The House Next Door by Darcy Coates

The House Next Door by Darcy Coates

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 42. An indie read

Other Possible Prompts: 17. A book picked based on its spine, 23. Author with an X, Y, or Z in their name

This is my very first Darcy Coates novel and I have to say, I’m more impressed than I thought I would be! I’ve been reluctant to pick up Coates in the past because the cover art looked rather amateurish, or it just didn’t have the hype around it to make me think it was a good novel…and while this didn’t blow me away, it was a fun read and I will definitely pick up some more.

After the previous family residing at Marwick House leaves their home in the middle of the night to gunshots and never returns, Jo decides that the house next door really must be haunted. Months later, young and hopeful Anna moves in, fleeing a bad past and determined to make a go of it in spite of the home’s history. Despite Jo’s reluctance to be near Marwick House, she becomes fast friends with Anna and spends more and more time inside the Marwick residence…and it quickly becomes clear something isn’t right with it.

Through creepy encounters, mediums, and history lessons from their neighbors, Jo and Anna unearth the disturbing history of the Marwick House and the ghost that resides within it.

There really is nothing special about this book exactly, but I love that it reads like a good horror movie. Blumhouse could buy up a Coates’ novel and just hand them to their directors, honestly. As a fan of horror in both its literary and film forms, I was totally down for this. If this is what Coates’ other novels are like, I can see the draw and the appeal. I’ve seen plenty of them in bookstores, I just didn’t realize they were actually good…I like the cover art of this one okay, but I don’t recall caring for the others, so I never picked them up. I’ve just never been very interested in reading one, but I was at Book Warehouse recently and it was only five dollars, soooo…worth a shot!

I also wasn’t terribly attached to the characters, which I suppose is a good thing for a horror book. You never know who won’t make it to the end alive. However, I could visually imagine them, as well as the setting of the story, very easily. I think that was more important for the atmospheric horror that Coates was creating. The story never leaves the neighborhood, and so you have this feeling of being trapped in the presence of the house and its inhabitant, just like the characters, who tend be so blank-slate that you can step in and be part of the story very easily. The characters were flat but I think in this case, that’s totally fine. The history of the haunting and the ghost herself were very well fleshed out and didn’t detract from my enjoyment.

I don’t have tons to say about this one. It’s an easy 230 pages, and if I had actually had time to read this week, I could’ve finished it in an afternoon. It’s very quick. I definitely think I will try another Darcy Coates based on this book; the premise of this one wasn’t even my favorite so I think there’s potential to enjoy another one more. Any recommendations from people who have read more?

Have an awesome weekend!

The 5 Love Languages Military Edition by Gary Chapman & Jocelyn Green

The 5 Love Languages Military Edition by Gary Chapman & Jocelyn Green

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 24. Addresses a specific topic

Other Possible Prompts: 4. Title starting with the letter “F”, 5. Chapters have titles, 7. A non-fiction bestseller, 11. A book with less than 2022 Goodreads ratings, 23. An author with an X, Y, or Z in their name

A family friend gave this book to Nate and I several months ago; they said if we were going to get married, we should definitely read this book. Apparently gifting this book to other couples is part of the sort of cult following around it, but we appreciated it nonetheless! I read it first and I’ll be handing it off to Nate next.

Just a military spin on the classic five love languages (words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, gifts, and physical touch), this book walks you through each of the five love languages, what understanding them means in your relationship, and how to discover you and your partner’s love languages. Being military focused, this edition focuses primarily on military couples, and includes examples of how to speak your partner’s love language during deployments or the special circumstances of a military marriage.

Nate and I are not even married yet let alone experiencing some of the problems expressed in this book, but I almost think that puts us in a better position to read it! Knowing this information before you get into a tough spot where you are hurting is really valuable. Your relationship could always be better for understanding these principles. And besides, when we tell people how long we’ve been together (usually following the “why aren’t you married yet?” question), they typically inform us we’re basically married anyways.

