Sense and Sensibility and Tea | Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge [ARC]

 

Okay, so I know I’ve been a little MIA for a couple of weeks, but we’ve had a lot going on lately. The main thing is that we moved! Just seven blocks away, but still. It was far enough. With the baby coming, we just needed a bigger apartment. So that’s what’s been taking my time lately–the packing, moving, and unpacking…it’s never-ending. But we’re just about done, so hopefully I’ll be back with more wonderful content soon! In the meantime, here’s a review for a book that I read (and enjoyed) last month.


Jane of Austin

Jane Woodward and her sisters had been doing pretty good for themselves after their father’s business scandal. They had found a nice location on Valencia Street with an attached apartment to open their dream tea shop. But when their landlord dies, his son (well, really his son’s wife) forces them out. After trying all of their contacts, the sisters are left with no choice but to move into their cousin’s guest house in Austin, Texas. As they struggle to find a new location for their tea shop, the sisters also have to adjust to a different pace of life.

TL;DR – Overall, a good Jane Austen retelling. I liked all the characters, but found Celia hard to read at times. This book also heavily features food which is a definite plus in my opinion.

First off, I have always loved the idea of books that come with recipes. Have I ever tried any of those recipes? No. But that’s beside the point. Books that center around food are wildly attractive to me. I love food and I love reading about good food even if it makes me jealous and hungry. That’s why having books with recipes is so genius. Not only can you read about the food, but you could (hypothetically) actually make it afterwards.

With three sisters, you might think that it would be hard to connect with all of them or to make them distinguishable. However, I thought the author did a great job of helping us to understand each of the sisters as individuals even though Jane was clearly the main character. I still felt like I connected with both Celia and Margot. I also thought Callum was a good character and I enjoyed his narrations as well as Jane’s.

Sometimes I like multiple POV books and sometimes I don’t. This time I think it worked, but wasn’t necessary–or at least, wasn’t necessary from Callum’s point of view. I didn’t mind it, but I thought that having Celia as a narrator might have made more sense? Of course, that may have made it so the book was more about the sister relationship than the romance, but would that have been so bad? There were just times when I felt like Celia was hard to figure out, so I wished that she got a chance to narrate.

Overall, the plot was pretty similar to the original Sense and Sensibility. I always love retellings and this one was as good as any. I will say that I thought the ending was a little abrupt and fairy tale-ish (especially the epilogue portion). Despite that, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants a fun, clean romance or anyone who enjoys Jane Austen retellings.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: None
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Mild

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Summer Cleaning Mini-Reviews

If Spring Cleaning is a thing, that means Summer Cleaning is too, right? I have so many backlogged ARCs to review, it’s not even funny. Covers link to Goodreads.

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Say No to the Bro by Kat Helgeson [ARC]

Okay…to be perfectly honest I read this back in April and I’m having a hard time remembering everything. The notes that I wrote down for this, though, are as follows: “I’m not really buying their relationship. I feel like it doesn’t fit with who I think the characters are.” From what I remember of the book, all of a sudden the two main characters were dating and I was like, “Okay, that’s random.” Like, not random plotwise, but random because it didn’t feel genuine. I also remember not really liking any of the characters–they all just seemed really selfish to me. 2/5

Seeking MansfieldSeeking Mansfield by Kate Watson [ARC]

I always love a good Jane Austen retelling and I’d heard good things about this book, so I was super excited. The issue I had with the original Mansfield Park is that I felt like Edmund just randomly decided to like Fanny in the end. Like, what was going on? Fanny deserves better than Edmund shrugging his shoulders going, “Well, I guess I’ll just marry Fanny now since that last relationship didn’t work out.” So I was hesitant going into this book in case it was the same thing. To some extent it was, but I did like the ending of this retelling better than the original ending. One thing that really bugged me is that I don’t feel like Harlan would have acted how he did towards Finley if he really respected her dad as he said he did. There was also a lot of angst that I could have done without.¬†4/5

A Million Junes

A Million Junes by Emily Henry [ARC]

First of all, stunning cover. My first impression was that the main characters were both super likable which is always nice. I also rejoiced to find a main character who loved both her biological father as well as her step-dad. I’d been searching for such a book and I absolutely loved the relationships that June had with both her father and her step-father. The plot itself was a little abstract and I did find myself confused a time or two, but I was still okay with it. The magical realism aspect of the book was so well done and definitely gave the entire story a dreamy quality. In my opinion, this book was a definite step up from Henry’s last book. I also thought this book was a really great look at grief and grieving in general. 4/5

