February Bookish wrap

I’ve had to adjust my Goodreads 2022 challenge total a few times. I started with my usual 15 books. Something I started back when my son was a baby, and I knew I wouldn’t have much time to sit and read (at least, not do so at the expense of sleep). I figured roughly a little more than a book a month was a good, realistic goal.

Last year, I read 37 books and listened to five audiobooks. Seemed like a fluke I doubled my book count goal – because, pandemic life. Sports were still kind of abbreviated, and all games/meets/matches were more local. By the end of February, I’ve read 20 books. So, currently, my goal is 50 for 2022. But we’ll see if time stays on my side, and I can keep eating up all the books on my TBR list… I may just have to adjust it again.

February’s Bookish wrap consists of 8 books (Honorable mention of Book 9: The Becoming by Nora Roberts, the second book in the Dragon Heart Legacy Series. I don’t have a review posted anywhere of book 1, and you need book 1 before book 2!).

Witches Get Stitches by Juliette Cross Violet Savoie has a plan. A dream, rather. To open her own tattoo shop, which caters to supernaturals in need of permanent charms. As a powerful Seer, she has the potent magic to cast every kind of spell. Except the kind to give werewolves control over their beastly side. And her business partner Nico needs help in the worst kind of way.

Nico Cruz has a secret. A motive, rather. To subtly stalk and seduce Violet until she finally recognizes they are fated to be together. Ever since their heated encounter in Austin on New Year’s Eve two years earlier, he’s been dying to get his hands—and his tongue—back on her body. He knows a woman like Violet can’t be courted in the usual way. Luckily, Nico has no scruples about misbehaving to get what he wants.

But when his former pack roams into town, and an old friend is far too interested in Violet, his focus shifts to the threat venturing into his territory. Nico may come across as the quiet, broody one, but the intruders are about to regret stepping foot in New Orleans.

Review: I won’t lie, I wondered if I was wasting my time going for the 3rd in the Stay a Spell series. The second book had none of the magic of the first. Welp, this one got it back. I’m not sure if it’s how Cross writes werewolves, or not, but I’m definitely not taking it out of the running. Even the biggest, baddest dog has something that it turns into a lump of squishy goo over. Werewolves are no exception. In Cross’s world, werewolves were created by a curse from a witch, passed down to the males in the bloodlines. They live on the fringes, shunned by the other supernatural beings. They’ve needed to use force to get even the basic needs in life. They feel deeply too. They don’t wan to lose control, they just want to live, and not fight their aggressive, violent wolf-side day in and day out. Violet wants to help, despite other witches wanting to keep them locked out. Her sisters are on board too (naturally… helping the wolves helps Mateo from book one, and Nico in this one). Violet was quirky, determined, and independent. She knows what she wants and she’s not afraid to work for it. Nico is a steady, but wounded soul after he uncontrollably shifted and attacked a pack member. All in all, I enjoyed this one as much as the first! (4 stars)

The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley When Eva’s film star sister Katrina dies, she leaves California and returns to Cornwall, where they spent their childhood summers, to scatter Katrina’s ashes and in doing so return her to the place where she belongs. But Eva must also confront the ghosts from her own past, as well as those from a time long before her own. For the house where she so often stayed as a child is home not only to her old friends the Halletts, but also to the people who had lived there in the eighteenth century. When Eva finally accepts that she is able to slip between centuries and see and talk to the inhabitants from hundreds of years ago, she soon finds herself falling for Daniel Butler, a man who lived – and died – long before she herself was born. Eva begins to question her place in the present, and in laying her sister to rest, comes to realise that she too must decide where she really belongs, choosing between the life she knows and the past she feels so drawn towards.

Review: Kearsley blends the time of past and present well. However, this one, the story moves really fast. In doing so, it feels jumpy/jagged a bit. Like it left out parts that could have made the story more whole. The characters were well developed, and felt dimensional, not flat. I liked that Kearsley touched on Eva’s struggles with the possibility of losing her present day freedoms if she chose to stay in the past. In other books of time travel, it seems to be something other authors glaze over with female leads. (3.5 stars)

Bringing Down the Duke by Evie DunmoreEngland, 1879. Annabelle Archer, the brilliant but destitute daughter of a country vicar, has earned herself a place among the first cohort of female students at the renowned University of Oxford. In return for her scholarship, she must support the rising women’s suffrage movement. Her charge: recruit men of influence to champion their cause. Her target: Sebastian Devereux, the cold and calculating Duke of Montgomery who steers Britain’s politics at the Queen’s command. Her challenge: not to give in to the powerful attraction she can’t deny for the man who opposes everything she stands for.

