The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah Book Review – 2021 Release

The Four Winds is Kristin Hannah’s newest historical fiction novel, set during one of the toughest times in American history – The Great Depression. Coupled with being set on the Great Plains, and featuring two female lead characters, this book is in a word, depressing.

It’s the 1930’s and Elsa Martinelli’s husband has left her, their children, and his parents in the middle of the night. Dust storms are neverending, crops are not growing, rain is not coming, animals are dying, people are leaving. There are rumors of the American Dream reborn in California. How do you make the decision to leave your life behind for the chance at a new beginning?

I love novels that center around the human spirit and resilience. I typically lean more towards fantasy because let’s be honest, real life is pretty terrible when it boils down to it. This book was tough to read, it was beautifully written and I was fully engaged, but it was such a downer that it took me a long time to get through it as I had to keep putting it down to make myself happier haha

Elsa is my favorite kind of female protagonist. So much stronger than she had any idea she was. I loved that the side story about the relationship between her and her children was such a strong sideline that it could’ve really stood on its own. There were many times that I had to stop and think to myself, “wow and I’m over here thinking that it’s tough to raise a baby during Covid”

The only real complaint I have about this book is that the end kind of wrapped up very quickly and a little too nicely for my liking. Not a short book, at roughly 450 pages or so?, but the beginning and middle were much meatier and drawn out than the ending which pulled together in about 50 pages. I would’ve liked a little more out of that.

The Lost Village by Camilla Sten ARC Review – 3/23/21Release Date

Thank you to Netgalley, Camilla, and Minotaur Books for an advance copy of the translated edition of The Lost Village.

Based on the cover and title alone, I immediately wanted to read this book so I was very excited to receive an advance copy.

An amateur documentary film crew heads out into the isolated and abandoned town known as “the lost village” to investigate what happened to the entire population who just vanished without a trace in the 1950’s. Well, the entire population except for a newborn baby and a woman strapped to a pole who had been stoned to death. The head of the project, Alice, is especially invested as her Grandmother’s family was part of the vanished, after her Grandmother had left to pursue life in Stockholm. Once they are in and set up, things start to go sideways. Strange noises, the feeling of eyes on their backs, and even crew going missing. Alice came to the lost village hoping to find answers and she is going to get more than she bargained for.

This is described as The Blair Witch meets Midsommar, which isn’t entirely inaccurate, but if we’d gotten more bits of Midsommar, it would’ve been incredible. The story is creepy, moves along at the right pace for this kind of danger looming horror book. The atmosphere that Camilla builds is tense and uncomfortable. Very clever on her part, was adding in a tumultuous past relationship between two of the film crew to throw off the reader and keep them guessing at what’s going on out there.

I think this book did a lot of things right in terms of combining character storylines with the horror/thriller aspect. Often, we get too much story and not enough character or vice versa, and here we got a good amount of both. If something was lacking, it would be that I wanted a little more from the characters in the past. Those chapters felt slower and less developed than the current day story.

The Imposter by Marin Montgomery ARC Review – 3/9/21 Release Date

The Imposter is a dual-perspective suspense novel in which neither narrative is reliable and will leave you wondering if anything you’ve read can be trusted.

Deborah lives in a secluded house on the outskirts of a small town. While not exactly shunned by suspicious events from her past, she also isn’t quite welcomed either, so she lives a quiet life of solitude. Her estranged daughter Sibley is struggling. Having fled her hometown at the earliest possible opportunity, she has not spoken to her mother in years and when faced with rehab chooses to run home to face the root of her demons. Neither of these women can quite believe the person standing in front of them. A past full of lies is about to come to light.

This book wasn’t life-changing, but it was enjoyable enough for me to want to keep reading to figure out what exactly happened to mess these two characters up so badly. I was immediately hooked with Sibley’s first appearance, and enjoyed her perspective much more than Deborah’s. I didn’t particularly care for any of the characters we meet, but appreciated them for their flaws.

The plot and twist I didn’t quite see coming, although I had suspicions about a particular character from pretty early on. I really enjoy suspense/thriller books about small towns because we get to meet multiple characters who know (or think they know) the whole story.

