with welcome and understanding.

The setting was amazing, too. The supernatural and New Orleans has been done, but that doesn’t meant it can’t be done again. And Ahdieh does it so well. New Orleans on the cusp of Lent, with the parties and parades and decadence that surrounds the upcoming week. It made me desperately want to be there and experience it in a way I didn’t even get in my reread of Interview with the Vampire. It was just so vivid and rich; I felt like I was there.

My only slight knock to the book is that I was completely confused at the ending. Now, this may not be the book’s fault. I was completely convinced the bad guy was one character, and then it wasn’t… but maybe it was? I didn’t quite get who the antagonist was and what their motives were. I don’t know if I didn’t read closely enough, I wasn’t willing to give up what I thought, or it just really didn’t make sense. I don’t know. But, I ended the book baffled, but pleased I’d read it and looking forward to the next in the series.

If you like atmospheric books with strong female characters, sexual tension, and vampire-like creatures, you’ll enjoy this book. And if you get the ending, let me know, because… I think I need to read it again. Not that it’d be a chore. 🙂

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book review

Review: Modern Girls by Jennifer S. Brown

Title: Modern Girls

Author: Jennifer S. Brown

Publisher: Berkeley Books

Genre: historical fiction

Source: borrowed from Mom

Publication Date: May 1, 2016

Dottie Krasinsky is a modern girl. She’s a bookkeeper in Midtown Manhattan who’s just gotten a promotion, has a steady boyfriend, Abe, with whom she’s madly in love, reads all the latest fashion and home magazines, and has a group of girlfriends with whom she regularly socializes. At the same time, she’s a good Jewish daughter to her immigrant parents on the Lower East Side. However, her life is turned upside down when she finds herself pregnant after a drunken night with a charming and totally unsuitable man.

Rose Krasinsky, Dottie’s mother, has had five children and assumes that she’s done. She’s anxious to get back to her own life of social activism. As a young woman, she’d been on the front lines protesting and rabble rousing and, now, with tensions rising in Europe, she’s ready to get back to it. And then, disaster strikes: at forty-two years old, she finds herself pregnant once again.

Both mother and daughter are in impossible situations and have to navigate a changing world, making choices they never thought themselves capable of.

I am so glad I finally read this book. I kept putting it off as my TBR list grew, but I finally made time for it, and it’s really a gem. As a Jewish person removed from my heritage, I like reading about Jewish families and how they navigate the world. This book was rich with descriptions of Sabbath, food, Yiddish terms, and the Jewish immigrant experience. It also explores the differences between the families on the Lower East side and the more wealthy families in Manhattan and how they navigate being Jewish in the modern world.

Beyond the Jewish aspects, it’s just a great story. I really felt for both Dottie and Rose and loved reading their unique perspectives on life in their voices. To Dottie, at the beginning, her mother is quaint and old fashion, very traditional, and living in the past. When you read from Rose’s perspective, though, you see a woman with strong beliefs and passions who is determined to put her stamp on the world and make it a better place. Like Dottie, she views herself as a “modern woman” who is settled in the new world and navigates through with confidence.

Truth be told, I liked reading Rose more than Dottie, although I did enjoy both POVs. Dottie is so headstrong and determined to fix all her mistakes herself. While admirable, she’s also very young and doesn’t always think things through. Rose was more steady and thoughtful in her decision, although she runs into trouble as well. Maybe it’s just my age showing, but I related more to Rose even though I haven’t had five children while living in a two bedroom apartment.

This book has a vivid setting, wonderful characters, and a gripping story. It was hard to put down and kept me engaged the whole way through.

I recommend this one two levels. One, if you’re Jewish or interested in Jewish life, this is a great book to read and a picture of that life. And, two, if you like reading realistic historical books about the 1930s and see a slice of life, as fraught as it is, then you’d like this book a lot.

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book review

Review: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

Title: The Power of Habit – Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

Author: Charles Duhigg

Publisher: Random House

Pages: 375

Genre: Self-Improvement

Publication Date: February 28, 2012

Charles Duhigg is a business reporter who has researched and explained various scientific explanations as to why people form the habits they have. A habit, Duhigg, is a three step process: a cue, a routine, and a reward. All habits can be broken down to these three steps, but, at the same time, there are more complicated steps involved in habit formation and changing habits. Duhigg explains how habits are formed an changed in individuals, businesses, and societies. He explores cases of people with memory loss forming new habits, how businesses have changed their culture, and how movements in society have been influenced by people’s habits. In the end, he offers a four step process for how to form new habits.