Sebastian is appalled to find a suffragist squad has infiltrated his ducal home, but the real threat is his impossible feelings for green-eyed beauty Annabelle. He is looking for a wife of equal standing to secure the legacy he has worked so hard to rebuild, not an outspoken commoner who could never be his duchess. But he wouldn’t be the greatest strategist of the Kingdom if he couldn’t claim this alluring bluestocking without the promise of a ring… or could he?

Review: I saw a lot of reviews where the reader felt put off by the love story in the middle of a book about a suffragist movement. When actually, it works. Because let’s face it, people fall in love every day. What Dunmore did here was craft a story involving Annabelle’s part in the Married Woman’s Property Act protests, becoming part of the first group of women allowed to be educated at Oxford, etc – and how Annabelle struggles with how her feelings collide with it all. How she can’t give herself up to that, lose herself, her identity, become property, etc. She lost her parents and has become a ward of her uncle. She cannot do anything, despite being a grown woman, without his explicit permission. There’s a part of her past in which she was “sullied” and cast aside. A lot of turmoil goes on within Annabelle during this story that I feel a lot of people overlooked, focusing solely on the suffragist topic. I don’t think Dunmore meant for that part to be the forefront, but more of the background story. Annabelle is the forefront story, and it’s a well done one at that. (4 stars)

Portrait of a Scotsman by Evie Dunmore London banking heiress Hattie Greenfield wanted “just” three things in life:

1. Acclaim as an artist.
2. A noble cause.
3. Marriage to a young lord who puts the gentle in gentleman.

Why then does this Oxford scholar find herself at the altar with the darkly attractive financier Lucian Blackstone, whose murky past and ruthless business practices strike fear in the hearts of Britain’s peerage? Trust Hattie to take an invigorating little adventure too far. Now she’s stuck with a churlish Scot who just might be the end of her ambitions….

When the daughter of his business rival all but falls into his lap, Lucian sees opportunity. As a self-made man, he has vast wealth but holds little power, and Hattie might be the key to finally setting long-harbored political plans in motion. Driven by an old revenge, he has no room for his new wife’s apprehensions or romantic notions, bewitching as he finds her.

But a sudden journey to Scotland paints everything in a different light. Hattie slowly sees the real Lucian and realizes she could win everything—as long as she is prepared to lose her heart.

Review: Technically the 3rd in the series, but I couldn’t locate the second, so I jumped into this one (they can be read as stand alones!) Hattie is a part of the suffragist group at Oxford with Annabelle, Lucie, and Catriona. She’s the daughter of a well-to-do banker, but has zero interest in banking, as she gets her numbers mixed up. She loves art, and painting. And she has dreams of her future – not one of those dreams involves being in an arranged marriage. Unfortunately, that’s not her luck. Or so it seems. This one was sort of like Annabelle’s story, with Hattie struggling to hold onto herself, and stay true to her beliefs and dreams. It’s also about things not being what they seem, and everyone has a story. How they became who they are, or why. Hattie’s eyes open up to a whole new world, and a whole new fight she wants to be a part of. (4 stars)

The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels by India Holton A prim and proper lady thief must save her aunt from a crazed pirate and his dangerously charming henchman in this fantastical historical romance.

Cecilia Bassingwaite is the ideal Victorian lady. She’s also a thief. Like the other members of the Wisteria Society crime sorority, she flies around England drinking tea, blackmailing friends, and acquiring treasure by interesting means. Sure, she has a dark and traumatic past and an overbearing aunt, but all things considered, it’s a pleasant existence. Until the men show up.

Ned Lightbourne is a sometimes assassin who is smitten with Cecilia from the moment they meet. Unfortunately, that happens to be while he’s under direct orders to kill her. His employer, Captain Morvath, who possesses a gothic abbey bristling with cannons and an unbridled hate for the world, intends to rid England of all its presumptuous women, starting with the Wisteria Society. Ned has plans of his own. But both men have made one grave mistake. Never underestimate a woman.

When Morvath imperils the Wisteria Society, Cecilia is forced to team up with her handsome would-be assassin to save the women who raised her–hopefully proving, once and for all, that she’s as much of a scoundrel as the rest of them.

Review: An incredibly fun, witty take on pirates (sailing houses!). Quirky, hilarious dialog, and scene play (yes, play). At times, I felt like I was really in the midst of it all, watching the characters volley words while fighting, smelling the cannon smoke, hearing the whip of the pirate flags in the wind atop the houses. Holton created a fun world, with spledid characters here. (4 stars)

House of Sky and Breath/Crescent City #2 by Sarah J. Maas Bryce Quinlan and Hunt Athalar are trying to get back to normal―they may have saved Crescent City, but with so much upheaval in their lives lately, they mostly want a chance to relax. Slow down. Figure out what the future holds.

