Quick Reviews: The Lending Library, The Heirs of Locksley, and Nightshade

The Lending Library

Author: Aliza Fogelson

Published: July 1, 2020

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

Number of Pages: 300 pages

Genre: Adult Fiction / Contemporary / Romance

Format: eBook

Source: NetGalley

A heartwarming debut novel about a daydreamer who gives her town, and herself, an amazing gift: a lending library in her sunroom.

When the Chatsworth library closes indefinitely, Dodie Fairisle loses her sanctuary. How is a small-town art teacher supposed to cope without the never-ending life advice and enjoyment that books give her? Well, when she’s as resourceful and generous as Dodie, she turns her sunroom into her very own little lending library.

At first just a hobby, this lit lovers’ haven opens up her world in incredible ways. She knows books are powerful, and soon enough they help her forge friendships between her zany neighbors—and attract an exciting new romance.

But when the chance to adopt an orphaned child brings Dodie’s secret dream of motherhood within reach, everything else suddenly seems less important. Finding herself at a crossroads, Dodie must figure out what it means to live a full, happy life. If only there were a book that could tell her what to do…

The Lending Library is a new release from Aliza Fogelson and Lake Union Publishing!  I found this book to be charming and fun, exactly the book I wanted to read as a fan of contemporary YA books who is actually an adult.  There is just enough romance to be fun, but not overbearing with sweatiness, and of course there are books!  This book reminded me a lot of The Bookshop starring Emily Mortimer.  Dodie Fairisle is a socialite turned teacher after a nasty breakup who has moved from the City to a quaint town in the “country”.  Dodie is an avid reader who loves her students, but when the local library closes for renovations, she decides to take it upon herself to create a lending library in her house to bring books to her community. 

Dodie is a wonderful character who is well-written and interesting, she’s definitely lived a life outside of her quaint town!  Along the way, Dodie learns lessons about love, loss, grief, and the importance of family and community.  It’s a feel good read that makes you consider your connections with your family and community on a deeper level.  I really enjoyed the book and am looking forward to other books from this author!


The Heirs of Locksley

Author: Carrie Vaughn

Published: August 4th, 2020

Publisher: Tor Books

Number of Pages: 128 pages

Genre: Folklore Retelling, Adult

Format: eBook

Source: Netgalley

Synopsis: Carrie Vaughn follows up The Ghosts of Sherwood with the charming, fast-paced The Heirs of Locksley, continuing the story of Robin Hood’s children.

The Heirs of Locksley is the second book in the Robin Hood Stories series.  I found it to be more like a novella at 128 pages, but the pacing is quick and it was a great, if short, read!  So far, this is a duology, but it may evolve into something more. 

Several other reviewers have mentioned that historically, Robin Hood has been a less than accurate figure, but in Carrie Vaughn’s interpretation, Robin Hood becomes almost historically accurate.  At least, he becomes less mythical and more real in this re-telling/original story about his heirs. 

Mary, John, and Eleanor, the children of Robin and Marian, are fun characters who are headstrong, but also duty bound.  Mary is the eldest, a whiz with a bow and always looking out for her younger sister.  John is following in his father’s footsteps, encouraging the new king to experience things he’d never experienced before and completely headstrong.  Eleanor is the youngest, she doesn’t speak and avoids crowds, she sticks close to Mary usually.

The plot is interesting, with Robin’s kids navigating the political sphere created by the death of the former king.  Now, England is ruled by a king who is no more than 13 years old and close in age to John.  The pacing is fast and the book was over before I really realized it.  I did enjoy the character development and the world. 

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a copy of this book!  I received a galley copy of this title in exchange for an honest review.



Authors: Annalena McAfee

Published: August 4, 2020

Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group

Number of Pages: 272 pages

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Format: eBook

Source: NetGalley

Family life. Reputation. They took a lifetime to build and a second to wreck.

Eve Laing, once the muse of an infamous painter, is now — forty years later — an artist herself. But she has sacrificed her career for her family and she resents the global success of her old college roommate, a celebrity of the conceptual art scene. When Eve embarks on her most ambitious work yet, she takes a wrecking ball to her comfortable life, jettisoning her marriage for a beautiful young lover, a drifter half her age, who seems to share her single-minded creative vision.

Nightshade charts Eve’s nocturnal walk through London, from her former family home in the west of the city back to her studio, a converted factory in the east, where her recently completed masterpiece hangs and a fatal reckoning awaits.

This brilliant and timely novel explores sexual politics and the excesses of the contemporary art world, asking if the true artist must relinquish the ordinary human need for love and connection. Can the creative urge be the most destructive — even deadliest — impulse of all?

When I requested this ARC, I thought the premise sounded interesting:  A renowned artist, fed up with domestic life triggers a series of events that lead to the implosion of her life/social standing/etc. in order to create her greatest works of art which happen to be depictions of the world’s deadliest flowers.  The cover is beautiful, which helped in my decision to request, but this book is much more than what I was expecting.