I thought this book was great. It was easy to read and understand, and the findings were amazing. I loved the stories and how he interweaves the various stories with researched backed facts. I found myself watching my own patterns of behavior through the eyes of the habit loop. I’m interested in finding ways to use the loop to form new and better habits in my life.

I even found the section on businesses interesting. I thought that part would be boring and irrelevant to my life, but learning how Starbucks shapes its culture and how other businesses focused on one keystone habit to improve their product was actually very interesting. I actually though Starbucks was better at training their employees at customer service than Disneyland is, at least when I worked there. I wasn’t given acronyms and habits to fall back on when a customer complained; I had to wing it and bring the Disney magic all on my own.

If you have any interest in habits and forming and changing them, I think you’d like this book. It’s a great read as we come to the new year and gives plenty of food for thought.

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book review

Review: The Last Necromancer by C.J. Archer

Charlie has been living on the streets as a 13 year old boy for the past five years. Five years before, she’d discovered a terrible power she had: she could raise people from the dead. Her father, horrified when she’d accidentally raised her recently deceased mother, had kicked her out of the house. Charlie’s only way to survive was to disguise herself and become a thief on the streets. She’s known as “Fleet Footed Charlie” and is one of the fastest boys out there.

Until the day she’s caught and thrown in a holding cell with some dangerous men. When one is killed trying defend her, Charlie has no choice but the raise his spirit and use him to escape. That, however, brings her on the radar of the Ministry of Curiosities and Lincoln Fitzroy, who will stop at nothing to secure both her and the girl, Charlotte Holloway, under the guise of protection. The only problem is, Charlie is Charlotte Holloway, and she doesn’t trust her captors with that information.

Fitzroy says he’s on the trail of a dangerous madman who wants to use Charlie and Charlotte to raise an army of dead. But is he any less dangerous than the madman? Or is he and the Ministry even worse?

I loved this book so much. First off, it has my favorite trope every, Sweet Polly Oliver, where a girl disguises herself as a boy and lives successfully as one until she’s accidentally discovered. And this book does that so well. It draws out that moment of discovery until it’s sweet torture and you don’t know if you want it to continue or want the discovery to happen. And then, it delivers and it’s wonderful.

Charlie is an amazing character, too. She’s smart, funny, vulnerable, and charming. You can see how she was able to survive on the streets for so long. I loved her relationship with all the characters, especially Fitzroy, but her interactions with his underlings, Seth and Gus, were charming as well.

Fitzroy is an amazing character. There seems little he can’t do, except behave like a human being. He’s cold, reserved, mysterious, and brilliant. He’s very intriguing, and Archer does a good job teasing his past and personality as the book goes on.

The mystery was quite well done as well. I admit, it took me a long time to figure out what was going on, even though at one point I said, “Oh, it’s sounds like X.” I should have listened to my instincts. I felt so foolish for not making the connection to what I said to what was going on. But the mystery was intriguing and unfolded at a natural pace. It kept me riveted and wanting to listen to it nonstop.

Also, a special shout out to the narrator, Shiromi Arserio. She has a gorgeous voice and I’m completely astonished at the ride range of colors she brought to each character. I’ve got a little bit of a crush on her and her voice.

If you like supernatural mysteries with romantic tension and humor, this is for you. I highly recommend this book. It’s quick and fast paced and just a lot of fun.

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book review

Review delayed indefinitely?

I’d hoped to have my review of The Mistress of Nothing by Kate Pullinger ready for today, but last night when I was reading, I came upon a startling discovery: after page 202, the narrative changed into Oscar Wilde and the Vampire Murders for 15 pages before resuming the original text at page 235! Not only was I hopelessly confused, I am not deeply disappointed. My library doesn’t have a copy and Amazon didn’t have one at a price I wanted to pay. I might have to swallow my pride and just order it, though, because I’m desperate to know what happened.

