Saturday, January 16, 2021

Book Review: Spellbreaker by Charlie N. Holmberg


Goodreads Summary: A world of enchanted injustice needs a disenchanting woman in the newest fantasy series by the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Paper Magician.
The orphaned Elsie Camden learned as a girl that there were two kinds of wizards in the world: those who pay for the power to cast spells and those, like her, born with the ability to break them. But as an unlicensed magic user, her gift is a crime. Commissioned by an underground group known as the Cowls, Elsie uses her spellbreaking to push back against the aristocrats and help the common man. She always did love the tale of Robin Hood.

Elite magic user Bacchus Kelsey is one elusive spell away from his mastership when he catches Elsie breaking an enchantment. To protect her secret, Elsie strikes a bargain. She’ll help Bacchus fix unruly spells around his estate if he doesn’t turn her in. Working together, Elsie’s trust in—and fondness for—the handsome stranger grows. So does her trepidation about the rise in the murders of wizards and the theft of the spellbooks their bodies leave behind.

For a rogue spellbreaker like Elsie, there’s so much to learn about her powers, her family, the intriguing Bacchus, and the untold dangers shadowing every step of a journey she’s destined to complete. But will she uncover the mystery before it’s too late to save everything she loves?

Goodreads Rating: 4.05 stars with over 9,000 ratings

Genre listing: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Magic, Romance

Goodreads Challenge: 2/50 books *

* Before this, I reread Grave Mercy for # 3 on the challenge (Reread a book that makes you happy). I didn't really feel like doing a new review on it. You can find the original review here. I proclaimed it as my favorite, I had forgotten why because it's been years since I've read Grave Mercy. Rereading, it reminded me of why I dished out the favorite book label. Assassin nuns who serve the God of Death, yes, please.

2021 Reading Challenge: 1.  Read a book obtained from Kindle Unlimited, Audible, Amazon First Reads, Paperback Swap, or the Library (Find the full challenge here)

Book Review:

Hi, readers. I hope everyone is doing well. I will probably keep this review relatively short. I decided it was a great idea to fall on some ice in a parking lot and sprained my wrist on Monday night. Of course, it's my dominant hand, and between the awkward gigantic brace and the pain, typing is a chore at best. I'm currently being held in place by a bunch of velcro and bungee cords. On the bright side, nothing's broken, at least. 

I was super excited to hear about Spellbreaker. Charlie N. Holmberg's books have really grown on me lately (initially had a love/hate relationship with Paper Magician, but the rest of the series was enjoyable, and I've since liked some of her other works.) So, when it was up for grabs on Kindle First Reads, I had to have it. Historical Fiction and magic? Yes, please. 

One of the things that really draws me into Charlie N. Holmberg's books is her use of magic. Anything involving magic will probably be a winner in my book, but there's something almost whimsical about how she goes about magic in her books. It's also really creative and different from most fantasy books. In the world of Spellbreaker, there are different levels of magic users. There are Spellmakers who can create spells and various types of spells. It's the only way for ordinary folk to change their lives by becoming master Spellmakers. There are also Spellbreakers, who do not seem to be as common or favored among the magic population. 

Elsie is a spellbreaker, and I loved how the way she broke spells was described. The magic was described in such a way that I could almost visualize the runes she had to untangle and unknot. I found myself really interested in how she knew what to do to reverse a spell and if Spellbreaker's could go through similar training as a Spellmaker. 

Spellbreaker took me a little bit to really get into, even though it was just under 30 pages. I'm not sure if this was more just my state of mind or if it was the book, but I didn't get really engrossed by it until I was about halfway through. I wasn't overly drawn to the characters. They were interesting, but I was more interested in the world and why the Cowls were having Elsie do the things she did or who they actually were. The characters were kind of replaceable to me. 

Once I got to around forty pages left, I started to get to that point where I couldn't put the book down. Suddenly, things started falling in place, the action picked up, and there was a handful of surprise twists that I was not expecting at all. I definitely couldn't predict what would happen, and the book ends with a massive cliffhanger. I wanted to go immediately into Spellmaker, but alas, I must wait until March. 

