Posted in book reviews

REVIEW: Falling Into Magic: Destiny Falls Mystery & Magic Series Book 1

Good day, Congress.

I am finally writing this long-overdue review of Destiny Falls Mystery & Magic Book 1 by Elizabeth Pantley. It has been a while since I posted my review of the second book of the series where I admitted to being confused with the main character’s feelings towards her new found family in Destiny Falls—shouldn’t come as a surprise when you jump to the second book without reading the first, you guys.

  • Genre: Magical Cozy Mystery
  • Publication: November 12, 2020
  • Rating: 3/5

SYNOPSIS:

An accidental journey through a magic mirror. A portal to an enchanted land. A mysterious family she never knew she had. Hayden’s life is upended with the wonder of Destiny Falls. But it is tainted by the danger that brought her here and that threatens her newfound family. Can Hayden and her sassy sidekick remove the threat, so that she can begin her magical new life in this captivating world?

…When Hayden was a child, she lost her cat. Adults told her the cat ran away, but she knew the truth. The mirror had taken her. She knew because the mirror gave her a glimpse of an alternate world and had nearly pulled her in, so she was certain the cat had suffered that fate.

Twenty years later, Hayden discovers the secret of the mirror when she is thrust into it. She learns of an enchanted world she never knew existed, and a family she never knew she had.

But danger brought her here, and it followed her. Now, Hayden is on a mission to remove the threat, so that she can begin her magical, meaningful new life in this enchanted world.

REVIEW:

Well, I liked The Disappearance of Emily, and when Miss Elizabeth Pantley gifted me a digital copy of the first book, I was happy to receive it. However, it took me a while to write this because I don’t really have anything to add besides finally understanding Hayden’s feelings about her situation. So, this review is basically a concise affirmation of my previous review of the second book.

As I’ve mentioned in my other review, this series’ strongest suit is the setting of the story. We have an undetectable town where magic merges with mundane human life—Destiny Falls isn’t just any magical place at all, oh no. I like how in this story, if we disregard its magical nature, Destiny Falls would feel like any normal town on Earth. I’m still entertained at the idea of our magazines reaching this enchanted world—or town—no ordinary human being can easily enter. While reading, I often wondered how they were able to secure copies of magazines from the “known” parts of the world without causing suspicion, or if they have connections to our side that supplies them their share.

The novel is not without its side of mystery as, after all, it is about mystery and magic with Destiny Falls. Hayden, although overjoyed and eager to create a relationship with her new found family, must be wary of the danger that was after her. Throughout the book, she tries to figure out who amongst her family members and close family ties is after her. This leads us to second-guessing every family member. Well, not so much with me because I’ve already read the second book. But still.

I appreciate the characters more now. Hayden was easily liked. I found that I relate to her in a lot of aspects, most especially with her love for her cat. I respect how she dealt with her new life with only the limited experience she’s had from her comfortable, guarded life prior to arriving in Destiny Falls. The other characters added to the fun of this story as well. Her family and friends were all really cool, the witch with her never-ending requests of random things was hilarious, and Latifa was just straight up adorable with her sass.

Destiny Falls Mystery & Magic Series is a treat for fairytale-like adventures with a hint of suspense. It’s a story both adults and children can enjoy and marvel about. Falling Into Magic is just an introduction to Hayden’s adventures from living a simple and conservative life in the common world to adapting and settling in this new, thrillingly magical, and mysterious world of Destiny Falls.

Posted in Uncategorized

REVIEW: Dead Friends by Miles Hooper (ARC via Reedsy Discovery)

Good day, Congress!

It’s the weekend once again. I’m here with a review of a newly released horror novel by Miles Hooper entitled Dead Friends. A huge thanks to Reedsy Discovery for the ARC.

  • Genre: Horror
  • Published:
  • Rating: 2.5/5

Synopsis:

On graduation night of 2007, they were a tight-knit group of Phoenix suburb kids, ready to take the world by storm. Then came six years of recession, failure, and strained friendship. 

It’s now fall of 2013 and the estranged friends are called back together. They meet at a cabin tucked away in the woods of Northern Arizona. Their reconnection is a stinging reminder that their twenties were not what they had promised themselves. 

Over the course of their visit, it becomes clear that a surreptitious force is feeding their contempt for one another. What starts as a tepid reunion, free falls into a slaughtering of appendages and of congeniality. 

Dead Friends is a macabre psychological horror story for anyone who has survived, or is currently living through, their twenties. 

Review:

Upon seeing the cover and reading the synopsis, Dead Friends instantly interested me. Unfortunately, it fell short with the thrill that I expected to get from the plot. First of all, and from a quick Google search, you would know that a great key point to a well-written horror story is “suspense-driven pace” that I thought was lacking in this novel.

