November Book Reviews, Part I

My 60-book Autumn Reading Challenge is rolling along. As I hunker down at home, I’ve upped my total of reviewed books to 34.

November’s Part I book reviews includes my  4 and 5 star reads of fantasy, sci-fi, poetry, women’s lit, and two memoirs! I hope you enjoy the browse.

Click on the covers for Amazon global links.

*****

A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzie Lee

I picked up this book because I’d heard it’s wonderful (which it is). And as usual, I didn’t bother to browse the blurb, so I was surprised to find myself reading a love story. I’m not usually a fan of love stories, and yet I was enraptured by this beautiful and tender tale. Who knew? (Probably anyone who read the blurb, but that wasn’t me.)

Monty and Percy, and Monty’s sister Felicity, go on a “tour” of the Continent before Monty has to settle down and start a respectable life according to his father’s rigid standards. The tour ends up being a quest that involves highwaymen, pirates, sinking tombs, and magical hearts, but honestly, I didn’t care about the quest. Though peppered with vivid characters and clever dialog, the quest was just the backdrop to Monty’s and Percy’s unfolding love story. I wanted to hug them through most of the book, and Monty’s character arc is believable as well as emotionally riveting.

The writing is fabulous and full of droll humor. The first-person story is told from Monty’s pov. He’s a spoiled rich lord – witty and sarcastic and prone to exaggeration. His carefree life is falling apart, and his devil-may-care attitude is getting knocked out of him as he faces himself and his choices. His relationships with Percy and Felicity are perfectly expressed through exceptional dialog and the way the characters care for each other (despite their difficulties). Secondary characters are just as distinct and entertaining.

This is Book 1 in the Montague Siblings series, but can be read as a stand-alone novel. Highly recommended!

*****

The Emissary 3: Love Hurts by Marcia Meara

I really wondered how Meara was going to wrap up this series. At the end of book 2, Dodger receives permission from the Archangel Azrael to experience a loving relationship with a girl. But I just couldn’t imagine how it would work between a human and an immortal emissary of the angels. Well, silly me for being skeptical. The author pulls it off beautifully, though not at all how I expected. I was a teary mess.

This is a wonderful series with characters that I completely empathized with. They’re supremely human, emotional, and kind-hearted. Even scary old Azrael is enjoyable as he loosens up a little. Though there are problems to be overcome in the story, the main conflict centers on the challenge I posed above. The ending is brave, believable, and emotionally stunning.

The writing is tight, and the editing is flawless. The books in the Emissary series aren’t long, so they make for quick satisfying reads. I’d definitely recommend starting at the beginning of the series. A wonderful trilogy for readers who enjoy feel-good stories. 

*****

Lethal Impact: A Dragon Soul Press Anthology

This post-apocalyptic anthology includes 16 science-fiction tales by 15 authors. These stories border on novelettes, so there are plenty of pages for fabulous world building, rich characters, and interesting plots. What they have in common is the end of civilization as we know it and humans facing a dangerous world where survival requires a whole new set of skills. There are viruses, androids, steel forests, and vicious gangs. Add to that some cannibalism, zombies, and aliens. The stories are highly original and well-edited. My favorites were King’s Note, Eve’s Apple, Blood and Light, Assimilant 620-Singe, and A Little Less Conversation. Highly recommended for sci-fi readers and post-apocalyptic fans.

*****

Marriage Unarranged by Ritu Bhathal

This is a light, romantic jaunt from England to India and back again. When Aashi finds a used condom in her fiancé’s bathroom, the wedding is suddenly off. Her family is angry and embarrassed, but they support her decision. A trip to India, originally to purchase a wedding gown, becomes a vacation for Aashi and a chance to unwind and heal. Her two brothers and her best friend Karin go along.

The romantic story is fairly straightforward, and it unfolds at a leisurely pace. What held my attention was the story’s immersion in India’s rich culture and setting, specifically the bustling city of Delhi. The main characters are England born and raised, so the influences of their dual cultures were interesting to see played out, and the details of life in India were fascinating. Bhathal clearly incorporated a wealth of personal experience into the narrative.

