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Nothing better than a good book...

If it's good, I'll read it! Instagram:  @crystenasbooks

Reading progress update: I've read 6%.

For Castle and Crown - Sian Ann Bessey

After Updraft, I wanted to read something on the lighter side. So I pushed my current TBR aside and started this one. 


It's a Netgalley find, a historical fiction with some romance. An easy read.  Enjoyable so far.


Star Wars: The Last Jedi at 7 p.m. !!!


I'm more than a little excited. 



Solid Re-Read

Updraft - Fran Wilde

While naturally there wasn't as much urgency as to how things would turn out,  this was still a solid re-read. A great example of world building. I tried explaining this world to my husband and struggled. Finally, I said, "Just read it!" I hope he does. That is really the best way to learn this world  - originally I went into it cold and was immersed. 


Looking forward to reading the next in the trilogy. 



DNF- Trigger warning

Now That You Mention It: A Novel - Kristan Higgins

I stopped reading this book and decline to review it.


The rape/assault scene was just too much for me. 


Trigger warning for this book. 




I received this book free in exchange for an honest review. 

On Writing Clutter...

On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction - William Knowlton Zinsser

"Beware of all the slippery new fad words: paradigm and parameter, prioritize and potentialize. They are all weeds that will smother what you write. Don't dialogue with someone you can talk to. Don't interface with anybody."

Friday Reads 12.8.2017

Updraft - Fran Wilde Carnegie's Maid: A Novel - Marie Benedict On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction - William Knowlton Zinsser Now That You Mention It: A Novel - Kristan Higgins

Happy Friday everyone!


We are expecting some snow tomorrow. Bad weather usually means I get to read all the books.  So I'm looking forward to it. 


These are the books I am reading. They are holding my attention, so I am content with my choices. Of note is On Writing Well. I remember reading this book for a writing class YEARS ago and loving it. Reading the first chapters reminded me why. Don't be surprised if you see random quotes from me over the next few days.  


I hope everyone enjoys their weekend.  I look forward to reading your reviews.  


Happy reading! 



The English Wife

The English Wife - Lauren Willig

Author: Lauren Willig

Rating: 3 stars


I received this book free in exchange for an honest review.


Book Blurb: Annabelle and Bayard Van Duyvil live a charmed life: he’s the scion of an old Knickerbocker family, she grew up in a Tudor manor in England, they had a whirlwind romance in London, they have three-year-old twins on whom they dote, and he’s recreated her family home on the banks of the Hudson and renamed it Illyria. Yes, there are rumors that she’s having an affair with the architect, but rumors are rumors and people will gossip. But then Bayard is found dead with a knife in his chest on the night of their Twelfth Night Ball, Annabelle goes missing, presumed drowned, and the papers go mad. Bay’s sister, Janie, forms an unlikely alliance with a reporter to uncover the truth, convinced that Bay would never have killed his wife, that it must be a third party, but the more she learns about her brother and his wife, the more everything she thought she knew about them starts to unravel. Who were her brother and his wife, really? And why did her brother die with the name George on his lips?


What Drew Me to this Book:  I've read a book by Lauren Willig before and enjoyed it. Also, the blurb was intriguing.


What I liked:  Hats off to Ms.Willig for taking this story and turning it completely on its head.  This book was unpredictable. It was so different it kept me turning the pages when the story wasn't thrilling me. Overall, I enjoyed the relationships between the characters as well as unraveling the mystery behind the deaths that took place in the opening chapters of the book.


What I Didn't Like: The mystery, once unraveled, is depressing. Lately, I don't enjoy angst.  Emotionally, there has to 'something' in a story to counterbalance such sadness. The originality almost got me there, but in the end, it fell short. There's just too much 'depressing and sad' IRL right now for me to find it entertaining. Again, just my personal opinion.


I gave this read three stars. 


Decluttering At the Speed of Life

Decluttering at the Speed of Life: Winning Your Never-Ending Battle with Stuff - Dana White

Author: Dana K. White

Rating: 5 stars


Why am I giving a book on clutter 5 stars? Cuz of statements like this:


"I know these things are obvious, and I would have said they were obvious to me too. But I wasn't living like they were obvious."


That statement is not just about clutter. It can be applied to principles or life lessons we are reluctant to accept. It was an "Aha!" moment and helped me in an unrelated situation I was facing. Truth is truth - no matter where you find it. But I digress...