I’m thinking back to how it opened and up to the unravelling, and see how faintly it addressed the background of the catalyst of this whole horror ride. I thought it could have expounded more on the emotions behind that purpose to torment these people instead of just dishing it out almost in passing—this is where the lack of suspense comes from. A backstory, especially of a storyline that connects to a long and, to an extent, deep history before the set timeline play a significant role in evoking extreme reactions from the readers such as shock, despair, guilt, etc. None of which I felt because I had expected more.

A major flaw that I could point out from this novel is it’s focus to actions more than emotions. It gave the gore, the chaos, and basically all the factors that comes with horror but for the connection with the reader. I wanted to feel the fear of the characters, but it didn’t reach me. Because it described more of what’s happening in the surroundings and not of what’s happening within the characters, I felt like a spectator that was free from danger instead of relating to these characters and ultimately feeling what they’re feeling.

Nevertheless, it had its good parts as well. I quite enjoyed the bloody slaughter that the friends made of each other—were manipulated to do to each other, rather. Again, a tad bit much on the telling and less of the showing that made the succession of events a little messy, but still was a good delivery. The psychological manipulation and torture to these characters not only confused them, they confused me as well. And I find that I actually liked the slight struggle to figure out if one of them was real or not in some scenes. The characters themselves were interesting enough in how they interacted and felt towards each other. It was nice to read of their bad blood—truly a friendship lost there. I didn’t even expect them to form some sort of camaraderie amongst each other afterwards seeing how disconnected they all were even at the beginning. I must say I didn’t develop an inclination to any one of them, which doesn’t really matter at all.

To conclude, it was a not a bad read. It wasn’t what I expected, but I wouldn’t say I am disappointed. 

Posted in Letters to Congress

July Reading List

Good day, Congress!!

It is finally July. I almost didn’t complete my June TBR list—

*** Sadly, she didn’t finish reading her last June book on the last day of said month as she was met with an incredible increase of workload that would start to eat up most of her time starting that day. Today is already the second day of July. She wrote that draft on the 29th of June.***

— because I’ve been hung up too much from the second to the last book that I read. Good thing I was able to pull through. Haha. This month I promised myself to aim at consistency.

***And since she wouldn’t have much time for leisure anymore. Her original EIGHT-BOOKS-TO-READ for the month of July will be cut down into three.***

Here is the list of books I will be reading for July 2021.

In no particular order:

  1. The Wench is Dead by Colin Dexter (Inspector Morse #8)

Synopsis:

The Wench is Dead is the eighth novel in Colin Dexter’s Oxford-set detective series.

That night he dreamed in Technicolor. He saw the ochre-skinned, scantily clad siren in her black, arrowed stockings. And in Morse’s muddled computer of a mind, that siren took the name of one Joanna Franks . . .

The body of Joanna Franks was found at Duke’s Cut on the Oxford Canal at about 5.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 22nd June 1859.

At around 10.15 a.m. on a Saturday morning in 1989 the body of Chief Inspector Morse – though very much alive – was removed to Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital. Treatment for a perforated ulcer was later pronounced successful.

As Morse begins his recovery he comes across an account of the investigation and the trial that followed Joanna Franks’ death . . . and becomes convinced that the two men hanged for her murder were innocent . . .

The Wench is Dead is followed by the ninth Inspector Morse book, The Jewel That Was Ours.

2. Dead Friends by Miles Hooper (ARC via Reedsy Discovery)

Synopsis:

On graduation night of 2007, they were a tight-knit group of Phoenix suburb kids, ready to take the world by storm. Then came six years of recession, failure, and strained friendship.

It’s now fall of 2013 and the estranged friends are called back together. They meet at a cabin tucked away in the woods of Northern Arizona. Their reconnection is a stinging reminder that their twenties were not what they had promised themselves.

Over the course of their visit, it becomes clear that a surreptitious force is feeding their contempt for one another. What starts as a tepid reunion, free falls into a slaughtering of appendages and of congeniality.

Dead Friends is a macabre psychological horror story for anyone who has survived, or is currently living through, their twenties.

3. The Teacher by Rod Betancourt (ARC)

Synopsis:

The year is 2022. Spanish teacher Christopher Reyes leads a completely normal life in the city of Eternity Grove. He has a good job at a public school, goes out with his friends, and gets along with his ex-girlfriend. But Chris’ perfect and routine life suffers a dark twist when strange things start happening. Demonic voices, objects that move on their own, horrifying tragedies. And his students, Claire, Kristian, and Jonathan seem to be at the center of it all. Not knowing whom to trust, Chris will immerse himself in the mysteries surrounding certain Eternity Grove citizens and, in a race to remain sane, will have to discover the motives behind the supernatural events while at the same time trying to escape from them. His life and his loved ones’ lives will depend on how fast he does it…

I am so excited to start reading them. How about you guys? What books do you plan to read this month?

