The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble’s Braids (Amra Thetys #1) by Michael McClung Publisher/Year: Michael McClung, 2012 Format: E-book (Nook) Pages: 204 Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Goodreads
Amra Thetys is a thief with morals–she won’t steal from anybody poorer than she is. Fortunately, anybody that poor generally doesn’t have much worth stealing!
But when a fellow thief and good friend is killed in a deal gone wrong. Amra turns her back on burglary and goes after something far more precious than jewels or gold: Revenge.
What I thought
Ahh, nothing better than a five-star read to approach the end of the year! This book was SO GOOD. I was hooked from the first chapter, and the ending had me feeling not ready to leave this world yet. I’m so ready to dive into the rest of this series!
What I loved most about this book was Amra, hands down. I just really liked her! She was fierce and tough, witty and sarcastic. And she could hold her own–without a love interest and without beauty. I became so fond of her as a character, which I love when I’m reading.
Also, can I just say that it blows me away that this was self-published? It was so well-written. The story hooked me from the start, and the plot moved effortlessly and carried me the rest of the way. The writing was at times poignant and at others hilariously clever. I also loved the world building Amra tells the story and she doesn’t go into any long-winded exposition about her world. You pick up bits and pieces as you go, and I just loved that.
I’d highly recommend this! If you are looking for a good fantasy read, this book is not to be missed!
The Gilder by Kathryn Kay Publisher/Year: Kensington Books, 2012 Format: E-book (Cloud Library) Pages: 243 Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Goodreads
Set against the exquisite backdrop of Florence, Italy, The Gilder is a compelling and beautifully wrought novel of secrets, friendship, betrayal, and the simple choices that change us forever…
In Marina Nesmith’s skilled hands, even the most tarnished picture frame or objet d’art can be made perfect once again. Her life, too, seems flawless, at least on the surface. But more and more, Marina is conscious of what she lacks–someone to share her joys and sorrows with, confidence in the decisions she’s made, and the courage to tell her teenage daughter, Zoe, the truth about her father.
Then Marina is invited to return to Florence, where she lived years before while learning her trade as a gilder. In those heady days, she wandered the city’s picturesque streets, marveling at the masterpieces in the Duomo and the Pitti Palace. In the church of Santa Croce, she met Thomas, an American photographer who, along with his wife Sarah, introduced Marina to a thrilling, bohemian world of art and beauty. Through them, she also learned about love, lies, and the way one mistake can multiply into many. Now, as her past and present collide, Marina will finally have to move beyond the intricate veneer she’s crafted around herself, and find the life that she–and Zoe–have been looking for.
What I thought
Y’know what–sometimes life, for as beautiful as it can be, can be very messy. Life AND relationships. And that’s what this book touches on. I really enjoyed it! I wasn’t really sure what to expect going into this, but I enjoy stories that involve the complexities of relationships. I also really enjoyed how atmospheric this was, too. I’m always up for some armchair travel, and the descriptions of life in Florence really transported me. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this one.
Undead by John Russo Publisher/Year: Kensington Books, 2010 Format: Paperback Rating: ⭐⭐⭐ Goodreads
ZOMBIE DOUBLE BILL
George A. Romero’s classic 1968 film, Night of the Living Dead, launched a new era of gut-munching mayhem, relentlessly terrorizing the hearts of moviegoers and launching the zombie movie phenomenon. Screenwriter John A. Russo turned the flesh-eating frenzy into two horrific, blood-drenched novels…
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD
A cemetery in rural Pennsylvania. A brother and sister putting flowers on their father’s grave. A strange figure shambling toward them–eyes dead and teeth gnashing. So begins a night of endless terror that would live on in infamy. Seven strangers locked inside a small farmhouse fight off an army of walking corpses. Who will survive? And who will have their flesh devoured…?
RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD
Not long after the first zombie outbreak, a bus crashes in a small American town. Local churchgoers rush to the scene to save the living–and destroy the dead. But they’re too late. A terrifying new plague of undead has been unleashed. A new horde of victims has been infected. And this time, they are ravenous…
TWO GREAT, GRUESOME ZOMBIE THRILLERS IN ONE VOLUME!
