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

Friday Reads 11.10.2017

Between Two Fires: A Novel - Mark Noce Dark Winds Rising: A Novel (Queen Branwen) - Mark Noce Artemis: A Novel - Andy Weir

Happy Friday!


This weekend will be COLD. At least Saturday will be. So I hope to get some reading in. No real plans which is fine by me. My hubby, Kindle, hot chocolate, and slow cooker are all I need this weekend. Oh and Dr. Who. We have to be caught up before the Christmas special. 


Anywho, I am re-reading Between Two Fires before starting the sequel which is due out next month. I was able to get a copy of Dark Winds Rising through Netgalley. This re-read proves I am one moody reader. I remember feeling mildly enthused about Between Two Fires. This time around I cannot put the thing down. I read half of it in one day. I had planned on reading the sequel next month but I figured I will ride this binge and just segue into the sequel this weekend.  Oh and Mark Noce needs to shake the hand of whoever does his covers. LOVE THEM. 


If I'm really ambitious I will dive into Artemis. I was a huge fan of The Martian- the book and the movie - so I know Weir has a gift for riveting sci-fi. Looking forward to reading it. 


I hope you guys have great weekends and I look forward to reading your reviews during reading breaks. 


Happy Reading! 




East of Eden - John Steinbeck

Now I see why it's a classic.


I think it's beautifully written, and very interesting.


But I found it depressing and a bit of a downer to say the least. So I put it aside. I felt guilty- after all - it's a classic! 


But I hated picking it up to read it so I moved on.  



The Nightingale

The Nightingale - Kristin Hannah

Author: Kristin Hannah

Rating: 5 stars


Book Blurb: With courage, grace, and powerful insight, bestselling author Kristin Hannah captures the epic panorama of World War II and illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the women's war. The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France—a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women. It is a novel for everyone, a novel for a lifetime.


I read this book earlier this year and said I would post a review when I had gotten my emotions under control...


...and then never did.


Seeing it at the top of this historical fiction book list reminded me to post my review, as I do want to read more books on that list.  My goal is to work through the list to discover reads I may not have considered otherwise.


Anyways the review! 


This book was hyped quite a bit and in my opinion, the hype is well deserved. It's emotional and it's gripping. I struggled with the weightiness of both sisters' decisions- Hannah does an amazing job of letting you inside their heads as they make very different and difficult choices.  I told myself I would not cry but the last three pages left me a blubbering mess at work. I had to go to the bathroom to collect myself. 


This book was amazing. It was what good historical fiction should be. I highly recommend it. 



November TBR

I, Claudius: From the Autobiography of Tiberius Claudius - Robert Graves The Vor Game - Lois McMaster Bujold Birdcage Walk - Helen Dunmore Between Two Fires: A Novel - Mark Noce Updraft - Fran Wilde Cheddar Off Dead (An Undercover Dish Mystery) - Julia Buckley Murder in the Manuscript Room: A 42nd Street Library Mystery (The 42nd Street Library Mysteries) - Con Lehane Cane River - Lalita Tademy The Memory of Us: A Novel - Camille Di Maio East of Eden - John Steinbeck
— feeling grin

So here are the books I'm planning to crack open this month. 


My goal is to shake things up with historical fiction and science fiction mixed in with some mystery. 


I, Claudius is off of the 50 Essential Historical Fiction Novels list done by Abe Books.  


Between Two Fires and Updraft are re-reads because it has been too long since I read them for me to read their sequels with any kind of authority.   I've been meaning to get into re-reads for a while. 


The Vor Game is the next book in the Vorkosigan saga for me. 


East of Eden is a classic I've been meaning to get to. 


I will no doubt switch this up. I am the moodiest reader I know - but this is the plan so far. 


I will enjoy looking at everyone's TBR for the month and,  as usual, count on your reviews to break my book budget. 


Happy reading! 




