Reading Fanatic Reviews

Women's Literary Fiction (including Chick Lit)

Ten Things My Husband Hated by Pauline Wiles

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Ten Things My Husband Hated*

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.

The Favored Wife by Amy Pennza

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The Favored Wife*

Will She Ever Be Free?

What a gripping story! I’ll admit that I don’t usually read serious fiction most of the time. Generally, I prefer light and fluffy historical romance. But something about this book when I saw it at a book review site caught my eye. The author did a fantastic job of showing the intricacies of a polygamous religious marriage. We see it all through the eyes of the youngest wife, somewhat ironically called “the favored wife” in the title. She has grown up within this religious sect so knows nothing else. When she gets a job in the outside world to help support the family (because she hasn’t been able to have children), she is definitely a naïve person, not even knowing what we consider to be common cultural references. Her world had been her “husband” Thomas, his other wives, and the children. The author paints a pretty harsh picture of dominance and submission and not just between the husband and the wives but within the sister-wife hierarchy. It is a brutal world that the heroine lives in. I don’t want to give too much away, but the megalomaniacal tendencies of the husband are seen through to a nasty conclusion that forces a separation between the heroine and the world that she has known. This is an emotionally charged read and not an easy one. The characters are well drawn, and we are shown this world in vivid detail through the character’s eyes. The plot is not at a breakneck pace. Rather, things seem to go along somewhat normally, but then bigger events happen. It kept me wondering what would happen next. This is a well-written book, but if you have any triggers about spousal abuse, it would be better if you skipped it.

Entertaining Mr. Pepys by Deborah Swift

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Entertaining Mr. Pepys*


Of course I have heard of the most famous diarist in the English language, Mr. Pepys. So, of course, I was intrigued by the concept of this novel, where the life of one of the women mentioned in his diary is explored. Of course, we cannot know as much about Mrs. Knepp as is told in this tale, but oh, what a life she led. I will admit I did not like aspects of this book. I think I have been reading far too many dark romances lately, and I am quite sick of the darkness. As one who reads a lot of romance, I tend to like the relationship aspects of a novel to have a little more lightness to them. This one is quite heavy. I know that this book is meant to be historical fiction, not historical romance. But, still, I would have liked it better without the unpleasant relationships (or at least if they were turned down some.) In fact, I had a hard time getting to the more interesting parts of the book as reading about her marriage and married life was just so terrible. Her husband only wanted a wife for what she could give him: an heir, a cook, and a worker in his business. He didn’t care about her at all, and I found that hard to read. At least in the beginning of the book, too, everyone outside of the heroine is a villain of sorts, from her father who just wants to get rid of her because of his new wife who doesn’t appreciate having his daughter from a former women hanging around to that dreadful stepmother to the abominable husband, his man of business, and his workers. Honestly, I just about gave up on this story because I just did not like this level of melodrama. Once you get to the theater part and the parts with Mr. Pepys, it got more interesting. But I actually didn’t like the book because of all the difficult circumstances the author thrust the heroine into right at the start.

The Haunting of Hattie Hastings by Audrey Davis

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The Haunting of Hattie Hastings*

Unique, Compelling Read

What are unique read! I’m not quite sure what I was expecting after reading the blurb, but the book was different than I imagined. I would definitely still call it British chick lit, but it is very different from the typical of that genre. While it has the paranormal aspect of Hattie’s dead husband’s ghost coming back because he needs her help, it reads pretty much like a straight-up, well-done contemporary story. Everything but the ghost is an accurate reflection of what life could be, like Hattie’s problematic relationship with her son, her dissatisfaction with her job, and some other issues with other friends and family that I won’t spoil for you. The author was even able to make the paranormal aspect of the ghost feel like it could happen in real life. It is surprising how well done this book is with all these seemingly disparate things going on. It has humorous aspects to it, too, but much of it has to do with dealing with loss and grief. Not an easy balance to achieve, as at times it seems that these are diametrically opposed. The book made me laugh out loud on occasion and also made me a little sniffly at times. An engaging and very different read.

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.

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.

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.



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).

The Amazon book links on this site are affiliate links, which means I make a tiny percentage if you choose to buy a book linked from this site.

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