Categories
Fiction Horror Mysteries Science Fiction

Struggling Through Another Classic: Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

You voted and I am delivering! One of my final GrimDarkTober reads is also my last 2022 edition of “Struggling Through the Classics”

Every season, I let you all vote on which classic I will read and then drop some thoughts on it! Earlier in the year I suffered through Notre Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre Dame), then it was The Scarlet Letter, and now you all let me off the  hook fairly easily with Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde!

Let me ask you all a question first – tell me in the comments, phonetically, how you pronounce Jekyll? Don’t look it up, just tell me how you read it in your head.  I never would have guessed JEE-kill, I was a JECK-ull person, but now I know that everyone says it differently. So, go tell me yours!

I guess what I didn’t remember or realize about this book is that it’s essentially a long short story.  I’d say novella but it’s really, really short.  For a “book” that has multiple full length movies and book retellings, how was it so short!

One thing that you all should never do, is quote me on anything, but since this was written in 1886 I’m pretty sure it came out prior to (or at the same time) that Freud was doing the whole three-parts-of-the-human-psyche thing, which to me makes the *idea* of Jekyll & Hyde pretty interesting.

In reality though, Stevenson managed to make Gothic London boring as hell because the book read like a legal brief.  I enjoyed the first chapter because I liked how he described the characters, and the last chapter because we got all the answers, and in between it just was a bunch of confusing stuffy old doctors and lawyers trying to piece a rather odd mystery together.

Don’t get me wrong, it was blessedly short and not a bad read at all but it seemed like a lot of leadup to a biiiig reveal/info dump that was presented in more or less the form of a legal brief.

Ahem.  Well. Onto the next one after the new year, I’ll put the next poll up sometime in December 🤣

A GoodReads Synopsis:

‘All human beings, as we meet them, are commingled out of good and evil: and Edward Hyde, alone in the ranks of mankind, was pure evil’

Published as a shilling shocker, Robert Louis Stevenson’s dark psychological fantasy gave birth to the idea of the split personality. The story of respectable Dr Jekyll’s strange association with damnable young man Edward Hyde; the hunt through fog-bound London for a killer; and the final revelation of Hyde’s true identity is a chilling exploration of humanity’s basest capacity for evil.

Categories
Fiction Literary Fiction Science Fiction

Vaguely ‘The October Country’ (or: books with meaning cont.)

I feel like I’m screwing everything up this October and the blog is no exception. A hastily assembled month of guest content, genre diverse reading, and nostalgia related articles has led to my worst two weeks of views ever when I was thinking (and hoping) it would be well received.  I know the loss of Instagram traffic is hurting and change is always hard, but…. sigh, tell me again why I even bother?

Last Saturday I started some rambling thoughts on ways that a book itself potentially enhances it’s own reading experience, such as when it’s borrowed from a friend and some bookish conversation is enabled as a result. Or, in this case, when it was owned by and now a link to a deceased relative.

I’ve always gotten nostalgic reading Bradbury, especially the few remaining books I have from my uncle’s collection. The October Country is a short story anthology of some of Bradbury’s oldest stories, a macabre and fantasy-horror filled assortment of human observation and meditation on loss (among other things).  Not sci-fi. One thing I read about Bradbury recently that irked me was someone hating on the book because it wasn’t sci-fi? Like why? Authors evolve over time and sometimes write outside their classically known genre, although I do blame that on early publishers for marketing some of it as sci-fi when it’s not.

Anyway, I’ve got an old Ballantine sci-fi classics edition (see, to me this is setting the book up for undue scrutiny) of The October Country that’s falling apart at the binding.  I’m almost afraid to read it any more but also felt like thumbing through a few stories was suitable for my mood this October, as I tend to do anyway each autumn.  I don’t actually know what my mood is but it’s manifesting as smelling the book and imagining that I can still detect pipe smoke.  It’s having a minor melt down because I dropped and broke one of the last plates I had from his set, I’m supposed to be taking care of them right? It’s feeling one more page detach even though I’m barely cracking the spine and just feeling like I’m destroying everything.  

Anyway, to make this bookish, another way to connect to the physical reading experience is to know who else has owned and loved a book. As evidenced by a beaten to hell paperback that probably belongs in a dust sleeve for preservation but I don’t really think that’s what anyone would have wanted, so I continue to read a few stories every year.

