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The Writing Retreat – Julia Bartz

Title: The Writing Retreat

Author: Julia Bartz

Genre: Thriller

Plot: Alex has had writer’s block for the past year. She blames it on a bad ending with a former friend, Wren. But when a mutual friend of Alex and Wren signs them both up for a writer’s retreat with their favorite author, Roza Vallo, neither of them can pass it up. But the stakes at the retreat are high. Alex, Wren, and four others must compete for an amazing publishing deal. In order of win, they must write 80,000 words and make it unique. While they are there, things get weird. Roza is fickle and almost rude one moment, then sweet the next. Who will win the contest? Can they everyone survive the retreat?

Rating: 4.0 – an interesting, creepy thriller

Opinion: This was an interesting book. I wasn’t expecting it to be kinda creepy, but it worked. It wasn’t a gross creepy, but an ‘oh (insert your word of choice) no’ kinda creepy. All the characters have some sort of flaw that make them unlikeable. It was a nice change. The ending was a little confusing, but it explained itself. It wasn’t the happiest of endings but it made sense for the book. Just an FYI, this book has some LBGTQ themes in it. The themes don’t bother me, but I just thought I’d say something. I recommend this book for anyone who loves thrillers.

Queen of Thieves – Beezy Marsh

Title: Queen of Thieves

Author: Beezy Marsh

Genre: Historical Fiction

Plot: Nell is down on her luck in post WW2 London. She got pregnant by a man who was sweet on her, Jimmy. Alice Diamond noticed and decides to take Nell under her wing. Alice is the leader of an all woman’s gang called the Fourth Thieves. The gang steals from high end stores. But when Nell’s first heist goes bad, Nell goes to jail. While in jail, Nell plots her revenge. Nell’s plan for revenge won’t be easy and will take time. Can Nell get her revenge? Or will her plan be foiled? Or will Alice find out and do something even worse?

Rating: 3 – an interesting historical fiction

Opinion: This was an interesting book, but it wasn’t one of my favorites. I enjoyed learning about post WW2 London and the lower classes during that time. But I did not like the writing style. It felt like the author was trying to combine modern writing style with 40’s slang. The plot was pretty slow for most of the book. The description of the book made it seem like there’d be more plotting or scheming. But there’s not. Some of the characters felt wishy-washy with what they wanted out of life. They didn’t seem to know what exactly they wanted to do. I wasn’t sure if that was the point to confuse the other characters or the author was unsure how the characters would react. Overall I thought the book had great history, just not a lot of plot, unsure characters, and not the best writing style. An interesting read for anyone who likes historical fiction.

Elements of Cadence 2 – Rebecca Ross

Book 1 is A River Enchanted

Title: Book 2 – A Fire Endless

Author: Rebecca Ross

Genre: Fantasy

Plot: It’s been some time since Adaira cross to the west side of the island of Cadence. She’s learning her role as the daughter of the laird. But it’s been hard on Jack, who’s been stuck in the east. He’s been trying to help keep the spirits happy, namely Bane (the king of the spirits). But when Bane starts to threaten the ways of life on both sides of the island, Jack and Adaira try to fix things. But spirits have their own way of helping. Sidra and Torin use the spirits for help. But will it be enough? Can the four of them help fix all that Bane is doing?

Rating: 4.0 a – a great end of the series

Opinion: This was a great book. I really enjoyed how the spirits and human world interacted more in this book. This one expanded on the magic and lore of the island more. I liked how the book expanded on character development of most of the characters instead of just focusing more on Jack. I was wondering if the author would continue with the book because I didn’t love how the other book ended. The other book wrapped up most things but left enough questions that made you wonder if there’d be another book. This book wrapped up everything nicely. I hope there’s not another book because everyone got their happy ending. This is a great book for anyone who loves fantasy about Scottish/Irish lore.