Overall, I really enjoyed the story. I think another 30-50 pages or so to really fine-tune some character details would have done the book wonders, but it was still an entertaining story. As it is, it's about 300 pages, and it does move pretty fast. I love the magic in it, and I can't wait to read more in Spellmaker.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

The Creation of the LinzTheBookWorm/Logophile Annual Reading Challenge


Hi Readers, a lovely person commented on the 2021 reading challenge with a question (find the challenge here) regarding if we take submissions and gave an excellent idea for the 2022 challenge. It made me realize that I don't think Tress and I have really gone into great depths of how this challenge came to be. Or at least, I don't think I have. 


This blog started in 2014 because a couple of friends told me I should start a blog. I couldn't possibly fathom what I could talk about for an extended time beyond books. Somehow seven years later, I'm still writing. I feel like I've grown a lot in those seven years, not only in followers but in writing and communication skills. Thank you to those of you who come and check out what dumb things I have to say. It truly means a lot to me! I hope you'll continue to stick with me as I use this platform to discuss my greatest passion. Since these challenges started, they've become my most successful posts, which genuinely blows me away.

I've been doing the Goodreads annual challenge since 2011. Of those years, I've only actually completed 3 challenge years. Apparently, I like to set myself up for failure by setting my goal at 50 books.  In 2016 I branched out as a way to read outside of my comfort zone and started participating in random challenges I found on the internet. I think I tried to do two or three at once and didn't do very well. 


In 2017, I started my own challenge. I really had no idea what I was doing. Apparently, that year I only read 24/50 books. I don't even remember how many books were on 2017's challenge. One of my dearest friends had been doing the challenge with me, and she was probably the only one. Enter friend and fellow blogger, Tress (aka Logophile). At the end of 2017, I asked Tress what worked and what didn't. She gave me so much feedback that I asked her to participate in the 2018 challenge. 


For 2018, in my head, I had an idea of almost playing bingo with a reading challenge, but you'd have multiple cards. The result is mostly the format you see now in the five-tier format. We brainstormed over Christmas and tried to lump the categories we came up with into different levels going from easiest to hardest. The idea was that if we start with easier ones, it will provide that momentum to continue on to the next tier. 


In 2019, we introduced free spaces and reading a trilogy. We did this because we found 2018 really hard. Tress and I both get into our random binges. She rereads many of her favorite series, and I often get side-tracked by some shiny series on Kindle Unlimited. We wanted a way to be able to read the things we love without completely derailing our progress on the challenge. We tried to vary the categories from easy to hardest and balance between similar topics throughout the five levels.


While I don't feel like we made any considerable changes to how we did things in 2020, one thing we started doing was keeping a list pretty early on for 2021. We started doing this because we had a reader request something from a previous year, making it's way to the 2021 challenge. The list really helped us keep track of the ideas that we had.


In 2021, Tress unleashed some kind of spreadsheet-nerd Kraken on the challenge, and I love it. She compiled all of the previous categories, grouped them together, and figured out some magical formula for most optimization. We then tried to make it easier to harder like the earlier years and tried to balance these different groups we came up with.

Tress's spreadsheet magic really helped us figure out when we last used a category, if we wanted to use it again, and what broader groups we needed to fill. 

The result of all this work over the years is a build your own challenge where you can either start at level one and work your way to level five, book sixty, pick a level, or go at it haphazardly. Tress likes to plot out her books in advance, and I go into it in reckless abandon. We each have spreadsheets because we're nerds, that list out which books we own and where they'd fit in the challenge. Mine looks like this, and yes, I got this idea from Tress. 

I love our challenge, and I'm blown away at how well each one does. Thank you to all that have joined in, shared it on your own blogs. It is absolutely crazy that so many of you check in on this blog and come back. I love seeing your comments, and if you have suggestions for future categories, by all means, send them to us. I can't guarantee we'll use it, but we'll definitely take it into consideration. 

I'm seriously shocked at the level of page views these challenges have gotten over the years. I hope you all enjoy this behind the scenes look at our challenge. Be sure to visit Tress on her blog (found here). 

Saturday, January 2, 2021

2020 Reading Challenge Final Update


Well, 2020 is a wrap, and what a weird year it's been. I was looking back on the books I read this year, and most of them seem like ages ago. Since I started working from home in March, I have had zero sense of time. 2020 seems like it's been both prolonged and quick, depending on the day. 

