2021 Book #4 – In the Garden of Spite by Camille Bruce

Title: In the Garden of Spite
Author: Camille Bruce
Date finished: 1/4/21
Genre: Historical fiction, thriller
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: January 19, 2021
Pages in book: 473
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

An audacious novel of feminine rage about one of the most prolific female serial killers in American history–and the men who drove her to it.

They whisper about her in Chicago. Men come to her with their hopes, their dreams–their fortunes. But no one sees them leave. No one sees them at all after they come to call on the Widow of La Porte.

The good people of Indiana may have their suspicions, but if those fools knew what she’d given up, what was taken from her, how she’d suffered, surely they’d understand. Belle Gunness learned a long time ago that a woman has to make her own way in this world. That’s all it is. A bloody means to an end. A glorious enterprise meant to raise her from the bleak, colorless drudgery of her childhood to the life she deserves. After all, vermin always survive.

My rating:  3.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

This book is a little outside of my normal wheel house but it sounded too interesting to pass up! Belle was a fascinating character and I loved this author’s interpretation of her as a person. Her back story was heart-breaking and captivating – what happened to her when she was young defined her in ways that she didn’t even understand. Even as terrible as she was, I weirdly found myself empathizing with her after the ordeal she went through. This book was a little darker than ones I usually read though, and she killed a ton of people. Once we got towards the end of the book I was pretty ready for things to wrap up but overall the book was one I really enjoyed. It was great to read about a famous female serial killer from the Midwest and learn more about that piece of history, even if some pieces of the book were fictionalized. It was an interesting read and I’d recommend it!

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2020 Recap and 2021 Goals!

2020

Well. 2020 was definitely a different year. There were many challenges but there was also many benefits. Transitioning to working from home was easier than I expected – I spent more time at home than I ever have and it’s been great to have so much time with my husband. There was admittedly less time with other family members since we’re trying to be careful with the pandemic but it’s been great having so much time at home and we’ve been working on some house projects and have more to come!

So anyways! On to the meat of this post – to recap on the goals list that I had set for 2020:

  1. Participate in certain reading challenges:
    1. ARC August – Done! You can see my posts related to this challenge here
    2. Bout of Books Challenge – BOB 28 (May 2020) – Done! You can see my posts related to this challenge here
    3. Bookish Bingo challenges! I’d like to participate in bingo challenges for certain months for fun: February and October. I don’t think that the Bookish site is doing Book Bingo sheets anymore but I’m hoping I can find another site that has one for these two months. – So I couldn’t find a bingo to do for February and October that were new/appealing ones. I did participate in the Ripped Bodice Summer Romance Bingo challenge, which was fun!
  2. Keep reading my backlog list! At least one book per month – I didn’t quite make a book a month but I did read a number of books from my backlog list, which is great! I also read 100% of my 2020 reading list so I didn’t add any to my backlog. I’ll be continuing to work on reducing my backlog even further in 2021.
  3. Keep reading from my personal library! At least one book per month – I also didn’t quite make a book a month but I was close! I read a lot more from my personal library in 2020 and it was great to read random reads (not scheduled) for a little
  4. Write at least one non-review and non-blog tour post a month – can be one of the structured posts like Top Ten Tuesday or it can be informative or whatever I feel like! – Did not do this at all. I’d like to do it in 2021 but I just didn’t have time over the last year to do it.

This year was definitely different – due to the pandemic so many events were cancelled or done just virtually. I participated in a couple Zoom events for podcasts that I enjoy but other than that there weren’t as many events to participate in. The additional time at home gave me more time to spend with my husband and plenty of time for reading. I read a record-setting 12 books during my week in Maine.

In looking back on my year of reading this year, I was able to read a comparable amount related to previous years. Below is a chart of the books I read by month this year vs previous years:

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I also really like the functionality of the Goodreads Year in Books summary for giving an overview of what happened during my year for reading. I don’t record 100% of the books I read on here so it doesn’t always match up with my own figures but I love having all the covers in one place, it makes for a neat graphic.

And just for fun! Here are a few of my favorites from 2020:

Favorite Reads from 2020

After Sundown by Linda Jones and Linda Howard – 4.5 stars
One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London – 4.75 stars
Thick as Thieves by Sandra Brown – 4.75 stars
The Roommate by Rosie Danan –  4.25 stars
Tools of Engagement by Tessa Bailey –  5.0 stars
The Evil Queen by Gena Showalter – 4.75 stars
One by One by Ruth Ware –  5.0 stars

Favorite New Series

I really enjoyed Gena Showalter’s series The Forest of Good and Evil this year. The Evil Queen was my favorite of the two that I read this year but I also really liked The Glass Queen. I can’t wait for the next book in the series to come out! The series is such a fun mix of supernatural, fairy tale, and romance and also reminds me a lot of the favorite series I discovered last year, Immortals After Dark.