The characters are all likeable, except for the cheating fiancé, though I felt a twinge of sympathy for him by the end. All in all, this story was about family, culture, self-esteem and independence, love and friendship. Recommended for readers of romance and women’s lit.

*****

The Wind Weeps by Anneli Purchase

The Wind Weeps starts off as a romance and gradually shifts to a tension-filled walk on the high-wire of domestic violence. Andrea is a naïve and insecure single woman who, despite warnings from her friends, rebounds after a very short relationship into the arms of a charming man with a dark side.

The story takes place in the Canadian Pacific Northwest, beautiful and rugged country where commercial fishermen make their livings. The author’s familiarity with the area and with the details of the industry lend an incredible amount of authenticity to the narrative. As Andrea’s life becomes geographically isolated, she falls into more and more danger. I was on the edge of my seat.

The plot moves along at a good clip once things get tense. The writing is polished with well-rounded, consistent, and interesting characters. I wanted to shake some sense into Andrea in the beginning, but was quickly caught up in her fearful situation and her determination to save herself. The book offers an honest look at domestic violence, including why women are sometimes slow to make a break. My only complaint would be the abrupt ending; however, the story continues with a second book: The Reckoning Tide. Recommended to readers who enjoy a mash up of romance and suspense and plan to read both books. 

*****

Words We Carry by D. G. Kaye

D. G. Kaye shares the true story of her growth from a child with poor self-esteem into a confident woman who changed her thinking, took responsibility for her relationships, and discovered happiness. Though she shares her personal experiences, many of her observations are common to other women, and there are lessons to be gleaned from her advice.

The book is divided into two sections: Appearance and Relationships. The focus of the appearance section is on boosting self-esteem by paying attention to physical appearance. It isn’t about being beautiful, but about feeling beautiful and investing energy into clothes, shoes, hair, and makeup that enhance a woman’s strengths and make her feel attractive. Chronic lazy dressers like me may not relate to Kaye’s love of shoes and big hair, but there’s a lot of humor in this section that kept me smiling.

Section Two, Relationships, was the most meaningful to me as it opened a discussion of the deeper issues that contribute to low self-esteem, as well as the vicious cycles that can lead to isolation, depression, and abuse. The author maintains that healthy self-esteem is essential to healthy relationships of all kinds. She provides strategies for evaluating relationships honestly, changing patterns, and taking control of choices.

Words We Carry is part memoir/part self-help. Recommended for women who are struggling with feelings of low self-esteem and want to make a positive change in their relationships and lives.

*****

Shorts: a take on poetry by Eric Daniel Clarke

As the title of Clarke’s anthology states, the poems in this vast collection are generally short in length and spare of words, drilling down to the essence of thought and experience. To me, the poetic style was one that frequently invited contemplation and interpretation. The poems range from a few lines to several stanzas, and in most cases, they explore the reality of relationships. My favorite poems were Life’s Lights, Promises, Called Your Name, and the heartbreaking poem Forgotten:

I don’t remember everything
dates and place escape me
moments spent with you
fade and forsake me too

Strange faces begin to haunt
with their smiles and tears
I still know I love you
ask of you one thing

When I don’t know you
all our years forgotten
I beg no regrets be free
let me forget to breathe

Recommended to poetry readers who enjoy a unique style and generous selection of poems. 

*****

My Gentle War by Joy Lennick

This memoir focuses primarily on the years 1939 through 1941 when the author was 9-11 years old, a child living in Wales with her younger brothers during WWII. The children were sent to Wales to escape the more dangerous areas around London.

This isn’t a harsh story. It’s a recounting of life from the perspective of a child and is, therefore, full of fun and imagination and resilience. There are “ear-wigging” glimpses into the adult world, news of the war, and letters from the author’s dad who was serving in France. The sad and confusing realities of war surely intrude on daily life, but the focus is on friends and relatives, memorable gatherings and events. There are new trousers, dance performances, and games of truth or dare!

