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My name is Ardis and I am an avid reader and budding writer. I want to share my love of books with others. I work with kids and am interested in finding and creating books that will ignite the reader in everyone. Contact me at: ardis.atkins@gmail.com

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MsArdychan's bookshelf: read

I Owe You One
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Love, Hate & Other Filters
The Wartime Sisters
The Belles
The Gilded Wolves
Hey, Kiddo
Blackberry and Wild Rose
Queen of Air and Darkness
Firestarter
The Retribution of Mara Dyer
The Evolution of Mara Dyer


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Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Book Review: Geekerella by Ashley Poston


https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30724132-geekerella?ac=1&from_search=true


Synopsis (From Goodreads):
Cinderella goes to the con in this fandom-fueled twist on the classic fairy tale.

Part romance, part love letter to nerd culture, and all totally adorbs, Geekerella is a fairy tale for anyone who believes in the magic of fandom. Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic sci-fi series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball, and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck (and her dad’s old costume), Elle’s determined to win…unless her stepsisters get there first.

Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons—before he was famous. Now they’re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but the Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise.


Review:
I am, one might say, a member of a geeky family.  We watch Anime, Science Fiction, and Fantasy.  My kids play Pokemon, and D & D.  We also go to Cons (conventions like San Diego ComicCon).  So Geekerella, set in the world of these Cons, was instantly going to make me interested.

This updated version of Cinderella was a charming YA rom-com.  With many fun characters and situations, this book showed how seriously people take Cosplay!  The romance was fun and believable.  In short, this was a very entertaining read.

What I Liked:
Setting:
Because this is a Cinderella retelling, we get two very distinct settings.  The "prince", Darien, is Hollywood royalty so he, obviously, is on a movie set.  The Cinderella character, Elle, is wallowing in the shadows of her cranky step-mother and step-sisters in a small South Carolina town. 

There were many small details that were really fun such as Elle working in a pumpkin-themed food truck, and the Ball being held at a ComicCon. 

Characters:
While the settings may be completely different, both Darien and Elle feel controlled by others.  Darien is working on a movie, a Star-trek like show called Starfield.  He has a lot to live up to and must constantly exercise, keep away from carbs, and stay out of the tabloids.  His father makes all the decisions for him.

Elle, whose father has died, is living with her step-mother and step-sisters.  She mopes around her summer job, working for a pumpkin food truck.  She feels trapped.  Her one bright spot is her blog about all things Starfield.

I also enjoyed several of the side characters such as the step-sisters, Elle's coworker (who could actually be her fairy godmother), and the other actors on the set of Starfield.  This attention to minor characters works great and invites the author to tell their stories in more detail in the sequels.

Story:
I loved the meet-cute, the behind the scenes look at movie making, and the fandom culture.  

The "meet-cute" is very appropriate.  Darien texts what he thinks is the person in charge of a ComicCon.  He is trying to get out of appearing before rabid Starfield fans.  Elle's dad (who has died) ran the Con and gets his message.  Neither know who the other is and this makes for some very entertaining texts!

The story showed the not so glamorous life of an actor on a movie set.  Darien had to constantly work out, keep to a strict diet, and do things for publicity like "date" his co-star.  The one bright spot of his day is texting a mysterious girl. 

Elle, looking for a bright spot in her life, begins working on a Cosplay of one of the Starfield characters.  Can she win the costume contest and get to go to the Ball?  I loved the respect shown to people who Cosplay.  The effort and attention to detail that each person puts into a costume is mind-blowing.   

What I Was Mixed About:
I found the characters of Elle's step-mother and Darien's father to be rather two-dimensional.  By having the step-mom be in financial trouble she had some motivation for her behavior.  But I felt she was so obsessed with her own life that she wouldn't have had the energy to be so terrible to Elle.

Darien's father was also a control freak who seemed eager to cash in on his son's success.  Acting as his son's manager (never a good idea, by the way), he pulls every trick he can thing of to keep his son's career on track.  But it's always in his own self-interest.  He never treated Darien as an actual son.  This seemed a little far-fetched to me.
 