The Love Hypothesis – Ali Hazelwood

Title: The Love Hypothesis

Author: Ali Hazelwood

Genre: Romance

Plot: Olive is determined to make her friend Anh believe she’s over a previous relationship. She does that by kissing the first guy she sees. That guy happens to be Dr. Adam Carlson, known jerk at Stanford where the three of them work. Olive and Adam agree to fake date to appease Anh. But Anh thinks their really dating and encourages them to do normal dating things. Slowly they start developing feeling for each other, but don’t want to admit it. Can they make their relationship work? Or will everything fall apart?

Rating: 4.0 – a great sappy romance

Opinion: This was a great book. It was super sappy. I liked that the characters talked with each other about the important things. Maybe not right away but they made it work. I liked that this book felt like a more realistic relationships. When they did have sex, they made it very consensual. The author made the characters relatable and made the science easy to understand. There was a fair amount of good humor, too. I liked that the author is making science more appealable to women, even in a romance book. This is a great, sweet and sappy romantic book. I recommend this book for anyone who loves sappy romance.

Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind – Ann B. Ross

Title: Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind

Author: Ann B. Ross

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Plot: Miss Julia is recently widowed and inherited her husband’s money. To makes things interesting, her small North Carolina town’s pastor has been asking her about what Miss Julia’s going to do with the money and if he could use it to help build a community center in honor of her late husband. To make matters worse, a Hazel Marie Puckett drops off a young boy and says the boy is her late husband’s child. Now Miss Julia has to decide what to do with the boy and how to take care of him, and make sure her money (and sanity) stay in the right hands. Can Miss Julia keep everyone safe? Or will she lose it all?

Rating: 3.5 – a different style of a cozy mystery

Opinion: This was an interesting book. I didn’t love it but didn’t hate it. The characters a little old fashioned and too off their rocker for me. Some of their ideas and actions were a bit weird for me. Maybe it’s the southern way or the style of the book but I didn’t love it. I rolled my eyes at some of the characters antics. It was an entertaining book but not one of my favorites. If you need a kinda silly and easy read this would be a good book.

Hollywood Heroes – Frank and Zach Turek

Title: Hollywood Heroes

Authors: Frank and Zach Turek

Genre: Christian Living

Plot: Some movies today have similar stories. There are elements of faith and Jesus in those movies. Frank and Zach Turek talk about the elements of faith and Jesus in Captain America, Iron Man, Harry Potter, Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, Batman, and Wonder Woman. These stories show different aspects of faith and Jesus. There are also questions to think about after you’ve read the chapters.

Rating: 4.0 – interesting correlations between popular movies and Christianity

Opinion: This were interesting parallels between Christianity and some popular movies, comics, and books. I didn’t find them particularly deep connections but they were very clever and thought out. I like how the authors found ways to relate the movies to faith and Jesus. There are different characteristics that most of the main characters in those movies that can be related to Christianity. There were one or two chapters where I thought the authors might be stretching their connections a little but I could see where they were coming from. It’d be great for a short bible study series for nerdy people to see what others think. I enjoyed this quick read that combined two things I love. I recommend this book for nerdy Christians.

Babel – R.F. Kuang

Title: Babel

Author: R.F. Kuang

Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy

Plot: Robin Swift is a Chinese boy taken in by wealthy English Professor Lovell after his mom and grandparents die. Professor Lovell teaches Robin Greek, Latin, and helps him maintain his Mandarin Chinese all while grooming him for Oxford’s translation program. Once accepted into the program, Robin befriends his 3 classmates: Ramy, Victorie, and Letty. One night, Robin meets Griffin. Griffin tells Robin about the Hermes society. They take the silver bars which help power big cities around England and give them to people who actually need the bars. Robin is reluctant to help, but sees the need. His job is to help the Hermes society sneak in and grab what they need to help those in need. But is it worth it? Can Robin trust Griffin and the Hermes society? Can they really make a difference?

Rating: 4.0 a great combo of history and fantasy

Opinion: This was a great book. It was slow to start but still interesting to keep going. Some of it was world building which is fine. It was nice to see a different side of 1800’s England. I enjoyed the idea behind the magic of the books. It’s simple and practical and has many different uses. The magic also doesn’t take away from the story. The linguist in me loved learning about the roots of words and where they come from originally. The book does go into some details about translation and how languages don’t always match up 100% with word meanings. The characters are also well written. I can see where all the characters are coming from. Overall I really enjoyed this book. It’s great for anyone who loves historical fiction books from another perspective.

