REVIEW – The Princess Spy by Larry Loftis

The Princess Spy is a great nonfiction choice for fans of historical fiction (especially of the WWII variety). The book is incredibly well-researched and outlined, and begins with a thoughtful, intriguing preface from the author.

When Pearl Harbor is bombed during her final semester of college, Aline can’t help but want to get involved with the war effort. She spends some time modeling but ends up meeting a man who offers her a job. He can’t tell her what it is but he gives her instructions of when and where to be at her interview. She dives in headfirst without knowing any details and quickly finds herself in training to become a spy for the United States.

From there, this book is pretty exciting – Aline’s life almost seems fictional because it’s so exciting and many of the elements and events feel pulled right out of a spy movie. Intrigue! Espionage! A little bit of bullfighting! (Yep. Bullfighting.) Glamourous dinners and Bond-villain-esque “characters.” Sure, The Princess Spy romanticizes the idea of being a spy during WWII just a bit, but you can’t help but be amazed by Aline’s intelligence (and, in some cases, incredible luck).

Her time as an actual field agent is short-lived, but that doesn’t make her service any less impressive. She does fall in love along the way, and the final part of the book covers her budding relationship with her eventual husband.

Thank you Atria Books for the ARC!

REVIEW – The Last Tiara by MJ Rose

I’m always excited to put a historical fiction novel onto my tbr, especially if it deals with an era or region that i’m not really familiar with. The Last Tiara is told in dual timelines – Isobelle is living in 1940s NYC and looking for answers after her mother’s death one year prior. She finds a tiara (minus the jewels) hidden in the wall of her mother’s bedroom and works to uncover the history of piece. We also get Sofiya’s perspective from Russia in 1915 – she begins working as a nurse and through a series of events (and after a period of years) ends up fleeing Bolshevik Russia.

This is my second MJ Rose book and she does a great job of setting up strong, independent female characters. If you’re a historical fiction fan, you’ll want to add this to your tbr!

Thank you Get Red PR for the NetGalley ARC.

REVIEW – Good Neighbors by Sarah Langan

This book is DARK. Full stop. It has a very strange and surreal vibe the entire time, like everything is smudged and dirty and unsettling. At the very least, Langan does a great job of putting you right into this suburban neighborhood (smack in the middle of summer, and there’s a heat wave…it’s just SO uncomfortable).

Good Neighbors is set in the near future in a seemingly perfect suburban neighborhood. I won’t give too much away, but there’s a sinkhole (complete with weird smells!) and a child dies and it turns into a modern-day (or future…) version of The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street. There’s an uncanny valley element to this book – there’s nothing supernatural in the story but it doesn’t feel entirely realistic. All of the characters are exaggerated and irrational (however, maybe that’s not so far-fetched after all…) and the commentary about the “mob mentality” is jarring and scary.

One character, in particular, is absolutely psychotic and terrifying (and not even in a fun way). The entire book reminded me of The Regulators by Stephen King (although minus the gratuitious horror and violence).

This would be a great choice for a book club because there’s so much to discuss (although it’s a tough book to rate!)

Content warnings: child abuse, brief mention of rape, brief mention of drug use, brief mention of suicide, murder-suicide

Thank you Atria Books for the ARC!

REVIEW – The Duke and I (Bridgerton) by Julia Quinn

Let’s get this out of the way first: Lady Whistledown is 100% Regency-era Gossip Girl. If that alone appeals to you, give this book a shot. You’re probably already interested in reading this anyway because the Netflix adaptation is pretty much the only thing anyone can talk about right now.

However, there are some great and not-so-great things about The Duke and I…

The good: The relationships at the heart of this book are lovely. The Bridgerton family is adorable and hilarious, and they’re honestly even better in the Netflix show. Lady Danbury is one of my favorite characters – she’s feisty, tough and funny. Simon (uhh SWOON) is arrogant and lovable and YES i’m aware of the spoon scene in the show.

The bad: There’s a controversial scene that many readers have already discussed. It’s icky and out of character, and honestly feels out of place in the overall story (and the tone of novel takes such a shift in the second half). If Quinn wanted to create conflict, she could have taken one of practically a million different avenues.

