Book Reviews

[BLOG TOUR & Q&A] Night of the Dragon (Shadow of the Fox, #3) by Julie Kagawa

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Welcome to my stop on the Night of the Dragon book tour! Thank you to Inkyard Press for organizing the tour and allowing me to participate as a tour stop!


ABOUT THE BOOK

Night of the Dragon

Title: NIGHT OF THE DRAGON
Author: Julie Kagawa
Pub. Date: March 31, 2020
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Genre: Young Adult Legends, Myths, Fables, Young Adult Paranormal, Occult & Supernatural, Young Adult Fantasy
Find it: GoodreadsAmazonB&N, IndieBoundBooks-A-MillionAppleBooksGoogle Play

All is lost.

To save everyone she loves from imminent death, kitsune shapeshifter Yumeko gave up the final piece of the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers. Now she and her ragtag band of companions must make one desperate final effort to stop the Master of Demons from using the scroll to call the Great Kami Dragon and make the wish that will plunge the empire into chaos.

Shadow clan assassin Kage Tatsumi has regained control of his body and agreed to a true deal with the devil—the demon inside him, Hakaimono. They will share his body and work with Yumeko to stop a madman, and to separate Hakaimono from Tatsumi and the cursed sword that trapped the demon for nearly a millennium.

But even with their combined skills and powers, this unlikely team of heroes knows the forces of evil may be impossible to overcome. And there is another player in the battle for the scroll, a player who has been watching, waiting for the right moment to pull strings that no one even realized existed…until now.


REVIEW

For whatever reason, this novel tugged at my heart strings. I knew how everything was going to turnout, but putting myself in Yumeko’s shoes, dang, I’m not sure how I’d be able to accomplish what she is. I love her! She is such a great dynamic character, her growth from the first novel to the last was so significant and she is so pure of heart, full of doubt, and hopeful that you can’t help but like her.

Next…the supporting characters who are super supportive and selfless, but also main characters. The story just wouldn’t be the same without them. Usually, there are multiple characters I dislike, but man, Tatsumi (*heart eyes*), Daisuke, Okame, Reika, and Suki are all such good friends. They all have their own personalities, but are willing to risk it all for the better of Iwagoto.

The magic system intertwined within Iwagoto is unique in of itself. The Japanese mythology woven throughout the trilogy is refreshing and animating. I find myself wanting to look more into the history. Now I know where Eevee and Ninetails came from!

What I didn’t like was the predictability of the story. While I liked the outcome, I like a little suspense. One thing I didn’t find believable was the demons being “good” or turned off by the protagonists. I don’t think demons would react that way. However, none of this ruined the plot by any means.

“you’ll know it’s me because our souls will recognize each other”

Night of the Dragon is a tale of friendship, love, and the power of good. Readers who like a story where the good guys win and the bad get what they deserve will love this novel.

See my review for Shadow of the Fox here.
See my review for Soul of the Sword here.

★★★★


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Julie Kagawa, the New York Times bestselling author of the Iron Fey, Blood of Eden, Talon, and Shadow of the Fox series was born in Sacramento, California. But nothing exciting really happened to her there. So, at the age of nine she and her family moved to Hawaii, which she soon discovered was inhabited by large carnivorous insects, colonies of house geckos, and frequent hurricanes. She spent much of her time in the ocean, when she wasn’t getting chased out of it by reef sharks, jellyfish, and the odd eel.

When not swimming for her life, Julie immersed herself in books, often to the chagrin of her schoolteachers, who would find she hid novels behind her Math textbooks during class. Her love of reading led her to pen some very dark and gruesome stories, complete with colored illustrations, to shock her hapless teachers. The gory tales faded with time, but the passion for writing remained, long after she graduated and was supposed to get a real job.

To pay the rent, Julie worked in different bookstores over the years, but discovered the managers frowned upon her reading the books she was supposed to be shelving. So she turned to her other passion: training animals. She worked as a professional dogtrainer for several years, dodging Chihuahua bites and overly enthusiastic Labradors, until her first book sold and she stopped training to write full time.

