Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Down the Rabbit Hole Book Box (April 2021)


Hello Lovelies,

 

I have a thrilling new book box to share with you and it’s the Down The Rabbit Hole Book Box. This book box is a bit unique because it’s a box that’s been curated around a dark read (more about dark reads in a bit). As someone who has always loved dark, gothic novels, I was intrigued by this book box.  

Here’s a little more about the box before we dig in.

 




What is Down the Rabbit Hole Book Box? Down the Rabbit Hole Book Box is a monthly book box that sends you one dark, mesmerizing, and gripping read (either paperback or hardback) along with 4-6 individually wrapped gifts that’s been curated around the book.

 Website

Price: $34.99 (plus shipping) at the moment this is only offered in the US

Use the coupon code SIMPLYANGELA10 for 10% off your first box or a year's subscription. This code is not an affiliate code.

How is it shipped and packaged? The box is shipped via USPS and the last two months it has arrived  in a plastic poly mailer. The box itself contains shredded paper packaging that protects the items inside. Each item inside the box (other than the book and pamphlet) is individually wrapped and numbered.



What is a dark read? Per their website, they define dark books as a book without a happy ending. The books we will choose for you will have scary and dark plots, not so nice protagonists that will leave you questioning the world as it is.  There will be no books with happy endings coming from us!

Genres included (but not limited to): Southern Gothic | Dark Fantasy | Psychological Thriller | Horror | Mystery | Dark Fiction | Crime

Because of the content of the dark reads, the website does recommend that this book box is for those 18 years of age and above.

Can I find out the title of the book? Unlike other companies, Down the Rabbit Hole Book Box makes it easy to discover the title. Each month hints will be revealed on their website and Instagram. You can also email the company directly to discover the title. 

Each month you receive a pamphlet that tells you the theme of the month, a little about the author, and how to open your gifts. Because this is an Immersive Experience Book Box, it’s best to open the gifts as you read (you’ll find a little sticky tab on the page telling you which gift to open).



What is an Immersive Experience Book Box? It’s a box that’s been curated to pull the reader further into the sensory experience of the story with sounds, scents, tastes, and objects of interest from within the story. While items like candles, drinkware, and jewelry could be included, it also includes story specific items such as letters, photos and such. 



Here’s what’s in April’s Down the Rabbit Hole Book Box.

 




April’s Book: Death on the Nile (A Hercule Poirot Mystery) by Agatha Christie (paperback)—When I heard April’s theme, I had a feeling this was the book and I couldn’t have been more excited. This was actually next on my ‘to buy’ list so I can read it before the movie comes out next year. Very happy to have this and I love the cover!

April’s ThemeMurder and Betrayal Among the Pyramids





Item #1—Earl Grey Agatha ChrisTea from Tea Book

Item #2—Hercule Poirot Enamel Pin

Item #3—Newspaper

Item #4— Reticule

Item #5—Faux Pearl Necklace

Item #6—Scarf 

Also included is a bookmark, which happens to be a ticket for the cruise, and a card introducing you to Hercule Poirot. 

My thoughts on the April box: this has to be one of my favorite Down the Rabbit Hole boxes. The scarf is simply exquisite—I love tying these in my hair or hooking them on the strap of my handbag. The reticule is well made and I was actually looking for one to use with my Renaissance outfit so this is the perfect fit. The faux pearl necklace is a more of a choker-type, which I’m a bit too claustrophobic to wear but this will work great as part of my headdress for my Renaissance outfit. The enamel pit of Poirot is adorable and the newspaper article will make a fun addition to my book journal.

 

I’m always up for getting tea but can we just take a minute to appreciate the Agatha ChrisTea. How adorable is that?

 


One of my favorite things about this company is the thought and detail they put into each box. The themed labels, the art deco (nice quality) envelopes, and they even took the time to make a cruise ticket for the bookmark. They really do go above and beyond with each box and it’s truly one of my favorite bookish subscription boxes. 



Number of Items received: 6 Gifts (1 story specific and 5 bookish) plus the book.

OverallI loved the theme, the book, and how well matched each gift was not only to the book but also to the era of the book. April’s box was outstanding and bonus point because I was able to build-up my Renn Fest outfit!

