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The Secrets of Darcy and Elizabeth by Victoria Kincaid (audio)

Source: Audible
Audiobook, 10+ hours
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The Secrets of Darcy and Elizabeth by Victoria Kincaid, narrated by Stevie Zimmerman, is a variation in which Darcy and Elizabeth find they have a second chance to get to know one another in France after a disastrous proposal at Hunsford. There’s a brief lapse in the tensions between England and France, allowing the English to take holidays in France.

Here, Darcy is trying to escape his embarrassment and the loss of the woman he loves, as Colonel Fitzwilliam tempts him with parties and outings in France. Unexpectedly, he runs into Elizabeth at a ball as the Gardiners take her on holiday in France, while her uncle conducts business. Will this be a moment for Darcy to redeem himself in her eyes, or will he have to accept that she is still angry and not interested in him?

Kincaid places her characters in untenable situations, especially when Darcy and Elizabeth have to pretend they are barely acquainted when back in England thanks to Lydia and other scandalous activities of family members on both sides. Darcy is hard-pressed to keep Elizabeth happy, even as his jealousy almost reveals every secret they hold from their weeks in France before they were forced to flee when England declares war.

Zimmerman is an excellent narrator for both male and female characters. She embodies their different stations in society and their personalities well. The Secrets of Darcy and Elizabeth by Victoria Kincaid, narrated by Stevie Zimmerman, is a delightful story, even if it presses the bounds of society’s rules. There are moments where purists will shake their heads, but others will thoroughly enjoy these improprieties.

RATING: Quatrain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

The author of numerous best-selling Pride and Prejudice variations, historical romance writer Victoria Kincaid has a Ph.D. in English literature and runs a small business, er, household with two children, a hyperactive dog, an overly affectionate cat, and a husband who is not threatened by Mr. Darcy. They live near Washington DC, where the inhabitants occasionally stop talking about politics long enough to complain about the traffic.

On weekdays she is a freelance writer/editor who specializes in IT marketing (it’s more interesting than it sounds) and teaches business writing. A lifelong Austen fan, Victoria has read more Jane Austen variations and sequels than she can count – and confesses to an extreme partiality for the Colin Firth version of Pride and Prejudice. Visit her website. View her blog, visit her on Facebook, GoodReads, and on Amazon.

The Teahouse Fire by Ellis Avery (audio)

Source: Audible
Audiobook, 17+ hours
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The Teahouse Fire by Ellis Avery, narrated by Barbara Caruso, was our September book club selection (unfortunately, I missed the meeting). Aurelia is a young girl who lives with her housekeeper mother in a Catholic school until her mother falls ill before they are set to embark with her uncle to Japan. Without her mother, she becomes despondent and longs for a home, but her uncle, a priest, is less equipped to provide that for her, even in Japan. When a fire rips through the area, Aurelia is alone and hiding in the grounds of the Shin family when the daughter, Yakako, finds her. She’s soon adopted into the family, less as a daughter and more as a servant.

Tea ceremonies are the life blood of the Shin family, but in the late-nineteenth century, the nation faces a number of political changes. Even though she is young and eventually reaches puberty in the Shin family, she becomes integral to the household and feels more at home with them than those from the West. There are still moments where she stumbles, unsure of the customs and eager to indulge Yakako’s need for freedom, until they paint themselves into a corner with her father.

Caruso’s voice is a perfect fit for a novel about tea ceremonies in Japan, a ritual only executed by men. Like many women in Japanese society, their actions are based on ceremony and deference to the men in their lives — a father and a husband — but even then, they can find small comforts among themselves. Aurelia is no different. There is much hard work, conflict with the father, and anxiety due to the changes in Japan — a westernization that could brush aside the importance of tea ceremonies.

There are moments when readers will have to suspend disbelief — how can Aurelia (Urako) learn about Japan from books in 1866? Or learn the language to make it passable just from those books and a cook on the ship over — but the interactions of Aurelia with her protector Yakako are delightful as they navigate the differences in their cultures and misunderstandings. But the narrative gets bogged down in the historical detail, leaving readers wondering what the point of it all is and why they didn’t just pick up a history book instead.

