ELLIE AND THE HARPMAKER by Hazel Prior {Review}


Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: August 6, 2019
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★


A rich, heartwarming and charming debut novel that reminds us that sometimes you find love in the most unexpected places.

Dan Hollis lives a happy, solitary life carving exquisite Celtic harps in his barn in the countryside of the English moors. Here he can be himself, away from social situations that he doesn’t always get right or completely understand.

On the anniversary of her beloved father’s death, Ellie Jacobs takes a walk in the woods and comes across Dan’s barn. She is enchanted by his collection. Dan gives her a harp made of cherrywood to match her cherry socks. He stores it for her, ready for whenever she’d like to take lessons.

Ellie begins visiting Dan almost daily and quickly learns that he isn’t like other people. He makes her sandwiches precisely cut into triangles and repeatedly counts the (seventeen) steps of the wooden staircase to the upstairs practice room. Ellie soon realizes Dan isn’t just different; in many ways, his world is better, and he gives her a fresh perspective on her own life.


Dan is a harpmaker, crafting gorgeous Celtic harps in his barn in the English countryside. Ellie is a housewife who stumbles upon Dan’s barn one day. He gives her a harp that matches the color of her socks, giving Ellie’s humdrum life a gentle nudge in a different direction.

I love Celtic harp music, so the description of this book pulled me in. I enjoyed Dan’s character the most. He was a bit quirky with a unique way of seeing the world. On the other hand I struggled with Ellie’s character. She came off as part flighty and part doormat, though I appreciate what she did for Dan as the story progressed. (Not everything though!)

ELLIE AND THE HARPMAKER was a light and sweet story with an almost fairy tale quality to it. I was not quite convinced of the romance between the two main characters, but it is a lovely story of friendship, and also finding one’s self identity.

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

Thoughts on Books (#12): The Fifth of July / Where the Crawdads Sing


The Fifth of July
The Fifth of July by Kelly Simmons
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

The well-to-do Warner family has been summering on Nantucket for decades – it’s tradition, after all – but this year tragedy strikes over the 4th of July holiday. The story is told from the points of view of several characters, including different family members, the housekeeper, and the caretaker, of the imposing, timeworn beach house.

Right away you can feel the undercurrents of dysfunction in this family. It keeps you wondering what tragedy is lying in wait for these troubled people, and who among them could be responsible? They may not be the most likable bunch, but I found all of their stories compelling. Actually we’re presented with three mysteries that may or may not be connected, one decades old and two recent.

Overall I enjoyed the writing style, setting, and story (Nantucket Gothic?), though I was disappointed that there were unanswered questions in the end. I felt like two of the three mysteries weren’t truly solved – or maybe they were? Anyway, the ending was confusing, but I still feel like THE FIFTH OF JULY was a worthwhile read.

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


Where the Crawdads Sing
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Here we have it, my favorite book of 2018! I think this one will be hard to top. Amazing!!

A swamp and a marsh are very different environments. A marsh is a thriving and nurturing place, and it’s there, along the North Carolina coast, that Kya lived and survived after being abandoned by her family as a young girl. Kya spent her days alone, observing the surrounding natural world, and it served her well.

Though she loved her marsh dearly, sometimes the loneliness was too much, especially as she grew into a young women. But after being abandoned by everyone she loved and shunned by the locals, who could she trust with her heart?

I don’t want to ramble on too much about the plot. This stirring, character-driven novel is part coming of age story, part mystery, and part love story — between Kya and two young men who she allows in her hidden world, but most of all, between Kya and her treasured marsh.

WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING is a gorgeously written and haunting novel with an unforgettable heroine, the Marsh Girl. What a bittersweet ending!! Tears, tears, tears. Just lovely.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book through Penguin’s First to Read Program in exchange for an honest review.


“Nature and books belong to the eyes that see them.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

THOUGHTS ON BOOKS (#6): Five Mini Reviews


Undead Girl Gang
Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I don’t read a lot of YA books, but every once in a while one comes along that catches my eye – especially one that sounds like a combination of Heathers and The Craft. I wasn’t wowed by the book, though it was a quirky read, with some fun parts and sad moments too. With such an interesting premise – a novice witch raising a gang of zombie girls from the dead to solve their murders – I was hoping for a little more. I’m bummed that the mystery got lost in a lot of the stereotypical high school drama and caricatures (which slowed down the plot for me). Good book, not great. Thank you to Penguin’s First to Read Program for providing me a review copy.


Close to Home (DI Adam Fawley, #1)
Close to Home by Cara Hunter
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

CLOSE TO HOME was part contemporary domestic thriller and part police procedural, though probably too heavy on the investigation side for my liking. DI Adam Fawley is the main investigator, though it flipped back and forth between him and other detectives. I felt like it didn’t matter which detective did what, as they needed more personality or back story to grab my attention. The mystery of the missing girl was intriguing and had plenty of twists. The big reveal at the end was great but kind of out there. This book has gotten lots of great reviews, though for some reason I had a hard time really getting into it. Not bad, but didn’t wow. Thank you to Penguin’s First to Read Program for a review copy.