A recap of things that happened in my life during 2020:

- My grandfather passed in March, and I, despite my fear of public speaking, gave his eulogy.
- I started working from home, which I love
- I started Grad School (Why do I do this to myself???)
- I sent my book off to my editor a couple of times. It's almost finished, yay!
- I read some books
- I traveled back to Indiana in July to visit with family
- My niece was born in November (I haven't gotten to meet her yet, waiting to go back home)
- I worked from home some more. And I think I slept. Not sure.
- I bitched about my neighbor's music a LOT. (Seriously, I'm ready to freaking MOVE)

While 2020 was a weird year for me, I'm super grateful that it wasn't overly terrible. My husband and I are healthy, still have our jobs, and have a roof over our heads. The people I know who have gotten Covid have been milder and didn't need hospitalization and recovered from it. So really, I can't complain too much. I sat on the sidelines a lot this year while things happened to other people and generally felt helpless and unsure of how to help them or what to do. Still, I was lucky this year, and if that isn't the case for you or your family, then my deepest condolences. I hope that 2021 is a better year.

Bookwise, I read 47/60 books. Most of them seem like they were years ago. All but one fit on to the challenge somehow. I think I only finished tier one because I jumped around so much. There were many challenges towards the end where I was just ready to move on to this year's list (find it here.) I liked them at the beginning when we made the 2020 challenge (find the original post here), but by the time the end of the year rolled around, some of them seemed really daunting, and I just wanted to get lost in some paranormal or fantasy book. 

I also had a ton of author requests this year, more than usual. While I love helping out new and indy authors, this is something I'm going to take a break from in 2021. Between working full time, being in the middle of grad school, I also have a husband I like to annoy, a jewelry business on the side, and I've started volunteering as a student mentor for my university. Reading books at the author's request is a really stressful thing for me because I'm super worried I won't like it and will have to tell said author this. Like I respect the work people put into their books, and I try to be constructive, but I still hate having to tell someone I don't like their work. It's different when it's books I want to read on my own time because the author probably isn't going to see it. Also, I'm never going to tell someone I like their book when I don't. So, I've decided to take a little stress off myself and just read for my own enjoyment; I won't be doing any author requested reviews this year. Or if I do, it's going to be very, very few.

So now, on to the books I read. The book that didn't fit into the challenge was Factor-7 by J.D. May. You can find the review here.

Level 1: Book of the Month Club - Done!-
1. Read a book with a title that starts with a "W"- The Watchmaker's Daughter by C.J. Archer
2. A book you got for under $3- Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman
3. A book with a blue cover- The Death Cure by James Dashner
4. Read a book by your favorite author- Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon
5. A book with the word "Light" in the title- Darklight by Bella Forrest
6. A book that is set in the future- The Toll by Neal Shusterman
7. A book from Project Gutenberg- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
8. Read a book of short stories or a novella- The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski
9. Read a book you've had on your "to be read" shelf for more than a year- Physik by Angie Sage
10. Read a book that takes place in winter- Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness
11. Reread a book you have recommended to a friend- Graveyard Shift by Angela Roquet
12. Free space- Pick any book!- Darkthirst by Bella Forrest

Level 2: Casual Reader Club - Needed two books to complete- 
13. A book under 400 pages- Togwotee Passage by L.G. Cullens
14. Read a book by Julie Garwood - Did not read- 
15. Read a classic fairy tale- Alice's Adventures in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carrol- Did not review
16. Read a retelling of the classic fairy tale- A Blade so Black by L.L. McKinney
17, Read a suspense or horror book- The Haunting of Ashburn House by Darcy Coates
18. A book you got for free (gift, found, or book exchange)- The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan
19. Read a book with a building on the cover- The Apothecary's Poison by C.J. Archer
20. Read a historical fiction from the World War 2 era- Did not read-
21. Read a book that was turned into a movie or tv show- Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon
22. A book by an author named James/ Jim or a variant- The Kill Order by James Dashner
23. Read a book recommended on your local library's website- Hexed by Kevin Hearne
24. Free Space- Pick any book!- What Preys Within by Brett Gurda