The Teahouse Fire by Ellis Avery, narrated by Barbara Caruso, spans about 40 years and much of the Shin family’s time is spent decrying the modernization and westernization of Japan, which is reasonable given the dedication the family has to tea ceremonies. However, Aurelia seems to merely be an observer in her life most of the time, doing little to grow other than what her benefactors tell her. A well-researched and written novel, but the plot and characters plod along in what seems to be merely a history lesson from the eyes of a westerner thrust into a the role of imposter as the Shin family adopts her as their own servant. Her return home is less than climatic.

RATING: Tercet

About the Author:

The only writer ever to have received the American Library Association Stonewall Award for Fiction twice, Ellis Avery is the author of two novels, a memoir, and a book of poetry. Her novels, The Last Nude (Riverhead 2012) and The Teahouse Fire (Riverhead 2006) have also received Lambda, Ohioana, and Golden Crown awards, and her work has been translated into six languages. She teaches fiction writing at Columbia University and out of her home in the West Village.

Pat Review: Button Man by Andrew Gross

Source: Tandem Literary
Hardcover, 384 pgs.
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About the Book:

Morris, Sol, and Harry Rabishevsky grew up poor and rough in a tiny flat on the Lower East Side, until the death of their father thrust them into having to fend for themselves and support their large family. Morris, the youngest, dropped out of school at twelve years old and apprenticed himself to a garment cutter in a clothing factory; Sol headed to accounting school; but Harry, scarred by a family tragedy, fell in with a gang of thugs as a teenager. Morris steadily climbs through the ranks at the factory until at twenty-one he finally goes out on his own, convincing Sol to come work with him. But Harry can’t be lured away from the glamour, the power, and the money that come from his association with Louis Buchalter, whom Morris has battled with since his youth and who has risen to become the most ruthless mobster in New York. And when Buchalter sets his sights on the unions that staff the garment makers’ factories, a fatal showdown is inevitable, pitting brother against brother.

My mom picked up Button Man by Andrew Gross as soon as it entered the house — I barely saw the book. With so many changes in the last year and a big move at the end of last year, I’ve had very little time to read review books. Mom, however, seems to find a great deal of time to read and her access to those unexpected review copy surprises makes dad happy that the book budget is smaller. I digress.

Mom is a big fan of Andrew Gross’ books, and this one was no different. She read through this one in a couple of days, riveted by the story and the historical setting. It was intriguing how an unexpected moment can change someone’s life, she says. She thought it was very well written and loved the suspense.

She would give it 5 stars.

About the Author:

Andrew Gross is the author of New York Times and international bestsellers The Blue Zone, Don’t Look Twice, and The Dark Tide, which was nominated for the Best Thriller of the Year award by the International Thriller Writers, Reckless, and most recently, Eyes Wide Open. He is also coauthor of five number one bestsellers with James Patterson, including Judge & Jury and Lifeguard. He lives in Westchester County, New York, with his wife, Lynn. You can follow Andrew Gross on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and at AndrewGross Books.com.

In Good Conscience by Cat Gardiner

Source: Purchased
eBook, 356 pgs.
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In Good Conscience: The Final Adventure by Cat Gardiner (READ THEM IN ORDER) is the last in one of my favorite series by this author, and while reading, I did not want to let these characters go. Danger is ever-present in the Darcy’s lives because of Iceman’s covert past, but in this one, the danger is front and center and threatens to take everything they have and obliterate it.

“‘I know. I know. You have every right to swear like a deranged sailor, sweetie. The world is upside down. …'”

Without spoiling the adventure for you, Liz and Iceman are both tested and tested again by the drug cartel and Morales — yes, that evil, evil man is back. Like all great spy thrillers, Gardiner ensures our heroine and hero are forced apart only to be reunited in the most unexpected ways. Iceman has been dormant for a long while as he shares a quiet life in Virginia with Liz, but when Morales comes calling, you can imagine that all bets are off and he’s back in business….contract killing business.

What’s fantastic about this story is that Liz becomes her own powerhouse. She’s heard from Darcy just how strong she is and that she can tackle anything, but when he’s not there, does she still believe that? How can she prove that to herself and own it for good? It will take her slaying a dragon and learning to travel on her own to get there, but the end game is the stuff of dreams. She a woman who has found her own strength with a little help from Dixon, a personal body guard Darcy insists she needs.