I’ve only read the first few this time around and found myself enjoying and connecting with, not for the first time, the prose contained in “The Next In Line”.  With the frantic wife and the speed of her thoughts.  The evaporating warmth that keeps things (Bradbury uses the clay analogy) from moulding anew.

I’m not scared of skulls and bones…If a child was raised and didn’t know he had a skeleton in him, he wouldn’t think anything of bones, would he? … In order for a thing to be horrible it has to suffer a change you can recognize


If anyone is still following for GrimDarkTober content, I’ve got a guest review coming from Brandy at The Review Booth tomorrow, a review for Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde coming probably Monday, then a slew of guest content including a surprise interview 💀

Categories
Fiction Suspense

The Younger Wife by Sally Hepworth (FC Review)

Back in the spring, St Martin’s Press was kind enough to send a lovely finished hardcover of The Younger Wife my way! At that time I had done some introductory hype of the book, and then it somehow got mixed in with my general shelves and lost to time and memory 😭

Until now that is! Upon realizing I had never read it, I picked the book up and flew through it this week.  While The Younger Wife doesn’t fit in with my GrimDarkTober reading exactly, Hepworth is a master of domestic & psychological suspense, a different kind of horror that many women experience in their lives…


Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Younger Wife
  • Author: Sally Hepworth
  • Publisher & Release: St Martin’s Press, April 2022
  • Length: 352 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐✨ for fans of domestic suspense

Here’s the synopsis:

THE HUSBAND
A heart surgeon at the top of his field, Stephen Aston is getting married again. But first he must divorce his current wife, even though she can no longer speak for herself.

THE DAUGHTERS
Tully and Rachel Aston look upon their father’s fiancée, Heather, as nothing but an interloper. Heather is younger than both of them. Clearly, she’s after their father’s money.

THE FORMER WIFE
With their mother in a precarious position, Tully and Rachel are determined to get to the
truth about their family’s secrets, the new wife closing in, and who their father really is.

THE YOUNGER WIFE
Heather has secrets of her own. Will getting to the truth unleash the most dangerous impulses in all of them?


I used to love domestic suspense books and have somehow never read this author before.  True that I mostly avoid the genre these days as I am finding them harder to read, but occasionally I like to check out the big hyped books of the year too.

The Younger Wife begins at the end of the story, with the big wedding. Someone is injured but we don’t know who, or who did it, or why yet.  The book itself then takes us through the prior year or so, from the multiple perspectives of Stephen’s two daughters and his new wife.

It’s impossible to say anything else about the book without creating spoilers, so I’ll just say that I did like this one.  Many books in this genre are notorious for going back into the past and giving 30 thousand boring details that no one cares about, which thankfully Hepworth didn’t do. She keeps the background blessedly relevant to the present story and shared just enough to drop some hints and make me care about the characters.

I did like the characters too. None of them were really what I expected after the first few pages and I didn’t dislike any of the points of view, although I didn’t have a clear favorite either.

On that note, the reason I didn’t rate the book higher was because the third person omniscient view didn’t hit home.  It’s usually one of my favorite styles but in this case it kept me a bit too detached from three very personal stories.  There are also two “I perspectives” that come at the beginning and end, but those are secrets.

It’s sometimes hard for me to read about domestic abuse and gaslighting, which may or may not have something to do with some of the family secrets alluded to in the synopsis.  Each member of the family had their own issues as adults – but where did they all come from? What exactly happened to that perfect looking family which is now in such disarray as adults? And really, why is the father marrying someone in her early 30s?

Overall: I enjoyed reading to find out these answers. It was a fast read and created a lot of tension and mystery throughout. I was worried for some of the characters. If you like domestic & psychological suspense, I would recommend giving The Younger Wife a chance!

Categories
Contemporary Fiction Literary Fiction

Other Birds by Sarah Addison Allen (Book Review)

Thank you so much to St. Martin’s Press for the gorgeous finished copy of Other Birds by Sarah Addison Allen!

From my favorite non-SFF genre, this is a wonderful magical realism book about stories, secrets, acceptance, and the ghosts we hold onto. It’s packed full of great characters and themes that I love.

This comes with my apologies as I should have read and reviewed it already but had a terrible incident of dog vs. marshmallow from the press box (she is ok now!) and needed a little time.