  

Rating: 





Release Date:  April 4th, 2017

Author:  Ashley Poston

Publisher:  Quirk Books

Page Length:  320 Page

Source:  Public Library

Format:  E-Book

Recommendation:  A fun rom-com retelling of Cinderella.  If you enjoy books about fandoms, you will really like this book.
 
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Saturday, June 22, 2019

Stacking The Shelves # 152 & Sunday Post # 116



I am combining two great blog hops:  Stacking The Shelves (a Saturday feature by Team Tynga's Reviews), and Sunday Post (a Sunday feature by the Caffeinated Book Reviewer).  Both of these features give people a chance to post about what books they received and also an opportunity to catch a glimpse of what others are excited about.  I really enjoy seeing everyone's version of these features!   All book covers are linked to Goodreads, if you want to check them out.  If you enjoy my blog, please consider following me via Bloglovin, Networked Blogs, GFC, or by email subscription.  If you leave a comment and tell me you are a new follower, I will follow you back!


Last Week on the Blog:
I was only able to post one review, but I have lots of reviews in the works for the rest of the summer!  I really enjoyed Something Like Gravity, by Amber Smith.  It's about a transgender boy trying to figure out how to live his life after a brutal attack.  





In Real Life:
I had my first introduction to my new manager and co-workers this week.  They are so kind!  I am super excited to begin work, and so very grateful for this opportunity!  As a reward, I used my gift card at my local bookstore!  So I have several new books to read.  I have one more week of vacation before my new job begins.  So I will be using this free time to binge read!

New Books:
Bought:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42051103-natalie-tan-s-book-of-luck-and-fortune?ac=1&from_search=true

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35450129-paris-by-the-book?ac=1&from_search=truehttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42201395-sorcery-of-thorns?ac=1&from_search=true

 For Review:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43316755-the-harp-of-kings?ac=1&from_search=true

That's it for this week.  Happy Summer!
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Tuesday, June 18, 2019

ARC Review: Something Like Gravity by Amber Smith

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42202010-something-like-gravity
Please Note:  I received an advance copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.  This did not influence the opinions of my review in any way.

Synopsis (From Goodreads):
Chris and Maia aren’t off to a great start.

A near-fatal car accident first brings them together, and their next encounters don’t fare much better. Chris’s good intentions backfire. Maia’s temper gets the best of her.

But they’re neighbors, at least for the summer, and despite their best efforts, they just can’t seem to stay away from each other.

The path forward isn’t easy. Chris has come out as transgender, but he’s still processing a frightening assault he survived the year before. Maia is grieving the loss of her older sister and trying to find her place in the world without her. Falling in love was the last thing on either of their minds.

But would it be so bad if it happened anyway?


Review:
With an intriguing set up, and strong characters, Something Like Gravity, by Amber Smith, is sure to remind readers of other books such as Love, Simon.  Chris and Maia are two complicated teens.  Chris is transgender and still recovering from a vicious physical attack.  Maia is trying to make sense of her life since the passing of her older sister.  Both have fractured family lives.  They are instantly drawn together.  But will their secrets tear them apart?

The characters don't have all the answers, but they do want to grow as people.  Although at times the pacing is slow, this book was romantic and ultimately, satisfying.

What I Liked:
Characters:
I really enjoyed the characters of Chris and Maia.  Each of them have some serious baggage.  Chris is in denial about his attack, trying mightily to handle his assault by burying it deep inside.  He bristles when his family and friends make a fuss over him.  Maia feels alone after her sister dies.  It doesn't help that her parents are self-absorbed and seem oblivious to her sorrow.  When she strikes out at other teens, the reader can see how even negative feelings are welcome.  It gets her to feel less invisible.

Romance:
The relationship between Chris and Maia is very romantic.  As with any summer romance there are fireworks, road trips, hot days, and sneaking out of the house at night.  There is a powerful physical attraction between them as well.  Their make-out scenes are tactful, but realistic (These are teens with raging hormones, after all). 

                   
via GIPHY

Story:
This is definitely a character driven book rather than an action driven one.  The story takes its time getting us to know Chris and Maia, and for Chris and Maia to get to know each other.  The big mystery, about when Chris was attacked, is revealed slowly.  I was both wanting to know what happened and dreading knowing the truth.  This element of the story could be a trigger problem for some people.

