Monday, October 8, 2018

September 2018 Reads // Firemen, Spies, and Princesses in Disguise

Happy Book Day!!!!!!!! I couldn't pass up the rhyme, hehe! :)

We are headed out on vacation tomorrow!!!!!!!!!! I am so excited to visit Boston and go on a Northeast road trip!! :) I will reply to comments and read y'all's posts ASAP upon return. You know I love me SUYB!

I read four Christmas books this month, I know that's not everyone's jam... so I made it a separate post! Check it out if you enjoy Christmas fiction! :)

InstaStyle by Tessa Barton*

5 Stars - I recommend this VERY inclusive how-to guide to anyone looking to up their Instagram game for fun or for profit.

I actually hadn't heard of Tessa Barton before, and I don't follow her on Instagram, but I can see that she is a popular person to follow. It's not a surprise to anyone that this book is beautifully curated, designed, and organized. I loved how easy and engaging the pages were to intake. I loved that in addition to giving broad tips, she shared exactly what she does for different points as well. I loved her section on social media flow. It's something I hadn't thought about in quite that way before. I also enjoyed the sections on making a pretty grid. I really expected this to be more of a lookbook than a super helpful guide, but it was very very informative. I love that she goes into exactly how she edits her photos, photography basics, hashtag specifics, analytics, and even uses other Instagrammers to showcase specific types of IG accounts. I loved a look at a travel- or food-centric Instagram to get an idea of how other people alternate their posts. Overall I want my social media to be a bit more real life than what I am seeing in this book, I don't expect or necessarily desire to be a sponsored Instagrammer... but I appreciate the tips and strategies to be used in my own way and brand. Highly recommend if you are looking to up your Instagram game for fun or profit.

Consumed by J.R. Ward*

4 Stars - I recommend if you like complicated characters and relationships, and a bit of mystery/detective type work.

Anne is the only female firefighter in her fire station, and she doesn't let anyone give her a hard time. She is just as good of a firefighter as any of her male co-workers. Danny Boy is the best on the team and he's in love with Anne, but she won't start a relationship with him. When a fire goes horribly wrong the two must completely reinvent their lives and careers. Can they heal after everything that has happened to them?

Based on the synopsis I thought this would be really brooding... but the prequels were pretty light hearted. However, this book ended up being more of the brooding variety which seemed a bit more appropriate. Holy cow, the first whole bit of the book HAD MY JAW ON THE FLOOR! Whhatt?! After that, the Tom sections were kind of a bummer. I just wanted to read from Danny and Anne's perspectives, but it ended up balancing out and coming together well. It's tough because there was a LOT of groundwork that needed laid for these characters, and it takes some time to get there. However, once that's been established the plot really picks up and sucks you in. I think this will make a good series. Despite this genre not being my normal read, I really enjoyed this one and am glad I read it. As a side note: at times this book was SOOOO New England. The dialogue had me cracking up.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine - Re-read

4 Stars - I recommend if you are looking for a middle-grade fairy tale retelling with an imagination, a and a strong female lead.

Ella is cursed. She was made to be obedient from birth, and now does whatever she is told to do. Her goal in life is to get the fairy who cursed her, Lucinda, to remove her "gift" of obedience. When Ella's mother dies, her father sends her to finishing school where her "gift" is discovered and exploited. Ella runs away in the hopes of finding the fairy Lucinda and finally gaining her freedom. Along the way she runs into her old friend Prince Char.When her father marries Dame Olga and leaves the estate Dame Olga and her mean daughters turn Ella into a servant who must do their bidding. Oh, and Ella can't marry Prince Char because she could put him in danger with her gift. How can she break the curse?

I re-read this book because I won a copy of the prequel, Ogre Enchanted, via Goodreads and Harper Collins Children. It had been at least 15 years since I've read the original book, and I wanted a refresher. I'm glad I got a chance to re-read this as an adult. I know that I loved it as a child! I feel like an awful lot is packed into a short book, but that could be a middle-grade trait. However, I loved the creative twist on Cinderella, the magical world that Levine built, and the strong-willed, brave character she created in Ella. I definitely recommend this if you haven't read it before, or if you have elementary aged children.