The Asteri have kept their word so far, leaving Bryce and Hunt alone. But with the rebels chipping away at the Asteri’s power, the threat the rulers pose is growing. As Bryce, Hunt, and their friends get pulled into the rebels’ plans, the choice becomes clear: stay silent while others are oppressed, or fight for what’s right. And they’ve never been very good at staying silent.

Review: I may not be aboard the Maas YA book train fandom, but I am certainly here for her works in the adult realm. HOSAB did NOT disappoint. This is a hard one to review without giving spoilers to those whom haven’t read it yet, but, oh boy. Be prepared for more secrets, drama & suspense, thinking you know – but finding out you really do not know. It’s definitely action packed, and there’s only a few “lows”/dips in that action over the span of this behemoth of a book. Of course there’s more of Bryce and Hunt’s relationship as it grows deeper. We get more of Ruhn’s story, and jabs us right in the heart as we do. Even Tharion gets some big development as a staple character in the story. Giant cliff hanger at the end, so be ready. You’re not expecting THAT turn. (5 stars)

I’ll Be Your Blue Sky by Marisa de los Santos — On the weekend of her wedding, Clare Hobbes meets an elderly woman named Edith Herron. During the course of a single conversation, Edith gives Clare the courage to do what she should have done months earlier: break off her engagement to her charming, yet overly possessive, fiancé.

Three weeks later, Clare learns that Edith has died—and has given her another gift. Nestled in crepe myrtle and hydrangea and perched at the marshy edge of a bay in a small seaside town in Delaware, Blue Sky House now belongs to Clare. Though the former guest house has been empty for years, Clare feels a deep connection to Edith inside its walls, which are decorated with old photographs taken by Edith and her beloved husband, Joseph.

Exploring the house, Clare finds two mysterious ledgers hidden beneath the kitchen sink. Edith, it seems, was no ordinary woman—and Blue Sky House no ordinary place. With the help of her mother, Viviana, her surrogate mother, Cornelia Brown, and her former boyfriend and best friend, Dev Tremain, Clare begins to piece together the story of Blue Sky House—a decades-old mystery more complex and tangled than she could have imagined. As she peels back the layers of Edith’s life, Clare discovers a story of dark secrets, passionate love, heartbreaking sacrifice, and incredible courage. She also makes startling discoveries about herself: where she’s come from, where she’s going, and what—and who—she loves.

Shifting between the 1950s and the present and told in the alternating voices of Edith and Clare, I’ll Be Your Blue Sky is vintage Marisa de los Santos—an emotionally evocative novel that probes the deepest recesses of the human heart and illuminates the tender connections that bind our lives.

Review: An emotional ride right from the beginning when Clare is talking about her pending nuptials with Zach. You feel it in your heart as she works to free herself, and to stay free of him after she calls the wedding off. de los Santos crafted her characters in this story, even the ones you don’t like, with care. A beautiful journey of two women, in two different stories, overcoming, learning their hearts, and living. (4 stars)

Anatomy: A Love Story by Dana Schwartz Edinburgh, 1817. Hazel Sinnett is a lady who wants to be a surgeon more than she wants to marry.

Jack Currer is a resurrection man who’s just trying to survive in a city where it’s too easy to die.

When the two of them have a chance encounter outside the Edinburgh Anatomist’s Society, Hazel thinks nothing of it at first. But after she gets kicked out of renowned surgeon Dr. Beecham’s lectures for being the wrong gender, she realizes that her new acquaintance might be more helpful than she first thought. Because Hazel has made a deal with Dr. Beecham: if she can pass the medical examination on her own, the university will allow her to enroll. Without official lessons, though, Hazel will need more than just her books – she’ll need bodies to study, corpses to dissect.

Lucky that she’s made the acquaintance of someone who digs them up for a living, then.

But Jack has his own problems: strange men have been seen skulking around cemeteries, his friends are disappearing off the streets. Hazel and Jack work together to uncover the secrets buried not just in unmarked graves, but in the very heart of Edinburgh society.

Review: Very slow going. Even when it does pick up towards the end, it lacks excitement and draw. Found myself putting it down, and having no true desire to come back to it to finish it. Shortest book so far that I’ve read in 2022, but it has taken me the longest to read. Characters were dull, and felt like they were just sort of haphazardly there. Nothing really seemed to click or work. A lot of missed opportunities here. (1.5 stars)

Got a book to recommend? Drop it in the comments below! Or find me at Twitter or on Instagram and shoot me a message.

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Mother. Photographer. Writer. Founder of Fit Fridays for Mental Health. Former powerlifter turned weightlifter. Coach & Nutritionist. Spondy/PCOS/Endo. Bully breed advocate.

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