 










The tranquility of a cruise along the Nile is shattered by the discovery that Linnet Ridgeway has been shot through the head. She was young, stylish and beautiful, a girl who had everything – until she lost her life.

 

Hercule Poirot recalls an earlier outburst by a fellow passenger: ‘I’d like to put my dear little pistol against her head and just press the trigger.’ Yet in this exotic setting’ nothing is ever quite what it seems…

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

The Secrets of Colchester Hall by Sophie Barnes


As one of six possible candidates vying for Viscount Sterling's hand, Lady Angelica has been invited to stay at his grand manor for a weeklong house party. But an unpleasant feeling lurks within Colchester Hall, and while Angelica tries to explain the chill creeping up behind her as merely a draft, she can't shake the feeling that something disturbing might be at play.

 

When Sterling decides she's the woman he wants, will Angelica accept her new home and the sinister secrets she fears it might hold, or will she give up on true love because of something she might be imagining?

Publisher: Author |Genre: Gothic Romance | Source: Purchase | Rating: 3.5

In need of a wife, Sterling invited a dozen eligible young ladies—and their chaperones—to stay at his estate for a fortnight in hopes he finds one of them suitable to marry. When Angelica catches his eye, she’s not thrilled at first but he soon wins her over but there’s the tiny matter of something haunting the halls of Colchester Hall. Sterling and Angelica must figure out if something from his past is trying to tear them apart.

This was a fast, fun, slightly gothic Regency mystery with hints of the Bachelor. While it had its moments of ghosties and things that go bump in the night, this one was missing that atmospheric feeling that gothic novels have. Still, it made for a solid, quick read.

I thought the bachelor aspect—where Sterling set up random dates and group outings—made for a fun adventure and let their personalities come through in a short time. The mystery aspect, while easy to figure out, was well fleshed out. Of course, because this was a novella, the romance while not insta-love was still a bit faster than normal but didn’t come across as too rushed.

My only problem with this one was the ending—the setup of the book had a nice pace and was interesting/eventful but the ending just fell a bit flat. I guess I wanted a bit more.

Overall, this was a nice little novella but I think this would have benefitted from being a full-length book. Everything in this book was tied up nicely but I feel like it could have been explored more and some of the aspects like the gothic atmosphere could have brought out more. Still, I did have fun with this one and think other will enjoy it as well. 


 

Monday, May 10, 2021

Bout of Books 31 Starts Today!


Hello Lovelies and Happy Monday!

 

Bout of Books 31 starts today and I’m so excited to dive into my book pile.

 

I’m aiming for 6-7 books—I’ve selected 5 that I definitely want to finish this week and I’m hoping I’ll manage to pick up two romances but I’m not sure which ones I’ll be in the mood to read.

 

I’ll be updating daily on Instagram @simplyangelarenee and I’ll have updates on the blog Thursday the 13th  then the final recap post will be on Tuesday the 18th

Here’s the 5 books I’m reading this week

 


The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey—originally published in 1951 this is about a recuperating inspector looking into whether or not Richard III murdered his nephews. Seeing as this is from 1951—long before finding Richard’s remains was even a thought—I’m expecting this to be dated but I’m still eager to see what it contains.

 


Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys—originally published in 1966, this is a prequel to Jane Eyre that tells the story of Bertha—the wife in the attic. I’m a massive Jane Eyre fan and I’ve been eager to see how Rhys portrayed Bertha.

 


The Bones of a King: Richard III Rediscoverd –this was composed by the Greyfriars Research Team and I’m eager to see what insights this sheds on the dig and the discovery of Richard III.

 


The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner—dual timelines, a tale of poison and revenge…that’s all I need to know for this to pique my interest.

 


Every Vow You Break by Peter Swanson—I have no idea what this mystery/thriller is about but the cover has me curious. 


Are you joining Bout of Books?

Do you participate in readathons?

 

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Down The Rabbit Hole Book Box (February 2021 & March 2021)


Hello Lovelies,

 

I have a thrilling new book box to share with you and it’s the Down The Rabbit Hole Book Box. This book box is a bit unique because it’s a box that’s been curated around a dark read (more about dark reads in a bit). As someone who has always loved dark, gothic novels, I was intrigued by this book box.  