Julie now lives in North Carolina with her husband, two obnoxious cats, and a pair of Australian Shepherds that have more Instagram followers than she does.

Follow Julie:
Website| FaceBookInstagram | Twitter| Goodreads


Q&A

Q: What was the hardest scene to write? What was the easiest?
A:  The hardest scene was the last battle with the Final Boss at the end.  Without giving away spoilers, there was a lot of kitsune magic, illusion and misdirection, and trying to show everything that was going on without making it too confusing was a challenge.  I don’t remember an easy scene to write, but I did enjoy writing one of the final chapters (where I hope everyone cries).  

Q: Did you hide any secrets in your book? (names of friends, little jokes, references to things only some people will get)
A: There are a few references that only those very familiar with Japanese folklore would get.  For example, the names of the Reika’s two dogs, Chu and Ko, come from a Japanese novel called The Eight Dog Chronicles, which has been adapted into manga, anime, and even video games.  In Soul of the Sword, Yumeko and her friends are on their way to the home of the tengu, when they encounter a pair of magical stone guardians called Yoshitsune and Benkei, two real life historical figures that inspired countless legends and stories.  In folklore, Minamoto no Yoshitsune was a near mythical swordsman who had been trained by the king of the tengu, and Benki was a warrior monk who was his stalwart companion. 

 

Q: What do you hope people remember about Night of the Dragon?
A: I hope people come away with a new appreciation of Japanese myth and folklore, particularly all the wonderfully bizarre yokai, yurei and bakemono that populate these stories.  From kitsune and tanuki to oni and kirin, I hope it inspires readers to learn more about the world of Japanese myth and legend. And I hope people remember how much they cried at the end of the story. 

 

Q: What is your dream cast for Night of the Dragon?
A:  I am so bad at this question.  I really can’t answer it because one: I am terrible at keeping up with current actors/actresses.  And two: I see everyone in Shadow of the Fox as anime characters.

 

Book Reviews

The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller

The Shadows Between UsTitle: The Shadows Between Us
Author: Tricia Levenseller
Rating: ★★★★★

Alessandra is tired of being overlooked, but she has a plan to gain power:

1) Woo the Shadow King.
2) Marry him.
3) Kill him and take his kingdom for herself.

No one knows the extent of the freshly crowned Shadow King’s power. Some say he can command the shadows that swirl around him to do his bidding. Others say they speak to him, whispering the thoughts of his enemies. Regardless, Alessandra knows what she deserves, and she’s going to do everything within her power to get it.

But Alessandra’s not the only one trying to kill the king. As attempts on his life are made, she finds herself trying to keep him alive long enough for him to make her his queen—all while struggling not to lose her heart. After all, who better for a Shadow King than a cunning, villainous queen?

This was a highly anticipated novel for me for 2020 and this did not disappoint!

in you, I found my match. In you, I found my equal.

I loved this! Originally being sorted into the Slytherin house (I’ve softened over the years and am a Gryffindor now), we see two people who are very much Slytherins. Alessandra’s the ultimate player. Knowing exactly how to play men so that they keep coming back for more, she plans to do the same with the Shadow King. By both characters feigning interest in one another, the competition to not give in slowly finds themselves falling for one another. Both characters have committed unforgivable crimes, yet, they never try to justify their actions. They take accountability and back their decisions.

I think that when you care enough for someone, you reach a point where it’s far more painful not to have him at all than to have him and risk losing him. You realize the risk is worth it. Because happiness, however short-lived, is always worth it.

The interactions between the characters was believable. We see the characters fail. We see the doubt, uncertainty, and fear. Even the romance aspect was believable. This is something lacking in most Young Adult novels today. Usually, the romance is rushed and comes out of nowhere. The actions, the interaction, and the emotions all felt believable given the circumstances.

I won’t hide behind shadows. I won’t love you from afar. I won’t only take parts of you. I want all of you. Mind, body, soul. I want to be with you. Always.

