Review of “The Library of Lost and Found” by Phaedra Patrick

Patrick, Phaedra. The Library of Lost and Found. Toronto, Ontario: Park Row Books, 2019.

Hardcover | $24.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0778369356 | 348 pages | Women’s Fiction

5 stars

The Library of Lost and Found was another book I found on happenstance through looking through the library catalog for more books about librarians, so I was sold even before I knew what it was about. But once I actually picked it up and read the blurb, I was even more intrigued, a sentiment which compounded as the story unfolded.

I love the impact books and stories play within the narrative in connecting and reconnecting people, a phenomenon I experience daily, although not in quite the same way as explored in the book. And the little fairy stories interspersed throughout provide a sense of youth and wonder to an otherwise rather serious and emotional narrative, demonstrating that we’re never too ol for fairy tales.

One of the other central themes, however, was family, and the conflicts within it, and I love how each of the family members was so well-drawn and nuanced. I felt I related a lot to Martha in the sense that she kind of tries to keep her head down, even though she is a bit overworked and underpaid, and you can kind of see why due to the glimpses of her domineering father, and how hurt she was when her grandmother Zelda, who she was closer to, apparently died, especially as Zelda was (and is, when she resurfaces in the present narrative) so full of life. But I also love that there were portions that explored Martha’s parents’ marriage and what led to the estrangement, and further revelations suggesting that her father did have more substance and more of a connection to her than she originally thought.

This is a delightful comfort read, and one I would definitely recommend to other bibliophiles, as well as to other fans of heartfelt family-centric women’s fiction.

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Review of “In the Shadow of Croft Towers” by Abigail Wilson

Wilson, Abigail. In the Shadow of Croft Towers. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2019.

Paperback | $15.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0785223665 | 324 pages | Christian Fiction/Regency Romance

5 stars

I bought In the Shadow of Croft Towers on a whim after seeing an ad for it on Facebook, and looking to try another new Christian Regency author…although of course, it did inevitably end up sitting on my TBR shelf a bit longer than I am proud of, something which I now regret. Abigail Wilson crafts a strong Christian Regency mystery that could easily rival her read-alike authors, Julie Klassen and Sarah E. Ladd (the latter of whom also provided a blurb for the book, describing it as “mysterious and wonderfully atmospheric…full of danger, intrigue, and secrets.”

And that pretty much sums up this book to a tee. Wilson perfectly captures the landscape of the mysterious Croft Towers, making it come to life as a character in its own right, rife with many secrets. And as the back cover blurb suggests, there is a sense of unease throughout, as I was left feeling incredibly unsure of who to trust as I (and Sybil) encountered them, although there were some I became attached to as she did, and began to root for. And while the villains have done bad things, I like that they aren’t cardboard cutout bad, and that there is a way to kind of see things from their perspective to an extent, even if their actions are morally wrong.

Sybil also has a great character arc that fits both with the context of the period and her circumstances and the conventions of the semi-Gothic narrative, starting more naive and then growing more brave over time as revelations are uncovered, and she’s faced with some pivotal choices.

This was an enjoyable debut historical, and I am excited to pick up her next one in just a few more days to see what she does next. And as I mentioned prior, I would recommend this to Julie Klassen and Sarah E. Ladd fans looking for another solid read-alike, or to romantic Regency mystery fans.

Review of “Delusion in Death” (In Death #35) by J.D. Robb

Robb, J.D. Delusion in Death. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2012.

Hardcover | $27.95 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0399158810 | 388 pages | Romantic Suspense

3.5 stars (maybe light 4?)

I had somewhat mixed feelings about Delusion in Death. On the one hand, I think it’s great that Robb/Roberts isn’t afraid to try new things when it comes to crafting cases, and this time, with the introduction of a chemical weapon at the root of the killings, I could feel the sense that there were higher stakes with a greater number of lives lost and a weapon that can’t easily be diffused in a one-on-on situation.

On the other hand, I’ve found some of the books that got a little more technical with the methods and a little less…intimate…to be my least favorite when it comes to keeping me interested overall. The solving of the case was great as always, but this one ranks a bit lower on the scale for me due to my feelings on the case.