So let’s look at the book, which I am highly recommending for new adult readers and all fans of magical realism!


Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Other Birds
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Sarah Addison Allen
  • Publisher & Release: St. Martin’s Press, 08/30/22
  • Length: 290 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐✨

Here’s the synopsis:

From the acclaimed author of Garden Spells comes an enchanting tale of lost souls, lonely strangers, secrets that shape us, and how the right flock can guide you home.

Down a narrow alley in the small coastal town of Mallow Island, South Carolina, lies a stunning cobblestone building comprised of five apartments. It’s called The Dellawisp and it is named after the tiny turquoise birds who, alongside its human tenants, inhabit an air of magical secrecy.

When Zoey Hennessey comes to claim her deceased mother’s apartment at The Dellawisp, she meets her quirky, enigmatic neighbors including a girl on the run, a grieving chef whose comfort food does not comfort him, two estranged middle-aged sisters, and three ghosts. Each with their own story. Each with their own longings. Each whose ending isn’t yet written.

When one of her new neighbors dies under odd circumstances the night Zoey arrives, she is thrust into the mystery of The Dellawisp, which involves missing pages from a legendary writer whose work might be hidden there. She soon discovers that many unfinished stories permeate the place, and the people around her are in as much need of healing from wrongs of the past as she is. To find their way they have to learn how to trust each other, confront their deepest fears, and let go of what haunts them.

Delightful and atmospheric, Other Birds is filled with magical realism and moments of pure love that won’t let you go. Sarah Addison Allen shows us that between the real and the imaginary, there are stories that take flight in the most extraordinary ways.


So the synopsis is absolutely dead on as far as what the book is about, and I have nothing else to add to the summary. Other Birds is full of both literal and figurative ghosts with a touch of magic throughout.  It’s not quite a GrimDarkTober read but I love it for autumn.

Zoey has moved to Mallow Island before college starts and meets the inhabitants of her mother’s old residence.  There’s a reclusive author, small little birds with big personalities, and three ghosts hanging around.  There’s a lot more too but it’s worth discovering on your own.

I loved the characters.  Each had a lot of childhood trauma in different forms and as they grew up, hoarded love where they could find it.  Everyone was broken in some way and I don’t always love books like this but I did like how Zoey brought everyone at The Dellawisp together and eventually they all found a lot of individual closure.

The theme of letting go to old loves and making room for new ones was touching and I have to give the book 1/2 of a bonus star for making me tear up.  (If anyone remembers my infamous bonus system: real tears is +1 star,  watery eyes is +1/2 star, real laughter is +1 star, chuckles is 1/2 star. Basically make me feel something and I give bonus stars).  What really got me was the point about how on whatever level of abuse occurs, whether it’s horrendous neglect, physical, or just not having a place in your own family for whatever reason –  sometimes it’s better to leave and find your own people. 

The other high point was that the book maintained a level of mystery and and ongoing discovery that kept me interested.  Who was prowling around at night? What was really going on with these characters – including the ghosts? It kept itself interesting and the reveals came at a steady pace.  Some I never saw coming, some I did, and it was a good mix.

The setting and atmosphere was piled on thick too, but this is one of the most character driven books that I’ve truly enjoyed recently. At the end of the day I had a few issues with how the various points of view were thrown together in each chapter, but I love the third person present tense.  It’s an intimate approach and such a generally wholesome book for the new adult like age 18+ readers that I’m just going with 5 stars.  

Anyway, here are a few quotes that packed a lot of punch for me:

Stories aren’t fiction. Stories are fabric. They’re the white sheets we drop over our ghosts so we can see them


It made him even more scared of rejection, because who would ever believe in a loneliness so overwhelming that you called upon a ghost to alleviate it?


Overall I highly recommend this one for fans of women’s fiction, magical realism, and new adult readers!

As a bonus: here are the press kit photos I took! Thank you again to the publisher for the book and box and all the support along the way ❤️

Categories
audiobooks Fantasy Fiction Horror

Wizard & Glass by Stephen King (or, why I can’t finish a series)

Ever notice that I tend to get about three or four books into a series and then quit? The fact is that in between ARCs I never had time to read these giant, door stopping books, and once they got above 8-900 pages I was just about out of luck …

Well, this book was one of these clonkers. It took me two weeks to get through it even listening on partial audio (28 hours total 😭) so it’s kind of easy to see where a reader with deadlines gets to these longer books and comes to a screeching halt.

