young lady sitting on window sill in hall
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Catherine House

Today’s book review is of Elisabeth Thomas’s debut novel Catherine House. I read this novel as an e-book, and the cover is so lovely and I liked the story so much that I am going to be buying a physical book for my collection.

I don’t care if I there isn’t enough room on my shelves for more books! It’s still not hoarding, agreed?

Elisabeth Thomas’s website says that Catherine House will “leave readers breathless”. But I felt something better: a hunger. I had a craving to keep reading this book, not necessarily because I was on the edge of my seat, but because I was rooted in place and the words were my sustenance. The weight of imagery and Ines’s almost apathetic despair and even the artistic terminology built a story that felt just right for me.

I read some reviews that said they felt like it got too slow, or that something was missing, but I guess for me, it didn’t feel that way because it felt how I feel. It was like reading about a dream I’ve had, or a memory I can’t quite place, and it was comforting.

My one-sentence review: It is a hauntingly beautiful story.

Ines is selected to attend Catherine House, an exclusive and very mysterious three-year college. At Catherine House, Ines takes typical college classes such as Intro to Philosophy or Intro to World Religions, and eventually concentration-specific classes such as Russian and Italian Futurisms (she decides to pursue art), but the school is anything but typical.

After Baby, her roommate, is sent into the tower as punishment, Ines and their friends learn that Baby has died. Baby was obsessed with/passionate about plasm, a substance that an entire concentration had been created around. Part of the book revolves around defining plasm and how it’s used, but the way it’s described as being a part of everything and tethering everything together reminded me of the moldy house in Mexican Gothic, where the mold attaches itself to people, rendering them unable to leave the premises.

Eventually, Ines is sent to the tower, and is faced with the gruesome decision to make Catherine House her permanent home.

Catherine House explores the consequences of what it’s like to be a player in a world where people want to play god.

While the story isn’t overtly sinister, it does raise a lot of moral questions, and the passages of time where Ines is either languishing or making the best of it each have a place in revealing important information. Ines’s days meld together, and I have gone through long periods of time like that, where one day doesn’t end and another begins but rather time is meaningless and you feel like you’re just going through motions and nothing matters. Sometimes it’s hard to see life getting better when you feel like you don’t deserve it or that it doesn’t matter in the end. So it spoke to me a lot in that way.

The descriptions of the school and grounds were vivid and intriguing. There was almost a magic to Catherine House that reminds me of secluded schools in other stories. It just seems dark and grand and fun, and maybe makes me miss college a little.

(Although my undergraduate degree is in hospitality management, and if I think of a way to spice that up for a gothic novel, maybe one day I’ll write it.)

Another aspect I liked about Catherine House was the way Thomas melded art and science. Elisabeth Thomas is actually an archivist at an art museum, so it’s really cool that she was able to incorporate this part of her life into the story. I do not have a lot of knowledge in the art world, but that didn’t detract from recognizing the way art is used to add depth to the story.

Have I convinced you to read Catherine House yet? Let me know in the comments!

To learn more about Elisabeth Thomas and Catherine House, visit Thomas’s website at Elisabeth Thomas (elisabeththomasbooks.com).

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Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman’s Coraline tells the story of a young girl named Coraline – adamantly not Caroline; people just can’t seem to get her name right!

Coraline Jones, along with her mother and father, move into an old, large house that’s been refurbished into apartments. The one next to the Jones’ apartment is empty, and the only thing connecting the two is a bricked-in doorway.

Cover of Coraline, a book by Neil Gaiman
My copy of Coraline, purchased from Thriftbooks

Discovering the doorway empty of bricks one time, Coraline goes through the passageway and enters an identical apartment on the other side – with an Other Mother with eyes of buttons waiting for her.

When the Other Mother kidnaps Coraline’s parents and Coraline finds the spirits of three children, she knows she must act, and fast.

Will Coraline be able to find the children’s souls and her parents, or will she be trapped with the Other Mother, ultimately having buttons sewn into her own eyes?

