Review: Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Somewhere in South America at the home of the country’s vice president, a lavish birthday party is being held in honor of Mr. Hosokawa, a powerful Japanese businessman. Roxanne Coss, opera’s most revered soprano, has mesmerized the guests with her singing. It is a perfect evening, until a band of terrorists breaks in, taking the entire party hostage.

But what begins as a life-threatening scenario slowly evolves into something quite different. Friendship, compassion, and the chance for great love lead the characters to forget the real danger that has been set in motion and cannot be stopped.

Ann Patchett has written a novel that is as lyrical and profound as it is unforgettable. Bel Canto is a virtuoso performance by one of our best and most important writers.

My Thoughts:

It’s difficult to describe the plot of Bel Canto. Ann Patchett certainly knows how to write a layered story! Yes, Bel Canto is about a terrorist plot. But by the end of the novel, this is a story about love, friendship, and joy. This shift occurs slowly over the course of the story and happens for the reader just as it does for the characters. In this way, Patchett allows the reader to imagine what the reader might feel if they were either one of the hostages or terrorists in this book.

I adored almost every character in Bel Canto. My favorite, of course, was Gen the translator. I don’t see how anyone could read this book and not adore Gen! Patchett’s choice to include so many languages in her plot and a first-rate translator presented many entertaining and beautiful challenges. And of course, I fell madly in love with Roxanne and Mr. Hosokawa. Despite their language barrier, these two are warm, considerate, and beautiful people. I enjoyed reading how their relationship changed over the course of the story.

Bel Canto has many layers, and stories evolve as Patchett focuses on different characters at various times throughout the novel. Each sentence is so perfectly worded. It’s clear that Patchett poured a great deal of thought into every single word choice. I also love the title of this novel. Bel Canto, of course, refers to Roxanne’s singing, but I think it applies to every character, as well, not just ones who can sing. Bel Canto seems to apply to everyone with a voice, or a dream, or a wish. It’s something about pure intentions.

Wrap Up:

Overall, I loved this book! Bel Canto is my first book by Patchett and I’m greatly looking forward to reading more of her backlist. I devoured this book but also never wanted it to end! I recognize that I’m a little late to the game with this one but I’m so pleased I finally read it and I encourage everyone to pick it up. I highly recommend this book to everyone.

This book is…

lyrical

exquisitely crafted

memorable

heartbreaking

surprising

Publisher: Harper Perennial

Genre: fiction

Page Count: 318

ISBN: 0061565318

Available here from IndieBound.

Have you read Bel Canto? What other Ann Patchett novels would you recommend?

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Review: The Governess Game by Tessa Dare

My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

The accidental governess.

After her livelihood slips through her fingers, Alexandra Mountbatten takes on an impossible post: transforming a pair of wild orphans into proper young ladies. However, the girls don’t need discipline. They need a loving home. Try telling that to their guardian, Chase Reynaud: duke’s heir in the streets and devil in the sheets. The ladies of London have tried—and failed—to make him settle down. Somehow, Alexandra must reach his heart… without risking her own.

The infamous rake.

Like any self-respecting libertine, Chase lives by one rule: no attachments. When a stubborn little governess tries to reform him, he decides to give her an education—in pleasure. That should prove he can’t be tamed. But Alexandra is more than he bargained for: clever, perceptive, passionate. She refuses to see him as a lost cause. Soon the walls around Chase’s heart are crumbling… and he’s in danger of falling, hard.

My Thoughts:

I’m a huge fan of stories with governesses winning over their wayward charges. Case in point, who doesn’t love The Sound of Music?! And so when I read the summary for The Governess Game, I knew this book would be my cup of tea. The Cinderella vibes made for a breath of fresh air to the romance genre, as did the inclusion of two younger supporting characters. I loved that Alexandra’s career and hobby played such a central role in this story, which really rounded out her character.