I really like the scene where Chris and his mom finally have an honest discussion about their deep tensions since his coming out.  His mother is not some awful trans-phobic person who finally learns to accept her son.  She explains how she feels in a realistic way that is beautiful and made me cry.  I have rarely seen parents portrayed  in a book with so much empathy and understanding.

What I Was Mixed About: 
Story:
Maia's story is a bit of a puzzle for me.  Maia has been telling Chris that she is a photographer.  But that was the big interest of her deceased sister, Mallory, not her.  It is a strange lie, but not earth-shattering as the book wants me to believe.  I think she has a simple explanation for projecting herself onto Mallory's accomplishments (she missed her sister).  But the book built this up to be a giant betrayal of Chris's trust.

This was the part of the book I liked the least.  In romantic books there always has to be a reason to break the happy couple apart (otherwise there would be no story, right?).  But Maia not coming clean about being a photographer seemed like a manufactured situation.  I just don't think Chris should have been that upset by it.

Trigger Warning for physical and sexual violence.

Rating: 




Release Date:  June 18th, 2019

Author: Amber Smith

Publisher: Margaret K. McEderry Books

Genre:  YA LGBTQI Romance Fiction

Page Length:  400 pages

Source:  NetGalley

Format:  Electronic PDF

Recommendation:  A solid romance between complicated characters.  You'll fall in love with Chris and Maia!


 
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Saturday, June 15, 2019

Stacking The Shelves #151 & Sunday Post # 115




I am combining two great blog hops:  Stacking The Shelves (a Saturday feature by Team Tynga's Reviews), and Sunday Post (a Sunday feature by the Caffeinated Book Reviewer).  Both of these features give people a chance to post about what books they received and also an opportunity to catch a glimpse of what others are excited about.  I really enjoy seeing everyone's version of these features!   All book covers are linked to Goodreads, if you want to check them out.  If you enjoy my blog, please consider following me via Bloglovin, Networked Blogs, GFC, or by email subscription.  If you leave a comment and tell me you are a new follower, I will follow you back!


On The Blog Last Week:
I reviewed two new books, both of which were great but for very different reasons.  Paris, 7am, is about the young adult life of poet Elizabeth Bishop.  I found it to be both beautifully written, and a sobering reminder of what gay people endured during the 1930's.  

Happily and Madly is a YA Thriller that had me staying up late to finish it.  I couldn't put it down.  Below are links for my reviews.

https://ponderingtheprose.blogspot.com/2019/06/arc-review-paris-am-by-liza-wieland.htmlhttps://ponderingtheprose.blogspot.com/2019/06/book-review-happily-and-madly-by-alexis.html

In "Real Life":
School ended and I began my search to find a job that would be year-round (not getting paid in the summer has been challenging).  With the encouragement of my husband and my brother, I updated my LinkedIn profile and started applying to jobs.   I also had an interview and...

                       
via GIPHY
I will be working at our school district's office!  I am so grateful to be able to work with wonderful people in a setting where I am valued.

New Books:
Bought:
You know I had to celebrate after getting that job offer, right?

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12067.Good_Omens?ac=1&from_search=true

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35561260-nocturna?ac=1&from_search=truehttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41150474-tell-me-how-you-really-feel?ac=1&from_search=true


https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36634904-storm-glass?ac=1&from_search=truehttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20727654-the-paper-magician?ac=1&from_search=true
  No new ARCs this week.  I am furiously trying to read the ones I already have.  I feel the need to read all ARCs before rewarding myself with books for my own amusement.  

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!


   
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Thursday, June 13, 2019

Book Review: Happily and Madly by Alexis Bass

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36362244-happily-and-madly?ac=1&from_search=true
Synopsis (From Goodreads):
Maris Brown has been told two things about her destiny:

1. She will fall happily and madly in love.
2. She could be dead before she turns eighteen.

The summer before that fateful birthday, Maris is in the wealthy beach town of Cross Cove with her estranged father and his new family--and the infamous Duvals. Since the youngest member of the Duval family, Edison, is back from college and back in the arms of Maris's new stepsister, her summer looks to be a long string of lazy days on the Duval's lush beach.

But Edison is hiding something. And the more Maris learns about him, the more she's given signs that she should stay as far away from him as possible. As wrong as it is, Maris is drawn to him. Around Edison, she feels truly alive and she's not willing to give that up. Even if it means a collision course with destiny.


