That's What She Read

That's What She Read



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Weekly Top Posts: 2023-04-02
2023-04-02 04:00 UTC

  1. Sunday Reflections – 26 March 2023
  2. Simply divine
  3. How dare you, Alexandra Bracken!
  4. Nerdy goodness
  5. Gothic fiction at its finest

Not your traditional Beauty and the Beast retelling
2023-04-01 15:00 UTC by Michelle

Mountains Made of Glass is the first book in Scarlett St. Clair’s newest series, Fairy Tale Retelling. As the series title lets you know, it is all about fairy tales but with Ms. St. Clair’s spin on them. In this first book, she tackles Beauty and the Beast.

Ms. St. Clair does not just retell the tale as old as time. In Mountains Made of Glass, she also plays around with the story of Rumpelstiltskin. And she doesn’t stop there. Showcasing her love of all things mythical and fantastic, you will also see Slavic and Irish creatures appear throughout the story. When Ms. St. Clair retells a fairy tale, she makes it uniquely hers.

The essential Beauty and the Beast story remains intact in Mountains Made of Glass. A young woman must stay in the mansion of the Beast until he releases her. There are no talking teapots, but we do have a magic mirror and a delightfully snarky brownie named Naeve. The Beast has to make the girl fall in love with him to break a curse. Yada, yada, yada.

The changes Ms. St. Clair brings to the tale add a layer of complexity to this simple tale. For one, the Beast in Mountains Made of Glass is an elven prince. Except, one could make the argument that the Beast could also be the heroine, Gesela. Both are fiery, fiercely independent, easily angered, and downright nasty around other humans. Both are beautiful, and both are beastly. More importantly, they both need something from the other to escape their individual curses.

It wouldn’t be a novel by Scarlett St. Clair if it weren’t spicy, and here too, Ms. St. Clair does not disappoint. In fact, I think she has a lot of fun torturing her two characters in that regard, as both are too proud to cede any iota of control to the other. What I appreciate the most, however, is not the sensual torture but the fact that no matter how desperate they are to have at each other, they both take the time to obtain consent. It’s a little thing, but it means so much in the battle against rape culture.

At 219 pages, Mountains Made of Glass is a fast and fun read. I found it particularly fun to see the changes Ms. St. Clair wrought in this famous tale while maintaining some of the humor from the Beast learning what it is to be human and feel something other than anger. After whipping through this first book and thoroughly enjoying myself, I look forward to seeing what other fairy tales Ms. St. Clair plans to retell in this series.

Nerdy goodness
2023-03-31 15:00 UTC by Michelle

The Bone Wars by Erin S. Evan

The Bone Wars by Erin S. Evan is for anyone who ever sat and poured over books about dinosaurs, who dug into sand or dirt hoping to find a fossil, who thought archaeology was the coolest subject. It is a love story to those people in the form of a suspenseful adventure. Plus, there might be dragons.

The unfortunate thing is that I think The Bone Wars will not appeal to anyone who has no interest in dinosaurs or paleontology. For one, it tends to read like a textbook at times. Ms. Evan fills much of the novel with dinosaur or paleontology minutiae. I know she does so to ensure readers understand what paleontologists do and how they work, but it detracts from the story. There is a difference between ensuring readers understand enough to appreciate what is happening versus over-educating your readers to the detriment of the story, a line Ms. Evan crosses once too often.

Another nitpicky issue I have with The Bone Wars is the book synopsis from the publisher. It makes it seems like we will be bouncing back and forth across timelines and that there is a connection between the three. Except there are no three timelines. There aren’t even two timelines. Everything happens in the present; the only thing we see of the past is through letters beginning each chapter. The book’s synopsis makes it seem like a more complicated story than it is, and the fact that it is not is disappointing.

Then there is the issue I have with a sixteen-year-old leading three experts in their field around the globe in a bone hunt. Even if the sixteen-year-old is a prodigy, the parent in me struggles with this idea and its execution. Molly is not a prodigy. She is simply a girl obsessed with becoming a paleontologist who happens to be with the right people at the wrong time.