I cannot think of a better word than charming to describe the characters in this book, but the word doesn’t do them justice. These characters are lovely, heartwarming, memorable, and delightful. Alexandra is a wonderful heroine. I enjoyed her wit, choice of hobbies, and kind hearted nature. Chase is purely wonderful. I found him to be particularly funny! I especially adored Chase’s young wards. I was constantly laughing at their antics and wanting to reach through the pages and give them a hug.

The story starts off strong-and in a bookshop, no less! Despite being almost 400 pages, The Governess Game moves quickly. Dare certainly has no issues with pacing and is an expert at adding romance, intrigue, and humor at just the right moments. From the very beginning, Tessa Dare tells us that Alexandra and Chase are good people, and then Dare demonstrates that through their words and actions. Dare’s strong writing is what really makes this book shine.

Wrap Up:

Overall, I loved this book! Tessa Dare is one of my favorite romance writers and her newest book does not disappoint. Dare works within conventional romance tropes to update the genre and push boundaries. I highly recommend this book, especially if you’re looking for a lighter and quick read.

This book is…

charming

laugh out loud funny

sexy

endearing

a quick read

Publisher: Avon

Genre: romance

Page Count: 373

ISBN: 0062672126

Available here from IndieBound.

Will you read The Governess Game? What other romance novels would you recommend?

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Review: Ordeal by Innocence by Agatha Christie

My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Recovering from amnesia, Dr. Arthur Calgary discovers that he alone could have provided an alibi in a scandalous murder trial. It ended in the conviction of Jacko Argyle. The victim was Jacko’s own mother, and to make matters worse, he died in prison. But the young man’s innocence means that someone else killed the Argyle matriarch, and would certainly kill again to remain in the shadows. Shaded in the moral ambiguity of murder, the provocative psychological puzzler of guilt, vengeance, and blood secrets is among Agatha Christie’s personal favorites.

My Thoughts:

I really enjoyed the premise of this mystery novel. Not only are we dealing with a dead body, but the murder was solved years ago. Dr. Calgary’s mysterious appearance immediately appears suspicious, but readers will quickly discover that Calgary’s surprising entrance is the least suspicious thing in this story. I was unable to guess the real culprit, which always marks a mystery novel as a win in my book!

The characters in this story are flawed. Rather than be grateful that family member Jacko did not kill his mother, the family immediately suspect and turn on one another. Everyone’s true colors are immediately displayed and, to be frank, no one is particularly kind. Agatha Christie plays with the notion of degrees of innocence, and whether thinking of a crime is the same as committing a crime. Additionally, there is the question of suspecting someone you love of murder, and whether that initial suspicion can ever be overcome.

The singular flaw I would like to point out here is that this book is sometimes a product of its time. One of the family members, Tina, is continuously described as ‘half-caste’ and ‘dark’ like a sexy cat. Tina’s exact race is unspecified, but these descriptions would not be allowed past an editor today. While these descriptions were not horrifically offensive, they are a bit off putting, especially when used again and again in an under 300 page book. I’m a big fan of Agatha Christie novels, especially her ‘locked room’ mysteries. Ordeal by Innocence is a sort of variation of the locked room mystery, in that you know the murder victim was killed by a member of her own family, but it’s unclear as to who could have done it. Per usual, Christie paces out clues, developments, and red herrings with her own personal flair. This book is absolutely a page turner. I finished it in just one day!

Wrap Up:

Overall, I loved this book! It’s short and moves quickly, which is great for a mystery. Christie is obviously a mystery master, and this book is no exception. I’m eager to watch the new tv adaptation, too! I highly recommend this book, especially for fans of Christie’s And Then There Were None.

This book is…

clever

surprising

quick moving

full of interesting characters

well paced

Publisher: Harper

Genre: mystery

Page Count: 269

ISBN: 0062073524

Available here from IndieBound.

Have you read Ordeal by Innocence? What other Agatha Christie novels would you recommend?