Posted in book reviews, Romantic Suspense

REVIEW: Shattered Dreams by Shirley Wilkinson

Good day, Congress!

I’m back with another review for you. This is via Reedsy Discovery where I was provided with an ARC of Shirley Wilkinson‘s novel, Shattered Dreams.

  • Genre: Romantic Suspense
  • Rating: 2/5

Synopsis:

Avila Durant, a young woman with an unknown past, lives as a refugee with her adoptive parents on the planet of Aril. Haunted by nightmares that plague her sleep, she struggles to remember who she used to be.

Avila’s life on this small, isolated planet is turned upside down when she is saved by a stranger from an accident riggered by a forgotten memory. As Avila slowly recovers, it soon becomes clear that there is more to this savior than she anticipated when the mysterious man, named Galdren, reveals his true identity.

Avila finds that her second chance at life comes at a price when Galdren invokes an ancient law that turns her life upside down. Forced to accept this new reality, Avila must work with Galdren to navigate various pitfalls as they are pushed into a life side-by-side that neither of them were prepared to face.

Avila’s nightmares could hold the key to her missing memories, but what she doesn’t know is that, if her memories return, so will the danger. As her life changes and her past refuses to fade away, she must face the reality that nothing is as it seems.

Review:

Shattered Dreams is set in the fictional world of Aril where Avila, a refugee from a seized planet called Talamh, currently inhabitates together with her adopted parents, but we only get fragments of information about the entirety of this fantasy world as about two-thirds of the novel’s plotline only happens in the quarters where Avila’s new life began. And these information we get only when the characters mention them in passing. I admit that it was hard to move forward with a plotline that seemed to go on forever with the same environment and the same conflicts. Usually, I have no qualms when characters, even the ones advertised to be hard-shelled, cry when they go through hard times. Crying, after all, is normal. But what irked me was that the story lingered on Avila’s erratic waterworks as she adjusted to her new life for more than half of the novel. On top of that, reading about the build-up of romance between her and Galdren was null of interest. For a reader to enjoy this novel, they have to be invested in the relationship between these two characters as that took up majority of the plot. Unfortunately, the dynamics of this pairing didn’t catch my attention, nor did it interested me a bit. 

This was largely due to the fact that he, Galdren, was an essentially unlikeable character to me for most of the story line (Although, in the end his character was redeemed). Avila was tepid at best. He, on the other hand, was just irritating. He claims to only want the best for her, but he gets ahead of himself and reads too much into situations that often hurt her in the process. It was also ludicrous how for a person of his influence would have a hard time locating a woman that he had supposedly been looking for for years when she wasn’t hiding her identity in the first place. Even one filler character knew who she was and even admitted to following her work for years. So how could that be? It baffled me how romance could develop between the two when he was willingly keeping her imprisoned. It can be argued that he was only acting on his duties, but shouldn’t he insist more from his parents the true and concrete reason why they wanted him to keep her? To me he was just spineless, and so was she for only accepting that. 

That is not to say that the author could not create authentic connections between her characters as I saw that she did with Avila and the new friend that was introduced. Her and Nathan’s relationship is what I could get behind. There were sufficient “packed” and meaningful scenes that were pivotal to the ascension of their relationship, whereas hers and Galdren’s felt rushed and disjointed. 

The story ends with a hang, and I must say that I preferred that. Because for the lack of suspense from this novel, at least I could thrill myself with the prospect of what is to come next after Avila’s returned memories. I have also noticed the considerable change in writing as the author became more expressive and “adventurous” towards the end that was missed in the earlier stages. 

I wish there was more of Avila exploring her passion as I truly enjoyed the parts where this fictional world’s nature was expounded.  

I must say that only in the novel’s tail-end is where my interest picked up. Unfortunate that may be, but at least it left me not totally feeling dried up. If there is to be an installation for this story, I’d be interested enough to check out what happens as many questions weren’t answered in this particular storyline. Hopefully, it won’t have the same tepidity as the early and middle parts of the novel. 

Posted in Book Recommendations, book reviews, Historical Romance

REVIEW: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Good day, Congress!

I am so excited to finally share my experience with The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo with all of you.

