Book Review: Honeymoon Hotel by Hester Browne

January 15, 2017 1 comment

Book Review: Honeymoon Hotel by Hester BrowneSummary:
The Bonneville Hotel is the best-kept secret in London: its elegant rooms and discreet wood-paneled cocktail lounge were the home-away-from-home for royalty and movie stars alike during the golden age of glamour. Recent years haven’t been kind, but thanks to events manager Rosie, it’s reclaiming some of its old cachet as a wish list wedding venue. While Rosie’s weddings are the ultimate in romance, Rosie herself isn’t; her focus is fixed firmly on the details, not on the dramas. She lives with a professionally furious food critic and works tirelessly toward that coveted promotion. But when the hotel owner appoints his eccentric son Joe to help run Rosie’s department, she’s suddenly butting heads with the free spirit whose predilection for the unconventional threatens to unravel her picture-perfect plans for the most elaborate—not to mention high-profile—wedding the hotel has ever seen, a wedding that could make or break not only the hotel’s reputation, but also Rosie’s career.

Review:
Although not every Browne book is a hit for me, they often are, and this one was incredible. One of the blurbs says it’s in the vein of The Wedding Planner. My comeback would be it’s everything I thought The Wedding Planner was going to be but even better. It’s a story that showcases a woman building her career while craving a relationship and ultimately getting the next level of her career and the relationship she’d been dreaming of.

I often find that in chick lit I have to be willing to give up on either seeing a woman with ambition or a woman desiring a traditional relationship. You often don’t get both. Both is what I want out of my comfort reading, and both is what you get here. Plus, both the career and the love interest are something you want to root for. Rosie isn’t a heartless workaholic but she’s also not someone who’s just working until she nails down the guy. She wants everything, and she keeps wanting everything even when the going gets tough. And the tough going is realistic, both in the romance and in the career. The realism kept things relatable even with things ultimately working out great for her in both ways in the end. And you know what? I like that things work out in both ways. I like that hope. We all can use some more hope in our lives.

In addition, the setting is just stunning. It’s a hotel that had its height in the Art Deco era, and all of the beauty and splendor of it is eloquently described. It was a place I wanted to keep coming back to because it just felt so divine, even with seeing the behind-the-scenes of the staff rooms and the stress of running the special events.

One other thing I must mention is that yet again Browne does a great job of presenting positive female friendships. There’s more than one woman to women relationship that Rosie has where both women help each other out. Women are shown as having differences of opinions and other difficulties to work through but ultimately being there for each other. It might not always work out that way in real life, but I really like seeing female friendships validated and other women not being demonized just to make a scene work.

Overall, this features everything I like in the best Browne books with the added dash of a setting that really suited me. The final scene was so pretty I had tears in my eyes on public transportation, and that’s really saying something. Highly recommended to lovers of quality chick lit.

5 out of 5 stars

Source: Library

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2017’s Accepted Review Copies!

January 12, 2017 Leave a comment

2017's Accepted Review Copies!

Here on Opinions of a Wolf, I accept submissions of review copies via a form between February and December.  The books I accept will then be reviewed the following year.  So, the books accepted for review here in 2017 were submitted in 2016.  You can view more about my review process here.  You may view the accepted review copies post for 20142015, and 2016 by clicking on the years.  I view the submissions I receive as my own mini-bookstore of indie books. I browse the shelves and pick up however many spark my interest.

This year there were 60 submissions, and I accepted 2 books. This means books featured on this post only had a 3% chance of being accepted.

I actively pursue submissions from women and GLBTQA authors, as well as books with GLBTQA content.

Before getting to the accepted books, I like to show the demographics of books submitted to me. This helps those submitting this year for review in 2018 see what I had an overload of and where they might stand a better chance of getting accepted. It also allows for a lot of transparency of my review acceptance process.

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Although there are still fewer women authors submitting to me than men, the proportion of women is up from last year’s 38.7%. I would really like it if this could hit at least 50/50 next year. Of the two books I accepted, one is by a woman author.