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Review: Our Homesick Songs by Emma Hooper

My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

The Connor family is one of the few that is still left in their idyllic fishing village, Big Running; after the fish mysteriously disappeared, most families had no choice but to relocate and find work elsewhere. Aidan and Martha Connor now spend alternate months of the year working at an energy site up north to support their children, Cora and Finn. But soon the family fears they’ll have to leave Big Running for good. And as the months go on, plagued by romantic temptations new and old, the emotional distance between the once blissful Aidan and Martha only widens.

Between his accordion lessons and reading up on Big Running’s local flora and fauna, eleven-year-old Finn Connor develops an obsession with solving the mystery of the missing fish. Aided by his reclusive music instructor Mrs. Callaghan, Finn thinks he may have discovered a way to find the fish, and in turn, save the only home he’s ever known. While Finn schemes, his sister Cora spends her days decorating the abandoned houses in Big Running with global flair—the baker’s home becomes Italy; the mailman’s, Britain. But it’s clear she’s desperate for a bigger life beyond the shores of her small town. As the streets of Big Running continue to empty Cora takes matters—and her family’s shared destinies—into her own hands.

In Our Homesick Songs, Emma Hooper paints a gorgeous portrait of the Connor family, brilliantly weaving together four different stories and two generations of Connors, full of wonder and hope. Told in Hooper’s signature ethereal style, each page of this incandescent novel glows with mythical, musical wonder.

My Thoughts:

At its heart, Our Homesick Songs has a simple plot: the fish have fled the village and now families must relocate. But this book is actually about much more. Because the family must find alternate sources of employment, Aidan and Martha’s marriage is put to the test. But we also learn how they met and fell in love, which is just as creative, memorable, and endearing as one could hope. Because they live in a remote village, Cora yearns for travel and adventure, seeking it out anywhere she can make it. Because the fish are gone, Finn finds his own ways to preserve hope and lure the fish to return. It is through the straightforward plot that Hooper can focus on the characters and the threads that weave them together.

In many ways, the Connor family’s story is told through Finn. He asks to hear stories from his all-knowing accordion teacher, and thus we learn about his parents’ childhoods. Through these stories, we learn that Martha adores her family and Aidan feels the weight of providing. When Aidan and Martha talk on the phone, Finn picks up and eavesdrops. It is clear that Aidan and Martha adore one another, as well as their children, making their current employment situation unbearable. Cora crafts marvelous displays and allows Finn to see the completed project. I loved Cora and found her to be clever, tenacious, and determined. But most of all, I loved Finn. He is incredibly hopeful and goes about his plans with a childlike determination and certainty. He takes care of his family however he can and in his own creative ways.

I was struck by the lyrical writing of this book. The opening line, “There was a mermaid, said Finn,” really sets the tone. Hooper uses folk songs and folklore to connect each of the Connor’s stories in both the past and the present. Beautiful imagery of the sea, ships, and mermaids cast a ‘tale as old as time’ light on this story, signifying that this has all happened before and will all happen again. Mrs. Callaghan’s stories also add to this, for she is presented as a beloved recluse who has seen all this before.

Wrap Up:

Overall, I loved this book. I couldn’t put it down and finished it within 24 hours. I would highly recommend this book to anyone, but especially to anyone who enjoys quiet stories about family life.

This book is…

quiet

beautifully written

engaging

lyrical

memorable

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Genre: fiction

Page Count: 336

ISBN: 150112448X

Available here from IndieBound.

Have you read Our Homesick Songs? What quiet family life novel would you recommend?

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Review: The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny

My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Chaos is coming, old son.

With those words the peace of Three Pines is shattered. As families prepare to head back to the city and children say goodbye to summer, a stranger is found murdered in the village bistro and antiques store. Once again, Chief Inspector Gamache and his team are called in to strip back layers of lies, exposing both treasures and rancid secrets buried in the wilderness.

No one admits to knowing the murdered man, but as secrets are revealed, chaos begins to close in on the beloved bistro owner, Olivier. How did he make such a spectacular success of his business? What past did he leave behind and why has he buried himself in this tiny village? And why does every lead in the investigation find its way back to him?

