Blog Archive

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Foster by Claire Keegan - Book Review

Foster by Claire Keegan

Publication Date: 01 Nov 2022

Genre: General Fiction 

4.5 Stars 

One Liner: Beautiful! 

*****


A little girl is sent to live with a new family in Ireland. She knows nothing about the reason or strangers in rural Ireland who welcome her with loads of love and affection. She is surprised by the love they give her (something she has never had) and begins to bloom. However, she is unsure of how things stand when the reason is finally revealed. 

This is a short book brimming with emotions and beautiful prose that reflect the complexity of human life. The story comes from the nameless girl’s POV. 

Oh, what do I say? I’ve become a fan of the author’s writing after reading Small Things Like These last year. This book is no different and packs a punch in less than 90 pages. 

We have a little girl of probably seven or eight years who tells us what she feels, thinks, and understands during her stay with the Kinsellas. There is so much to the story than the given plot line. We see an undernourished girl have a better life for a few days. It’s not just the food either. It’s nourishment in all forms- care, affection, correction, gentle advice, and love. 

The writing is evocative yet understated. Most of the story relies on the reader to understand what’s not being said. Take your time to read this one and cherish it. Award-winning books and stories make me wary, but this is an exception. 

I felt for the girl and the Kinsellas. I wanted them to have a happy ever after. The ending is bittersweet and suits the story. But I wanted more. I understand why the author ended it at that point, but I needed more from this book. 

The ending is a bit vague, so if you are like me, check out this blog on Julian Girdham’s website. It’ll make you feel better.  

To sum up, Foster is a beautiful and bittersweet story about life and human choices. It’s a short read but will stay with you for a long time. 

Thank you, NetGalley, Grove Atlantic, and Grove Press, for the eARC.  

#Foster #NetGalley

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Just Like Home by Sarah Gailey - Book Review

Just Like Home by Sarah Gailey

Publication Date: 19th July 2022

Genre: Dark Fiction, Psychological Drama  

4 Stars 

One Liner: Hard to slot into a genre; Twisted  


Vera Crowder has to go home, and she does. Her mother, Daphne, is dying. It’s now Vera’s business to sort the house. But the house was built by her father, Francis. Every part of the house has a memory and is alive with emotions and stories. 

As if life with her mother is not bad enough, Vera has to deal with an artist, James Duvall. He is one of those artists who pay to stay in their ‘legendary’ home and get inspired. He continues to hound Vera for information about her past, especially the one that involves her father. Vera is determined to keep him at bay. But she also knows there are secrets that need to be unearthed and carefully wrapped up again. 

As strange things happen in the house, Vera has to decide how much she can handle. After all, buried secrets rot faster than infested wood. Can Vera deal with the past and present? What will happen to Crowder House once Daphne dies? 

My Observations:

The book is dark, twisty, and messed up, just like the main characters. However, slotting it into any single category will affect the outcome for the reader. I’m not sure why this was marked mystery/ thriller. Yeah, there’s some mystery (a slow burn), but it didn’t require figuring things out. The hints were more than enough to know the ‘mystery’ part.

This could work more as a dark psychological horror but will not fully appeal to hardcore horror readers. Newbies in horror will not like it either. It might be too much for them. It falls somewhere in the middle, and that is not a good sign for the book. 

The gothic part is done very well. The house is super creepy and claustrophobic. Some of it is gross and yucky, too (if you don’t like such stuff). Luckily, I was in the right frame of mind for the book and didn’t remember the genre it was supposed to be. 

The characterization of Vera, Daphne, Francis, and James was interesting. None of them are likable. Yep. Yet, I couldn’t help but root for Vera throughout. The family dynamics (between Francis, Daphne, and Vera) are crucial to the plot. In fact, the relationship between the characters felt like a tangible element throughout the book. 

I’m not a fan of repetitions or slow-paced plots. However, this one worked for me. The repetitions showed Vera’s current state of mind. A lot of things that seem boring or irrelevant are a part of the bigger picture and make sense towards the end. 