Review:
From the description given on Goodreads, one would think Madly and Happily, by Alexis Bass is a novel about forbidden summer love.  It is.  But it is also a fast-paced thriller filled with shady business deals, mysterious characters, and complicated relationships.  Set against a backdrop of a summer resort town, this book was a page-turner. 

What I Liked:
Setting:
The beach town of Cross Cove, with its mix of local residents and wealthy visitors, reminds me of my hometown of Santa Barbara, California.  Hidden behind the glitzy exteriors of shops and restaurants that cater to tourists lies a seedy underbelly.  In the case of Santa Barbara, there is a huge homeless problem.  In fictional Cross Cove, the glamorous location hides drug trafficking, pay-offs, and possibly murder!

Characters:
Maris is the kind of broken teen that you know will make all the wrong choices in this story.  She is reckless, sullen, and although she claims she is responsible for her own decisions, blames her father for what has gone wrong in her life.  I liked Maris.  She was conflicted about many of the hurtful things she did, but she shows us how people can justify bad behavior.  She is a flawed human.

I really liked Sepp, Edison's brother.  He is not one of the main characters, but he is really important to the story.  I liked that, in an atmosphere where there were so many secrets, he was always a straight shooter.  I would say that he is almost the moral compass for this story.  Almost, because even though he points out how wrong everything is, he still is part of the sketchy goings-on.

Story:
I enjoy a good thriller and this was certainly a story that kept me on the edge of my seat.  The wealthy Duval family seem too perfect to be real, and they are.  Even though Edison is dating Chelsea, Maris's step-sister, it seems excessive that the Duvals take such an interest in Maris's whole family.  The reasons become clear as the story progresses.  There are some shady dealings going on.  Could George, Maris's father, be involved?

The novel is fluctuates between a story about forbidden love and a criminal mystery.  It certainly kept me guessing.

What I Was Mixed About:
The Romance:
I know Edison is supposed to be Mr. Charming, getting his way with just a brilliant smile.  But I was taken aback by how he often shifted the blame of what he was doing to Maris.  At one point in the story he tells her, "I hate it that you have to lie for me".  He doesn't give her a choice, just points out that she will get in trouble if she doesn't do what he wants.  It was extremely manipulative.  I hated that Maris didn't seem to have a backbone with him.  If she finds him so irresistible then I think she would want to lie for him, anyway.  But it made Maris seem very insecure to be able to be convinced that she had as much to lose as him.  She really didn't.  

I also didn't like that Maris tries to justify betraying Chelsea by thinking it's fine because it somehow evens out what George (Maris's dad) did to Maris and her mother.  One betrayal doesn't make another one okay.

Rating:  


Release Date:  May 21st, 2019

Author:  Alexis Bass

Publisher:  Tor Teen

Genre:  YA Thriller

Page Length:  352 Pages

Source:  Public Library

Format:  E-Book

Recommendation: A page-turning YA Thriller that would make a great summer beach read.
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Tuesday, June 11, 2019

ARC Review: Paris, A.M. by Liza Wieland

Please Note:  I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  This did not influence the opinions of my review in any way.

Synopsis (From Goodreads):
June 1937. Elizabeth Bishop, still only a young woman and not yet one of the most influential poets of the twentieth century, arrives in France with her college roommates. They are in search of an escape, and inspiration, far from the protective world of Vassar College where they were expected to find an impressive husband, a quiet life, and act accordingly. But the world is changing, and as they explore the City of Light, the larger threats of fascism and occupation are looming. There, they meet a community of upper-crust expatriates who not only bring them along on a life-changing adventure, but also into an underground world of rebellion that will quietly alter the course of Elizabeth’s life forever.

Paris, 7 A.M. imagines 1937—the only year Elizabeth, a meticulous keeper of journals, didn’t fully chronicle—in vivid detail and brings us from Paris to Normandy where Elizabeth becomes involved with a group rescuing Jewish “orphans” and delivering them to convents where they will be baptized as Catholics and saved from the impending horror their parents will face.

Poignant and captivating, Liza Wieland’s Paris, 7 A.M. is a beautifully rendered take on the formative years of one of America’s most celebrated—and mythologized—female poets.


