Reading Fanatic Reviews

Books to Add to Your TBR list... or Not!

Anxiety Relief by Elliot Wood

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Anxiety Relief*

Not All It’s Cracked Up to Be

The full title and subtitle of this book is “Anxiety Relief: A complete guide to eliminate negative thinking, stress, dерrеѕѕiоn, angеr and panic attасkѕ.” in general, I do not believe that any books, especially a short one like this, can be a “complete guide” to any medical topic. But I also found the subtitle to be an odd combination of concepts. What does anxiety have to do with negative thinking, depression, or anger? These could only be loosely linked together, at least to my mind. The subtitle also makes you think that this book is going to be all about these other topics and how they relate to anxiety or anxiety relief. But over half the book was a more general discussion of anxiety, including different types and other information. Some ideas presented struck me as rather bizarre. Like in a section that was labeled 14 destructive types of anxiety, two of them were ones that I would not think of as being necessarily “destructive” but rather just annoying, like test anxiety and shy bladder syndrome. In all honesty, it felt like this book was haphazardly cobbled together from a variety of websites or perhaps other sources. I could be wrong, but it seemed that way to me. And it also had that annoying tactic that some nonfiction authors in particular seem to use; that is, right in the middle of the book as your reading along, the author begs for a review. Yes, I know that reviews are important to writers, but asking for them like that is just the wrong way to go about it. In all honesty, you most likely could find the information in this book on the internet.

Finding Tony by Jodie Esch

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Finding Tony*

More About Pregnancy than Romance

In terms of contemporary romance, this is one of the more unusual that I’ve read lately. Not quite sure how to describe it all for this review. The heroine has come to a small island in the Pacific Northwest to lick her wounds and try to fashion a new life. She is fixated on becoming a mother, and she doesn’t mind that she would have to do so a single mother as she feels done with men. The hero is returning to the island as well. He grew up there, and after some serious business reverses on the other side of the country, he’s come to regroup. They literally run into each other, and he actually breaks his foot. They strike up a casual friendship that soon turns into more, even as she is grappling with whether or not to go through with her plan for fertilization. I’ll stop here with the description because I don’t want to give too much away. But much of the book was actually about the pregnancy, birth, and a little after. There were romance elements for sure, but it felt more like it was about the journey to decide on the fertility treatments and then the subsequent pregnancy. I like the hero. Even though he’s got professional issues, he’s still a decent guy.

Pride & Prejudicial by Danica Dawn

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Pride & Prejudicial*

Bold Liza and Bad English

I am a huge fan of Jane Austen fanfiction, though I will admit that I do not usually enjoy contemporary retellings. I prefer the Regency variations. But I was intrigued by the legal aspect of this one, so I thought I would pick it up. There were parts of this story that were quite amusing. This Liza Bennet has a super sharp wit and a certain level of audacity that is definitely greater they more proper original Elizabeth Bennet. I love the scene where she first challenged Will. Actually, that whole dance number was a bit of a surprise! Unfortunately, my enjoyment of the story was completely hampered by the fact that this book was either not professionally edited or was edited by someone who does not know the craft and art. There were issues with tenses and an inordinate number of missing commas, so much so that it actually created problems with understanding. For all of these numerous mistakes, I found this a tedious read.

Four Weeks for Prosperity by Elwyn Hayes

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Four Weeks*

28 Days to an Expansive Money Mindset

I found this to be a fascinating approach to getting a better mindset for prosperity and abundance. The book is grounded in the Law of Attraction, but the author says he sees it in a slightly different way. Here’s a quote from the book: “Thinking about attracting something means that there’s a separation between you and the thing you want, let’s say money in this case. I believe that instead of working on attracting things, we need to expand our consciousness and embrace the things we want. You can’t attract a desire if you think the desire is bigger than you…”

The book has a very small introductory section, and the bulk of the book is 28 essays and a variety of exercises (one for each day)—including meditation, affirmations, tapping, and more—to help you key into the particular topic of the day. While I haven’t given it all a try, I plan to. I found the ones I have done to be relaxing if nothing else; it also was calming. I’ll be interested to see how it turns out at the end of 28 days. Will it have affected a shift in my thoughts about money?