The book picks up pace after 80%. That was good because I was starting to feel a bit annoyed with the meanderings. The book could have been a bit shorter and just as effective. 

The twist and the subsequent ending were good to read. They suit the story, title, and cover (should I even mention just how fab that cover is!). However, that is not the ending a mystery book would usually have. It leaves the reader wanting more or wondering what happened when a wrong genre is attached to the book. 

Call this dark fiction and psychological drama instead. It’ll set the right tone and expectations. There are a few triggers, too, so sensitive readers beware. This isn’t a book you pick up lightly or for fun. 

To sum up, Just Like Home is a twisted dark drama with messed-up characters. Go for it when you are in the mood for something slow and creepy. 

Thank you, NetGalley, Macmillan-Tor/Forge, and Tor Books, for the eARC. 

#JustLikeHome #NetGalley 

Saturday, June 18, 2022

The True Love Bookshop by Annie Rains - Book Review

The True Love Bookshop by Annie Rains

Series: Somerset Lake #3 (Standalone)

Publication Date: 05th July 2022

Genre: Contemporary Romance 

3.7 Stars 

One Liner: Nice 

*****

Tess Lane is the owner of Lakeside Books and loves the place with all her heart. What she loves even more is the weekly book club with her dear friends. Being widowed three years ago has left her feelings raw, but Tess does her best to get on with her life. She still wonders about the missing pieces of her husband Jared’s death. 

River Harrison shows up at the bookshop, and Tess is enraged. He’s a former Marine, a private investigator, and Jared's ex-best friend. Tess hates River, but she wonders if his unexpected appearance is her chance to uncover the truth of Jared’s mysterious death.

Tess realizes how much she can enjoy her life when she begins to follow a trail with River. But the secrets come out and put Tess in a vulnerable position. Can she handle the truth and move over the past? Can she find hope to love again and lead a happy life? 

The story comes in the third person POV.

My Observations: 

The writing is easy to read and adds a good pace. I could finish 350+ pages in a couple of days (a total of 2.5 hours). Such books always get brownie points. 

This is a series with standalone books (each book for each character). We don’t have to know their stories to read the book. There’s enough info to keep the book going. 

The small-town setting and its warmth reflect throughout the book. Tess is a bookshop owner, and we also have a plan for a book signing event. 

The story is pretty light and easy despite the heavy topics. Things happen conveniently. Even major emotional issues are resolved with a page or two. I don’t mind that much if it is consistent. 

That’s where the ending didn’t fully work for me. It contradicts the easy resolution in the previous chapters. While it is still HEA, it feels as if the author wanted to cater to multiple target audiences at the same time. 

The events either have to be realistic or convenient. A combination of both will create a sense of dissatisfaction, especially if the reader is rooting for the male lead. 

To sum up, The True Love Bookshop is a nice and lighthearted read with some sweet characters. 

Thank you, NetGalley and Forever (Grand Central Publishing), for the eARC. 

#NetGalley #TheTrueLoveBookshop 

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Grace Under Fire by Julie Garwood - Book Review

Grace Under Fire by Julie Garwood

Series: Buchanan-Renard #14 (Standalone) 

Publication Date: 19th July 2022

Genre: Contemporary Romantic Suspense 

4 Stars 

One Liner: An entertaining read

*****


Of all the things Grace Isabel McKenna can do, she didn’t expect to kill a man by shooting him between the eyes. Her short visit to Boston for the Buchanan anniversary party turns into a police investigation. The unexpected developments delay her Scotland trip to claim her inheritance and bring the infuriating Michael Buchanan back into her life. 

Michael is a navy SEAL and a lawyer- Isabel’s lawyer until the case is solved. Neither of them is happy about the arrangement, but Michael knows he will do anything to keep Isabel safe. The attraction between grows just as the case gets complicated. Isabel’s trip to Scotland puts her life at risk. Michael follows her, but can they unearth the criminal intent on getting rid of Isabel? What about their feelings for each other? The duo has a lot to deal with. 

