A House Divided by Michael Phillips and Judith Pella

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

A House Divided by Michael R. Phillips and Judith Pella

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Prince Sergei returns from war in the Balkans to St. Petersburg, jaded, restless, and perplexed about life and his place in it. He can make no immediate plans about a possible future with Anna, the peasant woman he loves. And Anna’s disillusioned and grieved brother, Paul, is heading down the precarious path of an angry revolutionary in A House Divided by authors Michael Phillips and Judith Pella.

In my review of the first book in this series, I mentioned that the landscape is ripe for revolution. This second book agrees with me.

It wasn’t long before I became thoroughly absorbed in the novel. The politics, the intrigue, the corruption, the forging of relationships and alliances, the heightening rumble of unrest and the blasts of violence—so much happening for this longtime lover of historical fiction to take in.

Yet, as with the previous book, there were many places where this novel’s style got to me. The narrator sometimes spells out too much, leaving no room for nuance or trust in the reader’s perception. The overabundance of italics and exclamation points makes for narration that seems to be shouting when there’s no need, and it gives the dialogue an overdramatic feel, making the characters harder to take seriously.

Katrina and Anna (among other characters, though not all of them) usually feel more like stereotypical caricatures than real people. On account of the awkward and sometimes rushed romantic development, I couldn’t find any of the romance satisfying. At this point in the series, I’m more interested in the events than I’m really into most of the characters those events involve.

Maybe someone present or yet to appear in the series will eventually grow on me though, as I do plan to read at least one more of these novels. The up-close unfolding of the historical side of it all has me hooked.

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Here’s my review of Book One in The Russians series, The Crown and the Crucible.

 

Just Before Dawn by Jessica Marie Holt

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Just Before Dawn: A Short Story by Jessica Marie Holt

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Jesse and Grace’s happy marriage shifted when tragedy struck, and positive news might not bring an easy fix for the couple in Just Before Dawn by author Jessica Marie Holt.

This makes the sixth work of short fiction I’ve enjoyed by this author so far. While I found this one labeled as a short story, I’d say it’s a novelette at least.

And it wasn’t quite what I was expecting, given that I didn’t read the blurb beforehand. Although Grace graces the book cover of the edition I got, the story comes from Jesse’s point of view, and it takes a real, pretty nuanced look at depression without being too dismal a read. It has a smidgen of humor and some sweet moments, but it isn’t sugary, and I must say I even found it slightly disturbing at times, which works in favor of the plot.

Now, there’s one character I never fully made heads or tails of, and I think some rushed development in a key area didn’t serve that character well. Also, a few punctuation errors were a bit distracting here and there, particularly some extra quotation marks popping up in the wrong spots.

Nevertheless, this was a satisfying read overall, and it’ll be nice to see what happens in the sequel. (I won’t be reading that blurb beforehand either.)

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The Unsung Legacies Series

 

Enthroned by K.M. Shea

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Enthroned by K.M. Shea

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

The young man who would have been King Arthur runs off with a shepherdess before Britt Arthurs is yanked from the 21st century and lands back in medieval times, where she easily pulls a sword from a stone and is informed by the wizard Merlin that she will be crowned the new King of Britain in Enthroned by author K.M. Shea.

Though I didn’t read the book blurb thoroughly beforehand, I was intrigued by this YA fantasy series the minute I realized it’s called King Arthur and Her Knights. A nice twist from the get-go! There’s some comedy and also some medieval violence woven into this magical adventure, and I was interested enough to read the novella through.

However, I would have needed more character development to truly care about the story’s people, and I didn’t find a compelling “why” behind it all to make the plot impactful. I didn’t feel that much after finishing the book, and although it is in no way unreadable, it could have used another round of editing, particularly to catch the recurring errors in dialogue and punctuation.

While I may not continue this series, I do think I’ll try something newer by this author sometime.

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King Arthur and Her Knights Series

 

Hamburger Heist by Celia Kinsey

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Hamburger Heist by Celia Kinsey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

When a masked robber holds up Felicia’s cook at her food truck, Felicia is determined to find out who the culprit is—and to keep the wrong suspect from doing the time for it in Hamburger Heist by author Celia Kinsey.

After enjoying the first of Felicia’s Food Truck Mysteries, I had no doubts about reading this second one. It’s an upbeat, one-sitting kind of cozy with a good number of twists for its length, splashes of humor, and even a bit of (unrequited?) love in the air.

Now, unless I missed something, the mystery does rely on too-convenient coincidence at one point. Perhaps there’s a name for it: when it seems like late pieces of new information could have been made-up on the spot to easily tie up a part of the plot, as there wasn’t some hint or glimpse of that information earlier in the story. But that’s only a minor issue overall.

And, as I’m fond of repeating, I do appreciate finding mysteries sometimes that don’t revolve around somebody being murdered. There are more kinds of cases to investigate in life! I’m looking forward to going on to the third book in this series.

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Here’s my review of the first of Felicia’s Food Truck Mysteries, Fit to Be French Fried.