Book Review: Relative Fortunes by Marlowe Benn

Publisher Summary:

In 1920s New York, the price of a woman’s independence can be exorbitant—even fatal.

In 1924 Manhattan, women’s suffrage is old news. For sophisticated booklover Julia Kydd, life’s too short for politics. With her cropped hair and penchant for independent living, Julia wants only to launch her own new private press. But as a woman, Julia must fight for what’s hers—including the inheritance her estranged half brother, Philip, has challenged, putting her aspirations in jeopardy.

When her friend’s sister, Naomi Rankin, dies suddenly of an apparent suicide, Julia is shocked at the wealthy family’s indifference toward the ardent suffragist’s death. Naomi chose poverty and hardship over a submissive marriage and a husband’s control of her money. Now, her death suggests the struggle was more than she could bear.

Julia, however, is skeptical. Doubtful of her suspicions, Philip proposes a glib wager: if Julia can prove Naomi was in fact murdered, he’ll drop his claims to her wealth. Julia soon discovers Naomi’s life was as turbulent and enigmatic as her death. And as she gets closer to the truth, Julia sees there’s much more at stake than her inheritance…

My Thoughts:

This book was the bee’s knees!! It checked a lot of boxes for me, and so much more. I love mysteries, and the 20s, but this book took those ideas to the next level. At first, it seems like a simple murder mystery, where a high society woman who happens to also be clever mixes in attempting to solve it. Julia however is much more than just a clever rich lady looking for a distraction. She is self-possessed, has a lover, independent, intelligent – and currently waiting for her 25th birthday when she can take control of her own inheritance and not depend on her older brother to dole an allowance out to her.

Julia becomes embroiled in the mystery of Naomi Rankin’s death through the admission of her friend Glennis, who is shocked by her sister Naomi’s sudden death, which appears as a suicide. Yet neither woman is buying that. Julia is pulled further into the mystery when Glennis invites her to a private family meeting about Naomi’s passing, and is shocked by how the family is more anxious to sweep it all under the rug without a second look. That family is a piece of work, and negotiating their family politics and relationships was a bit confusing – there were so many! All of them with different motives and personal agendas too, it seems…

As she and her friend dig deeper into what really happened that night to Naomi, Julia is also facing a few challenges herself, most importantly the fact that her brother Phillip has challenged the will, stating that he is entitled to the family fortune, which would leave Julia with nothing. She imagines her own dreams going up in smoke, of being an independent woman, and of continuing on with her own private press of books, Capriole. When Phillip proposes a wager regarding the cause of Naomi’s death, Julia doesn’t hesitate to accept.

Julia is led up and down and all around trying to solve this mystery, and her discoveries shed light on what life really was like for a woman in the 20s, where their financial freedom and sexual freedoms were not necessarily their own, as Julia herself comes to realize. We think of the Roaring Twenties as good times, jazz, dancing until dawn, and drinking, but we forget about the women fighting in the trenches for women’s rights. Sadly, even now, not every state has ratified the Equal Rights Amendment which is a proposed amendment that will guarantee equal rights to every citizen regardless of gender, in regards to divorce, property, employment, and other matters. Still to the day. Almost a hundred years later and the fight still continues. Benn’s novel does a wonderful job of marrying the mystery to the early days of the women’s right movement, and it fit the story perfectly.

I loved this book! I love even more that this book is listed as number one in the Julia Kydd series, meaning there will be more! I can’t wait to read more about Julia and where her journey will take her.

 

Thanks to NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for the advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: The Little Bookshop on the Seine

Publisher Summary:

It’s The Holiday on the Champs-ƒlysées in a great big love letter to Paris, charming old bookstores and happily-ever-afters!

When bookshop owner Sarah Smith is offered the opportunity for a job exchange with her Parisian friend Sophie, saying yes is a no-brainer—after all, what kind of romantic would turn down six months in Paris? Sarah is sure she’s in for the experience of a lifetime—days spent surrounded by literature in a gorgeous bookshop, and the chance to watch the snow fall on the Eiffel Tower. Plus, now she can meet up with her journalist boyfriend, Ridge, when his job takes him around the globe.

But her expectations cool faster than her café au lait soon after she lands in the City of Light—she’s a fish out of water in Paris. The customers are rude, her new coworkers suspicious and her relationship with Ridge has been reduced to a long-distance game of phone tag, leaving Sarah to wonder if he’ll ever put her first over his busy career. As Christmas approaches, Sarah is determined to get the shop—and her life—back in order…and make her dreams of a Parisian happily-ever-after come true.