As Olivier grows more frantic, a trail of clues and treasures— from first editions of Charlotte’s Web and Jane Eyre to a spider web with the word “WOE” woven in it—lead the Chief Inspector deep into the woods and across the continent in search of the truth, and finally back to Three Pines as the little village braces for the truth and the final, brutal telling.

My Thoughts:

I love that every time I pick up a Louise Penny book, I feel like I’m returning to my favorite place. Penny eloquently captures the look and feel of such a small town, and highlights its charms and its drawbacks. Three Pines is very much its own character in this series which adds to the warmth and heart of these books. Frankly, every returning character feels like running into an old friend.

The Brutal Telling stands out from the previous stories in that the prime suspect is one we’ve all grown to love! Olivier is a wonderful character, and I especially enjoy reading his interactions with his partner, Gabri, and the descriptions of the wonderful food he makes. I was shocked that Olivier fell under suspicion and that the plot ultimately unfolds the way it does. I trust that Penny has a larger plan for the following novels and that everything will ultimately work out.

I also appreciated that Penny featured Indigenous persons in this book. While I admit to not knowing much about Canadian history, I do know that Canada treated Indigenous tribes and persons horrifically. And the characters in The Brutal Telling do not shy away from these facts. Reading this book has inspired me to learn more about Indigenous communities and how both Canada and the US got so much wrong. I’m specifically looking to read from the Indigenous perspective and from #OwnVoices authors. If you have any recommendations, leave a comment below!

Wrap Up:

Overall, I really enjoyed this book! The Brutal Telling has some shocking plot developments that really shake up Three Pines. It’s no surprise here that I’m a big fan of Louise Penny. If you’re looking for a great mystery series, I’d highly recommend this one. While you can read this mystery series in any order, I do suggest you begin with the first novel, Still Life . You can also read my reviews of the first three Penny novels here.

This book is…

cozy

shocking

beautifully written

full of new and beloved characters

educational

Publisher: Minotaur

Genre: mystery

Page Count: 386

ISBN: 1250161665

Available here from IndieBound.

Have you read The Brutal Telling? What cozy mystery novel would you recommend?

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Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

January 1946: Writer Juliet Ashton receives a letter from a stranger, a founding member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. And so begins a remarkable tale of the island of Guernsey during the German occupation, and of a society as extraordinary as its name.

My Thoughts:

This is a book for anyone who loves words, reading, and books. I loved that the entire story is told through letters. Epistolary novels are not done very often, and are even less often successful, but this one hits the nail on the head. This style choice allowed readers to hear lots of different viewpoints, and the authors were always very clear as to whom was writing to whom. I also think the use of letters feeds into the love of stories so prominently featured here. Everyone in the literary society loves stories and books and this is made abundantly clear through their excellent letter writing abilities. And while I would never dream of spoiling the plot, the Society’s origin story is a great one!

I’m always a fan of stories set in England during and after WWII, and this book is no exception. I enjoyed hearing about how Guernsey survived the German occupation and its townspeople speak of resisting in their own quiet ways. A few characters do make difficult choices and face serious consequences, all while knowing they did what they thought was right. This book does not shy away from these choices and their consequences, but also asks the reader to ponder what they might do in this situation.

Every character in this story is well crafted. Guernsey, which is a character in this book in addition to a setting, and the people who are inhabit it are cozy, lovely, and unique. Each character imparts their own quirks through the letters they write and the heartwarming, and sometimes heartbreaking, stories they share of their past. I adored that we were even given a couple of villains to shake things up from time to time.

Wrap Up:

Overall, I loved this book! I’ve had my eye on this book for a long time now, but finally gave it a go because it’s been made into a movie on Netflix. I really loved this book. I think it’s a great choice for anyone who loves reading and great heartwarming stories. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for an enjoyable and easy read, especially for fans of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid.