Or maybe that’s just me.  Anyway, the great Mark Lawrence wrote (see GoodReads) that you are either a Roland (and hate Wizard & Glass because no progress is made) or an Oy (you love everything about the journey despite it being a giant flashback).

For once I am glad that I’m taking the time to be an Oy, and this is a more than appropriate kickoff to GrimDarkTober.


Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Wizard & Glass
  • Series: The Dark Tower #4
  • Author: Stephen King
  • Publisher & Release: Grant, 1997
  • Length: 704 original hardcover (my PB around 930 pages) 
  • Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐✨ I’m team “enjoy the journey”

Here’s the synopsis:

Roland the Gunslinger, Eddie, Susannah, and Jake survive Blaine the Mono’s final crash, only to find themselves stranded in an alternate version of Topeka, Kansas, that has been ravaged by the superflu virus. While following the deserted I-70 toward a distant glass palace, Roland recounts his tragic story about a seaside town called Hambry, where he fell in love with a girl named Susan Delgado, and where he and his old tet-mates Alain and Cuthbert battled the forces of John Farson, the harrier who—with a little help from a seeing sphere called Maerlyn’s Grapefruit—ignited Mid-World’s final war

So this book started out where The Wastelands left off, in an epic riddling contest between Eddie and Blaine the Mono. Was I belly laughing at the dead baby jokes? 

Um…. Maybe? I had a cathartic laughing experience at the baby and the SuperFlu one, I have such tied up feelings about pandemics and it’s not usually who I am but I think I just needed to laugh at something particularly horrible.  Some inner turmoil definitely released there, so thank you Mr King.

Anyway, Eddie is probably turning into one of my favorite book characters of all time, even if our main characters essentially drop off the page once Roland starts his story.

It’s creepy, dark, witchy, mystical, had me absolutely cringing at some especially gory parts, and was everything I’ve come to expect from King at this point.  I wanted Roland and Cuthbert and Alain to succeed. It was painful to watch youth and inexperience war against the more hardened players as they uncovered the true goings on in Hambry.

Not going to lie, I’m all for Roland and Susan too.  I was actually pretty broken up about how that all ended.  P.S. none of this is spoilery, it’s all alluded to in prior books.

Character wise – really quick – yes I liked the boys and their personalities. It was nice to finally “meet” them. Rhea the witch is probably the creepiest witch I’ve read in a LONG time, and more than once I had to put it down and go think non-gorey thoughts for a bit.  Sheemie was the real hero in the pages for sure.

One thing that struck me was the level of anticipatory grief that I was having for certain character deaths that actually never occured. They have to happen at some point but not all happened here and for that I was glad, because it was hard enough to read what was already there.

I do wish that King hadn’t essentially gone all Wizard of Oz at the end. It was just weird, and felt a lot weirder than the whole Charlie the Train thing he had going on before.  I won’t hold the ending against the rest of the book but it did put a weird taste in my mouth after such a disturbingly wonderful journey.

Quick note on what I heard from Frank Muller when I was listening – he’s a great narrator and added a LOT to the story, made my skin crawl reading Rhea’s parts!

Long story short: I’m an Oy. I appreciated the journey and am excited to keep reading forward.  When will I have time for the next book, even longer at 931 pages? I hope next month! 


The Dark Tower series so far:

1. The Gunslinger

2. The Drawing of the Three 

3. The Waste Lands


Categories
audiobooks Fantasy Historical Fiction Middle Grade

The Witches of Crannock Dale by Thomas M. Kane (Audiobook Review)

Thanks to the author for letting me listen to and review the audiobook of The Witches of Crannock Dale! I’ll also be interviewing Thomas Kane on the Sunday Brunch Series soon so keep an eye out for that 🍳🎤

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Witches of Crannock Dale
  • Series: Mara of the League #1
  • Author: Thomas M. Kane (Nar. Stevie Marie)
  • Publisher & Release: Self Published, 2019
  • Length: 288 pages (11h48m run time)
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ yes for middle grade fans!

Synopsis:
Spies. Witch-hunts. A little girl who asks dangerous questions.