Despite all that, I thought The Bone Wars was nerdy goodness. I was one of those kids who wanted to be a paleontologist, and my son’s obsession with dinosaurs made other kids’ obsessions pale in comparison. I also think dinosaurs and dinosaur bones bring out the kid in all of us as we marvel at these giant creatures who were alive millions of years ago. So, I enjoyed running around with Molly, Derek, Sean, and others. I had fun picturing each dinosaur mentioned and thoroughly appreciated the idea posited that dragons did exist once upon a time. I don’t think I enjoyed it enough to continue the series, but it was a fun, nerdy reading experience.

How dare you, Alexandra Bracken!
2023-03-30 15:00 UTC by Michelle

Silver in the Bone by Alexandra Bracken

Silver in the Bone by Alexandra Bracken snuck up on me. It is one of those novels I didn’t know I was enjoying until something big happened. When it did, I was SO upset, and I knew Ms. Bracken got me. I love when that happens, don’t you?

I didn’t think I was enjoying Silver in the Bone because it lags in the middle. There is a big rush to get to a specific place, which is exciting and interesting. Then, the story drags as Tamsin learns everything there is to know about this place and the people who live there. However, the last third of the book makes up for the slowness, and the ending has more than a few shocks to make you scream.

What I love about Silver in the Bone is this new world of magic. It is unlike anything I’ve read before, with its magical community, Sorceresses, fae, monsters, curses, and legends that are real. Ms. Bracken adds edges of reality to her world by using genuine locations across England and touches on legends we all know, namely King Arthur and Camelot. The lengths Tamsin goes to not just survive but thrive in this world only increases my interest.

I also love Tamsin herself. We know she is fierce because she is one of the topic relic hunters in this magical world. We also know she is capable because she survives independently, caring and providing for her brother when their foster father leaves them one night. What we don’t know but learn about her is how alone she is. We see the barriers she erects over her heart to prevent herself from feeling too much, but there is an emotional fragility to her all the same. It breaks your heart to see but invests you in her fate that much more.

Then there is Emrys. It is evident from the moment we meet him that Tamsin’s perception of him is inaccurate. There is an entire story behind his behavior and actions, more than what Tamsin assumes about his lineage. Like with Tamsin, we get glimpses of the truth, and Emrys becomes a much more interesting character as a result. Then, Ms. Bracken does something with his character that still upsets me. There better be a damn good explanation for it, Ms. Bracken!

In the end, it turns out I loved Silver in the Bone. Despite the slow pacing at times, I loved it so much that it would have been a five-star review if it weren’t for what happened with Emrys; it loses a half-star just because I’m still pissed about it. Tamsin’s world is dark and dangerous, something I always appreciate and love, and Tamsin is one hell of a scrappy fighter. The ending leaves plenty of unanswered questions and a surprising plot twist I never saw coming. I can’t wait to read what happens next!


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Simply divine
2023-03-29 15:00 UTC by Michelle

Divine Rivals by Rebecca Ross

Divine Rivals by Rebecca Ross is getting a lot of prepublicity press, and for good reasons. It is one of those books that charms you from the first sentence and has you completely hooked by the end of the first chapter. Ms. Ross creates the most adorable characters and establishes a world that could take place in Europe in the 1920s if it weren’t for the existence of gods and monsters. The whole experience is complete immersion, where lines blur between real life and the fictional one in front of your eyes. From a reader’s perspective, it doesn’t get much better than that.

The power of Divine Rivals lies in Ms. Ross’ writing. It is a thing of beauty. She does not use flowery language or long, complex sentences to build her world or create her characters. Instead, you know she chose each word her words with care, each selected for the maximum impact it would have in whatever she was trying to do, whether it be building a world, creating a character, or describing the action. She succeeds so well in this that you can hear the clacking of the typewriter keys as each character writes a letter or a news article. You can smell the stale air of Iris’ flat and feel her fear as she experiences the front lines of the war for the first time. You forget you are reading a novel and become entirely submerged in this world she builds, and it is wonderful.