What I didn’t like was that the novel was slightly predictable. Early on, I targeted the betrayer, however, I did not understand the relationship or why as to why the betrayal was committed. I also am heartbroken that this was a standalone novel. I understand why. The novel was so well-written and pieced beautifully together. I just didn’t want it to end!

The Shadows Between Us is a story of betrayal, revenge, and the ability and openness to change through the power of love.

Book Reviews

Havenfall (Havenfall, #1) by Sara Holland

HavenfallTitle: Havenfall (Havenfall, #1)
Author: Sara Holland
Rating: ★★★★

I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

A safe haven between four realms. The girl sworn to protect it–at any cost.

Hidden deep in the mountains of Colorado lies the Inn at Havenfall, a sanctuary that connects ancient worlds–each with their own magic–together. For generations, the inn has protected all who seek refuge within its walls, and any who disrupt the peace can never return.

For Maddie Morrow, summers at the inn are more than a chance to experience this magic first-hand. Havenfall is an escape from reality, where her mother sits on death row accused of murdering Maddie’s brother. It’s where Maddie fell in love with handsome Fiorden soldier Brekken. And it’s where one day she hopes to inherit the role of Innkeeper from her beloved uncle.

But this summer, the impossible happens–a dead body is found, shattering everything the inn stands for. With Brekken missing, her uncle gravely injured, and a dangerous creature on the loose, Maddie suddenly finds herself responsible for the safety of everyone in Havenfall. She’ll do anything to uncover the truth, even if it means working together with an alluring new staffer Taya, who seems to know more than she’s letting on. As dark secrets are revealed about the inn itself, one thing becomes clear to Maddie–no one can be trusted, and no one is safe . . .

Havenfall is known as the refuge located at the place where worlds meet. Maddie, our protagonist, spends every summer helping her uncle Marcus as innkeeper of the this sanctuary. After her mother is accused of murdering Maddie’s brother, Maddie can’t wait for summer to come any sooner.

After being betrayed by those closest to her multiple times, Maddie finds herself as the standing-in innkeeper of Havenfall. While it was always her dream, she never wanted to become innkeeper this way. After sifting through all of the lies, will Maddie find the source of the evil that fell upon Havenfall?

There has always been war, that doesn’t make us all monsters.

The magic system was really unique in Havenfall. I loved figuring out the source of the opening of the door. While not a unique magic system in its entirety, how the magic was infused within the story was unique in itself.

The plot left me hanging. I want to know the status of the fourth forgotten world. Will our favorite characters return? What happened to the “bad guy”? Who does Maddie choose?

But I know, too, that I’m not giving up, not walking away. As long as I’m the Innkeeper, official or not, I’ll be whatever Havenfall needs me to be. I will become strong enough. Whatever it takes to make this place safe again, home again. Home to anyone who needs it, with its doors open wide.

Havenfall is a story of betrayal, suspenseful, and longing for a sequel. This book is perfect for lovers of fantasy and a little bit of mystery.

 

Book Reviews

Shaken: Young Reader’s Edition: Fighting to Stand Strong No Matter What Comes Your Way by Tim Tebow; A.J. Gregory

ShakenTitle: Shaken: Young Reader’s Edition: Fighting to Stand Strong No Matter What Comes Your Way
Author: Tim Tebow; A.J. Gregory
Rating: ★★★

I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The New York Times best-selling author and Heisman Trophy winner shares a vision for young Christians still forming their identity and finding their God-given purpose–even when life doesn’t go as planned.

Beloved sports icon Tim Tebow was a college football champion and a first-round draft pick–but then he was traded and eventually cut. In Shaken Young Reader’s Edition, he reveals how he navigated both triumph and disappointment and explains how neither the highs nor the lows of his life define him. Ultimately, only God can do that.

The same is true for every one of us. God has given us a unique set of talents and experiences in order to fulfill our divine purpose. Whether He intends for us to influence those close to us, like our friends and our family, or even the entire world, there are no limits to the great things God can accomplish through us when we let Him determine who we are. But we may miss God’s incredible plan for our lives if we’re so busy trying to be just like everyone else–by blending in with the crowd or refusing to stand up for what is right.

