oceanwriter's reviews
524 reviews

The Royal Librarian by Daisy Wood

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emotional informative reflective medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

3.75

This is the second book by Daisy Wood I’ve read and it had all of the charm I remember from the first. With both an intriguing plot and lovable characters, it’s a lovely read. 
 
After their parents are killed, sisters Hanna and Sophie are separated. Sophie is taken to America while Hanna is sent to Windsor Castle where she is tasked with translating letters. In modern-day Philadelphia, Lacey comes across her grandmother’s papers and sets out to discover her past. 
 
I used to enjoy past and present timelines but lately, I haven’t been enjoying them as much. It was done well here and both parts of the plot flow together well, so it totally comes down to a preference thing for me. I loved the setting and history surrounding King Edward. I’m not well-versed in British Royalty, so this was a new one for me. 
 
A huge thanks to Harper360 for sending me a free ARC of the book! 

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The Wealth of Shadows: A Novel by Graham Moore

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adventurous informative mysterious tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? No

2.0

I’m going to jump straight into this review and ask the question I’ve been asking myself from page one: Why is a book set in 1939 opening with a quote about Bitcoin? On the one hand, I understand it. The book has a focus on money, knowledge, power, wealth, etc. and that could be an attempt at a modern perspective. On the other, it set a tone of confusion that I didn’t shake, especially with continued quotes that sometimes only slightly correlated with the chapter it was opening. 
 
Ansel Luxford, a tax attorney, fears the worst for Germany at the close of the 1930s. At this point in time, America is neutral in the conflict and in foreign affairs, yet Ansel finds himself being called up to join a Washington underground team to fight the Nazis. Instead of using weapons, they play to the economy, or, ‘economic warfare’. 
 
The concept? Unique and I’m sure intriguing to some. Unfortunately, I discovered while reading that I don’t have much interest in economics. It was a new perspective on the war for me, though, so that was a big takeaway. 
 
Thanks to NetGalley and Random House for providing me with a free digital ARC of the book! 

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A Thousand Sisters: The Heroic Airwomen of the Soviet Union in World War II by Elizabeth Wein

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adventurous informative inspiring fast-paced

3.0

I'm a huge fan of Elizabeth Wein's fiction books and I've been looking forward to reading this nonfiction work of hers. 

The charm I've come to love from this author was surely there, however, for a nonfiction book, I felt like so much was missing and that there was a lack of cohesion. I had trouble keeping up with which woman of the prominent three featured was being discussed as the narration jumped back and forth between them with little rhyme or reason. The book was short, too, and I managed it in one sitting. I would have loved a lengthier dive into such a fascinating area of history.

Elizabeth Wein's passion for the subject is evident and makes for an enjoyable read, but ultimately, I felt like I hadn't learned as much on the topic as I would have from a couple of Google searches. I would love to see her make a novel adaption showing the live of these brave ladies. 

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Mercury by Amy Jo Burns

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emotional hopeful reflective sad medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.5

I have been striving to find a quiet yet thought-provoking work of literary fiction ever since finishing Dirt Music last year. Mercury hit all the points I was hoping for and more. 
 
Marley is a newcomer in the small town of Mercury. Before long, she is involved with the Joseph family. Having been raised by only her mother and longing for the experience of a full family, she tries to make a place for herself at their table. She becomes Waylon’s wife, Mick and Elise’s daughter-in-law, Shay and Baylor’s sister-in-law, and Theo’s mother. Instead of finding the stability of a family, she is thrust into a life of secrets and pretense. What does it mean it be a Joseph? 
 
Though the book is quite eventful, it’s told in a quiet and calculated way. We get a good glimpse of all of the characters, granted, some more than others. Each ends up with their own perceptions of certain events and relationships that all weave together by the end of the story. 
 
Shay had my heart throughout so much of the book, but toward the end found myself completely latched onto Baylor. Marley was a strong protagonist, too, and her dominant point of view was strong. I enjoyed the subtle (and some less subtle) effects of complex family trauma and the characters navigating their dysfunctional family unit. I do feel like there were a few matters that fell by the wayside and never got resolved, but it didn’t hinder the overall story. 

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Happiness Falls by Angie Kim

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emotional informative mysterious reflective medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.75

I was super drawn to books about Asian American families last year and this fit the bill perfectly. It turned out to be even more than I’d expected featuring a non-verbal autistic character. I have twin cousins similar to Eugene, so it was like getting a closer glimpse into what a day might look like from their perspective. 
 
When Adam Parson doesn’t come home with his son, Eugene, his family desperately searches for answers. It seems as though only Eugene has the answer, but given he doesn’t speak, his mother, siblings, and the detective working on the case can’t hear his side of the story. Unfortunately, given Eugene’s history of outbursts along with some scattered bits of evidence, he is made a suspect. 
 