This book has some solid advice on how to declutter your home. Decluttering, Ms. White stresses is different than cleaning, and she explains why in this book. She talks to you as a friend giving you some hard-won advice. I like how she addresses your snarky self. The snarky backtalk of that doubtful, sarcastic self who hates change and wants to continue in what's comfortable.   


What I really enjoyed about this book was Ms. White recognizes there is often an emotional component to clutter. She does this on a personal level, getting into the emotions people experiencing as they try to get rid of clutter. Where the book really elevated itself was in its chapters on helping others. I recently helped someone declutter their home. And Ms. White states so clearly what I had to learn in the moment - the person I was helping wasn't reluctant to get rid of papers and things because she was blind as to how it looked ... but because these papers and things belonged to a husband she loved dearly who had passed away. Going through those things and changing how he left them meant reliving memories. It meant grief. So I cried and shared memories and yes, we did make headway on the clutter. Respecting the emotional component is what Ms. White stresses. I applaud that. 


Also, there's this gem about  knowing your boundaries when helping those close to you:


"You may have been invited to help. You may have been begged to help. But today is not the day that you get to fix this person you've always wanted to fix. It's the day just to declutter."



She does address actual hoarding, as well as knowing when to step back and realize your frustration is not helping the situation.  Again the emotional component.  Another section on what to do when you want to declutter but your spouse doesn't. Just practical advice on real-world situations. 


Overall I highly recommend this book on decluttering.


I received this book free in exchange for an honest review. The opinion that I'm glad I randomly requested it through Netgalley cuz its a dang good book on clutter is purely my own.



December TBR

Cloudbound (Bone Universe) - Fran Wilde A Passion for Books: A Book Lover's Treasury of Stories, Essays, Humor, Love and Lists on Collecting, Reading, Borrowing, Lending, Caring for, and Appreciating Books - Rob Kaplan, Harold Rabinowitz Now That You Mention It: A Novel - Kristan Higgins The Other Alcott: A Novel - Elise Hooper Pride and Prometheus - John Kessel On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction - William Knowlton Zinsser Red Rising - Pierce Brown Surprise Me: A Novel - Sophie Kinsella The Girls in the Picture: A Novel - Melanie Benjamin How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind: Dealing with Your House's Dirty Little Secrets - Dana White

I like posting these and then comparing wrap-ups to TBRs at the end of the month. For me, most of the time they are very different.


"The best-laid plans of mice and men..."


Anywho,  these are some of the books I see on the horizon for this month. It's going to be a busy month, so we will see how I do. 


Some highlights:


I'm looking forward to Kristin Higgins new book - I always enjoy her chic-lit. And I'm really looking forward to Kinsella's latest, Surprise Me.


I am cautiously looking forward to Pride and Prometheus - the Pride and Prejudice/ Frankenstein mashup cuz... well... that sounds absolutely insane in a way that makes me want to read it sooner rather than later.  


Passion for Books - essays about books? How can that possibly be bad? 


On Writing Well is a re-read from years ago because I want to write better, more gooder, ummm... well. 


Happy reading everyone!





November Wrap Up!

By Sharon Kay Penman The Sunne In Splendour: A Novel of Richard III (1st) - Sharon Kay Penman Cremains of the Day (A Tallie Graver Mystery) - Misty Simon Between Two Fires: A Novel - Mark Noce Dark Winds Rising: A Novel (Queen Branwen) - Mark Noce Cheddar Off Dead (An Undercover Dish Mystery) - Julia Buckley Mustard Seed - Laila Ibrahim Artemis: A Novel - Andy Weir

I read seven books this past month.


Not my best or worst month.


The star of the month was by far finishing The Sunne in Splendour.  By far.  Just an excellent book.


Artemis was also enjoyable.


Cremains of the Day and Cheddar off Dead were my weakest reads. 


I read mostly on my Kindle. An adjustment I am trying to make having such limited shelf space in my apartment. 


I want to at least get my books up to 8 a month - two a week. Hopefully I can do that in December.



Mustard Seed

Mustard Seed - Laila Ibrahim

Author: Laila Ibrahim

Rating: 3 stars


I received this book free in exchange for an honest review.


The bestselling author of Yellow Crocus returns with a haunting and tender story of three women returning to the plantation they once called home.