My Thoughts:

A bookstore, Paris – what more can you ask for? When Sarah Smith gets the call from her friend asking to trade their bookstores for a while, she very much of out character replies yes. Sarah lives life safely, and quaintly, in her small town. She has a slower pace of life, friends that she loves, a bookstore that she adores, and a hot boyfriend to boot. But the siren’s call from the City of Love beckons even to her, and she thinks the opportunity is a dream come true. And best of all, her boyfriend can join her there, as his job as a journalist takes him all over the world . The idea of spending time strolling the streets of Paris with Ridge is almost enough to get her there all by itself, and her romantic nature can’t resist. Heck, I wouldn’t be able to either!

But when she gets there, she finds it is not necessarily the dream come true that she imagined – it is a lot more work and unhappiness that she had expected. She barely sees any of Paris in her early time there, as she works from sun up to sun down, everyday. And Ridge can never seem to find the time to join her as he had promised, which adds to her misery. Here Sarah is, surrounded by the beauty and charm of Paris, close enough to touch but it is still just out of reach!

The bookstore itself sounds amazing, a store that any book lover would love to wander into; historic, lovely, with many rooms and floors of books – it even has a writer in residence and a piano room! It has a wonderful history from decades past,  lending books to readers who can’t afford them. Sarah can appreciate the beauty and the history, although she also begins to feel chained to the place.

Sarah is not a quitter though, and as Christmas approaches, she puts plans into action to turn things around. And you will just have to read to find out if she does!

I enjoyed this sweet little book so much, although at times I was just frustrated as Sarah! I really loved it, and while the book does have some emphasis on the holiday season, it didn’t feel strictly like a Christmas book. If you like books and Paris, you will love this book!

 

Thank you to NetGalley and Harlequin books for the advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Cherokee Summer

43297124

Goodreads Summary:

When Ace leaves home to spend the summer in Cherokee, North Carolina the last thing she expects to find is a boyfriend—until she meets Cherokee Tribe member John Spears. As Ace and John’s friendship blossoms, they find their life experiences mirror each other and they fall in love. Despite hurdles thrown by well-meaning family members and jealous frenemies, the star-crossed lovers remain committed to their mutual belief that the universe has drawn them together. However, when Ace sends John a strange text and then suddenly disappears, the two must rely on their trust in each other to save both their lives and their love.

My thoughts:

I requested this book from NetGalley because I was in the mood for some YA and summer was in the title. Pretty simple stuff – but the story I got was anything but. I thought it was going to be a quick little fluff read, but this book dealt with some heavy, important themes that affect today’s teenagers. Alcoholic parents, racism, autism, abandonment, divorce, mental illness, personal safety, teenage sexuality. I wasn’t expecting the depth of the story that I got, but I loved it.

Taken apart, you might think it tried to cover too much, but Antony handled it all brilliantly and with great balance, sensitivity, and mindfulness.  The main character, Ace (love that name for her!), is mature far beyond her years. Her dad has checked out of the family, and is there but not really there. Her mother is an alcoholic, a family secret. Her younger brother has autism. And Ace is the glue to hold them all together, forgetting about her own needs, to tend to her family. Until this summer, when her father relocates them to the casino at Cherokee, North Carolina for the summer, and Ace meets John, a member of the Cherokee tribe, and another teen with more on his plate than he should have, and they find themselves drawn together as if they were meant to be. These kids are dealing with issues they should never have to, and are doing it well, and try to carve out something for them as well. However, things start to fall apart and unravel, and things come to a head when Ace disappears suddenly.

I really enjoyed this read, and read not just the responsibility that these characters bore, but also their fear, their desperation to have a typical life, even guilt over wanting to have something for them. I was really rooting for these two!! This book was fantastic, and I highly recommend it!

 

Thank you to NetGalley for the advance copy in exchange for an honest review!

Book Review: Last Summer

42303291

Goodreads Summary:

Lifestyle journalist Ella Skye remembers every celebrity she interviewed, every politician she charmed between the sheets, and every socialite who eyed her with envy. The chance meeting with her husband, Damien; their rapid free fall into love; and their low-key, intimate wedding are all locked in her memory. But what she can’t remember is the tragic car accident that ripped her unborn child from her. Ella can’t even recall being pregnant.

Hoping to find the memories of a lost pregnancy that’s left her husband devastated and their home empty, Ella begins delving into her past when she’s assigned an exclusive story about Nathan Donovan, a retired celebrity adventurer who seems to know more about her than she does him. To unravel the mystery of her selective memory loss, Ella follows Nathan from the snowcapped Sierra Nevada to the frozen slopes of southeast Alaska. There she discovers the people she trusts most aren’t the only ones keeping secrets from her—she’s hiding them from herself. Ella quickly learns that some truths are best left forgotten.