Review:
I love historical fiction novels, particularly about the early part of the twentieth-century.  Throw in a Paris setting and I will eagerly read them.  The central story in Paris, 7A.M., examines the dangers of being a lesbian during the 1930's, both in the United States and in Europe.  I found the book to be hauntingly beautiful in its writing style.  The only criticism I would have about this book is that the author assumes we all know who poet Elizabeth Bishop was, and how influential she would become.  After a quick Google search, I was clued in and could truly appreciate this book.

What I Liked:
Narrative Style:
This book has a narrative style that is dream-like.  Scenes volley between memories and current action.  Timelines are seemingly optional.  While this is confusing, at first, it becomes exhilarating. 

Also, the descriptive nature of the writing is almost like Elizabeth Bishop's poetry (I actually did have some of her poems in my home in an anthology of 20th century poetry).  Details are used to create impressions of mood and place.  It was charming.

Story:
Although the synopsis from Goodreads makes this novel seem like it is all about Elizabeth Bishop's possible involvement with saving Jewish children just prior to the start of WWII, that is really only a small portion of the story.  The book is actually about how young women who are gay find out how to live in a world that will crush them for being who they are.  It's worth noting that this book debuts during Pride month.  It is a stark reminder of how dangerous it is to who you are in a world that wants you to fit into an established mold.

Despite how careful Elizabeth is, she finds other lesbians and has some moments where she can let her guard down.  Whether by accident or design, she gravitates toward women who are also gay.  The tragedy is that in order to stay safe many of these women have to find husbands and pretend to be straight.  Elizabeth, having an inheritance, is able to lead an independent life.  You can understand her sorrow as she witnesses her friends efforts to blend in.

What I Was Mixed About:
Background:
My only very small criticism of this book is that I wish the author would have provided a small primer on who Elizabeth Bishop was.  I am embarrassed to say that I wasn't familiar with her contributions to poetry and didn't know her life's story.  This becomes an issue in the  last portion of the book.  There are several references to people that I didn't know about.  After some researching, I realized that one of these people was a woman she was with for fifteen years!  But there is no explanation as to how they fit into Elizabeth's life.  

I will say that reading this book has inspired me to learn more about Elizabeth Bishop and her fascinating life.  

Rating: 




Release Date:  June 11th, 2019

Author:  Liza Wieland

Publisher:  Simon Shuster

Genre:  Historical Fiction

Page Length:  352 pages

Source:  NetGalley

Format:  E-Book

Recommendation:  A beautifully written book about a poet during her formative years.  I would do a quick Google search prior to reading it to truly get all the references to people and important moments in Elizabeth Bishop's life.
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Saturday, June 8, 2019

Stacking The Shelves #150 & Sunday Post #114



I am combining two great blog hops:  Stacking The Shelves (a Saturday feature by Team Tynga's Reviews), and Sunday Post (a Sunday feature by the Caffeinated Book Reviewer).  Both of these features give people a chance to post about what books they received and also an opportunity to catch a glimpse of what others are excited about.  I really enjoy seeing everyone's version of these features!   All book covers are linked to Goodreads, if you want to check them out.  If you enjoy my blog, please consider following me via Bloglovin, Networked Blogs, GFC, or by email subscription.  If you leave a comment and tell me you are a new follower, I will follow you back!


What's Happening on the Blog:
I've been working hard on lots of reviews (why is it that so many books are released in early June?).  One ARC I really loved was Paris, 7am, by Liza Wieland.  I found the narrative style so unique and fitting for a book about poet Elizabeth Bishop.  My review will be up next week.
Reviews Last Week:

https://ponderingtheprose.blogspot.com/2019/06/arc-review-ayesha-at-last-by-uzma.htmlhttps://ponderingtheprose.blogspot.com/2019/06/arc-review-montauk-by-nicola-harrison.htmlhttps://ponderingtheprose.blogspot.com/2019/06/the-red-labyrinth-by-meredith-tate.html


 What's Happening in "Real Life":
This week was the last week of school, both for me as a special education aide, and for my daughter who is now a high school graduate!  Because my daughter is our youngest, it's the end of an era for our family.  It's been a week full of emotion and happy tears.