Military relationships move at a different speed, on a different wavelength, but we’ve been fortunate enough to have that sense of relative normalcy for much of our time together. Because of that, some of the stories didn’t really relate to us yet, particularly regarding deployments. We just haven’t had that experience yet, though I think this book will be good preparation!

The concept of love languages is something I’ve only had a relative understanding of prior to reading this book: I knew about the love languages, but I don’t think I understood anything about how you’re supposed to use them in your daily married life until I read this. While I can’t speak to its effectiveness personally yet, I do plan to try some of the tips in this book, and I think this book is a very well laid out guide for getting started incorporating this into your relationship.

My one complaint as a reader would be the “preachiness” aspect of some parts of the book; the organization is very clear, but there are times when the book feels like it’s patting its author on the back, or trying to sell you on the idea instead of providing straight facts or accounts. They’re pretty easy to look past, though, to its credit.

I did really like this book, and I think it changed my perspective on love and relationships, and even the way I see my own needs. My own love language is acts of service. I often feel like a nag asking for help constantly with things around the house, or things I really need done. Truthfully, I derive my energy from a clean and organized environment, so those pieces of my life are absolutely crucial to my individual success. Not only does it feel like being respected when he helps me do these things, it helps me feel loved and more able to give love in return. I always just thought I was crazy. To see this as a love language, instead of annoying personality quirk of mine, is actually kind of nice. I think it will be really helpful in reframing my requests for “love”, too.

Further, it changed my opinions on relationships, because it does truly take work in a marriage. I’ve always loved that what Nate and I have feels effortless, but I think that comes partly from the fact that my secondary love language is quality time, which I believe is his primary love language (he still needs to read the book and fill out hins profile, but I’m pretty confident!). So, we both give and receive love in a similar language and even a similar dialect. But there will come a time in our lives, especially with the military as a third party to it, where that may not come naturally. It’s just a great thing to be cognisant of.

Alright, enough harping on about my relationship. I did think this book was a valuable read, and I’ll be happy to pass it on to another couple when the time comes!

Have a great week friends.

Book List: My Favorite Novel Friendships

Book List: My Favorite Novel Friendships

Thank you to Willow for this stellar idea! Great friends can make or break a book for me sometimes. And even then, sometimes I hate a book, but the best friend was awesome…and I just wonder why we didn’t write a book about the friend? *shrugs*

Without further ado, my favorite friends and found families:

Bruno & Kamala: Ms. Marvel

I love Ms. Marvel! I don’t think it comes up often on the blog, but I’m actually really into comics. There are a select few female superheroes that I will read on the regular, and Ms. Marvel is my absolute favorite. I adore G. Willow Wilson’s Kamala Khan, and her friendship with Bruno is amazing. I think the new Disney+ show captured them both perfectly. They are the perfect nerdy pair, and Bruno really becomes part of Kamala’s world with no hesitation. We all need a Bruno! Start the G. Willow Wilson series here.

Kristen & Sloan: The Friend Zone

It’s no surprise to anyone who reads my reviews regularly that I love The Friend Zone. This got me hooked on Abby Jimenez, but so far none have topped this one. And part of what made it so great was the amazing friendship between Sloan and Kristen: they supported each other in all the best ways, and when it came to be crisis time, they were everything the other needed. I love a power friendship like this one, and I think it continued perfectly in The Happy Ever After Playlist. Get your own paperback here.

Dannie & Bella: In Five Years

If you haven’t read the heartbreaking masterpiece that is In Five Years, you don’t quite know how key this friendship is. I went in expecting the book to be a romance, which I think was an intentional choice on the publisher’s part, but it’s really about friendship. I think Dannie and Bella and the story that unfolds explore what it means to be a true friend, with a lot of opportunity to mess up, and a lot of opportunity to redeem yourself. I loved this book, in spite of it being nothing like I thought it would be. It was gut wrenching, and soul crushing, and beautiful. Get a copy of your own here.