Here’s a little more about the box before we dig in.

 




What is Down the Rabbit Hole Book Box? Down the Rabbit Hole Book Box is a monthly book box that sends you one dark, mesmerizing, and gripping read (either paperback or hardback) along with 4-6 individually wrapped gifts that’s been curated around the book.

 Website

Price: $34.99 (plus shipping) at the moment this is only offered in the US

Use the coupon code SIMPLYANGELA10 for 10% off your first box or a year's subscription. This code is not an affiliate code.

How is it shipped and packaged? The box is shipped via USPS and the last two months it has arrived  in a plastic poly mailer. The box itself contains shredded paper packaging that protects the items inside. Each item inside the box (other than the book and pamphlet) is individually wrapped and numbered.



What is a dark read? Per their website, they define dark books as a book without a happy ending. The books we will choose for you will have scary and dark plots, not so nice protagonists that will leave you questioning the world as it is.  There will be no books with happy endings coming from us!

Genres included (but not limited to): Southern Gothic | Dark Fantasy | Psychological Thriller | Horror | Mystery | Dark Fiction | Crime

Because of the content of the dark reads, the website does recommend that this book box is for those 18 years of age and above.

Can I find out the title of the book? Unlike other companies, Down the Rabbit Hole Book Box makes it easy to discover the title. Each month hints will be revealed on their website and Instagram. You can also email the company directly to discover the title. 

Each month you receive a pamphlet that tells you the theme of the month, a little about the author, and how to open your gifts. Because this is an Immersive Experience Book Box, it’s best to open the gifts as you read (you’ll find a little sticky tab on the page telling you which gift to open).



What is an Immersive Experience Book Box? It’s a box that’s been curated to pull the reader further into the sensory experience of the story with sounds, scents, tastes, and objects of interest from within the story. While items like candles, drinkware, and jewelry could be included, it also includes story specific items such as letters, photos and such. 



Here’s what’s in February’s Down the Rabbit Hole Book Box

 


February’s Book: If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio (paperback, $17.99, 2017)—I’m so excited this is February’s book.  I’ve heard so many great things about it and, while I do have the hardback version, I’ll pass the paperback on to my mum.

February’s Theme: The Doomed Seven



Item #1—Pin with Hamlet Quote

Item #2—Bundle of Famous Painting Stickers

Item #3—Tea Strainer

Item #4—Black Mask

Item #5—Cozy Socks

My thoughts on the February box: Okay, this is an outstanding box. Yes, I have the book (I’ve not read it yet) but my Mum had mentioned she wanted to pick up a copy so I will pass this copy on to her.

The tea strainer (I can always use another tea strainer) does have a slight gap in it but it will still work for my larger leaf teas (white teas, tisanes, etc.) or will work perfectly with a string-less teabag. I never say no to warm, soft socks especially ones that will work in my boots. The sticker bundle is perfect; I do love a good artistic sticker bundle, and will make a fun addition to my reading journal and/or planner. I also appreciate that they came in a sturdy yet stylish drawstring pouch.  The mask is adorable and will be nice for pics. And I love the fact the pin has a Hamlet quote.

Surprisingly, this box contained all bookish gifts. While I love each gift and they fit brilliantly with the book, I did miss the book specific item (note, card, etc. taken from the text).

Overall, this is one of my favorite boxes. The items were well crafted and well curated to fit the book. I also like that we’re still receiving a bookmark with the quote as a freebie rather than a gift.

I think the items with this box will pair nicely with the items from the first box. 

Here’s what’s in March’s Down the Rabbit Hole Book Box.

 


March’s Book: Gods Go Begging by Alfredo Véa (paperback)—I know nothing about this book and, while I’m not sure this will be my cup of tea, I’m still eager to give it a go.

March’s Theme: Nothing is Fair in Love & War



Before I get into March’s box, I want to talk about box. Rather than the regular navy boxes, this month’s box was white and it was for a good cause. They donated the cost of the normal boxes to Vietnam Veterans of America. My grandfather was a Vietnam veteran and I do appreciate this company showing our veterans support.