When invaders threaten, eleven-year-old Mara must grow up fast. All her life, her homeland has been on the brink of war with the Commonwealth of Waan. But as bells warn of approaching enemies, her own realm’s knights arrest her favorite aunt for witchcraft. This prompts her to rethink much of what she has been taught about her country. When adults ignore her points, she teams up with unlikely friends in a bid to rescue her aunt and protect her village. Mara must make sense of grown-up politics if she is to save the people she loves.

This is Book One of the political fantasy series Mara of the League.

I thought that for a middle-grade, this one checks pretty much all the boxes for me.  I can’t speak for the rest of the series yet but Mara is 11 here, and the content stays 100% age audience appropriate. Although she is 17 in book two I believe it remains a middle grade age level throughout.

Mara is a very smart and brave little girl who eventually becomes a spy for her country in later books. Here in Witches we are introduced to Mara and her family and learn about the plots and political conflicts happening in the world.  Told in the first person point of view of an 11 year old, I think it’s a marvel that Kane had me interested in the imposter bandit king and how the war will eventually unfurl.

Mara is an easy character to root for as she becomes involved in local issues.  I liked her brother too and the rest of the family.

As I’m obviously not 12 anymore (🤣🤣🤣), when reviewing for middle grade, I tend to look more at whether the book is fast paced (yes), interesting (yes), repetitive (no), and age appropriate (yes). I think it will hold their attention well. It’s also extremely well edited for a self published book so that’s helpful!

Are the themes something I would want my little niece reading? Yes, absolutely. Mara has to navigate complicated adult politics while still doing what she thinks is right. She also learns  that sometimes rules do have a time and place in society, and that actions can have severe and unintended consequences.  I like the sense of responsibility she has towards family and even town & country.

The issue I had is that the audio itself did not hold my interest, likely due to the Authors Direct app and a few challenges that it presented. That was an experience related issue though and I think Stevie Marie was a pretty solid, clearly spoken narrator. I did end up reading on Kindle Unlimited though and was then lucky enough to see the map and drawings.

Overall: I’m excited to keep reading to see how Mara and the war develop.  It’s a solid middle grade read that I think YA can enjoy too since Mara ages fairly quickly in the books. Stay tuned for the author interview!

Categories
Fiction Mysteries

Book Tour & Review ~ Who Me? Fog Bows, Fraud and Aphrodite by Charlotte Stuart

From grimdark to cozy mystery, what the heck will I post next 🤣

Thanks so much to Kate Rock Book Tours for having me on the tour for this surprisingly fun cozy mystery! I chose to read it because I love CATS! and Macavity sounded like quite a character. How can I not read something with a snarky orange cat in it?

Note: it is #2 in a series but reads as a standalone

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Who, Me? Fog Bows, Fraud and Aphrodite
  • Series: Macavity and Me #2
  • Author: Charlotte Stuart
  • Publisher & Release: Seale Publishing, June 2021
  • Length: 236 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐✨ Yes for fans of cozy mysteries and cats

Here’s the synopsis:

From the open porthole on her sailboat, Bryn Baczek overhears a heated argument on a nearby boat followed by a loud splash . . .then silence. 

Bryn lives on a sailboat in a small marina with her cantankerous cat, Macavity, and a series of short-lived goldfish. While seeking evidence to prove a neighbor innocent of murder, she ends up being threatened by the victim’s abusive boyfriend, betrayed by a close friend, and almost bored to death by an uncooperative accountant.

Although Bryn shares what she learns with a charming detective whose manicured mustache she finds off-putting, she is one step ahead of the police in identifying the murderer . . . a step that puts her in a dangerous face-to-face confrontation.

Who, Me? Fog Bows, Fraud and Aphrodite is currently a finalist in the Chanticleer Mystery and Mayhem contest. It also won a Firebird Book Award for humor and is an Author Shout Recommended Read and a 5 Star Readers Favorite.

I laugh every time I read the synopsis. Short lived goldfish and a cantankerous cat just about sums it up, plus a disappearing woman and all of Bryn’s shenanigans.

I don’t usually enjoy cozy mysteries but Bryn was not a complete idiot like most main characters in these books.  She worked along with the police without obstructing the detective, used her resources well, and actually managed to solve the case without bringing too much harm to herself or anyone else!

The mystery itself got a bit convoluted for me at the end although it was fun watching the characters follow the paper trail.  I missed how the perpetrator knew … Uhhmmm…. Things.  I think a seasoned mystery reader may have guessed the murderer but I had Nooooo idea who it was.