In the mist, it was a ghost-world. In danger? thought Coraline to herself. It sounded exciting. It didn’t sound like a bad thing. Not really.

The Other Mother, the beldam, is a unique and interesting beast. She craves attention and self-satisfaction – and is ruthless.

“I swear it,” said the other mother. “I swear it on my own mother’s grave.”
“Does she have a grave?” asked Coraline.
“Oh yes,” said the other mother. “I put here in there myself. And when I found her trying to crawl out, I put her back.”

As a rule, Coraline is brave not because she has no fear, but because she knows that bravery is the way to deal with fear. It doesn’t necessarily make you less afraid once you’re on the other side, but the outcome is worth the distress.

Gaiman’s descriptions of the cat throughout are also entertaining. “There was something irritatingly self-centered about the cat, Coraline decided. As if it were, in its opinion, the only thing in any world or place that could possibly be of any importance.” As a cat owner – Smokie, Kenneth, and Michael are their names – I know this to be true. But cats are always there for us when we really need them, as Gaiman deftly demonstrates.

I love the movie Coraline, as well. I have taken many naps while Coraline played in the background, and have played it at night to help me fall asleep. An unusual comfort item, perhaps, but I know I’m not alone.

Coraline resonates with a lot of people.

Neil Gaiman has mentioned in interviews that readers young and old love Coraline’s bravery. For me, more than the courage-in-face-of-fear element of the story, I love its weirdness. It makes me feel like my weirdness is okay – like that episode of Friends where Phoebe gets married and Mike, her fiancée, says that she is so “wonderfully weird”. I love anything that makes me feel like I’m loved for being wonderfully weird.

Having now read the book and seen the movie, I can say that I like the changes they made for the movie. Adding the character Wybie gave the plot an extra something, especially since they had one of the spirit kids be his grandmother’s long-lost sister.

I also loved how the secondary characters/other apartment residents – Mr. Bobo, Miss Forcible, and Miss Spink – were brought to life.

To learn more about Neil Gaiman and his works, visit his author website, and as always, check out Goodreads.

Let me know in the comments what your favorite Neil Gaiman story is!

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The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

Can you tell I’m on a Ruth Ware kick?

The first Ruth Ware novel I read was The Death of Mrs. Westaway, then In a Dark, Dark Wood, followed by The Woman in Cabin 10, and finally The Turn of the Key.

Ware’s books present just the right amount of description without being mundane, and nowhere is that as important as it is in The Turn of the Key. If too many details are revealed, the jig is up. Coupled with the dialogues, the overall feelings of helplessness yet utter determination are intoxicating.

The Turn of the Key tells the story of Rowan, new live-in nanny to three young children. Right in the beginning of her post – literally the second day she is there – the parents, Sandra and Bill, leave town for work. When Bill is pulled away to Dubai, Sandra cannot return as early as she originally planned.

Rowan befriends the maintenance man, Jack; meanwhile the housekeeper, Jean, is quite unpleasant towards her, adding to her distress in the house.

An interesting aspect of The Turn of the Key is that the entire thing is written as letters from our main character, who is in jail awaiting trial for the murder of one of the children, to someone she hopes will be her defense attorney.

She hopes that by revealing the truth to him, she will be absolved of guilt in at least the eyes of the law, for she will never be free of the blood that is on her hands.

In her letters, she reveals that previous nannies hired by the family didn’t stay long, possibly succumbing to stories of hauntings or worse. The murderer of an 11-year-old girl died at the home in the 70s had never been brought to light; it’s possible it was a genuine accident. Throughout, our letter-writer maintains her innocence even as she sympathizes with the girl’s nanny, who quit a couple months before the incident.

What future was there for a nanny whose child had died in her care, after all? A very bleak one indeed.

As the letters progress, we learn more about the inner workings of the house – which is described as an unfortunate (and not eclectic) mix of traditional architecture and modern smart home.