Finlay & Vero: Finlay Donovan is Killing It

Quite possibly my favorite pair on the list, Finlay and Vero are my favorite hysterical dream team for hired assassins. Mother and babysitter turned found family, Finlay and Vero go together perfectly, their sense of humor perfectly matched. On the page, they read like true best friends, complete with all the antics, sillies, and caretaking of two gal pals. It reminds me of my own best friend and I, and that helps connect to the book and the characters, for sure. Their friendship is truthfully one of my favorite parts of this series! Get a copy of your own here.

The Bromance Book Club: The Bromance Book Club

Ah yes, the Bromance Book Club! While most of the friends on this list are pairs, I can’t speak highly enough of the group of men that makes up the heart of this series by Lyssa Kay Adams. The book club reads romance books to better understand women, and over breakfast at their favorite diner, they learn how to be better feminists and support the women in their lives. I take it back… these guys are the true power friendship goals – nothing like turning your famous friends into vocal feminists! Get the first book here!

And thus concludes my August book list! Keep those book list ideas coming – this one was tons of fun and reminded me of some books I truly forgot how much I loved!

Have a great weekend!

Misery by Stephen King

Misery by Stephen King

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 34. An author’s photo on the back cover

Other Possible Prompts: 8. Involving the art world (literature), 37. Set in a rural area, 43. Author who’s published in more than one genre, 49. Book title starts with the same letter as your first name

I feel like I’ve been contemplating reading Misery for a very long time, but I’ve only just now gotten around to it. I wasn’t missing much. I know this is considered one of his scariest works, but I just didn’t love it like I thought I would.

Bestselling author Paul Sheldon is celebrating the completed manuscript of his latest book with a trip to Colorado when he crashes in a snowstorm, left to die, if not for Annie Wilkes – his number one fan who happened to be driving by at the time of the crash. Unfortunately for Paul, he’s just killed off Annie’s most favorite character, Misery, in his novels. Now, she “nurses” him back to health following several broken bones in the accident, while he whittles away at a new novel that brings Misery back to life, just for her.

I don’t think much explanation is required on this front, as I think most people know enough about the Misery story to infer what I mean by “nursing”. While Annie Wilkes has medical training, it is never her intention that Paul be healthy enough to leave the room and home she keeps him captive in. This novel, naturally, is an extremely gory one for that reason.

So gory, in fact, that I was physically sick reading some of it. Some of it is just so horrifying. And while super gross, that’s kind of what keeps my rating from being much lower. At least these parts venture into horror; I know a lot of people are absolutely terrified of Annie Wilkes, but her manic moods just weren’t as alarming to me. She’s definitely scary. Uncontrollable. But she wasn’t the villain of my nightmares.

I think part of the problem there might be that I think of the Annie Wilkes from Castle Rock, too. I love Castle Rock, the Hulu show. The Annie Wilkes of that show (season two) is definitely unstable, but the actress plays her well, as mentally ill but not unfeeling. She experiences blackouts. She has manic moods. But she still appears somewhat well-meaning or her intentions clear. I think the Annie of Misery is supposed to appear more malevolent and truly evil at her core, but I could only see a mentally ill woman that people would rather shut out than help. And yes, (*spoiler alert*) I know she killed a crap ton of people…but my point still stands. She got no help, and no justice for her crimes, either.

So, this book kind of drags, waiting for the next horror to be inflicted or escape attempted. I also don’t really care for the interspersed pieces of Sheldon’s novel that he’s writing in captivity. It eventually comes full circle to be relevant to the current reality, but I don’t think it’s necessary and I don’t think it added much to my reading experience. Another case of “King could use a better editor”. Like me. Hire me Stephen.

I have to say that the ending actually made me gasp out loud. I will not spoil the ending…but if you’ve read it, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Audible gasps as I read Annie’s fate. That gave it like, at least one more star in my book. It was a good ending and not at all like the King endings I’m used to that often feel real but unsatisfying.