  • Genre: Romance/Historical Fiction
  • Rating: 5/5 (RECOMMENDED)

Synopsis:

Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband has left her, and her professional life is going nowhere. Regardless of why Evelyn has selected her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s luxurious apartment, Monique listens in fascination as the actress tells her story. From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the ‘80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way, Evelyn unspools a tale of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love. Monique begins to feel a very real connection to the legendary star, but as Evelyn’s story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

Review:

This book has been circling around Facebook groups recently. And with so much hype from its readers I just had to read it to see what’s up. I wasn’t familiar with the author, Taylor Jenkins Reid, prior to reading this novel, so I had no idea what to expect from her writing. Nevertheless,  I surged in with good hopes.

And suffice to say, I loved it. I love it.

Evelyn Hugo…

Even her name makes me sigh.  What a woman, really. In this fictional world, She is an icon who rose to fame in the 1950’s old Hollywood films, and is notable for being the sexpot actress throughout her career. Although Hugo has proven herself to be a capable actress as well, it is no surprise how she’s “infamous” for her sexual image and the scandals throughout her career. Out of all these are the seven husbands she’s had along the way.

Now, after being reclusive for so long, Evelyn Hugo, long retired, has finally decided to share her real life story. Suddenly breaking her silence and in the process had journalists and reporters scramming to get a scoop. Behind the glitz and glam of money and fame, we all have an idea how nasty the film industry can get behind the cameras. So a biography of an actress arguably one of the best and most controversial from her generation would immediately have the press sniffing like dogs.

And I just know that biography went kaboom in sales and reviews. Good for Monique.

The story is alternately narrated by Evelyn about her journey from being a poor girl from Hell’s Kitchen to the blonde haired, tanned skinned bombshell that everybody knew as Evelyn Hugo, and Monique about her life living lost and hopeless as a frustrated writer in the brinks of a dying marriage. Although, for the most part, the novel focused on Evelyn’s narration.

Hugo narrates her sufferings and dreams from a young age, early recognizing her sexual appeal and unapologetically using same to get her gains. Manipulation and lies were her ways to bulldoze the corrupted industry of Hollywood where she thought she’d finally find her happiness and success. She allowed herself to be selfish, unsympathetic, devious and crude to get where she wanted to be: the hell away from her depressing beginnings.

“I was gorgeous, even at fourteen. Oh, I know the world prefers a woman who doesn’t know her power, but I’m sick of all that.”

The young Evelyn Hugo was unamicable and detestable to many. Doing things I never would think of doing, I found myself astounded by her boldness. At the same time, her tenacity to achieve her goal was both admirable and bewitching. She was aware of her power even at a tender age. Not many people would dare to be vicious to reach the top of the mountain, but Evelyn Hugo did. And that was her greatest appeal. Like what Monique had said, even if Evelyn Hugo wasn’t Evelyn Hugo, she’d still have the power over people simply for her innate allure.

Using her intelligence and fervent lust for power, Evelyn finally reached the top of the mountain, and I read all her power play with utter fascination. Even at times when she’d sacrificed her dignity, I lauded her. There was no pity for Evelyn Hugo, although I felt horrible for some of the things she’s encountered, Evelyn didn’t deserve pity. She was merely giving little in return of a greater gain.

“Evelyn, who was your great love?”

Then, Evelyn Hugo experienced love. And in loving she slowly found her self. But as Evelyn Hugo, there were challenges along the way. This woman that she has become has taken me with her as she struggled under constant scrutiny while she suffered for love. This woman who would stop at nothing to get what she wanted, to make more for herself. This woman who wasn’t above stepping over others if it meant grabbing bigger shares for her own, has finally met her vulnerability. And slowly, I felt her strain and pain as a new side to the hardened woman was introduced.

I think there will always be a sense of affinity formed between two people when one decides to share the deepest, most sensitive parts of themselves to the other. Evelyn Hugo made me feel the longing that she’s felt as she looks back to her past. And I found myself as if I was madly stricken with love, regret, and melancholy—Her love, regrets, and melancholy. Her effect on Monique was her effect on me. Monique may even be the representation of those of us who didn’t know Evelyn’s truest self. And with a lifetime to master the art of hiding the truth until she meant to reveal it herself, Evelyn makes Monique, and us, obliviously waiting for the reveal of her biggest sin.

This novel is a spell-binding recollection of a life lived and lost. And as I came to know and understand the two facets of Evelyn Hugo, I was compelled to look into what my life has come so far as I wonder what future awaited me as well. Evelyn has impacted me as she impacted Monique’s life. I guess it’s her legacy to leave a mark to every person she encounters. This reflects to how effective the author is at communicating such heavy and real human emotions to the readers.