Make Something Good Today by Erin and Ben Napier*

4.5 Stars - I recommend if you like memoirs and/or HGTV's Home Town.

This book follows Ben and Erin Napier's lives from childhood to the present. This very personal memoir contains their childhood hopes and dreams, their strong personal faith, their love story, their travels, their work with HGTV, their love of Laurel, and their growing family with baby Helen. This is a behind the scenes look at the show, but more-so a story about two people who found each other, found their callings, and are creating a life that they love in Laurel, MS.


As soon as I started reading this.. I could hear it being read in their voices. I always thought I'd love Home Town, and once I started watching it my suspicions were confirmed. Ben and Erin are delightful, hard working, so caring, and a darn cute couple. Anyhow, I was super jazzed to receive this book via the publisher and Netgalley. I was so touched and emotional about their stories, and I just didn't expect that. Especially parts where Ben talks about his younger brother (10 years younger) Tom. That is me and my OE Jo (17 years younger!) to a T. And I missed her dearly when I went to college. I loved reading about Erin and Ben's childhoods, career and twenty-something struggles, their desire to create a community, their love story, and their journey as new parents. It was further personalized by including so many home photos, paintings, and mementos from throughout the years. It felt a bit like you were reading their scrapbook or journal. Some of this book has a religious tone to it, but it's not pushy which I appreciate. It just shows how caring that they are to tell their story which is deeply rooted in their faith, without it coming across in an overbearing way. Even though I do keep ARCs of books that I really enjoy, I would love to have a hard copy of this one!

The Spymaster's Lady by Joanna Bourne

4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy historical romance, especially ones about spies.

Annique Villers is the youngest of the French spies, and incredibly accomplished for her age. She's played the part of street juggler, medical page boy during battle, a courtesan, and more. Hard to spot and even harder to capture she's known as the Fox Cub. When she meet British Spymaster Robert Grey in the dangerous Leblanc's dungeon they must work together to escape. Can she escape the danger of Leblanc without becoming captured by the British? Can she get the plans for Napoleon's war to those who need it without giving them away to those who would jeopardize the future?

I saw this book on a display at the library and thought it sounded interesting, I'm glad that I picked it up as it was a fun change of pace! With as much romance as I've read this year, I've not read a lot of historical romance, so I'm finding this a little hard to rate. Overall I thought that Annique was very determined, skilled, and humorous. Between her thoughts on the French and British as well as her inner turmoil she read in a very honest, funny, matter-of-fact sort of way. :) I thought that Robert Grey was a fun contrast to her character, very sure of himself, very set in his ways, much more serious. I enjoyed their chemistry a lot, especially in the beginning of the book. I enjoyed their journey from France to London and all of the trails they were put through. I liked that it wasn't all skirmishes and chases. There was a bit of medical stuff, etc. too. Very interesting! This book was a bit steamy, fyi! My only qualm is that I feel like she wasn't very worldly when it came to men, she was really young and her mother never gave her any advice... so it made the romance overly confusing for her.. which made me a tad uneasy. She ultimately took ownership of her sexuality, which I appreciated, but in the in between moments I was a bit uncomfortable. I expect that this happens a lot in historical romance though.. so again, that's part of why I'm having trouble rating this one! Once I've read a few more I'll revisit this review. ;)

The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox*

4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy historical fiction and classic novels with a bit of a dark theme.

When scandal strikes the Montrose family they must leave Boston for the country. There the three sisters and their parents move into the splendid Willow Hall. In the house strange noises are heard, figments are seen, and messages are written in foggy mirrors, but is it all in their imagination? Emeline, the youngest claims that there is a little boy by the pond, Lydia hears a wailing throughout the house, and Catherine is acting more desperate than usual. As they try to adjust to life in their new home, the gossip from Boston does not fade. Will Catherine and Lydia be able to make matches despite the rumors? What do their suitors know of the strangeness occurring at Willow Hall?

