THE NATURE OF FRAGILE THINGS by Susan Meissner


Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group
Release Date: February 2, 2021

THE NATURE OF FRAGILE THINGS is a wonderful and absorbing story of survival, friendship, and motherhood. Set during the time of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, this work of historical fiction weaves together a bit of mystery and an emotional family drama with characters I won’t soon forget.

Sophie is an Irish immigrant who answers a mail-order bride ad placed by a man in San Francisco. It seems like widower Martin Hocking can provide her with the life she craves β€” a comfortable home far away from the slums in New York City, and a child to raise named Kat, the young daughter of Martin and his deceased wife.

Sophie’s relationship with her new husband is odd, and sometimes his behavior is unusual, but she has security and a family, and that’s what matters. That is, until a very pregnant woman named Belinda shows up at her house the night before the great earthquake. The lives Sophie, Kat, and Belinda have known are about to come crashing down figuratively & literally!

I won’t go further into the plot, but just know that if you’re a fan of 20th century historical fiction, I highly recommend THE NATURE OF FRAGILE THINGS. Susan Meissner is a gifted story teller who creates complicated characters readers will understand and enjoy. β€” 𝓓𝓲π“ͺ𝓷π“ͺ

“It is the nature of the earth to shift. It is the nature of fragile things to break. It is the nature of fire to burn.”

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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ROOT MAGIC by Eden Royce


Publisher: Walden Pond Press
Release Date: January 5, 2021

Reading ROOT MAGIC was such a joy β€” can I give it more than five stars? The protagonist, 11-year old Jezebel Turner, is a mighty and memorable middle grade heroine. Set in South Carolina in 1963, the story follows Jezebel as she begins to study rootwork, a tradition passed down from her Gullah ancestors. Root magic is misunderstood by many to be something evil, but her Uncle Doc is teaching her the good ways it helps the community. She must use her newly developed powers to save herself and her family from malevolent forces threatening them, and not just otherworldly ones.

There’s so much I loved about this book, and Jezebel is such a relatable character. What stood out for me in particular was the message of friendship and discovering it in someone unexpected. The story was suspenseful and creepy at times, which kept me glued to the pages. The ending chapter was so moving, and of course, I was sad to see it end! I would love to read a sequel about Jezebel and her family, and find out what their futures hold. β€” 𝓓𝓲π“ͺ𝓷π“ͺ

πŸ“š Find ROOT MAGIC on GoodreadsΒ πŸ“š

BETTER LUCK NEXT TIME by Julia Claiborne Johnson


Publisher: Custom House
Release Date: January 5, 2021

Set in 1938, BETTER LUCK NEXT TIME gives a snap shot of life on a Nevada dude ranch for out-of-state wealthy women seeking a quickie divorce. They simply live there for six weeks to establish residency, and then they’re free.

The story is told through Ward’s eyes, a young man working as a ranch hand at the Flying Leap. He becomes entangled in the drama and shenanigans of two clients, Emily and Nina, one leaving a cheating husband in San Francisco, and the other an heiress working on divorce number three.

The unique premise grabbed my attention, because I love 20th century historical fiction, especially pre-WWII. While the book had plenty of charm, overall it wasn’t a good fit for me. Maybe humorous fiction isn’t my cup of tea? I did enjoy watching the friendship grow between the unlikely pair of Emily and Nina, though their relationship didn’t end up how I expected it to, and at times they were hard to take.

The book begins in 1988, with Ward in a nursing home telling what happened the year of 1938 at the Flying Leap to an unknown character. At times I would forget that I was in Ward’s head, with him just describing what was going on with other characters. Then he would go off on a tangent about something else, which was jarring. I think this was a case of loving the premise, and not the execution.

BETTER LUCK NEXT TIME has a lot of heart, and mixes comic relief into the sad & stressful situation of these characters. Maybe not as enjoyable as I thought it would be, but I know many readers will love it.Β β€” 𝓓𝓲π“ͺ𝓷π“ͺ

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Thoughts on Books (#21): LITTLE THREATS β€’ MAGIC DARK AND STRANGE β€’ THE AWAKENING


Little Threats
Little Threats by Emily Schultz *
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In 1993, teenage twin sisters Carter and Kennedy Wynn rebel against their suburban upbringing with grunge, drugs, and dangerous guys. The night after a bad acid trip, their best friend Haley is murdered and Kennedy takes the blame, and she spends 15 years in prison wondering what really happened. In 2008, Kennedy is finally free to start her life, but soon true-crime tv show host Dee Nash comes to town intent on stirring up the past.

While it is part mystery, LITTLE THREATS is mostly a slow-burn family drama about the repercussions of a young girl’s murder. The characters were difficult to like, though I thought their dilemmas were compelling. Kennedy’s conviction at 16 was a stretch. Motive is important, and to me there wasn’t one. She ends up accepting the charges against her though maintaining her innocence because she blacked out and couldn’t remember what actually happened. What lazy police work. The victim’s younger brother and Dee Nash investigate further and open a nasty can of worms. I wasn’t surprised by how things turned out, though I found it intriguing, and rather depressing.