White Ivy by Susie Yang Book Review – 2020 Release

I honestly don’t even know where to start… this book was NOTHING that I expected it to be. For a debut, it feels like an immense undertaking. I don’t quite think it landed as well as it could’ve had the focus been one one or two items, rather than so many, but props to Susie Yang for an unsuspecting and very wtf pageturner.

Ivy is the product of Chinese immigrants, feeling trapped and unnoticed by everyone, she begins to do small things for attention in her teens. As she grows and learns, she remains seemingly naive, but appearances are not what they seem. Conniving, vindictive, and ambitious, Ivy carves out her ideal life at whatever cost and refuses to let anyone stop her from achieving her goals.

Okay, I did not expect a thriller when I picked this up. I thought I was getting a coming-of-age immigrant story about a girl trying to keep her family’s traditional ways while also molding into a Chinese-American. NOPE. It was not the innocent story that I imagined, which I found out about 3 pages in.

Ivy is not likable. No one in this story is likable. The story is fun, pretty quick-paced, and unexpected.

I’d be interested to read something else by Susie, so I hope that she is not done publishing.

Kings of Anarchy by Caroline Peckham and Susanne Valenti Book Review – 2020 Release

Caroline and Susanne churn out books like it’s nobody’s business. I cannot believe their productivity.

Kings of Anarchy is book three in the Brutal Boys of Everlake Prep series which centers around a secluded private school and an unprecedented pandemic. My review for Kings of Quarantine (book one) can be found here, and Kings of Lockdown (book two) is here. Going forward there may be series spoilers, so proceed with caution.

Book three picks up after the gut-wrenching events that ended book two. Tatum is reeling with the sudden and unexpected loss, the boys are insane with fury, and everyone has revenge on their minds. Deals are made with devils, the plot thickens with family affairs, and the love between Tatum and the boys grows deeper.

Saint really comes a long way in this book, I can say that I actually like him now. Monroe and Kyan are my main boys, but Kyan rubbed me the wrong way a couple of times throughout this one. Blake is just still that random fuckboy that I can’t really figure out why he’s around.

This story has progressed so much and become so much more than a high school bully romance. The things that Caroline and Susanne have pulled out of a simple plot is crazy. Queen of Quarantine (the finale) and a spin-off featuring a member of Kyan’s family are both out now and I’m slowly making my way towards them.

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna Book Review – 2021 Release

At sixteen, Deka’s village will decide her fate. She has already never felt like she fits in and if her blood is not red at the ceremony, she will be cast out. Gold blood is a sign of impurity. When a woman shows up to offer her the opportunity to leave the village and join an army of gilded ones to fight for the Emperor she accepts. Throughout the journey and training, Deka learns that nothing is what is seems, not even her own life.

This book was so imaginative and immersive. The world was interesting and easy to get lost in. Deka was a great female lead. I love how fantasy novels tackle issues that we face in real life, but in a way that doesn’t feel like we’re stuck in this miserable world (does that make sense?). The friendships and romance were enjoyable.

I bought this one audible, and I feel like I want to listen to it at least one more time before the second book comes out to really grasp everything. The world is so rich that it’s possible that a second reading could bring missed details to light.

This was my first experience with this author, and I am interested in seeing what else she has created.

Lucas is almost one!

What a year, right? It has been such an insane whirlwind of emotions. I can’t pretend to know what it’s like to have a newborn/infant in a normal climate, but I’m sure it’s not easy. However, as someone who never felt like ‘mom-ing’ came natural to them, having Luke during a pandemic, having his father work nights and then 12 hour floating shifts, losing my MIL (and most recently, my FIL as well), my parents being states away, a wildly uncomfortable political and social environment, battling PPD, and now juggling a new career with being a stay-at-home mom…whew. I need about 100 vacations and 1,000 drinks.

Anyway, here are some pictures I took of Luke to celebrate one year. His birthday theme is “rookie of the year” as I am a huge baseball lover. Sidenote- one of my biggest disappointments of Luke’s first year is losing out on things that I was so excited to do; the main being take him to his first Orioles game. Losing a year of that with him has been tough on me. I know he won’t remember and baseball will likely mean nothing to him for awhile yet, but one of the things that I was most excited about having a kid for, was to share that love and that place that is so special to me, with them. But, we were lucky enough to grab opening day tickets, so Lucas’ first baseball game will be opening day 2021 and we will make it a great day.