2017's Accepted Review Copies!

This went way down from last year’s 24.2%. I would very much appreciate any help getting the word out to LGBTQA authors that I’m actively seeking their submissions. Of the two books I accepted, one is by a GLBTQA author.

2017's Accepted Review Copies!

This also went down from last year’s 29%. One of my top three genres of books read last year was GLBTQA lit, so I obviously would hope for more of this in the future. Also of note: both of my accepted books have GLBTQA content.

2017's Accepted Review Copies!

The top three most frequently submitted genres were:
1) Fantasy (including urban) 31.7%
2) Horror 30%
3) Scifi 28.3%
Note that books fitting into multiple genres had all genres checked off on their submission. I actually didn’t accept any scifi or fantasy books so remember when submitting that the most frequently submitted genre doesn’t necessarily correlate to most likely to get accepted.

The review copies are listed below in alphabetical order by title. Summaries are pulled from GoodReads or Amazon. Both books will feature giveaways thanks to the author at the time of review. These books will be read and reviewed here in 2017, although what order they are read in is entirely up to my whim at the moment.

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The Eighth Day Brotherhood
By: Alice M. Phillips
Genre: Historical Fiction, Horror, Mystery
Notable GLBTQA Content
Summary:
In Paris, 1888, the city prepares for the Exposition Universelle and the new Eiffel Tower swiftly rises on the bank of the Seine. One August morning, the sunrise reveals the embellished corpse of a young man suspended between the columns of the PanthEon, resembling a grotesque Icarus and marking the first in a macabre series of murders linked to Paris monuments. In the Latin Quarter, occult scholar Remy Sauvage is informed of his lover’s gruesome death and embarks upon his own investigation to avenge him by apprehending the cult known as the Eighth Day Brotherhood. At a nearby sanitarium, aspiring artist Claude Fournel becomes enamored with a mesmerist’s beautiful patient, Irish immigrant Margaret Finnegan. Resolved to steal her away from the asylum and obtain her for his muse, Claude only finds them both entwined in the Brotherhood’s apocalyptic plot combining magic, mythology, and murder.

Why I Accepted It:
It struck me as a queered up historical version of The DaVinci Code, and what’s not to like about that? Plus the excerpt was well-written.

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Peacefully, In Her Sleep
By: Milo Bell
Genre: Mystery
Notable GLBTQA Content
Summary:
June Godfrey is a widowed crime writer living a well-ordered life in Barling, a village in Sussex, England. An anonymous letter, received by June’s friend Angela, reveals that the peacefulness of the quiet community may be illusory.

The letter’s author alleges that Angela’s aunt, Jacqueline Sims, was murdered. June is doubtful, yet when she begins a tentative investigation into the letter’s origins, she discovers that Jackie Sims was no sweet old lady. Jackie had been an unscrupulous blackmailer, and many could have wished her dead.

June uncovers startling secrets, and becomes entangled in the disappearance of an enigmatic teenaged girl. She crosses paths with the kindly, gentle Detective Inspector Guy Taverner, and when they join forces, they uncover a staggering and unexpected truth.

Why I Accepted It:
What struck me first was how well-written the excerpt was. When I saw that it’s a mystery set in an English village and had notable GLBTQA content, well, I had to read it.

Congratulations again to the accepted authors for 2017!

Interested in submitting for 2018? Find out how here.

 

A Trio of Disappointing Reads Reviewed in Haiku

January 8, 2017 2 comments

A Trio of Disappointing Reads Reviewed in Haiku

A feature for the disappointing reads: I spent enough time reading them. The reviews shouldn’t waste more time. See all haiku reviews here.

A Trio of Disappointing Reads Reviewed in Haiku

Winter’s Bone
By: Daniel Woodrell

Summary:
The sheriff’s deputy at the front door brings hard news to Ree Dolly. Her father has skipped bail on charges that he ran a crystal meth lab, and the Dollys will lose their house if he doesn’t show up for his next court date. Ree knows she has to bring her father back, dead or alive.