The best part of the book was the early 90s nostalgia β€” grunge music, doc martens with floral peasant dresses, Kurt Cobain β€” this story brings it all back. Fun to revisit, though so glad I didn’t go through it with this disturbing crew.

* I received a review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Magic Dark and Strange
Magic Dark and Strange by Kelly Powell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

MAGIC DARK AND STRANGE is a YA historical fantasy set in the Victorian-like city of Invercarn. The main character is 17-year old Catherine Daly who works at a print shop by day, and by night she raises the dead for grieving families who just want a few more moments with their departed loved ones β€” for a price. She and Guy Nolan, a watchmaker’s son, end up entangled in a mystery involving a charmed timepiece said to be buried in an unmarked grave. Catherine’s boss wants her to retrieve this item at any cost, but she and Guy get more than they bargained for when the coffin is opened.

There was much to enjoy in this Gothic mystery β€” dark atmosphere, creepy cemeteries, slow-burn romance, clever characters, and a Victorian setting. I was disappointed, though, with the lack of world-building. All of this amazing magic, and no explanation of where it comes from and how it works. Why is Catherine magical? Has she always been that way? It almost felt like this was book two of a series. Some backstory was missing. MAGIC DARK AND STRANGE had a lot of potential, but it needed to be fleshed out more.


The Awakening (Graveyard Queen #6)
The Awakening by Amanda Stevens *
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reading THE AWAKENING was bittersweet, as it’s the conclusion to one of my favorite series. I didn’t want it to end! Known as the Graveyard Queen, protagonist Amelia Gray has made a successful career restoring dilapidated and often forgotten cemeteries. She’s also gifted with being able to see and communicate with ghosts. Her latest job restoring Woodbine Cemetery brings her face to face with the malevolent spirit of a young girl. She seems to be fixated on an unnamed baby’s grave, and it’s up to Amelia to figure out the connection between them and what will finally allow the child to rest in peace.

A lot more juicy secrets are revealed in this book, and Amelia’s turbulent on-again, off-again relationship with John Devlin comes to a head. Though I was sad to see the story end, I was pleased with the way the author wrapped things up. Emotional! I highly recommend the Graveyard Queen series to fans of Gothic suspense and creepy ghost stories, just start at the beginning with The Restorer (#1) or The Abandoned (#0.5).

* I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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THE TWO MRS. CARLYLES by Suzanne Rindell


Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date: July 28, 2020
Source: Borrowed from the library
Rating: β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…


A suspenseful and page-turning descent into obsession, love, and murder in the wake of San Francisco’s most deadly earthquake–and Suzanne Rindell’s most haunting novel since her acclaimed debut, The Other Typist

Which wife holds the darker secret?

San Francisco, 1906. Violet is one of three people grateful for the destruction of the big earthquake. It leaves her and her two best friends unexpectedly wealthy–if the secret that binds them together stays buried beneath the rubble. Fearing discovery, the women strike out on their own, and orphaned, wallflower Violet reinvents herself.

When a whirlwind romance with the city’s most eligible widower, Harry Carlyle, lands her in a luxurious mansion as the second Mrs. Carlyle, it seems like her dreams of happiness and love have come true. But all is not right in the Carlyle home, and Violet soon finds herself trapped by the lingering specter of the first Mrs. Carlyle, and by the inescapable secrets of her own violent history.


The cover of this book is so stunning that I had to read it! Suzanne Rindell has written a Rebecca-esque historical mystery set against the backdrop of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake.

Violet and her two best friends ran away from an orphanage the day it burned down. A few years later, after a dreadful stint working in the red-light district, the great earthquake strikes, and the girls come into an unexpected fortune. Their new-found wealth comes with the burden of a dark secret, and Violet, Flossie, and Cora decide to go their separate ways.

Violet reinvents herself as a proper, upstanding shop girl, and she catches the eye of the dashing and wealthy widower Harry Carlyle. The one sore subject with Harry is any discussion of his wife, the first Mrs. Carlyle. Harry and Violet marry, but life inside his mansion is anything but bliss.

The oppressive presence of the first Mrs. Carlyle is everywhere. What really happened to her? Violet hears shocking rumors about her fate, but should she ignore them and believe Harry? And who’s behind the strange occurrences happening at night?

THE TWO MRS. CARLYLES is classic Gothic suspense, and I enjoyed it. There were a few times that I wanted to scream at Violet for being so naive or not standing up for herself! Overall, though, it was an intriguing historical mystery with some surprising twists. Borrowed from the library.

β€” 𝓓𝓲π“ͺ𝓷π“ͺ