What I thought
I’ll admit–I originally picked this one up because THAT COVER! And once I saw that there were two classic zombie stories inside, I was sold. I’m glad I picked it up because I did enjoy it. I will throw a disclaimer out there–if you’re looking for a truly frightening read or something with outstanding writing, this ain’t it. Night of the Living Dead is a novelization of the movie, and Return of the Living Dead is a novelization of a screenplay for a sequel idea (not the movie most are familiar with). So, that translates into a lot of tell vs. show writing and a lot of campy horror. If you can go into this with your expectations in check, you’ll enjoy two fun zombie tales for what they are–groundbreaking tales for their time. I dunno, I thought this was a fun, easy read. It would be good to read around a campfire!
Lake of the Ozarks by Bill Geist Publisher/Year: Grand Central Publishing, 2019 Format: Hardcover Pages: 195 Rating: ⭐⭐ Goodreads
Before there was “tourism” and souvenir ashtrays became “kitsch,” the Lake of the Ozarks was a Shangri-la for middle-class Midwestern families on vacation, complete with man-made beaches, Hillbilly Mini Golf, and feathered rubber tomahawks.
It was there that author Bill Geist spent summers in the sixties during his school and college years, working at Arrowhead Lodge–a small resort owned by his bombastic uncle–in all areas of the operation, from cesspool attendant to bellhop.
What may have seemed like just a summer job became, upon reflection, a transformative era when a cast of eccentric, small-town characters and experiences shaped (some might suggest “slightly twisted”) Bill into the man he is today. He realized it was this time in his life that had a direct influence on his sensibilities, his humor, his writing, and ultimately a career searching the world for other such untamed creatures for the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, and CBS News.
In LAKE OF THE OZARKS, Emmy Award-winning CBS Sunday Morning correspondent Bill Geist reflects on his coming-of-age in the American heartland and traces his evolution as a man and a writer. He shares laugh-out-loud anecdotes and tongue-in-cheek observations guaranteed to evoke a strong sense of nostalgia for “the good ol’ days.” Written with Geistian wit and warmth, LAKE OF THE OZARKS takes readers back to a bygone era and demonstrates how you can find inspiration in the most unexpected places.
What I thought
This book was so difficult to rate! First, there’s that dilemma on “how to rate/review” memoirs. And then there’s the fact that this book was not what I was expecting or hoping for, which is certainly not the fault of the author. I picked this one up because I have a fascination with this time period–’60s/’70s–but also with coming of age stories during this time. So, I think I was hoping for something that would give a more generalized view of the times, whereas what this turned out to be was one man’s individual tale of his summers spent at Arrowhead Lodge. Which…duh…this is his memoir, so of course it’s individualized. I dunno what I was thinking (or if my rambling even makes sense), and that isn’t the fault of the author. I guess what I’m trying to say is that this book wasn’t what I was hoping it would be. But I did end up enjoying parts of it, namely Bill Geist’s humor. There’s no better way to describe his writing than to call it humorous–the guy’s funny. And honestly, this year we can use all the humor we can get. There were also moments of poignancy, and I did enjoy his reflections on how the people and places we grew up with change through the years. Overall, although not what I was expecting, this memoir was full of humor and wit, and it made for an enjoyable read.
Thoreau: A Sublime Life by Maximilien Le Roy, A. Dan Publisher/Year: NBM Graphic Novels, 2016 Format: Hardcover Pages: 88 Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Goodreads
“To be a philosopher is not merely to have subtle thoughts, nor even to found a school, but so to love wisdom as to live according to its dictates, a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity and trust.” Henry David Thoreau is best remembered as the father of the concept, still influential today, of “civil disobedience” which he used against slavery and the encroachment of government. He was a lot more than that. This graphic novel biography relates the forward looking inspirational life of the great author, philosopher as well as pioneering ecologist.
What I thought
I randomly stumbled upon this at my library, and I’m so glad. This was a gorgeously done graphic biography. While I don’t necessarily agree with Henry David Thoreau, I’m still a big fan of his writing/philosophy. I wouldn’t call this a definitive biography, by any means, so if you are looking for an intro to HDT, this probably isn’t the best place to start. However, those who are more familiar will certainly enjoy this. I, for one, loved this and absolutely need a copy of this for my own shelves.