I do not care much for love now, but I have a take away from the other facet of Evelyn’s life. I will never aim to be like her, I don’t need to. Unlike her, I have never dreamed of being in the ropes of a filthy business such as the film industry. But if I can take a fragment from the unapologetic ways of taking from the world instead of allowing the world to take from me, wouldn’t I get what I deserve as I deem them to be rightfully mine? There should be a tiny Evelyn Hugo in each of us, because I agree when she said “the world respects people who think they should be running it.”.

This review is featured by Twinkl in their blog about the latest must-read books. See more recommendations and get involved at Book Lovers’ Top Picks For Your 2021 TBR List.

Posted in book reviews

REVIEW: The Night Orchid by M.G. Hernandez

Good day, Congress!

It is finally the weekend and I have another book review for you. I received my Advanced Review Copy of M.G. Hernandez’s debut novel from Reedsy Discovery. Congratulations to Miss M.G. Hernandez!

  • Genre: Romantic Suspense
  • Published: April 22, 2021
  • Rating: 3.5/5

A girl with the ability to see ghosts, Jo Ligaya is quickly embroiled in the mysterious death of a popular cheer leader, Alexa Ocampo’s death. As soon as I read the first half of the synopsis  The Night Orchid quickly became a part of my reading list. Additionally, the fact that the main female character is a person of color—a Filipino to be more specific—upped my excitement and curiosity on this story.

However, on the latter half I was quite dissatisfied to find out that the story takes place in a high school setting, and that its main leads are the typical jock and loner of high school drama. Prejudiced, I have long strayed away from romance novels of this setting because of the clichés that made the considerable readings I’ve had appear like a collection of uncreative, recycled versions of each other. This novel is heavily laced with those clichés. Nevertheless, prejudices, when allowed to take over, only amounts to missed opportunities. And so I decided to take the mystery and ran with it. In this review I will be explaining why I think this novel is fairly riveting and worthy of reads.

A novel about uncovering the mystery behind the death of a haunting ghost is not new to me. In fact, as I read on I was reminded of Nora Robert’s Blue Dahlia in the same way that I was barely satisfied with the plot covering the death of Alexa. Although provided with adequate details throughout the course of the reading I felt that the romance between Jo and Julian was made more developed than the suspense itself.

However, I can’t deny the solid build-up of their chemistry, and that they are a solid pair for silly butterflies in the stomach. Every time they interacted with each other a smile would shamelessly mark itself across my face. I mostly found myself barely suppressing my giggles as I read in the comforts of the dead hours that I should have been sleeping. In my opinion, the playfulness of their relationship as they took on the the imperative task of unfolding the mystery behind Alexa’s death made this novel irresistible.

Jo held the helm of my interest as soon as I started reading the novel. A loner with a depressing family situation and secrets that kept her from being a normal teenager, she is plagued with guilt as she initially tries to avoid the cry for help of Alexa. From this, she gets herself more entangled when soon she’s thrown into the pits of high school where she meets the friends of the dead girl. This is when I immersed myself in the clichés that I’ve grown tired of long ago. The snooty cheerleader, the kid who is overly attached to their image and popularity, and the overall cringe feast of high school foolishness are some tropes that I recognized. To be clear, just because I find these banalities off-putting doesn’t mean that the novel is automatically unworthy of recognition. Clichés are there for a reason—they work. However, too many times, in many novels,  not a single character is interesting enough to silence these repetitive tropes. Fortunately, Jo did not let me down, staying interesting and complex despite being surrounded with annoying teenage drama. Plus, she’s funny and adorable.

On the other hand, I have no other opinions about Julian besides that he is a normal horny teenager with a cute and funny personality that blended well with his counterpart (Jo). He is an entertaining and relatable character in general, but compared to Jo he lacks in layers.

For my final rating I am giving Night Orchid a 3.5/5 for the refreshing dynamics of the main characters. I truly enjoyed their interaction despite the aforementioned issues.

Posted in book reviews

REVIEW: The Disappearance of Emily: Destiny Falls Mystery and Magic, Book 2 by Elizabeth Pantley

Good day, Congress!

I’ve arrived with another book review for you. This time for a light mystery novel by Elizabeth Pantley. This is an Advanced Review Copy I received from Reedsy Discovery.

  • Genre: Cozy Mystery
  • Published: March 15, 2021
  • Rating: 3/5

A fun mystery. That impression after reading the synopsis made me want to read The Disappearance of Emily—I thought it was a good change from the heavy suspense I had just finished reading. In my excitement though, I failed to recognize that it was the second book to a series of books under the Destiny Falls Mystery and Magic until I was already halfway through it. If that wasn’t enough, it took me too long to realize that the Emily in title The Disappearance of Emily was not our main female character, Hayden, but instead somebody else. Talk about dense.