There was a strange feeling of split identity too – as though the house was trying hard to be one thing, while Sandra and Bill pulled it relentlessly in the other direction, chopping off limbs, performing open-heart surgery on its dignified old bones, trying to make it into something against its own will – something it was never meant to be, modern and stylish and slick, where it wanted to be solid and self-effacing.

Sandra and Bill own an architecture company together. We read a mention of vernacular architecture, which utilizes materials from the area of construction in the building. It isn’t necessarily important to the plot as far as I can tell, but the design of the house is.

While Rowan does not have access to all the features of the smart home app, her physical realm is only limited by one locked door – and it’s in her bedroom.

After a couple nights, she can no longer bear the creaking footsteps coming from above her at night. She enlists Jack to help open the door, and although they don’t discover a secret stowaway in the attic, what they do find is a burden in itself: gruesome writing on the walls, a dead bird, and old children’s toys.

There was something… not quite powerful, but at least an illusion of control in holding the key in my own hands. That door was locked. And only I had the power to unlock it.

Will the truth be enough to set her free? You’ll have to see for yourself.

While reading, I was reminded of The Haunting of Hill House (haunted house, writing on the walls) and The Haunting of Bly Manor (nanny watches over creepy children and falls for maintenance person/groundskeeper/etc). These spooky things are quickly becoming my creature comforts.

Learn more about Ruth Ware at her website!

Until next time, friends


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The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

Secrets and lies come together quite swimmingly in this chilling tale.

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware is a suspenseful mystery about a woman named Lo Blacklock, a journalist who ends up with passage on a brand-new, sleek 10-cabin luxury liner called the Aurora.

Right away, Lo is thrown off when she borrows some mascara from her neighbor, the woman in cabin 10, only to later learn that the room is vacant.

When she awakes in the night to realize that someone has been thrown overboard from the balcony of cabin 10, no one believes her.

Will Lo be able to convince the other passengers before the killer strikes again?

First of all, how about that textured cover? I am a sucker for a nice cover and I won’t bother denying it.

Lo’s character is desperate to prove her mettle as a writer and move up in the journaling ranks. Even after she’s injured when her apartment is burgled, she refuses to back down.

After witnessing what she believes is a murder – a woman thrown overboard – Lo resolves to solve the mystery herself when no believes her. When a couple others learn of her recent burglary, suspicion is cast her way that she’s overreacting or it’s all in her head.

Coupled with the pre-existing dislike of small spaces, and the dimness cast by the Aurora that occasionally reminded me of the third-class and servant areas from Titanic, it’s a wonder that Lo went digging at all. She even described the flotation device in the ship’s spa as a “sealed plastic coffin full of water”. My feelings are not dissimilar…

The ominous warnings she receives telling her to stop meddling only spur her intentions to find the killer before they can strike again.

I darted back into the room, slamming the French windows behind me, and checked the cabin door was double-locked. Then I put the chain across. My heart was thumping in my chest, but I felt calm, calmer than I had in ages.
This was it. This was real danger, and I was coping.

Chapter 10, The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

Adding to the tension is her relationship with her boyfriend, who is unable to get ahold of Lo during her trip.

The use of nature in this book is great. The Aurora is in the Black Sea, which is cold, dark, and menacing. Until they dock at a port, the passengers and crew are utterly alone.

And when you’re all alone, anything can happen.

Fans of The Woman in Cabin 10 will also enjoy The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse! While The Sanatorium takes place at a snowed-in luxury ski hotel, these stories invoke the feelings of claustrophobia and being trapped with no way out.

To learn more about Ruth Ware, please check out the following sites:

Drop the title of your favorite suspense story in the comments!

Special Guests

A Clan of Wolves and Author Q+A

Emma Steinbrecher makes her author debut with the high fantasy duology A Clan of Wolves.

A Clan of Wolves begins the story with Ingrid – a powerful witch in hiding – alone in a destroyed house. With no friends and family, Ingrid must fend for herself.