Level 3: Dedicated Reader Club - Needed 3 books to complete-
25. A book with the word "Book" in the title- The Secret, Book, & Scone Society by Ellery Adams
26. Read an urban fantasy novel- Death Masks by Jim Butcher
27. A book published in 2000- Did not read- 
28. A book recommended to you by a friend - The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
29. Read an author's debut novel- Deadheading by Paul Cristo
30. Read a book from the BBC's list of top 100 books you must read before you die - Did not read-
31. Read a book that is over 600 pages- Eye of the World by Robert Hunt
32. Read a book by Isaac Asimov - Did not read- 
33. Read a book with the word 'Star' in the title- Hidden Star by Nora Roberts
34. Read a book about a historical figure (fiction or non-fiction)- Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles by Margaret George
35. Read a book about an assassin - Did not read- 
36. Free Space- Pick any book! - The Magician's Diary by C.J. Archer- Apparently didn't review

Level 4: Speed Reader Club - Needed four books to complete- 
37. Book 1 of Trilogy- Pay Me in Flesh by James Scott Bell
38. Book 2 of Trilogy- The Year of Eating Dangerously by James Scott Bell
39. Book 3 of Trilogy- I Ate the Sheriff by James Scott Bell 
40. Read a book from NPR's favorite books of 2019 -Did not read-
41. Read a Novel by an author using a pseudonym - did not read- 
42. Read a graphic novel- Artemis Fowl: A Graphic Novel by Eoin Colfer, Andrew Donkin, Giovanni Rigano, Paolo Lamanna -Apparently didn't review
43. A book with a season in the title - Didn't read- 
44. Read a book with exactly four words in the title- A Throne for Sisters by Morgan Rice
45. Read a book about a writer (real or fictional)- The Gang of St. Bride by Emily Organ
46. Read a book with a title that rhymes - didn't read- 
47. A book by an author named Elizabeth/Beth or a variant - Suddenly Psychic by Elizabeth Hunter
48. Free Space- Pick any book! - The Maverick by Jennifer Valenti

Level 5: Overachiever Club - Needed four books to complete-
49. Read a motivational/ Inspirational book - Managing to Learn by John Shook- Did not review
50. Read a book with two or more authors- Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
51. Read a book by John Creasey - Did not read- 
52. Read a book published in 1980 - Did not read- 
53. Read a "Rags to Riches" story- Kill the Queen by Jennifer Estep
54. Read a book with an occupation in the title- The Mapmaker's Apprentice by C.J. Archer
55. Read a book about travel or that involves travel- The Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan
56. A book that takes place in outer space/ another planet - The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
57. Read a book that starts with the letter J - Did not read- 
58. Read a book that takes place in the Middle East or is inspired by Middle Eastern culture - Did not read-
59. Read a book about a video game or virtual reality- Aaru: Dante's Path by David Meredith
60. Free Space- Pick any book! - Prove It: Murder In The Mix by Hannah R. Kurz

Overall, I feel pretty good about how I did on the challenge. I didn't go into any random binge of some Kindle Unlimited series I found. I only had one book that didn't fit in the challenge. I would have liked to get more than one tier complete, but I did manage to get a lot read on a lot of the levels. I'm genuinely surprised at how many reviews for books I didn't do this year. I think it was three or four, and I usually do one for every book. I'm blaming Grad School because it seems like a good scapegoat. I plan to read 50 for 2021. Not sure I'll get to it with everything I've got going on, but 60 was definitely too much. 

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Book Review: Hexed by Kevin Hearne


Goodreads Summary: Atticus Sullivan, last of the Druids, doesn’t care much for witches. Still, he’s about to make nice with the local coven by signing a mutually beneficial nonaggression treaty—when suddenly the witch population in modern-day Tempe, Arizona, quadruples overnight. And the new girls are not just bad, they’re badasses with a dark history on the German side of World War II.
With a fallen angel feasting on local high school students, a horde of Bacchants blowing in from Vegas with their special brand of deadly decadence, and a dangerously sexy Celtic goddess of fire vying for his attention, Atticus is having trouble scheduling the witch hunt. But aided by his magical sword, his neighbor’s rocket-propelled grenade launcher, and his vampire attorney, Atticus is ready to sweep the town and show the witchy women they picked the wrong Druid to hex.