Haiku Review:
How could a book with
Meth and gangs and a strong lead
Be very boring?

2 out of 5 stars
Source: Library
Buy It 

A Trio of Disappointing Reads Reviewed in Haiku

Little Lady Agency
By: Hester Browne

Summary:
Melissa Romney-Jones can bake a perfect sponge cake, type her little heart out, and plan a party blindfolded. But none of that has helped her get far in life or in love. When she gets fired — again — she decides to market her impeccable social skills to single men. To avoid embarrassing her father, a Member of Parliament, Melissa dons a blond wig and becomes “Honey,” a no-nonsense bombshell who helps clueless bachelors shop, entertain, and navigate social minefields.

Haiku Review:
Everything that makes
Browne’s other books good is just
Missing. Try again.

3 out of 5 stars
Source: Library
Buy It

A Trio of Disappointing Reads Reviewed in Haiku

Martian Time-Slip
By: Philip K. Dick

Summary:
On the arid colony of Mars the only thing more precious than water may be a ten-year-old schizophrenic boy named Manfred Steiner. For although the UN has slated “anomalous” children for deportation and destruction, other people–especially Supreme Goodmember Arnie Kott of the Water Worker’s union–suspect that Manfred’s disorder  may be a window into the future.

Haiku Review:
Using the n-word
For Martians. Fear of mental
Illness. Doesn’t age well.

2 out of 5 stars
Source: Audible
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Book Review: Meternity by Meghann Foye

January 5, 2017 2 comments

Book Review: Meternity by Meghann FoyeSummary:
Like everyone in New York media, editor Liz Buckley runs on cupcakes, caffeine and cocktails. But at thirty-one, she’s plateaued at Paddy Cakes, a glossy baby magazine that flogs thousand-dollar strollers to entitled, hypercompetitive spawn-havers.

Liz has spent years working a gazillion hours a week picking up the slack for coworkers with kids, and she’s tired of it. So one day when her stress-related nausea is mistaken for morning sickness by her bosses—boom! Liz is promoted to the mommy track. She decides to run with it and plans to use her paid time off to figure out her life: work, love and otherwise. It’ll be her “meternity” leave.

By day, Liz rocks a foam-rubber belly under fab maternity outfits. By night, she dumps the bump for karaoke nights and boozy dinners out. But how long can she keep up her charade…and hide it from the guy who might just be The One?

As her “due date” approaches, Liz is exhausted—and exhilarated—by the ruse, the guilt and the feelings brought on by a totally fictional belly-tenant…about happiness, success, family and the nature of love.

Review:
This book is more controversial than it probably should be. It’s a silly chick lit book in the vein of Shopaholic (if you haven’t read that series, the main character is addicted to shopping and does a lot of terrible things in a funny way). But it is a book that involves parenting, pregnancy, and women in the workplace, which are hot button issues for a lot of people. So I can see how it wound up being controversial. I do think most people are taking it too seriously though.

For the first solid half of the book I was fairly certain a lot of people were misunderstanding satire for seriousness. While some of Liz’s complaints about her particular workplace are valid (she has all the worked shoved off on her, repeatedly staying until midnight, while the other team members who are parents leave early; the expectation and pressure on women in their 30s to naturally want to have a baby, etc…) the way she reacts to these particular situations is childlike and pretty terrible. That said, a lot of chick lit has a tradition of the main character reacting in an over-the-top way no one in real life would ever do. It’s where the humor come from. From “what if” followed by utter ridiculousness. That said, halfway through the book I became less certain it’s satire and wondering more and more whether the author really looks at the world in this black-and-white way.  If the author does actually think this way, it’s a sign of immaturity but one I’m able to laugh at. Not all readers might feel that way.