There was no other motivation out in those woods. There was nothing to live for other than the fear of death.

a clan of wolves

When she encounters and is captured by a clan of wolves, lessons in love, life, and loss abound. After a series of events lead her and the clan leader Cason to fall for each other, Ingrid is received with mixed feelings from Cason’s crew. Together, they formulate a plan to take down a power-hungry witch – who happens to be Ingrid’s aunt.

In A House of Witches, Cason and Ingrid must deal with the aftermath of their failed attempt to assassinate Izina, an Overseer of the witch houses. Their friend Sophie makes the ultimate sacrifice by exchanging her shifting ability for assistance from the goddess Artemis. Eventually, Ingrid and Cason also team up with witches from the Dark House and the Fire House to try to finish Izina once and for all.

Above it all, Ingrid’s life is at steak no matter what. In A Clan of Wolves, Ingrid and Cason are imprisoned in Izina’s dungeon, so Ingrid makes a deal with the dead souls trapped there that she will kill Izina, but if she doesn’t before two months’ time, the souls will claim her. How do you know what choices to make when your life is on the line?

A Clan of Wolves and A House of Witches are told from a multi-POV perspective. The characters are passionate and eager, and the secondary characters’ chapters add to the world-building.

Ingrid’s memories bring depth to her character; she is in a dark place mentally and emotionally. With Cason’s support, she is able to grow into her power and make a new life for herself.

Death is the huntress that prowls under the light of the moon, seeking souls to claim and devour. Death is the whispering voices that echo through the night, begging witches to answer the call.

a house of witches

I first saw Emma Steinbrecher on a social media platform and was drawn to the duology’s book covers. After learning about the animosity between the wolf-shifters and witches, I was eager to see if the two groups could form some kind of alliance.

Full of dark undertones and women owning their power, this duology played like a movie in my head.

Read on to learn how the story got started, what Emma does in her spare time, and what we can look forward to next.

Q+A

content warning for q+a: depression

Q. What prompted you to begin writing the A Clan of Wolves duology?
A. I actually started writing A Clan of Wolves a year ago. I was driving to work sometime in the middle of December, and I thought of the idea during my commute while listening to music. Everything kind of took off from there, and the first draft was done in about a month. I was listening to the Evermore Album that Taylor Swift released, and the song Evermore was where the idea came from.

Q. Did you always know it would be a duology? 
A. I knew it would be at least two books, but I didn’t know if it would stretch beyond that. Once I had the second book, A House of Witches, planned out, I knew that would be the last one. When I first started it, I didn’t really know exactly where it was going. I will say that anything longer than a Duology intimidated me as a first-time author.

Q. Some parts of the story brought the main character, Ingrid, to a dark place, and her memories were some of my favorite parts to read. What was it like for you to write about someone who is dealing with trauma? 
A. The easy answer would be to say that I did a lot of research and tried to get into character while writing, but that wouldn’t be the honest answer. I had depression during my pregnancy with my son, and it lingered afterward as I tried to pull myself out of that hole. I work as a third-grade teacher, and people don’t realize how much of a performance teaching is. You are expected to be everything for everyone, and you have to be “on” all day. I was then coming home to my son, whom I LOVE, but I really struggled to share any of the challenges I was facing. I’m not someone who shares my innermost thoughts with others, and I’m actually very closed off. I think attaching some of the emotions I was having to a character that really wasn’t anything like me was very healing. I just multiplied the emotions by making the situations more traumatic.

Q. Are there any plans for more stories with these characters or in this world? Possibly any prequels? 
A. I have been toying around with the idea of a Kai novella. Originally, I was going to include his POV throughout the story but cut all of his chapters pretty quickly. I have a really good plan for that, but I’m not sure when I would get to it. I’m currently working on a separate trilogy, and I have a completed outline for an Epic Fantasy novel. 

Q. What were your favorite scenes and characters to write about? 
A. I had a huge heart for Lucas and his story. I was obsessed with the scenes between Lucas and Alana in the cave, and I really loved the dynamic between the two. He was originally supposed to end up with another character, but I scrapped that idea. I then changed who he would end up with about ten times before I settled on the ending. I just loved them so much. No spoilers here, but my love for them really showed in the end.