New Books:
Bought:
 Yes, I bought a lot of new books this week!  But, it was my birthday week, and (with the exception of We Hunt The Flame) they were on super sale on my Kindle.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41219451-descendant-of-the-crane?ac=1&from_search=truehttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863277-bloodwitch?ac=1&from_search=truehttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36492488-we-hunt-the-flame?ac=1&from_search=true

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29774026-the-priory-of-the-orange-tree?ac=1&from_search=truehttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34409176-the-dreamers?ac=1&from_search=truehttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25752041-royal-bastards?ac=1&from_search=true

For Review:
NetGalley:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41827015-the-warehouse?ac=1&from_search=truehttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43263520-the-grace-year?ac=1&from_search=truehttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43263457-secrets-of-the-chocolate-house?ac=1&from_search=true


 That's it for this week.  Have a wonderful start to your summer!
 
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Wednesday, June 5, 2019

ARC Review: Montauk by Nicola Harrison

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41150486-montauk?ac=1&from_search=true
Please Note:  I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  This did not influence the opinions in my review in any way.

Synopsis (From Goodreads):
Montauk, Long Island, 1938.

For three months, this humble fishing village will serve as the playground for New York City’s wealthy elite. Beatrice Bordeaux was looking forward to a summer of reigniting the passion between her and her husband, Harry. Instead, tasked with furthering his investment interest in Montauk as a resort destination, she learns she’ll be spending twelve weeks sequestered with the high society wives at The Montauk Manor—a two-hundred room seaside hotel—while Harry pursues other interests in the city.

College educated, but raised a modest country girl in Pennsylvania, Bea has never felt fully comfortable among these privileged women, whose days are devoted not to their children but to leisure activities and charities that seemingly benefit no one but themselves. She longs to be a mother herself, as well as a loving wife, but after five years of marriage she remains childless while Harry is increasingly remote and distracted. Despite lavish parties at the Manor and the Yacht Club, Bea is lost and lonely and befriends the manor’s laundress whose work ethic and family life stir memories of who she once was.

As she drifts further from the society women and their preoccupations and closer toward Montauk’s natural beauty and community spirit, Bea finds herself drawn to a man nothing like her husband –stoic, plain spoken and enigmatic. Inspiring a strength and courage she had almost forgotten, his presence forces her to face a haunting tragedy of her past and question her future.

Desperate to embrace moments of happiness, no matter how fleeting, she soon discovers that such moments may be all she has, when fates conspire to tear her world apart…


Review:
Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres.  I love reading details in these books that will make me feel as though I am living in a different era.  Generally, the lives of the characters  are overshadowed in these books by real life historical events. This novel seemed more about a society marriage, something that could have taken place in almost any time period.  While I did find parts of this novel compelling, I would have loved to see more of how the threat of an upcoming war would affect these characters.

What I Liked:
Characters:
Beatrice is not the same as most of the shallow society women summering in Montauk.  First, she married into this group.  She was raised on a farm in Pennsylvania.  Although she has been married five years, she hasn't had a child yet.  This makes her an outsider to all the goings on at this beach-side resort.  She is able to observe, but is also at a distinct disadvantange of not having all the social connections other have.

At the beginning of the story, Beatrice is a very meek character.  She suspect her husband is unfaithful.  Rather than acting on this if it's true, she chooses to pretend it isn't happening.  Although she makes excuses for her husband, Harry, throughout the book, she does come to appreciate her own worth.  I also like that by the books ending, Beatrice couldn't care less about what people think of her.

Romance:
With such a pompous, self-centered husband, is it any wonder that Beatrice will fall in love with someone else?  I think this book would make a wonderful movie, given all the sweeping lighthouse scenery. 
Plus the man she fall for happens to be the island's lighthouse keeper, a man with a tragic past.

What I Was Mixed About:
Historical Details:  
While the story gave many examples of how differently women were treated way back when, there weren't enough specific details at the beginning of the book to establish what era this was.  I honestly had to stop reading at one point and look back to find the year the story was set in.  It could have been any time from 1928 to 1978.

Later in the story there are several references to President Roosevelt, and the troubles in Europe, but they upcoming war doesn't seem to affect the characters in any way.

