Book Review

Book Review: Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

“My land tells its story if you listen. The story of our family.”
Texas, 1921. A time of abundance. The Great War is over, the bounty of the land is plentiful, and America is on the brink of a new and optimistic era. But for Elsa Wolcott, deemed too old to marry in a time when marriage is a woman’s only option, the future seems bleak. Until the night she meets Rafe Martinelli and decides to change the direction of her life. With her reputation in ruin, there is only one respectable choice: marriage to a man she barely knows.
By 1934, the world has changed; millions are out of work and drought has devastated the Great Plains. Farmers are fighting to keep their land and their livelihoods as crops fail and water dries up and the earth cracks open. Dust storms roll relentlessly across the plains. Everything on the Martinelli farm is dying, including Elsa’s tenuous marriage; each day is a desperate battle against nature and a fight to keep her children alive.
In this uncertain and perilous time, Elsa―like so many of her neighbors―must make an agonizing choice: fight for the land she loves or leave it behind and go west, to California, in search of a better life for her family.
The Four Winds is a rich, sweeping novel that stunningly brings to life the Great Depression and the people who lived through it―the harsh realities that divided us as a nation and the enduring battle between the haves and the have-nots. A testament to hope, resilience, and the strength of the human spirit to survive adversity, The Four Winds is an indelible portrait of America and the American dream, as seen through the eyes of one indomitable woman whose courage and sacrifice will come to define a generation.

I don’t read a lot of literary fiction. I tend to stick to the genres I really enjoy, but there are plenty of times that I branch out into what’s really popular. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when I picked up Four Winds. I’ve seen Kristen Hannah’s work out there for quite a while, but I’d never read her stuff before.

Set in Texas during the dust bowl and great depression, this is a story of resilience, trauma, and finding your voice.

At first, I wasn’t sure that I was going to like this one. I felt like I was so different from the main character. On the outside, she seemed like a meek woman who only ever sough other people’s approval. On the inside, she was a warrior.

One of the main reasons I don’t read a lot of literary fiction is because they’re either plot driven or so far from the characters that I don’t like it. I enjoy character driven stories. I want to feel the things the character does: their wants, their needs, what they’re going through. I absolutely felt that here in Four Winds. The story switches between the perspectives of Elsa, a young woman raised to believe she wasn’t worth anything, and her daughter, Loreda, who was raised to dream and to dare. Both are women who have been through very difficult things. They have strong voices that make you want to keep turning the page.

Four Winds really is a wonderful book. It’s a tale of two women, two sides of the same coin, and how they persevere through the hardest times. But, they persevere. I even got a little teary-eyed at the end.

I’m still looking for the book that’s going to make me sob. If you’ve got recommendations, toss ’em my way!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Thanks for reading,

Book Review

Book Review: Hang the Moon by Alexandria Bellefleur

In a delightful follow-up to Written in the Stars, Alexandria Bellefleur delivers another #ownvoices queer rom-com about a hopeless romantic who vows to show his childhood crush that romance isn’t dead by recreating iconic dates from his favorite films…

Brendon Lowell loves love. It’s why he created a dating app to help people find their one true pairing and why he’s convinced “the one” is out there, even if he hasn’t met her yet. Or… has he? When his sister’s best friend turns up in Seattle unexpectedly, Brendon jumps at the chance to hang out with her. He’s crushed on Annie since they were kids, and the stars have finally aligned, putting them in the same city at the same time.

Annie booked a spur-of-the-moment trip to Seattle to spend time with friends before moving across the globe. She’s not looking for love, especially with her best friend’s brother. Annie remembers Brendon as a sweet, dorky kid. Except, the 6-foot-4 man who shows up at her door is a certified Hot Nerd and Annie… wants him? Oh yes.