        As for just characters, Azar was by far the most fun character I have ever written. She is just so close to crazy that it was fun. I wrote a scene where she licks a knife for pretty much no reason other than intimidating people. She was just a character you could get really wild with.

Q. In your duology, witchcraft combines with ancient goddesses. Did you have to do a lot of research or are witchcraft and mythology topics you’ve always been interested in? 
A. I had to research almost everything! I actually really enjoyed this part, but I’m pretty sure whatever FBI agent watches my Google history was having a panic attack daily while I was writing. Googling the aftermath of being suffocated probably set off some alarms.

Q. What does your writing practice look like? (Do you have a special place or certain music you listen, etc) 
A. I listen to a lot of music while I write. This really helps me envision what I want the tone of the scene to be. For example, I mentioned Evermore inspiring a lot of A Clan of Wolves. The song is incredibly reflective, and I think that came across in Ingrid’s character and the way the story was told.

            I am a big planner though. I will get an idea, and write out an outline so I know how we are getting from A to B. Before I write a chapter, I will outline it with very confusing notes and a bunch of dialogue. This makes writing the actual chapter go so much faster. I also want to know the goal of the chapter before I get into it. Is the chapter serving to develop a relationship between two characters, provide more depth with a character’s back story or development, push the plot forward, or build on the world I’ve created? I need to know the purpose before I begin, or I get lost in the sauce.

         As for special location or time, I just write when I can at home. I usually write in the evenings when my son is in bed.

Q. What do you like to do when you’re not reading and writing? 
A. I love going on hikes through the forest with my son, Silas. Those long walks have been my favorite, and occasionally my husband will join us. I also enjoy painting, archery, and the occasional hyper fixation hobby (making soap, making paper, crocheting, gardening, etc.). 

Q. What is your favorite genre to read? 
A. I really enjoy epic fantasy. I actually greatly enjoy very political plotlines with a lot of scheming, blackmailing, and a sprinkle of dragons. At least that’s what I’ve been in the mood for recently. I’ll read pretty much anything.

Q. What are your reading and writing goals for 2022? 
A. I think I’m going to stick with my fifty-book reading goal this year since I was successful in 2021, and I’m all about being realistic. I’m such a mood reader that it really depends on what is going on, but I’m incredibly excited for the sequel to Fortune of Emerald and Salt by Monroe A. Wildrose, every single book K.S. Villoso has ever even considered writing, and, of course, the next Crescent City book. 

Q. And lastly, what are you currently reading?
A. I’m currently reading the seventh Zodiac Academy book. I’m really rather unhinged and am certain the ending will be brutal and painful. Caroline Peckham is somewhat sadistic in the way she ends her books. Either way, I am thoroughly enjoying myself, and I would do absolutely anything for Lance Orion. 

Many thanks to Emma Steinbrecher for being today’s special guest! You can follow her journey on:
Instagram
TikTok
Goodreads
Linktree (head here for a bonus chapter with Kai’s POV)

Content warning for duology: death, murder, captivity, depression/PTSD

If you or anyone you know is struggling or has concerns about their mental health, check out these resources listed on the National Institute of Mental Health website. An internet search of resources will also yield results specific to your local area.

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Malice by Heather Walter

Malice by Heather Walter is the fairytale story of Aurora, Sleeping Princess, spun on its head once again.

Seriously, though, the history of Sleeping Beauty is kind of a whirlwind.

cover of the book Malice by Heather Walter

Alyce – who her Grace sisters unaffectionately call Malyce – is the Dark Grace, part human, part Vila. The other Graces serve up blood elixirs for things like beauty, wisdom, music, even pleasure, but Alyce’s elixirs have always been relegated to serve those with secrets, conducting dealings in darkness and shadow.

A terrifying part of my soul whispers that I can do far more than spoil a jug of cream. That I want to.

