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Winternight Trilogy- Katherine Arden

Title: Book 1: The Bear and the Nightingale

Author: Katherine Arden

Genre: Fantasy

Plot: Vasilia is the youngest daughter of Lord Pyotr. With her four other siblings, she listens to fairy tale story of the winter king. But Vasya learns there is truth to the tales. Her new stepmother doesn’t want her believe and is determined for the stories to stop. But then a harsh winter sets in and the people become fearful. Vasya asks the spirits around the house to help her stop the harsh winter. There is one who could help they say and one who will make things worse. Is there enough time to help? Or will everything be destroyed?

Rating: 3.5 – a slow and steady read

Opinion: This was an interesting read but it wasn’t one of my favorites. I liked the idea of the book but it was a pretty slow read for me. One or two things would happen and then plotting and scheming and details about small things. While I get that the author was probably setting some things up for the other two books, I couldn’t really get into the book as much as I would’ve liked. I was curious about the book enough to finish it and thought it picked up a little towards the end, but not enough for me to want to read the second and third one right away. I may go back and read the other two some day but not right now. This book has lots of Russian terms but there’s a glossary at the back of the book. While I liked the fairy tale aspect of the boom, the pace of the book made me not like it. This is a good book for anyone who likes a slow and steady fairy tale style book.

Veins of Gold – Charlie N. Holmberg

Title: Veins of Gold

Author: Charlie N. Holmberg

Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy

Plot: Gentry’s father has just left to mine gold in California. Now Gentry has to take care of her siblings, Rooster and Pearl, in the Utah territory. They have little money and few resources. Gentry doesn’t want to rely on their neighbor’s generosity for everything so she works hard to fix everything. Then she meets Winn. He’s more carefree and more importantly he knows about magic. Winn says that in order to work magic, you need to give the land gold. But the magic has a nature of it’s own and is angry with the miners for taking the gold. To calm the magic, Winn has to give back find more and more gold. Gentry wants to help, but also needs to help her family. Can Gentry do both? Or will she be forced to chose one or the other?

Rating: 4.0 – a different take on the gold rush

Opinion: This was an interesting story. I really enjoyed the blend of historical fiction and magic. I liked how the author explained the magic and how it tied to the land and the gold rush. This was a different kind of magic that was an exchange and it’s own entity. It was interesting point that magic was tied to the land and upset that man was destroying it. I liked how the book showed homestead life. Life wasn’t easy for them and the people were forced to make hard decisions. This book was an easier read, too. It was set at a good pace. I really enjoyed this book and recommend it for anyone who likes historical fiction with magic.

We Were Dreamers – Simu Liu

Title: We We’re Dreamers: An Immigrant Superhero Origin Story

Author: Simu Liu

Genre: Biography

Plot: Simu Liu is an actor best know for his breakout role of Shang-Chi in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. This is his story of growing up in rural China and Toronto Canada. He lived with his grandparents until he was 4 while his parents went to college in Canada to finish their Masters and PhD. When Simu’s parents had saved up enough, they brought Simu over to live with them. He talks a lot about his struggles with adjusting to a new life, finding a way around his parent’s standards, and finding his own way in life. After going to college, Simu talked about the struggles of finding his dream, Simu talks about how he worked through everything to get to where he is today.

Rating: 4.0 – a different side of immigrant life

Opinion: This was a great book. I enjoyed learning about how life was like in other countries and how people lived from a nonfiction point of view. It was understandable how and why people did the things they did. I wished the best for Simu’s parents and was saddened to read about what happened to Simu as he was growing up. But Simu found a way to turn it out positive and rekindle a relationship with his parents. I found it easy to relate to pieces of Simu’s story, like I’m sure most people can. I loved all of the humor and snark in it. I liked how Simu could find ways to be himself while living with his parents. I like that he found a positive outlet in his life in all stages. It makes you want to find something positive in your own life. This is a great book about life and what kids of immigrants face and how to find your own dream.

Comfort and Joy – Kristin Hannah

Title: Comfort and Joy

Author: Kristin Hannah

Genre: Realistic Fiction, Fantasy

Plot: This is Joy Candellario’s first Christmas alone. She’s recently divorced and having trouble with her sister. Desperate for change, Joy buys a last minute plane ticket to go anywhere but home. But the plane crashes and Joys finds a way to walk to the nearest town. There she meets Daniel and Bobby, a father and son who’ve recently lost their wife/mother. Joy tries to help them heal while trying to find healing for herself. When Joy leaves Daniel and Bobby, she finds her sister to try to make peace. But her heart still longs to return to Daniel and Bobby. Can Joy find peace? Can she find a way to move on?