I think that will about do it for me. I’m dying to hear other opinions on this one! I think for most people it’s like a formative horror story, and it can do no wrong, but having read quite a bit of King I just don’t think this is his best.

Have a great week!

Reading Update: August 2022

Reading Update: August 2022

I finally did it, friends: the reading updates are getting years on them now.

The Charmed Librarian has been back up and running full-time for over a year now! I’m wicked proud of that accomplishment, especially when it feels like thankless work – but in the end, I love having something so solid and consistent, that I built from the ground up, and can look back and reflect on from time to time. I love reading, and I love what all my reading has allowed me to build on here since 2019.

So, happy birthday, Charmed Librarian.

Sorry you had to see that.

As I write this, on the second to last day of the month, I read fifteen books in July. I can’t even believe that. I don’t think I’ve ever read that much in a month in all my years. That’s practically a book of every other day…insanity. And I don’t really know why, either; my schedule has remained consistently insane between multiple jobs and restarting my Etsy shop (shameless self-plug). Audiobooks definitely make a huge difference for my volume (six of the fifteen were audiobooks, which I can easily listen to at the same time as having another physical book going). Having my Kindle everywhere and anywhere has also been a help. I know some people really hate them, but I adore my Kindle. Maybe it’s not the same, but it’s hella convenient. Another five of the books this month were on my Kindle – which again, I can for some reason read while also having a physical book going.

Next on the agenda for this month: The 52 Book Club Challenge. I have just six prompts left, and one of them is 21. Published by Simon & Schuster, which I have already potentially filled with some books, if I move things around. I’m going to swap The Only Good Indians from prompt #1, to prompt #21, and fill #1 with Devil House. The other prompts I still have to go are:

16. A book you’ve seen someone reading in a public place

20. Related to the word “gold”

44. An anthology

47. Read during the month of November

and 51. The word game in the title

I have plans for almost all of these! Unfortunately, tragically, I basically never see anyone reading in a public place around here. However, the book list on Goodreads provides a myriad of selections that are primarily book club picks, including Where the Crawdads Sing, which sounds kind of awful but is *also* my local library’s book club pick this month as well. I’ve been wanting to attend that book club, as there is also alcohol involved, so I figure this would be a great way to hit two birds with one stone.

For #20, I’m thinking I might go with Carrie Soto is Back if that is in fact a Book of the Month pick for August…which the internet seems to think it will be. The book is about a gold medalist, and the whole cover is gold – so I think that’ll do just fine. For my anthology, I’m thinking Goblin by Josh Malerman, though I’m unsure if that counts. Any thoughts? I read anthologies are collected works by multiple authors, but this is an entire work by Josh Malerman that connects in the end.

#47 should be a walk in the park (just read *something* in November!), and for #51 I’m going with The Marriage Game by Sara Desai. That one has been on my tbr forever, too.

Now I just have to do all these things… home stretch!

I also finally read some of my Book of the Month picks in July! Neither were spectacular, but I liked them well enough. I get so excited when the new picks come out, and nothing is better than book mail. I can see why this is addicting. I’m counting down the months until I get my book BFF bag, with the book pocket. And that makes me feel absolutely ridiculous!

Here’s to another month of stellar reading! And maybe, some more stellar reads!

My Favorite Thing is Monsters by Emil Ferris

My Favorite Thing is Monsters by Emil Ferris

Rating: 2 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 49. Book title starts with the same letter as your first name

Other Possible Prompts: 22. An unlikely detective, 45. A book with illustrated people on the cover, 50. A person of color as the main character

I know this is going to be an unpopular opinion, but I just didn’t dig this one. The art style, the flow of the story…none of it was for me, though clearly it’s not bad – as evidenced by the thousands of positive reviews and ratings.