This book is…

charming

sweet

funny

emotional

well written

Publisher: Dial Press Trade Paperback

Genre: historical fiction

Page Count: 290

ISBN: 0385341008

Available here from IndieBound.

Have you read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society? What WWII novel would you recommend?

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Review: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.

One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time-from the actor’s early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theater troupe known as the Traveling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains – this suspenseful, elegiac, spellbinding novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor’s first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet.

Sometimes terrifying, sometimes tender, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.

My Thoughts:

I’m not usually one to go for a sci-fi read. But although this book’s plot centers around a virus outbreak that leads to the end of civilization, it is also about humanity and our connections to the world and one another. Emily St. John Mandel frequently comments on the magical nature of instantaneous communication the world enjoyed before the collapse and how much it was taken for granted. And I think this is an excellent point. Even though older generations may mock the use of social media, it really does keep us all connected in all of life’s moments, be they good, bad, or mundane. And St. John Mandel connects this more broadly to what it means to be human, or even to exist.

“No more internet. No more social media, no more scrolling through litanies of dreams and nervous hopes and photographs of lunches, cries for help and expressions of contentment and relationship-status updates with heart icons whole or broken, plans to meet up later, pleas, complaints, desires, pictures of babies dressed as bears or peppers for Halloween. No more reading and commenting on the lives of others, and in so doing, feeling slightly less alone in the room. No more avatars.”

I also loved how St. John Mandel connected the characters in really interesting ways. At the beginning of Station Eleven, we are quickly introduced to five characters and then the story takes off from there. It’s difficult to explain how their lives intersect without ruining the story, and so I’ll refrain from going into more detail. But through these intersections, St. John Mandel interjects hope for the future. Yes, it will take some time, but old friends and family will find one another again. We can rebuild the old world together.

Each character in Station Eleven is unique and rings true to real life, which is impressive for a science fiction novel. I especially liked Kristen and Miranda, and reading about their lives before and after the world fell. Kristen’s story is particularly interesting because she was a child when civilization collapsed and she only half remembers things and is often unsure if she dreamed a facet of life before or if it really happened. This includes airplanes, light switches, and the internet. This book features all sorts of characters, making this book a unique read from start to finish. You’ll love lots of characters and want lots of them to go away forever, too.

Wrap Up:

Overall, I loved this book! I’ve put off reading it for years because it didn’t sound like my cup of tea, but wow was I mistaken. The story is just so incredibly well written, I found myself actually gasping aloud as a I read. I highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone.

This book is…

beautifully written

interwoven

full of interesting characters

eloquent

haunting

Publisher: Vintage

Genre: science-fiction

Page Count: 333

ISBN: 0804172447

Available here from IndieBound.

Have you read Station Eleven? What dystopian novel would you recommend?

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Review: The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

In the new novel from the bestselling author of Final Girls, The Last Time I Lied follows a young woman as she returns to her childhood summer camp to uncover the truth about a tragedy that happened there fifteen years ago.

Two Truths and a Lie. The girls played it all the time in their tiny cabin at Camp Nightingale. Vivian, Natalie, Allison, and first-time camper Emma Davis, the youngest of the group. The games ended when Emma sleepily watched the others sneak out of the cabin in the dead of night. The last she–or anyone–saw of them was Vivian closing the cabin door behind her, hushing Emma with a finger pressed to her lips.

Now a rising star in the New York art scene, Emma turns her past into paintings–massive canvases filled with dark leaves and gnarled branches that cover ghostly shapes in white dresses. The paintings catch the attention of Francesca Harris-White, the socialite and wealthy owner of Camp Nightingale. When Francesca implores her to return to the newly reopened camp as a painting instructor, Emma sees an opportunity to try to find out what really happened to her friends.