Alice’s Arranged Marriage by Joyce Alec

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Alice's Arranged Marriage*

Terrible Hero and Family Makes for Bad Read

I have read a fair number of “18th century” romances written by Joyce Alec, and unfortunately, I have found them to be of variable quality. I think this one, though, is perhaps one of the worst.

Why is that? The heroine seemed to go from a bad situation in America to an even worse one in England. The hero was absolutely abominable. He needs her money because he was stupid and gave enough money to his ne’er-do-well brother that the hero now is on the brink of financial ruin. His brother has done so poorly that he has ruined his own reputation and has begun to drag Charles’s down as well. But the hero and his hideous aunt place excessive demands on the heroine. She is expected to be a proper Englishwoman even though she is American and has, of course, no clue what is truly expected by English society.

(BTW, it’s a fingernails-on-the-chalkboard moment for me when this author refuses to be more specific about the time frame in her books. Why bother to give a whole CENTURY as the timeframe. Pin it down, girl!)

I feel so frustrated with this book right now. It was just awful, awful. Yet I kept reading it, hoping for some redemption of the hero or some bit of kindness toward the heroine from the hero’s family (including him) but it came too little, too late. What he wanted for most of the book was a silent lapdog—proper women should, like children, be seen and not heard—only desired for her wealth… and treated shabbily just because she is naïve. Disgusting. Seriously, he just would have been happy with the money… and she might have been happy if she just left. I so wanted her to. I can’t get behind a book where the hero treats the heroine so badly for most of the book. Just awful, awful. Cannot recommend.

Son of Thunder by Steven M. Moore

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Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Thalia, Smashwords, Mondadori, Angus & Robertson, Indigo, and

Son of Thunder*

Thriller through Space and Time

This is the first book that I have read by this author. I thought it was intriguing how he started the book. He sets it up like the person writing it (in 2025) is a scribe who is writing down the real-life tales of a woman who got into some intriguing adventures as an art detective. This is followed by a couple of different sections, like a cast of characters and an explanation of the agencies that are like the FBI and CIA in Great Britain and France. I actually thought all of this front material helped to prime the pump and got you curious about what exactly this book would be about.

I was surprised that it actually started in Renaissance Italy. The book not only takes us around the globe but also back and forth in time. What a fascinating concept! The book is mostly fast paced, though it does have times of relative stillness. I found it to be a thoroughly engaging read, written in a detailed style that is not overly much so (as can happen sometimes, unfortunately. I thought the pacing was a spot on and the characters well-formed for a thriller. If you like globe-trotting thrillers that are steeped in history, you may very well enjoy this book.

Josie by Beth Gildersleeve

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Info Dumps and Distance

This is the first book that I have read by this author. I had some issues with it. Even though the book is of decent length, the author chose to do several information dumps in the beginning, both on the hero’s side and on the heroine’s side. One of the heroine’s actually happened while she and the hero were in the midst of their initial conversation in the book! It just seemed odd to have her thinking about her troubled romantic past in great detail while she is supposedly sitting and chatting with the hero, who happens to be her brother’s boss. I didn’t like the blackmail aspect of the story. After their marriage of convenience, they didn’t spend enough time together for it to truly feel like a romance. How can the relationship change and grow if they aren’t together? And, no, the texts don’t cut it. I know that work and distance were supposed to be at the crux of their conflict, but to me, the hero and the heroine have to be together more to make it a romance. So, I find myself a little disappointed in this book.

Your Rebel Life by Tikiri Herath

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Available at Amazon, Kobo, Google Play, Scribd, 24 Symbols, Mondadori, Angus & Robertson, and Indigo (Chapters).

Your Rebel Life*

Maintaining Your Rebel Life

I have read the other two books in this serious, Your Rebel Dreams and Your Rebel Plans, and I enjoyed both thoroughly. I thought the author gave a fantastic blueprint to claim the life you want. The two earlier books look at how to figure out your vision and then plan to make it a reality. I’ve actually been anticipating this book for a couple of months because I so enjoyed the other two. This series-ender is a little different from the other two, but once I understood what the author was going for, I appreciated what this book has to offer.