What I did notice was all the wonderful details about fashion and food.  The author takes great care in describing the many gowns the women wear, and how food was prepared.

What I Didn't Like:
Ending:
As the story was more of a romance novel, I had a feeling the characters weren't all going to get a happy ending.  But the climatic scene happens very quickly (literally "out of the blue") and was a bit melodramatic.  This also gives the main character, Beatrice, a reason never to have to really face the aftermath of her choices.  Even though she has been terribly wronged by some people, she made some mistakes as well, but she never needs to face any consequences.  

Trigger Warning for sexual violence

Rating: 





Release Date:  June 4th, 2019

Author:  Nicola Harrison

Publisher:  St. Martin's Press

Genre:  Historical Fiction

Page Length:  400 Pages

Source:  NetGalley

Format:  E-Book

Recommendation: A solid read if your looking for a swoon-worthy romance.  Although there may not be enough historical details for some.
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Tuesday, June 4, 2019

ARC Review: Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36099237-ayesha-at-last
Please Note:  I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  This did not influence the opinions of my review in any way.

Synopsis (From Goodreads):
AYESHA SHAMSI has a lot going on.  Her dreams of being a poet have been set aside for a teaching job so she can pay off her debts to her wealthy uncle. She lives with her boisterous Muslim family and is always being reminded that her flighty younger cousin, Hafsa, is close to rejecting her one hundredth marriage proposal. Though Ayesha is lonely, she doesn’t want an arranged marriage. Then she meets Khalid who is just as smart and handsome as he is conservative and judgmental. She is irritatingly attracted to someone who looks down on her choices and dresses like he belongs in the seventh century.

When a surprise engagement between Khalid and Hafsa is announced, Ayesha is torn between how she feels about the straightforward Khalid and his family; and the truth she realizes about herself. But Khalid is also wrestling with what he believes and what he wants. And he just can’t get this beautiful, outspoken woman out of his mind. 


Review:
When I read the description for Ayesha At Last, by Uzma Jalaluddin, that it was a twist on the classic, Pride and Prejudiced, I immediately requested it from NetGalley.  While I wouldn't say this novel stayed exactly true to the Jane Austin book, it did have many similar plot points and situations that made me smile.  The author also had lots to say about cultural misunderstandings and intolerance, and included characters I connected with easily.  I really enjoyed this book.

What I Liked:
Points of View:
Like S.K. Ali's book, Love From A to Z, Ayesha At Last has points of view from two Muslim young people:  Ayesha and Khalid.  While Ali's book really focuses on the female's choice to wear a hijab, this book spotlights the male character's traditional choices of attire and his adherence to Islam.  The characters, as well as the reader, must confront their own preconceived notions and prejudices about Muslim men.

Characters:
Ayesha and Khalid have a lot in common.  Both have lost a father, dress more conservatively, and are quick to make assumptions.  But Ayesha is a more modern person.  She isn't in a hurry to get married, but she feels the disapproval of her relatives and her community.  Khalid feels somewhat out of place as well because he has placed all his faith in having his domineering mother arrange a marriage for him.

I also liked all the secondary characters, and how they fit into the Pride and Prejudice inspired story.  There is cousin Hafsa (a combination of Lydia and Charlotte from P & P), Hafsa's hysterical, bragging mom (like Elizabeth Bennett's mother), and my personal favorite, Masood.  

Masood has the clueless Mr. Collins role in the story.  I found the author's re-imagining of him so fun.  He is now a professional wrestling life coach, completely serious, and oblivious to how silly he is.  I loved that this character is written with such affection, without making him a buffoon.

Story:
The story matches much of what happens in Pride and Prejudice, but with some added twists.  Rather than just some terrible first impressions, the story has Khalid thinking that Ayesha is actually her cousin Hafsa.  There are also subplots about the Toronto Muslim community, and Khalid being discriminated at work for his traditional attire.  I enjoyed all of it.  This was such a fun book that had me rooting for Ayesha, Khalid and their families.  I raced through it.

Rating: 




Release Date:  June 4th, 2019

Author:  Uzma Jalaluddin

Publisher:  Berkley Books

Genre:  Contemporary Fiction

Page Length: 368 Pages

Source:  NetGalley

Format:  E-Book

Recommendation:  A fun retelling of Pride and Prejudice with the added bonus of it taking place in a under-represented community.  Romantic, but also relevant to our time.  I loved it. 
 

