Peanut: Book geek

The Tourist Attraction - Sarah Morgenthaler

Title: The Tourist Attraction
Author: Sarah Morgenthaler
Genre: Chick-lit
Rating: 3.5/5
# pages: Audiobook ~11hrs
Date read: April 2021

When Graham Barnett named his diner The Tourist Trap, he meant it as a joke. Now he's stuck slinging reindeer dogs to an endless parade of resort visitors who couldn't interest him less. Not even the sweet, enthusiastic tourist in the corner who blushes every time he looks her way...

Two weeks in Alaska isn't just the top item on Zoey Caldwell's bucket list. It's the whole bucket. One look at the mountain town of Moose Springs and she's smitten. But when an act of kindness brings Zoey into Graham's world, she may just find there's more to the grumpy local than meets the eye...and more to love in Moose Springs than just the Alaskan wilderness.

Rounded up on goodreads, because it made me even more keen to go to Alaska someday.

I liked it well enough - however, I had expected to love it, so "liking well enough" was slightly disappointing. Still, it was good, and I enjoyed reading about Alaska and Moose Springs.

My main problem with the book was that it didn't ring quite true. The romance was sweet, but too sudden. The friendship between Lana and Zoey was told rather than shown. Zoey's adventures were fascinating, but seemed over the top when I stopped to think about it. In general, I was left with a feeling of "it's good, but...."

I did love the descriptions of the Alaskan wilderness and wildlife though!
Peanut: Book geek

Thornyhold - Mary Stewart

Title: Thornyhold
Author: Mary Stewart
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 207
Date read: March, 2021

Thornyhold is a house deep in a wild wood like somewhere out of a fairy tale. To Gilly, it is an enchantment. Her very own enchantment, left to her by the cousin whose occasional magical visits had brightened her childhood. And as she explores, she discovers more about the woman who had come to seem like a fairy godmother for her: her herbalists's skills, her still room, her abilities to foresee and to heal. She discovers also that the local people believe that Gilly has inherited not just the house but the magical spell-weaving powers that live on in the house and garden. Slowly, quietly, she comes to realise that they are right.

Slow to start, but once Gilly made it to Thornyhold I was thoroughly hooked. It such a charming story, replicating the style of a much older type of novel.

Genre-wise it was a bit all over the place - fantasy, suspense, historical fiction, romance - but while I never quite figured out what it intended to be (thus my generic categorization here of just 'fiction'), it just worked for me. The end came somewhat more suddenly than I had expected, and there were some points I would have liked expanded upon (although mostly just because I wanted the book to last longer!), but I've loved descriptions of "setting up house" ever since I first read "Famous Five Run Away Together" as a child, and this was an extremely satisfactory read in that regard :-D
Peanut: Book geek

Magic Uncorked - Annabel Chase

Title: Magic Uncorked (Magic Cocktail Club #1)
Author: Annabel Chase
Genre: Paranormal, chick-lit
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 212
Date read: March, 2021

Witches are created, not born.

The only magic word Libbie Stark seems to know these days is 'ibuprofen' thanks to a headache-inducing job, two teenagers, one ex-husband, and a deadbeat boyfriend — until the death of a friend brings unexpected consequences. Libbie and the other members of her weekly cocktail club are shocked to discover that their eccentric friend was a witch and that they are the recipients of her magical assets.

Libbie would've preferred to inherit an island beach house, especially when her life starts to unravel. With the help of the other Dread Pirate Witches and a handsome lawyer with a head of hair that Fabio would envy, Libbie strives to understand her gift and dig herself out of the hole she's created, one cocktail at a time. The more her life changes, however, the more Libbie realizes that maybe the end of midlife as she knows it is exactly what she needs.

A delightful read - I finished it in one sitting and was utterly charmed. From a literary standpoint it was nothing special, and I could certainly see its flaws, but for me it was the right book at the right time, and came in very handy after a bit of a reading drought. Besides - a witch who does magic through cocktails? I am so there for it! Also, I do enjoy reading about people who figure out how to polish their spine.

The first in a series, but can very easily be read on its own, as it seems like each member of the Magic Cocktail Club has their own book.
Peanut: Book geek

Autoboyography - Christina Lauren

Title: Autoboyography
Author: Christina Lauren
Genre: YA, LGBTQ
Rating: 3.5/5
# pages: Audiobook ~9.5hrs
Date read: March, 2021

Three years ago, Tanner Scott’s family relocated from California to Utah, a move that nudged the bisexual teen temporarily back into the closet. Now, with one semester of high school to go, and no obstacles between him and out-of-state college freedom, Tanner plans to coast through his remaining classes and clear out of Utah.

