Review: A Curse Dark as Gold

Title: A Curse Dark as Gold

Author: Elizabeth C. Bunce

Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books

Length: 396 pages

Publication Date: March 1, 2008

Charlotte Miller has never believed in the curse on her family woolen mill. It may be crumbling and ramshackle and refuse to be repaired, but it’s the heart and blood of the town. When her father dies, though, bad luck seems to be nonstop. Just when things seem desperate, a man named Jack Spinner appears and offers to save them by spinning straw into gold in exchange for Charlotte’s ring. It seems like a small price, but Charlotte is drawn into deeper and deeper bargains with the mysterious man and soon finds his price too dear when it’s already too late. Desperate to save her family and the town, Charlotte must call on all her strength to solve the mystery of the curse and save her family.

Oh, I loved this story. I’ve always enjoyed the story of Rumpelstiltskin and this book told the story beautifully. Charlotte was an amazing protagonist, practical, level headed, kind, and thoughtful. She’s left with a huge burden after her father dies and never flinches from the reality of it. She cares not only for her younger sister but the whole town, as many of the villagers rely on the mill for their livelihood.

I greatly enjoyed the romance between Charlotte and Randall, who is a young banker who comes to collect the debt her father owed to his bank. He was so wonderful and sincerely good that I loved him from the first moment he appeared in the book. I thought the romance unfolded very well and was considerate of the time period as well.

I’m sure there were some faults in the story, but I enjoyed every bit. The author took her time laying the groundwork of the town, the mill, the family, and the curse before introducing the magical elements. I like being led into a world slowly and then uncovering the magic, so it really worked for me. I got the book from the library, but this is definitely a book I’ll be adding to my personal collection.

ARC review: All the Better Part of Me

Title: All the Better Part of Me

Author: Molly Ringle

Publisher: Central Avenue Publishing

Length: 288 pages

Publication Date: September 1, 2019

Source: NetGalley

When they were 15 years old, Sinter Blackwelll’s best friend, Andy, came out to him. Supportive and curious, they kissed, but when they were interrupted by Sinter’s disapproving mother, it was quickly forgotten. Now, years later and a continent away, Sinter is beginning to think that maybe he made a mistake, and it’s time to try to deepen his relationship with Andy. However, he’s in London and just got cast in a movie. To top it off, the director and writer, Fiona, is flirting with him, and he can’t help thinking maybe it would just be easier.

After the movie wraps, Sinter makes a decision that will change his life: he’ll move to Seattle, live with Andy, and see what happens. Andy is receptive to his advances and the two settle into a friends-with-benefits relationship. But when compilations arise, their relationship and friendship is threatened.

This was such a charming story! I loved reading about Sinter and his journey from bi-curious to bisexual and proud. I loved his relationship with Andy and the organic way it unfolded. When Sinter’s parents were unsupportive and belligerent, I really felt for both men.

This book was very well written. There were a lot of things that happened that could have come off as cliches or unimaginative, but the author pulled it all off really well. I felt for the characters and the things going on in their lives. I was engaged throughout the journey and really felt like I was reading about real people. I thought it was well done and that there was a lot of heart behind the story.

All the Better Part of Me left me with a huge smile and a happy feeling. It was uplifting and joyful. I’m so glad I got a chance to read it.

Review: Eat, Pray, Love

Title: Eat, Pray, Love

Author: Elizabeth Gilbert

Publisher: Riverhead Books

Length: 369

Elizabeth Gilbert’s life was at it’s lowest point. She was going through a messy divorce, losing herself in an unwise relationship, and struggling with overwhelming depression. So, she decided to take a year to find herself. First, she’d go to Italy and immerse herself in joy; then India to meditate and pray; and finally, Bali, to study with a medicine man. Along the way, she finds friends, joy, God, herself, and love.

I am going to be perfectly honest: this book was on my “Never Read” list. I just didn’t like the hype surrounding it and kind of thought I’d be a cliche for reading it. So, I was going to give it a pass.