In Good Conscience: The Final Adventure by Cat Gardiner is the final installment in this series, and while I love these characters and didn’t want to let them go, they ended up in the right place. The conclusion of their story is just what you’d expect Jane Austen to have. Iceman will always be my favorite modern Darcy, even when he’s being ice cold.

***Be aware there is graphic sexual content and language***

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

Cat Gardiner loves romance and happy endings, history, comedy, and Jane Austen. A member of National League of American Pen Women, Romance Writers of America, and her local chapter TARA, she enjoys writing across the spectrum of Pride and Prejudice inspired romance novels. Austenesque, from the comedic Christmas, Chick Lits Lucky 13 and Villa Fortuna, to the bad boy biker Darcy in the sultry adventures Denial of Conscience, Guilty Conscience, and Without a Conscience, these contemporary novels will appeal to many Mr. Darcy lovers, who don’t mind a deviation away from canon and variations.

Cat’s love of 20th Century Historical fiction merges in her first Pride & Prejudice “alternate era,” set in a 1952 Noir, Undercover. Her most recent publications are time-travel WWII P&P short stories: A Vintage Valentine, A Vintage Victory, and A Vintage Halloween as part of the Memories of Old Antique Shop Series.

Her greatest love is writing Historical Fiction, WWII–era Romance. Her debut novel, A Moment Forever was named a Romance Finalist in the 2017 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. She is currently working on her second novel in the Liberty Victory Series.

Married 24 years to her best friend, they are the proud parents of the smartest honor student in the world—their orange tabby, Ollie and his sassy girlfriend, Kiki. Although they live in Florida, they will always be proud native New Yorkers.

Silver Girl by Leslie Pietrzyk (audio)

Source: Instagram giveaway win
Audiobook; 10+ hours
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Silver Girl by Leslie Pietrzyk, narrated by Cassandra Morris, is a startling and uncomfortable novel about female friendship between an unnamed narrator from a small Iowa town and a poor family and a rich girl, Jess, in college in Chicago.What would it be like to escape a suffocating small town where nothing happens and where the only things that happen are dark and unsatisfying? Can you escape the past?

The narrative is disjointed and jumps in time – back-and-forth – as she strives to make sense of what happened. There is so much desire here — a need to belong, a need to be more, get more, and see more — and in many ways that desire takes over all rational thought and leads the narrator astray on more than one occasion. She’s a hard character to like, and in some ways you won’t. She’s striving to fill deep holes within herself, and her holes go deeper than any canyon the shallow, rich girl she rooms with could imagine.

Set during the 80s and the Tylenol poisonings in Chicago, the narrator shifts from the uncertainty in her own life to the investigations, mirroring her paranoia about someone finding out that she does not belong at this upper crust college. For all her talk about herself and her family, she fails to realize that even her roommate’s family is as screwed up as hers. As she strives to hide her true self and her home life from her roommate, she spends a lot of time judging Jess and those she encounters at school.

Silver Girl by Leslie Pietrzyk is a complex story about social class, female friendship, and feels like Plath’s Bell Jar with a main character spiraling out of control emotionally.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Leslie Pietrzyk is the author of the novel Silver Girl, released in February 2018 by Unnamed Press, and called “profound, mesmerizing, and disturbing” in a Publishers Weekly starred review. Her collection of unconventionally linked short stories, This Angel on My Chest, won the 2015 Drue Heinz Literature Prize and was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Kirkus Reviews named it one of the 16 best story collections of the year, Her previous novels are Pears on a Willow Tree and A Year and a Day. Short fiction and essays have appeared/are forthcoming in Southern Review, Ploughshares, Gettysburg Review, Hudson Review, The Sun, Shenandoah, Arts & Letters, River Styx, Iowa Review, Washingtonian, The Collagist, Cincinnati Review, TriQuarterly, New England Review, Salon, Washingtonian, and the Washington Post Magazine. She has received fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. Pietrzyk is a member of the core fiction faculty at the Converse low-residency MFA program and often teaches in the MA Program in Writing at Johns Hopkins University. Raised in Iowa, she now lives in Alexandria, Virginia. Visit her website.

