Q: who are your fave historical fiction writers?
The Four Winds begins in 1921 when 25 year old spinster Elsa Wolcott, who’s denied love & acceptance by her upperclass family & feeling stifled in their home & her life, sleeps with Rafe Martinelli, an 18 year old Italian-American man.
Pregnant & summarily denounced by her family, Elsa is sent to marry & live with Rafe & his parents. Reflecting on the fact that she is not loved, still, Elsa resolves to give her baby the family & home she never had.
The book picks back up in 1934 where we learn the effects on Elsa of living in that kind of marriage & trying to keep a home & farm going. Then the dust storms & Great Depression get worse & that’s where the story really takes off.
The Four Winds makes it clear from the Prologue that it’s a story about women, & that’s what we get as Elsa tries to protect her family in TX & across the country in CA. Elsa’s story also becomes a migrant camp worker’s story. The parallels between then & now—when the rich get richer off the work & hardships of those who do the work, when politicians & police work to support the system that keeps rich white people rich—are strong.
Kristin Hannah is a masterful writer & my emotions were definitely engaged—but while Elsa & her arc are inspiring, her story also feels overtly representative in some ways, symbolic. I felt some distance from her. That feeling is underscored for me by the ending, which is well-written but which I didn’t like on a couple of different levels.
This isn’t my favorite of Hannah’s books, & I do have some quibbles, but it’s another stunning offering. I’m grateful that we have this exploration of the power & strength of women & mother-daughter relationships during one of the US’s most tumultuous moments. A story that gives hope & assurance of some kind in the good people are capable of even as it points out some of the worst acts of humanity.
4⭐️. The Four Winds is out on 02/02/21. Thanks to the publisher & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
Q: what’s one of your fave romance small towns?
Last week I started Jill Shalvis’s The Forever Girl, immediately had my heart squeezed by the talented hands of an Emotional Wizard, & decided that I would continue reading it another day 🤣.
Yesterday was the day & I approached it full steam ahead, both really enjoying it & determined to see this couple get their HEA.
The book opens with four friends/foster siblings gathered at the grave of the boy they lost & whom they all miss greatly.
Mazey Porter, called Maze & sometimes Mayhem Maze, also feels terribly guilty for his death, a guilt that has made her act out in certain ways & that hasn’t been helped by her fear of abandonment & of being vulnerable w/ others.
Walker Scott is also there at the grave, a man she lived with for a year when they were teens, the man she drunkenly married as a young 20-something in Vegas, the man she tries to ignore—& who does the same to her—even though she can never fully do that.
Three years of not talking later, when one of their foster siblings hatches a plan to have them all back in the same Wildstone house for a week, Mazey & Walker can’t stay away from each other. Maybe this time they can figure it out...once the truth about Mazey’s fake boyfriend/best friend she roped into accompanying her comes out, that is.
This book is hardhitting in the emotional department, from the friendships to Mazey & Walker, to another foster sibling, Cat. If you like found family then The Forever Girl might be your jam because it’s all about grabbing on tight to the people you feel are your own.
While the relationship between Mazey & Walker isn’t quite as steamy as I would like, the chemistry is there & I love how complementary they are.
That leads me to my critique of this novel—it just feels obvious to me that they belong together, that they know it too, despite what they think sometimes & say—& this plus the forced proximity & how he’s always seeking her out—I don’t know 🤷🏻♀️—the tension, the will they or won’t they, is a little weak for me.
Still, this is a really great read written by an author who knows how to play the heart like a musical instrument .
References to past abuse, parental neglect, & death of a child. There’s also an insensitive joke comparing someone’s dancing to a seizure.
4 ⭐️. The Forever Girl is out on 01/12/21. Thanks to William Morrow & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
Q: what “read” percentage of a book makes you stay up to finish it? When I’m reading a romance on my Kindle & hit 65% I almost always finish it that day.
My husband wanted to watch Schitt’s Creek last night & I said sorry, my friend, I’m 81% into a thriller & I have to find out who the killer is. Especially since throughout the course of this charismatic book I suspected probably 7 different from people. (I am a suspicious reader 🤣.)
Nalini Singh’s Quiet in Her Bones is seductively creepy, much like the characters themselves. It’s got twists & turns & it all revolves around the reality that people are complicated, to put it mildly, capable of kindness & care & harm & secrets & for at least one of the people in the book, murder.