The story comes from the third person POV. 

My Views 

This is the 14th book in the series and can be read as a standalone. However, knowing a little backstory will make it more enjoyable. Slow Burn has Kate and Dylan’s story, where Isabel is first introduced. Isabel is Kate’s younger sister. Reading Murder List (Regan & Alec’s story) might be a good idea. 

Reading the book made me realize an important point. The book will get two different ratings based on whether I consider it a standalone or a part of a popular series. But since I read around 65-70% of the books in the series, I chose to rate it based on the series template. 

Here’s why: 

  • Alpha hero 
  • A charming heroine (will come to this later) 
  • Hot and flawless bodies
  • A family full of FBI agents, judges, business owners, etc. 
  • Steamy romance (2ish level) 
  • Recurring characters (quite a few)

These can make a book a hit or flop, depending on the reader and how they perceive the elements. It worked great for me because I expect these elements from this series. 

The beginning is a bit choppy and messy, probably coz mine is an ARC with an uncorrected proof. I remember how the other books began, and I'm hoping this will be polished to that level.  

The pacing is also a bit slow, which could be because of the plotline. It has many things going on and off. There’s also some info about the Buchanan couples for new readers. 

The suspense takes its own sweet time to unravel, which is how it is in the other books. I could pretty much guess when things would go for the last punch. 

Michael and Isabel have good chemistry, and their banter was fun to read. However, I felt there could have been a deeper connection between them. There was enough material for it. 

Michael is headstrong or dumbass, as Isabel calls him. He’s got flaws but makes a decent impression. Maybe not as much as Dylan or Alec (or Nick or Noah)… you get the point. 

Now Isabel… she’s 23 and has just graduated, so maybe I can forgive her for being a bit stupid. From what I remember, Isabel seems to be the weakest (or not strong enough) female lead in the series. It could be because she was under Kate and Dylan’s care, but she’s not what I’d call a Garwood heroine. 

However, the book has comic relief, thanks to Isabel’s driving skills. She’d ace it in Indian traffic (you know if you know). Her driving plays a vital role in the story, and I love how it is incorporated into the plot. 

The mystery is also a bit weak in this one. It kind of pales out (but the comic relief might just save it if you have a twisted sense of humor). Still, the mystery could have been better. 

I love revisiting some of the previous characters from the series (it can be confusing if you don’t know them). They made the book so much better. 

To sum up, Grace Under Fire is an entertaining and enjoyable read. Just go with the flow in this one and then read the previous ones in the series. 

Thank you, NetGalley and Berkley, for the eARC. 

#NetGalley #GraceUnderFire 

Monday, June 13, 2022

The Forgotten House on the Moor by Jane Lovering - Book Review

The Forgotten House on the Moor by Jane Lovering

Publication Date: 22nd June 2022

Genre: Contemporary Women’s Fiction with a sort of Cozy Mystery 

3 Stars

One Liner: Lighthearted, but overdoing a joke a ruined it 


*****

Alice Donaldson wakes up to the news of her ex-husband Grant’s death. The police tell her that he was killed in an accident somewhere on the North York Moors. 

Alice has no idea what she’s supposed to do. But curiosity leads her to the place of his death. Imagine her surprise to see a woman, Jenna, cry for Grant. She was his girlfriend and distraught about his death. Alice also meets the handsome Max, Jenna’s bother, and a book-writing research scholar. 

When Jenna wants to play Sherlock about Grant’s death, and Max asks for help, Alice decides to help them come to terms with the developments. However, shocking news arrives at Alice’s doorstep, followed by another incident at the crime scene. 

It doesn’t help that The Fortune House has been haunted for a long, long time. Who is this ghost? What happened in the past? How can Alice and Max uncover the mystery? And what about their growing attraction for each other? Will the story have a happy ending? 

The story comes in the first person POV from Alice. 

What I Like: 

The book is lighthearted and easy to read. Alice rambles (obviously) but not so much that I lose track of the plot. Painful topics are dealt with with the right amount of seriousness. 