That said, I do think the author tried to provide a nod to women who feel differently. One of Liz’s good friends is having difficulty getting pregnant, and she supportively goes with her to a fertility doctor. There’s a character who is a working mother who calls Liz out by pointing out how very little time she actually gets to see her daughter and that she works just as hard as Liz then goes home and works more. (It’s true that this character is probably the only parent in the company who does, but the fact remains that she exists and calls Liz out). There is another character who is a parent who bemoans the pressure on women to return to the perfect body immediately after pregnancy, and Liz sympathizes with her. I do think by the end of the book Liz learns to have more empathy for women who’ve made different life choices from herself and sees it’s not all sunshine and roses onthe other side of the fence.

With regards to the writing, I didn’t like either of the love interests, and I did actually like (flawed) Liz enough that I was rooting for her to not end up with either of them. I will also say that I predicted the ending far far in advance but I’m also not sure how else the book could have ended and still lived up to the chick lit happy ever after mandate.

Overall, if you want a retake on Shopaholic featuring fake pregnancy rather than addiction to shopping, albeit one that doesn’t quite live up to Shopaholic, you’ll enjoy this book. You just need to be able to not take the subject matter too seriously.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Library

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Book Review: The Girl from the Well (Series, #1)

Book Review: The Girl from the Well (Series, #1)Summary:
A dead girl walks the streets.

She hunts murderers. Child killers, much like the man who threw her body down a well three hundred years ago.

And when a strange boy bearing stranger tattoos moves into the neighborhood so, she discovers, does something else. And soon both will be drawn into the world of eerie doll rituals and dark Shinto exorcisms that will take them from American suburbia to the remote valleys and shrines of Aomori, Japan.

Because the boy has a terrifying secret – one that would just killto get out.

Review:
The official pitch on this one is that it’s Dexter meets The Grudge but what I heard about it was it’s another version of the Japanese myth that The Ring is based on. (After reading it, I can tell you that this is true). I was absolutely batshit terrified of The Ring when I first watched it. I must admit that I read this description and expected the book to me meh compared to the movie based on the same myth. This low expectation is what kept the book from being a disappointing read for me.

I found the writing to be overwrought and trying too hard for the actual genre and plot. Like when the small town seamstress thinks she’s a haute couture fashion designer. For instance:

His mind tastes like sour wine, a dram of sake left out in the dark for too long. (location 63)

Bear in mind that this passage is about a ghost girl who murders child killers/rapists. It’s a pretty passage; it just doesn’t fit.

As far as the plot goes, while I really liked the ghost, the tattooed boy’s plot rubbed me the wrong way. His mother is deemed mentally ill, partially for trying to kill him and tattooing him when he was a child. We later find out that rather than being mentally ill she was battling literal evil spirits, one in particular who wanted to go out and wreak havoc on the world. To try to bind the spirit, she decides to sacrifice her own child to the evil spirit by using him as an anchor, basically, to bind him. So after a bunch of the book basically saying hey the kid should forgive his mother because she’s ill we find out she did this act. I feel like the book wants me to think it’s heroic, but I thought it was sick. The way I felt the book wanted me to feel and the way I actually felt about the situation made me uncomfortable with the rest of the book and struggling with who to root for. Others may feel less conflicted than me over this part of the plot.

Overall, it’s a unique plot that other readers may enjoy more than myself.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Library

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2016 Reading Stats!

December 30, 2016 4 comments

Every year, I wrap up the old year and start the new one here on the blog with a look back at my reading stats.  You can see my stats for the years 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 20132014,and 2015 by clicking on the years.

Total books read: 59
Average books read per month: 4.92
Month most read: August with 7
Month least read: July with 3.
Longest book read: House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski with 705 pages.

Fiction: 49 (83.1%)
Nonfiction: 10 (16.9%)

Series: 24 (40.7%)
Standalone: 35 (59.3%)
With my new commitment to read only things I enjoy, this reflects a lot of me reading the first book in a series and then choosing not to continue because I didn’t enjoy it quite enough, so there was more room for standalones this year.