Ah, well. Life is unpredictable. Onto Treacherous is the Night by Anna Lee Huber.

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book review netgalley

ARC Review: Fledgling by Molly Harper

Title: Fledgling (Sorcery and Society #2)

Author: Molly Harper

Publisher: INscribe Digital

Length: 267 pages

Publication Date: July 23, 2019

Source: NetGalley

Sarah Smith is finally getting the hang of posing as an upper-class, Guardian born girl named Cassandra Reed. Attending Miss Castwell’s Institute for the Magical Instruction of Young Ladies, she’s expanding her circle of friends, defeating carnivorous unicorns, and continuing her courtship with her best friend, Alicia’s, brother, Gavin. Unfortunately, other parts of her life aren’t going so well. The Mother Book has stopped revealing itself to her, and the Senate is pressing her for more spells. Not only that, she has a chilling vision involving other Changeling children.

She and her friends Alicia and Ivy decide to work together to find the missing children. There are rumors of a school for Changeling children in the Weeping Mountains. Luckily, Alicia’s family has a holiday home there and invites the other girls to come along. But her overbearing mother makes it difficult to find time to search for the children. And what can they do if they find them?

I didn’t realize this was the second book in a series when I requested it on NetGalley. Luckily, the author does a good job setting up the world and explaining important events from the first book, so I wasn’t too lost. In fact, I enjoyed this book so much, I plan to go back and read the first one as soon as possible.

I really liked Sarah a lot. She’s smart and funny and cares deeply about the people around her. I liked how the first part of the book focused on her building community with her classmates. She also discovers a secret about her maid and reacts with caring and concern. I love the relationship with her and her friends. They felt very real and natural.

I’m intrigued by the society that Molly Harper has set up in these books. The magic users, or Guardians, are the elite class and the others, Snipes, are their servants and workers. However, sometimes Snipes have powers, which could be the undoing of the repressive system the Guardians have set up. At the same time, the Guardians aren’t all bad. It’s very nuanced and well thought out.

This is a very fun book for fans of the Finishing School series by Gail Carriger and Harry Potter. It’s also a great story for people looking for a large female cast. I look forward to reading more in the series.

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book review

Review: Call it What You Want by Brigid Kemmerer

Title: Call it What You Want

Author: Brigid Kemmerer

Publisher: Bloomsbury YA

Pages: 384

Publication Date: June 25, 2019

Format:: Hardcover

Rob, a popular lacrosse player, used to be at the top of the world until his dad was caught embezzling funds from half the town. Now, he’s a social outcast. To top it off, his father had tried to commit suicide and failed, leaving Rob and his mother struggling to take care of him.

Maegan is an overachiever with the perfect life, until, in a fit of insecurity, she tried to cheat on the SATs, invalidating everyone’s score. Now the subject of ridicule and anger, she isolates herself. Her troubles are added to when her older sister comes home from college pregnant, yet another burden Maegan must shoulder.

When Maegen and Rob are partnered in calculus, neither one is happy, until they form a connection. However, that connection is threatened when Rob unintentionally comes across some money that doesn’t belong to him and passes it on to a needy student. Now, he’s faced with a dilemma: is it wrong to steal from the rich if you’re going to give to the poor? Or can he be a modern day Robin Hood and redistribute wealth to those who are truly in need?

This book was so good. I don’t read a lot of YA contemporary, and if I do, it’s usually queer lit, but this sucked me in. I felt so much for both of the main characters, although I do have to admit that I was a little more sympathetic to Rob. All of his problems he faces before the book begins were out of this control, and I felt so bad for him. However, I related to Maegen a lot more than Rob. I, too, am an overachiever and perfectionist who is trying to live up to a siblings seeming perfection. Both characters were deep and complex and so engaging.

I also liked the struggle Rob faced with taking money and objects from others. On the one hand, he was giving it to people who needed it and trying to make amends for what his father did. On the other, stealing is wrong. I liked his journey to realize what he had to do and what was right.

The ending was a little too quick for me. There was an overarching kind of mystery and problem and it was solved in the last few pages very fast. However, the book and the ending were so satisfying that it didn’t detract from the book at all. This is a great read and if you like YA contemporary, I highly recommend it.