The Sunne In Splendour

The Sunne in Splendour - Sharon Kay Penman

Author: Sharon Kay Penman

Rating:  6 /5 stars !!!!!!


Book Blurb: In this triumphant combination of scholarship and storytelling, Sharon Kay Penman redeems Richard III—vilified as the bitter, twisted, scheming hunchback who murdered his nephews, the princes in the Tower—from his maligned place in history.

Born into the treacherous courts of fifteenth-century England, in the midst of what history has called The War of the Roses, Richard was raised in the shadow of his charismatic brother, King Edward IV. Loyal to his friends and passionately in love with the one woman who was denied him, Richard emerges as a gifted man far more sinned against than sinning.


You have to understand that when I finished Here Be Dragons- the first book Sharon Kay Penman wrote in the Welsh Trilogy - I read everywhere that  Splendour was her masterpiece. But I thought, no way did she write a book better than Dragons.


I stand corrected.


I loved Here be Dragons and that is still a 5 star read. But this book - WOW. 


I knew little of the War of the Roses. But I now understand the fascination with this period of time. I even recognize the many plotlines of rather famous movies and fantasy series that's I've read and/or watched who seem to have borrowed or been inspired by this period of history.


Richard is a fascinatingly complex character - and one that has been slandered over the years. Penman takes up the task of setting the record straight and going so far as to explain how this slander came to be. 


I read this book over a few months and grew attached to many of the characters. Anne and Richard were probably my favorite. Their love story was a great center of the story and gave me something to root for amidst the chaos that was this family. There was  Richard's brother Ned - King for most of the book and whom I didn't like but Penman makes him so human you understand him.  Penman attempts to explain inexcusable decisions by this man and dang if you don't buy it. There was Elizabeth Woodville, his wife - argh -  that woman! As much as I loathed her, I ended the book wanting to read more about her. I think I will seek out some reading to learn more about her.  The mystery of the Princes in the Tower was one I had heard of - but now that I understand the facts surrounding what happened, only feel sadness at the tragedy.  The changing alliances every. other. page. left me feeling that being born royalty was no privilege. You never knew who to trust. There could be no peace or contentment. 


Penman is a masterful storyteller, sticking close to history yet filling in the gaps in a way that made these historical figures seem relatable and human. Family loyalty, honor, love, family squabbles - it all rang true. 


I HIGHLY recommend this book. It is one of the best books I have ever read. 



October Wrap Up!

Death in Dark Blue - Julia Buckley The Quiche and the Dead (A Pie Town Mystery) - Kirsten Weiss The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People And The 8th Habit - Stephen R. Covey And Then There Were Nuns: League of Literary Ladies - Kylie Logan A Hope Divided (The Loyal League) - Alyssa Cole A Sticky Inheritance (Maple Syrup Mysteries) (Volume 1) - Emily James The English Wife - Lauren Willig Positivity: Top-Notch Research Reveals the 3 to 1 Ratio That Will Change Your Life - Barbara L. Fredrickson
— feeling amazing

Time for a monthly wrap up!


So for the month of October, I read eight books. About average for me. 


The stars of the month were the non-fiction self-help books -  one a re-read, one a new find:


The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and Positivity.  Both I highly recommend.


I read a few cozy mysteries and a historical romance/mystery.  They served their purpose as I had just moved and was adjusting to a new schedule. Their lightness offered some much-needed escapism. 


That being said, I did dive into a Netgalley read of historical fiction called The English Wife. I will post the review in December closer to publication date but it was only so-so for me. 


Honorable mention has to go to The Sunne in the Splendour which is outstanding. I should finish it in November as I have now read 80% of it. November should prove to be interesting. I have goals of reading some science fiction and more historical fiction.


Happy reading! 


Positivity: Top-Notch Research Reveals the 3 to 1 Ratio That Will Change Your Life - Barbara L. Fredrickson

This was a quick read for me. I always like reading these type of self-help books.  I am a firm believer that taking control of your emotions and concentrating on what you can control leads to a happier life. I used to place so much blame at the feet of others, this realization was a game - no life changer for me when I accepted it years ago.