Goodreads Rating: 4.22 stars with over 56,000 ratings

Genre Listing: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Magic, Mythology, Supernatural, Witches, Vampires

Goodreads Challenge: 47/60

2020 Reading Challenge: #23 Read a book recommended by your local library's website (Find the full challenge here ). Get ready for the 2021 Challenge (here)

Previous reviews on the series: Hounded

Book Review:

Happy New Year's Eve, readers! I hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday. I wasn't entirely sure that I was going to finish this book before 2020 ended, but I just made it! I'll do a full review of the books read in 2020 later this weekend. For now, on to talking about Hexed.

So, I kind of cheated for this prompt. My library had recommended Hounded, but I decided it was a series recommendation and picked up Hexed instead since I already read the first book. Truthfully, I just wanted to read it and needed a place for it. Whatever.  As Co-Creator of the challenge,  I do what I want. :)

Hexed picks up a couple of weeks after Hounded ends. Atticus is trying to clean up the mess from his last battle and finds himself facing a new enemy in an unlikely alliance with the local witches. It's effortless to get back into the story, though, for some reason, I had forgotten Atticus's name and, in my head, had been referring to him as "Iron Druid." 

I think what I like most about Hexed is I get Paranormal, Mythology, and Humor. I feel like this series doesn't take itself too seriously. There's always a joke or a snarky comment, even in the most serious action moments. It doesn't ever really feel cheesy, or out of place though, it just feels like Atticus's personality to make light of things. There were many times when I just started cracking up because of some of the dialogue, especially between Atticus and Oberon. 

I think my favorite characters in Hexed were The Widow and Oberon. They're just too pure, and the Widow is just so sassy. She just seems like a fun old lady that would have some great stories. I could not stop laughing at her scene towards the end of the book when Atticus is trying to protect her. It was probably one of the most hilarious book chapters I've read in a while. I really needed the laugh that it provided.

If you've read my blog for any amount of time, you've probably realized that when I read, I get really weird and random pop culture references in my head (See any Wheel of Time review for proof where I let it be unchecked in Tress's twitter thread of our conversation.) I can't help it, and this is how my brain operates most of the time. I don't know if I mentioned this in Hounded, but when The Morgaine is described, the only thing I can picture for her is Yzma from The Emperor's New Groove. I don't know why this is the image my brain conjured up, but it's there to stay. Which made a particular scene with Atticus incredibly terrifying.  I would like some kind of brain bleach, please.

For those who don't know what I'm talking about when I say Yzma:

Anyways, back to the review. I really liked the Mythology and history that was in Hexed. I don't remember if, in Hounded, Atticus gave any great detail about specific points in time, but I enjoyed that we got a glimpse of what he was doing in WWII. I think it just gave great context for how old he actually is. I really hope that there are more glimpses into his history in the rest of the series. 

I absolutely adored Hexed, and I can't wait to read more in the series. I highly recommend it for anyone who likes Urban Fantasy and likes to laugh. The books aren't terribly long; I think Hexed was around 300 pages. It's a quick and fun read, and not hard to stay into the story between books. 

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Book Review: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen


Goodreads Summary: In this historic romance, young Elizabeth Bennet strives for love, independence, and honesty in the vapid high society of 19th century England.

Goodreads Rating: 4.26 stars with over 3 million ratings

Genre listing: Classics, Romance, Fiction, Literature, British Literature

Goodreads Challenge: 46/60

2020 Reading Challenge: #7 a book from Project Gutenberg (Find the full challenge here) Get ready for 2021's challenge (here)

Book Review:

Merry Christmas Eve, readers! I am off work for the next four days, and I am super excited. I plan to read at least one more book and do a final for one of my classes. Just an FYI about the 2021 challenge. There was an issue with the PDF printable version that I published. I'm not sure what's going on with it, but I took my link for the pdf down and replaced it with Tress's. Sorry for any inconvenience. You can find her post about the challenge (here). 