The Salt Path by Raynor Winn Publisher/Year: Penguin Randomhouse, 2018 Format: E-book (Libby) Pages: 410 Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Goodreads
The true story of a couple who lost everything and embarked on a transformative journey walking the South West Coast Path in England.
Just days after Raynor Winn learns that Moth, her husband of thirty-two years, is terminally ill, their house and farm are taken away, along with their livelihood. With nothing left and little time, they make the brave and impulsive decision to walk the 630 miles of the sea-swept South West Coast Path, from Somerset to Dorset, through Devon and Cornwall.
Carrying only the essentials for survival on their backs, they live wild in the ancient, weathered landscape of cliffs, sea, and sky. Yet through every step, every encounter, and every test along the way, their walk becomes a remarkable and life-affirming journey. Powerfully written and unflinchingly honest, The Salt Path is ultimately a portrayal of home–how it can be lost, rebuilt, and rediscovered in the most unexpected ways.
What I thought
What a perfect book to read in 2020! In a year that has most of us feeling down & out, this was an immensely inspiring memoir that faces the question of how we go on when faced with the absolute worst outcome. Being a fan of nature writing is what brought me to this book, and Raynor’s and Moth’s unfathomable strength (and even humor) in facing despair is what kept me reading. I was alternately amazed and moved, and not just that, but also impressed that this wasn’t “just” a nature memoir–it offered a thought-provoking look at homelessness and grief in its many forms. Overall, I thought this was an excellent read, providing just the right amount of armchair travel and hope for this year.
Tangerine Street is a must-see tourist stop with a colorful mix of one-of-a-kind boutiques, unique restaurants, eclectic museums, quaint bookstores, and exclusive bed-and-breakfasts. The Fortune Cafe, situated in the middle of this charming collection of shops and cafes on Tangerine Street, is a Chinese restaurant unlike any other because, well, to be honest, the fortunes found in the cookies all come true…
MIS-FORTUNE: Emma, a waitress at The Fortune Cafe will do anything to avoid opening a fortune cookie. Each fortune is rumored to somehow magically come true. Being a girl grounded in reality, she doesn’t have time for that kind of nonsense. But when trying to prevent a food fight at the cafe, Emma accidentally cracks open a fortune cookie: “Look around, love is trying to catch you.” If there is one thing that Harrison, her former best friend in high school is good at, it’s catching her unaware.
LOVE, NOT LUCK: Lucy has always been lucky…until her parents meet her fiance’s parents at a disastrous lunch at The Fortune Cafe, and she breaks her lucky jade necklace. Even worse, her fortune cookie reveals that “True love is for the brace, not the lucky.” How is she supposed to read that? She’s always considered it lucky how she met her fiance. But after breaking her necklace, Lucy’s luck takes a dive. And when her fiance dumps her, the only person she can turn to is Carter, the unluckiest guy she knows.
TAKEOUT: Stella is content in her new life of taking over her mom’s jewelry shop. No more boyfriend to worry about, and as long as she stays busy, she doesn’t have to dwell on her non-existent love life. When Evan comes into the shop with his young daughter, Stella is charmed. But she is reluctant to complicate her straightforward life, so when she reads her fortune after ordering takeout from The Fortune Cafe, she completely ignores it. After all, how can a fortune as vague as “Do the thing you fear and love is certain,” apply to her?
What I thought
Okay, so THIS is why I’m always downloading Nook freebies! I thought this was SO cute. This was an easy-to-read, light-hearted collection, perfect for fans of Hallmark movies. And surprisingly enough, even though the first story was my favorite, I still really enjoyed all of these stories as a whole. I would certainly read the next collection in this series–I am ALL about small town romance stories. All in all, I thought this was a really cute collection of sweet romance stories. My only wish was that these characters could have their own full length stories–I didn’t want to be done with these characters yet!