Lucky 13: Matchmaking and Misunderstandings by Cat Gardiner

Source: Purchased
eBook; 294 pgs.
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Lucky 13: Matchmaking and Misunderstandings by Cat Gardiner is a modern twist on Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice set during Christmas and Thanksgiving. Liz Bennett is a successful marketing executive but she considers herself unlucky in love and everything else dealing with her matchmaking and dissatisfied mother. She was born on a Friday the 13th, and she’s been considered unlucky by her family ever since. But she’s decided that this year would be different and that finding dates in every way possible in the modern age, she plans to find a Christmas dinner date and possibly someone to take her to her super model sister Jane’s wedding to Charles Bingley. She’s closed herself off to all else.

Enter hunky, part-time New York City firefighter Will Darcy, a man who smolders just standing still and captures her attention immediately only to open his mouth and ruin her first impression. Regardless, she finds that she can’t take her eyes or keep her hands off him when he’s selected as Mr. December for a holiday calendar to raise money for a charitable burn foundation.

“How did you know I’m from the East Side?”

“It’s in your swagger, the way you wear your Armani. I don’t know, maybe it’s the fact you get your nails manicured. Guys like you love to play on the wild sided behind closed doors.”

“So you think you know me, Charlotte?”

Charlotte teams up with her own hot bod, Will’s cousin, to help the star-crossed lovers realize they’re prefect for each other. But Liz is left mostly in the dark until it is too late. She has her work cut out for her on the dating seen and in some cases, she should be thanking Will for his observations and interventions in her dating life, even if he does infuriate her.

Gardiner has done it again with these characters, making them her own and creating steamy situations that will have readers blushing. Liz and Will continue to fight their feelings, but even when they give in, they both back away to guard their hearts. Readers will be cheering on Will as he tries to woo his lady until she finds that she’s the luckiest Bennet of them all in Lucky 13: Matchmaking and Misunderstandings.

RATING: Quatrain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

Cat Gardiner loves romance and happy endings, history, comedy, and Jane Austen. A member of National League of American Pen Women, Romance Writers of America, and her local chapter TARA, she enjoys writing across the spectrum of Pride and Prejudice inspired romance novels. Austenesque, from the comedic Christmas, Chick Lits Lucky 13 and Villa Fortuna, to the bad boy biker Darcy in the sultry adventures Denial of Conscience, Guilty Conscience, and Without a Conscience, these contemporary novels will appeal to many Mr. Darcy lovers, who don’t mind a deviation away from canon and variations.

Cat’s love of 20th Century Historical fiction merges in her first Pride & Prejudice “alternate era,” set in a 1952 Noir, Undercover. Her most recent publications are time-travel WWII P&P short stories: A Vintage Valentine, A Vintage Victory, and A Vintage Halloween as part of the Memories of Old Antique Shop Series.

Her greatest love is writing Historical Fiction, WWII–era Romance. Her debut novel, A Moment Forever was named a Romance Finalist in the 2017 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. She is currently working on her second novel in the Liberty Victory Series.

Married 24 years to her best friend, they are the proud parents of the smartest honor student in the world—their orange tabby, Ollie and his sassy girlfriend, Kiki. Although they live in Florida, they will always be proud native New Yorkers.

Tiffany Blues by M.J. Rose (Giveaway)

Source: publisher
Hardcover, 316 pgs.
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Tiffany Blues by M.J. Rose is as beautifully written as its cover suggests. Readers will fall in love with Tiffany and his stained-glass windows, as well as his other artisan works. Laurelton Hall is a dream-like world that Jenny Bell falls into when her friend surreptitiously enters her in a competition for a residency. Rose always creates complex characters and settings that you could fall into immediately — this is another case in which I fell in love with art and colorful landscapes. There are so many reasons why Rose is an auto-buy author, no matter her subject. Her tales are hard to put down, and Bell’s story is no different.

What happens when the color drains from your life and you lose everything dear to you? Bell’s life has been incredibly hard, but she still seems to carry her mother’s artistry with her — developing it even if her canvasses remain devoid of color.

Her vibrant laughter sounded like the coppery glitter of her dwelling.