I had been attempting to read something for the Project Gutenberg slot for a while, but I honestly couldn't bring myself to read a classic. I thought that maybe if I went with one I was already familiar with from movies, it might go better. I adore the Pride and Prejudice movie with Keira Knightly, so I thought this would be a good option. (Side note, if I refer to 'the movie' in this post, it will be this version of it.)

Being familiar with the story helped, but some parts were overly dry and formal, making it hard to read. This is typically what makes it so I can't get into classics. Once the story progressed, it was a lot easier to get into, but it was a rough beginning for me. I'm not really going to dwell too much on Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. That was all as expected for me, and I enjoyed it. 

I was delighted to get a more in-depth look at the character's personalities than what I had previously known. The scenes pretty much read like I'd expect them to, though maybe not in the order I was expecting them. Obviously, there were some scenes in the movie that weren't in the book. I was really pleased to see that one of my favorite lines in the film was directly from the book. 

"If any young men come for Mary or Kitty, send them in, for I am quite at leisure." -around 97% of the book.

I don't know why, but this line just amuses me. 

One thing I was really surprised at how much more ridiculous Lydia was in the book. In the movie, it was incredibly underplayed and glazed over how much of a scandal it was. There's a good chunk of the story dedicated to all of the things that had to be done to find her and Wickham and cover up their running away. I feel like, in the end, they kind of got Karma for just being awful. Somehow, Mrs. Bennet was even more vapid and ridiculous in the book. I pretty much just had to roll my eyes during her scenes. I don't really feel like she cared about whether or not her daughters were happy in their marriages (which, I get is part of the times) but just cared about how their marriages made her look. 

It took me a little bit to get into the story because of the formal wording, but I really liked the story. Because of my love of a movie version of it, it felt familiar. Truthfully, I'm mostly just in this for the sly snark like this:

"I must trouble you once more for congratulations. Elizabeth will soon be the wife of Mr. Darcy. Console Lady Catherine as well as you can. But, if I were you, I would stand by the nephew. He has more to give."

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Book Review: The Secret, Book, & Scone Society by Ellery Adams


Goodreads Summary: From New York Times bestselling author Ellery Adams comes the first in an intriguing new series set within a quirky small-town club where the key to happiness, friendship—or solving a murder—can all be found within the pages of the right book . . .

Miracle Springs, North Carolina, is a place of healing. Strangers flock here hoping the natural hot springs, five-star cuisine, and renowned spa can cure their ills. If none of that works, they often find their way to Miracle Books, where, over a fresh-baked “comfort” scone from the Gingerbread House bakery, they exchange their stories with owner Nora Pennington in return for a carefully chosen book. That’s Nora’s special talent—prescribing the perfect novel to ease a person’s deepest pain and lighten their heaviest burden.
When a visiting businessman reaches out to Nora for guidance, she knows exactly which novels will help. But before he can keep their appointment at Miracle Books, he’s found dead on the train tracks.
Stunned, Nora forms the Secret, Book, and Scone Society, a group of damaged souls yearning to gain trust and earn redemption by helping others. To join the society, members must divulge their darkest secret—the terrible truth that brought each of them to Miracle Springs in the first place.

Determined to uncover the truth behind the businessman’s demise, the women meet in Nora’s cramped and cozy bookstore to share stories and trade support. And as they untangle a web of corruption, they also discover their own courage, purpose, and a sisterhood that will carry them through every challenge—proving it’s never too late to turn the page and start over . . .

Goodreads Rating: 3.76 stars with over 10,000 ratings
Genre Listing: Mystery, Cozy Mystery, Fiction, Contemporary
Goodreads Challenge: 45/60
2020 Reading Challenge: #25 Read a book with the word 'Book' in the title ( see the full challenge here )

Book Review:

This year is winding down fast. I never really expected to actually hit 60 books, but pretty excited about getting to 45. I'm hoping I can squeeze at least two more books in before December ends. I talked to a friend about the books I read this year, and I realized most of the books I read feel like they were a really long time ago.

The Secret, Book, & Scone Society by Ellery Adams fit really well for #25, which was one I was struggling to find. The story follows Nora after she escapes some unknown tragedy and starts over in Miracle Springs, North Carolina. She opens up Miracle Books and conducts what she refers to as "Bibliotherapy." After a series of murders in the normally quiet town, Nora helps solve a mystery, makes a few friends, and finally gets the courage to tell her story.