Famous writer & personality Aarav Rai is recovering from surgery at his father’s home when he receives word that human remains have been found in a Jaguar car in a forest & all signs indicate that they are those of Nina Rai—Aarav’s tempestuous & also, as he says, loving mother who disappeared 10 years ago.
Aarav is determined to solve her murder & summarily continues watching neighborhood going-ons from his window, interviewing the same neighbors who lived amongst them 10 years ago, & trying to piece together his own memories.
A carousel of suspects offer themselves up to Aarav & the reader, including his toxic father. The tension is high, the paranoia is sublime (unreliable narrator who also repeatedly refers to himself as a sociopath, anyone?), the Auckland imagery is atmospheric & used to great effect.
I have to say, while I generally stick to the HEA side of things this was great fun. In that uncomfortable, everyone-could-be-a-murderer kinda way.
4.5 ⭐️. Quiet in Her Bones releases on 02/23/21. Thanks to Berkley Publishing & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
Welcome to my blog tour stop for Denise Williams' How to Fail at Flirting! Read on for the blurb, my review, and a little about the author. Thanks for being here!
One daring to-do list and a crash course in flirtation turn a Type A overachiever’s world upside down.
When her flailing department lands on the university's chopping block, Professor Naya Turner’s friends convince her to shed her frumpy cardigan for an evening on the town. For one night her focus will stray from her demanding job and she’ll tackle a new kind of to-do list. When she meets a charming stranger in town on business, he presents the perfect opportunity to check off the items on her list. Let the guy buy her a drink. Check. Try something new. Check. A no-strings-attached hookup. Check…almost.
Jake makes her laugh and challenges Naya to rebuild her confidence, which was left toppled by her abusive ex-boyfriend. Soon she’s flirting with the chance at a more serious romantic relationship—except nothing can be that easy. The complicated strings around her dating Jake might destroy her career.
Naya has two options. She can protect her professional reputation and return to her old life or she can flirt with the unknown and stay with the person who makes her feel like she's finally living again.
Denise Williams’ debut How to Fail at Flirting had me awash in feelings when I finished it in the early hours of Sunday. This shining book offers so much—from the quirkiness of its characters to its shrewd assessment of academia to its sexiness, its sensuality, & its sweetness.
Math education professor Dr. Naya Turner’s friends tell her her volume has been lower since her last relationship—a relationship which the reader learns was abusive. Her friends make a list of things they want her to do to bring back her more adventurous side, sparking her to start a convo with the guy next to her when her friends can’t show up to their proposed night out.
Jake is a “hot nerd” & they meet over & over again while he’s in town, each of them openly not revealing personal details to the other.
But Jake has a closer connection to Naya than either of them knows, a connection that raises her stress as people discuss the worth of her department & her non-tenured position is considered possibly dispensable.
How to Fail at Flirting is smart & bold & adorkable. It turns out that while virtual school math has me all I enjoy it very much when the heroine & hero have an appreciation of numbers. I love a professor heroine, especially one who jokes with a hero about the sexy appeal of an empty email inbox.
The book’s observations about academia feel astute & also true to my own experience as a grad student & there’s a scene where one of the leads wants to take care of the other one during a bout with illness which I know is catnip for some of us.
Before you proceed with this one, know that past abuse is a not small part of the storyline, and that the ex in question does make a violent re-appearance in the story.
Also there’s a twist in here that might bother some. I thought it was handled well but wanted to mention it...very vaguely ;) .
This is one of those romances with two really nice people & I was rooting for their happiness, for everything to work out, for them to be together forever, & my heart really enjoyed the experience. I’m really looking forward to seeing what Denise Williams writes next!
4 ⭐️. How to Fail at Flirting is out now. Thanks to Berkley Publishing & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
About the Author
Denise Williams wrote her first book in the 2nd grade. I Hate You and its sequel, I Still Hate You, featured a tough, funny heroine, a quirky hero, witty banter, and a dragon. Minus the dragons, these are still the books she likes to write. After penning those early works, she finished second grade and eventually earned a PhD in education, going on to work in higher education. After growing up a military brat around the world and across the country, Denise now lives in Des Moines, Iowa with her husband, son, and two ornery shih-tzus who think they own the house.
Author photo © D&orfs Photography 2019
Thanks for joining me on my stop! You can read more of my romance reviews here or by following me on Instagram. Hope to see you again soon!
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