But that was before the Great Kindle Disaster of 2019, where I went on a trip to Canada and, the second day, soaked my kindle and therefore lost all my reading material. This book was on the shelf at the bed and breakfast I was at, so I decided to give it a chance.

I’m glad I did, because it’s a really well written book. As someone who struggles with depression and anxiety, I saw bits and pieces of myself in Elizabeth Gilbert. I’ve never been married and never tried to have a kid, but I recognize the frustration and despair of not quite fitting in your own life.

I liked each of the three sections of the book for different reasons. The part where she was in Italy was so full of joy and life. I love reading about India, so her experience in the Ashram was interesting. I have tried meditation and failed at it and the idea of spending hours meditating terrifies me, but I like reading about people who have come to love it. The last section, when she was in Bali, was only really interesting when she was talking about the medicine man and her friends. When she fell in love, I was less interested.

So, I’m glad I read it. It wasn’t life changing and I don’t want to follow her footsteps. But as a way to pass the time while listening to whales pass outside my tent and other sounds of the forest, it was interesting read.

Review: Heart of Iron

Title: Heart of Iron

Author: Ashley Poston

Publisher: Blazer + Bray

Length:480

Ana will do anything to save her best friend D09, a metal found with her in an escape pod by Captain Siege when Ana was a child. Desperate to fix his glitching memory core, she steals the coordinates to a ship that may hold the answer. Unfortnuately, she gets a tag-along for her efforts, an Ironblood boy named Rob who has reasons of his own for wanting to go to the ship. When they finally make it, everything goes wrong and they become outlaws, pursued by the entire kingdom. But Rob has uncovered a secret that may save them both, but at what cost?

This book is so well done. It has everything one could want: romance, danger, political intrigue, plague, sentient AIs, murderous AIs… I could go on.

As always, I am drawn more to the characters than anything else. I can’t really say who my favorite character is. There was four POV characters: Ana, Jax, Rob, and D09 and I never was upset when one of them popped up over another. Now, I have to admit, I was a little more biased to Jax and Rob, because I loved their interplay and their attraction to one another, but Ana is really compelling too, especially in the latter half of the book when her world is turned upside down. And then, there’s a whole twist with D09 that I didn’t see coming that blew me out of the water and made me want to read more about him, so it was just all well done.

I did listen to this on audio, so it took me a few weeks to get through and I kind of wish I’d just read it. The narrator was fine and did a good job, but it felt slow to me. I think it would have gone faster, and I would have remembered the minor characters more if I’d just read it instead.

Overall, though, it’s a fantastic book with an amazing ending and I can’t wait for the sequel.

ARC Review: Jack of Thorns (Inheritance #1)

Title: Jack of Thorns (Inheritance #1)

Author: Amelia Faulkner

Publisher: LoveLightPress

Publish Date: September 20, 2017

Length: 442 pages

Laurence Riley is an easy going florist with the power to make things grow. He can also see the future, which manifests one terrifying night when he ODs and is left for dead. Now, he’s trying to keep his life together, which is hard with a stalker ex-boyfriend dogging his heels.

Quentin has been brought up in a life of extreme privilege as an English lord. Now traveling the world and trying to forget his past, a chance encounter with Laurence leads to something more. However, Quentin has secret powers of his own, powers that he’s not even aware of, but protect him violently.

Attracted to Quentin, desperate to improve his life and gain control of his powers, Laurence accidentally summons a fertility god who calls himself Jack. But Jack is darker and more dangerous than Laurence can handle and quickly turns on Laurence. He’s hatched an evil plan that threatens the world. Laurence and Quentin both have to master their powers to face something greater than themselves.

So, I only realized right now that this book has already been published and in its second edition, which is good, because maybe that means the second book will be coming out soon (or is already out). I really enjoyed this book. I felt so hard for Laurence and his struggle with drugs and sobriety and addiction. I wanted to slap his ex-boyfriend who wouldn’t leave him alone. And I loved his dedication to being better than he was before and how he really tried so hard.