Six Months in Montana by Pamela Kelley Publisher/Year: Piping Plover Press, 2013 Format: E-book (Nook) Pages: 147 Rating: ⭐⭐ Goodreads
Molly Bishop loves living in Manhattan and managing a boutique luxury hotel. She’s about to be promoted to her dream job of General Manager, the roles she’s been striving for her entire career.
There’s only one thing standing in her way.
The will of her childhood friend, Christian Ford’s grandfather. She hasn’t even seen Christian in over ten years, but a recent run-in with his grandfather during a rare visit home, resulted in a new condition to the will. Christian will only inherit the ranch he’s been running and the real estate development business that he has expanded if he marries Molly and stays married for at least six months…
What I thought
Another Nook freebie that just didn’t do it for me. The only thing it did do was make me hungry. It was cute and simple enough, but in the end, I just thought it was okay. I’m sure there are others who would enjoy this one–it just wasn’t my cuppa tea.
Closing the Deal (Brides of Blossom, Texas #1) by Lenora Worth Publisher/Year: The Tule Publishing, Inc., 2019 Format: E-book (Nook) Pages: 158 Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Goodreads
Can discovering her past create her future?
Sarina Gabriel recently inherited a Victorian money-pit of a mansion. Logic dictates that she sell it, but, still grieving her grandmother’s death, she longs to keep something from her mysterious past. As she explores the house, she discovers some family secrets that just might put the historic mansion on the Hill Country map and give Sarina the roots she’s always wanted. But can she trust Drake Dunmore who promises to help her restore the mansion to its former glory, or will he break her trust and her heart?
Drake Dunmore knows a good deal in houses, and in women. He wants to buy Sarina’s historic mansion and develop the property. Confident, he sets out to charm and persuade the beautiful new owner, Sarina, to sell it to him. Funny thing happens. He falls for Sarina and volunteers to help her restore the mansion and discover her heritage. His father and his ex-girlfriend stand in their way. Can he prove to Sarina that he has her best interests at heart?
What I thought
This was a sweet, easy-to-read, clean romance that I could easily see being made into a Hallmark movie. I really loved Sarina and her friends, and I just love a good small-town setting. My only complaint is that since this was more of a novella, I wished the story felt a little more fleshed out. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing–I enjoyed the story enough that I wanted more! With that said, I’d certainly continue with this series. I can’t wait to read Kayla’s and Mona’s stories!
A Change of Fortune (Ladies of Distinction #1) by Jen Turano Publisher/Year: Bethany House Publishers, 2012 Format: E-book (Nook) Pages: 239 Rating: ⭐⭐⭐ Goodreads
Lady Eliza Sumner is on a mission. After losing her family, her fiance, and her faith, the disappearance of her fortune is the last straw. Now, masquerading as Miss Eliza Sumner, governess-at-large, she’s determined to find the man who ran off with her fortune, reclaim the money, and head straight back to London.
Much to Mr. Hamilton Beckett’s chagrin, all the eyes of New York society–all the female ones, at least–are on him. Unfortunately for all the matchmaking mothers and eligible daughters, he has no plans to marry again, especially with his hands full keeping his business afloat and raising his two children alone.
When Eliza’s hapless attempts to regain her fortune put her right in Hamilton’s path, sparks instantly begin to fly. The discovery of a common nemesis causes them to join forces, but with all their plans falling by the wayside and their enemies getting the better of them, it will take a riot of complications for Hamilton and Eliza to realize that God just might have had a better plan in mind all along.
What I thought
For being a freebie, this read wasn’t too bad! This was my first read by Jen Turano, and while I didn’t love it, I enjoyed it well enough to read more of her books, especially if I was in the mood for something light-hearted. Light-hearted is the perfect way to describe this one. I figured out pretty quickly that while this is billed as an inspirational historical romance, it’s more of a romantic comedy that takes place in a historic setting, with just a dash of religion. The story basically follows these characters from shenanigan to shenanigan, making it a light and easy read. The writing style was humorous, and the mentions of religion were sweet and subtle and not too preachy. I liked how much of a spitfire Eliza was, but I did feel kind of lukewarm towards Hamilton. All in all, this wasn’t anything earth-shattering, but it was a good read for winding down at the end of the day with a cuppa.
