Review: Think of England by KJ Charles

Title: Think of England

Author: KJ Charles

Publisher: KJC Books

Genre: historical m/m, mystery

Length: 239 pages

Publication Date: March 28, 2017

Two years ago, Archie Curtis was injured in a freak accident with his hand was blown off by a faulty pistol. His entire unit–and closest friends–were killed or maimed in the accident. Now, Archie has discovered that this might not have been an accident at all, but sabotage.

Determined to find out the truth, he attends a house party of the man he suspects of the terrible deed. There, he meets Daniel da Silva, a poet, who is all too obviously queer and dainty for Archie’s tastes. But when the two uncover a ring of blackmail and are caught up in its web, they are thrown together and Archie begins to see the beauty, elegance,and dangerous mind behind da Silva.

Soon, he finds that he needs the other man, not just to save his reputation and avenge his fallen comrades, but to satisfy a hunger he never thought himself capable of.

I love this book, and it’s not even my favorite of KJ Charles, which just goes to show how much I love Charles’s writing. The mystery behind the story is really well done and completely plausible. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was based on real, historical happenings. After all, house parties were notorious as a setting for affairs, and blackmail is just the next step for that setting.

The other thing I like is how masterful Charles is at taking her characters from point A to point Z so seamlessly. At the beginning, Archie is turned off by da Silva. Da Silva is too over the top and sets off a sort of straight-man’s panic in him. But, as the story progresses, he naturally and believably beings to not only da Silva, but become strongly attracted to him. They have a wonderful chemistry and the more intimate scenes are sizzling hot.

It doesn’t appear that Charles plans to continue on with these two lovers, and that’s a shame because if feel she left it at a spot where she could. I’d love to read more of Archie and da Silva and follow their relationship as it grows and deepens. Alas, I think I’ll have to be satisfied with my imagination instead.

If you like historical m/m and mystery, this is definitely a book that you’ll enjoy. It’s available on Kindle and physical form, so get it now!

Review: A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas

Charlotte Holmes has the greatest deductive mind of her age. She’s inquisitive, intelligent, and ambitious. When she realizes she’s about to be forced into a marriage she doesn’t want, Charlotte takes matters into her own hands and becomes a social outcast as a result. Taking to the streets of London, she finds life difficult for a fallen women. At the same time, there is a series of seemingly unconnected murders. Her dear is sister is implicated in one of them. Desperate to clear her sister’s name, Charlotte assumes the guise of Sherlock Holmes and, with the help of the few friends she has left, dives deep into the case to uncover the truth.

This book was so much fun. I love a good Sherlock Holmes pastiche, and this was was a delight. Charlotte Holmes is her own, fully realized character and not Sherlock Holmes as a woman. What I mean is, Thomas took care to giver Charlotte her own personality and interests instead of slapping on Holmes’ character traits and making him a woman. Charlotte and Holmes are distinct personalities.

The mystery was a little convoluted for me. Maybe it’s because I was exhausted when I was reading it, but I kept forgetting who was who and how they were connected. I felt the names were very similar to each other, which didn’t help. Still, I was able to follow along the main plot and highly enjoyed it. The reveal at the end was properly chilling and a real blow. I also liked how Thomas teased at a more challenging villain in future books. I’m excited for what’s to come.

Definitely. If you like Sherlock Holmes and are interested in reading a gender-swapped version, this is a fantastic book. The characters are rich and vivid, the plot fast-paced, and the conclusion a punch to the gut.

Review: Rage by Jonathan Maberry

Title: Rage: A Joe Ledger International Novel

Author: Jonathan Maberry

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

Pages: 464

Genre: Action/Thriller/Suspense

Publication Date: November 5, 2019

Source: Goodreads Giveaway

The Department of Military Sciences is no more, but that doesn’t stop Joe Ledger and the former Echo Team from doing what they do best: protecting the world. When a massacre happens on an island in North Korea, Joe and Havoc team go to find their worst nightmares realized: everyone, women, children, men, the young, the old, have torn each other apart. They soon find the virus or pathogen on another island and witness the madness and rage that drive people to commit monstrous acts. Not only do they need to figure out what is causing the madness, but they have to prevent war from breaking out and discover who is behind this. It’s crunch time, but Joe and his team rise to the occasion.

