Reading Fanatic Reviews

All Literary Fiction Review (including Chick Lit)

A Life without Water by Marci Bolden

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A Life without Water*

Another Breathtaking Book by Marci Bolden

I have been a fan of Marci Bolden since I read the first book of her Stonehill series. I love how she usually highlights a middle-aged couple and conveys some broader themes that make up real life in an emotionally resonant way. She really knows how to make her character’s real and relatable, and in doing so, makes both the characters and plot tug on our heartstrings with their very true-to-life tragedies or problems. Part of what I like about her books is that the situations she writes about are so ordinary or universal (like death, divorce, sudden tragedy), but they are written in an extraordinary fashion as she delves into the psyches of her characters, looking at their histories, motivations, and patterns of being as they confront new realities.

So, I knew going into this that it would most likely be an emotional and compelling read. I was not wrong. This book has so much emotional depth and is a testament to the human spirit. Some themes that make up this incredible book include love, forgiveness, death in several forms, and how we choose to make a life. While this is definitely a tearjerker, it doesn’t feel dark or depressing. There is an element of hope. In this book, the author peels back the layers of the protagonists’ relationship and lives, so we slowly understand the full ramifications of what has gone on before the book (which illuminates what is currently happening). Again, this is simply an amazing emotional ride, and it gives a believable glimpse into the human heart and soul.

Cabin Fever by Annabelle Acosta

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Cabin Fever*

Different Spin on Common Trope

This is the first book that I have read by this author, and I find myself very surprised by it. I read a lot, and I don’t get surprised often. I read a lot of romance and thrillers, so I’m accustomed to the “stuck in the cabin with someone” trope. Several things make this book unique. For one, the heroine—who is the viewpoint character—has a strongly defined character and voice. The author has pulled off a very deep viewpoint here. She is at turns quite a funny—not that she would say that herself—and sometimes serious. Rather, she, especially at the beginning, is so self-absorbed and judgmental that it is just simply fun to read what is going on in her head. Jake is right when he nicknames her “Princess.” The two men in this book, Jake and Chase,  are as different as they can be in just about every way. The heroine learns and grows over this story; I love that in a book—there was a lot of room for improvement! There’s a big twist at the end I didn’t foresee, changing the book into something wholly different from I thought it was. There are also a few more little surprises at the end. In all, this book was a real treat because it was such a fun and different ride. I recommend it wholeheartedly.

Falls Ende: Courser by Paul W. Feenstra

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Falls Ende: Courser*

Not Quite Sure What I Think About This Series Now

This is the second novella that I have read in this series, and I now find myself wondering if the author is making a mockery of medieval-inspired contemporary literature. Aspects of this book just didn’t ring wholly true for me as straight-up historical fiction. For one thing, in this book (and to a lesser extent the previous one) he has odd names for some characters. In this book, it was Master Mason Morel Mundy, and yes, he did always capitalize it like that. When referring to people by their job, he always capitalized it. The author also makes some odd word choices, causing me more than once to refer to my Kindle dictionary and the internet (which is kind of annoying in and of itself). Some words did not appear to be used correctly by definition or by culture; I wonder if the author is just using some of these words for effect.

Like the last book, there are some very long stretches of describing setting and other straight-up narrative prose, especially at the beginning of the book; you know an author has gone on too long if you’re tempted to just skip over large blocks of text. Some details were needed, but the author went overboard far too often. This slows down the action of the book. I thought there was too much head-hopping in the book; sometimes, the point-of-view character changed from paragraph to paragraph. Though really much isn’t said about it in the book blurb, much of this book is about Charlotte, Odo’s betrothed, and her plight; the book isn’t all about Odo, which seems to be implied by the book description. Her scenes alternated with the parts about Odo, who is showing himself to be much more than a simple herdsman. I actually quite enjoy historical fiction and so was looking forward to this series of novellas, especially as I had seen some good reviews, but I find myself disappointed because of the deficiencies above.

Under the Willow by Patricia Egan

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Under the Willow*

Disjointed Beginning Ruins Tone of Novel

Before I post my reviews, I sometimes look at other people’s reviews just to see if there is a common thread between them that perhaps I agree with or disagree with. I was surprised at the glowing reviews of this book. I found the duel-open prologue, with the first part by an omniscient narrator and second by the heroine, to be odd and off-putting. The first couple of chapters seemed disjointed and not connected, which kind of ruined the narrative flow of the entire story for me. There was also waaaay to big of a data dump in the early chapters I found the concept of dream jumping fascinating, but this rough start ended up putting me off the novel, and I just couldn’t shake my unease to be able to fully get into what could have been a fascinating story.