Jesus was anything but normal!

Nothing is more empowering, more life-giving, and more exciting than having a strong identity. Jesus knows this, and He wants you to know it as well. When we are willing to let God define who we are, He will take what we have to offer and multiply it in ways and for purposes that we cannot imagine!

This was my first audiobook…ever! I have read the original novel prior, not the Young Reader’s Edition until this audiobook and it is very similar. However, the audience is different as was the intention.

What I love about this novel is how he relates his personal struggles with athletics. The similes, the sports references, and the vulnerability that Tebow portrays brings him back down to reality. While his life may seem “perfect”, readers learn of his struggles, and some problems being the same that you and I face. Tim never gives up, no matter how hard the struggle. He is inspirational, humbling, and relatable.

What I didn’t like was the voice of the audiobook. I don’t know, he just wasn’t believable as being Tim Tebow’s voice, and it sounded a little “douchey” to be honest (sorry!).

Overall, Shaken is a story of inspiration, overcoming adversity, and maintaining strength through hard times. This is a great read for anyone looking for a little pick-me-up.

Book Reviews

The Magician’s Nephew (The Chronicles of Narnia, #1) by C. S. Lewis

The Magician's Nephew

Title: The Magician’s Nephew (The Chronicles of Narnia, #1)
Author: C. S. Lewis
Rating: ★★★★

The secret passage to the house next door leads to a fascinating adventure

NARNIA…where the woods are thick and cold, where Talking Beasts are called to life…a new world where the adventure begins.

Digory and Polly meet and become friends one cold, wet summer in London. Their lives burst into adventure when Digory’s Uncle Andrew, who thinks he is a magician, sends them hurtling to…somewhere else. They find their way to Narnia, newborn from the Lion’s song, and encounter the evil sorceress Jadis before they finally return home.

The Magician’s Nephew: ★★★★

Welcome to the prequel to The Chronicles of Narnia. This is the birth of Narnia and the introduction of Jadis, our evil queen.

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The reader will lose his/herself in the land and fall in love with the characters along the way. What is entirely interesting is that the creation of Narnia was a total accident coming from the typical curiosity of children.

Lewis paints a beautiful picture of the landscape and environment of Narnia. It is no wonder everyone is so fascinated by it. I would love to visit one day (if it existed)!

My favorite component of the series is that they are based on the Creation story in the Bible. However, the religious references are not overwhelming for those who are not as religious. The Magician’s Nephew was a fun, light-hearted read and enjoyable for all ages.

aslan

Book Reviews

Wicked As You Wish (A Hundred Names For Magic, #1) by Rin Chupeco

Wicked As You WishTitle: Wicked As You Wish (A Hundred Names For Magic, #1)
Author: Rin Chupeco
Rating: ★★

Tala Warnock has little use for magic – as a descendant of Maria Makiling, the legendary Filipina heroine, she negates spells, often by accident. But her family’s old ties to the country of Avalon (frozen, bespelled, and unreachable for almost 12 years) soon finds them guarding its last prince from those who would use his kingdom’s magic for insidious ends.

And with the rise of dangerous spelltech in the Royal States of America; the appearance of the firebird, Avalon’s deadliest weapon, at her doorstep; and the re-emergence of the Snow Queen, powerful but long thought dead, who wants nothing more than to take the firebird’s magic for her own – Tala’s life is about to get even more complicated….

The premise of this novel is enticing: our favorite fairytales smushed into one novel. Diversity between the characters, a different culture, and political intrigue. However, I felt there was WAY too much politics in this books that it actually made the read less enjoyable. And not only that, but I felt like these weren’t challenged enough to reality and VERY sterotypical.

I am not a DNFer, but I was very close to doing that with this novel. But there is one thing I’m not…a quitter!

Things I did like are the association with other magical lands we grew up hearing about like Wonderland, Neverland, etc. I loved the titles at the beginning of the chapters, alluding to other fairytales and characters, and the ending!

