Saturday, March 25, 2023

Rachel Hawkins: The Villa

In Rachel Hawkins latest book she shows that a house can remember and affect many things:

In 1974, five people enter the Villa Rosato in Orvieto Italy but only 4 will make it out alive. But in the time that they were in some great artistic works were made during that time and some of those works continues to inspire those in present day. Emily's life is in shambles, after a strange bout of sickness no Doctor seems to be able to explain, her husband wants a divorce and the next novel in her book series is due and she unable to write it. When her lifelong friend Chess, who is a successful self help author, suggests a summer in Italy to get away, Emily jumps at the chance. The place that Chess chooses the same place of the famous 70s murder and though it may be strange Emily is finding inspiration in the Villa. But Chess is acting really strange and she's not sure why but the Villa is sure to change her life.

This is the third book that I have read by Hawkins and it was not the book that I was expecting but I’m okay with that as I became wrapped up in the both stories of the women in two different times. This book is a slow burn of the book and I do not think that it is a thriller/haunted house (villa) as some people have touted it to me. I would classify it more along the line of a contemporary novel with a side of murder, as you know someone is going to get murdered in the 1970s, its more about how it will happen.

I think this book was so much more than the house and the murder in the 70s, it really was about these two women trying to find themselves. For Mari in the 70s this was trying to find her voice in a male dominated environment and her life being dominated by men and for Emily in the present trying to find herself again after her life has imploded around her as well as find a new voice that she never had before.

This book has two main characters and dual timelines and I really liked the way that it was presented in the book and even the interaction with the past and present. Especially how the past shapes the present throughout that timeline. I like both of the main leads, and I feel like you get to know them very well and how similar they are even though decades separate them.

I was able to figure it out most of the twists that Hawkins was going to throw my way in this book but that is okay as I wrapped up in the characters and the Story.

I think my one criticism of the book is that I wish that Hawkins would have went a bit darker in the present time, especially with the ending.

I really enjoyed this book and really have enjoyed all the books that I have read by Hawkins so far (I have not read her YA books) and I look forward to reading another book by her and what story she is able to come up with next.


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(I do not have a review for it to link to, but I would also recomment the Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo to individuals who have read the Villa or who have read Seven Husbands)

Monday, March 20, 2023

Jumata Emill: The Black Queen

In his debut novel Jumata Emill shows that Love can be Murder:

Nova Albright is about to be the very first Black Homecoming Queen for her school, but not if Tinsley McArthur has anything to say about it, she will do anything to make sure that she can continue her family's legacy of Homecoming Queens. When Nova's body is found the night of her coronation, Tinsley is the prime suspect for the murder. No one is more convinced that Tinsley is the murderer than Nova's best friend Duchess. Duchess will do anything to prove that Tinsley was the murderer while Tinsley will do anything to prove that she is innocent. Two girls wanting the same thing for entirely different reasons

I was excited to pick up this book by Emill, not only because it is his debut novel (I Love reading debuts), but I honestly do not read enough books by BIPOC authors. This book was good, and at time it was just okay, this is mainly in the first half of the book as it is rather slow and much of the chapters are dedicated to duchess just being mad and Tinsley going through oh poor me/why me each chapter. 

I think there were times where Emill was trying to do too much with the story, the characters, the social/racial injustice that the whole book felt muddled at times. It was almost Emill did not know what he wanted to focus on in the book and while yes, all these aspects played a part in the book there were just too many times where one aspect or the other took too much center stage away from the main plot; The Murder of Nova.

I was surprised that Tinsley was the main character of this book even though her and Duchess have approximately the same amount of chapters, Tinsley felt more developed and defined than Duchess did. It was Tinsley who made some of the biggest connections about the murder in the book where Duchess is mainly only portrayed as the angry Black girl. I also felt more for Duchess than Tinsley so I wanted her to be the focus. Many of Tinsley's problems were center around being a rich white girl while Duchess had two sides going after her as her father is also the detective on the case and seen as doing nothing, even though he is also black.

This book suffered from the troupe of many teen mystery books, of the teens finding this key piece of evidence (more than once) and they refrain from giving it to the police until forced to. It also portrays the police as extremely dumb and unable to investigate anything and only these teens will be able to solve the problem. I think this was enhanced with Duchess being the daughter of the detective in charge of investigation and having access to files that he brought home (which I don’t actually think police would do in a case like this).