However, the characters remain great, and I really enjoyed the delving into Eve’s trauma in the aftermath of what went down in Dallas a couple books ago, particularly when it comes to the unresolved issues with her long estranged mother who failed to recognize her upon their confrontation. I truly felt for her, and think it’s wonderful that she has such great people like Roarke and Dr. Mira in her corner to provide emotional support, which they do at different points of this book.

While again not a favorite, I think it has just enough of the consistently good things that made me love the series that I feel like it’s still not getting old, even at almost three dozen books in.

Review of “The Memory House” by Rachel Hauck

Hauck, Rachel. The Memory House. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2019.

Paperback | $15.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0310250965 | 374 pages | Christian Fiction/Historical Fiction

5 stars

The Memory House is another poignant dual timeline novel from Rachel Hauck, and I loved the exploration of grief and the differing reactions to the tragic loss of a loved one explored through the interwoven narratives, whether it be memory loss or holding onto memories, both of which prevent the person from moving forward and growing.

And this is one of the rare times where I found the contemporary arc as compelling as the past one, if not more so. While I have not faced loss in the same way Beck has, I could empathize with her struggles and how her mind essentially shut out memories of that time due to her grief, and I found it poignant how this grief manifested in her present life, with her choosing a career as a police officer in the NYPD. I also loved how there were some parallels and contradictions with her childhood friend and love interest Bruno’s life, as he faces some discoveries about the fate of his own father.

It juxtaposes very well with Everleigh and Don’s story, and how she is holding onto the memory of her late husband, even as she’s developing feelings for someone else, and I also love the reveal of the blood ties between the two women, which is at the center of why Everleigh left the house to her, along with the deeper spiritual connection.

This a deeply emotional book, one that deals with the struggle to move on after a monumental loss. I would recommend it to readers of deep, introspective multi-generational novels.

Review of “His Majesty’s Dragon” (Temeraire #1) by Naomi Novik

Novik, Naomi. His Majesty’s Dragon. New York: Del Rey, 2006.

Mass Market Paperback | $7.50 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0345481283 | 356 pages | Historical Fantasy

5 stars

I had long heard good things about Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series, and with a combination of historical fiction (and set in the Regency period!) and fantasy elements sounded right up my alley. And it ended up being a nice fun read, with and engaging plot and characters, as well as being grounded enough in both the manners and politics of the Regency period while also adding an intriguing new element with the dragons.

I love the central relationship between Will Laurence and Temeraire, and how well they play off each other as this kind of serious naval officer whose life has been upended and this childish, and sometimes funny, young dragon.

I also like how well the lore around dragons is integrated into the world, especially with the exploration of certain dragons that only bond with women, and that leading to an exploration of the gender politics of the period to an extent, with them seen more as exceptions to the rule than as truly groundbreaking. And I also really enjoyed the inclusion of some excerpts from an in-universe text at the end, providing more context for the history of dragons, as well as further discussing different breeds.

This is a delightful book, and one that manages to seamlessly incorporate elements of both historical fiction and fantasy. I would recommend it to fans of either genre, and I would definitely recommend it to those who like blends of both (on the off chance you haven’t read it yet of course).

Review of “Celebrity in Death” (In Death #34) by J.D. Robb

Robb, J.D. Celebrity in Death. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2012.

Hardcover | $27.95 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0399158308 | 389 pages | Romantic Suspense

4 stars

Celebrity in Death is yet another fairly solid In Death book, although I did feel like the return to the standard formula did feel a bit jarring after the epicness of the prior book, in that it’s more or less a return to the predictable.

However, I still did like it conceptually, especially the setup surrounds a movie being filmed based on one of Eve’s prior cases, and the initial amusement surrounding meeting “themselves,” including the fact that Peabody’s actress is incredibly hostile…to put it nicely. And this did still lead to some fabulous moments of banter between the cast, especially with Eve and Peabody discussing how much of an awful person the Peabody actress is.

