REVIEW – The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles

“Atrum post bellum, ex libris lux. – After the darkness of war, the light of books.”

The Paris Library is historical fiction for book lovers. Using dual timelines (WWII-era Paris and 1980s Montana), Janet Skeslien Charles weaves a beautiful, emotional story that focuses on friendship, love, family and forgiveness.

I had no choice but to give this five stars – the writing is absolutely beautiful. The characters! THE LIBRARY. Just stunning – you’ll fall in love with (almost) everyone and find yourself wanting to spend forever amongst the shelves.

Odile and Lily are truly the stars of this book, and their journey is lovely and sad and hopeful. Get ready to feel all of the feelings.

Thank you Atria Books for the ARC!

COZY MYSTERY REVIEW – Murder With a View by Diane Kelly

I have a tendency to jump in to cozy mystery series in the middle, and this is no exception. Murder With a View is the third book in the House-Flipper mysteries, but the first one i’ve read. And it’s ADORABLE.

The most notable thing about this book (and, I assume, the series as a whole) is the characters. The characters are lovely and hilarious and you can’t help but cheer for them every step of the way. Sawdust the cat is a delight. Although I wasn’t ALWAYS on board with the short chapters from his purr-spective, I found myself appreciating them more towards the end of the book.

This mystery had me stumped for the majority of the book, and the inevitable “showdown” between our main character, Whitney, and the murderer was pretty thrilling (and also a little terrifying!)

Thank you St. Martin’s Press for the NetGalley ARC!

COZY MYSTERY REVIEW – A Page Marked for Murder by Lauren Elliott

A Page Marked for Murder was a great continuation of the Beyond the Page Bookstore mysteries! I loved going back to Greyborne Harbor to spend time with Addie and her friends. The mystery in this was interesting and fun (not too easy!) to solve. I loved the addition of Pippi (an ADORABLE dog that Addie ends up pet-sitting for most of the book) and, as always, Elliott was able to connect Addie’s passion for rare books in with the overall story.

Thank you Kensington Books for the ARC!

REVIEW – The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

I have some questions for Kristin Hannah. Does she enjoy making readers cry? Does she enjoy crying? Does she cry when she writes her books? Because this is NOT the first time she’s made me cry, and i’m sure it won’t be the last.

The Four Winds is just stunning. Even if you’re not typically into historical fiction, i’d highly recommend this book. In an industry that’s oversaturated with WWII stories (but hey, I love those too!) it’s so nice to read historical fiction set during a different time. The Four Winds starts in the early 1920s, where we meet Elsa. Elsa suffered an illness as a teen, and her family has treated her like glass ever since (and boy, are they RUDE AF to her! It’s so frustrating).

We spend a brief amount of time there before moving forward into 1934. Elsa lives on her in-laws’ farm with her small family. She has changed a LOT and definitely for the better. She’s strong and capable, but she’s also dealing with some pre-teen drama from her daughter and a prolonged drought that’s proving to be catastrophic for the farm (and the farm animals…oh, my heart). On top of that, we’re also right in the middle of the Great Depression which is, well, upsetting to say the least.

After a series of unfortunate events (SERIOUSLY) Elsa packs up her kids and heads west to California, where things are supposed to be better. But…they’re not. I’m sure you could figure that out for yourself. What happens from there is brutally, dismally sad. This book will break your heart. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Also, read the Author’s Note at the end – it’s amazing.

Thank you St. Martin’s Press for the NetGalley ARC.

REVIEW – Black Widows by Cate Quinn

The unreliable narrator is still a very popular trope in mysteries and thrillers. Well, Black Widows has THREE. Three women who are suspects in the death of their (yes, their) husband. This book takes the standard thriller and adds a sister wives/XX kids and counting element. It’s grittier than I expected (which isn’t a bad thing) but this ended up being a fun read “for the moment” and won’t be something I remember much years from now.

Content warnings: religious fanaticism, cults, sexual assault, child abuse, sexual assault of children, drug use, self-harm, brief mention of suicide, miscarriage.

Thank you BiblioLifestyle and Sourcebooks for the ARC!

REVIEW – Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

Hamnet was one of my most anticipated books of 2020, but somehow I failed to pick it up until the very beginning of 2021. This is incredibly well written, and although it’s a slower story, O’Farrell’s writing moves the reader along swiftly and easily.

“She grows up with the awareness that she is merely tolerated, an irritant, useless, that she does not deserve love, that she will need to change herself substantially, crush herself down if she is to be married..”

Although named after Shakespeare’s son, Hamnet is really a story about Agnes – Shakespeare’s wife and Hamnet’s mother. She’s a fascinating character with a complex back story, a strong woman who is bound by the expectations and customs of her time. Her heartbreak is front and center after Hamnet’s death, and O’Farrell handles Agnes’ grief beautifully.

“He glances over his shoulder at the tunnel of dark beside the door. The blackness is depthless, soft, absolute. Turn away, he says to Death. Close your eyes. Just for a moment.”

The writing in Hamnet is stellar, and places it firmly in the literary fiction category (historical yes, but it doesn’t have the same vibe that most mainstream historical fiction seems to have). You don’t need to know much of anything about Shakespeare to understand and appreciate this book. In fact, Shakespeare himself is never actually mentioned by name.

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.