Not only do you lose yourself entirely in the story, but Iris and Roman are also two of the most charming characters you will meet. Iris bursts onto the scene running late for work, in the rain, and with a broken heel on her shoe. With that description, I knew that Iris was going to be special. Then she walks into the office with her head held high despite rain-soaked hair and clothes and a lopsided walk, and I fell in love. She is earnest, lovable, loyal, ambitious, and so lonely.

Roman is the perfect foil for Iris, although it may not initially seem so. In truth, I was cautious about Roman knowing he was writing to Iris while she remained clueless. Thankfully, Ms. Ross takes all the potential ickiness about the situation and turns it into an opportunity to see how fragile and awkward Roman is despite his perfect appearance. Those scenes show Roman at his most vulnerable, making me fall in love with him. There is something about a hero like the Avengers with all the brawn and special abilities, but give me a man and woman who show their nervousness, embarrassment, and realness every time.

Divine Rivals by Rebecca Ross is simply divine. I adore Iris and Roman and became full-blown shippers of their relationship after the first set of letters. I also love how she reminds readers of the mystery and romance in written correspondence. The only negative point about the book is that it ends when you are not ready for it to do so. I will be stalking Ms. Ross on social media until we get a release date for the sequel and marking that date in my calendar because it will be an excruciating wait to find out what happens to Iris and Roman next.

Sunday Reflections – 26 March 2023
2023-03-26 15:00 UTC by Michelle

Sunday Reflections Button

Reading:  The Blood Gift by N. E. Davenport

Listening:  The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Watching:  Jim has been gone this week, so I had to wait to watch some of our shows. I did finish Daisy Jones and the Six and Shadow and Bone. The first I loved, but the latter was not as its first season. I am not a fan of them putting four books into one season, and the acting by one main character is laughably awful. Ah well.

Cooking: I really detest cooking when there is only me. If someone has some good ideas for one-person meals that do not require a lot of prep, a lot to clean up, or a ton of leftovers, I am most definitely open to them.

Enjoying: Since Jim was busy this week playing around at a trade show for pets and then picking up my new car in Texas, I opted to enjoy myself a bit. I let the house duties slide a bit and spent my afternoons reading or updating my planners for April. As much as the dogs would allow me, that is. I enjoyed the chance to sit and not feel a need to be doing something useful.

Feeling: Holly has a return date, and it is so close. I am ready for her to be home again. Even if she is gone all the time working or out with friends, it will be nice knowing she at least has to come home to change clothes or ask to borrow a car.

Weekly Top Posts: 2023-03-26
2023-03-26 04:00 UTC

  1. Sunday Reflections – 19 March 2023
  2. A masterpiece
  3. Gothic fiction at its finest
  4. A cute fairy tale for the modern age
  5. A tale of two stories

A cute fairy tale for the modern age
2023-03-25 15:00 UTC by Michelle

Once More Upon a Time by Roshani Chokshi

Once More Upon a Time by Roshani Chokshi is an adorable fairy tale for the modern audience. In a few short pages, Ms. Chokshi manages to stuff in action, adventure, romance, a moral or two, humor, and a few plot twists to make things interesting. She also builds a new world and manages some character development simultaneously. The full audiobook cast help make the story shine. Their earnestness, despite the craziness of their situation, made me laugh out loud several times. The whole experience is light and entertaining. Once More Upon a Time is the perfect palate cleanser after a difficult book.

A tale of two stories
2023-03-22 15:00 UTC by Michelle

A Door in the Door by Scott Reintgen

A Door in the Dark by Scott Reintgen is a tale of two stories. There are the first two-thirds of the story, entertaining but not memorable or engaging. I didn’t hate it enough to set it aside, and it did entertain me. Then there is the book’s last third, wherein we learn some intriguing information and get a plot twist that changes everything. Suddenly, I want to read more and discover how this new information will play out given what we already know. It is not a writing style I generally recommend – leaving all the exciting reveals until the end – but it works for Mr. Reintgen.

