Reading Fanatic ReviewsAll Kindle Unlimited Reviews
NOTE: These books were in Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program at the time that I posted the reviews. They may not still be in the program, as authors can opt out every 3 months. If you find a book that is no longer in the program, don’t hesitate to contact me, and I will update the review.
A Good Start to a New Cozy Mystery Series
After romance, cozy mysteries are my favorite fiction genre to read. Even though I enjoy the more serious police shows on TV, when I read, I prefer a good cozy. This is the first book in a new series by an author I have not read before. This is a culinary mystery, and I always find these to be particularly fun. Luckily, this one was no exception. The murder takes place in a bakery; the man who helped the heroine move into her new bakery space is found dead. They had not gotten along so well during the move, so she is a likely suspect. Luckily, she has a variety of friends who try to help her figure out what actually happened.
I did enjoy the quirky world created by this author. A good cozy needs to be quirky for sure and perhaps even wacky. I think this book fulfilled both requirements. There is a surprisingly large cast of characters in this book, and the heroine has a lot of friends. I will admit this was a little confusing at first, as we are introduced to many characters one after the other. Their speech patterns were not distinct enough to really help characterize them, so sometimes it was a little hard to follow and know who was who. I absolutely adored the older friends of the heroine; we don’t see enough active, older characters in contemporary fiction. The friends actually do have a big role in this novel as they try to help the heroine sort everything out. There were some definite issues with grammar, punctuation, and usage, enough to be distracting. Commas were problematic as were the hyphens needed for compound adjectives. The last may sound a little silly, but if they aren’t used properly, sometimes the meaning of a sentence is not clear, making you have to re-read to get the meaning.
All in all, though, I thought that this was a good start for a new cozy mystery series. At least when I read the next one, I will have a better sense of the large cast of characters, which will be a help. Now, if the author could just get it professionally edited, that would be a big help for me, too!
I have read other books in this series, Isabelle and Cecilia, and I have honestly enjoyed this author’s writing style. I believe I said in the reviews of those two books that I thought that this author knew how to write a proper Regency. Unfortunately, this book missed the mark for me. While I could empathize with the heroine after her disastrous annulled marriage, I never truly felt like I got to know her or the hero on the level that I need to enjoy a story. Their marriage of convenience takes place quickly. Even in Regency books that use this trope, we typically get a sense of attraction or feel a chemistry between the hero and heroine, but nothing was like that here. Even though they’re both genial people—neither is unkind toward the other—there’s no spark, and it feels like there is no potential for that for far too long. I felt like I kept waiting for something to happen between them (or even outside them) that would bring them closer. Instead, each seems to be happy to live their own lives separate from each other. To me, that just isn’t a romance. The hero and heroine have to be in at least relative proximity—not him going out to hunt all day every day with a friend and dine with that family—so that the relationship, even if somewhat tortured at first, can start to build. That just didn’t happen here. All this just went on so long that I never really bought them as a couple. How unfortunate, really, as I was really looking forward to this book by this author.
I received a free copy of this book, but that did not affect my review.
Breathtaking Book of Real WWI Female Spies
Oh, my gosh! What an utterly fantastic book, a genuinely gripping read! I had read the previous book in the series about the Civil War female spies, but I believe that this book even surpasses that one. This book tells the tales of three female spies during World War I, one who may be perhaps the most notorious female spy ever, Mata Hari. The book follows the chronological order of the conflict, so we experience the war as it unfolds through time through these women’s eyes and experiences. While, of course, the conversations and some scenes are wholly fictionalized, the author has done a tremendous depth and breadth of research into these real female spies of WWI. She made these women come alive on the page; their experiences are no less real. I found it easy to empathize with the two women who were on the right side of history. I particularly resonated with Marthe, as I could completely relate to her struggles through the war as I am a nurse myself. In modern times, the nursing ethical code is drummed into us from the first days of nursing school. Back in the day, women who were drawn to nursing might not have been taught ethics directly, but they would have had a moral code that included a depth of compassion and genuine care for humanity to do such a job as it was back then. I could completely understand her struggle with the different parts of herself, the nurse and the spy. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to feel that pull, wanting to do the best for your country and allies but feeling the pain caused by the horrors you had to necessarily inflict on others. Doing what is right is sometimes a choice between the lesser of evils, and that certainly doesn’t make it any easier to swallow.
The author pulls you right into the story, starting with a prologue that describes Mata Hari’s death by firing squad. Each of these women is richly drawn, with some similarities between them but also some striking differences (as you might imagine). Interestingly, their paths crossed at times during the war. The descriptions of all that went on during this massive, war-to-end-all wars conflict (if only!) are completely captivating, keeping your interest (even if you know how it ends!). I absolutely adore that this author has chosen to honor the unsung female heroes (and a few bad girls) who helped shape history. It is fantastic that their stories are being shared in such a way. I find myself wondering what war and heroines this author will pick next. World War II, I imagine?
Excellent Beginning and Couple; End Not Wholly Related
I will admit that I am rarely drawn so quickly into a story, but this one pulled me right in and kept my attention when I should have been doing other things. The poor heroine has led a miserable existence because of her drunken thieving father. Others in the clan are quick to tar her with the same brush. She is vulnerable and falls victim to a man who pays her attention and says sweet words. But his only interest in her is carnal, although his lies claim otherwise. A year later, the heroine having giving birth to the man’s child, the hero of the story makes a wish with his grandmother a special well for a loving wife, a child, and peace for his clan. Little does he know that so many things are about to change.