But when his best friend Autumn dares him to take Provo High’s prestigious Seminar—where honor roll students diligently toil to draft a book in a semester — Tanner can’t resist going against his better judgment and having a go, if only to prove to Autumn how silly the whole thing is. Writing a book in four months sounds simple. Four months is an eternity.

It turns out, Tanner is only partly right: four months is a long time. After all, it takes only one second for him to notice Sebastian Brother, the Mormon prodigy who sold his own Seminar novel the year before and who now mentors the class. And it takes less than a month for Tanner to fall completely in love with him.

The first YA book I've read by Christina Lauren. Still really well written, and I very much appreciated that the LDS community was written respectfully, and that the focus on this book wasn't "LDS = bad!", but rather on the challenges on falling in love outside your own faith, which I thought was very tastefully done.

I loved the friendship between Tanner and Autumn - would have loved to read more about that.
Peanut: Book geek

Bear, Otter and the Kid - T.J. Klune

Title: Bear, Otter and the Kid
Author: T.J. Klune
Genre: LGBTQ+
Rating: 2/5
# pages: Audiobook ~12hrs
Date read: February 2021

Three years ago, Bear McKenna’s mother took off for parts unknown with her new boyfriend, leaving Bear to raise his six-year-old brother Tyson, aka the Kid. Somehow they’ve muddled through, but since he’s totally devoted to the Kid, Bear isn’t actually doing much living—with a few exceptions, he’s retreated from the world, and he’s mostly okay with that. Until Otter comes home.

Otter is Bear’s best friend’s older brother, and as they’ve done for their whole lives, Bear and Otter crash and collide in ways neither expect. This time, though, there’s nowhere to run from the depth of emotion between them. Bear still believes his place is as the Kid’s guardian, but he can’t help thinking there could be something more for him in the world... something or someone.

Well, I guess it had to happen... the first T.J. Klune book I didn't absolutely love. In fact, I came very, very close to giving up on it at around the 80% mark. I know - ridiculously late, but DRAMA(TM) happened, followed by the mother of all bad decisions, and I just couldn't stomach reading it. In the end, my finishing it boiled down to a) me not being able to find a sufficiently spoilerific review to let me know how the drama was resolved (after 80% I wanted to know!) and b) me not being able to return the book to Audible. In the end, I listened to the last 3 hours at 1.5x speed as I wanted to do the opposite of savouring it. I'm slightly curious as to what happens next (this is the first in a series of 4 books), but meh... not enough to actually risk putting myself through something like this again.

Up until that drama I rather liked the book though. Wasn't in love with it, but liked it well enough, and could go either way in regards to finishing the series. Bear was more than a little inclined to angst, but with his history I couldn't really blame him, and the flashbacks and inner monologues didn't bother me as much as other readers. I was very unimpressed with all the secrecy and especially all the tension that could have been resolved if people would just COMMUNICATE ALREADY, but Otter and Creed were lovely, and very 'on point' for how T.J. Klune usually writes characters, and while the Kid was rather precocious, I've met 9-year-olds like that, so didn't find him too unrealistic.

But the drama... the drama was unrealistic, over the top and just badly done. And the worst thing is - THE MOTIVATION WAS NEVER EXPLAINED!! Bear questioned it... but then it just disappeared. Granted, it may be revealed in a latter book (reading the blurbs indicate that parts of the drama may be revisited in the next book), but that's just lazy writing.

So if you're in my shoes -- reading reviews as you've come to the Very Bad Fight to see if it's worth your time reading on (because according to reviews I wasn't alone in considering stopping there) -- here are the spoilers I was hoping to find myself....
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Peanut: Book geek

Reflections - Seanan McGuire

Title: Reflections (Indexing #2)
Author: Seanan McGuire
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 4/5
# pages: Audiobook, ~12hrs
Date read: February, 2021

The struggle against not-so-charming storybook narratives isn’t the only complicating factor in Henrietta “Henry” Marchen’s life. As part of the ATI Management Bureau team protecting the world from fairy tales gone awry, she’s juggling her unwanted new status as a Snow White, dealing with a potentially dangerous Pied Piper, and wrangling a most troublesome wicked stepsister—along with a budding relationship with Jeff, her teammate.

But when a twisted, vicious Cinderella breaks out of prison and wreaks havoc, things go from disenchanted to deadly. And once Henry realizes someone is trying to use her to destroy the world, her story becomes far from over—and this one might not have a happily ever after.

I think I possibly liked this one a tiny bit better than the first book in the series... possibly because I knew what to expect this time ;-) I love all the reminders of fairy tales I haven't read in literally decades, and the hints Seanan McGuire throws at the reader along the way.