 
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Monday, June 3, 2019

The Red Labyrinth by Meredith Tate

Please Note:  I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  This did not influence the opinions of my review in any way.

Synopsis (From Goodreads):
The massive labyrinth was built to protect Zadie Kalver's isolated desert town. Unfortunately, living in the maze's shadow makes her feel anything but safe. Even without its enchanted deathtraps and illusions, a mysterious killer named Dex lurks in its corridors, terrorizing anyone in his path.

But when Zadie's best friend vanishes into the labyrinth-and everyone mysteriously forgets he exists- completing the maze becomes her only hope of saving him. In desperation, Zadie bribes the only person who knows the safe path through-Dex-into forming a tenuous alliance.

Navigating a deadly garden, a lethal blood-filled hourglass, and other traps-with an untrustworthy murderer for her guide-Zadie's one wrong step from certain death. But with time running out before her friend (and secret crush) is lost forever, Zadie must reach the exit and find him. If Dex and the labyrinth don't kill her first.


Review:
I have very mixed feelings about this book.  On the one hand, I thought the dystopian world-building to be wonderfully creative.  The dynamics between people who are "skilled" and "blank" were very relatable to racial discrimination in real life.  How this society decided to ration out scarce resources was realistic (but infuriating).  But, however much I liked the idea of a labyrinth, with it's traps and puzzles, it didn't really have a logical function in the book.  There were a lot of unexplained elements that the reader was just expected to accept.  And the ending was quite unsatisfying.

What I Liked:

World-Building:  
The author created a whole society around the idea that the survivors of a plague have needed to band together to conserve the few resources they have left.  All of the original survivors each had a "skill" or super-power.  But, over the years, some people, called "blanks" are born without any skills.  The town elders have decided that those without "skills" are not useful and are thrown out of town into the desert.  There, they are preyed upon by unscrupulous people to sign contracts as indentured servants.  I found this system to be, sadly, something I could see happen if water became more precious than gold.

This sets up a system of first and second-class citizens where value is determined by what skills one has.  But are skills the only thing of importance about a person?  What about character, or family connections?  How strange that some of these same questions are part of the recent immigration debate here in the U.S.

The Story of The Town:
I really liked the characters and story lines of the townspeople.  There were many interesting secondary characters who I wanted to know more about.  The author made me emotionally engage with their struggles and concerns. 

What I Was Mixed About:
The Labyrinth:
The Sand Guardian is a magical being who tries to trick Zadie and Dex to prevent them from reaching the Stone Palace.  I thought the traps and puzzles were very creative.  But what was the point?  

Zadie tries to reach the palace because a force field has encased the town, trapping all the skilled citizens.  Only blanks can go through the force field without being killed.  But why have a giant killer maze when a force field could have been used to keep everyone away from the palace in the first place (blanks would have no reason to go the palace)?

What I Didn't Like:
Inconsistent logic:
When one is creating an original universe, there must be rules as to how the universe works.  Even if the rules are really far out (such as cats having superpowers), it's fine as long as the rules are consistent.

             
via GIPHY

The inconsistency that I found annoying was that the author gave different explanations as to why the skilled people had superpowers.  Was it magic or genetics?  This becomes important because the labyrinth, itself, is supposed to be powered by magic.  But what does the sand guardian gain by keeping the people from the palace?  That is a mystery that is never explained.

The Ending:
I don't think I'm giving anything away by revealing that Zadie does make it through the labyrinth.  

               
via GIPHY

But even though the main problem of the story was resolved, it was not very emotionally satisfying.  Suddenly, there was much more going on in the story, and I was left with more questions than answers.  I felt like this was just a big set up for a sequel.




Rating: 





Release Date:  June 4th, 2019

Author:  Meredith Tate

Publisher:  Flux Publishing

Genre:  YA Dystopian Fantasy

Page Length:  352 Pages

Source:  NetGalley

Format:  E-Book

Recommendation: Although there were some major holes in logic and plot, I did find this book to be a quick, escapist read.  This would be a better library selection than a purchase.
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