Jenny Bell comes to Laurelton with nothing more on her mind than an experience of a lifetime, and her friend, Minx, has high hopes for her. But Bell learns that there is more to life than creating art in darkness. The light can be found in the best moments of our lives and that light is made up of different hues, some dark blue and deep and others yellow and airy.

Rose is a master at weaving in historical details, mysteries to solve, and a bit of romance. Her vision of Louis Comfort Tiffany’s Long Island home for artists is magical and readers will be enchanted. Tiffany Blues by M.J. Rose is not to be missed. Fall into this stained glass window and fall in love with the artists.

RATING: Cinquain

ENTER the GIVEAWAY to win a copy of Tiffany Blues. U.S. entrants only. Deadline for comments with emails is Sept. 5, 2018, 11:59 PM EST

About the Author:

New York Times bestselling author M. J. Rose grew up in New York City exploring the labyrinthine galleries of the Metropolitan Museum and the dark tunnels and lush gardens of Central Park. She is the author of more than a dozen novels, a founding board member of International Thriller Writers, and the founder of the first marketing company for authors, AuthorBuzz.com. She lives in Connecticut. Visit her website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.

Hotel on Shadow Lake by Daniela Tully

Source: Publisher
Hardcover, 245 pgs.
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Hotel on Shadow Lake by Daniela Tully is a WWII tale that has roots in WWI and surpasses all of that history in its tale of enduring love, family bonds, and secrets. Young bookstore owner, Maya Wissberg, has felt adrift since her grandmother disappeared after she went on a study abroad trip and left no indication as to why she left or to where. It is not until the police in upstate New York come calling about her grandmother’s remains that Maya begins to rethink her relationship with her father, grandmother, and ex-boyfriend Michael. Tully takes us back into the past when her grandmother, Martha, meets a young German she pegs as the bad influence in her twin brother’s life.

“Maya was completely and utterly lost, cursing herself under her breath.” (pg. 67)

As the Nazis came to power, many Germans were caught up in the fervor of nationalism, including Martha’s brother, but Martha was a stronger woman who saw the writing on the wall. Eventually she found a kindred spirit in her brother’s friend, even though he warned her away from becoming involved with the resistance, which was still in its infancy in the late 1930s. Readers will lose themselves in Martha’s story as it is woven slowly to reveal how first impressions can be stripped away by truth and trust. Maya’s story disappears in the background for a while, until the reader returns to the present.

Maya has aviophobia, but this seems like a fear that she can overcome through determination. Her episodes on the plane over to the United States from Germany are barely seen, and for the amount of time Maya talks about the phobia, readers may want to see more of how she coped with it. In a way, this seemed like an unnecessary detail or a device that was used simply to explain why she had never gone many places. This is a small concern.

Hotel on Shadow Lake by Daniela Tully is a strong debut that delves into the climate in Germany at a time when nationalism and fascism was on the rise. It depicts a chaotic world for the German people, but also a world in which hope can turn into something disastrous quickly. At its heart, the debut novel is about the enduring power of love and the beauty of forgiveness.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

DANIELA TULLY has worked in film and television for decades, including with famed film director Uli Edel. She has been involved in projects such as the critically acclaimed Fair Game, box-office hits Contagion and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, as well as the Oscar-winning The Help. She splits her time between Dubai and New York. Inspired by a real family letter received forty-six years late, Hotel on Shadow Lake is Daniela Tully’s first novel. Visit her website, Facebook, and Instagram.

Villa Fortuna by Cat Gardiner

Source: Purchased
EBook, 342 pgs.
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Villa Fortuna by Cat Gardiner begins when three girls are read the will of their aunt in New York, a place Lizzy Clemente has not lived since the death of her father. They soon learn that they have inherited a prize piece of property in “Snobsville” but to keep it, they must go to confession at church and make other changes.

Her sisters, Gina and Nikki, are eager to open up their own salon in the building and start earning their own money, and Lizzy begrudgingly stays to help them. She’s got her work in Los Angeles as a podiatrist, and she’s hoping that she can return to that life soon before the Italian-American heritage she’s buried for so long sneaks up on her. But her flight back to LA has her thinking about the altar boy she glimpsed at the church when her sisters were making confession.