A lot of this book was nothing new, but it's laid out in such a practical way making it easier to apply.


What I enjoyed about this book were the studies about "positivity", the tie-ins to cognitive behavioral therapy and the success stories. Also the clarification on what "positivity" is, as it is so often confused with a 'Pollyanna' type response to bad situations. That is not what it is. 


I would recommend this book. 

The Girl and the Sunbird

The Girl and the Sunbird: A beautiful, epic story of love, loss and hope - Rebecca Stonehill

Author: Rebecca Stonehill

Rating: 3 stars


Book Blurb: 


East Africa 1903: When eighteen year old Iris Johnson is forced to choose between marrying the frightful Lord Sidcup or a faceless stranger, Jeremy Lawrence, in a far-off land, she bravely decides on the latter.

Accompanied by her chaperone, Miss Logan, Iris soon discovers a kindred spirit who shares her thirst for knowledge. As they journey from Cambridgeshire to East Africa, Iris’s eyes are opened to a world she never knew existed beyond the comforts of her family home. 

But when Iris meets Jeremy, she realizes in a heartbeat that they will never be compatible. He is cold and cruel, spending long periods of time on hunting expeditions and leaving Iris alone. 

Determined to make the best of her new life, Iris begins to adjust to her surroundings; the windswept plains of Nairobi, and the delightful sunbirds that visit her window every day. And when she meets Kamau, a school teacher, Iris finds her calling, assisting him to teach the local children English. 

Kamau is everything Jeremy is not. He is passionate, kind and he occupies Iris’s every thought. She must make a choice, but if she follows her heart, the price she must pay will be devastating.


What drew me to this book: I love the author. Her other book, The Poet's Wife, was a mesmerizing read.


The Good:  This was well written.  Iris is complex character- in the beginning she is immature. Extremely so. Her decisions as an eighteen year old are short sighted- as if she can't see past two feet in front of her. While frustrating, it fit her age and she was what she was. I point this out because the growth she's forced to go through as she reaped what she sowed was handled well on the page. The wisdom that comes from her chaperone and mentor pointing out hard truths struck a cord,  trying to teach her about interdependence. I was nodding with Iris' realization that no, child, you can't just do what you want and not have it affect others. Ya need to grow up.


Also I enjoyed the setting, Africa in 1903.  I like historical fiction set in unusual places and times. 


The Bad:   Dang, if this wasn't depressing. You know as you're reading this, it can't possibly end well. A character you grow attached to is suddenly gone and it is described as almost an afterthought. I had to read the passage twice, it was so jolting. Also the transitions in the later half of the book weren't as smooth. You jump drastic amounts of years between pages at times. 


Overall it was a good read but a depressing one. I did not like this one as much as her last book, but I would read another book by this author. 


A Sticky Inheritance

A Sticky Inheritance (Maple Syrup Mysteries) (Volume 1) - Emily James

Author: Emily James

Series: Maple Syrup Mysteries #1

Rating: 4.5 stars


Book BlurbWhen struggling criminal defense attorney Nicole Fitzhenry-Dawes inherits her uncle’s maple syrup farm in Michigan, she thinks it might be time for a career change—hopefully one that allows her to stay as far away from murderers and liars as possible.

She couldn’t have been more wrong.

Her uncle’s suicide quickly begins to look like it wasn’t a suicide at all, but the chief of police is reluctant to investigate it as a murder and soil the reputation of his serene little tourist town. Nicole has no choice but to search for the killer on her own.

And as she closes in, she not only risks becoming the murderer’s next victim, but also starts to wonder if knowing the truth is ever worse than believing the lie...


Again, I hated this cover. It put me off reading this book - but I'm glad I gave it a chance.