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars -Christopher Paolini

Title: To Sleep in a Sea of Stars

Author: Christopher Paolini

Genre: Sci-fi

Plot: Kira Navárez is a xenobiologist working to help colonize a new planet. She stumbles upon an artifact and starts to investigate. Then the artifact comes alive an attaches itself to Kira. The government is quick to keep everything hushed. While in the government Kira learns the thing that attached itself to her is alive and also protecting her. When Kira escapes the faculty, she learns aliens have started a war with humans. Now Kira must find a way to stay out of the alien and her own government’s control. Both want the technology attachment that Kira found. Kira must also learn how to control her technology in order to help everyone. Soon Kira learns that the technology she has can help stop the war with the aliens. But she must convince both sides that it’s possible and that she’s the only one who can do it.

Rating: 4.0 – a different take on aliens and alien tech

Opinion: This was a very good book. I was hesitant to read it because it’s over 800 pages. But I was very impressed that the story very well paced. The science was well explained and not over bearing. It was nice to have a reference guide for the places and terms in the back. The characters were great and likable, at least the ones who were supposed to be likable. I liked that the ending of the book was different than the standard sci-fi ending. It was a better fit for the book. This book is supposed to be the start of a series so I’m curious about where the author takes it. This is a great book and I recommend it for anyone who loves sci-fi and can handle big books.

Gmorning, Gnight! – Lin-Manuel Miranda

Title: Gmornig, Gnight! – Little Pep Talks from Me to You

Author: Lin-Manuel Miranda

Illustrator: Jonny Sun

Genre: Nonfiction

Plot: Lin-Manuel Miranda has posted many encouraging tweets encouraging people in the morning and evening, hence the title. Now he’s expanded to a different audience. Lin-Manuel has combined all of his favorite good morning and good night tweets to make a super inspirational and encouraging book.

Rating: 4.5 – a good book for some encouragement

Opinion: This was a sweet, little book. I enjoyed the quotes and found them sweet and endearing. It’s great if you’re feeling down and need some encouragement and good book for a quick little pick me up. The little pictures around the edges made even sweeter. This is a cute little book for anyone who likes little encouragement books and like all things Lin-Manuel Miranda.

The Nature of Fragile Things – Susan Meissner

Title: The Nature of Fragile Things

Author: Susan Meissner

Genre: Historical Fiction

Plot: Sophie Whalen is a recent immigrant from Ireland. She’s desperate to leave her deplorable position in NYC so she answers a mail order bride request in the newspaper in San Francisco. Soon she meets Martin and his daughter Kat. Sophie grows to love Kat but has no such feelings for Martin. She tells herself that he’s mourning the death of his wife. While Martin is traveling for his nameless insurance company, there’s an unexpected visitor, a woman named Belinda. Belinda sees a picture of Martin and says that’s her husband, not Sophie’s. While Sophie and Belinda try to piece together what’s really going on with Martin, or as Belinda knows him, James, an earthquake strikes. Now Belinda, Sophie, and Kat are running for their lives. But they’re looking over their shoulders for Martin. Who is Martin? What’s he after? Did he survive the earthquake?

Rating: 3.8 – an interesting historical fiction and mystery

Opinion: This was an interesting book. It was better than I was expecting. This book was a book club book so I wanted to read it, but I was unsure of it. There’s more interesting plot and characters than I was expecting. I liked learning about the San Francisco earthquake at the turn of the last century. The mystery was different than was expecting, too. I enjoyed thinking about the mystery. I thought one of the characters would come back in a different way with a more dramatic way. But this was a more fitting end for the characters. I was hoping for earlier justice, which did come, but I wanted all the characters to be there for it. I did enjoy the book. The main chacarera were great because they made you feel reel emotions and related to them. I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend this book for anyone who loves historical fiction.