Tangent over, photos now:

A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J Maas Book Review – 2021 Release

I’ve put writing this review off for as long as I can, so here we go…

It’s really hard to write a review for the fourth book in a series without crossing into spoiler territory for past books, so if you have not gone down the Court rabbit hole, this is your warning.

A Court of Silver Flames picks up nearly a year after where A Court of Frost and Starlight left off. The focus of this (hefty) installment is on Nesta and her growth after all of the horrible events she’s experienced, which have left her bitter, broken, and all-around not pleasant to be around. Rhysand (with Feyre’s agreeance) basically give Netsa an ultimatum – shape up or ship out. She begins training sessions with Cassian and takes up working in the library. New romances, new friendships, and a new war at the hands of the human queens looming set up a great beginning to the “second trilogy” of the Court series.

SJM steps up her smut game tenfold in this one. The people who blush over chapter 55 are really in for it with this one. I love a good smut scene, I think that it was possibly a little overdone (I didn’t mind it, I’m not offended by it, however there may have been one or two scenes too many). On the same hand, if you’re gonna over do something, make sure you do it well and it was done well.

This is truly a great redemption story. There were times where I forgot that I ever disliked Nesta. There were times when I found myself really annoyed with characters that I typically enjoy because they were being (what I perceived to be) unfair towards Nesta. The new characters we meet are lovable and I immediately became invested in them and their stories. I would love to get more background on them.

Overall, this was more or less 750 pages of a Nesta character study. The backdrop of the book is the war we will eventually see, but the main focus is on Nesta’s healing, Cassian’s healing, the family as a whole healing, and the reparation of their relationships. I think it was super clever of Sarah to write it in the way that she did, to get us so invested in our characters that this massive war involving the entire world is in our peripherals. Even though there are major plot points that involve what is to come, the focus never leaves the general realm of ‘how is Nesta doing? how are our characters coping?’

But really the real question I have is…are we going to stop pretending that this is YA????

Made Men: The Story of Goodfellas by Glenn Kenny Book Review – 2020 Release

See, your murderers come with smiles, they come as your friends, the people who’ve cared for you all of your life.

Goodfellas has been one of my favorite movies since I started to take an interest in movies, so when I saw this book pop up on Goodreads, I had to give it a listen.

Glenn Kenny is a film critic who takes us on a deep dive into the making of and behind the scenes look at this cult phenomenon. Tirelessly researched and featuring interviews with Scorcese, DeNiro, and Pesci, as well as talking to some of Henry Hill’s family members, Glenn gives us all the insight and more to not only the movie, but a look inside the lives of the gangsters the movie revolves around.

The mob life is fascinating to me, it’s brutally loyal while simultaneously never feeling safe. The power involved that causes so many people to turn a blind eye is intoxicating, the way that the wives (and girlfriends) live with this heavy load. I really enjoyed how well researched this book was. Film critics can be difficult to swallow, but Glenn writes in an engaging and easily digestible way that kept me interested the entirety of the book.

One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London Book Review – 2020 Release

Okay, at this point, I’m just going to stop saying I don’t care for contemporary novels. Another 5 star contemporary here. Maybe I set the bar low since they’re not something I typically prefer, but I’ve been so pleasantly surprised with about 85% of the contemporary / romcom / romance books I’ve read the last couple of years, so maybe it’s one of my genres now.

One to Watch is a fantastic story about a plus size fashion blogger going viral for blasting a Bachelorette-type show for not being diverse enough and the result is making her the next bachelorette.

It’s such a simple synopsis, I don’t think I’ve ever given a one sentence rundown of a book before. I don’t want that one sentence to diminish the depths that this book goes to. It covers a lot of ground, it is sad and hopeful and heartwarming and funny and infuriating all in approximately 400 pages.

My favorite thing about this book was that it wasn’t just about fat shaming and fat phobia, but it was also about self-acceptance and finding ourselves and being happy in our own skin. I also really loved the ending, of both the competition and the book, they were incredibly satisfying.