What didn’t work for me were the characters. They were just kind of blah and not developed enough for my liking (and honestly, I felt that the characters were trying to be funny at times and, instead, it was cringeworthy). For a while, I actually got two confused because their characterizations were so similar. There was no connection and sounds bad, but I could really care less about them. I had trouble figuring out what the plot of the novel was. The world-building wasn’t clear and I still can’t picture what the geographical difference was between any of the worlds.

Guys! I swear, I wanted to like this one, but it is extremely hard for me to gloat about this novel. There is so much more potential. Hopefully the author focuses more on character development and a slow introduction into the magical land and system so that readers have an easier time grasping the concept of the novel.

Book Reviews

Heart of Flames (Crown of Feathers, #2) by Nicki Pau Preto

Heart of FlamesTitle: Heart of Flames (Crown of Feathers, #2)
Author: Nicki Pau Preto
Rating: ★★★★

I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Veronyka, Tristan, and Sev must stop the advancing empire from destroying the Phoenix Riders in this fiery sequel to Crown of Feathers, which #1 New York Times bestselling author Kendare Blake calls “absolutely unforgettable!”

You are a daughter of queens.

The world is balanced on the edge of a knife, and war is almost certain between the empire and the Phoenix Riders.

Like Nefyra before you, your life will be a trial by fire.

Veronyka finally got her wish to join the Riders, but while she’s supposed to be in training, all she really wants to do is fly out to defend the villages of Pyra from the advancing empire. Tristan has been promoted to Master Rider, but he has very different ideas about the best way to protect their people than his father, the commander. Sev has been sent to spy on the empire, but maintaining his cover may force him to fight on the wrong side of the war. And Veronyka’s sister, Val, is determined to regain the empire she lost—even if it means inciting the war herself.

Such is your inheritance. A name. A legacy. An empire in ruin.

As tensions reach a boiling point, the characters all find themselves drawn together into a fight that will shape the course of the empire—and determine the future of the Phoenix Riders. Each must decide how far they’re willing to go—and what they’re willing to lose in the process.

I pray you are able to pass through the flames.

In the ending of the last novel of the series, we find out some crazy stuff. Betrayal, phoenixes on fire, and magic are only the beginning of the world of Crown of Feathers.

Following three characters with completely different upbringings, Heart of Flames brings readers three additional characters perspectives to follow on the journey. Tensions are high, everything is at stake, and everyone will stop at nothing to secure their future. The author does a great job of developing the characters, and I mean a tremendous job. We find what makes them tick, their weaknesses, and their strengths through times of stress.

Who could not like Veronyka? While there are time she goes all Harry Potter on me, does what she pleases, and bears no consequences, we see that she is flawed. She is so passionate about her mission, that she, too, gets carried away and starts acting more like Avalkyra without even knowing it.

While I initially found Sev’s point-of-view to be on the boring side, that eventually blossomed into the more romantic and reliable aspect for me. The introduction of more characters perspectives into the mix helped readers to understand all sides of the feud.

Readers who love a fast-paced, hopeful, and profoundly developed characters will love Heart of Flames.

Nicki Pau Preto introduces readers to a vibrant land infused with magic, friendship, love, and resilience.

See my review for Crown of Feathers here.

Book Reviews, Bookish Features

[BLOG TOUR] Foul is Fair by Hannah Capin

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Welcome to my stop on the Foul is Fair book tour! Thank you to Wednesday Books for organizing the tour and allowing me to participate as a tour stop!


ABOUT THE BOOK

Foul is Fair

Title: FOUL IS FAIR
Author: Hannah Capin
Pub. Date: February 18, 2020
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Genre: Young Adult
Find it: GoodreadsAmazonB&N, TBD, Google Books, Wednesday Books

Hannah Capin’s Foul is Fair is a bloody, thrilling revenge fantasy for the girls who have had enough. Golden boys beware: something wicked this way comes.

