Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Iron Flame by Rebecca Yarros

“The first year is when some of us lose our lives. The second year is when the rest of us lose our humanity.” —Xaden Riorson

Everyone expected Violet Sorrengail to die during her first year at Basgiath War College—Violet included. But Threshing was only the first impossible test meant to weed out the weak-willed, the unworthy, and the unlucky.

Now the real training begins, and Violet’s already wondering how she’ll get through. It’s not just that it’s grueling and maliciously brutal, or even that it’s designed to stretch the riders’ capacity for pain beyond endurance. It’s the new vice commandant, who’s made it his personal mission to teach Violet exactly how powerless she is–unless she betrays the man she loves.

Although Violet’s body might be weaker and frailer than everyone else’s, she still has her wits—and a will of iron. And leadership is forgetting the most important lesson Basgiath has taught her: Dragon riders make their own rules.

But a determination to survive won’t be enough this year.

Because Violet knows the real secret hidden for centuries at Basgiath War College—and nothing, not even dragon fire, may be enough to save them in the end.

Hardcover, 623 pages
Published November 7, 2023
 by Entangled: Red Tower Books
3/5 stars

Please be advised, an unpopular opinion lies ahead.

I confess, I didn't love this book as much as I did Fourth Wing. In fact, I barely liked it. The only reason I trudged through this colossal tome was because I was genuinely curious about the ending. So, let's start with the ending. Yes, it did deliver an unexpected twist. Will it be enough to keep me invested in this series? Only time will tell.

Now, why didn't this book earn a five-star rating from me? Well, for starters, I found it to be slow-moving and often found myself bored, struggling to pick it up. Thankfully, the audio version was available through CloudLibrary, which proved to be a tremendous help.

I couldn't help but notice that Violet's character seemed to regress in maturity with her constant bickering with Xaden and her repeated displays of distrust. On the other hand, I yearned for more of Andarna, a snarky adolescent dragon with an attitude, I think it would have added a great deal to the story.

Additionally, I found the writing to be choppy, filled with excessive filler content. It would have been wonderful to have more backstory for the supporting cast, especially considering there are three more books to come in this series.

While there were a couple of twists, one of which I anticipated, so there was no surprise there, I couldn't help but wonder if the rush to publish this book so soon after Fourth Wing affected its quality, resulting in repetitive elements.

In conclusion, this book fell short of my expectations and the ensuing hype.

This book was part of my 2023 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge. 

Thursday, November 23, 2023

The Porcelain Maker by Sarah Freethy

Two lovers caught at the crossroads of history.
A daughter's search for the truth.

Germany, 1929: Under the dazzling lights of Berlin, two people are drawn together: Max, a Jewish architect, and Bettina, a beautiful and celebrated German avant-garde artist. But their bright beginning is soon dimmed by the rising threat of Nazism. In time, Max is arrested and sent to the concentration camp at Dachau where only his talent at making exquisite porcelain figures stands between him and death. Everything Bettina has done up until now has been meticulously planned to try to save Max. She would rather die than live another moment without him—but can one moment last a lifetime?

America, 1993. Bettina’s daughter Clara embarks on a journey to trace her roots and discover the identity of her father, a secret her mother has kept from her for reasons she’s never understood. As Clara starts piecing the puzzle together, we are transported back in time, where life is lived on a razor’s edge, and deception and death lurk around every corner.

Kindle Edition, 416 pages
Expected publication November 7, 2023
by St. Martin's Press
Audiobook, 11 hours 12 minutes
by Macmillain Audio
4/5 stars

The Porcelain Maker is a dual time period story that revolves around an unknown part of WW2 history that was new for this reader.  I was lucky to get both the digital arc in audio and kindle format - I love being a hybrid reader.  Both worked nicely, the reader for the audio was stellar bringing this story to life.

The past story begins in 1929 giving the history of Bertie and Max's relationship and what transpired until they meet again in Dachau concentrate camp.  In Dachau there is a porcelain factory where this  story gets its inspiration.

Jump ahead to 1993 as Bertie's daughter seeks to trace her roots and find out who her father really is.

The Porcelain Marker is an intriguing story that was well written, mysterious and heart breaking, given the time period how could it be anything but.  Definitely a good fit for those HF readers who like something different.

I love the author notes, I miss them especially in a story like this.  It would have been great to know the author's inspiration and what was fact vs fiction.

My thanks to St. Martin's Press and Macmillain Audio for advanced copies in exchange for a honest review.

