Review: The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman

Title: The Bookish Life of Nina Hill

Author: Abbi Waxman

Publisher: Berkely

Genre: Contemporary

Publication Date: July 9, 2019

Nina Hill has a life she loves. She works at a bookstore, she belongs to a winning trivia team, has a book club that sometimes discusses the books they read, and, once a week, has a night devoted to doing nothing (aka reading). However, her life is thrown into turmoil when the father she never knew dies and she’s introduced to a complicated family tree. Now, surrounded by brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews, Nina has to come out of her shell and interact with these people, some of whom hate her for existing. To top it off, her trivia rival, Tom, a sexy man shows interest in wanting to get to know her. Nina likes things simple, but her life is suddenly not so simple. She’s going to have to come out of her shell and drastically revise her planner to keep up the sudden cascade of people in her life.

To be perfectly honest, the further away from this book I get, the less I like it. It was okay, I guess. Nina was an interesting character. I liked that while she was an introvert, she wasn’t a shut in. She had an active social life and plenty of friends. I guess that’s actually one thing about the book that bugged me. She’s got things to do and people to see every night. She’s social and active and happy, but the book seems to indicate that her life isn’t complete because she doesn’t have a romantic partner. And maybe I’m taking it too personally, but as a happily single woman who would kill to have Nina’s social life (although, honestly, right now, my social life is more booked than it’s been in the past) I don’t get what’s so bad about being single. And even when she began to notice Tom as a romantic partner, it didn’t take much for her to go for it. She clearly wasn’t single because she was shy, but because she’d not found someone she was interested in.

I loved her family members, particularly the nephew who reached out to her (whose name is escaping me) and her brother Archie. I liked how naturally they came together and got along, seeing similarities in each other. The wider family was okay, but those two relationships were great.

I really didn’t like the handling of Nina’s anxiety, however. As someone who’s suffered for years and didn’t realize how bad it was until this summer, I found the fact that she was so anxious and not even trying to do anything but cope a little irritating. At one point, she suggests to herself she might want to find a therapist, but nothing comes of it, as happens to much in books. And I hated the way Tom reacted after she had a full blown anxiety attack. It made me really want her to kick him to the curb.

I wouldn’t discourage someone from reading it, but I wouldn’t actively recommend it unless the person mentioned wanting a book very similar to this one. If they were looking for a book about a bookish person that’s also a romance, I’d suggest it. But it’s not on my list of favorites.

Review: Her Majesty's Necromancer

Title: Her Majesty’s Necromancer

Series: Ministry of Curiosities (book 2)

Author: C.J. Archer

Publisher: C.J. Archer

Genre: paranormal

Source: Library

Publication Date: August 24, 2015

When bodies start disappearing from the local cemetery, Lincoln Fitzroy, the head of the Ministry of Curiosities, begins an investigation. His maid, Charlie, isn’t supposed to interfere, but she can’t help but stick her nose in and conduct an investigation of her own. She also is looking for information on her mother, a necromancer like herself. She hopes to find answers about her powers and where she comes from.

When Lincoln needs Charlie’s help in his investigation, Charlie is only too eager. She’ll do anything to not only make herself useful, but to gain his attention and admiration, not that he is very effusive in his praise. But, soon, things take a turn and Charlie is put in danger. Will Lincoln get there in time? Or, considering the state of their relationship, will he want to?

This was a highly enjoyable book. Once again, Archer has developed her interesting character and expanded her role. While I miss Charlie posing as a boy and surviving on the streets, I like to see how she’s able to settle more into her skin She’s grown more confident and sure of herself, and she’s holding her own against Lincoln’s taciturn nature and tendency to anger quickly.

I also really like the relationship between Charlie and Lincoln. There’s a nice tension between them, and obvious high regard, and fraught desire. I like the UST in this book. I thought it was well done and moved along nicely.

I am a little irritated that the only other woman of note is kind of a jerk. Lady Hartcourt went from being a tentative ally for Charlie to something worse in this book, and while plot-wise it works, the fact she’s the only other main character who’s a woman is frustrating.

Overall, though, the characters are enjoyable, the relationships are great, and the plot was interesting to read.

Yes, I recommend this. If you’re a fan of paranormal mysteries with a dash of romance, this book is up your alley.

Review: The Night Country by Melissa Albert

Title: The Night Country

Author: Melissa Albert

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Length: 352 pages

Genre: fantasy

Publication Date: January 7, 2020

Source: NetGalley

Alice Proserpine has escaped the fairy tale world, the Hinterland, where she was created. Now, she lives in New York with her mother and other escapees. Now, though, something is killing ex-Stories and taking their body parts. Worse, all evidence points to Alice. Desperate to find out what is happening, Alice decides to investigate, and finds that the deaths may serve a larger purpose. Meanwhile, Ellery Finch slips out of the fading Hinterland into worlds he’d only dreamed of all while hoping to find a way back home.

I highly enjoyed this book and tore through it with great enthusiasm. In fact, I think I enjoyed it more than The Hazel Wood. It moves quickly and dives right into the action. I liked Alice trying to first navigate the two worlds by being with the others from the Hinterland and our world, and then rejecting the her Hinterland heritage and past. Of course, that would never work and the Hinterland comes to her with a vengeance.

I liked the new characters, especially Sophia. I loved her back story and wish we could have gotten more of her. Daphne was another interesting character, but she was quite scary. I especially liked all the children characters, because they were creepy, like all good fairy tale children should be. The Trio was amazing.