Now, on to what I received in March’s box…



Gift #1—Vietnamese Traditional Coffee Phin Filter

Gift #2— Letter

Gift #3—Dog Tags

Gift #4—Two Small Pieces of Jade

Gift #5—Chopsticks

Also included was a bookmark with a quote from the book.

My thoughts on the March box: This wasn’t my favorite box but it was an interesting box. I’m not a coffee drinker but this was such a unique coffee filter—you sit the filter on top of a cup and you can adjust the strength by loosening or tightening a screw on the bottom—and I’m eager to see if I can use this with certain loose leaf teas. The dog tags—with a quote—were nice additions that I will pass on to a friend and I will add the two pieces of jade to my shelf. While I’m not using the chopsticks to eat with—I already a set that I love using—I will be using these in my sewing and embroidery. The letter I will be using in my book journal.

 

 I love that they’re adding extra touches such as these little cards explaining the significance of each item and how to use things.



Overall, this was not my favorite box but it was still a nice box and I loved that this box had a purpose, which was supporting Vietnam Veterans. 









If We Were Villians

Oliver Marks has just served ten years in jail - for a murder he may or may not have committed. On the day he's released, he's greeted by the man who put him in prison. Detective Colborne is retiring, but before he does, he wants to know what really happened a decade ago.

As one of seven young actors studying Shakespeare at an elite arts college, Oliver and his friends play the same roles onstage and off: hero, villain, tyrant, temptress, ingenue, extra. But when the casting changes, and the secondary characters usurp the stars, the plays spill dangerously over into life, and one of them is found dead. The rest face their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, and themselves, that they are blameless.


Gods Go Begging

For Vietnam veteran Jesse Pasadoble, now a defense attorney living in San Francisco, the battle still rages: in his memories, in the gang wars erupting on Potrero Hill, and in the recent slaying of two women: one black, one Vietnamese. While seeking justice for the young man accused of this brutal double murder, Jesse must walk with the ghosts of men who died on another hill... men who were his comrades and friends in a war that crossed racial divides.



Friday, May 7, 2021

Vine Oh! Oh! Happy Day! Box


Hey Lovelies,

 

I have my third Vine Oh! box to share with you and it’s the Vine Oh! Sips & Surprises Seasonal Box.  While I’m not a wine drinker, I love this box because the ‘Surprises’ are curated to help women unwind. I’m all about self-care, so having a box that gives me comfy, cozy items and fun gifts/treats is right up my alley. The wine, well that makes the perfect gift to give to friends and family members.

 

Before I get into what was in my box, let me tell you a bit more about Vine Oh! 




What is Vine Oh!? Vine Oh! is quarterly subscription box that includes 5-6 FULL-SIZE PRODUCTS that’s fun, rejuvenating, and delicious along with 2 bottles of wine.

Website

Price: $59.99 (seasonally) free shipping

This link*: http://vineoh.refr.cc/angelasimmons will save you $10

Guaranteed box value? Each box will have a MSRP value of at least $120 value (it’s often higher).

Where do you ship to? Vine Oh! ships to all states expect for Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, Hawaii, Kentucky, Mississippi, Rhode Island and Utah.



How is it shipped and packaged? Vine Oh! ships free via FedEx Ground, expedited shipping is available for an additional price. ID and an adult signature are required when the box is delivered. The box and wine ships together in a larger outer box with the box on top and the wine nestled in cardboard cradles in the bottom.





They offer SMS text messaging for shipping notifications to let you know when you need to be home (or arrange for an adult) to receive your box.



Can I pick my wine? You can selected Red, White, Sweet, or Mix.

Are product cards included? Yes. Each box contains an envelope which contains individual product cards, a box value card, and a Vine Oh! wine card. While the product and value card offers a lot of info, the wine card is general information about the company. I think it would have been nice if the wine card offered info on the types of wine included in the box.

Items included the Oh! La La! Box

 



1—Cuccio Naturale Milk & Honey Cuticle Oil ($18)—I’ve received several bottles of this (in other sub boxes) and it is a nice cuticle oil so I don’t mind getting another one.