Sloane is definitely my favourite character (yes, even more than Henrietta), and I really appreciated the additional insight we got into her background story this time around.
Peanut: Book geek

Violet - Audrey Faye

Title: Violet (For the Love of Purple #3)
Author: Audrey Faye
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 153
Date read: February, 2021

She’s empathic. He’s autistic. Born different - and about to discover what lives in the magical place where their differences meet.

Violet feels all the things, catches glimpses of the future, and knows exactly the right pillow for every person she meets, which is good, because they rarely choose the right ones.

Linus isn’t usually a baker, but for three weeks every year, he returns to the town where he was once a small boy with garbled words and bakes bread so that his aunt can take her annual vacation.

There’s a whole town with opinions on whether the two of them belong together. Fortunately, there are also friends with hammers, and hooch-making ghosts.

A very fitting final book in the trilogy. Book two is still my favourite, but the series as a whole makes for great comfort reading. I really liked Linus, and loved seeing how people opened up to him and were willing to make changes to meet his needs.
Peanut: Book geek

Apple Tree Yard - Louise Doughty

Title: Apple Tree Yard
Author: Louise Doughty
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 3/5
# pages: Audiobook ~14hours
Date read: January, 2021

Yvonne Carmichael sits in the witness box. The charge is murder. Before all of this, she was happily married, a successful scientist, a mother of two. Now she's a suspect, squirming under fluorescent lights and the penetrating gaze of the alleged accomplice who's sitting across from her, watching: a man who's also her lover. As Yvonne faces hostile questioning, she must piece together the story of her affair with this unnamed figure who has charmed and haunted her. This is a tale of sexual intrigue, ruthless urges, and danger, which has blindsided her from a seemingly innocuous angle. Here in the courtroom, everything hinges on one night in a dark alley called Apple Tree Yard.

I'm having a hard time deciding what I think of this book. It was well-written, and extremely well narrated by Juliet Stevenson and while I never really got to care for the main character - I don't actually think you were supposed to...

And therein lies the rub, I guess. I WANT to be able to care for the main characters in whatever book I'm reading - otherwise what's the point? But I found it really hard to relate to Yvonne, and spent most of the time more curious about the court case, than about the flashbacks showing how she got there in the first place.

The book was never boring though, and there were a few times where I got furious on her behalf. This book should definitely come with a trigger warning for rape and the victim shaming that may come with it. Elaborating on that point would be a spoiler however, so I'll just leave it at that.
Peanut: Book geek

Blue - Audrey Faye

Title: Blue (For the Love of Purple #2)
Author: Audrey Faye
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 158 pages
Date read: January 2021

Blue’s a builder. A content one, now that she’s found a town that respects her skills and it’s finally stopped raining.

Grim wasn’t expecting anyone to walk in the door of his studio, but he knows better than to ignore the clay when it starts whispering. He just wishes it had something a little less mysterious to say about the woman with dusty boots and wary eyes.

Romance isn’t what either of them are looking for. But it might sneak up on them anyhow.

A lot better than the first one. I loved seeing Blue and Grim together, and read most of it with a huge smile on my face. Just goes to show that I'd much rather read about carpentry and clay throwing than chart reading any day of the week ;-) And the characters are charming as always. Can't wait for the last book in the series now!
Peanut: Book geek

Indigo - Audrey Faye

Title: Indigo (For the Love of Purple #1)
Author: Audrey Faye
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
# pages: 167
Date read: January, 2021

Indigo, Violet and Blue - three best friends who are about to drive around a bend in the road and have their lives change forever.Indigo's feet are restless. Her chart isn't showing any surprises this week, but that doesn't always keep her Sagittarius soul at home, and neither does a little cold April rain.

Drew isn't sure he's eaten in the last three days, but he knows the sudden tug inside of him isn't hunger. Not the kind that food will fill, anyhow.

Two wandering hearts whose paths are about to cross - and if that doesn't get them headed in the right direction, there are two best friends and a matchmaking ghost waiting in the wings.

A 3.5 star review. Rounded up on Goodreads because of the innate charm of Audrey Faye's books. This is not her best, but it's still definitely worth reading.

I loved the characters and I loved the story. I'm a sucker for small towns where everybody gets into everybody's business, and Indigo certainly didn't disappoint in that regard. I loved the quirkiness of a mothering ghost and an artist on skateboard.

What detracted a few stars for me was the huge role astrology played in the characterization of Indigo. It seemed overdone, and turned her into somebody who would probably be more than a little "too much" in real life - actually regardless of whether or not you put any stock into it yourself. Fortunately, she redeemed herself near the end, and I loved her and Drew together.

And hopefully the focus will change in the later books, where Indigo's no longer the main character.