However, I am willing to continue in the series because I was really loving this book up until that point and assume it does get a bit better as the books go on.

REVIEW – A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes

I had incredibly high hopes for this book and it delivered (and then some). A Thousand Ships is absolutely stunning right from the first chapter. It toggles between different perspectives, all of which are women affected in some way by the Trojan War. We get to visit some characters a few times, and others are only mentioned once – but the impact is never diminished. These are stories of grief, loss, strength, grace, pain and revenge. If you’re a fan of Circe or Song of Achilles, this is an absolute MUST read for you.

Thank you Harper Books for the ARC!

REVIEW – The Forever Girl by Jill Shalvis

What a fun little read! The Forever Girl has a great balance of lighthearted, funny moments and heavier, heartfelt, emotional moments.

Maze, Walker, Heather and Cat are siblings of the heart. Cat’s parents fostered Maze, Walker and Heather a number of years ago. Their time together as kids was short-lived due to an unimaginable tragedy, but they have stayed in touch over the years. With Cat’s wedding weekend approaching, she takes the opportunity to force everyone back together to see if they can rekindle the strong bond they once had.

Although the events of this book are somewhat predictable (let’s say “reliable” – it’s a much more positive way of putting it!) it’s still a good read. There’s also a small amount of steam in this story that I wasn’t expecting!

Thank you Bibliolifestyle and William Morrow for the free book!

CONSTANT READER REVIEW – Bag of Bones by Stephen King

“In little towns things are kind of connected under the surface and the past dies slower.”

Stephen King sure does know how to write about grief. Although I consider Bag of Bones to be “just okay” in comparison to his other works, the early chapters about Mike dealing with the sudden and unexpected loss of his wife are incredibly well done.

I did enjoy the mystery element of this book and some of the characters are incredibly likeable (Kyra and Mattie especially). Honestly, the characters are the best part of this book. The plot meanders a bit and I feel like King was trying to do a little too much (we have two characters dealing with the loss of their respective spouses, a custody battle, overall animosity within a small town, plus ghosts…) and oh boy is it slow-moving.

COZY MYSTERY REVIEW – Bookmarked for Murder by VM Burns

I had so much fun reading this cozy – Samantha (owner of a mystery bookshop!) has spent the past few days in Chicago with her grandmother doing some post-Christmas shopping. When a passenger on their bus ride home ends up murdered, Sam, her grandmother and her grandmother’s crew of hilarious friends team up to solve the murder.

Sam is a lovely character and her grandmother (and friends!) are absolutely hilarious. I laughed out loud a few times while reading this book, and it was the perfect read during my long holiday break.

Thank you Kensington Books for the ARC!

REVIEW – Lie, Lie Again by Stacy Wise

Lie, Lie Again is a popcorn-y contemporary novel (don’t call this a thriller!) about three women all in varying stages of life.

We follow a (very) young wife and mother of two, a teacher in her mid-20s dealing with some very uncomfortable feelings about her friend’s husband, and a 30-something professional with a lot of secrets. In fact, all three women have secrets that they want to hide. Some are more sinister than others.

This went in a direction that I wasn’t necessarily expecting, but the ride was fun.

Thank you Get Red PR for the ARC!

COZY MYSTERY REVIEW – Bait and Witch by Angela M. Sanders

This book was such a pleasant surprise! Josie is new to Wilfred, Oregon, and she’s on the run after uncovering corruption at her previous job (she worked for the Library of Congress and the people after her are very scary and very powerful).

Josie intends to stay in Wilfred for a short period of time and takes a position as their new librarian. The library is located inside a beautiful Victorian mansion, and Josie’s living quarters are on the top floor. Yes, you read that right. She lives inside the library – could it get any better than that?

Wilfred is much different than DC and Josie experiences a lot of culture shock – which could also be attributed to the fact that she’s slowly discovering that she has some magical abilities. Josie discovers a dead body her first day in Wilfred and can’t help but think the victim is somehow connected to the people who want Josie dead.

This has it all – an adorable tiny town, hilarious and lovable characters, and a black cat named Rodney who may or may not be Josie’s familiar…

I cannot wait to read the next book in the series!

Thank you Kensington Books for the ARC!