A Door in the Dark has an intriguing premise with its locked room murder mystery set in a magical world. Then, it morphs into an adventure story wherein our hapless students must traverse uncharted territory to reach safety. Finally, Mr. Reintgen adds a revenge plot to the mix. None of these trajectories are boring or poorly written, but neither are they stellar. It is only when a last-minute plot twist becomes something of a game-changer that I became fully vested in the story, a fault I attribute to the fact that there is no blend of the plotlines. There is the murder, then there is the adventure. Mr. Reintgen mentions the revenge plot several times throughout the story but only abstractly. Only towards the end does it start to take shape, and that’s where A Door in the Dark starts to get interesting.

I had a similar reaction to the main character. Ren appears to be one thing during the murder mystery portion. She is a bit fusty, like one of those know-it-alls you avoid at social functions. Then Ren adapts to become something else while in the wilderness. While she still manages to spout oodles of knowledge, she tones down her approach and lets herself be somewhat human for these scenes. Still, she feels very basic until the end of the book, that is. Something happens that proves Ren is much more complicated than you think through most of the story.

Combine a newly intriguing Ren with that plot twist, and it completely changes how I think of A Door in the Dark. In fact, those changes increase the chances of me reading the sequel. Despite a fairly ho-hum start, Mr. Reintgen redeems himself in the end, and that is all that matters.

A masterpiece
2023-03-21 15:00 UTC by Michelle

One for My Enemy by Olivie Blake

One for My Enemy by Olivie Blake is a stunning novel. Every aspect of it hit all the right notes for me. I want to reread it to experience the magic I felt while reading it the first time. Because it was a magical reading experience. The world felt a little brighter, and people didn’t seem quite as…well, ignorant. Ms. Blake put a spell on me with One for My Enemy, and I do not care.

I had my doubts about One for My Enemy. The opening few chapters have a strong Romeo and Juliet vibe, which is not my favorite Shakespeare play, and I contemplated whether I wanted to sit through another retelling. Then, with one scene, everything changed. I went from questioning it to wanting to read as fast as possible and yet as slowly as possible to savor each word.

The prose in One for My Enemy. Oh, the prose! I found myself lingering over passages in a way I do not do. Taking pictures of quotes to remember them later. Rereading them to see if they are just as impactful the second time. I am not one to get excited about someone’s writing. I am not a collector of quotes, and I don’t savor words. I did both for this novel.

From the Slavic families and traditions to the revenge plots, from the dueling families to the lovers, there was nothing about One for My Enemy I did not enjoy. The story may seem similar to Romeo and Juliet initially, but there is more depth here, more of a story in Ms. Blake’s version. The characters are so much stronger and more intelligent.

Plus, I never felt the romance between Romeo and Juliet. I felt every ounce of romance between our two couples. In fact, I felt more than romance; I felt their anger, frustrations, and pain. Their pain almost did me in, as it was so intense and so visceral. I don’t expect to feel that level of emotion based on someone’s printed words, but while reading One for My Enemy, I felt all of it.

One for My Enemy by Olivie Blake was my favorite book for February and will be at the top of the list for my favorite book of the year. Ms. Blake blew me away with One for My Enemy, something I was not expecting but welcomed with open arms. It really was a magical experience.

Gothic fiction at its finest
2023-03-20 15:00 UTC by Michelle

The Last Heir to Blackwood Library by Hester Fox

The Last Heir to Blackwood Library by Hester Fox is one of the best modern-day examples of Gothic fiction. The heroine’s name, Ivy Radcliffe, reeks of a Gothic story as it exudes innocence and privilege. Then it takes place on the Yorkshire moors because of course it does. All that aside, Ms. Fox’s story is fantastic. She cleverly uses certain aspects of her story to keep you guessing. Eventually, you find yourself racing through the pages to discover Ivy’s fate.