The story is narrated by Mia, Eugene’s older sister. She helps to decode her father’s journal which is the family’s best lead they have to finding out what happened. In their findings, several different scenarios are compiled. 
 
I was more interested in Eugene’s storyline than I was in the overall mystery, though it did have its intriguing moments. Though ultimately important to the plot, I grew bored whenever there were readings from Adam’s journal. Some parts of the story felt unnecessary while others felt unresolved, but for the most part, I had a good time reading. 

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Gothikana by RuNyx

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Did not finish book. Stopped at 2%.
Not liking the witchy vibes.
Bright Young Women by Jessica Knoll

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Did not finish book. Stopped at 24%.
I want to be into it, but I just can’t get into the sorority scene even when it’s based on a true story. 

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The Secret Book of Flora Lea by Patti Callahan Henry

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adventurous emotional hopeful mysterious medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

3.75

I blindly picked up this book only knowing it was historical fiction. I’d read Once Upon A Wardrobe by Patti Callahan Henry a while back and enjoyed it, so when this came up as a Book of the Month pick last year, I selected it without even glancing at the synopsis. 
 
Like many children living in London during World War II, Hazel and Flora are sent to the country away. The girls spend their days lost in stories about the ‘Whisperwood’ to distract themselves from the horrors of war — a secret story only the two of them know. Despite having been taken in by a loving mother and her son, a different tragedy hits their family when Flora disappears. 
 
Years later and into adulthood, Hazel still holds out hope that her little sister will be found. She doesn’t believe her sister drowned as many speculate. When she comes across a book at work depicting the 'Whisperwood', she is certain it will lead her to Flora. 
 
Paired with the rich historical setting, the mystery is one I found myself so invested in that I listened to/read it in one sitting. Despite wanting to know how everything works out immediately, I didn’t find myself wholly invested in the characters. I’m not sure why. They were all likable and even though there were some dark themes running through it, there was ultimately a cozy atmosphere. Whatever the case, it was still a sweet book. 

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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

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challenging emotional informative inspiring reflective sad medium-paced

4.75

Thanks to random YouTube rabbit holes, I was somewhat familiar with Henrietta Lacks and HeLa cells going into this book. Had I realized there was a book at the time, I would have read this a lot sooner. 
 
The book discusses Henrietta Lacks’ life and death, the discovery of her extraordinary cells, the controversy surrounding the acquisition of those cells, and the author’s quest to make this woman known to the world. There’s also a great deal of focus on Henrietta’s children and the impact of her death and legacy on them. 
 
There’s a great mix of science and emotional family history. I do wish that the book had separated these things more, maybe telling Henrietta’s life all in one section before moving on to the author’s pursuit of her story (or vice versa). As it is, the first section of the book is back and forth from past to present. Thankfully, it smoothes out as the book goes on and the focus shifts to the present and her living children. 
 
Fascinating stuff here. It’s mind-blowing to me that anyone reading the book could access these cells at the click of a button. It breaks my heart that her family didn’t receive any of the revenue, especially when they had their own medical bills to pay. Even without the discovery of HeLa cells, their family story is one to be told. 

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The Third Wife of Faraday House by B.R. Myers

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dark funny mysterious medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.75

The summary of this book gave me Daphne Du Maurier vibes right off the bat. A gothic mansion secluded when the tide comes in and wives dying under suspicious circumstances? Yes, please! 
 
Fearing she’s on the verge of a scandal, Emeline is sent away by her guardians to wed the twice-widowed Captain Graves. Though reluctant, she devises a plan to leave Halifax for good to be with her true love Frederick, a lieutenant in the Navy. Captain Graves’ private peninsula will be the perfect place to watch and wait for Frederick’s ship. 
 
To her surprise, she arrives at the mansion to discover that the second Mrs. Graves has not yet passed, nor is she ailing from what she’d been told. She’s relieved to have some more time to wait for her rescue but soon grows suspicious of Georgina’s illness and wonders if she’s in danger herself. 
 
The tone of this book lies somewhere between gothic and cozy mystery. Emeline’s personality grated on me, though still found her likable. That’s pretty much how I feel about the book as a whole. I liked a lot of it and had an enjoyable time reading it, but what I enjoyed didn’t fully make up for where it lacked. There was not a lot of characterization, in turn, Emeline’s relationships with the other characters fell flat. I was particularly confused by the ending. She sets out a plan for her future in one scene and then abandons it in the next with no further reference. The element of romance also felt forced. The mystery was intriguing enough that love interests did more interrupting than building upon the plot. 
 
My issues aside, I did have a good time reading and often lost track of time when I picked it up. I’m not a fan of supernatural elements in books, but for some reason, I didn’t mind it so much in the context of this plot. I’m curious to read more from this author. 
 
Thanks to NetGalley and William Morrow for providing me with a free digital ARC of the book! 

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