Blackwater Lake
Blackwater Lake by Maggie James
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was my first read of 2018! What secrets are hidden at Blackwater Lake? I was very impressed with this novella. Though short in length, the book’s characters and plot were well developed. Great mystery/suspense, and a freebie from B&N too. Would love to read more from Maggie James.


A Stranger in the House
A Stranger in the House by Shari Lapena
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Well, you can’t love them all. Almost DNF’d this book at 33%, but decided to skim the rest just to see where it went. The premise was certainly intriguing, but the slow pace, implausible situations, and wooden characters turned me off. I’d maybe give this book 1.5 stars? I thought her first book, The Couple Next Door, was entertaining, suspenseful, and fun, but unfortunately A Stranger in the House didn’t work for me.


Tin Man
Tin Man by Sarah Winman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Beautifully written, dreamy almost, and heartbreaking subject matter. Nevertheless, I’m in the minority as I didn’t love this book. It lacked a strong plot and felt disjointed, and I also felt like I was observing these characters from a distance instead of being a part of their stories. In the end it seems like I missed something in Tin Man that everyone else easily found.


“A book is a device to ignite the imagination.” – Alan Bennett

THOUGHTS ON BOOKS (#2): The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (Audiobook) / Don’t Let Go / The Night Mark


The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Thank you to the publisher for providing me a copy in exchange for an honest review. I loved this book. It turned out to be so much more than I was expecting. THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO tells the amazing, wild, and often heartbreaking life story of the title character. Beginning in the 1950s when she arrived in Hollywood, the book covers Evelyn Hugo’s rise to fame as an A-list actress, and her many loves and losses along the way. She chooses a young journalist named Monique Grant to write her biography, and Monique is perplexed as to why Evelyn wants to spill her long-guarded secrets to her. What, if any, is their connection? I listened to the audiobook which was a wonderful experience and quite emotional too. I’m sure the neighbors wondered why I was sobbing as I was mowing the lawn. Definitely one of my favorite books of 2017.


Don't Let Go
Don’t Let Go by Harlan Coben
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Second book by Harlan Coben I’ve read, and second book by Harlan Coben I’ve really enjoyed! In DON’T LET GO, Detective Nap Dumas finally gets a lead in the disappearance case of his high school girlfriend — well, it’s his own case as no one else is looking. Maura went missing 15 years ago on the same night his twin brother Leo and Leo’s girlfriend Diana were killed, supposedly hit by a train. Nap’s always wondered if there was more to the story, and of course, if Maura’s disappearance was somehow related. Now a clue from a crime scene in another town sets his investigation in motion again. DON’T LET GO is page-turning suspense with a complex mystery and relatable characters. I especially loved Nap’s sarcastic wit.


The Night Mark
The Night Mark by Tiffany Reisz
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. THE NIGHT MARK is a unique time-travel romance set on the gorgeous coast of South Carolina. In present day, Faye Barlow feels lost, still grieving the death of her husband four years prior. During her latest photography job, she discovers an abandoned lighthouse at a place called Bride Island. She feels an inexplicable connection to the lighthouse, and in a strange twist of fate, she’s sent back to 1921 where the keeper is very much alive and very familiar. I thought the writing was beautiful, and the descriptions of the lighthouse and island were magical. While I loved the premise, ultimately I had a hard time connecting with Faye and feeling the chemistry in her new time-travel relationship. Their set up was a bit too odd for me. The character who stood out to me most was the priest — honestly I’d love to read his life story.


“Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light.” ― Vera Nazarian

IF THE CREEK DON’T RISE by Leah Weiss


Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Release Date: August 22, 2017
Source: Review copy from NetGalley
Rating: ★★★


He’s gonna be sorry he ever messed with me and Loretta Lynn.

Sadie Blue has been a wife for fifteen days. That’s long enough to know she should have never hitched herself to Roy Tupkin, even with the baby.

Sadie is desperate to make her own mark on the world, but in remote Appalachia, a ticket out of town is hard to come by, and hope often gets stomped out. When a stranger sweeps into Baines Creek and knocks things off kilter, Sadie finds herself with an unexpected lifeline…if she can just figure out how to use it.

This intimate insight into a fiercely proud, tenacious community unfolds through the voices of the forgotten folks of Baines Creek. With a colorful cast of characters that each contribute a new perspective, IF THE CREEK DON’T RISE is a debut novel bursting with heart, honesty, and homegrown grit.


A 1970s Appalachian mountain town is brought to life through the alternating first-person voices of Leah Weiss’ characters. Several different people speak about the happenings in Baines Creek, North Carolina, though the common thread throughout most of the book is Sadie Blue, a pregnant teenage bride in an abusive marriage.

I have mixed feelings about this book. I thought the writing was beautiful, and I especially enjoyed the folksy dialect of the characters. The lives of Baines Creek’s locals are hard and heartbreaking, and it was easy to empathize with them. What I didn’t like was the incomplete feeling I have after finishing. We’re introduced to several characters whose stories are left up in the air. Even with Sadie Blue’s story, there wasn’t a strong, cohesive plot linking everything together.

IF THE CREEK DON’T RISE is Leah Weiss’ debut novel, and she already has a talent for drawing readers in with her intriguing characterizations. Looking forward to seeing where she goes next.

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