Despite the fact that I can’t follow the details of a murder plot, the characters totally carried the book.  It took some time to learn about Bryn and her friends/family and it was a good crew.  I loved Logan and Judd who were hilarious and may or may not love cats.  My favorite part besides Macavity and the string of goldfish is how Bryn is portrayed as a single, happy, self sufficient 30 something who is alone but not lonely.  Parents don’t get it! I can relate!

Overall: I would read Stuart’s other books for sure, I can’t wait to see more of Bryn’s adventures when I need a break from heavier reading. Definitely recommend this for cozy mystery fans who like strong main characters and need a few good laughs!

Categories
Fiction Historical Fiction Literary Fiction Romance

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (Book Thoughts)

In an effort to broaden my reading horizons and shore up some of my literary gaps, I started reading a few classics every year.

For my summer session of classic torture, I was surprised to find that The Scarlet Letter was not really that challenging to read. It is fairly short and the language isn’t terribly insufferable either (My last classic was Notre Dame de Paris ((The Hunchback of Notre Dame)) and … Whew, no thanks).

So let’s talk about my reaction to the book, if I think it has relevance today, and I’ll treat you to my teen-speak synopsis of the book.

Originally published in 1850, here’s the Signet Classics synopsis:

This tragic novel of sin and redemption is Hawthorne’s masterpiece of American fiction.

An ardent young woman, her cowardly lover, and her aging vengeful husband—these are the central characters in this stark drama of the conflict between passion and convention in the harsh world of seventeenth-century Boston. Tremendously moving and rich in psychological insight, this dramatic depiction of the struggle between mind and heart illuminates Hawthorne’s concern with our Puritan past and its influence on American life.

Broadly – I enjoyed the read.  It’s not hard to know what’s happening, and minus a bit of minute descriptive language mostly in the first novella about the Custom House, it was pretty readable.

His author intro is everything: Oh you’re offended by my sketch? I think it’s fine, it’s not like I burned the place down!! I bet Hawthorne had a big personality.

Relevance: I think it has relevance as a cautionary tale today in a world where teen moms get “famous” on TV and you can’t even scroll Bookstagram without seeing books with x rated content advertised. I would definitely put this in a home school curriculum to talk about Puritanism, early settlements, guilt, adultery, having children out of wedlock, stigmas and identity, I mean there’s a lot of discussion content here that I imagine parents would rather handle.

Here’s my teen speak synopsis:

Part 1: So Mr. Hawthorne was in the hot seat for blasting his employer after being fired, and said HaHaHaHA I’m gonna publish this anyway because it’s not offensive so enjoy! Sticks and stones!

Part 2: The Scarlet Letter. Ok so this lady living in Puritan Salem/Boston finds this brown eyed pastor waxing poetic, and even though she’s married, they get their shenanigans on. What the heck did she think would happen when she had a baby? This wasn’t 2020 where Jerry Springer lets your baby daddy and your husband fight it out on live TV, your @$$ is going to be hung by the neck!

That didn’t happen because Hawthorne had to write a book longer than 5 pages, so the two men have to kill each other with psychological warfare instead. A good lesson about carrying around a guilty conscience.

Long story short – actions have consequenes

A few random thoughts:

  • I thought it was funny that even the beggars were shunning charity from Hester. These days everyone grabs all the free stuff regardless of who is handing it out
  • A character mentioned transmuting alchemy to gold, which is something I usually see in fantasy books or nonfiction moreso than historical fiction
  • The book takes place 50 years before the Salem Witch Trials and Hawthorne brought in some real historical figures as characters.  Bellingham was the real governor, as was Hibbins who mentioned witchcraft throughout the book and was hanged in real life shortly after it took place. I didn’t know how many women were hung before the actual frenzy took place

Overall thoughts: I didn’t feel bad for Hester at all. She wasn’t forced into marriage and knew the laws of the time. Dimmesdale probably took advantage of his authority position and that isn’t an excuse for either of them since she clearly knows how to say NO to men in power based off the rest of the book.  I know 2020 is whack but choices, actions, they all have consequences and I’ll never support adultery.  That’s why I think this is a good cautionary tale to lay against idiocracy like “Teen Mom”

This is a quicker, easier to pick apart classic and I definitely think it held up over the years.