Follow Me Back

Follow Me Back by A.V. Geiger [ARC]

So…this book is CRAZY. As I was reading, I thought that this was a nice departure from my normal genres–I don’t read a lot of thrillers (psychological or otherwise). I honestly didn’t expect too much from the plot. I thought it would just be a very basic twist at the end. But about halfway through I started to suspect that things weren’t going to end up being the way I thought they would be. Was Eric going to end up being the stalker instead of Tessa? What about that weird Mrs. Eric Thorn from Twitter? How does she fit in? What the heck happened to Tessa last summer? Then the ending kind of came out of nowhere, but it also makes sense. At this point, however, I find myself very uncertain about the very end (was it an epilogue?). I didn’t anticipate this being more than one book and I’m very confused as to what is actually happening. Confused in a good way though. The only thing I didn’t particularly care for is the way that Tessa’s mom and boyfriend treated her mental issues. I mean, I don’t know how I would react in their shoes, but they seemed so insensitive! Also, WHAT IS UP WITH TESSA’S PSYCHIATRIST???¬†4/5

Songs About a GirlSongs About a Girl by Chris Russell [ARC]

I had high hopes for this book because I thought it was going to be something a little more similar to Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway. Like, the main character goes to school with a guy who ends up¬†being a massively famous pop star and turns out he carried a secret torch for her all through high school and so all the songs on his band’s new album are about her. That’s not what this book was about (but that would be an awesome book, right?). I didn’t really understand the plot all the way and I was really confused as to why Charlie felt so strongly that she needed to lie to her father. And I didn’t understand why she was being targeted at school. Also, to be honest, I thought this was going to turn into an accidental incest situation. It didn’t, but I had no idea where the plot was going for a while if not in that direction. 2/5

They All Fall DownThey All Fall Down by Roxanne St. Clair

This book could have been so good, but instead it was just freaking weird. I don’t know…somehow I thought there was going to be a little bit more of a mystery involved that the reader could try to solve. Instead, it’s just a big conspiracy thing that’s plopped in your lap in the last 50 pages. The characters were strange while also being blatant stereotypes (brooding bad boy, aggressive jock, mean girl cheerleaders). In addition, I thought Kenzie’s best friend was basically the most annoying side kick of a character I’d ever read. She only cares about becoming more popular and gets super upset when Kenzie isn’t interested in being popular as well. That drama was so unnecessary and just made the book that much harder to get through. Don’t read this. 2/5

Crazy Rich AsiansCrazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Okay, let me stop you right there. This is not a book about Asian people who are crazy and rich. This is a book about Asian people who are¬†crazy rich. Get the difference? This book was surprisingly funny and exasperating all at the same time–there are some seriously ridiculous characters and situations. As someone who is half-Chinese (I’m descended from Hong Kong peasants–no shame) I felt like this book was so refreshing. 99% of the characters in this book are Asian (with the exception of an Au Pair here or there). This book depicts such a wide range of Asian people and I loved it. We’re not all the same, you know? And even though the characters in this book are crazy rich (and I’m not) I still felt like I could relate to them? Anyway, this book gave me a giant hankering for some dim sum. I need a pineapple bun, stat. 4/5

Note: ARCs were received for free in exchange for an honest review.

When will people realize that honor means nothing if you’re DEAD | Duels & Deceptions by Cindy Anstey [ARC]

Duels and DeceptionLydia Whitfield has a problem. She’s the heiress to a large fortune, but her drunkard of an uncle seems intent on squandering it all by attempting to grow pineapples on their property. Pineapples. Despite this, Lydia is determined to succeed and if that means marrying her neighbor as her late father planned, then so be it. Lydia has the rest of her life planned out, but she didn’t count on meeting her solicitor’s soon-to-be apprentice, Robert Newton. When Robert enters her life, some of Lydia’s plans start to go awry.

This is the second book I’ve read from this author and I’m a lot more impressed with this one than I was with the last one. I felt that this heroine was much stronger. She was intelligent and not afraid to show it by speaking her mind. She didn’t necessarily need the men in the story to rescue her which I felt was something specific that Anstey’s last heroine lacked. Lydia was an enjoyable heroine and I found myself on her side, rooting for her immediately. Robert was also an enjoyable character and I didn’t mind that the points of view switched between him and Lydia. Some of the secondary characters were pretty one note and silly, but there were others that had surprisingly hidden depth. I especially liked how Lydia’s relationship with her mother grew throughout the story. It was subtle, but I thought it added another layer to the story and helped with Lydia’s personal development.