2—Zaxie Stud Earrings ($24)—while these are cute, I don’t have pierced ears so these will go to a friend.

3—Legally Addictive Foods Cracker Cookies: The OG ($4)—this is the first time I’ve had this type of cracker/cookie and I rather enjoyed the salty-sweet combo.



4—The Wet Brush Pro Detangler ($15)—having thick hair, I do like using the Wet Brush brand to detangle my hair but I have a ton of these so I passed this to my Mum (she’s been wanting to try one).

5—Asobu Skinny Mini Water Bottle ($30)—this is actually the only item in the box that excited me. I do most of my errands in the morning and they’re close enough together that I can park uptown and hit each stop as I walk the loop uptown. I’ve been wanting to take hot tea with me but I’ve not wanted to carry my ceramic travel cups around so I’ve been looking for something like this that’s small enough to fit in my handbag or my tote bag. There’s actually a clip on the lid that will hook to the inside of my bags so I’m hoping this works without leaking.   


Number of products in box: 5 items 

Wine Received ($24 a bottle)

I'm not a drinker so I have no idea about the wines. 

2018 Night Vine California Cabernet Sauvignon

2019 Mad Love California Rosé

2019 New Crush California Pinot Grigio 


Total Value of the Oh! La La!  Box without the wine: $91

Total Value of the Oh! La La! Box with the wine: $163

Rating: 3 out of 5 (1 point each for the water bottle, hair brush- half a point for cuticle oil and cracker cookies--no points for the earrings)                                                           

(Each box will receive a rating. If I liked a product 1 point, if I’m unsure .5 point, if I don’t like the product 0 points)

Favorite item in the Oh! La La! Box: Asobu Skinny Mini Water Bottle

Least Favorite item in the Oh! La La! Box: Zaxi Stud Earrings 

My Overall Thoughts: Everything I received in this box—besides the wine—I could hold in one hand. You can tell by the picture that the items were on the smallish side of things, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but these items—except for the water bottle—were a bit lackluster. I’m still not seeing the self-care/comfy cozy items that this box is supposed to contain.

 

This is the third Vine Oh! box I’ve received and so far I’ve had 1 outstanding box and 2 that were just meh. I generally like to receive a year of an annual subscription box before I make up my mind about whether or not this box is for me but I’m leaning towards it not being for me. 


What would I like to see in the future from Vine Oh!

-I would like to see them offer a profile you could fill out that included things such as if your ears are pierced or if you have food allergies. Perhaps a complexion profile as makeup items are included.

-I think that a corkscrew should be included in your first box along with bottle stoppers.

 


 *affiliate link. I earn $10 to spend on Vine Oh! when the link is used

Thursday, May 6, 2021

How To Catch A Duke by Grace Burrowes


Miss Abigail Abbott desperately needs to disappear, and the only person she trusts to help her do that is Lord Stephen Wentworth, heir to the Duke of Walden. Stephen is brilliant, charming, and—when he needs to be—absolutely ruthless. So ruthless, that, he proposes marriage instead of a pretense of murder, to keep Abigail safe.

 

Stephen knows that Abigail has the dignity and determination of a duchess and the courage of a lioness. When she accepts his courtship of convenience, he also discovers she kisses like his most intimate wish come true. For Abigail, their arrangement is a sham to escape her dangerous enemies. For Stephen, it's his last, best hope to share a lifetime with the lady of his dreams—if he can convince her his love is real.

 Series: Rogues to Riches #6 | Publisher: Forever | Genre: Historical Romance | Source: Publisher | Rating: 3.5 Cups

"I have come to ask you to kill me, my lord."

 

How could I not dive into a Regency Romance when that’s the opening line?

 

Here’s what’s going on. Needing to disappear to protect herself, Abigail—an inquiry agent—seeks Stephen’s aid in ‘killing her off’. Although Stephen has another plan, one that includes a marriage proposal, which Abigail sees as the perfect solution to protect her but Stephan wants more. Now he must convince her to be his future duchess.

 

It’s been a minute since I’ve read Grace Burrowes and, I must say, that I’ve missed her writing style. Her character’s always have a flawed realness to them and it’s something that I’ve always enjoyed.