Lennick’s writing is witty and conversational, and she includes a handful of poems commemorating particular memories. Perhaps my favorite part of the book was the brief jump ahead at the end to the conclusion of the war. The feeling of joy is palpable in the pages.

As Lennick concludes: “Oh the puzzling juxtaposition of every-day events, the ordinary, the extraordinary and the tragedies of life.” That sums up this book perfectly. Recommended for readers who enjoy memoirs of the war years.

*****

Happy Reading!

181 thoughts on “November Book Reviews, Part I

  1. Oh wow, there it is! Thanks for reading. I’m ever grateful for it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. […] I sign off, I wanted to share a link to Diana Peach’s blog MythsoftheMirror where she shared a great list of reviews for books she read in November. And I was thrilled to find […]

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Norah says:

    What a lovely selection of books, some I’ve even read. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. markbierman says:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on these books, Diana. While they all sound like great reads, it’s “My Gentle War” that has my interest.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sarah says:

    Every time I visit your blog my tbr list multiplies, Diana! 😁 Thank you! 😘

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow — what a great review of Debby’s book! I can’t wait to read it! And I feel like poetry has been making something of a comeback, which Shorts would seem to confirm. Great reviews, Diana — thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the visit, Sean. Debby’s book is primarily written for women (especially the first part about appearance), but the relationship aspects apply to everyone. And I seem to be reading a couple poetry books a month… expanding my consumption of different genres! Happy Reading, my friend. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Anand Kumar says:

    Great review. Books certainly sounds awsome. But I could not find paperback versions on amazon 😶☹️

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so sorry to hear that. I think that some of these are in paperback, but I’m not sure how Amazon distributes internationally. Thanks for taking a browse through the reviews and I hope you find some good reads wherever you are. 😀

      Like

  8. henhouselady says:

    Thank you for sharing your reviews. I spotted several interesting reads.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. […] November Book Reviews, Part I […]

    Liked by 1 person

  10. alexcraigie says:

    Like others here, some of these are in my Kindle, waiting. I really do need to set aside some time to get back to the reading I love, and then to remember to review afterwards. You set an excellent precedent here!

    Liked by 1 person

    • But my kindle isn’t getting much lighter. I can’t seem to stop buying books. Lol. I finished “Someone Close to Home” last night. OMG, what a page-turner! I should get the review done today. Wonderful writing!

      Liked by 1 person

      • alexcraigie says:

        Clicking the Like button seemed so inappropriate for what I’m actually feeling! Thank you so much. It’s cold, wet and grey here but I’m buzzing with bright happiness. Liars and Thieves is actually keyed in next in my Kindle and I was hoping to read it this weekend – that’s a definite now, and I know from what I’ve read by you, and what others have said about your writing, that I’m not going to be disappointed.
        Thanks again.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. […] November Book Reviews, Part I […]

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Another good list to ponder. Words we carry resonates.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Thank you for the great reviews, and even more on remembering to read, what of them i have on my shelves. Michael

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Ritu says:

    Thank you so much for taking the time to read and review Marriage Unarranged, Diana 🥰

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Hi Diana, some wonderful books here. I loved Ritu and Joy’s amazing books and have a few of these on my TBR. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Teri Polen says:

    I loved a Gentleman’s Guide. Not my typical genre, but my book club kind of pushed me into reading it. I actually listened to the audiobook, and the narrator was perfect for Monty’s voice – I laughed out loud so many times. As usual, some wonderful recommendations and reviews, Diana. Happy Reading and Writing!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I must have read the review of that one on your blog, Teri. It loved it and had a hard time describing it in a review (a love story but not a romance?). I’m so glad you recommended it and that I finally got around to it. I have a lot more of your recommendations waiting for me!

      Liked by 1 person

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