If you enjoy Jane Austen era novels, I think you’ll like this one as well. It’s set in the same time period with the same customs and similar narration and dialogue. There were times when I felt the narration was a little…much. It almost tried too hard to be witty and clever at times, but overall I still enjoyed it.

The plot was a lot more involved than I was expecting. It was interesting to see it all come together and I can honestly say that I didn’t see the ending coming–I was completely blindsided. This book has the kind of plot that begins almost right away and small clues are dropped throughout the book that an astute reader might be able to pick up on and predict the ending. I was not one of those astute readers, but perhaps you will be.

Overall, I thought this book was a fun read and I’ll definitely be reading more from this author to get my Austen fix. I recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of Austen or regency era romantic thrillers.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: None
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Mild

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Jane Austen/X-Men Crossover Continues | These Ruthless Deeds by Tarun Shanker & Kelly Zekas [ARC]

These Ruthless DeedsEvelyn is still trying to cope with the loss of her sister and the discovery of her healing powers. The last thing she needs is for the Society of Aberrations to barge into her life once again. When they give her the opportunity to help people with her power, however, Evelyn knows that’s what Rose would have wanted her to do. But even though she’s joined the society, Evelyn still doesn’t trust them. There are some things that don’t quite add up. Like, who exactly is the head of the Society? And why are some people with powers being locked up for no good reason?

I really liked the first book in this series (see my review for it here) but in this book I had a really hard time remembering characters from the previous book. I think that may be a sign of having a few too many characters and those characters not being very important. The main characters themselves are fine and pretty well-developed. At the very least, they seem like they probably have depth even if that depth is not explored to the fullest (*ahem* Mr. Kent *ahem*). In the last book I was pretty torn between our main character’s two love interests, but in this book I found myself firmly rooting for one in particular. I won’t name names or spoil whether or not Evelyn ends up with him though. As I said in my previous review, I hate love triangles, but this one was okay. Not GREAT, but okay.

The plot fit together really nicely. I remember from the last book I enjoyed that Evelyn had to stop her investigation every once in a while to participate in society. For some reason that just seemed humorous and realistic to me. In this book, there are still some obligations that Evelyn has to meet, but for the most part the book is focused on the other part of her life. This just means that the book is a little more action-packed and mostly occurs at night. Evelyn as a character was pretty much the same as she was in the first book, but I did feel that she made some really annoying decisions at times. Mostly what I wanted from her was just some transparency. It felt like that was really lacking between characters and that always frustrates me to no end.

The last part of the plot was…interesting. It was unpredicted, I’ll say that. I felt that the first book had this really powerful conclusion that I didn’t necessarily agree with, but appreciated nonetheless. But then this book comes in and basically reverses that really powerful conclusion but then it also has its own huge ending. All of that serves to almost cheapen the ending for me. I feel like the third book is going to come along and be like, “JK we’ve actually found out a way for none of that to have happened.” In the end, I guess we’ll just have to see what the next book has in store.

Overall, I really did like this book. I appreciate that the authors aren’t afraid to make big moves. I like the main cast of characters that we have and as I get to know secondary characters, I start to appreciate them more as well. I would definitely recommend this book for people who are fans of both Jane Austen and X-Men.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: Mild
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Mild

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker & Kelly Zekas [ARC]

Evelyn’s sister, Rose, has been kidnapped–only, no one believes her. There is the little detail of Rose’s goodbye/apology/”I’m running away from home” note…but Evelyn knows that it’s actually a clue left for her by Rose. The only thing left for Evelyn to do is to follow Rose to London and try to bring her sister back home herself. If only that annoyingly Byronic Mr. Braddock would stop talking about her and Rose’s “special powers” and let her search in peace!

I23688792 saw this book advertised as “X-Men meets Jane Austen”.¬†I thought to myself, “I like both of those things. I guess I’ll give this book a try…” Honestly, I didn’t expect much–I thought it would be a dud. Boy, was I wrong. This book really delivered on that initial promise! Everything that I love about X-Men and everything that I love about Jane Austen were combined in an utterly believable way. At first I was worried that the characters’ powers would be lame or wouldn’t make much sense in the context, but I thought they were all interesting and unique.