This book really had me up until the halfway point or so. The heroine’s story and her being shunned and maltreated kept my interest. And I absolutely adored the hero, Connor. He is truly a decent and caring man who had gone through his own difficulties in losing his wife and child. He is never anything but kind and understanding toward the heroine, and I just adored that. However, though, things did get a little weird after the middle point in the book, unfortunately. The entire climax of the novel had not been clearly set up earlier. We knew some of Helen’s evil and what a lying jerk Darwud was, but no clue was truly given the extent of what they would go for or what their plans might be. So while I adored the love story of the hero and heroine (and their characters), I did not think that the climax of the story had anything, truly, to do with that. The climax of any novel must flow from the characters and the plot, but this one didn’t. The first part is so enjoyable, though, that I would recommend it even if the last parts of the novel were a disappointment.
Funny Tales of the Discarded Gods
Interestingly, I read Volume 2 before I read Volume 1 of this series. But, of course, it doesn’t really matter as this series is collections of humorous and fun short stories about the old gods. It was a delight to read this first one, a collection of 13 stories by different authors. Some were laugh-out-loud funny. Some authors have been very creative in thinking about how the old gods might interact with humans today or otherwise amuse themselves. These stories are all short, so they can be ready easily when you need to, say, wait at the doctor’s office or are on a break at work. If you love classic mythology, you may very well enjoy this sometimes hilarious spin on it.
Didn’t Quite Gel for Me
I am not quite sure what to think of this book. For some reason, it never quite gelled for me. We are thrown into this modern marriage of convenience very quickly. I think the book would have been better served if the couple had explored the feelings left over from their previous relationship before they agreed to a marriage of convenience. So, to me, some of their issues seemed contrived, ones that could have been easily dealt with if they had simply talked openly early on or throughout. Instead, by setting themselves up to not talk about true thoughts and feelings, things went awry that shouldn’t. There still could have been adequate conflict and tension given their mutual past history as well as their problems in previous relationships. I loved the hero’s little girl, Erin. She’s such a cutie. Though, in the end, I felt a little disappointed by this book.
Murder and Christmas in Small-Town Scotland
I have read every book in this series, including the prequel. The series, where a young American woman goes to a small town in Scotland to stay with her aunt, immediately charmed me. Each book has felt infused with such a Scottish flavor and quirky characters like we love in any cozy mystery. This book, in particular, felt steeped in Scottish tradition—it is Christmas, after all—what fun! Who murdered Santa Claus after a big Yule festival? Dalkinchie, despite its small size, always seems to have an adequate pool of suspects! I feel like each of these books is getting better and better, though I did enjoy the first one. The author has a way of building a community of fascinating characters, throwing in blind turns and red herrings, and still making it all seem realistic. My hats off to the author, and I sincerely look forward to the next book of the series.
More Needed in the Middle
I enjoy cozy mysteries very much, especially paranormal ones. In general, I like novellas, but the mystery genre just is not made for this short form of writing. A good mystery needs room to ramble, time for twists and turns happen, a space for the buildup of red herrings, etc. This story felt like it had great potential. The death of a loved one that brings you to a magical town? Sounds like the perfect setup. And the setup was good. But I didn’t feel like the follow-through was there. There wasn’t enough tension and forward motion to the plot. I thought the writing itself was fine. The descriptive passages were perhaps at times a little much, but overall, it was a pleasant read. I just wish that it felt like there was more to the middle of the story.
Chick Lit Romance
This is the first book I’ve read by this author, and I’m glad that we’ve been introduced. The book feels unusual because it is a good blend of chick lit and romance. Usually, a book is one or the other. The first half is heavy on the chick lit. I actually adored the heroine’s group of girlfriends. They helped her see herself more clearly after a very embarrassing moment, and they attempt to help her move on from her past in the way that caring friends do. I actually liked the structure that the author gave this book, with the divorced women choosing to do ten things that her husband hated as an act of defiance and reclaiming her life. The book is quite amusing at first; there’s almost a giddiness about it as the friends start to work through the list. But as the story continues, things get progressively more serious as the new life and the new love that the heroine has found appear to be threatened. I don’t think it’s easy to make that kind of a shift in a book and make it feel believable, so kudos to the author. The heroine had to grow and change in this book, and the author did a good job of showing it in a sometimes amusing and sometimes poignant way.
This book was just odd. There were a number of issues with grammar, punctuation, and usage, so much so that it was distracting. There was even trouble with word choice. I can’t quite put my finger on what precisely is wrong with it, but the writing seemed almost juvenile in places in terms of word choice and sentence construction. Some legal issues brought up, too, didn’t seem quite right, even though I am not, of course, a scholar of Regency England law. It seems strange that after the heroine’s father’s death, the earldom would go to his uncle. Usually, inheritances don’t go back up the food chain, so to speak. And then this great-uncle’s solicitor suggests that he marry his great-niece in order to get the fortune that her father gave her that was not part of the entail. Could that have even happened legally? I hope not! If so, ewwww. Of course, the uncle’s suggestion was worse. I liked part of the concept of this book, introducing an American hero into the mix as I don’t think that is done often enough in Regency romance, but the setup left me completely cold.