I did enjoy the overall story of this book and the second half is much more interesting than the first and I am glad I pushed through till the end. I think that he did a good job of giving a few possibilities as to who really could have murdered Nova (but I was able to guess before the end). I would read another book by Emill as I think he has a talent for writing, just needs to try not to do too much in one book.


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Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Z.W. Taylor: The Bite

In the first in a series, Z.W. Taylor takes readers on a journey where a woman is running for her life:

 To Escape her violent ex-boyfriend after he almost killed her, Charlotte flees to the wilderness of Alaska to a remote cabin where she hope she will be safe and that he will not find her. Before Charlotte is even able to make it to the cabin she is brutally attacked with them unbelievable changing into wolves and one of them even biting her. Charlotte is saved, but her life is forever changed. Now she must survive the transformation from a human to werewolf but the odds, like everything else in her life, seem to be against her.

 I was excited to pick up this book as it reminds me that I do not read enough shifter books, there is always some aspects that I like in the book especially when a human is turning into a werewolf. However, this book was not what I was expecting. It is a 300 page book where approximately 200 pages are dedicated to character development and just when things start to get really interesting again the book ends with a to be continued. If you want a book that goes into detail about the change from human to werewolf, Taylor is creative in this aspect, but that is about it. I'm not even sure of the romance aspect in this book, as it is being touted as a paranormal romance but I didn’t see any romance in the book, maybe one will come through the relationships she is making but nothing could ever be concrete in the book as they don’t know if she will survive the change or not.

The book starts out really interesting with Charlotte fleeing her abusive boyfriend to a secluded cabin in the woods, to hide, heal and figure out her life. But then she is attacked again by a group of strange men and yet some how she survived. What follows is about 200 pages of getting to know Charlotte, her past, trying to deal with the phases of becoming a werewolf and growing into a new person. And this is all fine but I just wanted a bit more to the plot. There are hints of things that could have been interesting in regards to the Rogue werewolves that attack on Charlotte. These Rouges were organized and were able to come up with a plan and think clearly, very different from Rogue encountered in the past but other than talks about them in side conversations, that are basically overheard nothing more is made of this plot point.

I think Taylor could have halved the amount of time developing Charlotte's character and added more plot to the story. I just overall wanted more from this book as when you get to the end I was left thinking, see this is where we should have gone 100 pages ago not message with to be continued. If you wanting a full on character based werewolf book you will enjoy this one, if you are looking more plot driven this will not be for you (except for the beginning and end). I'm unsure if i will read the next book in the series. I do think that Taylor has something here with the characters, story and possible plot I would just need A LOT more from the next book.


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Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Alex Finlay: What Have We Done

Alex Finlay shows that what happens in our youth, can come back to haunt us:

Jenna, Donnie and Nico have come a long way from the group home for parentless teens where they all met 25 years ago. They have all gone their separate ways and made something of their lives that is far away from where they started and the trauma that they shared. But an event from their past has come back to haunt them, with someone trying to kill them and in order to try to stay alive they have to revisit a past that they want to stay hidden. It's a reunion no one wanted that turned into a cat and mouse game with deadly consequences.

I mistakenly started this book on my lunch break at work and let me tell you it was hard to return to work after reading the first five chapters. This book really sucks you in right away, with multiple murders / attempts and you as a reader need are wondering how they all are connected. I did not want to put this book down, even though I was able to figure it out, I wanted to know how everything was going to play out. I think at Finlay did a great job laying out the plot both in the past and present where it keeps the reader interested and has some suspenseful moments too but I will admit that it became a bit muddled in the middle of the book. The manipulation in this book is on point, and it starts from the very beginning and does not stop until the book is over. I liked that Finlay had the manipulation occurs in both the past and present timelines.

If you like multiple POV then this is for you. I personally like multiple POV so I am here for it. I will say that I kind of missed a law officers POV, more specifically Agent Kelley’s from Finlay's previous two books. I think having the FBI perspective would have added an additional dimension to the book as well. I mean the FBI are hinted at here and there but I think I would have liked to see their POV and why they did become involved in the case, that aspect was never explained.

I really like that Finlay is not afraid to write strong female characters and this one is no different. From the assassins in the book to who i will call the action star of the book Jenna, all the women in this book are strong in their own way, even if they are a little bit psychotic.

Three books in with Finlay and I have enjoyed every one of them. I'm glad that he decided to write a different style of book to change it up a bit. I look forward to reading what Finlay puts out next.


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