Yet it’s immediately clear that all is not right at Camp Nightingale. Already haunted by memories from fifteen years ago, Emma discovers a security camera pointed directly at her cabin, mounting mistrust from Francesca and, most disturbing of all, cryptic clues Vivian left behind about the camp’s twisted origins. As she digs deeper, Emma finds herself sorting through lies from the past while facing threats from both man and nature in the present. And the closer she gets to the truth about Camp Nightingale, the more she realizes it may come at a deadly price.

My Thoughts:

The story in Last Time is exciting. I enjoyed Emma’s return to Camp Nightingale as she simultaneously tries to learn what happened to her cabin mates and also move through that traumatic event. The mystery surrounding the girls’ disappearances was well done, and it took me until the end of the book to put it all together. As someone who reads a lot of mysteries, I’m always pleased when a mystery or thriller catches me off guard and is able to keep me guessing. That being said, if you’re paying enough attention, you might be able to figure out the ending sooner. But, like any good thriller writer, Sager includes the right amount of twists, turns, and red herrings to keep the reader on the edge of their seat.

I really liked the detail of Emma’s artist career. The descriptions of her paintings were so vivid I felt like I could see the paintings right in front of me! Emma’s artwork is eerie, sensual, and shocking, which makes sense given what happened in her past. Riley Sager made a spot on career choice for Emma, though, and it adds considerable depth to her character. I also thought it was interesting that almost every single character in Last Time is unlikeable, which even includes Emma, our protagonist. I’m not bothered by this choice as I do love rooting for unlikeable characters, especially heroines, but it’s also tough when the reader feels at a distance to everyone involved. I think it’s helpful, even in thrillers, for the reader to like at least one main character.

Wrap Up:

Overall, I loved this book! I really enjoyed Sager’s debut novel, Final Girls, and was nervous that Last Time wouldn’t live up to the hype. But I think I enjoyed Last Time even more than Final Girls! This is a fun, engaging, and quick summer read. It would be an excellent choice for a vacation read! I highly recommend this book, especially to fans of A.J. Finn and Ruth Ware.

This book is…

unputdownable

shocking

engaging

entertaining

spooky

Publisher: Dutton Books

Genre: thriller

Page Count: 384

ISBN: 1524743070

Available here from IndieBound.

Will you read The Last Time I Lied? What thriller would you recommend?

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Review: Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare

My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

In the first in Tessa Dare’s captivating Castles Ever After series, a mysterious fortress is the setting for an unlikely love . . .

As the daughter of a famed author, Isolde Ophelia Goodnight grew up on tales of brave knights and fair maidens. She never doubted romance would be in her future, too. The storybooks offered endless possibilities.

And as she grew older, Izzy crossed them off. One by one by one.

Ugly duckling turned swan?

Abducted by handsome highwayman?

Rescued from drudgery by charming prince?

No, no, and… Heh.

Now Izzy’s given up yearning for romance. She’ll settle for a roof over her head. What fairy tales are left over for an impoverished twenty-six year-old woman who’s never even been kissed?

This one.

My Thoughts:

The storyline in Romancing the Duke felt fresh. It was great to read about Izzy fighting for her inheritance and learn how to reclaim what is rightfully hers. I think Tessa Dare does a great job of putting her own twists on some stock romance plots. This book resolves quite nicely in the end and I hope Tessa Dare revisits these characters in a later novel. In addition to the inheritance storyline, Romancing the Duke also focuses on fandoms, their usefulness, and their innate desire to hope. Many parts of this book felt like an ode to fans and to those who love to fully embody a story they love.

I loved Izzy as a heroine. I was impressed by her determination, courage, and, most of all, her imagination. It’s her imagination that makes a twenty-six-year-old woman fear the dark. It’s what made her accept the fantastic stories of knights and devilish rogues. And it’s what made Izzy visit a strange decrepit castle only to discover she’s know the owner, not Duke Ransom. Also, there are some details about Ransom that I won’t get into here because it would spoil a pretty major plot point! The foils between Izzy and Ransom are fantastic and I loved reading their witty banter. I especially loved that they both grew up throughout the course of the story. This is not a one-sided development. Rather, Izzy and Ransom ultimately learn to work together and to help one another.