Rating: 4.5 – a sweet story about family

Opinion: This was such a sweet story. I had reservations about this book since I’d read another book by this author and it was kinda sad. I went into this book expecting the same thing. There was a moment in the book where I thought ‘oh crap! No,you can’t do this to me!’ But the moment worked itself out beautifully. I read that part during my lunch break and was mad that I couldn’t finish the book then and there. The author did a good job with writing that plot twist. There were a few things that didn’t add up at first but it all makes sense after a certain point in the book. I was glad this book had a happy ending, too. This book definitely needed that sweet ending. This book was a book club recommended book from a book club that I recently joined. I highly recommend this book for anyone who needs a sweet holiday book.

The Wilderwomen – Ruth Emmie Lang

Title: The Wilderwomen

Author: Ruth Emmie Lang

Genre: Fantasy, Realistic Fiction

Plot: Zadie and Finn’s mom went missing five years ago. Zadie was eighteen and started her own life. Finn was twelve and sent to foster care with a good family. Both girls had unique abilities. Zadie has premonitions and Finn has echos (she can see parts of other people’s memories.). At Finn’s graduation party, she has an echo of her mom. She tells Zadie and begs her to search for her instead of going on their planned beach trip. Zadie reluctantly agrees. As they travel, Finn becomes more absorbed in their mom’s memories. Each time she gets an echo, she loses more time and wanders into some sketchy situations. Is the risk worth finding their mom? Can their mom be doing? Does she want to be found? Is she even alive?

Rating: 3.5 – an interesting story

Opinion: This was an interesting book. I thought it would deal with more fantasy elements, but it stays in reality most of the time. The author kind of gives some of her characters ‘super powers’ but makes them seem like everyday quirks. It deals with some family issues and the author does a good job writing about them. The author does a good job staying neutral about the subjects. I like how the author describes the choices the characters make. This makes the characters very relatable. The pacing of the book was very steady. It kept my interest the whole way through. It’s an easier read which is good if you need a break. I recommend this book for anyone who loves realistic fiction.

The Spanish Daughter – Lorena Hughes

Title: The Spanish Daughter

Author: Lorena Hughes

Genre: Historical Fiction

Plot: María Purificación is the oldest of four children, and the only truly legitimate child in the early 1900’s.He left her in Spain when she was a child to run a cacao plantation in Ecuador. Her father recently died and María Purificación has been asked to attend his will reading in Ecuador. She and her husband Cristobal travel together. But on the way to Ecuador, Cristobal is murdered. María Purificación decides to dress as her husband to find her husband’s murderer. As she navigates the plantation and the nearby city, she learns more about her father’s other family. Who killed Cristobal? Was it a family member? Or someone else?

Rating: 4.0 – a good historical fiction and murder mystery

Opinion: This was a great book. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. I loved learning more about chocolate, how to make it, and the culture surrounding it. The mystery in the book was paced out nicely in the book. There are good clues to who did it in the book. The characters in the book were very relatable, too. There were parts of every character I could relate to. I highly recommend this book for anyone who loves historical fiction books.

Adam – Ted Dekker

Title: Adam

Author: Ted Dekker

Genre: Thriller

Plot: Daniel Clark is a behavioral psychologist for the FBI. He’s helping the FBI catch a serial killer called Eve. They’re so close to catching Eve when Daniel is shot in the head. Miraculously, Daniel survives. Right before he’s shot, he sees Eve. But he can’t remember what Eve looks like. Daniel’s bound and determined to remember what Eve looks like before he finds and kills his next victim. Can Daniel remember? Can they catch Eve before it’s too late?

Rating: 4.3 – a good psychological thriller

Opinion: This was a good thriller. I was thrown for a minute when the book started with a short story within the book. Then I realized there were little stories that connected to the main story. There were many times I thought the side characters would be more important. Some were, some weren’t. I liked how the story portrayed exorcisms. It’s not a dramatic like it is in the movies or some other books I’ve read. The priests are more rational and want to prove other things first before jumping to conclusions. This book had a steady pace and I like how the characters thought through things in a more rational way. This book had an ending that made sense. Some of the author’s other books had relationships I that didn’t make sense by the end of them. This book’s relationships were better devolved. I really enjoyed this book and I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves thrillers.