I also liked seeing more emotional moments, with Peabody and McNab getting some time to reaffirm their love for one another, as we see McNab panicked over seeing the corpse of fake Peabody, imagining the worst that could happen to the real one that he loves. And while I acknowledge along with them that they’re not ready to get married yet, I love seeing a rare example of the depth of their feelings for one another.

The case itself was interesting and had great twists as the case unfolded, even if it was one of the more by-the-numbers entries in the series, with whodunnit being fairly obvious…although observing Eve get down to the “how” and the “why” was entertaining.

I can’t really blame this book for being more of the same from the series, as it did have a big act to follow with New York to Dallas, and I still don’t know if anything in the series will be able to top it. However, by the standards of the series, it is still one of the better entries, even if it doesn’t rank among my absolute favorites.

Review of “Wherever You Go” (Brookstone Brides #2) by Tracie Peterson

Peterson, Tracie. Wherever You Go. Bloomington, MN: Bethany House, 2019.

Paperback | $15.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0764219030 | 312 pages | Historical Romance/Christian Fiction

3 stars

I waffled on whether to finish Wherever You Go, as while there were parts of this I enjoyed, I found that Tracie Peterson’s tendency to dominate a 300-page book with subplots that divert too much from the main plot and character arcs that were noted in the blurb continues into book two.

I did enjoy seeing Mary Reichert find her match, especially given the tough things she’s been through, as seen in the last book and discussed at length here. And Christopher has a compelling conflict that complements Mary’s in a way, coming from a family who has done bad things, leading to his shame about his past. But it was great to see how they came together and helped each other come to terms with their respective familial losses.

However, I found it disconcerting how much of a role Wesley and Lizzy played, not just as supporting characters, but as major secondary point of view characters. And while I assume everything was settled between them at the end of their book, I found it jarring that not only were things not official between them beyond them making any promises, but Jason Adler was still working to make Lizzy his. It’s totally fine that Wesley hadn’t asked Lizzy to marry him and that that carried over to this book, as that sets it apart from the typical romance formula, which usually ends with an engagement or marriage, but I just was over their relationship drama, and didn’t like how it took page time that could have been spent on Mary and Christopher or working toward a resolution of the over-arching plot with Ella’s father and ex-fiance.

On that note, I think, Ella is one of the few reasons I am still considering reading book three,. as well as the hints given about Wesley’s brother Philip’s past. In spite of my problems with how the series has been executed, I do still find Ella one of the most interesting characters, and am curious if there will ever be a way to bring her father and ex-fiance down.

On that note, I am not sure I would recommend this to anyone, particularly those who are new to Tracie Peterson’s style like I am, unless a broader focus on a larger cast of characters with different couples aside from the one the book is meant to focus on works for you. B

Review of “I Love You So Mochi” by Sarah Kuhn

Kuhn, Sarah. I Love You So Mochi. New York: Scholastic Press, 2019.

Hardcover | $17.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1338302882 | 308 pages | YA Contemporary Romance

5 stars

I Love You So Mochi is an adorable multicultural YA contemporary romance that also had a great exploration of the complexities of family dynamics within a Japanese/Japanese American family.

I loved the descriptions of Kyoto, from the locations like the pug cafe to the descriptions of the food like the mochi and the Ebi-Filet. I also enjoyed that the cultural differences between American and Japanese cultural norms.

The romance is also incredibly cute, even though it’s not the central part of the book like I assumed it was. I liked that Akira helped Kimi to discover what her true artistic calling was. The romance is also incredibly cute, even though it’s not the central part of the book like I assumed it was. I liked that Akira helped Kimi to discover what her true artistic calling was. Another reviewer likened it to “biting into mochi – soft and gooey and so sweet on the inside,” and I wholeheartedly agree, and not just because mochi plays a pretty big role in this book.

But the major part of the book was the familial relationships. I enjoyed seeing the progression of Kimi learning something about her mother’s experience of defying her own mother’s wishes, and how that is reflected in their own relationship, leading her to reach out and prevent a future estrangement, which occurred between her mother and her parents. I also found it beautiful how she helped to heal the wounds, leading to a reunion between mother and grandparents by the end.