When Alyce finally makes an appearance at the castle for a ball instead of to put an ill life at ease (by helping them die, a merciful killing you could say), she meets Aurora.

One of the promising points of this story is the LGBT+ representation. The budding romance Heather Walter has crafted between Alyce and Aurora (sidenote: I love female names that start with A) is formed with murky beginnings. I was reminded of this quote from To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar: “They only grow in darkness and dank but sweetness, how they blossom.”

As Aurora and Alyce work together to try to break that curse that will either end Aurora’s life or be broken by true love’s kiss, their common goal unites them. Alyce wants to see Briar flourish under Aurora’s rule – especially with more freedom for the Graces.

Relief blooms in my gut, then just as quickly wilts at the look in her eyes. They’re determined and sure. Reckless.

I love thinking of the emotions between Alyce and Aurora as something floral. Floral things are beautiful, but short-lived. Whether an intentional or incidental metaphor for their relationship, I do not know. But Walter’s writing really shined through Alyce’s voice.

This story is not complete without a healthy dose of magic, temptation, bloodlust, and the ill effects of an ancient war.

Here are a couple other quotes I liked:

Inside the wide columns, I note the kinds of elixirs I was asked to create, as well as the amount of blood I’d spilled, in drops, for each. Every Grace is required to report these details to her housemistress and the Grace Council, who then use the information to determine the strength of a Grace. Concerns arise when a Grace who once needed only three drops of blood to craft an elixir begins to need four or more. Or when her elixirs began to Fade faster than in the past.

Walter’s worldbuilding was magical. The description of how the Graces provide their magic to paying customers and the way the Graces are controlled on multiple levels enhances the lingering feelings that almost everyone is trapped in a cage – some cages are just more gilded than others.

“Honestly, did you two read the books you stole from the library?”

This quote was said by Laurel, one of the wisdom graces. Laurel gave me Hermione vibes!

To learn more about Heather Walter visit her at the following:

Misrule, the sequel to Malice, is set to release in 2022.

Fairytale retellings have been making a bigger appearance in my book selection this past year. Can’t wait to see what 2022 has in store!

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Fifty Words for Rain by Asha Lemmie

Fifty Words for Rain is at once achingly sad and poetically beautiful. I love a heart-wrenching plot and complex characters, and Asha Lemmie delivers in one sweep with her debut novel. Prepare to get lost in the range of emotions you’ll feel at every turn. Whether it’s friendship, siblinghood, parenthood, hope, or survival, there is a theme in Fifty Words for Rain that will speak to your heart.

Fifty Words for Rain tells the tale of a young girl named Nori who goes to live with her grandparents – only to be forced into the attic and punished for things beyond her control.

In a world where she is to be neither seen nor heard to save face for her highly esteemed family, Nori eventually finds an ally in her brother Akira.

Akira shows Nori new possibilities that Nori had previously been denied. As Nori learns more from her brother about the outside world, it becomes harder and harder to return to the isolation of the attic.

Throughout many ups and downs, Nori’s adoration for Akira blossoms into a love that transcends both of their circumstances and leads to daring and courageous acts.

After a lifetime of suffering, Nori feels like a shell of her former self. Although the siren call of death can be disguised as an endearing temptress, Nori must persevere to protect herself and her loved ones. When motherhood presents itself, Nori’s harsh reality becomes even more evident.

Throughout life we make many choices, some big and others small, but all can have lasting impacts on other people. Nori must eventually come to terms with her choices, especially when it comes to love. Will she have room in her heart for more than one person?

As a single mother, I think about this issue sometimes. One day if “true love” presents itself again, how will I balance it with the love of my child? Can’t the love of your sibling or your child or your parent also be true love, just in a different way? Love is multi-faceted.

Nori’s journey is deep and devoted. There were times when I was overcome with sadness or anger and literally had to put this book down to compose myself.

Asha Lemmie has proven herself an expert at eliciting emotion. The only thing you could regret is not reading this book!

Learn more about Asha Lemmie and Fifty Words for Rain at her website.