I was conflicted, because I now saw why some details in the story were unfamiliar to me. Obviously, this isn’t a standalone installment. I considered dropping this one so a better suited reviewer—one that has read the first book—can share their more expanded review. But I was getting bummed out thinking about that. I wanted to finish this. And so I decided to give a review basing solely on my undertaking of this novel alone.

The setting of this novel is its ultimate selling point for me. An enchanted world that adjusts to its inhabitants’ definition of beauty and perfection, Destiny Falls seemed to offer the best life that anyone could ever dream of. Having the most elaborate architectural designs for your home is one thing; living in a house that seemed to have a life of its own is another. Imagine finding a new adjoining room in your own room that opens to an ice cream shop just because you suddenly craved for an iced dessert, or discovering a whole new look to your kitchen the next day that is as magnificent as its look the day before? If only.

Reading about the incredible and magical sites was the highlight for me. I especially liked reading about the Caldwell crest’s rich kitchen. The homey feel of it like “a warm rustic retreat” as Hayden described it makes me envious and wishing to see it in reality. My sensory memory brought in the smell of freshly baked bread as I pictured that kitchen in my head.

The emphasis on the near perfection of Destiny Falls heightened my cautiousness towards it. In turn, it made me question why Hayden seemed too laid back and too accepting of the new world that she was sucked into. Why was she so trusting of Destiny Falls and its people? As she shared laughs with her family and expressed the best of this world I couldn’t help but worry for her. An alternate world is frightening in itself, but an enchanted one that sounded too much like anyone’s dream paradise? Definitely up the suspicious ladder. Shouldn’t she feel a bit more panicked to the fact that she was literally snatched from her world and couldn’t have the free will of leaving whenever she wanted? Again, I have not read the first book, so I probably missed pivotal happenings that made her this way.

As we already know, this is the second installment in a series of books. So the resolution of the main conflict that is the secrets of Destiny Falls and all that it entails is not revealed here. What exactly is in Gladstone? What happened to Emily (Hayden’s mother)? Who is the witch? We will have to read the third installment to know.

Instead, we get a tiny glimpse of what is about to come as we witness Hayden navigate through her new world. The crack to Destiny Falls’ perfect image started in the ferry terminal where Hayden catches the oddity of the ferry passengers’ behavior and from that she meets the ferry captain who warned her of imminent danger. Then tension rose as the said captain dies, and the clueless Hayden who has only been in Destiny Falls for approximately a month is bombarded with secrecy and deaths. Here I could empathize with her more as she slowly realized how “excluded” she was in this new home of hers.

Hayden as a character confused me a little bit. As I’ve mentioned I couldn’t grasp her honest ease with her new life in a new world. A part of me suspected that she was being manipulated into loving Destiny Falls as it was the only reason why she wasn’t freaking out internally. I was afraid that they—her family and friends— would all reveal themselves to be wolves in sheep’s clothing. Later on she displayed the emotions I was wondering whether or not she could still possess—to miss her other family in the normal world. This and the scene that resonated with me the most, when a member of her family was subjected into danger as a result of her being a keeper of an important package the abductors wanted, proved that her family was genuine with her.

In that particular scene I could see myself in her shoes. The helplessness that she felt when she tried to explain her side to her family, and the disappointment in their faces that made explaining hard to do spoke to me so deeply. Too often I find myself in this situation where I try to do what I think is best for everyone but end up disappointing my family. I felt that it was unfair of them to not try and understand her situation.

I relate to Hayden in the way she reacts to things that happen around her. I especially share the same sentiment when it comes to the cats she lives with. However, noticing my likeness to her, I had moments of reflecting my world view. Because I find Hayden to have a childlike innocence that made her seem younger than she actually is. I often think of her a teenager when she isn’t.

The general tone of this story is light and childlike. As the majority of it is told in Hayden’s point of view it took a tone reminiscent of a children’s fantasy book, which adds to its overall charm. Even the witch’s parts were told almost comically. Reading this novel gave me the same type of rush as watching the Barbie movies I’ve watched in my childhood. Hayden as whoever Barbie is playing in a particular movie, and the witch is the villain with her trio of clumsy aid.  I would love to read this series further from the first to the last. My final rating is 3/5.

Posted in Book Recommendations, book reviews, Occult Fiction, Psychological Fiction

REVIEW: Eloise by Judy Finnigan

Genre: Psychological Fiction/Occult Fiction

First Published: September 13, 2013

Good day, Congress!

In this week’s review I will be sharing my thoughts on Judy Finnigan’s 2013 debut novel, Eloise. It is a book that I’ve thrifted a long time ago, but have only read recently. Let me explain why I purchased a copy of this novel.