Jenna is a person of contrasts, delightful yet annoying. I love that she rides motorbikes and bakes scones with the same ease. I just can’t see what she finds so alluring in Grant. 

Max is actually a good guy. A bit prone to get into his lecturer mode, but I’d rather read about psychological aspects than laments about the body size (more on this next). 

The paranormal part is pretty light. No scary stuff here, so readers wary of ghosts can read the book without worry. 

The ending works well for the story. It’s not too sweet or a picture of happy-ever-after but has enough to tie up the loose ends. 

What Didn’t Work for Me: 

The pacing is slower than I like for women’s fiction/ cozy mystery. It also feels more like a historical mystery due to the setting. 

I wanted to knock sense into Alice for half the most. Yeah, she is sensible when it comes to everything except her size. For God's sake, woman, it’s not a crime to be ‘plump’ or whatever she calls herself to be. 

A couple of self-deprecating jokes about being curvy are fine. But to have one on every page (or more) is annoying. She is an easy person to be with and a likable character. Yet, she had to ruin it by obsessing about her weight throughout.

It never occurs to Alice that she can lose the weight she gained. She laments about the extra stone (6.3kgs) she gained after she stopped taking care of herself. She can lose it once she begins to pay more attention to her health and diet. There’s no need to starve or get to size zero. She only needs to feel fit enough to stop obsessing about her weight every time. 

You can see that my major problem with the book was only one issue. The rest is good (meaning romcom good and eye-rolls are mandatory). For those curious, Alice would size XXL (converted based on the size provided by another reviewer). 

To sum up, The Forgotten House on the Moor could have been a delightfully funny and sweet read if not for the heroine’s obsession with weight.

Thank you, NetGalley and Boldwood Books, for the eARC.  

#NetGalley #TheForgottenHouseontheMoor 

Saturday, June 11, 2022

Vasilisa by Julie Mathison - Book Review

Vasilisa by Julie Mathison

Series: Old Rus (Book 1)

Genre: Middle Grade, Fairytale Retelling, Historical Fantasy 

4.3 Stars 

One Liner: Slow start but engrossing and beautiful 


*****

Edenfall, Pennsylvania, 1919:

The Great War may be over, but its aftermath continues to affect people. Vasilisa’s father is presumed dead, and her mother is being pursued by an orge. Babka, her grandmother, assures her everything will be fine. But Vasilisa knows she needs to do something fast. The events appear beyond Babka’s control. 

Ivan arrives in Edenfall with a task at hand. When Vasilisa’s and Ivan’s paths collide, they realize what they have to do. Baba Yaga and Koschei are right in the middle of the mess, and The Old Tales are the only way to set things right. 

Vassy and Ivan need to take up their roles and rewrite The Old Tales. Good has to triumph over evil once more. But how hard will it be for these two young kids? 

My Observations: 

The book begins at a languid pace with the right amount of foreshadowing. As the story progresses, we see character development and world-building in parallel. The imagery is lovely. 

Vasilisa’s character comes out alive on the pages. She’s such a delight to read. Ivan complements her character very well, bringing out both sides at the appropriate times. 

Since the story is the retelling of the famous Russian folklore, the book leans heavily on it. This can be a little hard if you have no idea about Russian lore. I knew bits and pieces, so managed without looking up the characters when reading. 

The book deals with many topics like kindness, bravery, forgiveness, acceptance, compassion, and a few more. It is a layered book but doesn’t feel heavy or overwhelming. 

I loved the scenes where the characters show their vulnerability while trying to become a better version of themselves. 

Little Bruno is my absolute favorite! I’m not telling you who he is. ;) 

The book has a long ending, which felt a bit overdone. The intention is to lead book one to book two, but I’d have preferred some of it in book two rather than at the end of the first book.  

To sum up, Vasilisa is an adventurous and entertaining story of a young teen protecting her dear ones from mystical creatures. 

I received a complimentary copy from the author through Voracious Readers Only.