This was a very quick read for me, which historical fiction usually isn't! I liked that this book reminded me a bit of a classic spooky novel like Rebecca or Jane Eyre, but was also set with a bit of horror and fantasy. I really enjoyed the complicated family relationships, the setting, and the opulence captured in the time period. Bits and pieces reminded me of Little Women with the sisterhood, balls, and playing make believe. I enjoyed that the fantasy/horror element was so classic. It's hard to tell if it is real, imagined, brought on by a stimulant, etc. Very interesting. While this book was rooted in family drama and the time period, there was also a bit of romance which I enjoyed. Overall I feel like this was a very strong debut novel!!

The Royal Runaway by Lindsay Emory*

3.5 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy plots about modern day royals and quick fluffy reads.

Thea is set to become the queen of Drieden after her wedding to her fiance. When she's left at the alter her whole world is turned upside down. She begins sneaking out of the palace to experience the real world when she meets Nick, a rugged stranger that she should probably stay away from... As time goes on it becomes increasingly clear that Nick is up to something and someone in the palace is out to get her. Soon Thea and Nick will be hiding in the Drieden countryside dodging spies and assassins and trying to figure out what actually happened to Thea's fiance.

Overall I enjoyed this book! It was a fun escape that reminded me a bit of Chasing Liberty and The Princess Diaries. Thea was a good mix of entitled and rebellious, and ended up being a strong character. I loved Nick, he was sarcastic, dreamy, and rough around the edges. I enjoyed the middle of the book quite a bit when they were running from their hunters and looking for clues, the parts at the palace were a bit less interesting to me. Their chemistry was pretty on point. In the end I didn't quite know where the story would go, which was a good surprise! I felt like there were a lot of layers to the "mystery" and it got a little convoluted, but that may be just me. I liked the ending quite a bit, perhaps could have used an epilogue.. but maybe not... can't decide! I recommend if you are looking for a fun and fluffy read!

Hansel and Gretel by Neil Gaiman, Illustrated by Lorenzo Mattotti

4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy dark fairy tale retellings.

The classic tale in Neil Gaiman's unique writing style.

Overall I enjoyed this retelling, it is quite similar to the original but has Neil Gaiman's unique writing voice and style. I liked the bold and abstract art by Lorenzo Mattotti that accompanied the text. The story was dark, and not too embellished, but it is worth a read if you are looking for something a little bit different to read.

The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman, Illustrated by Chris Riddell

5 Stars - I highly recommend if you enjoy fairy tale retellings, fantasy, or are looking for a change of pace.

When the dwarves learn that a sleeping spell is spreading across the kingdoms, and a rumor of a sleeping princess and a witch reach their ears they take the queen to investigate.

I loved this graphic novel. For one thing the art is gorgeous! Every picture is so detailed and stunning in black, white, and gold. The story instantly reminded me of a D&D adventure. Dwarves walk into a tavern, hear about a problem, and set off on a quest to save the kingdom. I liked that it was part quest, part fairy tale retelling, and as always Gaiman's writing is fantastic. Everything is so vividly imagined and described, which really brought the story to life. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who is looking to spice up their reading.

Linking up with Jana and Steph for Show Us Your Books today. :) 

What have you been reading? What do you hope to read this month?! 

Make sure you check out my Christmas Fiction post if you're into that kind of thing! :) 

Let's be friends on Goodreads!



* Asterisks denote titles that I was given advance access to by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. These reviews are my own opinion, and based on the edition of the book I was given at the time. Thank you Netgalley

**Double asterisks denote books won via a goodreads giveaway! 

***Triple asterisks denote titles that I was given advance access to by Penguin First to Read in exchange for an honest review. These reviews are my own opinion, and based on the edition of the book I was given at the time. Thank you Penguin First to Read!

****Quadruple asterisks denote titles that I was given advance access to by the author of the book in exchange for an honest review. These reviews are my own opinion and based on the edition of the book I was given at the time! 

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