“What secrets did she take to her grave?”, it said on the cover as I picked up this chunky hardbound with the intriguing cover design from a pile of assorted clearance-priced books. I flipped its cover and read the synopsis that was printed on the inside of the cover flap.  Intrigued, and further delighted upon seeing the inexpensiveness printed at the back cover, I purchased the book along with several of Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb’s books—and left it collecting dust in my shelf until a few years later, today.

Well…not really until today. I’ve started to read the book days after buying it, but it was also around that time that I’ve became taken with J.D. Robb’s In Death Series. I remember completely putting this read off as all I thought about was the fast-paced romantic suspense that was the In Death series. Craving for that theme I then lost interest in  Eloise.

Finally, it was high time that I picked up where I left off. I had no lingering feelings from the last book that I read, and I was here for it. So, without any expectations I read Eloise, and boy did I not put that book down. It captured me hook, line, and sinker. My heart hurts just thinking about it.

I felt mad, frustrated, and heartbroken reading this book. My investment in it, I just now realized, is summarized as frustration and helplessness for Cathy’s situation and sympathy and anguish for Eloise’s demise. The whole afternoon that I was seated cross-legged, reading page after page, I couldn’t catch a break as I felt agitated with Cathy’s internal struggle of keeping her family together, specifically her husband who has an ugly habit of patronizing her, while ominous dreams involving her recently passed friend plagued her. Then there was Eloise. Beautiful, bright, theatrical, and bodacious in life; mysterious, sorrowful and frightened in death. Even in the dawning of her inevitable early death she was shining to the world. Albeit, in make believe hope and optimism.

Set in Cornwall, a quiet county in Southwestern England, Eloise sets a tone of gothic mystery that gets tragic as you read through.  It sets the sullen mood that mirrors the tragedy that was apparently the truth to Eloise’s life just as Cathy’s love for the place reflects her investment in Eloise’s death.

The conflict revolves around both women as their roles as mothers and wives are taken into shaky grounds. Cathy, being a woman with a history of depression, struggles to figure out if her dead friend was really haunting her, or if she was truly slowly spiraling into depression prompted by self-guilt over Ellie’s death as insisted by her husband; While Eloise—apparition or hallucination—has left behind secrets she had kept buried throughout her lifetime, has sullied her relationship with her husband because of it and now could be the cause to the endangerment of her children.

As mentioned, it is not a fast-paced, thrilling novel like some of you might expect it to be judging from the cover. It will not leave you shaking in fear, bone deep in chills. Reading this with that expectation will most likely leave you disappointed. You might think it repetitive and dragging—that’s what I felt the first time. Even the narrator (Cathy) will seem boring to you.

Leave that standard behind before you dive in. I speak for my personal experience, and I can only say that this plotline is splendid.  I ended up with tears in my eyes as the height of it revealed an extra revelation that was just too heartbreaking for me to handle. And the denouement was bittersweet.

Where there any questionable scenes?

There has been a question that has been bugging me since Eloise started desperately asking—and sometimes forcing—Cathy to help her. If she can talk to her, then why not just tell Cathy her secret so that none of what had ensued happened? Up until this point, when I’m typing these words, I cited it as a plot hole of the novel. However, and going back to wondering whether she was truly an apparition or just a product of Cathy’s dwindling mental health, could it be that Eloise wasn’t truly haunting and that Cathy created her in mind? That would explain why she couldn’t tell Cathy the secret, because it was all purely Cathy’s instincts that told her there was something wrong, and that she needed to pursue and find out on her own. There are instances where it was hinted, although there are also others that support the theory of Eloise actually haunting. I will leave that your discretion.

My favorite character in this novel is Eloise even though she had very limited appearance as a ghost. It’s her tragic back story that has managed to move me to tears. She loved, she lost, and she died. Why didn’t she live a genuinely happy life?

As for Cathy, I sympathized with her. Her relationships were at stake in the process of helping her deceased friend arrive at peace. In her side of the story is where I felt the frustration—with people around suspecting her of losing her mind. Her husband, who is a psychiatrist, lords over her simply because of her history with depression. It frustrated me that any slight upset makes him suspicious and bristle with clinical diagnosis as if she wasn’t his wife.

Why was she still hanging with this man? I often asked in frustration. And yet I understood why she stayed with him. As much as he had a massive ego, he did in fact loved her as well. I wince at myself for it. Admittedly, I had decided to dislike him when I was reading the first few chapters of the book for his self-importance and disregard of her feelings. And though I believe he truly loves and cares about her, his self-righteousness is problematic.

No character in this book is perfectly good, which I find fitting as it makes them interesting.

This dramatic mystery will make you ponder over the matter of life. What secrets people keep, and what it takes to overturn a chance to live a truly happy life and miss the goodness that could’ve been lived with it. 