This was a solid first in a series. What a gem. The writing was tight and flowed nicely. I've complained in the past that some cozy mysteries  lack depth. As a result, sometimes I can't fully engage with the story.  Not so here. Nicole is a solid main character- flawed and unsure of herself, but stubborn and determined once she finally sets her mind to it. You see the potential for growth.  


This tourist town has some interesting characters, but uh not very many women apparently as Nicole seems to mainly interact with men. Thus the half star ding. It was my one beef and one I didn't notice til the end.  I do want to see if the author remedies this in her next book. 


The romance was the weakest point. Not because of how it was written- that actually wasn't bad. But I made it almost halfway through the book excited cuz there was no love triangle and then... suddenly... there was. A weak one at that.  Sigh. 


There are other mysteries lurking in the background, the minor characters have some real history going on. I'm looking forward to answering some of the questions raised. 


I am cautiously optimistic about this series.  This is an above average cozy outting, so I would recommend.


And Then There Were Nuns

And Then There Were Nuns - Kylie Logan

Author: Kylie Logan

Series: League of Literary Ladies #4

Rating: 3 stars


Enjoyable read. This series is about a group of women who are forced to meet together for a book club as the result of a court order. I'm not going to ruin the first book by telling you how that comes to be, as that was part of the fun of reading the first in this mystery series.


This third book was nice addition. Naturally the women have become friends and spend their time solving mysteries on their island. Their camaraderie and quirkiness carries the book along nicely. I definitely liked the twisty ending. And the progress on the romance front was good to read -  I liked that things are moving along even though there are obstacles now in the way. 


Would definitely recommend this series so far, it's one of the stronger cozy mystery series out there. 

Friday Reads 10.27.2017

The Girl and the Sunbird: A beautiful, epic story of love, loss and hope - Rebecca Stonehill A Sticky Inheritance (Maple Syrup Mysteries) (Volume 1) - Emily James By Sharon Kay Penman The Sunne In Splendour: A Novel of Richard III (1st) - Sharon Kay Penman

Happy Friday!


Here are my books for the weekend into next week...


The Girl and the Sunbird is a piece of historical fiction about a young English girl sent to Mombasa to become the wife of Englishman. It's set in East Africa 1903. This was an usual setting so it peaked my interest. As did the fact that it is written by Rebecca Stonehill who wrote The Poet's Wife. That book was a 5 star read for me and if you like historical fiction  - it should be a must read. That book - whew - messed with my emotions and the story stayed with me. Great writing.


A Sticky Inheritance -  I'm gonna say it right off the bat - I do NOT like the cover. It put me off checking out this book. BUT, I noticed it was highly rated and ya know the old saying, "Don't judge a book... " I downloaded this sample to give it a fair chance. I couldn't stop reading it. Love these kinds of pleasant surprises. 


The Sunne in Splendour - This book is shaping up to be one of the best books I have ever read. 


Weekend plans include enjoying the fall weather and spending time with family. We went hiking last week. The hike was hard but the view was amazing...






The Fourth Horseman

The Fourth Horseman - Sarah Woodbury

Author: Sarah Woodbury

Rating: 3 stars

Series: Gareth and Gwen Medieval Mysteries # 3


Nice addition to the series. My head was spinning trying to keep track of all the names as some sound so similar, but the political intrigue was interesting. I enjoyed seeing the growth in Gwen and Gareth's relationship. 


Overall, I definitely recommend the series so far for historical mystery or historical fiction fans. Ms. Woodbury pays attention to details and includes unusual facts and customs of the time within the story.  



A Hope Divided

A Hope Divided (The Loyal League) - Alyssa Cole

Author: Alyssa Cole

Series: The Loyal League #2 

Rating: 3.5 stars


Book Blurb: For three years of the War Between the States, Marlie Lynch has helped the cause in peace: with coded letters about anti-Rebel uprisings in her Carolina woods, tisanes and poultices for Union prisoners, and silent aid to fleeing slave and Freeman alike. Her formerly enslaved mother's traditions and the name of a white father she never knew have protected her--until the vicious Confederate Home Guard claims Marlie's home for their new base of operations in the guerilla war against Southern resistors of the Rebel cause.