Soooo what classic should I read in the fall?

Categories
Contemporary Fantasy Romance Young Adult

Three Kisses, One Midnight by Roshani Chokshi, Sandhya Menon, Evelyn Skye (ARC Review)

Thank you to Wednesday Books for the early digital copy of Three Kisses, One Midnight by *all those authors* lol!  I haven’t read anything by Skye or Menon but I love Chokshi as a YA author and was happy to grab a copy of this.

This is a young feeling YA with witchy & folklore elements, that hit me like a Halloween version of Cinderella.  Three friends are attending the town’s annual masquerade gala and are intent on finding true love prior to midnight.  It was a little silly but magical and cute overall, and I think that younger YA readers will enjoy the book

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Three Kisses, One Midnight: A Novel
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Roshani Chokshi, Sandhya Menon, Evelyn Skye
  • Publisher & Release: Wednesday Books, 08/30/22
  • Length: 288 pages
  • Rate & Recommend:  ⭐⭐⭐✨  for younger teen readers

Here’s the synopsis from GoodReads: 

New York Times bestselling authors Roshani Chokshi, Evelyn Skye, and Sandhya Menon craft a spellbinding novel about discovering the magic of true love on one fateful, magical night in Three Kisses, One Midnight.

The town of Moon Ridge was founded 400 years ago and everyone born and raised there knows the legend of the young woman who perished at the stroke of twelve that very same night, losing the life she was set to embark on with her dearest love. Every century since, one day a year, the Lady of Moon Ridge descends from the stars to walk among the townsfolk, conjuring an aura upon those willing to follow their hearts’ desires.

“To summon joy and love in another’s soul
For a connection that makes two people whole
For laughter and a smile that one can never miss
Sealed before midnight with a truehearted kiss.”

This year at Moon Ridge High, a group of friends known as The Coven will weave art, science, and magic during a masquerade ball unlike any other. Onny, True, and Ash believe everything is in alignment to bring them the affection, acceptance, and healing that can only come from romance—with a little help from Onny’s grandmother’s love potion.

But nothing is as simple as it first seems. And as midnight approaches, The Coven learn that it will take more than a spell to recognize those who offer their love and to embrace all the magic that follows

The synopsis sounded a little not-my-style but I’ll read anything that Roshani Chokshi writes.  The first friend, Onny, has an insanely rich family and her parents host the Moon Ridge founding day gala every year.  Since it’s the 400th anniversary they are sparing no expense and creating the most magical, amazing celebration ever.

There was a good overall mood and setting, I would totally go to that masquerade.

I think the best part was also the most jarring part – Chokshi’s prose.  The other authors wrote the dialogue and stories, and then her lyrical and magic descriptions were tagged into paragraphs.   Text, Text, text, “and it was like *insert block of Chokshi prose*”.

I think they should have melded it together a little better somehow but it really did flow well overall.

Split into three sections, a section for each friend, we get to see how each teen embraces both the literal and figurative magic of the night.  I was surprised to enjoy the third story the most – True had an amazing personality and I feel like the authors gave us a rough idea of her at first, so I got to overcome my first impression of her as she also had her own struggles.  I liked her story the most too.

Each teen had a little adventure and I think True had the best one.  Each character was good though, I didn’t particularly dislike any character or segment.  Ash’s was slowest but interesting, Onny was insufferable and had to learn to look under the surface of people, and I already talked about True!

There are good youth friendly themes of being yourself, honoring family, accepting yourself and others, and others.

Overall, I’m pretty excited that these authors got together.  I do think some of the content isn’t quite as cute as they intended it to be, which is why I went with my neutral rating.  I do appreciate that they kept the main characters to kissing only. The characters tend to talk and text like 12 year olds and they are intended to be 17+! Like I said, I would recommend for the younger YA spectrum and also have no trouble giving this to a strong middle grader.

Thanks again to Wednesday Books for my advanced copy, all opinions are my own.