10-year-old Karen comes home from school one day to find that her upstairs neighbor, Anka, has been murdered. Anka didn’t entirely have her wits about her, having experienced a great deal of trauma during the Holocaust, but when her death is ruled a suicide, even Karen knows there’s something afoot. Now, with her mother sick and her brother acting strangely, monster-loving Karen sets out to discover the truth about what happened to her neighbor.

This book takes a long while to settle in. The story gets there eventually, and becomes easier to follow, but I really felt like I jumped into something from nowhere. I think Ferris also makes a lot of unnecessary comparisons and analogies both through her text and her art that do not contribute much to the story. It’s an twisting narrative to try and track, that’s for sure. And unfortunately, once I finally sunk into it, it was over: the big secret is not revealed, the story not complete, with a second novel to be released (looks like it’ll be out September 22, 2022…five whole years after the first publication!). Sadly, I don’t think it held my attention well enough to have me waiting for volume two with bated breath.

I really didn’t enjoy this art style. I can 100% acknowledge the talent – the pen and lined-paper drawings are nothing short of impressive, but it really didn’t do it for me. Based on the cover, I was kind of expecting more of a dots/comic book style, which I might’ve preferred, especially in this noir/crime/horror genre. Still very impressive, but notably not my cup of tea.

Anka’s story is the most riveting piece of this book, and I do believe it was always intended to be the focal point. Her life history and her story in Berlin is wildly interesting to follow and includes some of my favorite illustrations throughout the book. The point of tracing her steps is, of course, to find motivation and suspects for her suspicious murder. Anka lived a troubled life, to say the least, and there are plenty of people in her story with motive. I would read this snippet as a full novel, easily. It’s Karen that kind of ruins it for me.

I know Karen is supposed to be representative a lot of things; her narrative is supposed to connect the past and present – but I just don’t like her very much. While she’s pitiable, she’s not relatable. She’s passing through life rather than living, which makes her a better vehicle for telling Anka’s story. I feel bad for saying it, though.

It’s really hard to criticize this book in a way that makes sense, because I think a lot of people are going to be like, “Well that was meaningful because…” – and I don’t disagree. That’s the hard part: I can see what Ferris was trying to do here, I just didn’t really like it. I guess that’s what I’ve been getting at this whole time. I can see why people enjoyed this, but I can also see all the reasons why I didn’t. It was 100% not what I was expecting, and I’m definitely upset that I’m in it for two books if I want the full story (that was unexpected, and I’m very sorry for the books original 2017 readers!!).

So no, I’m not recommending this one today. I hope I have a better review for you next Tuesday! Enjoy the rest of the week, friends!

Adventures in Book Hunting: Volume 7

Adventures in Book Hunting: Volume 7

In Which We Have a Panic Attack in Gibson’s and Buy Books to Make Us Feel Better

I had a doctors appointment last week. Two, actually. Doctors appointments not only make me notoriously anxious, but it was raining. Heavy rain and/or thunderstorms make me very anxious. So. Thus the panic attack.

I had been waiting literally weeks to go to Gibson’s; I had a whole list of things coming out basically every week in July, as well as a full stamp card (good for 20% off your whole purchase when you use it!) so I was trying to wait until most everything was released, and I could go all at once to spend said stamp card. However, after falling ill *again*, *just continuously sick for like six weeks if we’re being honest*… *but I really hate going to the doctor*…I ended up at the doctor’s office several times in one week, in order to have a bunch of useless tests run on me. So naturally, I had to reward myself for a job well done by going to Gibson’s (and the following day, Target!).

I came armed with the list, as per the usual. On it this week were:

  • The Pallbearers Club by Paul Tremblay
  • Dream On by Angie Hockman
  • Just Like Home by Sarah Gailey
  • The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  • Booked on a Feeling by Jayci Lee

It should be noted that like three of these were not even out yet at the time that I made it to Gibson’s. 😦 I was off by a day for Just Like Home and The Daughter of Doctor Moreau, and Booked on a Feeling didn’t come out for yet another week.