The Last Heir to Blackwood Library meets all the requirements for Gothic fiction. Set on the moors of York, most of the action occurs in Blackwood Abbey, an honest-to-goodness abbey from the 1300s that became the property of one family during Henry VIII’s conversion mandates. From almost the first moment Ivy enters the property, she senses that a malevolent entity is haunting her. Her servants are less than forthcoming when answering her many questions, and the village citizens look at her with curiosity and concern. There is the hint of a romance and more than a hint of the past coming back to impact the present in the form of one hell of a legacy. It makes for an emotional and terrifying story you can’t stop reading.

I mentioned above that Ivy Radcliffe is a name that feels Gothic because it evokes innocence. Yes, Ivy is innocent in many ways. While her life until her inheritance revolved around the streets of London, loving parents and a loving brother protected her from the rougher elements. She is streetwise but not necessarily wise about people, something that does cause issues. However, being named for a vine does not make her weak-minded or weak-willed. Ivy is just as strong and stubborn as her namesake, and it serves her well in the long run.

One of the cleverest aspects of The Last Heir to Blackwood Library is that the family legacy means that the story we get may or may not be what is happening. To say more would spoil the story, but Ms. Fox uses this family legacy to her advantage by creating doubt in the reader’s mind. It adds one more layer of mystery to a story filled with many unanswered questions.

I adore Gothic fiction, but finding a good one written recently has not been easy. Thankfully, Hester Fox comes through with a book I would include with the Bronte sisters in a list. The Last Heir to Blackwood Library has everything you could ever want in a Gothic novel. More importantly, Ms. Fox blends the elements so well that the story becomes all-encompassing. If you want an eerie book to tide you over until Halloween, The Last Heir to Blackwood Library is perfect.

Sunday Reflections – 19 March 2023
2023-03-19 15:00 UTC by Michelle

Sunday Reflections Button

Reading:  For the First Time, Again by Sylvain Neuvel

Listening:  Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell – Yes, still. Because this past week, I was too busy rocking out to Irish pub music, which is always fun.

Watching:  The Mandalorian, Daisy Jones and the Six, Ted Lasso, Shadow and Bone, and The Last of Us. Plus, Jim and I decided to become Formula One fans after watching the first two seasons of Formula One: Drive to Survive.

Cooking: I made that macaroni and cheese and that soup I mentioned. Both were delicious. I also made a breakfast casserole. The lovely thing about being empty nesters is all of the wonderful leftovers we get to enjoy, and everything I made created fantastic leftovers.

Enjoying: Jim and I had the BEST time on St. Patrick’s Day, and I thoroughly enjoyed the build-up before that. I made a game with myself to wear as much green as possible. Then Jim took off Friday afternoon, and we spent the rest of the day drinking, Guinness for him and Magners for me, and dancing/enjoying a really great band. We left around the time all the young’uns started entering the tent (Gen Zers), were home in time for dinner, and went to bed for a good night’s sleep. It was so much fun, and we definitely plan to do it again next year!

Planning: Jim plans to make another shelf, and once that is done, we will finish deep-cleaning the basement living areas. I’ve also batted around the idea of making a container garden this year. I kill everything I touch, but I would like to try growing the few veggies and herbs we eat the most. Holly is all for it, so it might be a good project for us when she gets home.

Feeling: I know I’ve said it before, but it still feels strange to say I am happy. Jim has been home a lot more this month, and Cora is finally attending training classes that seem to help calm her down a bit. Winter is still fighting to stay, but I’ve seen the forecast for the rest of the month, and it looks promising. My nephew officially signed on to play baseball for the University of Minnesota despite still being a junior. Holly gave us her last day in Scotland. It’s all good.

Weekly Top Posts: 2023-03-19
2023-03-19 04:00 UTC

  1. Sunday Reflections – 12 March 2023
  2. It will make a good movie
  3. Suzanne Young does it again
  4. Now this is sci-fi done right
  5. Dark and dangerous


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