Categories
Fiction Mysteries Suspense

The Comfort of Distance by Ryburn Dobbs (Book Thoughts)

I was invited to read The Comfort of Distance by Ryburn Dobbs and am leaving a voluntary review. My devices struggle with the PDF format so I ended up finding the book on Kindle Unlimited and read the edition provided there. **See disclaimer at the end**

This book spans a few genres. It is more about forensic anthropology and detective work than it is a police procedural, with some mystery and suspense elements too.  The characters alluded to but didn’t say “Bones”. Check this one out if you like Bones, with a socially awkward and overly introspective anthropologist that reminded me a lot of Detective Monk in many ways.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Comfort of Distance
  • Series: The Sebastien Grey Novels – #1
  • Author: Ryburn Dobbs
  • Publisher & Release: Dandiprat Press, October, 2020
  • Length: 276 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐✨ for fans of the genre

Here’s the summary from Am*zon:

Someone, or some thing, is leaving bodies in the Black Hills.

Forensic science meets literary fiction in this captivating police procedural. Deep in the forests of the Black Hills, human remains are being discovered – one bit at a time. Rumors of a rogue man-eating mountain lion are spreading through the county and panic is starting to swell. Sgt. Hank LeGris of the Custer County Sheriff’s Office is feeling the pressure; he needs to find out who the dead are, and how they got that way. Hank suspects that the bodies are the result of a more sinister predator. But in order to solve the mystery, he will have to reach back into his own dysfunctional family history and pull in the only person who can get to the bottom of these strange cases – his estranged and disordered brother, the brilliant forensic anthropologist Dr. Sebastien Grey.

When Sebastien arrives in the Black Hills, he takes his brother, and Detective Tiffany Reese, on a whirlwind tour of forensic thinking and deductive reasoning, not only solving the mystery of the human remains, but the murder of a local thug as well. In the process, Sebastien himself is forever transformed by his own success and by the charm and kindness of the lovely Detective Reese: “One day I hope you give yourself permission to be different, Sebastien. You’ll be happier.”

The Comfort of Distance is equal parts forensic mystery, police procedure and character study, with dashes of comedy and romance thrown in. Readers will be cheering at the end and ready for more

The prologue and initial scenes definitely had me interested in The Comfort of Distance.  Someone is brutalized and left for dead, and shortly after we meet the main cast of characters.

When the book introduced Sebastien Grey as a disordered person in therapy, I honestly rolled my eyes because so many detective novels take that route to show them getting their career back on track. Thankfully Dobbs took a different route and simply used that introduction to, well, introduce the character and his quirks.

The book quickly redeemed itself with interesting detective work, good characters, and multiple plotlines to keep things fresh and moving forward.

Grey turned into an interesting character that it is easy to root for.  I feel like he snapped right out of a lot of his problems (taking prescriptions inappropriately, etc) pretty quickly while on the case, which showed that his brain maybe just needed a little occupation than it was getting in California? I’m not sure what to make of Dr Grey’s character arc but he definitely ended up in a good place and I was happy for him.

I’m kind of wondering if Sebastien wasn’t slightly based off the fashion designer by the same name.

The other characters are likeable too, with good dialogue and banter and teamwork.  There is some family drama between the brothers which I hope gets more exposure in future novels.  One character had a lot of antipathy towards Sebastien at first that seemed to magically resolve, and I needed more background into the whole family conflict.

Also there were a ton of names and different storylines thrown out in the first few chapters.  Most of them came together well by the end but I thought there were a few loose ends too.  My last gripe is that the KU version did have a few – as in probably fewer than one per chapter – editorial issues, which did not detract too much.

The setting was well described in terms of weather, terrain, local mood and atmosphere, but I had a hard time pinning down the mood of the entire book.  I had Monk in my mind and read the book through a lighter, slightly more humorous lens than a serious detective novel or police procedural. That said, I think the book shined the most when Sebastien was doing his forensic magic.  It was interesting and showed that he really does have a great mind in there.

I haven’t gotten to do a OneReadingNurse medical disclaimer© in a while, but I would like to point out that Buspar \ buspirone and similarly Wellbutrin \ buproprion are long acting medications and have absolutely no indication or supportive data for as needed use. Please use these medications as prescribed by a physician.

Anyway, overall, I didn’t LOVE this book but definitely want to read the next one to see how Sebastien fares moving forward! I would recommend this for fans of forensic and detective novels like the Temperance Brennan and Eve Duncan series!


**Disclaimer: I do not normally take review requests for books that are available on KU. My normal policy for KU available books is, if interested, to mark them as want-to-read and then check it out IF/WHEN time allows. I missed this and it happens