I have been eagerly awaiting this book for months. I had no idea I’d won it in a giveaway until the book showed up. I was incredibly excited. I’ve followed the Joe Ledger series for about ten years and even named my cat, Cobbler, after Joe’s cat. When I found out Jonathan Maberry was going to continue the series indefinitely, I was very happy. Each book has been new and exciting without the drop in quality that sometimes happens.

This book was no exception. The plot was tightly woven with a lot of intrigue. I do have to admit, I was a little distressed because there was a lot of violence against women and children. It wasn’t graphically shown on screen, but the bad guys cheerfully talked about what they were going to do to the wives, daughters, and husbands of the people they were coercing.

I continue to love Joe Ledger himself. He’s a deeply fucked up man with a lot of demons, but he’s resilient and authentic. I love that he’s always very aware of what he’s feeling, whether it’s angry or deeply afraid of something. You don’t get a lot of macho bullshit from him. He’s a very vulnerable character who wears his battered and sarcastic heart on his sleeve.

I spent a lot of time being afraid one of my favorite characters was the master villain of the piece. At first, I was super excited when he showed up and was amazing, and then I realized that his scene didn’ t really prove he wasn’t the master villlian, so I’m back to being scared. My only consolation is the speech pattern is totally different from the way he speaks, so it probably isn’t him. Probably.

This book was quite an emotional ride and it didn’t let up. The ending was amazing. Devastating, but amazing. I wish I could pick up the next book right away, but this one isn’t even out yet! I am so thrilled about this series; it’s going to be a roller coaster.

Hooha! (Which, in team Havoc speak, is a resounding yes!)

Review: Girl, Stop Apologizing

Title: Girl, Stop Apologizing: A Shame-Free Plan for Embracing and Achieving Your Goals

Author: Rachel Hollis

Publisher: HarperCollins Leadership

Length: 240 pages

Genre: self-help

Rachel Hollis has built her platform on the idea that women are powerful and should embrace their dreams. In a companion to Girl, Wash Your Face, Hollis explores excuses women need to stop using, behaviors to adopt, and skills to acquire. Peppering her advice with personal anecdotes, Hollis explores the idea that you should go after your dreams with a solid plan and without shame.

I really liked this book, as should be evidenced by the fact that I read it twice in about two months. The first time, I listened to it on audio. Hollis narrates with gusto and enthusiasm that makes it really fun to listen to. It’s easy to get caught up with her outlook and her belief that if you work hard enough, you too can achieve your goal, whatever that goal is. My hard copy is highlighted all over the place and I may even go back and take notes so I can refer to them in the future.

Things I like about the book:

  1. Hollis’s positive outlook.
  2. Her advice on the excuses, behaviors, and skills.
  3. Her 10-10-1 guide to narrowing down your future dream life to 10 dreams to 1 goal to work for.
  4. Her disdain for the term “girl-boss” (a term that, I too, am not fond of).
  5. Her personal stories.

Things I didn’t like:

Not much. I mean, I felt like her story about her boob job was just in there because she wanted to tell a funny story about getting a boob job, but it’s her book. She can do that if she wants. And it was funny. Her story about Amsterdam stressed me out because I’m a planner, but I didn’t dislike it. Yeah, there wasn’t really anything about the book I wouldn’t like.

I would definitely recommend this book. If you are looking for a fun, lighthearted, but serious self-help book that will help you organize your dreams into goals, this is a great book for you!

Review: The Wellness Project by Phoebe Lapine

Title: The Wellness Project – How I Learned to Do Right by My Body Without Giving Up My Life

Author: Phoebe Lapine

Publisher: Pam Krauss/Avery

Publication Date: May 16, 2017

Genre: Non-fiction/Memoir/self-helpish

Length: 374 pages

Phoebe was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder and gluten insensitivity in her twenties. Feeling that taking care of herself and doing her job as a chef were incompatible, she took a haphazard approach to her health until she finally realized she needed to get serious. She decided to spend a year getting her health under control by setting goals for each month, such as eliminating sugar, exercising, skin care, and becoming more mindful. This book is her memoir of that year, along with tips for launching your own wellness project and recipes that go with each goal.

