Posted in Book Recommendations, book reviews, Historical Romance

REVIEW: Memory’s Bride by Decca Price (The Burton Brides, Book 1 / ARC via Reedsy Discovery)

Good day, Congress,

I hope this finds you well. As for me, I am feeling entirely romantic writing this review for Decca Price’s book Memory’s Bride. This novel I keenly recommend for you to read if you are looking for a Victorian story of romance, mystery and growth.

  • Genre: Historical Romance
  • Published: July 6, 2021
  • Rating: 5/5 (RECOMMENDED)

SYNOPSIS:

A spinster at 26, Claire Burton casts off her claustrophobic existence in her parents’ conventional home and embraces a new life in the remote Welsh foothills, in the home of the man she once hoped to marry. There, she devotes herself to preserving the memory of her lover, a popular Victorian novelist, whose death made her a wealthy woman. But her inheritance chains her to the past and isolates her, since “society” assumes she had surrendered her virtue to the man. Why else would he leave her everything? Even her family casts her off.

Despite the stain on her reputation, two men soon pay court. Rhys Fitzgordon and Edward Latimer were boyhood friends of Claire’s lost love; the three men were once inseparable. Now, they will draw her into a web of dark secrets that could cost Claire her life.

Claire is powerfully drawn to Fitzgordon, a man who seems to benefit too frequently from accidents. Several years before, his older brother died, giving him the title of Viscount Montfort and the impoverished Montfort estates. Then his wife fell to her death, thus providing him with the money he lacked. Now, he is determined to recover the land his brother sold to settle debts – the land bequeathed to Claire.

Handsome and confident, Edward Latimer holds the living of the Montfort estates. He leads a comfortable gentleman’s life and wields considerable influence as rector. But he is haunted by his sister, Lucy, who disappeared two years earlier. Claire feels safe with him but gradually realizes he believes the secret to Lucy’s whereabouts is hidden in Claire’s house, perhaps in diaries and letters or an unpublished manuscript he is determined to find. She understands too late that he already knows what happened to Lucy and will do anything to bury the past.

As Claire unravels the mystery of her inheritance and open her heart to love again, she makes painful discoveries about herself, her lovers and the complexities of human passion before she learns the meaning of true love.

REVIEW:

Set in 1870s England, our central character in this historical novel is a woman named Claire Burton. At the age of 26, she is aware that she is rapidly on her way to being on the shelf. In such a time with absurd social standards for women, Claire at her age and reputation—that is, she is not entirely a lady anymore, doubts especially underscored when a man (Josiah Carter) she is not wedded to has left her all his possessions in his death—is unlikely to meet with a wedding proposal.

In this novel I got a glimpse of how extreme societal expectations from women were in finding relationships back then. A woman’s chance to marry is diminished if certain qualities such as innocence is amiss even just outwardly. A woman was expected to act innocent, unopinionated, ignorant, and weak so she must only depend on her husband. All of these were down the drain for Claire for she was brought down by her first love in his death. Having lived in a conservative time, Claire is even more doomed when she slowly realizes that what she assumes to be genuine love may not be at all and is only a product of her own ignorance. What more, her clouded decisions driven by this notion leads her to Herefordshire where her deceased lover’s childhood friends introduce her to twisting troubles of attraction, mystery, love. But, above all, in Herefordshire Claire discovers her self.

Claire is an impressive woman. Barred from a lot of life experiences, she goes against the conventions of her time with the intention of fostering her deluded love for her dead lover, only to find out that he was not what she thought him to be. I would imagine a woman abruptly left alone to fend for herself would definitely be scared, but Claire displayed a commendable courage that ultimately led to her growth as a person. Understandably, she’s made some mistakes, even grave ones that would pummel any weak human enough so they can no longer stand up.  Claire went through it all with her heart and soul.

And then there’s Rhys Fitzgordon and Edward Latimer that provided the exciting twist of love triangle in this novel. Two gentlemen with contrasting appeals—Rhys being the aloof and enchanting Viscount of Monfort estate and Edward, the handsome and dependable reverend— show Claire what she’s missing and open her eyes to both the best and worst of life.

*Spoiler Alert*

There was no doubt in me that Rhys was who I would be rooting for from the get go. He is one fever dream of a man. A realist who was too damaged from his past who needed to be saved, his realist perspective awakened Claire’s romantic views to the world; the same way Claire softened his toughened heart.  I could not, however, fault Claire for marrying Edward for she, despite everything that she’s been through, was still a woman with ideals and Edward provided that for her.

*End of Spoiler*

More than  finding what true love is for her, it is more of witnessing a woman both sheltered and caged from the reality of life find her true self  in her discoveries and mistakes. As she bravely throws herself into the chasm of an unconventional life wherein no one is responsible for her welfare but herself, I became a spectator to her tumultuous life full of fear, doubts, and risks. Reading Memory’s Bride can be likened to witnessing the growth of an innocent child, or the first flight of a chick from its nest.

While I can’t measure historical accuracy, as a reader I can vouch that this Victorian story of a woman made victim of her conservative time, who learns from her mistakes to rise to become wiser, will not disappoint you. Written by award-winning journalist, Decca Price, Memory’s Bride has received a nod of approval as a Daphne du Maurier finalist in the unpublished historical category in its early stages in 2015.