I also liked Quentin a lot, but it was a little harder. In the beginning, when he’s formal and unsure, he refers to himself as “one” all the time and it really grated. It was just so annoying because I couldn’t keep track of what he was saying. But as he relaxed and got to know Laurence better, his speech patterns changed and he was easier to deal with. I also liked his insecurities and fears that manifested in phenomenal power that he couldn’t even acknowledge. And I like how uncomfortable he is with even the idea of intimacy and sex; you don’t often come across that in books and it’s almost never a man who has these hang-ups. It made me really like him a lot.

I genuinely couldn’t put this book down at the end. I was so engaged and excited to see what was going to happen next. The villain was scary, the plot compelling, and the characters were great.

Review: Let’s Talk About Love

Title: Let’s Talk About Love

Author: Claire Kann

Publisher: Swoon Reads

Format: Hardcover

Length: 304 pages

Publication Date: January 23, 2018

When Alice’s girlfriend breaks up with her, Alice is understandably upset. Not necessarily because she misses her girlfriend, but because of the hurtful things her ex said when they broke up, all centering on Alice’s lack of interest in sex. Margot takes Alice’s asexuality as a personal affront instead of seeing that Alice can love her without sexual desire. Determined to protect herself, Alice decides not to date again, until she meets mega cutie Takumi at the library where she works. The two of them are soon inseparable, which is great because her longtime friendship with BFFs Feenie and Ryan is crumbling before her eyes. Do she and Takumi have a future together as more than just friends? Or will her sexuality get in the way of something wonderful?

This book was just delightful. Alice is so adorable. She’s full of joy and happiness and has a wonderful zest for all things cute. I love that she’s nerdy and obsessed with TV and books. I love her Cutie Code, which is how she quantifies the world. I love her love for her friends and how open-hearted she is. Her relationship with Takumi was so natural and real. They came together in a very realistic way. I totally identified with Alice being blown over by his beauty and they way she beat herself up over every interaction until they became friends.

It was also very interesting to read about a biromantic asexual character. I thought all aspects of her sexuality were very well done. I liked the exploration and explanation of her asexuality, too, and how she grows into herself and becomes confident in it during the novel. It was amazing growth and it was lovely to read.

Review: Past Perfect Life

Title: Past Perfect Life

Author: Elizabeth Eulberg

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 336

Publication Date: July 9, 2019

VERY SLIGHT SPOILERS IN THE REVIEW

Ally Smith has the perfect life. She and her father are insanely close and have a million rituals that make her days feel rich and full. She’s at the top of her class and hoping to get the scholarships she needs to go to college. She’s “in” with the Gleasons, the town royalty, and Neil, her longtime crush, seems like he may be asking her out soon. The only problem is her college applications, which were rejected because of her social security card, but that will be an easy fix, right? Everything is great until the FBI shows up at her house and turns Ally’s world upside down. Turns out, she’s not who she thinks she is and has been a missing person for fifteen years. Now, as her life comes crumbling around her, she longs for her perfect past in the face of an uncertain future.

I really liked this book. The characters were engaging, the plot was well done, and I love a good missing persons story. I like how the narrative was sympathetic to everyone involved. The dad wasn’t a villain, just a thoughtless man who made a terrible decision. The long suffering mother was overbearing, but understandable in her actions. She’d spend 15 years without her daughter and was going overboard to make up for lost time. The only place I was afraid I’d get a cardboard cutout was with the younger sister, but even she was quickly revealed to be a human being in pain and not a one-dimensional stereotype. 

I liked Ally’s support system in Wisconsin. The Gleasons were a close-knit family who’d taken in Ally and her father and were understandably dismayed when the truth was revealed. I liked how they stayed by her side and supported her no matter what. In other books of a similar nature, characters didn’t have that support system and it was always frustrating to see them so lost. Ally gets lost and depressed, but she always has someone to turn to.

I admit, I was a little iffy on the ending. I liked it, but it didn’t quite ring true to me. I think I would have preferred something more realistic and involving therapy for everyone involved. However, the whole book has a little bit of a fairy tale feel to it, so the ending fits that narrative perfectly.

Overall, this is a strong book with good characters. It makes you think about how easily something like this could happen and it makes you feel for all parties involved.