I wouldn't say that I was instantly drawn into Nora as a character. She was really reserved by design because of her secret, and it came out in pieces. It wasn't really fully explained until the very end. She wasn't unlikeable; just by design felt like something was missing. I really liked how her shop was described, and the fact that she lived in a Tiny house was awesome. I'm a huge fan of the tiny house movement, and I'd love to own a book store. The idea of bibliotherapy was really cool, especially given that she went through it herself. 

Due to the murder of one of her Bibliotherapy clients, Nora starts becoming friends with a group of local ladies who want to help solve the murder. Like Nora, they all have a deep dark secret that they reveal to the group as a way to show that they trust their new friends. Of Nora's friends, I probably like June or Hester the best, but they all have their quirks. I thought it was interesting that Hester had a similar skill as Nora's Bibliotherapy, but with the use of baked goods. 

I didn't really feel like the mystery was all that surprising. It didn't really give any alternate options of who the culprits could be. There's a large group of people involved in some capacity, so the only unknown is who did what and why. There was a little surprise regarding some help they had to make it work, but other than that, I felt like the who was always known. 

To me, the mystery wasn't really the main plot of the story. It was there and moved the characters along, but it wasn't really what it was about. It seemed like it was more about the growth Nora, Hester, June, and Estella went through and how they could grow, let their guards down, and develop friendships. 

Because Nora owned a bookshop, there was a lot of book references in the story. I'm a little torn on whether or not I liked it. Some of the references were cool to see, but it got to be a little unnecessary after a while. It felt like they were just included anywhere possible. Obviously, I'm a self-proclaimed bookworm, but it just feels unnatural to reference a book in basically every conversation. It started to feel forced.

I enjoyed the book and got through it pretty quickly. It was a nice read, but I wasn't in love with it. The way that Nora's secret was drug out made it hard to relate to her. I may pick up the next book in the series at another time, but I don't really feel like I need to rush right into it. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Book Review: Factor-7 by J.D. May

Goodreads Summary: FACTOR-7 presents a terrifying but riveting scenario that’s ripped from the headlines—and, if things do not change, could very well be our new normal.

The life of Dr. Sam Hawkins, the head trauma surgeon at Galveston’s St. Peter’s Memorial Hospital, is changed forever by the cryptic words of his dying friend and the string of blatant cover-ups that follow his demise. When a beautiful infectious disease doctor, Rainee Arienzo, enters his life, they soon realize that Sam’s friend had been willing to die to expose the sinister truth of what he had become involved in, before a dangerous weapon could be unleashed upon the world. Reluctantly, and ill-equipped for such a task, Sam and Rainee team up to find the truth—but what they discover is far more than they could have imagined. As they are forced further and further into a world of murder, power, intrigue, and corruption, it becomes deathly clear that the exposure of the truth is just as dangerous as the group and weapon that they seek. Sam and Rainee must play with one of two devils to survive—or be burned by both. Life is made of choices, but they are not always ours to make.

A bucking bronco ride bio-weaponry, secrets, terror, betrayal, lies, infidelity, raw human emotions, and redeeming love, FACTOR-7 is a completely gripping thriller that will keep you turning the pages all through the night.

You think it could never happen. FACTOR-7 will make you think twice!
Goodreads Rating: 4.6 stars with 10 ratings
Genre listing: Science Fiction 
Goodreads Challenge: 44/60
2020 Reading Challenge: None (find the challenge here)

Book Review:

Hi readers, I hope everyone is doing well! The year is wrapping up soon, so be on the lookout for my end of the year summary on everything I read. If you missed the post, Tress and I released the Kraken that is our 2021 reading challenge. You can find it here

For Factor-7, I received an ARC copy of the book from the author's publicity team in exchange for a review. 

I feel like I have to explain the entire premise of Factor-7 to talk about it because, honestly, there was a lot in this book. This book is coming out in January and takes place post-covid-19. Sam, a trauma surgeon, gets connected with Rainee, an infectious disease doctor. They're both made aware of a secret organization that has apparently developed a man-made virus that will set off a pandemic worse than anything the world has seen before. This private organization has basically infiltrated the world's government, so they have to stop it on their own because they can't trust anyone. Somewhere along the line, they befriend a Drug Cartel leader from Mexico, who helps them try to derail the plot to unleash the virus. 