Final Rating: 5/5 (Recommended)

That’s it for this review, Congress. Don’t forget to follow me in my social media accounts, and if you want to support me, you can also buy me coffee. Links to the side of your screens.

Goodbye!

Posted in Letters to Congress

June 2021 Fictional Book Reviews and Reading List

Dear, Congress

June has arrived. Have you lined up your reading lists? Or are you the type to be spontaneous?

The Reading Congress has also set up this month’s book reviews and books-to-read list.


Beating the Lie: Based on a True Story by Rachel San
Genre: Contemporary Romance

The stand alone novel that follows Living a Lie is already up on my blog. It tells the subsequent happenings of a woman’s life about a year after divorcing her manipulative husband. I gave it 3 stars out of 5.

The Disappearance of Emily (Destiny Falls Mystery and Magic #2) by Elizabeth Pantley
Genre: Cozy Mystery

A book I missed to realize is a second installment. My bad…
This time it isn’t a stand alone, so my review will be solely based on its happenings and will not be influenced by the first book. The author, Miss Elizabeth Pantley, has sent me a copy of the first book to answer all the questions that I had in the second book. My review on that will be coming as well.

The Night Orchid by M.G. Hernadez
Genre: Romantic Suspense

We love a POC main character! The Night Orchid features the story of a Filipino girl named Josephine Ligaya with a special gift of seeing ghosts. Together with a popular jock she happens to have a strong connection with, she seeks out to solve a case of murder that has made a victim out of a popular teenager that used to go to the same school as hers. This is your high school drama with a twist of supernatural.

Eloise by Judy Finnigan
Genre: Mystery/Paranormal Mystery

Cathy is being haunted by her deceased friend, Eloise. Or is she? Eloise cries for help in her dreams. She tells Cathy her kids are in danger, but of what she can’t tell. Now Cathy must uncover the secret behind her friend’s seemingly natural death, and hope that it answers all her questions. There must be danger, because if there isn’t, then she must be going out of her mind. I’m so excited to share my review on this book. Please wait for it.

This is the first batch of books I will be reading this month:

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Genre: Historical Fiction

Falling into Magic: Destiny Falls Mystery and Magic by Elizabeth Pantley
Genre: Cozy Mystey

Shattered Dreams by Shirley Wilkinson
Genre: Romantic Suspense

Make sure to follow me on all my social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, kofi, Instagram) to get updates on my June reads.

That is all for today, Congress.

Sincerely,

The Reading Congress

Posted in book reviews

REVIEW: Beating the Lie by Rachel San

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Published: January 22, 2021

It is here! My first review as a reviewer for reedsy Discovery. I have already talked about what went down to me becoming a reviewer for the platform in my letter to you, so enough with the chatter and on with the review.

Beating the Lie is the sequel to Rachel San’s first published novel, Living a Lie. It tells the subsequent happenings of Nicole’s life about a year after divorcing her manipulative husband, Razi. In this continuation Nicole faces another challenge when Razi tries to use the law against her by accusing her of endangering his life as she, supposedly, lost her sanity. With only a day to prepare, Nicole decides to stand up for herself and ultimately defeat the person fully intent on sabotaging her once again. Although being a sequel, Rachel San expressed that “the story stands in its own right”. Beating the Lie is described as “a suspenseful novel filled with endless twists and turns, based on true events.” This review is from the perspective of not having read the first novel, and the inputs gathered are solely based on this reading.

It starts in a somber tone depicting Nicole’s new life as a divorcee. This was a bit underwhelming to me at the beginning, but soon learned to appreciate as the story progressed as I realized how perfectly the opening scene fit the whole mood of the story.

Having not read the first novel my opinions of Nicole depended on the recollections and reflections she’s had of her past self. In the further unravelling, I found and could finally see the intelligent and strong woman that she has always been, and that ultimately beat the lie that was her ex-husband. In the same way, I could not see the purportedly charismatic ex-husband in this plot. Instead, I was greatly amused at how, from the recounts, he appeared to be one living mess of immaturity, self-centeredness, and sleaziness. On the other hand, I was astounded of such a character that reflected a loathsome life of lies, manipulation, and corruption.

As to the theme, I consider the suspense to be mild, even minimal, considering how straightforward the plot is and the only thrilling parts are the piecing together of the fragments that made up Razi’s double life, which was essentially unsurprising.

Overall, I enjoyed this novel. I appreciate its conciseness that made reading enjoyable and not dragged out. I do feel the lack of connection with the characters in terms of their backgrounds as this plot focused in bringing out their other sides. Perhaps reading the first novel can offer a better understanding and appreciation for this novel. 

Final Rating: 3/5