Something readers need to know going in is that this is a slow burn sort of book.  It’s told from the perspective of Eve, though in a third-person, detached narrator sort of style that mirrors the sophisticated, yet frenzied thoughts of the main character.  This is also an introspective book, dealing with issues that women struggle with everyday  – motherhood, guilt, depression, anxiety, etc.  These are not issues that are exclusive to women by any means, but they are the themes that are dealt with in this book, though not always explicitly.  All the while, Eve is suffering for her art and some of the suffering is self-inflicted. 

It takes a while to really get going, as other reviewers have noted and I agree.  Like I said, slow-burn.  This is a novel you want to pick up when you’re tired of romance novels and want something different that it’s sci-fi or fantasy.  This is the book you pick up when you are feeling mischievous!  I loved the poetic and frantic style of the prose!  The story is largely told in flashbacks, but there are some details included in a masterful way that bring you to the street in London at night time, or into the studio.  Some words I had to look up, but I felt it was a learning opportunity and they absolutely fit the intellect and depth of the character.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for an advance copy of this book!  This is my honest review.


Quick Reviews: Tweet Cute, Florence Adler Swims Forever, Yes No Maybe So

Tweet Cute

Author: Emma Lord

Published: January 21, 2020

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Number of Pages: 368 pages

Genre: Young Adult Fiction / Contemporary / Romance

Format: Hardcover

Source: Purchased

A fresh, irresistible rom-com from debut author Emma Lord about the chances we take, the paths life can lead us on, and how love can be found in the opposite place you expected.

Meet Pepper, swim team captain, chronic overachiever, and all-around perfectionist. Her family may be falling apart, but their massive fast-food chain is booming ― mainly thanks to Pepper, who is barely managing to juggle real life while secretly running Big League Burger’s massive Twitter account.

Enter Jack, class clown and constant thorn in Pepper’s side. When he isn’t trying to duck out of his obscenely popular twin’s shadow, he’s busy working in his family’s deli. His relationship with the business that holds his future might be love/hate, but when Big League Burger steals his grandma’s iconic grilled cheese recipe, he’ll do whatever it takes to take them down, one tweet at a time.

All’s fair in love and cheese ― that is, until Pepper and Jack’s spat turns into a viral Twitter war. Little do they know, while they’re publicly duking it out with snarky memes and retweet battles, they’re also falling for each other in real life ― on an anonymous chat app Jack built.

As their relationship deepens and their online shenanigans escalate ― people on the internet are shipping them?? ― their battle gets more and more personal, until even these two rivals can’t ignore they were destined for the most unexpected, awkward, all-the-feels romance that neither of them expected.

Although this is a debut, this doesn’t read like a debut!  Tweet Cute is a fun, updated rom com sort of novel with a You’ve Got Mail style Twitter-war between two teenagers, Jack and Pepper.  Jack’s family runs a deli in the East Village, while Pepper’s family owns a burger empire that originated in Nashville, but has almost gone global.  Jack and Pepper have similar struggles throughout the book, he has an identical twin and struggles to be seen because everyone thinks he is his brother and Pepper moved to a new, preppy school in New York from Nashville and quickly found that competition was valued more than friendship.

I did really enjoy the rival families Twitter-war theme of the book, it made the story more relatable to current YA readers.  Cute is a great way to describe this novel, because it was cute all-around.  It’s beautifully written and a great book to read if you are looking for a bit of escape.  As a lifelong fan of Meg Cabot and other YA contemporary authors, this is a fun novel with some romance, lots of teenage angst, witty dialogue, and thoroughly fleshed out characters. 

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and would love to read anything  Emma Lord writes next!  I purchased a copy of this book and this review is given of my own volition.


Florence Adler Swims Forever

Author: Rachel Beanland

Published: July 7, 2020

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Number of Pages: 320 pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

Format: eBook

Source: Netgalley

Synopsis: Over the course of one summer that begins with a shocking tragedy, three generations of the Adler family grapple with heartbreak, romance, and the weight of family secrets in this stunning debut novel that’s perfect for fans of Manhattan Beach and The Dollhouse.

Based on a true story and told in the vein of J. Courtney Sullivan’s Saints for All Occasions and Anita Diamant’s The Boston Girl, Beanland’s family saga is a breathtaking portrait of just how far we will go to in order to protect our loved ones and an uplifting portrayal of how the human spirit can endure—and even thrive—after tragedy. 

For fans of heartfelt, touching historical fiction, Florence Adler Swims Forever hits the mark in all the right ways. After Florence unexpectedly drowns in the first chapter (not a spoiler, it’s literally in the first few pages), Florence’s family must embark on a difficult journey to protect her sister, who is expecting, from the truth. This is a story of love, loss, family ties, and the lengths we go to for the ones we love the most. It has a fantastic Goodbye Lenin-esque feel, which is a movie you should definitely watch. It’s a beautifully written book that leaves you feeling a wide range of emotions once you can finally put it down. This would be a great book club pick or a book you read and recommend to friends, which I will undoubtedly do. Overall, a beautiful debut from Rachel Beanland!


Yes No Maybe So

Authors: Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed

Published: February 4, 2020

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Number of Pages: 448 pages

Genre: YA / Contemporary / Romance

Format: Hardcover

Source: Purchased

New York Times bestselling authors Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed have crafted a resonant, funny, and memorable story about the power of love and resistance. 