So my only hope was to get the first two on my list, and luckily, they were both in stock, because Gibson’s is the absolute best.

The worst part about this trip was that it was absolutely POURING outside and as previously mentioned, I *cannot* with the heavy rain. I had to drive around the block twice just to get a spot, and I was lucky enough to get one right in front of the building…but the parking meter was therefore very far away from my car, in the rain…and I had to make the very difficult decision to not pay for my parking (sorry, city of Concord) and just pray that no cop wanted to be out in this weather, either. The whole time I was inside, I was stressing about this, as I should be – so I didn’t spend nearly as much time browsing as I typically would!

Fortunately enough, in the romance section and right in my line of sight was From Bad to Cursed, by Lana Harper: the sequel to Payback’s a Witch that I absolutely adored earlier this year! I had no idea it was already out, so that was my bonus book for this trip. I was honestly even more excited for that one than I was the other two.

Here’s my whole haul, sans rain:

I already digested The Pallbearers Club, and yes, it is just as weird as you think it is. I was left unsure how to feel about it, because I think the writing was top notch, but I still dragged through it. I liked it, but also I didn’t. I’m sure that helps inform your reading choices, hahaha.

Dream On looks so stinkin’ cute; I wasn’t going to read it but that cover has me.

We’ll see how that one goes!

So after a ~complete panic attack~, I left with three books, no parking ticket (!!), and some peace of mind. Thanks Gibson’s ❤

Have a lovely weekend, friends!

The Book of Cold Cases by Simone St. James

The Book of Cold Cases by Simone St. James

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 48. Redo one of this year’s prompts but with a different genre (41. Involves a second chance)

Other Possible Prompts: 22. An unlikely detective, 25. A wealthy character, 36. Recommended by a favorite author (Moreno-Garcia), 41. Involves a second chance, 52. Published in 2022

Simone St. James does it again! Silvia Moreno-Garcia hit the nail on the head when she says it “oozes atmosphere”. I was absolutely transported by this multi-timeline novel of murder and buried history.

Haunted by her near-kidnapping at age nine, divorcee Shea Collins lives a sheltered life running her blog, The Book of Cold Cases, that focuses on the theories and evidence behind America’s cold case murders. After a chance encounter at her workplace, Shea gets the opportunity to interview Beth Greer: the elderly woman from her town of Claire Lake acquitted of two grisly murders in the 70s, referred to as The Lady Killer Murders. While many believe Beth is undoubtedly guilty, there wasn’t enough evidence to convict, and now Shea has the chance to ask every burning question to blow the case wide open. Piece by piece, Shea unearths more than anyone ever knew about The Lady Killer Murders, and the alluring Beth Greer that was the evil face of them.

Atmospheric is a darn good word to describe this novel. The setting St. James builds spins worlds around you as you listen. I can see the town, the house, every dimly-lit scene in my head. This was absolutely one of my favorite components of The Broken Girls as well, but in The Book of Cold Cases, St. James ramps up the plot as well. It’s dark and mysterious, and each passing page illuminates just a little bit more of the story we’re unraveling. It’s masterful.

I liked Shea most of the time, but she is a bit flat as a character. She’s kind of like eggs. She is a vehicle for other, better foods, but she by herself isn’t necessarily bad, just bland. I know she had the whole background trauma of being abducted as a child, and that helped her take shape a bit. I feel bad writing about her trauma like it didn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, but honestly it kind of didn’t. The abduction of her childhood explained her fascination with cold cases and murder, but it was otherwise a very unimportant component of the story, in my opinion. Shea’s investigation into the Lady Killer murders just breathes life into the other characters, past and present, as we learn the ins and outs of the case. She is a vehicle for telling their story, not so much her own.

Beth Greer, in contrast, shines. I loved her steely confidence through the 70s, her brash and mysterious demeanor of the current day. Her story is wildly interesting and her character brings in a lot of questions of morality to the story. I won’t spoil anything, but the ending is really designed to make you call everyone’s character into question, to decide what’s wrong or right. Personally, I’m team Beth all day long. She gets the ending she deserves, I think.