Jade and her friends Jenny, Mads, and Summer rule their glittering LA circle. Untouchable, they have the kind of power other girls only dream of. Every party is theirs and the world is at their feet. Until the night of Jade’s sweet sixteen, when they crash a St. Andrew’s Prep party. The night the golden boys choose Jade as their next target.

They picked the wrong girl.

Sworn to vengeance, Jade transfers to St. Andrew’s Prep. She plots to destroy each boy, one by one. She’ll take their power, their lives, and their control of the prep school’s hierarchy. And she and her coven have the perfect way in: a boy named Mack, whose ambition could turn deadly.


REVIEW

I received this ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

“Fair is foul, and foul is fair”

Foul is Fair is a retelling of Macbeth cast in a current light. These girls are more ruthless than The Plastics from Mean Girls and quite close to the psycho Ramsay Bolton. I’m all about justice, however, these girls are out for blood…literally!

Jade (formerly Elle), Jenny, Summer, and Mads are close friends in their own “coven” (American Horror Story vibes). Bent on dethroning the current “fuckboy” king Duncan, these witches will go to any lengths to get they retribution they think they deserve. After being roofied and raped, Elle disguises herself as Jade and attends the school where the assailants attend. Slowly, the boys are picked off one by one.

What didn’t work for me was all of the crude language. The beginning of the novel, it seemed like every other word was a cuss word, which is a big turnoff for me in general. I found a lot of the story, while entertaining, to be unbelievable. Jade’s fingerprints are on everything and it seems like there was nothing done to cover that up. Where is everyone’s parents?! And how can you just sign up at a new school without any proof of your identification?!

The sharp, compulsive character of Jade was pleasurable to say the least. She is one girl who I wouldn’t want to get on her bad side. She had her mission and didn’t let up, so that aspect I admire. However, I feel for Mack…poor guy.

Foul is Fair is a present-day retelling of Macbeth, but crazier in character, way more violent, and full of the most vengeful people you’ll ever meet!

★★★


Hannah CapinABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Hannah Capin is the author of Foul is Fair and The Dead Queens Club, a feminist retelling of the wives of Henry VIII. When she isn’t writing, she can be found singing, sailing, or pulling marathon gossip sessions with her girl squad. She lives in Tidewater, Virginia.

Follow Emma:
Instagram | Twitter


EARLY PRAISE

“Fierce, vicious, and electric. If books had teeth, Foul Is Fair would have fangs. Capin’s language glitterdark and her writing cuts deep. Revenge is a dish best served by this deliciously unapologetic coven.”

– Laurie Elizabeth Flynn, author of Firsts and Last Girl Lied To

 

“Capin’s writing will seduce you with its beauty and then, when you least suspect it, slice you to the bone—just like Foul is Fair’s captivating, vicious, entirely unforgettable heroine, Jade.”

– Layne Fargo, author of Temper and co-host of Unlikeable Female Characters Podcast

 

“Vicious and beautifully brutal, Foul is Fair gives a sword to every girl who has ever been a victim and makes them a warrior. This book is pulls no punches and will make anyone think twice before uttering the phrase ‘just a girl’. An unapologetic feminist battle-cry that leaves you breathless and thirsting for vengeance.”

– Sonia Hartl, author of Have a Little Faith in Me

 

Foul is Fair delivers the story of a girl who snatches control back from a world that stole it away, through whatever means necessary. Hannah Capin deftly combines stunningly lyrical prose with the raw power of engulfing fury, sending a message written in blood. In a world where too many are forced into silence, this book roars back.”

– S. Gonzales, author of The Law of Inertia and Only Mostly Devastated

Book Reviews

The Lost Letters of William Woolf by Helen Cullen

The Lost Letters of William WoolfTitle: The Lost Letters of William Woolf
Author: Helen Cullen
Rating: ★★★

I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Lost letters have only one hope for survival…

Inside the Dead Letters Depot in East London, William Woolf is one of thirty letter detectives who spend their days solving mysteries: Missing postcodes, illegible handwriting, rain-smudged ink, lost address labels, torn packages, forgotten street names – they are all the culprits of missed birthdays, broken hearts, unheard confessions, pointless accusations, unpaid bills and unanswered prayers.