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Murder Uncorked by Maddie Day

Raise a glass to Cece Barton, a widowed single mom and recent L.A. transplant to California wine country, who suddenly finds herself at the center of a murder investigation in this sparkling new mystery series from Agatha Award–winning and national bestselling author Maddie Day.

As the manager of Vino y Vida Wine Bar in Colinas, Cecelia “Cece” Barton’s first Alexander Valley harvest is a whirlwind of activity. Her twin sister, Allie Halstead, who owns a nearby Victorian bed & breakfast, is accustomed to the hustle and bustle of peak tourist season. But Cece barely has a moment to enjoy her new home in between worrying about her estranged college-age daughter, juggling her responsibilities at the bar, and navigating the sticky politics of the local wine association. Just when it seems things can’t grow any more intense, Colinas is rocked by a murder within the wine community . . . and Cece is identified as a possible suspect!

With her reputation and her livelihood on the line—and the Sonoma County deputy sheriff breathing down her neck—Cece has no choice but to open up her own murder investigation. Tensions are already high in the valley, as a massive wildfire creeps toward Colinas, threatening homes, vineyards, and the vital tourist trade. And now, with a murderer on the loose, and Cece’s sleuthing exposing the valley’s bitterest old rivalries and secret new alliances, Colinas feels ready to pop! But with Allie’s help, Cece is determined to catch the killer and clear her name before everything she’s worked so hard for goes up in flames . .

Paperback, 288 pages
Published October 24, 2023
 by ‎ Kensington Cozies
3.5/5 stars

This is my first time reading a Maddie Day book. While cozy mysteries are really not ones that I divulge into that often I was intrigued by the idea of a new series and a new to me author. Plus the MC  is the manager of wine bar, how could one go wrong with that.

CeCe Barton has moved to the wine country to be closer to her twin sister, and to start a new job as manager of a wine bar in Sonoma county. After witnessing an altercation in her bar, one of the men involved has been murdered, and CeCe is now one of the suspects

As she sets out to find out what happen her journey reveals some of the secrets in this town. This is a fun and quick read. Getting to know CeCe and her sister along with this town was a great setting. Also the start of a new series called Barton mystery.  Though this is the beginning there were times throughout this read that I felt I was missing something in terms of things that happened in her past, they made me feel I should know what was going on and that this was not book one

All in all a fun read that will appeal to those that love cozy mysteries. 

My thanks to Kensington Cozies for a print arc in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, November 17, 2023

By the Light of Fireflies by Jenni L. Walsh

Sybil Ludington believes in the legend of fireflies—they appear when you need them most. But it's not until her family is thrust into the dangers of the Revolutionary War, and into George Washington's spy ring, that Sybil experiences firefly magic for herself—guiding her through the darkness, empowering her to figure out who she's supposed to be and how strong she really is—as she delivers her imperative message and warns against a British attack.

is the captivating tale of a young girl's journey as a daughter, a sister, a friend, a spy, and eventually a war hero, completing a midnight ride that cements her place in history as the "female Paul Revere."

Hardcover, 188 pages
Published November 2, 2021 
by Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing
4/5 stars

Jenni L. Walsh has returned again with another middle grade  historical fiction story. I love it when authors take little known historical tidbits and showcases them. Those heroes of the past that did not get the recognition they deserved.

This is a story about Sybil Ludington and her midnight horse ride to warn of impending attacks from loyalist upon her family.

This was a fun read, as it not only told the story of life on a farm, but the time period as well and the dangers that were a foot during the revolutionary war. I love the inclusion of fireflies and that cover!

This would make a great addition in classrooms to learn of a forgotten hero that did a very heroic deed.

This book was part of my 2023 reading off my shelf challenge

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Molly's Letter by Jennifer Donnelly

New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Jennifer Donnelly returns to the unforgettable world of her beloved first novel, The Tea Rose . 

It’s the summer of 1891, New York City, in the early days of Fiona Finnegan’s marriage to Nicholas Soames. Though their marriage is an unconventional one and the wounds of the past are not fully healed, the two best friends are happy together, consumed with chasing their dreams and building a better life for themselves and their loved ones. 

When Fiona senses a quiet love blossoming between her widowed uncle, Michael Finnegan, and his neighbor, Mary Munro, she’s thrilled and hopes that Michael will soon propose to Mary. 

But one night, at a family supper, a surprise announcement tears these hopes asunder. 

Will Mary be lost to a determined suitor? Or will Fiona and Nick find a way to unite two souls who belong together but are held apart by grief, pride, and too many words left unspoken?