Formats:
–print:  8 (13.6%) (Down quite a bit from last year.)
–ebook: 42 (71.2%)
–graphic novel: 0 (0%) (I’ve honestly lost most interest in graphic novels.)
–audiobook: 9 (15.3 %) (Almost the same as last year. My final audiobook of the year that I am still on is dragging, hence the slowdown.)

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I’ve always read slightly more female than male authors but this is a vast majority this year, as opposed to 2015’s 57.7% female authors. I think this is a reflection of my commitments to read what interests me and stop being ashamed of it, particularly chick lit. This meant more female authors. Interestingly, my ratings of books by women show that I like them significantly better.

Ratings of Female Authors:

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Ratings of Male Authors:

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Not a single one of my 5 star reads was by a male author.

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This went down, largely because I only accepted 6 ARCs this year. You’ll note that I still read indie books that were not ARCs. I do struggle to find indies, though, since my reading list is often influenced by other book bloggers, and I find that many of them don’t seek out indie reads quite the way I do. That means it can be harder for me to find the indie reads.

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I thought glancing at this that I did poorly reading pre-2000s books but the goal I set for myself last year was for 20 to 25% of my reads to be pre-2000s, and I actually surpassed that with 27% of my total reads being pre-2000. I still felt like it was a bit low, though, so for 2017 I’ll aim for 30%. I’ll keep going up til I hit the sweet spot.

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I read slightly fewer adult books this year, with more YA and also a new venture into NA. I’m happy with this distribution.

Genres:
–Scifi: 12 (20.3%)
The subgenre I read the most of in scifi was outer space (50%).
–Contemporary: 9 (15.3%)
–Fantasy: 7 (11.9%)
The subgenre I read the most of in fantasy was urban fantasy (71.4%).
–GLBTQ: 7 (11.9%)
–Chick Lit: 6 (10.2%)
–Mystery: 6 (10.2%)
The subgenre I read the most of in mystery was an even split between cozy and traditional.
–Thriller: 6 (10.2%)
–Nonfiction – self-help / psych: 4 (6.8%)
–Romance: 4 (6.8%)
–Nonfiction – history: 3 (5.1%)
–Historic Fiction: 2 (3.4%)
–Horror: 2 (3.4%)
–Nonfiction – biography: 2 (3.4%)
–Alternate history: 1 (1.7%)
–Nonfiction – lifestyle: 1 (1.7%)
–Nonfiction – memoir: 1 (1.7%)

My top two genres are scifi and contemporary, followed by a tie between fantasy and GLBTQ lit for third place.

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A marked improvement over last year with 4% more 5 star reads. The rest of the star ratings remained similar distributions to before, but I generally felt a larger enjoyment of my reading. I think more 5 star reads helped with that.

General Thoughts on the Stats

You can see my new focus on reading what I enjoy rather than making reading a chore most reflected in the genres I read, the number of ARCs read, and surprisingly in the gender of the author. I did not set any intentions on what gender of author to read and yet seeking out books I was fairly certain I would enjoy led me to more women authors. I think that’s interesting.

I was also surprised by the strong presence of contemporary fiction this year. I didn’t used to perceive of myself as someone who found contemporary lit to be escapist, but apparently it works for me now. While I still have a dominant showing in scifi and fantasy (32%) this is far down from the 50% last year. This shows that venturing into new or returning to old well-loved genres left less room for scifi and fantasy but I still visited them and enjoyed it.

I am quite happy with how my stats look this year. The only thing sticking out to me as a goal for 2017 is the format of books. I am out of room on my print book shelf at home, and I can see why with only 8 of my reads being in print. While I prefer reading on my kindle paperwhite (for convenience), there are still books you can only get in print. These are what are taking up my shelves. I’d like to read 1 a month to continue to allow myself to pick up the not available digitally books as I see them.

I hope you all had a good reading year and found my reviews helpful in your pursuit of good books.  Sending best wishes for everyone’s 2017!