In looking at the big picture of the three books in this series, I think I can liken it to the trajectory of a weight loss plan. In this scenario, Your Rebel Dreams (the first book) is like choosing which diet you think would be best for you and your body. Your Rebel Plans would be the phase where you are actually structuring and implementing your weight loss plan. I would call this book the maintenance phase: You’ve established a plan, worked the plan, and now you need a longer range vision about how to maintain everything that you’ve worked so hard for.

The book has a relatively straightforward structure. There is a section of introductory material, some of which was familiar from the previous books. Here, she sets the foundations about the particular constructs of all these books, like the Passion Pyramid and the Heroine’s Journey. The bulk of the book looks at the ten key pillars of life as defined by the author. Specifically, she has you look at each of these areas and assess your strengths and weaknesses so you can set small goals for improvement. She then gives ten tips that will help with that particular pillar. There are check-ins at the end of each month for each pillar where you state what your goal was, how you did with it, and steps from there. I found this a fascinating approach to try to keep yourself and your life not only in balance but in a constant state of improvement, a little kaizen. If you’ve read the other books, you’ll most likely enjoy this maintenance phase of your Rebel Diva life. If you haven’t read the other two books, you probably should before you delve into this one as those two books will truly set the foundation for this one.

Lady Jane by Vicki Hopkins

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Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Scribd, 24 Symbols, Thalia, Mondadori, Angus & Robertson, Indigo, and

Lady Jane*

Characters Didn’t Seem Regency

I had a hard time buying many of the aspects of this book. It is supposed to be Regency, but none of the characters seem to act like what we expect from contemporarily written Regency romance books. The heroine, Lady Jane, is a woman unlike any other that I’ve read in a Regency Romance. She’s the female equivalent of a rake, taking men as lovers and disposing of them when she grows bored. We don’t understand why she is like this for a little while. Her family seems supportive of this or at least tolerant, which strikes me as odd. While she does have somewhat of a reputation, she is not shunned by the ton. When Man Zero, the one who first took her virtue and left her to pursue his military career, comes back to town, things change for Jane. How will she be affected when she sees him at every social function? What will their new relationship be, if any?

The hero, Matthew, wasn’t an easy hero to like, first because of his and Jane’s shared past as well as his initial indifference to the pain he had caused her. He has been able to go on with his life relatively unscathed, while he left behind wreckage in Jane’s that altered her perspective and life immeasurably. Yet, at an early point in the book, he states that he never really gave her a thought until seeing her again. Now, I wouldn’t require him to pine forever when he had a loving relationship with his wife. But I would at least liked him to have considered his actions over the years or more when he sees her again. Given their past, what happens between them in this book just seems implausible. I just couldn’t buy it. I also didn’t like that many characters in this book seem to have what I would consider to be more modern sensibilities, acting and talking more like contemporary people than like people from 200 years ago. All in all, I found this to be an oddly disconcerting book.

The Perfect Brew by Jo-Ann Carson

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The Perfect Brew*

Bumpy Start Morphs into a Good Read

I enjoy a good cozy mystery. This one, unfortunately, started off with an information dump, which I never like in any sort of fiction that I read. It did get better after that. The heroine got more than she bargained for when she came to a small town in the Pacific Northwest to settle her great-aunt’s affairs. The now-deceased lady has left the heroine a coffee shop… and a curse. Soon, a second body drops, and the heroine has determined to help figure out who the murderer is. She’s got a little something going on the romance front as well, or at least potentially. I found this novel a quirky and enjoyable read, which is how I like my paranormal cozy mysteries.

Jamie Brydone-Jack

Jamie Brydone-Jack

Reader, Editor, Writer

I’m an avid reader, for both fun and business. I enjoy a wide variety of books, including literary fiction, romance, thrillers, cozy mysteries, and fantasy for fiction and history, contemporary issues, philosophy, music, medicine, and cookbooks for nonfiction. I’m a freelance copyeditor who also does beta and alpha reading. I have two websites that are all about romance and mystery. You can follow my reviews at Amazon, Goodreads, and Bookbub.


The asterisks (*) by the book title denote the source of the book copy.

One star = I received it as a free advance/review copy or directly from the author.

Two stars = I borrowed it through my Kindle Unlimited subscription.

Three stars = I purchased the book outright (sometimes for free).

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