Getting involved would be a terrible idea—her stay is temporary and he wants forever—but when Brendon learns Annie has given up on dating, he’s determined to prove that romance is real. Taking cues from his favorite rom-coms, Brendon plans to woo her with elaborate dates straight out of Nora Ephron’s playbook. The clock is ticking on Annie’s time in Seattle, and Brendon’s starting to realize romance isn’t just flowers and chocolate. But maybe real love doesn’t need to be as perfect as the movies… as long as you think your partner hung the moon.

So, I loved Written in the Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur. It is a sapphic retelling of Pride & Prejudice full of some of the most fun tropes in romance. Enemies to Lovers? Check! Fake dating? Check! Cheekily named characters that are straight from classic literature? Check!

I love Bellefleur’s writing style and how each and every single one of her characters has a unique voice. After I finished Written in the Stars, I learned that she was publishing Hang the Moon, a sort of sequel. It involves the same characters, but it’s actually Darcy’s brother’s love story.

Firstly, I’d love to point out that Bellefleur’s LGBT+ representation is always spot on! Annie is a bisexual woman, and one thing we tend to see in stories where a bisexual (pansexual, etc.) character is in a hetero-passing relationship, so essentially their sexuality is erased. That is not the case in Hang the Moon! Annie is an openly queer woman who just so happens to like a CIS-het white male character.

Secondly, Bellefleur has such a fresh voice and take on typical romance tropes. She basically took the plot of The Taming of the Shrew but made it romantic. Where 10 Things I Hate About You was all about making bets and stuff in order to woo the closed off seemingly-bitter in love character, Hang the Moon frames Brendan’s attempts to convince Annie that love is worth it by actually showing her love and affection. Brendan is a hopeless romantic, and it is so refreshing to see a male character in a romance novel who believes in love and grand gestures and all of that.

By the time I got to the steamy bits, I was madly in love with both of these characters. Yet again, Bellefleur has knocked it out of the park. If you’re looking for a wonderful contemporary romance, this is definitely a must read!

The third novel in this series, Count Your Lucky Stars releases in February of 2022, and stars yet another member of this friend group–Margot! I can’t wait to read it!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Thanks for reading,

Book Review

Book Review: These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling

Hannah’s a witch, but not the kind you’re thinking of. She’s the real deal, an Elemental with the power to control fire, earth, water, and air. But even though she lives in Salem, Massachusetts, her magic is a secret she has to keep to herself. If she’s ever caught using it in front of a Reg (read: non-witch), she could lose it. For good. So, Hannah spends most of her time avoiding her ex-girlfriend (and fellow Elemental Witch) Veronica, hanging out with her best friend, and working at the Fly by Night Cauldron selling candles and crystals to tourists, goths, and local Wiccans.

But dealing with her ex is the least of Hannah’s concerns when a terrifying blood ritual interrupts the end-of-school-year bonfire. Evidence of dark magic begins to appear all over Salem, and Hannah’s sure it’s the work of a deadly Blood Witch. The issue is, her coven is less than convinced, forcing Hannah to team up with the last person she wants to see: Veronica.

While the pair attempt to smoke out the Blood Witch at a house party, Hannah meets Morgan, a cute new ballerina in town. But trying to date amid a supernatural crisis is easier said than done, and Hannah will have to test the limits of her power if she’s going to save her coven and get the girl, especially when the attacks on Salem’s witches become deadlier by the day.

Isabel Sterling’s delightful, suspenseful debut is equal parts sweet romance and thrilling mystery. With everything she loves on the line, Hannah must confront this murderous villain before her coven–and any chance she has with the new girl–is destroyed.

One of my favorite things in the entire world is witches. I was raised watching Charmed and being obsessed with the Salem Witch Trials. I think that The Covenant is one of the most underrated films of all time. One of the series I’m working on is centered on witches in New Orleans. So, to no one’s surprise, when These Witches Don’t Burn crossed my social feed, I just had to get my hands on it.