 

Stephen and Abigail have met in a previous book (that I’ve, sadly, not read) and there seems to be an attraction that they’ve been carrying around.  So there’s a ton of chemistry at the start of the book but as the plot progresses and things start to move and get revealed I feel as though they lost some of that chemistry. It was almost as though so much was going on in the romantic connection was lost.

 

I’m on the fence about this book. I liked characters and I liked that they were very unique—he’s disabled and she’s built like a warrior queen, you don’t see that often in Regency romances—I liked the essence of the plot and I did like them together, most of the time. I struggled with how much of the character’s past relationships were brought to the forefront of this one. It bogged the current romance down and had me questioning their feelings for each other.

 

There’s also some things in the book that had me questioning how they went unobserved for so many years yet Abigail spotted them right off the bat. There’s also some things in this book that I felt was added just to make the book feel current but didn’t add anything to the plot.

 

Overall, I liked Abigail and Stephen—they were brilliant together—but I wish there had been less of their past included. I still enjoyed this one and found it to be an easy, quick read but there wasn’t that extra spark that I expect in Grace’s books. 

Rogues to Riches Series

1-My One and Only Duke

2-When a Duchess Says I Do

3-Forever and a Duke

4-A Duke by Any Other Name

5-The Truth About Dukes

6-How To Catch A Duke 

 

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

The Survivors by Jane Harper


Kieran Elliott's life changed forever on the day a reckless mistake led to devastating consequences.

 

The guilt that still haunts him resurfaces during a visit with his young family to the small coastal community he once called home.

 

Kieran's parents are struggling in a town where fortunes are forged by the sea. Between them all is his absent brother, Finn.

 

When a body is discovered on the beach, long-held secrets threaten to emerge. A sunken wreck, a missing girl, and questions that have never washed away...

 

 Publisher: Flatiron Books | Genre: Thriller | Pages: 372 | Source: Publisher | Rating: 3 Cups

Atmospheric and thrilling, The Survivors took me to the heart of a small coastal community in Australia and left me sorting through the debris of a storm that happened twelve years ago as well as collecting clues regarding a present day murder.

 

Here’s what’s going on. Twelve years ago a storm blew in and shattered the tiny community of Evelyn Bay leaving two young men dead and a girl missing. It also shattered the Elliot family and left Kieran with a guilt no one should have to carry. Now back in his hometown—along with his girlfriend—to help his parents move, Kieran feels the old wounds as freshly as when the storm first happened. As though those griefs weren’t enough, the death of a young waitress has everyone on edge and memories of the storm resurfacing. As friends are questioned, old secrets begin to emerge, and things are revealed that change the course of their history.

 

This was another of my most anticipated releases of 2021 and I wasn’t sure what to expect as I had never read a novel by Jane Harper. I had heard a lot of people refer to her writing as atmospheric and it was that—if ever a novel left me feeling cold and needing to cover up with a warm, comforting blanket, it was The Survivors. While the writing was very vivid and descriptive, it was also a bit slow, which was a bit of a letdown.

 

This book is told in present day as well as in flashbacks to the day of the storm twelve years ago and, sadly, there was a lot of stuff going on but I don’t feel as though either part really added much until we moved into the middle of the book. There things kicked up a bit but not a lot and I still felt that this book was a lot of talk with little happening. While there was a lot of talk about what happened to Bronte, the waitress that was murdered, and a lot of questions being raised there’s not much of the actual investigation shown. We were however thrown a lot of suspects—who seemed to have motivation and/or was painted to look guilty. There were also a lot of things going on trying to try to throw you off. When everything was revealed, it didn’t shock me but rather seemed a bit lazy in the outcome almost as though the word count limit was creeping up and the author needed to come up with a killer and a reason.

 

While this book centers around Kieran, there’s a lot of characters in this book and not only do we get to see them in the present we get to see them during the storm and the days after. Sadly, none of the characters are likable or reliable. Then we have Kieran and Mia’s three-month-old daughter who was treated rather like an accessory—something for the characters to tote around and let me tell you this baby went everywhere and was left alone sleeping on the beach on numerous occasions while Kieran swam. I didn’t understand why the author chose to include a baby.