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Vicious by V. E. Schwab

Vicious tells the story of Victor and Eli: college buddies, roommates, handsome and intelligent, and striving for excellence.

And it presents an ultimate question – What will you do to be a hero?

Victor and Eli are ambitious. Their experiments in near-death experiences lead them down a path of no return. Will they go beyond the brink or will it be too late to stop each other?

I like to read on the back patio while my son plays outside.

This story was a fast read. The science-made-relative aspect reminded me a little of Michael Crichton and I liked that the chapters alternated storylines so we got to learn about each of the primary characters.

This book makes you think about what it means to be a hero or an anti-hero. Good vs evil and wrong vs right have a lot of grey area. Something that starts with the best intentions can still turn sour, and the worst situations can prevent interesting opportunities.

I am not a huge “superhero” fan. I like the old Superman movies and the Batman ones with Christian Bale, but I don’t own any comic books. Vicious was still a comfortable read to dip a toe into the proverbial waters of that world.

Learn more about V. E. Schwab and her other works – including Vengeful, the sequel to Vicious – on her website.

Happy reading, friends!

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The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai

Are you a fan of dating apps? Has internet dating become your bff during covid? The Right Swipe might restore your faith in the dating app scene.

The Right Swipe was in a stack of pink books I picked up at Target.

Pink and I were a vibe that day.

My love life has been less than non-existent lately and sometimes it’s hard to read romance novels because I get all in my feels but The Right Swipe I really enjoyed.

First of all, the main character, Rhiannon, is 37, proud of her success, and not afraid to wear what she wants. (Sweatshirts/hoodies? Can I get an amen!)

Second, Rai incorporates some important topics such as friendship, evolving life circumstances such as having kids, and chronic traumatic encephalopathy. (Here’s a helpful link if you are unfamiliar with CTE.)

Lastly, the intimate scenes were wooooh! It makes sense since Alisha Rai has over a dozen romance novels under her belt.

It would be remiss of me if I didn’t mention that the love interest, Samson (former pro football athlete), sounds like a total dreamboat! Like Rhiannon, I don’t know much about who the professional athletes are these days (or any days), but also like Rhiannon, I’m secretly very interested in a hunk with intuitive hands.

I wish I was more like Rhiannon in one aspect – not forgiving ghosters. It gets better as I’m getting older but always a work in progress. So when Samson ghosts her and they end up meeting again, will she forgive him?

Check out The Right Swipe and let me know what you think!

To learn more about Alisha Rai, check out her website.

Happy reading, friends!

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Review: The Enchanted Sonata by Heather Dixon Wallwork

Winter is approaching quickly! The last part of 2020 seems to be flying by and the holiday season is almost upon us.

The Enchanted Sonata by Heather Dixon Wallwork is a perfect addition to this winter’s TBR.

It’s a music-laden and intriguing twist on the nutcracker story. I was going to wait until December to read it – but I couldn’t help myself! Once I started, I didn’t want to stop.

This magical tale follows young pianist Clara as she experiences not only the bewitchment of her first crush on another piano protégé, but also the enchantments of Prince Nikolai Volkonsky’s kingdom of Imperia.

In an article on NPR, we learn that the original author of The Nutcracker was E. T. A. Hoffman, and at the time he titled it Nutcracker and Mouse King. At one time, Hoffman also wrote that music “reveals an unknown kingdom to mankind: a world that has nothing in common with the outward, material world that surrounds it, and in which we leave behind all predetermined conceptual feelings in order to give ourselves up to the inexpressible.”

In The Enchanted Sonata, music literally reveals an unknown kingdom. Music plays a very special role in the story so I won’t give away everything. Just know you’re in for a treat. 🙂

(There are a couple grisly moments that I would be hesitant to share with very young readers but all-in-all The Enchanted Sonata is a family-friendly story.)

What are your favorite holiday and winter reads? Let me know in the comments!

Learn more about Heather Dixon Wallwork at her website and view her adorable artwork on Instagram.