I really enjoyed this book, and it was pure fun to read. I would recommend this to other fans of cute multicultural contemporary stories.

Review of “Crown of Feathers” by Nicki Pau Preto

Pau Preto, Nicki. Crown of Feathers. New York: Simon Pulse, 2019.

Hardcover | $19.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1534424623 | 486 pages | YA Fantasy

4 stars

Crown of Feathers was one of several 2019 YA fantasy books on my radar due to the fact that it seemed to be doing things that set it apart from the crowd within its age range and subgenre, without feeling a bit too old to be YA (while also having enough going on that an adult reader would likely still be entertained by it). While the worldbuilding did lead to the book feeling a bit slow at times, once it picked up, I found myself engaged with the story.

I liked the focus on phoenixes, a creature I haven’t seen in a prominent fantasy release for any age group since the Harry Potter books. And the wider world building is also great. While it initially felt a little disjointed from the main story, I love how there were little hints of how everything fit together, culminating in the big reveal at the end.

Speaking of big reveals, I really enjoyed the centrality of the relationship between the two sisters, Veronyka and Val, and Val’s actions come between them, as well as how it plays into Val’s past. The insighting incident had me unsure what to think of Val, and how she would ever be redeemed, but by the end, I actually felt for her and really hope to see them reconcile in the sequel.

I found the two other characters a bit less engaging, but I think Tristan’s perspective did provide additional insight into the inner workings of the Phoenix Riders, and Sev’s did provide greater context for the world around them, which becomes more pivotal as the story goes on and the pieces begin to come together. And while I liked the friendship that developed between Tristan and Veronyka, and that while a romance is hinted at as a possibility, it’s not a huge (and usually somewhat problematic) world-ending passion that takes over the plot that has slowly come to annoy me in other YA fantasy titles, given how little variation there is between character archetypes, but rather one built on mutual respect.

This is a delightful YA fantasy debut that is doing a few fresh things within the genre. I think fans of fantasy who read YA will enjoy this for these things, and recommend that they check it out.

Review of “When You Are Near” (Brookstone Brides #1) by Tracie Peterson

Peterson, Tracie. When You Are Near. Bloomington, MN: Bethany House, 2019.

Paperback | $15.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0764219023 | 311 pages | Christian Fiction/Historical Romance

3 stars

I received a copy of When You Are Near in a Goodreads giveaway a while ago, and am just getting around to reading it to prepare to read book two, which recently came out. And while this is my first Tracie Peterson book, I’m reasonably impressed enough to read more from her.

The concept of this series as a whole is fun, surrounding a traveling Wild West Extravaganza with a cast of women performers. And I think it made the most of this concept, while also exploring the characters’ inner struggles, both with faith and and with life in general.

However, it does suffer from “first-in-series” syndrome, where it’s doing double duty of setting up the roles protagonists in future books will play, while also working to juggle that with the romance between Lizzy and Wesley (and by extension the love triangle including them and Jason). In fact, despite them appearing to be the focus on the book, I didn’t find either of them to be all that compelling. I found their respective struggles relatable enough on a surface level, but in comparison to Ella, who was dealing with a father and fiancee trying to force her into a marriage which is detestable to her and the fact that they might be up to some nefarious deeds, they paled by comparison.

But Ella’s storyline, and the connected mystery element were incredibly well-done, and I found the way it was resolved to be the most satisfying part of the book, even if the her father and fiancee are so cartoonishly irredeemable. And Mary, who is also somewhat connected to the mystery is one of my other favorite characters, giving me hope that there is some potential in continuing with the series.

This was a somewhat short, fun read, although I did feel like the length did it a disservice in terms of all the things it tried to accomplish. But I think it shows a lot of promise, and given what I’ve heard about Peterson’s standing as a respected and top selling Christian fiction author, I would recommend this to other fans of the genre who haven’t tried her work yet, as I feel (at leas at the moment) that this is a solid entry point, in spite of its shortcomings.