“Seven figures a year, a body like David with a face like Cary Grant and you resort to selling yourself like a used Mercedes in need of an overdue tune up.”

Little does Lizzy know that her dreamboat has a conniving grandmother who is after Villa Fortuna, which she claims is rightfully hers and stolen by the Clemente sisters’ long dead mob-tied relative. Stella De Luca is a grandmother no one wants meddling in their lives, and Dr. Mike Garin is no exception. Gardiner has a flare for the dramatic in this variation of Pride & Prejudice, which strays far from the original as it must given the modern setting. I loved the characters, particularly Toni(y) the cross-dressing salon receptionist with a heart of gold and Rusty (the rival hair stylist) at Halo. These characters are hilarious, as are the situations they find themselves in. But readers will love the heat between Dr. Garin and Dr. Clemente.

Villa Fortuna by Cat Gardiner is a modern love story with mobster vendettas, over-the-top drama, and salon gossip to get you in trouble if you believe it. Lizzy and Dr. Garin must use their heads to lead their hearts, but sometimes assumptions can lead to trouble, especially when there are Machiavellian strategies afoot.

RATING: Quatrain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

Cat Gardiner loves romance and happy endings, history, comedy, and Jane Austen. A member of National League of American Pen Women, Romance Writers of America, and her local chapter TARA, she enjoys writing across the spectrum of Pride and Prejudice inspired romance novels. Austenesque, from the comedic Christmas, Chick Lits Lucky 13 and Villa Fortuna, to the bad boy biker Darcy in the sultry adventures Denial of Conscience, Guilty Conscience, and Without a Conscience, these contemporary novels will appeal to many Mr. Darcy lovers, who don’t mind a deviation away from canon and variations.

Cat’s love of 20th Century Historical fiction merges in her first Pride & Prejudice “alternate era,” set in a 1952 Noir, Undercover. Her most recent publications are time-travel WWII P&P short stories: A Vintage Valentine, A Vintage Victory, and A Vintage Halloween as part of the Memories of Old Antique Shop Series.

Her greatest love is writing Historical Fiction, WWII–era Romance. Her debut novel, A Moment Forever was named a Romance Finalist in the 2017 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. She is currently working on her second novel in the Liberty Victory Series.

Married 24 years to her best friend, they are the proud parents of the smartest honor student in the world—their orange tabby, Ollie and his sassy girlfriend, Kiki. Although they live in Florida, they will always be proud native New Yorkers.

Mr. Darcy to the Rescue by Victoria Kincaid (audio)

Source: the author
Audiobook, 5+ hours
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Mr. Darcy to the Rescue by Victoria Kincaid, narrated by Emma Lysy, is the audio version on Kincaid’s delightful re-imagining. I’ve reviewed the paperback version previously and found it delightful. Unlike traditional tropes in which women need to be captured from dire circumstances, Kincaid creates a scenario in which Darcy does ride to Elizabeth’s rescue, but soon finds that he is the one in need of rescuing.

Lysy is a wonderful narrator; she pulls her listeners into the story as she takes on the roles of Lady Catherine, Mr. Darcy, Mr. Collins, and Elizabeth. Her inflections and intonations, effectively capture the mood of each scene and the emotions of Kincaid’s characters.

I loved revisiting Kincaid’s version of an in-love Darcy and an Elizabeth caught up in the horrifying reality of her decision to marry Mr. Collins. Mr. Darcy to the Rescue by Victoria Kincaid, narrated by Emma Lysy, is just delightful on audio.

***Please do check out the guest post from Victoria on the rescue trope found in many romance novels.***

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

The author of numerous best-selling Pride and Prejudice variations, historical romance writer Victoria Kincaid has a Ph.D. in English literature and runs a small business, er, household with two children, a hyperactive dog, an overly affectionate cat, and a husband who is not threatened by Mr. Darcy. They live near Washington DC, where the inhabitants occasionally stop talking about politics long enough to complain about the traffic.

On weekdays she is a freelance writer/editor who specializes in IT marketing (it’s more interesting than it sounds) and teaches business writing. A lifelong Austen fan, Victoria has read more Jane Austen variations and sequels than she can count – and confesses to an extreme partiality for the Colin Firth version of Pride and Prejudice. Visit her website. View her blog, visit her on Facebook, GoodReads, and on Amazon.