Oberlin, Ohio, 1868. Lisbeth Johnson was born into privilege in the antebellum South. Jordan Freedman was born a slave to Mattie, Lisbeth’s beloved nurse. The women have an unlikely bond deeper than friendship. Three years after the Civil War, Lisbeth and Mattie are tending their homes and families while Jordan, an aspiring suffragette, teaches at an integrated school.


When Lisbeth discovers that her father is dying, she’s summoned back to the Virginia plantation where she grew up. There she must face the Confederate family she betrayed by marrying an abolitionist. Jordan and Mattie return to Fair Oaks, too, to save the family they left behind, who still toil in oppression. For Lisbeth, it’s a time for reconciliation. For Jordan and Mattie, it’s time for liberation.


As the Johnsons and Freedmans confront the injustice that binds them, as well as the bitterness and violence that seethes at its heart, the women must find the courage to free their families—and themselves—from the past.


I enjoyed this follow up to Yellow Crocus. 

While not as good as the first book, it was nice to catch up with the characters and see where they were post- Civil War. It was interesting to read a story about the aftermath of the war and its effect on families who had members on both sides. The book left me emotional.


As often happens with multiple storylines, I became more invested in one storyline over the other. Lisbeth's attempt at reconciliation with her family really struck a chord with me. I could not STAND some of Lisbeth's family members, their cruelty and racism were almost palpable and made me rage. Yet I empathized with Lisbeth's pain as they were still her family. That emotional pull was handled well.


I would definitely recommend both novels in this series.


Friday Reads 12.1.2017

Updraft - Fran Wilde Mustard Seed - Laila Ibrahim Decluttering at the Speed of Life: Winning Your Never-Ending Battle with Stuff - Dana White Carnegie's Maid: A Novel - Marie Benedict

Happy Friday everyone!


Here are some of the books I will be reading this weekend.


I did NOT get a lot of reading done this past couple of weeks. Had some stress and been busy. But things are slowing down in a good way so I hope to catch up. 


Updraft is going well as a re-read. 


Mustard Seed is considerably slower than its predecessor. I'm hoping it picks up. If not, I may put it down.


Decluttering at the Speed of Life is surprisingly good. I will include my reasons why in a review. 


Carnegie's Maid is a piece of historical fiction I want to dive into when I finish one of the above three. 


I don't know about y'all, but with all the sales going on I have bought up a storm. I bought some Louise Penny, North and South Trilogy, The Kent Family Chronicles, The Fifth Season... and a few more.


I hope everyone enjoys their weekend!


Happy Reading (... and book buying...)

Reading progress update: I've read 8%.

— feeling amazing
Updraft - Fran Wilde

Even though I rated it high when I first read it,  I'd forgotten just how good this is!


I love the writing! 


I'm going to enjoy diving into this trilogy over the long weekend. 




Artemis: A Novel - Andy Weir

Rating: 4.5 stars


What's so cool about this book?


This book has a moon heist. Yes, I said a moon heist.


It has a diverse cast with a  Saudi Arabian woman as your hero and main character. She's a smart-mouthed smuggler. She is highly intelligent, witty and makes some colossally stupid yet entertaining mistakes. 


This book has camaraderie, humor, action. It's just a fun read. 


Oh did I mention the guy who wrote The Martian wrote it?


Definitely recommend.  


I received this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinion that I found this to be a great science fiction caper is my own. 

Friday Reads 11.17.2017

Artemis: A Novel - Andy Weir Cheddar Off Dead (An Undercover Dish Mystery) - Julia Buckley Mustard Seed - Laila Ibrahim Updraft - Fran Wilde Yellow Crocus - Laila Ibrahim Cloudbound (Bone Universe) - Fran Wilde

Happy Friday!


So here are the books I am reading this weekend into next week.


I am about 40% done with Artemis and I must say I am enjoying it. At first, I felt the "voice" of his MC was too similar to his other character in The Martian.  I still feel this waybut I've gotten over it and am along for the ride.  


Cheddar off Dead is a cozy mystery that is enjoyable - I really like Julia Buckley. It's the second in the series.


Mustard Seed is the sequel to Yellow Crocus. If you are a historical fiction fan, Yellow Crocus is a well-reviewed excellent book in that genre. I read it a couple of years ago on a whim and the plot still stands out in my memory. I gave it five stars. 


Updraft is a re-read and I will follow it up with the other two in the trilogy. I loved Updraft and gave it 5 stars when I first read it. A beginning that strong must be followed up on.  Now that the final book is out, I look forward to finishing the story. 