Also much like The Broken Girls, The Book of Cold Cases has an unexpected paranormal element to it that I just absolutely love. It’s tasteful without being overdone. It draws on the chilling subtlety of a Stephen King haunted house, where you still know the true evil lies in the truth itself. This is an excellent crime novel, thriller, and ghost story wrapped into one.

My biggest complaint here is that there are small inconsistencies in the characters or their motivations that niggled while I read. They clearly weren’t intended to be clues; moreso oversights I believe. Something a good editor could’ve caught and asked why?

I absolutely devoured this book – just two days, and I couldn’t put it down once I started it. I’ve been in a thriller/crime novel mood and this hit the spot, really breaking through all the “meh” books I’ve read lately. This sold me completely on another Simone St. James novel. I’ll need to read The Sun Down Motel now (borrowing from the library as we speak)!

Enjoy the rest of the week, friends!

Part of Your World by Abby Jimenez

Part of Your World by Abby Jimenez

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Other Possible Prompts: 23. Author with an X, Y, or Z in their name, 25. A wealthy character, 36. Recommended by a favorite author, 37. Set in a rural area, 45. A book with illustrated people on the cover, 52. Published in 2022

This may also meet prompt 34: an author’s photo on the back cover based on my other copies of her books, but I had the ebook of this and I can’t be certain!

I actually received the ARC of this book after I hit the request button so fast I strained a finger, but once I actually read the description of it, I wasn’t really sold. I like Jimenez’ books a lot, and absolutely adore The Friend Zone most of all, but this one didn’t sound up my alley. And honestly it really wasn’t. Where I would give both of her other books five stars, easily, this only got three and a half out of me.

After getting stranded in a ditch in a random town, ER doctor Alexis is pulled out by handsome stranger Daniel and pulled into the wonderful little town he lives in. Fresh out of an abusive relationship and feeling the pressure of her job and family expectations, Alexis is looking for nothing serious, and can’t believe Daniel wants her in his life at all. But she’s glad for the reprieve in the little town of Wakan, with charming Daniel, a baby goat, and his B&B.

When things begin to look too serious, Alexis has to make a decision: does she continue the family legacy, even when it doesn’t bring her happiness, or does she throw away everything for a guy ten years her junior?

The ten year age gap thing really kept coming up and definitely was not crucial to the story…I think in the beginning, Alexis (who primarily goes by Ali, though I do not understand that jump) is worried about looking less than perfect in front of Daniel, but it’s more related to her past abuse than to being older. This was like a weird, forced part of the storyline that I didn’t care to be reminded of.

I really liked Bri, Ali’s best friend and one of the supporting characters…I’m really glad her story is coming next spring. I can’t wait to read that one because it sounds like she has a good sense of humor, which is what I think was really missing from Ali. She just *wasn’t* genuinely funny. Both her and Daniel had these very dumb inside jokes that just did not charm me. I don’t understand why this is, because Jimenez is clearly very capable of writing humor? All of her other books have had a natural warmth to them that this one just didn’t, in my opinion.

I loved the town of Wakan, and the description of the bed and breakfast. I could see both of those settings very easily in my mind. Ali’s natural surroundings, like her home and the hospital, were much harder to visualize. I’m guessing this is done purposefully; they are cold environments she doesn’t connect to or experience her life through, but it makes the story kind of jarring at times.

While this book does switch perspectives, I find that most of my criticism is with Ali and not Daniel. Daniel was likeable and warm; he fits well into his surroundings and comes off in the story as caring but not obsessed with Ali. I think this narrative is more about her, even if he does have issues of his own. She’s the one coming to terms with all of the change in her life. And the two of them, in turn, have some sparks and connection, but it’s not totally visible to the reader. I’m not watching it unfold but more reading about the after-effects. Daniel provides Ali with warmth and consistency after her abusive relationship, and Ali wakes Daniel up to all the possibilities available to him in life. Other than that, I’m only being informed that they somehow fit perfectly.