Additionally, the side characters in Romancing the Duke were very fun! Ransom’s valet, Duncan, was delightfully devoted, competent, and desperate for some real work. The vicar’s daughter, Miss Pelham, is romantic, determined, and easily excited. There is also a local troupe who enjoys re-enacting scenes from their favorite stories. All in all, these side characters liven up the page and attempt to steal the show. Tessa Dare clearly writes great characters across the board, and does not relegate side characters to mere plot devices.

Wrap Up:

Overall, I loved this book! Romancing the Duke broke me out of my reading rut. I flew through this story and loved every minute of the ride. There were a few plot twists that I definitely did not see coming. Tessa Dare is quickly becoming one of my favorite romance writers! I also loved one of her more recent books, The Duchess Deal, and you can read my review here. I would highly recommend this book, especially for fans of Julia Quinn.

This book is…

laugh out loud funny

charming

surprising

steamy

a quick read

Publisher: Avon

Genre: romance

Page Count: 370

ISBN: 0062240196

Available here from IndieBound.

Have you read Romancing the Duke? What historical romance would you recommend?

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Review: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Generations of readers young and old, male and female, have fallen in love with the March sisters of Louisa May Alcott’s most popular and enduring novel, Little Women. Here are talented tomboy and author-to-be Jo, tragically frail Beth, beautiful Meg, and romantic, spoiled Amy, united in their devotion to each other and their struggles to survive in New England during the Civil War.

It is no secret that Alcott based Little Women on her own early life. While her father, the freethinking reformer and abolitionist Bronson Alcott, hobnobbed with such eminent male authors as Emerson, Thoreau, and Hawthorne, Louisa supported herself and her sisters with “woman’s work,” including sewing, doing laundry, and acting as a domestic servant. But she soon discovered she could make more money writing. Little Women brought her lasting fame and fortune, and far from being the “girl’s book” her publisher requested, it explores such timeless themes as love and death, war and peace, the conflict between personal ambition and family responsibilities, and the clash of cultures between Europe and America.

My Thoughts:

One of the things I love about Little Women is that the story follows the March family through many years of their lives. Over time, we see the March family experience all sorts of different situations as they grow up together. Their trials run the gamut from sisterly quarrels, standing up for oneself, disagreeing with a husband, and learning to love. I find Little Women to be such a comforting book, for Alcott crafted the March family with considerable care and love.

Each and every character in Little Women is well rounded, charming, and fun to read. I always love reading Jo’s struggle to overcome her quick temper. As I myself suffer from the same fiery tongue and easily provoked emotions. I think many people would benefit from taking Mareme’s advice to heart, and think before speaking. Jo is often the favorite of the March sisters, but I’m also a big fan of Meg. She is bright, well mannered, and kind. But more importantly, I love Meg for her faults and how she tries to overcome them. The March family is poor and Meg, despite her overflowing love for her family, is tired of being poor. She wants to have nice things and not have to worry about paying for them. I really appreciate reading Meg’s struggles with this as I think that it’s a common feeling for most people. We all want the luxury to buy nice things when we want without breaking the bank. Meg works hard to be more patient and considerate when it comes to making purchases.

At times this book can feel a bit preachy with some of its religious overtones. But the lessons learned in this book are always well intended, helpful, and more about having a bigger heart, loving one another, and honoring one’s family. I enjoy these lessons, even as an adult. I think many of the lessons preached in this book could be beneficial to many people and there’s always something to learn from Little Women.

Wrap Up:

Overall, I loved this book! This was my second time reading Little Women and I loved it even more the second time around. I think this book is a classic for good reason and is definitely a book that everyone should read. This story would also make an excellent read aloud!

This book is…

heartwarming

lovely

enlightening

touching

endearing

Publisher: Penguin

Genre: classics

Page Count: 504

ISBN: 0143106651

Available here from IndieBound.

Have you read Little Women? What classics would you recommend?

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