My Thoughts:

So. This book. My reaction was a bit unusual for me, I think. I was absolutely riveted to the story that was unfolding and read it pretty avidly and compulsively; however, I didn’t really like the main characters that much! They made a few decisions that I found questionable, but part of reading is getting out of our comfort zone, and this book certainly did that!

This book was pretty crazy, right from the get go. Ella wakes up in the hospital, not knowing why she is there, not remembering that she had lost her baby. Or even being pregnant at all!  A baby that she and her husband Damien had been expecting, had even named. Of course, I had to find out what the heck happened, right?

The book takes us through Ella’s life in the times leading up to the accident, and also what is happening in real time. We learn that she and her husband have a pretty passionate love for each other, are driven professionally, and their lives are somewhat laced with deceit and lies. It is very compelling reading, as things become explained slowly slowly bit by bit. There is a point in the book where I am happy with the way things are proceeding – then wham! From out of left field the story changes again. It’s like the book version of white water rafting, and the reader is in for quite a ride!

This book ends on a bit of a mystery – and I can’t wait to find out what happens next!

 

Thank you to Little Bird Publicity for the advance copy in exchange for an honest review!

Book Review: The View from Alameda Island by Robyn Carr

Goodreads Summary:

From the outside looking in, Lauren Delaney has a life to envy—a successful career, a solid marriage to a prominent surgeon and two beautiful daughters who are off to good colleges. But on her twenty-fourth wedding anniversary Lauren makes a decision that will change everything.

Lauren won’t pretend things are perfect anymore. She defies the controlling husband who has privately mistreated her throughout their marriage and files for divorce. And as she starts her new life, she meets a kindred spirit—a man who is also struggling with the decision to end his unhappy marriage.

But Lauren’s husband wants his “perfect” life back and his actions are shocking. Facing an uncertain future, Lauren discovers an inner strength she didn’t know she had as she fights for the love and happiness she deserves.

My Thoughts:

When I picked up this book, I was in the mood for a book that I could really lose myself in – and this book delivered. I really enjoyed this book!

Lauren endures a marriage for twenty-four years that was controlling and loveless, and the reader knows right away that she will not be growing old with her husband, Brad, and that this year together is their last. She knows what will happen, and what she needs to do in order to leave the marriage and plans well and plans thoroughly. However, of course, there are still major issues and problems, despite all of her careful and meticulous planning. With Brad, with her daughters, with trusting her own judgement and decisions to some extent. The title of this book is perfect – Lauren’s new viewpoint is physical, and emotional, as she reflects back on her life and the choices she has made. As she looks out and forward, she is also taking a look in, and back. She undergoes some real self-reflection and finds not just her independence but also that she is tough and smart and and strong.

I found her relationship with her two daughters to be completely realistic, especially in this situation. One aspect I enjoyed in this book was Lauren exploring her new relationships with her daughters out from under the umbrella her ex, and meeting them on new terms. Her whole life was changed, and it was like a rebirth in a way.

I am a relatively new Robyn Carr fan, and every book I read by her, I like her books more and more! I loved this one, and I am looking forward to reading her again in the future!

Thank you to Little Bird Publicity for the review copy in exchange for an honest review~

Book Review: Bonavere Howl

Goodreads Summary:

It is 1955, and the three Fayette sisters have lived their whole lives in the enchanting French Quarter of New Orleans. Though neglected by their parents, they share a close bond with one another–from afternoons in their small, shared bedroom, to trying to speak with ghosts beneath the sweeping trees in their garden. When the middle sister Constance disappears, the family believes she has run away, as she has done before; it is only the youngest–thirteen-year-old Bonavere (known as Bonnie)–who suspects there is more to it. Met only with grief from her family and resistance from the police, Bonnie embarks on a journey to bring her sister home, venturing through fabled Red Honey Swamp, and the city’s vibrant and brutal history. Unravelling the layers of her sister’s secret life, Bonnie discovers a pattern of girls found half-mad in the Louisiana swampland, and a connection to the wealthy, notorious Lasalle family. To rescue her sister, she must confront the realities of true violence, and the very nature of insanity.

My Thoughts:

I will often pick a book for the setting, and Bonavere Howl was one I chose simply because the blurb said New Orleans. New Orleans is one of my very favorite cities to visit, I love its vibe and its energy and its people so much. One of my best friends is from New Orleans, and I love just listening to her talk about her hometown. So when I saw this, I had to read it.