Book Review and Giveaway: The Fair & Foul by Allie Potts (Series, #1)

December 29, 2016 1 comment

Book Review and Giveaway: The Fair & Foul by Allie Potts (Series, #1)Summary:
Juliane has a supercomputer for a brain and she isn’t afraid to use it. Perhaps she should be.

Juliane Faris is a brilliant programmer determined to change the world through scientific and technical advancement. Blinded by ambition, she will do whatever it takes to secure her legacy including agreeing to participate in an experimental procedure. The procedure grants her unprecedented knowledge and cellular control over her body but threatens everything she holds dear including her sanity. When others undergo the same modifications it becomes apparent that not everyone can afford the price that this technology demands.

Review:
This is my final accepted ARC of 2016 (well, there was one more, but the author never sent me the book). I thought what better last review of 2016 than a review and giveaway of my final 2016 ARC. I picked this up right before going on vacation, and I found it to be the perfect vacation read. Tightly paced with an interesting plot and memorable characters I found it easy to remember and relaxing to come back to between vacation activities.

This is scifi of the type where scientists do a thing and it turns out that thing might not be so great after all (but we’re not sure yet). I really enjoy this type of scifi but it’s often hard to find one where the main character (the main scientist) is a woman. I knew from the plot summary that a woman was supposed to be the main character but I admit to being concerned that she would wind up overshadowed by a secondary male character. These fears were unfounded, as Juliane (Dr. Faris) stayed at the center of the story at all times. It truly was her tale at all times.

Now, Juliane is flawed, but that’s as it should be. Just because a female scientist is successful doesn’t mean she’s perfect, and it fits within the genre for the main character to have deep-seated flaws. I appreciate how well-rounded Juliane was, even though I often disliked her as a person. There is an awareness of the times she is unlikeable, as well, as seen through secondary characters’ eyes and sometimes even her own self-awareness. This reassured me that they were intentional flaws and not being held up as something to strive for.

The plot was fun, putting a fiction twist on real scientific research. It takes time for some things to develop but this is well-handled with the story being split into three parts divided by time. For instance, one section detailing a scientific discovery then another 5 years later looking at its impact. The plot was well planned and managed to surprise me a few times without venturing into the realm of the ridiculous.

The only things holding me back from a 4 star rating were the dialogue and a few editing issues. The dialogue was primarily unrealistic and stiff. I do work in academia and know how scientists and researchers speak, and the way they do in this book is too stilted and formal. There were also some editing issues throughout the book, such as: using the wrong homonym, spelling errors, and words that were probably from a previous draft that no longer belonged in the sentence in the new draft. Neither of these slowed down my reading or ruined my enjoyment of the book but they did knock it down a bit. The book has a lot of good bones, and both of these are issues that could be easily addressed in the sequel, which I intend to read (I need to know what happens to Juliane!)

Overall, if you’re a scifi reader looking for fast-paced tale of scientists inventing something that could be more dangerous than they realize and would love to see that story told with a woman at the center, you should pick this book up.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Kindle copy from author in exchange for honest review

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Giveaway!

This giveaway is now over. Congrats to our winner!
There were 2 entries, one via blog comment and one via twitter, both by the same person, so she is our winner. Congrats to Katie of Doing Dewey!

Thanks to the generosity of the author, one lucky Opinions of a Wolf reader can win a copy of this ebook.

How to Enter:

  1. Leave a comment on this post stating what type of scifi story you’d like to see more women characters in.
  2. Copy/paste the following and tweet it from your public twitter. Retweets do not count:
    Enter to win THE FAIR & FOUL by @alliepottswrites, hosted by @McNeilAuthor http://buff.ly/2htJ2XG #scifi #womenauthors #giveaway
  3. Repost the Instagram giveaway announcement and tag my Instagram.
  4. Tag one of your friends on the Instagram giveaway announcement.

Each options gets you one entry. Multiple tweets/Instagram posts do not count as multiple entries.

Who Can Enter: International

Contest Ends: January 5th at midnight

Disclaimer: The winner will have their book sent to them by the author.  The blogger is not responsible for sending the book.  Void where prohibited by law.