Unbeknowst to those under her roof, escaped prisoner Ewan McCall is sheltering in her laboratory. Seemingly a quiet philosopher, Ewan has his own history with the cruel captain of the Home Guard, and a thoughtful but unbending strength Marlie finds irresistible.

When the revelation of a stunning family secret places Marlie's freedom on the line, she and Ewan have to run for their lives into the hostile Carolina night. Following the path of the Underground Railroad, they find themselves caught up in a vicious battle that could dash their hopes of love--and freedom--before they ever cross state lines.



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


Not as good as the first book, but to be fair - the first book was a tough act to follow. Still - it was a good read. This book focuses on minor characters from the first book.  While I did read this in two sittings as it was fast paced - I did have a been there/done that feeling that I couldn't shake. The two stories are similar with the first being better developed. Also the romance seemed to take a back seat to the other themes throughout the book. I'm not complaining at all, but if you came to this book looking just for that you could be slightly disappointed. And I enjoyed that in both books, Ms. Cole fleshes out parts of the Civil war and Underground Railroad that aren't often explored in historical fiction. You can see the research. There's meat to this story as well as in the first book in the series.

If you like historical romance, this is a good read. So I'd recommend it. 

Friday Reads 10.20.2017

The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes: A Mystery (The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes Mysteries) - Leonard Goldberg And Then There Were Nuns: League of Literary Ladies - Kylie Logan The Fourth Horseman - Sarah Woodbury A Hope Divided (The Loyal League) - Alyssa Cole By Sharon Kay Penman The Sunne In Splendour: A Novel of Richard III (1st) - Sharon Kay Penman Murder in the Mystery Suite - Ellery Adams

Happy Friday!


Here are the books I am nursing over the next week.  I'm enjoying all of them - shout out of cover love for A Hope Divided - and listening to Murder in the Mystery Suite on audio via Scribd.


On the schedule is baseball and hiking this weekend.


Enjoy your weekend and happy reading! 


Invictus - Ryan Graudin

Rating: 3 stars


I have mixed feelings about this book.


It was well written and I can't say much was wrong with it but I still feel that it wasn't my cup of tea. I say this because I had to force myself to read it. 


But I liked the writing. 


So I recommend for people who like time traveling teens with a Firefly feel. 


I received this book in exchange for an honest review. 

To Fudge or Not to Fudge

To Fudge or Not to Fudge - Nancy CoCo

Author: Nancy Coco

Series: A Candy Coated Mystery #2

Rating 4.5


Book Blurb: Life is sweet for Allie McMurphy, proud owner of Historic McMurphy Hotel and Fudge Shop on Mackinac Island--until murder and deception leave a bitter taste. . .

Mulch Ado About Murder

With summer in bloom and tourists afoot, Allie is out walking her pup, Mal, when the curious canine digs up a bone from under a flowering lilac bush. The bone leads to a toe that's missing a body. For the successful confectionaire it's only the first in a series of sour events in the middle of the island's Lilac Fest. When her stint on a cooking reality show swirls up a trail of foul play, Allie will have to outwit a cunning killer if she wants to continue living la dolce vida. ,..


This is shaping up to be a solid series. It gets an extra half star for being a mystery that left me with no clue as to what was going on until the author revealed the killer. 


What did I like? I liked the writing. It was engaging and easy.  I liked Allie, she's a humorous, family oriented MC who loves her dog Mal. I  absolutely loved Mal! He is an adorable character who kept the mystery plot moving with his digging discoveries. I also enjoyed the feel of Mackinac Island. It is a fictional place I will enjoy returning to in future installments. And this book had me craving fudge something fierce.


My one ding is that the story had a love triangle and the romantic scenes,  which I assumed are supposed to have me rooting for one guy or the other, are written with about as much emotion as reading paint cans. 


But other than that... this was an enjoyable read.