If you have ever been to the Crescent City, you will know what that swampy, sticky, humid heat feels like. And Galway evokes this feeling, that lazy, energy sapping heat, that makes you want to just hide out in the shade with a big old glass of something cold, listening to some music, daydreaming. This sense permeates this book, and I read it during a particularly cold and damp week here in Michigan. The murky feeling penetrates to the plot of the book as well, not just the setting, but also the central mystery. Bonavere is a young woman whose sister just goes up and missing one evening, and Bonavere takes it upon herself to figure out where she disappeared to when it seems no one is looking hard enough. She has many accomplices throughout her search – her best friend Saul, her oldest sister Fritzie, but it is Bonavere’s perseverance that stands out. She is determined to find her sister, or at least the truth of where or what happened to her. Bonavere must contend with many obstacles along the way as well, including putting her friend Saul’s life and that of his family’s life, into danger.

The main focus is on the three sisters and their relationship. In some ways I was reminded of The Virgin Suicides, with the girls having a closeness and no one else really knowing or understanding them fully. Fritzie and Connie and Bonnie have a strong sisterly bond, one forged it seems through some parental indifference to the three girls. Bonnie never gives up on trying to find her sister, and just the fact that Connie’s presence is missing in the house lies palpably upon the two sisters remaining.

I was slowly sucked into this story, which languidly leads you down different paths until the final, chilling ending. A slow read, but a good one.

Thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Girl Most Likely by Max Allan Collins

girl most likely

NetGalley Summary:

It’s never too late for revenge in this thrilling novel by New York Times bestselling and award-winning crime master Max Allan Collins.

In a small Midwest town, twenty-eight-year-old Krista Larson has made her mark as the youngest female police chief in the country. She’s learned from the best: her father, Keith, a decorated former detective. But as accustomed as they are to the relative quiet of their idyllic tourist town, things quickly turn with Krista’s ten-year high school reunion.

With the out-of-towners holed up in a lakefront lodge, it doesn’t take long to stir up old grudges and resentments. Now a successful TV host, Astrid Lund, voted the “Girl Most Likely to Succeed”—and then some—is back in town. Her reputation as a dogged reporter has made the stunning blonde famous. Her reputation among her former classmates and rivals has made her infamous. Astrid’s list of enemies is a long one. And as the reunion begins, so does a triple murder investigation.

Krista and her father are following leads and opening long-locked doors from their hometown to the Florida suburbs to Chicago’s underworld. They just never imagined what would be revealed: the secrets and scandals of Krista’s own past.

My Thoughts:

This book starts off with a bang! Right out of the gate, the reader is introduced to mystery and mayhem, and the the first third of the book has great build up and suspense. Unfortunately for me, it sort of petered out until it was just over, and I was left feeling a little disappointed.

Krista and her dad have for me, a weird relationship that I had a hard time getting over. He is living with her at her suggestion following the death of her mother, and he repays her by going through her garbage and confronting her about things he finds there. I mean, I get he is a retired detective, but jeez – boundaries might need to be in order! Then later, she invites him to go with her to her class reunion. It has only been ten years, so it seemed like she should still be feeling young enough to go and cut loose with her old classmates, without her dad there. Maybe it is just me though. I love my dad and I think he is pretty cool, but I think he would feel wildly out of place there anyway, even knowing my classmates. Anyway, that is just a small part of this book, but it was weird enough to me to jolt me out of my reading experience.

Whena murder occurs, Krista, who is hailed for being the youngest female chief in the country, calls in her dad to help her out as a consultant. This made sense, she had never covered a murder before and she wanted to catch this killer. However, to me, it feels like she is just sort of there for the rest of the book. Like her dad is in charge, and is a much bigger character – he is the dominant character that emerges in this story. I wish there had been more about Krista, proving her capabilities and showing her strengths. And then when we find out the murderer, I felt sort of like we never got a true explanation of why they did what they did. I didn’t get enough of an explanation to satisfy me.

This book was not all bad though. Overall, I liked the premise, I liked the setting, I liked the characters – I liked the bones of this book, if that makes sense. To me, I feel it could have been fleshed out more, and that this reads more like a rough draft than a finished book. It was almost there, but not quite  I can see this as a series that will become more sophisticated, with more detail, more depth to the characters. I think this as a potential series has legs, but this book didn’t quite go the distance.

**Update! Check out the comments area for insights from author Max Allan Collins himself! It was a great conversation and I enjoyed hearing what he had to say – and I even came to a few different conclusions!**

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you NetGalley!