The witches were what got my attention, but the LGBT+ elements were what made me know I had to read it. There are so few LGBT+ YA novels out there that don’t center on coming out. I know that coming out is really important to capture, especially for young adults that don’t quite know where they stand on the LGBT spectrum. However, it’s refreshing when that isn’t the main story.

These Witches Don’t Burn is a refreshing story about Hannah, a young witch fresh out of a breakup with her first girlfriend, on the cusp of adulthood. Mix in mysterious elements like Blood Witches and Witch Hunters, magical powers, new love, and exploring a world in which you have to hide your magic, I was sold.

Because I read so much, the twist didn’t really surprise me, but I was pleasantly surprised by who the true villain was.

I won’t give a lot of plot away, but just know that this story has a lot of heart. It is the first in a series, and I really enjoyed reading it. I haven’t been reading a lot of YA lately, so this was a refreshing read. If you’re looking for something with positive LGBT+ representation and a lot of magic, definitely be sure to check this one out!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Thanks for reading,

Book Review

April Book Reviews

I didn’t get to read nearly as much in April as I did in the prior three months, but there’s a good reason! During the month of April, we went on our writer’s retreat and have knocked out almost the entire zero draft of the sequel to Guns & Smoke!

Queen of Nothing by Holly Black

I’ve heard a lot of praise for Holly Black’s Cruel Prince series. For a lot of people, it is the slow burn enemies to lovers story, and I completely see that.

I enjoyed the first two books, but I wasn’t sucked into them wanting to know exactly what was going to happen next. I finally figured out why whenever I started reading Queen of Nothing: Jude had emotions.

In Cruel Prince and Wicked King, Jude was kind of an unlikeable character. She was so intense all of the time, and the only time we saw her break down was when she was around Cardan. Because Cardan made her feel things.

I loved Queen of Nothing. My only complaint is that it was Young Adult. I really wanted to see this story but in the Adult genre, because there’s just something about the tension, the anger, the hatred, the attraction… Yeah. Give me a slow burn, but make me want it so bad by the end of it. Because of the YA constraints, I was slightly disappointed, but it was great as a YA novel.

All in all, if you’re looking for a good story with a really well done world, interesting protagonists (and villians), definitely check out this series! I haven’t read anything from Holly except for this, but I would definitely return to read more.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Seabird by Shawna Barnett

I received an ARC of Seabird through TikTok. This was pitched as the prequel to a sapphic pirate romance story, so I was immediately in!

Given that it’s a prequel novella, I knew that it wouldnt be a super long story but I found myself wanting more! The main character left me with a lot of questions about what’s to come in Windfall later this year.

Seabird was definitely a sweet discovery story for a young woman who is trying to figure out who she is in a world that she doesn’t fit in. There were a lot of details in the story about the main character that hinted at what I believe the bigger series will be about. Liana experienced an unexpected whirlwind romance over a summer when she was free and young. Though the climax of the story and the ending happened very suddenly, I feel as though there is a lot more to the story. I will definitely be checking out Windfall. I need all of the sapphic stories. F/F romance and pirates? Heck. Yes!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Flames of Chaos by Amelia Hutchins

I heard that Flames of Chaos was the next good read in the Dark Fantasy genre. Folks said it was better than Den of Vipers (as far as all of the consent stuff) and a really well done story.

I DNF’d at 33%.

First. There were tons of rapey consent issues. Secondly, it was all showing and no telling. I want to read about magic and mayhem and the steamy stuff. And yet… “I whispered a spell.” What’s the spell?

The first time she sees the love interest, she itches. You’re not supposed to itch when you meet the love interest. Just my thoughts.

Anyway, I’m tired of reading problematic books. And I’m going to continue writing consent in all of my own. Consent is important. Consent is sexy.

Rating: 0.5 out of 5.

I spent a good part of the month beta reading a manuscript for a friend on TikTok, which is why my number was low this month. But! She really appreciated my feedback and that made not getting to read as much worth it. 🙂

Happy May, y’all!