I do feel it was a little rushed, even at it’s length. I would have liked to see more of Finch’s journey and get more of him. There’s something he does that’s really interesting, but I wish there had been more of it. There wasn’t enough. I also would have liked to see more of Alice’s life before it all started falling apart. It would have helped to see more of her normalcy. Or, maybe she never really had any.

Despite all that, I really did enjoy the book. I thought it was a strong follow up to The Hazel Wood.

Yes, I would. If you liked The Hazel Wood, I think you’ll enjoy this. If you enjoy creepy fairy tales and seeing them try to integrate into our world, then this book will entertain you. It’s a solidly written book with amazing characters and a great plot.

Review: A Touch of Death by Rebecca Crunden

Title: A Touch of Death

Author: Rebecca Crunden

Published Date: February 23, 2017

Length: 306 pages

Source: I was sent this book from the author

Nate Anteros has a habit of speaking his mind. In the Kingdom of Cutta, a totalitarian kingdom where the last of humanity lives safely inside the walls, speaking your mind is the last thing you should be doing. Nate only survived prison thanks to the influence of his mother and father. After being released, he disappeared for two years before mysteriously returning. The trouble is, he hasn’t learned anything in his absence and causes a fight that forces him and Catherine Taenia to flee into the mountains one night, making the dark, cold, and terrible trek to a neighboring city.

Although they are quickly allowed back home, they find they are infected with a mysterious infection that makes it impossible to bear the touch of anyone but each other. Once again, they are forced to flee the city, and the King’s guards and make their way to the one place they will be safe: the Outlands. Of course, safe is a relative term, considering that beyond the walls of the Kingdom are mutants and rabids.

One the run, Catherine and Nate must find out what happened to them and how to stop it before it’s too late.

I really like this book, and I feel the strength of it lies with Catherine. She’s such an interesting character. At the beginning, she’s totally bought into the system of the world she’s lived in. She believes the king is just, the laws are fair, and that dissenters are insane to question the way things are. The book is her journey from pampered princess to understanding that there is something seriously wrong with their society. She starts out strong, too. She’s headstrong and determined and honest. She speaks her mind an isn’t afraid to stand up for herself. She’s amazing.

Nate is well done, too. His whole life, he’s been shown the ugly side of the Kingdom, even though he, too, has grown up in wealth and comfort. He believes in loyalty and friendship and brotherhood. I love his relationship with his brother, Thom. They are close and loving and totally connected. I like how he treats Catherine and how he enjoys arguing with her. His journey is painful to read, but so well worth it.

I was completely engrossed in this story. I loved the world-building, although I do wish some of it had been a little more explicit. I guess at one point, humans lived underground and mutants roamed the earth, and I’d like to know more about that. Especially the mutants. I hope that those topics are more explored in the other books. I greatly look forward to that.

I would recommend this to people who enjoy dystopian books and books about characters fleeing from the law. It’s engrossing, well written, and has great characters. It’s definitely worth checking out.

Review: Fable by Michele Packard

Title: Fable: Matti Baker

Author: Michele Packard

Publisher: I’m not sure

Publication Date: May 20, 2019

Genre: Thriller/Mystery

Matti Baker is a contract operator trained in counter terrorism by Freddy, a man she’s never met face to face, but who has been in her life since she was a child. Coming off a mission in which she was badly injured and lost an entire year to recovery, all she wants is some time with her husband and three kids. But someone is after some important vials and she’s back on the hunt, read to stop a conspiracy that will start a world-wide genocide.

So, that’s what I think it’s about, but even after reading the whole thing, I’m not entirely sure what the plot was. There was something some vials that she’s been protecting since she was a child. There was a conspiracy with a group of identical twins. And, yeah, that’s all I got.

Needless to say, I did not really like this book. First off, it was almost entirely tell-not-show. I felt like I was being bombarded with information, much of it irrelevant to the actual plot. There were long diversions where Matti recalled previous missions with her friend, Bethany, or retold the entirety of the first book, which, although that was sort of helpful, since I didn’t read the first book, also felt a little like the beginning The Baby-Sitter’s Club book, where the formation of the club and backstory of each girl is recounted.

Then, there’s the dialogue. At no time did I feel like any of it was actual words people would speak. It was so stilted and false and just… ugh. There was also the constant references: movies, TVs, songs being brought up on every other page. It was incredibly distracting and annoying. The dialgoue tags annoyed me as well. You can’t smirk a sentence (i.e. “What are you doing there, big boy,” I smirked.). No. Put a period at the end of that sentence and then smirk.

The plot was nonsensical. I literally don’t know what I read. I know at some point she went to Antarctica, but I don’t know why or what happened there because it was one chapter and no one talked the entire time. She was on some kind of tour, but who the other people were, I have no idea. I know there’s some kind of conspiracy, but I don’t know what it was about.

Also, I didn’t like Matti very much. I was very excited at the beginning, because I thought she was going to be a female Joe Ledger, but she’s just a handful of stereotypes slapped on with a veneer of “I’m not like other girls” and “humor” that only see seems to find amusing. Overall, this was a very disappointing and frustrating read.

No. Absolutely not, even if you’re looking for a book with a bad ass female character. Go to the mystery section of your library or bookstore and look there; there are much better and more coherently written bad ass women there.

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.