This book wasn’t bad, it just didn’t really do it for me. The subject matter, the lack of humor, and the *meh* romance don’t rate it high on my list, but I will definitely continue to read Jimenez’ books. The talent is still there, but I’d pass on this plot for a better one.

A copy of Part of Your World was provided to me by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. It was published April 19, 2022.

Written in the Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur

Written in the Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 18. Jane Austen-inspired

Other Possible Prompts: 15. A five-syllable title, 28. Award-winning book from your country, 34. An author’s photo on the back cover, 36. Recommended by a favorite author, 41. Involves a second chance, 45. A book with illustrated people on the cover

This was an unexpected gem to add to my pile! I recently grabbed Count Your Lucky Stars at the library, then realized I was jumping into the middle of a sort-of series. Instead of reading anyways, I borrowed the digital copy of Written in the Stars from Libby on a complete whim. I certainly didn’t expect to enjoy it this much!

After a disastrous first date, whimsical and laid-back Elle and strict, type-A Darcy both realize they are not a match – but to get him off her back, Darcy tells her matchmaking brother Brendan that she’s seeing someone: Elle. Much to Elle’s surprise. After she finds out, she agrees to fake date Darcy for two months: to get Brendan to stop trying to bring her speed dating, and to get Elle’s family to realize that her job as an internet-famous astrologist, and her life in the city, is really nothing to scoff at.

As with every fake dating scenario, things get real. The more Darcy and Elle learn about each other, the more comfortable they become with one another, and it seems they may actually be enjoying each other’s company. Beyond their mutually-beneficial fake dating arrangement, are there enough sparks to start something real in the wake of heartbreak?

This book is just surprisingly enjoyable. I shouldn’t be surprised, I knew it won awards and tons of people loved it upon release. The writing is smart and sweet. The cover art kind of threw me for a loop because it’s so juvenile to me…but the book content isn’t juvenile. It’s a mature and ~steamy~ romance. I guess this book could also fall under “don’t judge a book by its cover” because that is certainly what I’ve done, every time I’ve walked past it in a bookstore. I know most romance books these days do tend to look like this, with the illustrated people on the front…but this art style just isn’t my jam, lol.

The sparks between Darcy and Elle are HOT. Their personalities fit together absolutely perfectly, much like their Pride & Prejudice counterparts. And while Written in the Stars does draw some influence from the Austen classic, it’s certainly a story all its own. Truly, the names and maybe a *few* familial relationships are the only good comparison. Elle and Darcy write their own story here, and it’s a great one!

I was a little nervous when I first started the book that the astrology part would take a front row seat, but it’s not really like that. I think if you’re into all that, the horoscopes and house and Mercury in retrograde or whatever it does, some of the jokes or dialogue may be enhanced by your knowledge, but it’s definitely not necessary to have a working knowledge of the stuff to enjoy the read. Heck, Darcy doesn’t even have a working knowledge of it.

The romantic plot and scenes were very endearing and well-written; I was easily able to fall into their story. I liked Darcy and Elle as characters, even through all their faults, and I think that speaks to how well rounded Bellefleur presented our heroines. Preference wise, I preferred Darcy, but only because in some scenes or in her own interior monologue, Elle can come off a bit clueless to her own situation, or needy and whiny. It’s not that I don’t think she has valid reasons to be upset (her contention with her family is a major part of the book, and a big hurdle for Elle to cross in her romantic life as well), it’s that her way of being upset is just a little…annoying. I still feel bad about it though.

Honestly, this is one of the best romances I’ve read in while. I definitely think I’ll be giving book two a try…I believe that’s Hang the Moon, so I’ll need to put that library loan off a *teency* bit longer.

Give this one a try, if you haven’t already! I’m definitely a little late to this party.

Have an awesome week!