Foul Lady Fortune – Chloe Gong

Title: Foul Lady Death

Author: Chloe Gong

Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery

Plot: Rosalind is a spy in Shanghai in 1931. Some experiments were done to her so she can’t die.She also uses her knowledge of poisons as an aide if she’s asked to be an assassin or gets captured. Rosalind’s latest mission is to go under cover to track down a murderer. Her mission partner is Orion Hong, son a general and fellow spy. Neither like the other’s spy style, but they try to get along to keep their cover safe. They’re posing as a couple to track down the murderer. But as they uncover more to the mystery, the more they dive into the past. Will they like what they uncover? Can they stop the murderer in time? Or will there be even more deadly consequences?

Rating: 4 – a good historical fiction spy book.

Opinion: This was a good book. It took me a little bit to get into the book, but I ended up really liking it. There are so many characters introduced at first and they all have their code names so it took me a little bit to put all of the names and code names together. There’s also lots of backstory to get through, too. But it’s all important to why the characters act throughout the rest of the story. Once the story gets going, it becomes really good. The author does a good job keeping the mystery going and adding clues if you know where to look. The one thing I didn’t love was the point of view changes. I don’t mind when the points of view change in the middle of a chapter but I didn’t love how the story moved forward from their point of view. Overall I really enjoyed this book. It really makes your pay attention and think. I recommend this book for anyone who loves spy novels.

Have You Filled a Bucket Today? – Carol McCloud

Title: Have You Filled a Bucket Today?

Author: Carol McCloud

Illustrator: David Messing

Genre: Children’s Book, Picture Book

Plot: Everyone has a metaphorical bucket. Others can either help fill it or empty it. You can empty someone’s bucket by being mean to others or saying something mean. You can fill someone’s bucket by being kind, helping, and saying kind things. You get to pick if you can fill someone’s bucket or empty it. Whatever choices you make can fill or empty someone’s bucket.

Rating: 4.0 – a good way to teach compassion

Opinion: This was a great book. I enjoyed reading this book I at the daycare I used to work at. It’s great visual way of showing compassion. It can be used during the school year along with little activities. You can have a little classroom bucket for the teachers. I highly recommend this book for classrooms and homes.

The Attic Child – Lola Jaye

A warning: this book talks a lot about child abuse and neglect.

Title: The Attic Child

Author: Lola Jaye

Genre Historical Fiction

Plot: Dikimbe is the youngest child of a family of five kids. He lives outside of a village in Africa, in what is today called Zaire. A rich Englishman named Sir Richard Babbington back home to England him when Dikimbe is around 9. Sir Richard changes Dikimbe’s name to Celestine. Under Sir Richard, Celestine wants for nothing. As he grows up, Celestine learns the truth of how he was brought to England. He sees others from Africa who don’t have it as nice as him. He begins to resent Sir Richard. When Sir Richard dies and his cousins take over, Celestine’s life gets flipped upside down again. When he’s not working all day, his bedroom is now staying locked in the attic. Can Celestine survive his new way of life?

Almost one hundred years later, another person was locked in the attic during their dark childhood. Lowra is an orphan who prefers to keep herself anonymous and live in the shadows. Her past keeps her distant from everyone. When the owners of the house she grew up in die, she grabs the two things that meant something to her and leaves. That house has too many dark memories for her. But something in Lowra makes her want to find the original owners of her keepsakes. This leads her on a journey of self discovery and what really happened to the previous captive of the attic.

Rating: 4.0 a great historical fiction that shows the darker side of colonialism

Opinion: This was a great book. It’s not often you read a book about African colonialism from the mind of a child. They don’t always know about the conflicts around them. They don’t always know the behind the scenes things that happen. They know what happens in the moment. They don’t always know why. It broke my heart to hear Dikimbe/Celestine’s story. As an American, I tend to think more of the slave trade than colonialism when it comes to Africa before the 1900’s. It pissed me off to learn a different side of colonialism. It’s not as nice as we’ve made it out to be. The author does a great job writing through the hard times the characters went through. She knows what she’s writing about and has clearly done her research. There are very good distinctions between the switches between the characters points of view. I wasn’t sure how much I’d like this book, but I ended up really enjoying it. I highly recommend this book for anyone who loves historical fiction.