Navigate Your Stars by Jesmyn Ward Publisher/Year: Scribner, 2020 Format: ARC – paperback Pages: 60 Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Goodreads
For Tulane University’s 2018 commencement, author Jesmyn Ward delivered a stirring speech about the power of hard work and the value of respect. Describing how she and her family have overcome challenges, Ward’s meditation on tenacity in the face of hardship inspired everyone in the audience. Now, in book form, Ward’s moving words will reach thousands of readers as they prepare for the next chapter in their lives.
Beautifully illustrated in full color by talented Gina Triplett, this unique keepsake will charm a generation of students–and their parents. Ward’s inimitable voice shines through as she shares her experiences as a southern black woman on the themes of grit, adveristy, and the importance of family bonds–a perfect gift for anyone in need of inspiration from “one of the most searing and singularly gifted writers working today” (Entertainment Weekly).
What I thought
Thank you to Scribner and Shelf Awareness for the free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review!
I’ll be honest, it’s not often that I find myself reading commencement speeches, especially since I’m almost ten years out of college (GAG). But this was a delightful little read! Between the stunning illustrations and Ward’s lyrical prose, I think you’d be hard pressed not to feel inspired by this slim volume. It goes without saying that this would be a wonderful gift for graduates, but I think that really anybody could use a little spark of encouragement like this every now and again. This is one you’ll want to keep within hands reach.
The Roxy Letters by Mary Pauline Lowry Publisher/Year: Simon & Schuster, 2020 Format: ARC – paperback Pages: 308 Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Goodreads
She’s got spunk. She’s got charm. She’s got the goddess Venus on her side. But can she save her city and her love life one letter at a time?
Bridget Jones’s Diary meets Where’d You Go, Bernadette in this hilarious and heartwarming novel about twentysomething Roxy, an unlucky-in-love Whole Foods employee, aspiring artist, and sometimes-vegan, who teams up with her two best friends to save Austin from gentrification–and to save Roxy’s love life–in whatever way they can. The Roxy Letters is a hilarious and heartwarming novel told through the letters that the charming and hapless Roxy, a twenty-eight-year-old Austin native, sends to her ex-boyfriend (and current roommate), Everett.
Roxy is underemployed, sexually frustrated, and uninspired. Tired of her job as a deli maid at the original Whole Foods, Roxy daydreams of breaking out of her funk and finding a job that will get her creative juices flowing. She also wouldn’t mind finding love and finding herself off the brink of financial ruin–though Everett’s late rent payments aren’t helping her with the latter.
On top of it all, gentrification is slowly changing her beloved Austin in new and evilly corporate ways. When a new Lululemon pops up at the intersection of Sixth and Lamar where the old Waterloo Video used to be, Roxy can stay silent no longer.
Encouraged by her ex-deli counter comrade Annie–now assistant to the Whole Foods CEO (Chief Ecosystem Officer) and planning an animal rights revolution from the inside–and her new friend Artemis–a vivacious and mercurial man-eater with a string of personas and paramours all over town–Roxy decides to take action. But can this spunky, unforgettable millennial keep Austin weird, avoid arrest, and discover good sex, true love, and her purpose in life in the process?
What I thought
Thank you to Simon & Schuster and Shelf Awareness for the free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review!
Oh friends, this was a wild ride of a book! I never thought I could have this much fun reading a book in 2020. Let me pause before I go any further–if you are someone who is easily offended, especially by swearing or sex, this is not the book for you. If, however, you fall into the wicked category like the rest of us kids, you will find this book laugh-out-loud funny. Initially, I wasn’t sure about the epistolary format, but once I got used to it, I enjoyed it. Roxy is one helluva gal. At first, I found myself feeling increasingly frustrated with her, but after I put my Enneagram 1/Reformer self to bed, she became so endearing to me. You can’t help but root for her. The plot is too wacky to be even remotely believable, but I don’t remember the last time I laughed so hard at a book, so I just went with it and ended up having a great time. If you’re looking for something totally off -the-wall and different, but also heartwarming, Roxy’s your gal!