I started Birdcage Walk and couldn't get through it. Still love the cover though. 


Not too many other plans this weekend. Getting together with some friends, chillin, reading.


Happy Reading! 

Dark Winds Rising

Dark Winds Rising: A Novel (Queen Branwen) - Mark Noce

Author: Mark Noce

Series: Queen Branwen #2

Rating: 4 stars


I received this book free in exchange for an honest review.


Book Blurb:  "Three years after uniting the Welsh to defeat the Saxons and settling down with her true love, Artagan, Queen Branwen finds her world once again turned upside down as Pictish raiders harry the shores of her kingdom. Rallying her people once more, she must face her most dangerous foe yet, the Queen of the Picts. Ruthless and cunning, the Pictish Queen turns the Welsh against each other in a bloody civil war.

All the while Branwen is heavy with child, and finds her young son’s footsteps dogged by a mysterious assassin who eerily resembles her dead first husband, the Hammer King. In the murky world of courtly intrigue, Queen Branwen must continually discern friend from foe at her own peril in the ever-shifting alliances of the independent Welsh kingdoms.

Branwen must somehow defeat the Picts and save her people before the Pictish Queen and the assassin destroy their lives from the inside out. Just as the Saxons threatened Branwen’s kingdom from the landward side of her realm in Between Two Fires, now the Picts threaten her domain from sea in this thrilling sequel. But she soon finds that the enigmatic Picts are unlike any foe she has faced before."


This was a pretty good follow up to Between Two Fires


This time around Queen Branwen is pregnant and fighting. In short, the story is someone is threatening her baby boy and her lands so its time for her to step up and save the day. There is definitely a women empowerment feel to the entire story, with women basically solving problems/fighting/kicking butt and taking names while their male counterparts hit things and ask questions later. Meh - I dinged it a star for that. No need to stereotype to make a point. Women rock - we know. We don't need to knock men to realize it. 


That being said the story was enjoyable. There is a mystery in this one as there was in Fires. It is not as good. But the tension of the Welsh vs Saxons/Picts carried the story along nicely. One thing about these books is they are compulsively readable and an enjoyable way to spend a few hours. I finish Noce's books in a matter of days. Also, the characters are good. They stay true to form and he keeps a few shady ones around throughout the books to keep you on your toes. You never know whom to trust.


Looks like first person present tense is here to stay. I still don't like it, but again I enjoy this series and stories set during this time period. If another book comes out I will definitely be reading it. 



Between Two Fires - An Enjoyable Re-read

Between Two Fires: A Novel - Mark Noce

Author: Mark Noce

Series: Queen Branwen #1

Rating: 4 stars


Book Blurb: Saxon barbarians threaten to destroy medieval Wales. Lady Branwen becomes Wales' last hope to unite their divided kingdoms when her father betroths her to a powerful Welsh warlord, the Hammer King. But the fledgling alliance is fraught with enemies from within and without as Branwen becomes the target of assassination attempts and courtly intrigue. A young woman in a world of fierce warriors, she seeks to assert her own authority and preserve Wales against the barbarians. But when she falls for a young hedge knight named Artagan, her world threatens to tear itself apart.

Caught between her duty to her people and her love of a man she cannot have, Branwen must choose whether to preserve her royal marriage or to follow her heart. Somehow she must save her people and remain true to herself, before Saxon invaders and a mysterious traitor try to destroy her.


This was an enjoyable re-read in preparation for the release of  Dark Wind Rising, the sequel. 


This book, again,  proves I'm a moody reader. Reading this book last year I felt "meh" about it. This time around I couldn't put it down. I really got into the mystery and although I remembered most of the twist I had forgotten bits and pieces.


Branwen is a good character- young and immature at first, making impulsive far-reaching decisions without thinking things through. But she comes into her own nicely. 

As with the first reading, I felt that first person present tense is not my cup of tea- BUT, and this is a big "but",  the story is strong. This book could be a tv show, a good one in my opinion. The mystery arc is this book's strength.  And the political intrigue is handled quite well. It also deals with a time that is not done to death but is still popular. The "tense" issue still dings the book for me- that and the overuse of the word azure to describe characters'  eyes. After a while, I was like "BLUE just say BLUE already!" But I'm being picky.

I look forward to reading the next in this series. A side note: if you wanted to read this as a standalone you can, the story wraps up nicely. It actually took me by surprise when I found out there was another book.