When William discovers letters addressed simply to ‘My Great Love’ his work takes on new meaning. Written by a woman to a soulmate she hasn’t met yet, the missives stir William in ways he didn’t know were possible. Soon he begins to wonder: Could William be her great love?

William must follow the clues in Winter’s letters to solve his most important mystery yet: the human heart.

First of all, I didn’t know Dead Letters Depot was a thing, but sign me up! William Woolf works in this department of the post office and his job is to accurately locate exactly where these mysterious letters of packages were meant to go.

In the midst of his marriage decaying, William stumbles upon love letters written by this lady named Winter. However, Winter hasn’t met the man who these letters are intended for. With his own marriage crumbling, William finds himself striving to know more about this Winter girl. He becomes so wrapped up in finding Winter that he completely disregards his wife in the process.

This was a bit hard for me to read for multiple reasons. First, William is emotionally cheating on his wife by being so interested in Winter and wanting to meet her, almost fantasizing about a life with her. Second, too much of the story is focused on William and Clare’s relationship versus the actual letters. It would’ve been nice to hear about a few other stories. And lastly, isn’t it illegal to open mail?! All you need is listed on the front of the package or letter, not inside!

The beginning of the novel was extremely slow and the ending was entirely rushed. So much so, that I actually found myself confused since it was left open-ended. It left me feeling sad versus joyful, especially being a hopeless romantic and believing that you should never give up on a marriage.

Readers who enjoy second chances, lost communication, and the pursuit of love will enjoy this novel.

Book Reviews

In the Bleak Midwinter (The Rev. Clare Fergusson & Russ Van Alstyne Mysteries, #1) by Julia Spencer-Fleming

In the Bleak MidwinterTitle: In the Bleak Midwinter (The Rev. Clare Fergusson & Russ Van Alstyne Mysteries, #1)
Author: Julia Spencer-Fleming
Rating: ★★★

Heavy Snow…Icy Desires…Cold-Blooded Murder

Clare Fergusson, St. Alban’s new priest, fits like a square peg in the conservative Episcopal parish at Millers Kill, New York. She is not just a “lady,” she’s a tough ex-Army chopper pilot, and nobody’s fool. Then a newborn infant left at the church door brings her together with the town’s police chief, Russ Van Alstyne, who’s also ex-Army and a cynical good shepherd for the stray sheep of his hometown. Their search for the baby’s mother quickly leads them into the secrets that shadow Millers Kill like the ever-present Adirondacks. What they discover is a world of trouble, an attraction to each other—and murder…

In the Bleak Midwinter was Julia Spencer-Fleming’s first novel, and it won a Macavity Award, an Agatha Award, an Anthony Award, and a Dilys Award.

Everyone loves a good murder mystery…even a reverend! However, this was more like a romance novel to me.

I loved the mystery aspect of the novel. There was red herring after red herring. The mystery itself was clever, fast-paced, and mysterious.

The part I didn’t like was the characters. Russ Van Alstyne is the local sheriff, ex-military, and kind of just does as he pleases. Clare Fergusson is the new reverend in town. She is ex-military, young, and way too involved in the murder. Both characters are morally gray. Russ is married and Clare is a reverend, about twenty years younger than Russ. Plus, I believe Clare is way more involved than anyone of that stature would ever be realistically. Of course, because they are spending so much time together, they start to find an attraction towards one another.

The reason this novel fell flat with me was because of the characters and the love interest brewing between them. Had that not been in the picture, or even slightly, this novel would’ve received a higher rating. It was the typical girl is doing something goofy, guy notices and thinks is “cute”, eventually saves girl because she gets into trouble being too nosey, they then share a moment, and realize they love each other.

What would’ve made this a more pleasurable read would’ve been honing in on the mystery aspect, leaving out the romantic mush, and creating stronger characters. This easily could’ve been a five-star read without the romantic intentions.