How did that sound to you? Interesting enough to read?

 Well, like I said, it won’t disappoint you.

Thank you for dropping by my blog and reading my review.

You can follow me on my social media accounts, and if you’d like to support me I also have a Kofi page up for that-all linked at the sidebar on your desktop, or the footer on your phones.

Goodbye now!

Posted in Letters to Congress

August 2021 Reading List

Good day, Congress.

Another month passes by, and here we are at the eighth mark of the year. It’s August!!

If you follow me on Twitter, you probably read my tweet about reading historical fictions for this month. However, and totally surprising, I received my first direct submission yesterday for an Action and Adventure Horror novel. That being said two out of three books will be historical and the last book will be the submission.

Here is the list:

  1. The King’s Secret Matter (Tudor Saga #4) by Jean Plaidy (Eleanor Alice Burford)
The King's Secret Matter by Jean Plaidy (Eleanor Alice Burford)
-Image of a Woman sitting down with her side facing us

Genre: Historical/Biographical Fiction

Published: 1962

BLURB:

The fourth of Jean Plaidy’s Tudor novels in which Henry VIII secretly plots his divorce from Katherine of Aragon.

After twelve years of marriage, the once fortuitous union of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon has declined into a loveless stalemate.Their only child, Mary, is disregarded as a suitable heir, and Henry’s need for a legitimate son to protect the Tudor throne has turned him into a callous and greatly feared ruler.

When the young and intriguing Anne Boleyn arrives from the French court, Henry is easily captivated by her dark beauty and bold spirit.But his desire to possess the wily girl leads to a deadly struggle of power that promises to tear apart the lives of Katharine and Mary, and forever change England’s faith…

2. Memory’s Bride by Decca Price

Memory’s Bride by Decca Price
-Image of a woman, body facing front, looking to the side

Genre: Historical Romance

Published: July 6, 2021

BLURB:

A spinster at 26, Claire Burton casts off her claustrophobic existence in her parents’ conventional home and embraces a new life in the remote Welsh foothills, in the home of the man she once hoped to marry. There, she devotes herself to preserving the memory of her lover, a popular Victorian novelist, whose death made her a wealthy woman. But her inheritance chains her to the past and isolates her, since “society” assumes she had surrendered her virtue to the man. Why else would he leave her everything? Even her family casts her off.

Despite the stain on her reputation, two men soon pay court. Rhys Fitzgordon and Edward Latimer were boyhood friends of Claire’s lost love; the three men were once inseparable. Now, they will draw her into a web of dark secrets that could cost Claire her life.

Claire is powerfully drawn to Fitzgordon, a man who seems to benefit too frequently from accidents. Several years before, his older brother died, giving him the title of Viscount Montfort and the impoverished Montfort estates. Then his wife fell to her death, thus providing him with the money he lacked. Now, he is determined to recover the land his brother sold to settle debts – the land bequeathed to Claire.

Handsome and confident, Edward Latimer holds the living of the Montfort estates. He leads a comfortable gentleman’s life and wields considerable influence as rector. But he is haunted by his sister, Lucy, who disappeared two years earlier. Claire feels safe with him but gradually realizes he believes the secret to Lucy’s whereabouts is hidden in Claire’s house, perhaps in diaries and letters or an unpublished manuscript he is determined to find. She understands too late that he already knows what happened to Lucy and will do anything to bury the past.

As Claire unravels the mystery of her inheritance and open her heart to love again, she makes painful discoveries about herself, her lovers and the complexities of human passion before she learns the meaning of true love.

3. We Happy Downunder by Jack Holmes

Genre: Action and Adventure

Published: August 5, 2021

BLURB:

We Happy Few Downunder of the Left-wing Australia is set in a drug-fuelled economy, Left-wing futuristic city in an alternative Late 2030’s, in which each of the three characters hide, fight, and resist their way out of a delusional Joy-obsessed left-wing world.

The year of the story i2038, in the Far-left Capital of Australia, Wellington Wells. Similar to the left-wing censorship of Australia that looks fairly peaceful, but some citizens don’t react to the Left-wing medication. Those who are offended by the left and obviously as Wastrels are forced to live in the abandoned rural areas known as the Garden District. And those offended by the left are subjects to be random beaten by Joy addicts as well as the Police who roam the city looking for Downers.

For the beginning of the story starts off with Arthur Hastings, a clerk whose job is redacting old news stumbles an article of himself and his brother which makes him refuse to take Joy and become right-wing. As he becomes sober from the Left, He realises a sick reality he lived in, Arthur’s colleagues who are high on left-wing Joy knowing Arthurs not a leftist. And Arthur became a real Downer.

That is it for August’s reading list. Bye!!

Posted in book reviews

REVIEW: The Teacher (ARC via Reedsy Discovery)

Good day, Congress.

How have you been? It’s finally August. Before I announce my reading list for this month, let me share my last review for the month of July. It’s The Teacher by Rod Betancourt. This horror novel was a treat to read, and how I would describe it in the briefest way is this: poor guy tired of annoying, diabolical children finally strikes back at their little asses. Hey, read on so you can have more take from my experience with this novel.