 Molly’s Letter is a love letter to family, friends, and the bonds that outlast loss, pain, and sometimes, even life itself. 

Molly’s Letter is the first in a series of novella-length stories written straight from the heart by Jennifer Donnelly for readers of her Tea Rose saga. Each one is inspired by – and set within – the epic world of The Tea Rose , The Winter Rose, and The Wild Rose .

Paperback, 128 pages
Published September 23, 2023
 by Wild Rumpus, LLC
4/5 stars

I started reading Jennifer Donnelly with her YA books and progressed to The Tea Rose Saga. All the books that I’ve read are historical and some of my favorites

Molly's Letter is set in the world of The Tea Rose saga, taking place in 1891. Molly is the recently departed wife of Fiona‘s uncle Michael, she leaves behind a young daughter also. This is a story of family and friends, love and loss, and new beginning. It’s a story of the past reaching through grief and heartache to give one’s heart another chance.

Well this was a quick read, coming in at 119 pages, it packs a punch and has me yearning to get back and possibly do a reread of Fiona’s story.

This is the first book in a series of novella for readers of the saga, I can’t wait to see what comes next.

My thanks to the author, Jennifer Donnelly, for gifting me with a copy of this book, my opinions are entirely my own.

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Holly by Stephen King

Holly Gibney, one of Stephen King’s most compelling and ingeniously resourceful characters, returns in this thrilling novel to solve the gruesome truth behind multiple disappearances in a midwestern town.

“Sometimes the universe throws you a rope.” — BILL HODGES

Stephen King’s Holly marks the triumphant return of beloved King character Holly Gibney. Readers have witnessed Holly’s gradual transformation from a shy (but also brave and ethical) recluse in Mr. Mercedes to Bill Hodges’s partner in Finders Keepers to a full-fledged, smart, and occasionally tough private detective in The Outsider. In King’s new novel, Holly is on her own, and up against a pair of unimaginably depraved and brilliantly disguised adversaries.

When Penny Dahl calls the Finders Keepers detective agency hoping for help locating her missing daughter, Holly is reluctant to accept the case. Her partner, Pete, has Covid. Her (very complicated) mother has just died. And Holly is meant to be on leave. But something in Penny Dahl’s desperate voice makes it impossible for Holly to turn her down.

Mere blocks from where Bonnie Dahl disappeared live Professors Rodney and Emily Harris. They are the picture of bourgeois respectability: married octogenarians, devoted to each other, and semi-retired lifelong academics. But they are harboring an unholy secret in the basement of their well-kept, book-lined home, one that may be related to Bonnie’s disappearance. And it will prove nearly impossible to discover what they are up to: they are savvy, they are patient, and they are ruthless.

Holly must summon all her formidable talents to outthink and outmaneuver the shockingly twisted professors in this chilling new masterwork from Stephen King.

Hardcover, 449 pages
Published September 5, 2023
 by Scribner
4/5 stars

Stephen King is a hit or miss author for me. Some of his earliest works I really enjoyed, Misery, Pet Cemetery, Cujo, and Carrie, along with his Mr. Mercedes series. Some of his later works just didn’t float my boat. When Holly was released, I really did not pay much attention to it, but once I heard that Holly stood for Holly Gibney from the Mr. Mercedes series, I immediately ran out and bought the book. If you’ve read this series, then you know what I’m talking about, Holly was one of my favourite characters and in this book she is again joined with sidekicks, Jerome, Barbara, and Pete.

Holly is a book that you really need to pay attention to in terms of timeline. Well part of it is current it does jump back-and-forth within the same year, personally I feel it is a better read than trying to keep up in the audio version.

People disappear over the years with no explanation or closure. When a recent disappearance has a mother searching for her daughter, she enlists the help of Holly Gibney to find out what happened. What follows is a twisted story that was intricately woven and pieced together. It was addicting and entertaining to watch all these puzzle pieces fit together. I really enjoyed this book though  some of the subject matter is disturbing, which isn’t surprising given Stephen King‘s reputation.

Coming in at about 450 pages, it could have been shorter if King eased up on his political views, pandemic opinions, in terms of vaccinations/masks, which can be a turn off no matter what side of the fence you sit on. For that reason I am giving this a four out of five just because over that big span of pages I was tired of some of the repetition.

If you haven’t read the Mr. Mercedes series you will do fine with this as a standalone. However, I highly recommend going back and reading it because it is a very good series and gives you more of a background into Holly’s life her family and upbringing, which does play a part in the story paragraph

This book was part of my 2023 reading off my shelf challenge