I thought Evelyn was a spunky main character and I really enjoyed viewing the world through her eyes. At the same time, her sister Rose is a great compliment and they’re both portrayed as strong women which was just great to see. A warning to readers: there is a love triangle in this book. With that being said, I was legitimately torn between our two suitors which usually doesn’t happen. Typically I pick a favorite pretty early on and stick with it, but with this book I kept switching between the two. Mr. Braddock and Mr. Kent are very different from each other in nearly every way which is an interesting and fun contrast. Overall, the love triangle felt a tad forced perhaps and didn’t seem overwhelmingly necessary, but I’m willing to overlook that.

The pace of this book was a little slow at times, but the characters and the world created were so enjoyable that I didn’t mind. There are a lot of times throughout the book when Evelyn is forced to pause in her search for Rose so she can participate in Society in order to maintain her reputation. This creates some downtime for the reader as well since the story is only told from Evelyn’s point of view. It’s interesting though, because the reader is also left wondering where Rose is and what’s happening to her–but can’t answer those questions because we’re forced to watch a play along with Evelyn.

I thought the ending was very interesting…I won’t go into any detail, but I liked it. I don’t think everyone will, but I thought it was a bold choice that I honestly did not see coming. My only complaint is that the last chapter seemed a little too much like X-Men. We have one person who has the ability to find other “mutants” and one person who has a demonstrable ability to convince their fellows to join with them. We’ll see how this series progresses, but I for one am excited to see what they come up with next.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: Mild
Violence: Heavy
Sexual Content: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Top Ten Tuesday: Historical Settings

top-ten-tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. ¬†Each week there is a new topic and this week‚Äôs topic is: Top Ten Historical Settings You Love/ Ten Historical Settings You’d Love To See or Top Futuristic Books You Love/Ten Futuristic Societies I’d Love To Read in Books — basically this week is all about the past or the future….spin it however you choose!

For this post I’ve decided to focus on the past. I like reading futuristic books, but it’s really hard for me to pinpoint what about them I like. Unlike most of my Top Ten Tuesdays, this list is actually in order of preference.

10) The French Revolution – I can’t actually think of any books that I’ve read in this time period, but it definitely appeals to me. I learned a bit about this time period in high school and it seems like a time when paranoia was high and spies were everywhere.
9) 1980s High School – Not really that long ago, but they didn’t have internet or cell phones or Spotify…how did people even live back then?
8) The Middle Ages РKnights and jousting and a lot of horse riding. Sometimes includes a damsel-in-distress, but more likely a damsel dressed as a knight.
7) 1950s America – It seems like life was so much simpler in a lot of ways back then. The country was in a rebuilding stage after WWII and the Great Depression.
6) Elizabethan England – The courts and the opulence. Politics and intrigue. Every book I’ve read from this time period has had so. much. drama.
5) The Victorian Era¬†– Specifically the late 1800s. Think Cassandra Clare’s The Infernal Devices series or The Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger. This is really similar to the Regency Era, but there are some subtle differences. I feel like women have more of a role in society in this era. And if you want to throw some steampunk in there? By all means, go for it.
4) World War I – I’ve only read one book in this time period (In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters) but I loved it and I was so interested to learn more about WWI and the Spanish Flu and everything that was going on at this time.
3) The Roaring Twenties – Flappers and mobsters and prohibition and speakeasies. When I think about the 1920s I just picture a ton of glitz and glam and wild parties. Basically old-timey Gossip Girl.
2) Regency Era/Jane Austen – This is approximately the early 1800s. I love reading about the balls and the politics and the romance of this era.
1) World War II – What is it about this time period? It’s not too far in the past, but far enough that it feels like it was a lifetime ago. There was so much going on in the world at this time. So much possibility for drama.

DISCUSSION: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

How do we feel about this movie? The trailer came out today and it got me wondering what the feeling about it is in the bookish community. I read the book years ago (I was still in high school) and liked it alright, but not enough to read any of the other books (ex. Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters).

I’ll admit,¬†I find the book to be a little unnecessary. Why rewrite a classic romance and incorporate zombies? Personally, I’m actually very afraid of zombies and don’t like reading books or watching movies that involve them. Let me go on a tangent here…ZOMBIES COULD BE REAL SOMEDAY. Obviously not the living dead, but I really feel like some virus could come and attack our brains and turn us into walking vegetables that just want to eat other people. Okay, sorry, tangent over. So yeah, zombies creep me out. That being said, I still have a strange fascination with the movie and will probably want to watch it (even though I’m sure I’ll be covering my eyes whenever a zombie comes onscreen).

Take a look at this trailer and let me know what you think:

Is it too much? Is it okay? Is it completely tarnishing the name of Jane Austen?