This book looked really promising, but I had a lot of trouble getting into it. I really chalk this up to the novel being a collaboration, rather than one person writing. It took a while for the two writers ideas and style to really jive enough for me to want to keep reading. In preparing for this review, I read some opinions of others on the representation side of things. I think the premise is interesting, working for a political campaign, there’s a bill that threatens Muslims in the legislature, it’s all interesting. The pitfall here is that this book continues the stereotype of a Muslim girl having to renounce her beliefs and everything she’s been taught to be with a white guy. I really feel like I’ve heard this story before and it’s getting old by now. I would also argue that this concept and manuscript was probably more fresh 2-3 years ago when it was likely written. I’d say that this book was good, but the premise was tired out even before it was published. Give it a shot if you like contemporary YA romance novels, but it wasn’t really for me.


Quick Reviews: The Circus Rose, Shades of Magic: The Steel Prince: Night of Knives, The Key to Everything

The Circus Rose

Author: Betsy Cornwell

Published: June 16th, 2020

Publisher: Clarion Books

Number of Pages: 288 pages

Genre: Young Adult Fiction / Fairy Tales & Folklore / Adaptations

Format: eBook

Source: Edelweiss+

Twins Rosie and Ivory have grown up at their ringmaster mother’s knee, and after years on the road, they’re returning to Port End, the closest place to home they know. Yet something has changed in the bustling city: fundamentalist flyers paper the walls and preachers fill the squares, warning of shadows falling over the land. The circus prepares a triumphant homecoming show, full of lights and spectacle that could chase away even the darkest shadow. But during Rosie’s tightrope act, disaster strikes.

In this lush, sensuous novel interwoven with themes of social justice and found family, it’s up to Ivory and her magician love—with the help of a dancing bear—to track down an evil priest and save their circus family before it’s too late.

Clocking in at around 300 pages, this book is a quick read with a fast paced plot! This is a retelling of Snow White and Rose Red with several fun twists and turns along the way! Twin sisters raised in a circus, one a performer and one a behind the scenes engineer, take on religious extremists and fight to save the people they love and their circus family. Great representation of gender identities in this book and nominal use of correct pronouns for characters who do not identify as CIS. Lots of action, fun magic, and an interesting world packed into this novel! And look at that cover! This is a great Own Voices story that I highly recommend! This is a great book for readers who enjoy books by Leigh Bardugo, Mackenzi Lee, and Laini Taylor! I received a galley copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to Clarion Books and Edelweiss+ for this opportunity! Get your copy below and follow the author on social media!


Shades of Magic: The Steel Prince: Night of Knives

Author: V. E. Schwab

Illustrator: Budi “Buddy” Setiawan

Published: October 15, 2019

Publisher: Titan Comics

Number of Pages: 288 pages

Format: eBook

Source: Edelweiss+

Written by #1 New York Times bestselling author V.E. Schwab and torn from the universe of the Shades of Magic sequence, this all-original comic book adventure continues the story begun in The Steel Prince – perfect for fans of bloody, swashbuckling adventure and gritty fantasy!

The young and arrogant prince Maxim Maresh, having faced the terror of the Pirate Queen, now aims to capture the respect of the combative port town of Verose – by taking the impossible challenges of the Night of Knives…and surviving, where none has survived before!

These are the hidden, secret adventures of Maxim, from long before he became the king of Red London and adoptive father to Kell, the lead of A Darker Shade of Magic!

Collects Shades of Magic #5-8: Night of Knives

The continued adventures of Maxim Maresh, the stately King of Red London and father to Rhy Maresh in the A Darker Shade of Magic series. Like my review of the first volume, I wanted to comment on the intricate and versatile writing of V. E. Schwab. Translating a story from a complete series of novels to a graphic novel is no small feat. Much of the story must be conveyed in the illustrations in graphic novels and I think the collaboration here between author and illustrator really worked well! Buddy Setiawan borrows elements from the first volume to create something wholly new! I’m really glad they used more than one artist for these graphic novels, I think the story itself really works well in this way. Overall, a nice graphic novel! I received a copy of this title in exchange for an honest review from the publisher.


The Key to Everything

Author: Valerie Fraser Luesse

Published: June 2nd, 2020

Publisher: Revell

Number of Pages: 352 pages

Genre: Historical Fiction / Adult / Romance

Format: eBook

Source: NetGalley

After WWII and a family tragedy, Peyton Cabot seeks connection with his troubled veteran father by retracing the trip he’d taken from Savannah to Key West at the same age. The adventure forces Peyton to come to terms with his identity and decide how much he’s willing to risk for the girl he loves.

The Key to Everything is my first book by Valerie Frase Luesse. I didn’t know what to expect, but I found a touching and poignant coming of age story in an interesting time period. I’ve found that many books I read are set either before WWII or 1960 and after, not many are set in the period following the war.  I enjoyed the journey Peyton took both physically, on the road from Savannah to Key West, and emotionally, through his struggle to find his identity and come to terms with his father’s death. This book is well-written and entertaining. It is a perfect beach read or summer read!  I received a galley copy of this title from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to Revell and NetGalley!