I saw this book reviewed on another blog a few months ago (and I’m so sorry I can’t remember who reviewed it) and thought it sounded interesting. I love reading books about people who set a year project for themselves and have read several. This was interesting, but in terms of writing style, I wasn’t as engaged as I was in some others. There was just a spark missing that made me want to read and go on this journey along with Lapine. It took me a lot longer than it should have to read this.

However, I did get enjoyment out of it. I bookmarked several of the recipes. I also found the section on mindfulness and meditation interesting. I’d never heard of Vedic meditation before and found it appealing. I actually tried it a few times last week, but found it to be one too many things to add to my schedule right now. I’ve already added getting up early to write and now journaling, and since both those are new, throwing meditation on top of it made me crash and burn. I’ll try it again once I’m in the groove.

Overall, I found this to be an interesting book in content, if not style. I recommend it to anyone looking for tips to improve their health and/or enjoy reading memoirs of one-year projects.

Review: Spark Joy by Marie Kondo

Title: Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class to the Art of Decluttering and Organizing

Author: Marie Kondo

Genre: Self-Help (I think?)

Publisher: Ten Speed Press

Publication Date: January 5, 2016

Length: 291 pages

In this companion to The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo takes you step-by -step through her process of decluttering and tidying. With explanations, illustrations, and anecdotes from her career, she sheds light on her method and gives persuasive arguments on how and why to tidy your home.

This book was a very fun read for being about what can be a dull subject. However, the way Kondo explains her method and takes you through the process is engaging and fun. You never feel as if she’s lecturing you. Instead, it’s like she’s there to guide you through a journey that will make you happier.

I’ve been decluttering on and off for the past year. I thought I had pared everything down to the things that sparked joy, and then, after putting down the book, I suddenly thought, “Why do I have that white T-shirt in my dresser? I hate that T-shirt.” And, thus, I realized I had some more work to do. I’ve now gone through my wardrobe, folded my clothes the Kon Marie way, organized them by color, rearranged my closet, gone through my books… etc., etc. I donated about five bags of stuff that absolutely did not bring me any joy. And I haven’t even started on the komono yet.

I think my favorite part was the illustrations. I actually propped open the book to the pictures and used them while I folded all my clothes. They were helpful.

I do not own this book. I got it from the library. But, considering how much joy it brought me, I think I’ll purchase it soon.

I always feel a little weird about rating self-help books because, to me, ratings are about enjoyment. So, I’ll just say that if you’re interested in reading how to tidy your home, and you’ve read The Life Changing Magic, I recommend this book.

Review: As You Wish

Title: As You Wish Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride

Author: Cary Elwes and Joe Layden

Publisher: Atria Books

Date: October 14, 2014

Genre: Memoir

As a young, fairly unknown actor, Cary Elwes was chosen to play the dashing and romantic Westly in William Goldman’s adaptation of his book, The Princess Bride. Years later, he writes about his memories, recollections, and experiences on set. He also gets others who worked on the film to add their thoughts as well.

This was such a wonderful book. Told with love and a lot of heat, Cary goes back to the moment his agent called him about auditioning to years later when this little film that almost didn’t had turned into a huge hit. He tells personal stories about the other actors with a lot of fondness, especially about Andre the Giant, whom he greatly admired.

I put off reading this for a long time, and I wish I hadn’t. This book made me super excited to both rewatch and reread Princess Bride again. The way Cary wrote about it made me remember how much I love it.

Story time: When my parents decided to rent the movie, I flat out refused to watch it. I threw a fit in the middle of the video store (a small one, just tears) because I was so sure I’d hate it. On the back of the box was Westly lying in Pit of Despair with his shoulder bloody and torn, and I. Did. Not. Want. To. See. It!

Fast forward three hours later, it was my favorite movie and I was going to marry Westly when I grew up. I wrote two books with him as my hero. I’ve memorized almost every line. It’s magic.

As is this book. If you haven’t read it yet, get a copy. Even better, go get it on audio and have him read it to you. You won’t be sorry.