Falls Ende: The Oath by Paul W. Feenstra

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Falls Ende: The Oath*

Engaging Medieval Story

I love to read fiction set in the medieval era, and the author did a good job making this story feel authentic to those harsh and brutal times. The characters are well drawn, especially Odo. I could sense his frustration about being so low in the social pecking order as well as his occasional desperation about his plight. I thought the book fell victim to overlong narration. In fact, the entire first 10% of the book is all description of a hunt without a whisper of dialogue. I like to have my fiction more balanced between dialogue and narration. Some of the descriptions within the longer narrative sections are a bit long and too detailed, slowing down the forward motion of the story. That said, I did find the story arc interesting and engaging.

Losing My Inhibitions by Olivia Springs

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Losing My Inhibitions*

Not as Good as Otheres in the Series

Oh, my! The very first scene surprised me, and if I hadn’t read other books by the author, I might have stopped reading there. But I’ve read two other books in this series and liked them, so I continued. I didn’t feel like this one quite met the mark set by the other ones. Those two seemed like they had more of a defined plan for the heroine, which was interesting to follow to see how she’d react. In this one, however, the basic course is not as clear, so it felt at times as if the book wandered without much purpose other than to show some sexy scenes. I was intrigued by this book because the main character was newly divorced and middle-aged; we don’t get enough middle-aged heroines in romances or even chick lit. I did feel at times that the steamy scenes were a bit over the top. I also felt like there was a little too much profanity. I did indeed like the first books that I read, but I think I enjoyed the context of them better, which might have allowed me to overlook some flaws. I’m not a fan of the end; it made me feel as if I had wasted time reading this book.

The Sunshine Girl by Grace M. Jolliffe

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The Sunshine Girl*

Transported to 1970s Liverpool

What a fantastic read! The author has done an exceptional job of recreating the time and space of Liverpool in the 1970s as well as fashioning a delightful heroine to follow. After reading far too many books that have a big information dump to start, I actually quite enjoyed the slice-of-life first chapter that introduced us to the heroine. She comes across as such a typical teenage girl; having been one myself many moons ago, I could completely relate to her. Her head was a very interesting one to be in. There is definitely a lot of humor, especially of the family variety. The author has shown very clearly what it is like to be a teenager in a complex world, where you feel so adult, but you’re still underneath your parents’ thumbs. There’s a little bit of romance and intrigue thrown in here as well. All in all, a well-written, true-to-life story that pulls you right into its world, making it so that you don’t want to put it down.

Musings of Malu by Mary Louise Graham

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Musings of Malu*

A Wonderful Legacy

What a wonderful tribute from a family to a beloved matriarch who was a writer for much of her 80 years, I believe. Her granddaughter has gathered her short stories and poems into one collection. Nothing has been edited or altered; these are her grandmother’s words as they were written over the course of her long life. The stories offer a fascinating slice-of-life glance at a very personal world through the decades. I especially enjoyed the poems, which are in the back of the anthology. The author did understand how to use spare but artistic language to convey thoughts and moods. Malu, short for Mary Louise, has left her family a beautiful legacy in these writings, and how wonderful of that family to share Malu’s artistic  vision with the wider world.

Rosalind by Judith Deborah

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Rosalind*

An Odd Combination of Parts

This book is an odd combination of parts. It is told from the perspective of a male doctor who doesn’t have much of a life outside of the hospital until he meets Rosalind, a good friend of one of his patients. He becomes nearly instantly obsessed by her, even following her out of the hospital one afternoon while she goes about her errands. Interestingly, while Rosalind is initially upset when she catches him, she feels something between them, too. The middle section of the book details, with some degree of sensuality, their budding relationship. A surprise twist takes the latter half of the book in a completely different direction.

I thought the pacing of this book was uneven. It’s relatively short, so too much time seemed to have been spent detailing the doctor’s obsession, even to the point of distraction while he was working. In one scene, or was it two, that I found a little icky as someone who has been a nurse in a hospital, the doctor closed and locked his office door so he could fantasize and—shall we say—act on his thoughts while alone. The sensual aspects of the book were actually written in a way that turned me off completely. I’m not sure why. Rosalind herself was a bit of an enigma to the hero, but we slowly learned more about her. I didn’t particularly like these characters, and I found parts of the plot just to be too slow moving or off-putting to keep me interested.

Song of the Robin by R. V. Biggs

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Song of the Robin*

Immersive Psychological Read

This is an intense psychological read. The prologue puts you on edge right away because you don’t know precisely what is going on. Then within the main book itself, it seems as if we are thrown into a completely different world. The author has pulled off an intense deep third-person perspective. We feel like we’re living in the protagonist’s head. Yet the author us able to pull this off without it feeling like it is just navel-gazing. The protagonist is truly struggling through a difficult time in her life, so her sometimes physical, emotional, or mental paralysis makes sense given her thoughts as well as what is going on in her life as it unravels. We are truly on the journey with her; I read a lot, and I don’t see a lot of authors pulling this off successfully without making the protagonist thoughts seeming too selfish or is if they think themselves the center of the world. I love a good psychological drama, and this is one of them.

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