  • Genre: Horror
  • Published: June 25, 2021
  • Rating: 5/5

BLURB:

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…

REVIEW:

Since starting to review ARCs, it is the first time that I have been impressed. The Teacher has exceeded my expectations. The world-building, the characters, the events, and how they all connect are well-tailored to make a slow, steadily sustained thrill that lead to a hang enough to make readers anticipate the second installment. The Teacher is the competently gripping first book to Rod Betancourt’s exciting horror series, The Ghosts of Eternity Grove.

The story is set in a city called Eternity Grove where in the later chapters, it was revealed that the city, or town, was unlike any other. Essentially, Eternity Grove achieved ample power that made it an independent and (seemingly) self-sustaining local government of its own merit. In it resides our main character Christopher Reyes.

Chris is a non-special elementary school teacher in Eternity Grove’s famous educational institution. That is until the bizarre events start to haunt him. Fearing that he is losing his sanity, he dreads that it would start to affect his students—especially when a voice in his head starts planting lascivious thoughts involving his ten-year-old students. Totally freaked, he takes what he assumes to be a needed rest. But from this, the inexplicable happenings just snowballs until he is convinced that an entity is eager to haunt him, rather than his mind is giving up on him.

Chris also hints on the suspicious nature of the police and even the hospital: two of the city’s staple institutions. Due to his doubt, he starts to form his own investigation after having a close encounter with the devious entity. That is when he starts to suspect that these scary misfortunes may have been done by his very own students. From this we join Chris as he journeys to expose what aims to kill him and slowly realize that his case may not be isolated after all as it becomes evidently obvious that it connects to a lot of tragic deaths in his town.

Like any other story, a huge part that contributes to a novel’s success is the characters that are in it. Personally, as I have recently been reminded, it doesn’t matter if the novel has a solid ground of plot if the main character sucked terribly. The novel would greatly be devalued. I gave this novel a perfect score because not only did I enjoy the plot, I rooted for Chris as well. He is a brave character with the guts to play by the devil’s game. After reading the novel, even when he has done greater feat, I would still point this one time that he answered back to his tormenter with it’s name and had satisfactorily rendered them speechless. The novel also introduced side characters that are equally as interesting.

Congratulations to Rod Betancourt for making this novel.

Posted in book reviews

REVIEW: The Wench is Dead by Colin Dexter

Good day, Congress.

Now my review for Colin Dexter’s The Wench is Dead is finally up. I honestly enjoyed this novel, although you will find that I was challenged to get in a regular pacing. And that costed the novel a point, hence the final rating below.

  • Genre: Mystery/ Crime Fiction
  • Published: October 26, 1989
  • Rating: 4/5

BLURB:

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 . . .

REVIEW:

The Wench is Dead is an award-winning (recipient of two Gold Dagger awards in 1989) historical crime novel that is the eighth installation from the series Inspector Morse by English crime writer, Colin Dexter. In this novel, Morse, the protagonist, is confined into Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital to receive treatment for his perforated ulcer. To help ease his convalescence boredom, he reads Murder on the Oxford Canal provided by Detective Sergeant Lewis, which accounts the investigation and trial following the death of one Joanna Franks some 130 years past that ended with the hanging of two boatmen indicted for her murder. Interestingly, upon researching online, I found that the author based this novel off the murder case of Christina Collins that happened in 1839.

The novel is told in two perspectives. One that frames the second narrative is of Morse’s encounters in the confines of the hospital, and the other is the actual narrating of the crime. Morse finds that something was amiss, prompting him to doubt the comeuppance of the two boatmen’s lives. So, despite it being a long cold crime, he becomes invested in it, and proceeds to piece together the evidence provided by the book with the proofs he’s amassed with the help of Lewis and Christine Greenaway.

My analytical skills was challenged as Morse continues to question every arrangement of evidence in the book. Morse notes his suspicion from oddities of the investigation findings to the confusing timeline of recorded events that transpired during the final hours of Joanna Franks. Colin Dexter has really put out the work to create a crime case as unpredictable as of Joanna Frank’s. As a reader with expectations, Joanna Frank’s case is a plot device that met my standard. From my first question of “Who really killed Joanna Franks?”, the story takes a turn and turns my question to  “Who was Joanna Franks?” and “What did she do?” making her the center of the mystery instead of just the victim.

Though I am satisfied with the mystery solving of this novel, I do have a major dismay. Despite it being a short read, I took a long time finishing because warming up to Morse proved to be tough at the beginning. It is with his character that I have my only complaint of the novel, and most probably of the whole series if I were to read the whole of it. His fondness for women half his age did not sit well with me. Young women that he gave various degrees of sexual regard. Morse is at his fifties at this point, and while it isn’t uncommon for May December love affairs to happen, I don’t appreciate reading these thoughts of an old man about women that are my age in the story. Also, it is suspicious the author made these young women surrounding Morse attracted to him. It makes me doubt if it was just an innocent layer, or if that had a deep rooted message to it.

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.