The Hunger by Alma Katsu

Source: Purchased
Hardcover, 376 pgs.
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A shadowy mist of sin plagues this wagon train led by the Donner family as a group of families make their way west to California. The Hunger by Alma Katsu is a story that creates an unsettling atmosphere as the pages turn, and as the party nears the mountain range where most of us know they became trapped by an early and heavy snowfall, readers will feel the darkness closing in on them even as the bonfires are lit to keep the darkness at bay.

“Everyone agreed it had been a bad winter, one of the worst in recollection.” (pg. 1)

“It was untrustworthy, that snow: It hid crevices, steep drop-offs. Snow kept secrets.” (pg. 2)

Throughout the novel, Katsu draws in her readers with the tales of woe that follow many of the wagon train’s members, including Charles Stanton, James Reed, and Tamsen Donner. These characters are integral to the success and failure of the wagon train, but they also enable Katsu to weave in her supernatural element with roots in Native American myth. Even the trail becomes a character, offering false paths, danger, and hope.

Katsu has a deep understanding of how humans act and react in scary situations, particularly those in which a wrong move could lead to death. From a man so eager to lead even when he doesn’t have the necessary experience to the man on the outskirts of the group because he is a single man in a wagon train of families, Katsu’s characters are nuanced, dynamic, and struggling internally as much as they are with the harsh environment they agreed to take on. Her writing just gets better and better with each book; this is one of her best written to date.

The Hunger by Alma Katsu creeps into your soul, searching for the wisps of guilt that hide in our own shadows and whispering dark thoughts that will leave you awake at night. This is suspenseful and horrifying, and it’s not just the expected cannibalism that will eat away at you.

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

Alma Katsu is the author of The Taker, The Reckoning, and The Descent. She has been a signature reviewer for Publishers Weekly and a contributor to The Huffington Post. She is a graduate of the Master’s writing program at the Johns Hopkins University and received her bachelor’s degree from Brandeis University. Prior to the publication of her first novel, Katsu had a long career as a senior intelligence analyst for several US agencies and is currently a senior analyst for a think tank. She lives outside of Washington, DC, with her husband.

Prada & Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 286 pgs.
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Prada & Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard mixes a modern day teenage story of geeky Callie Montgomery with a loosely based historical fiction of Pride & Prejudice involving England’s peerage. In the time travel piece of the story, readers will have to suspend disbelief, forego an explanation, and go with the flow. But for summer reading, this book as the romance, comedy, and social angst readers look for.

“Sometimes I feel more alone when I’m surrounded by my classmates than I do when I’m actually by myself.” (pg. 3)

Callie finds herself in England on a school trip, but in her efforts to impress the popular girls in her class so they invite her out and she doesn’t have to spend another day and night alone in her room — chaperones say they must travel in pairs — her clumsiness pegs her as an outsider. But an epiphany strikes and she heads out to the shops where she buys red Prada heels to fit in. She’s sure the heels will have her invited to the club with the popular girls. Only trouble is she trips and knocks her head on the sidewalk before waking up in 1815.

“I have to pull it together. I can’t just lose it like that, throwing my shoes like I’m in a shot-put competition.” (pg. 53)

Hubbard’s teen protagonist is a believable girl who has issues fitting in, but placing her in 1815 makes her stand out even more, especially when she has little control over her responses to social norms of the time. This makes for some hilarious scenes, but it also could make readers notice the things out of place in 1815 a little bit more. If you’re a stickler for historic detail, this book will drive you crazy. However, if you’re just looking for a fun read, this is definitely that.

There are scenes when Callie commits several faux pas and she would be in hot water for sure, but it’s a good thing the duke she’s falling for is sweet on her. The end also wraps up quickly and in a very predictable and cinematic way. Prada & Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard is a fun and quick read for those looking for a cute fish out of water story.

RATING: Tercet

About the Author:

Mandy Hubbard is the author of PRADA & PREJUDICE, YOU WISH, and FOOL ME TWICE, as well as BUT I LOVE HIM (written under the psuedonym Amanda Grace). She lives in Enumclaw Washington, with her husband and daughter.