 

There’s also a lot of questions this book had me asking, like why were certain things not questioned, or even brought up, after the storm. Why was Gabby’s disappearance during the storm put on the backburner? The explanation in the book just didn’t fly with me. There’s also a lot of backstory regarding Finn, Kieran’s brother who drowned, that was brought up momentarily and never explained—which, again, goes into what I was saying about a lot of things happening in this book without the book going anywhere.

 

This does have thriller aspects to it but, to me, it bordered more on redemption, healing, forgiveness than a full on thriller and, I think, that’s why this book dragged a bit.

 

Overall, this was an okay read. Yes, it was easy for me to become sucked into this story but it was a bit boring in the fact it took forever for something to start happening. I also wish the ending would have had a bit more so the story would have had a bit more closure.

 

I think this book is going to be one that has a lot of mixed reviews. If you like thrillers/mysteries that are more character focused yet not character driven, I think you’d really enjoy this book if you don’t mind a slower-paced read.

 

I thought it was just meh because I wanted a bit more. There was a lot of buildup to certain events that just ended up being lackluster reveals. 

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins


Meet Jane. Newly arrived to Birmingham, Alabama, Jane is a broke dog-walker in Thornfield Estates––a gated community full of McMansions, shiny SUVs, and bored housewives. The kind of place where no one will notice if Jane lifts the discarded tchotchkes and jewelry off the side tables of her well-heeled clients. Where no one will think to ask if Jane is her real name.

 

But her luck changes when she meets Eddie Rochester. Recently widowed, Eddie is Thornfield Estates’ most mysterious resident. His wife, Bea, drowned in a boating accident with her best friend, their bodies lost to the deep. Jane can’t help but see an opportunity in Eddie––not only is he rich, brooding, and handsome, he could also offer her the kind of protection she’s always yearned for.

 

Yet as Jane and Eddie fall for each other, Jane is increasingly haunted by the legend of Bea, an ambitious beauty with a rags-to-riches origin story, who launched a wildly successful southern lifestyle brand. How can she, plain Jane, ever measure up? And can she win Eddie’s heart before her past––or his––catches up to her?

Publisher: St. Martin's Press | Genre: Domestic Thriller  | Pages: 290 | Source: Publisher | Rating: 3 Cups
  

It was the modern Jane Eyre aspect of this book that had my curiosity piqued. It’s very rare that we get a modern Jane Eyre so, when I was offered this book for review, I jumped at the chance and I have some thoughts.

 

Did I like the book? Yes. Did I like it as a Jane Eyre re-telling? No.

 

Let’s get into the plot of the book. Jane’s a dog-walker in a gated community—think a Southern version of Desperate Housewives—she’s a bit of a klepto who is hiding from her past in a place where no one will think about asking. Eddie is the mysterious man who lives in Jane’s ‘favorite’ house on the lane and there’s a lot of suspicion surrounding him concerning the boating accident that claimed the lives of Bea, his wife, and Blanche, her best friend. When a chance encounter brings them together, Jane’s found the perfect guy to offer her what she’s never had—money and protection from her past—and Eddie’s found a fresh start with a woman who, while plain, intrigues him. While it’s not easy sailing, things get a whole lot choppier after Blanche’s body is found. Suspicions are aroused, neighbors are looking closer, the police are asking questions, and things are starting to go bump in the night. Now it’s a race to see who’s past will catch up to them first.

 

The plot alone was brilliant and intriguing. There’s mystery, intrigue, danger, and an odd romance of sorts. This had the makings of a riveting Southern Thriller, if the names would have been changed and the association to Jane Eyre would have been vague rather than thrown in your face. Those who have read Jane Eyre would have been able to pick up on the connection.

 

Looking at this as a modern version of Jane Eyre, it fell flat and I found parts of it, especially the oddly placed Jane Eyre quotes, a bit cringe worthy.  While it’s revealed in the synopsis that Jane isn’t Jane—and I did like that twist—the other characters were unlikable versions of the lovable characters from the book. Even if you haven’t read Jane Eyre, you probably know how it ended and, while The Wife Upstairs stays close there’s a bit of a twist—which, again, I did enjoy.