Covid-19/Coronavirus is mentioned pretty early on in the book, and truthfully given that this book is about to be released, I felt it was kind of opportunistic and showed an author trying to get ahead of the curb on an influx of pandemic books we're about to see. I know it happens, and I know it's going to happen, but that doesn't change the fact that it didn't really sit well with me while I was reading it. I don't necessarily feel like the author was trying to make light of the situation, but this book's timing can definitely be construed that way. The main reason I mention it is to warn readers because I feel like if they lost someone to Covid-19, that could be upsetting to them. 

Initially, Sam came off as an arrogant ass. I don't really know what it was, but it took a while for him to be a likable character for me. His personality didn't really seem consistent, and not necessarily in a growth sort of way. At first, he seemed really arrogant, and then once he meant Rainee, he suddenly started using Southern phrases and saying, Ma'am. Because it just seems to start when he met Rainee, it felt like he was laying it on kind of thick.  He did kind of grow on me and seemed like a nice guy and like he wanted to do the right thing, however. I did feel bad for him because his ex-wife Ashley was pretty awful.

I thought the concept of there being a man-made virus being used as a bio-weapon was interesting. I'm not really sure how I feel about the super-secret society being involved, and parts of it were confusing. Initially, there was one group that was mentioned that really didn't come into play again until the end. A second group seemed to hijack their name or had a similar name, which just made it really confusing. I also admit that it's possible. I'm misremembering. 

The secondary super-secret group's mission was incredibly vile. The idea is that they're going to use the virus to eliminate terrorism by controlling who the virus gets transmitted to, by making it only responsive to one specific region's DNA. Essentially, committing genocide on innocent people. I don't even know how to explain the hatred that the organization spewed. It was so deep that I was legitimately concerned about what I was reading. It hurt my heart, and I don't know how the author came up with that level of hatred for their characters. Sam and Rainee never made these kinds of comments; these all came from the group responsible for the virus. In fact, there's a quote from the book when Sam is going off one of the members, talking about how absolutely sick they are that I wanted to share. I'm not sure what page it's on; it's towards the end of the book. "Hate is a vile and virile enemy of the soul."

I thought that Sam and Rainee's mission was interesting, and I could easily get into it. I wanted to read more about what they were trying to do to stop it and how deep the conspiracy went. What really took me out of this book, however, was their relationship. Sam was recently divorced and had a fling with a lady at work, which was weird. Other than that, Rainee was his first relationship post-divorce. The timing and how they got together felt like a rebound to me. It didn't really feel like they had a ton of chemistry and like there was some formula that said there had to be a relationship, so they're together now because they're trying to save the world. I don't know if it was because they were both doctors or what, but there was an overly detailed sex scene that seemed more clinical and instructional. It didn't read as passionate or romantic, and afterward, Sam had pretty much decided he was in love with her, comparing it to something about horseshoes. When they were working towards the mission, it was fine, but I couldn't help but roll my eyes when it came to their relationship.

Somewhere in all of this craziness, a drug lord decides he's their friend and is going to help them deal with the virus. Between this and everything else going on in the book, it seemed like many concepts in one book. I really wanted to like this book, the story was interesting, but everything else that was driving me crazy kept me from enjoying it much. It had its moments, but most of the time, I spent rolling my eyes and checking how much I had left in it. 

This is what makes me want to not take on requests from authors/companies to read specific books. I genuinely feel bad when I don't fully enjoy the book. Don't get me wrong, Factor-7 is well written, and I think many people will enjoy it. For me, however, it was just too many ideas swirling around, a little too opportunistic, and I found the romance cringe-worthy at best. I'm sure that people who can get into the whole conspiracy theory- Illuminati type things will enjoy it. I'm just not one of them. This seems like a good time to announce that in 2021 I will be taking a step back from doing reviews on author/publicity company requested books. I've had a lot this year, and while I really want to help new authors, I also need a break. Between work 40+ hours a week, grad school, and working as a volunteer mentor for my school, promising to read someone's book is a bit more than I can handle.