 

The book was an easy read and, while not exactly flowing, I found I had read half the book without realizing it.

 

I’m a little disappointed with this book. This was one of my most anticipated 2021 releases and it didn’t live up to what I thought it was going to be. Reading the acknowledgements at the end of the book where the author states, ‘And lastly, thanks to every woman who ever got to the end of Jane Eyre and thought, “Honestly, Jane? You could do better.” You are my people.”  It made me think that, in same way, she wanted to ruin some of the original characters (Rochester) that most of us love from Jane Eyre.

 

Jane Eyre is one of my favorite books and I love the characters dearly. Not only was it a very modern book for its time, it’s a book that was very empowering. It was one of the first books where the character (Jane) was very self-aware and striving to be an independent “individual.” Charlotte Bronte created Jane to be determined, to not back down, and to be able to make her own choices. I’ve always thought that Charlotte created Jane to be the person (and make the choices) she wanted to be and to make. Jane didn’t have to choose Rochester but did so because she truly loved him and he loved her in return.

 

Overall, while I’m apparently not one of the author’s ‘people’ I found that I both liked (if I removed all immediate Jane Eyre connections) and disliked (if I viewed this as a modern retelling) this book.

 

If you’ve not read Jane Eyre, I think you’ll appreciate this book as a Southern Thriller. For me, this didn’t work as a retelling. I would have loved this book had the author not named the characters straight from J.E. (even the dog Eddie owns was named Adale) or included the oddly placed quotes but rather alluded to the story.  Those who have read Jane Eyre, would have been able to pick up on the references and I, personally, would have enjoyed the book better.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Only A Cowboy Will Do by A.J. Pine


Forty candles, and one for luck. Jenna Owens wants one thing for her birthday this year: a fairy-tale ending of her own and a little relaxation at a quaint California ranch. What she didn’t want was to get caught in a storm on her way to Meadow Valley. Or to get stuck with a ridiculously hot, too-charming-for-his-own-good cowboy—one who makes Jenna reconsider her “I don't date younger guys” rule. But a little vacation flirtation might be just what she needs.

Colt Morgan isn’t interested in long-term relationships. Not since his last one crashed and burned after his fiancée found out he wanted a big family. So when he learns that Jenna has a list of items to accomplish on her trip—including having fling—Colt is all too happy to oblige. Yet the more he and Jenna get to know each other, the more Colt starts to wonder if maybe they have a chance at a real future. But when Jenna’s past upends everything Colt thought he wanted, are all bets off? Or will they find a way to make both their dreams come true?

 Series: Meadow Valley #3 | Publisher: Forever |Genre: Contemporary Romance | Source: Publisher | Rating: 4 Cups

Two strangers (one who happens to be a charming cowboy) having a little vacation fling that has the potential to be more? Yes, please!

When the nephews that she raised sends her off to relax at a California ranch, Jenna makes a list of things she’s always wanted to do and, while having a vacation fling was on the list falling for the cowboy escorting her to the ranch wasn’t. Colt Morgan’s not up for relationships, especially after his last one, but he’s more than eager to please when he finds out Jenna wants to have a vacation fling. Relationships were supposed to be off the table, but there’s something special between the two of them if they can get past a secret Jenna’s carrying.

I was hooked from the start and could not put this book down.

Jenna and Colt were so much fun. They both have things in their past that they’re working through and things in their past that have shaped them and their idea of what their futures should be. Neither are the type to have a fling without getting attached and I enjoyed watching them grow and sort things out. I also enjoyed the maturity they both had.

I love romances with family and close-knitted friendships/communities and that’s one of the things I loved about this book. The friends at the ranch who were like family, it really helped to round out the book.

The only thing that kept this from being a 5-cup read was the fact there were some things that Jenna should have told Colt, especially knowing how he felt, from the start so they could figure out things together rather than it just being thrust upon him at an odd time.

Overall, I really enjoyed this one. I missed the previous books in the series and I’m going to have to remedy that soon as I fell in love with the people of Meadow Valley Ranch. 


Meadow Valley Series

0.5 Cowboy to the Rescue

1 My One and Only Cowboy

2 Make Mine a Cowboy

3 Only a Cowboy Will Do