Best New Author I Read in 2020

Has to be Tessa Bailey – I actually read a couple books by her in 2020 but her book Tools of Engagement really just hit me so hard and struck such a personal note for me. I had heard a lot of buzz about her books prior to reading, and with good reason since she’s a fabulous writer. I can’t wait to read more by her in the future!

Most Emotional Read from 2020

I had heard a lot about Long Shot by Kennedy Ryan and finally had a chance to read it this year. Man that book is a RIDE. I was so sucked into the story and I cried a lot reading that book. I’m looking forward to reading the other books in the series too but trying to make sure I have the emotional space to read them.

Here we close out the 2020 year and we look ahead to the New Year!!

2021

Looking ahead to 2021, I have so many things to look forward to but some of those things will take me away from blogging. More of my 2021 goals are going to be personal goals for outside the blog, but there are some reading goals that I’m still hoping to achieve. I may have to take a hiatus later in 2021 or I may have to figure out a way to reduce my time commitment overall to the blog but I’m planning on crossing that bridge once I get to it. I have so many blessings and exciting things happening this coming year and I just can’t wait to see what the future holds!

Looking ahead to 2021, here are some of the goals I plan to work on:

  1. Participate in certain reading challenges:
    1. Bout of Books Challenge – BOB 31 (May 2021)
    2. Book Bingo challenges! I’d like to participate in at least one bingo challenge again this year. Maybe the Ripped Bodice summer bingo but I’ll be busy in July and August so I’m not sure if that’ll work. We’ll see how things pan out but I do so much enjoy those so I’d like to participate in at least one.
  2. Keep reading my backlog list! At least one book per month
  3. Keep reading from my personal library! At least one book per month
  4. Write at least one non-review and non-blog tour post a month – can be one of the structured posts like Top Ten Tuesday or it can be informative or whatever I feel like!

I wish everyone love and joy in 2021, Happy Reading!

2020 Monthly Status Update: December

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December was a great month! Lot of work to do plus the holidays so there were some definite distractions but I read some great books and had a nice relaxing holiday! I’ll also be posting a post reviewing my reading for the year but for now, here are some reading highlights from December:

Monthly Stats:
# books read this month: 8
# pages read this month: 2,744
# books read year-to-date: 98
# pages read year-to-date: 32,738

Other Posts this month:

Top 5 Favorite Holiday Romances! 

Favorite books from this month:

The Princess and the Rogue by Kate Bateman – 4.75 stars

Next Month TBR List:

  • In the Garden of Spite by Camille Bruce
  • Shipped by Angie Hockman
  • Highland Treasure by Lynsay Sands
  • The Survivors by Jane Harper

I’m going right into the next busy season at work so I’m not sure how much time I’ll have for reading but we’ll see. Christmas and New Years was great – hope everyone had a great holiday season! Hope everyone is doing well and staying safe. Happy reading everyone!

2020 Monthly Status Update: November

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November was again very busy work wise but I think the lack of a commute is really helping me have extra time for reading each day. Plus with a couple days off for the holiday weekend I was able to get a lot of books read in November! So here are some reading highlights from November for me:

Monthly Stats:
# books read this month: 12
# pages read this month: 4,264
# books read year-to-date: 90
# pages read year-to-date: 29,994

Other Posts this month:

No other posts this month!

Favorite books from this month:

One by One by Ruth Ware – 5.0 stars
One Night at the Lake by Bethany Chase – 4.75 stars

Next Month TBR List:

  • Truth, Lies and Second Dates by MaryJanice Davidson
  • The Princess and the Rogue by Kate Bateman

I have a short list for December so I’m going to be spending some of my other reading time (1) catching up more on backlogs from prior year’s lists and (2) reading some things just for fun! I think one of my favorite things I’ve been able to do this year is read more from my personal library, it feels like it’s been years since I’ve picked what I wanted to read on a whim. December will be a busy work month but if everything goes according to plan I’ll have some time off at the end of the month and can hopefully read a lot then. Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving, and hope everyone is able to do something fun to get into the festive Christmas spirit. Our Christmas this year, I’m sure like many others, will look very different this year. No large celebrations and I will be missing my family in a big way this year. But whether we’re together or apart, the love and joy that our family feels is still there. Hope everyone is doing well and staying safe. Happy reading everyone!

2020 Monthly Status Update: October

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October has somehow come and gone. This year has flown by so quickly I don’t even know where the time has gone. And even though work is still very busy, I have been able to find time here and there to read! And I had some time around Halloween off so I was able to read more on my favorite holiday. So here are some reading highlights from October for me:

Monthly Stats:
# books read this month: 10
# pages read this month: 2,834
# books read year-to-date: 78
# pages read year-to-date: 25,730

Other Posts this month:

No other posts this month!

Favorite books from this month:

Nothing that really blew me away this month

Next Month TBR List:

  • None!

I currently have no scheduled reads for November and I did that on purpose. I did that so I can catch up with some of my backlog – I currently have 2 books that I’m behind on for 2020 and I’d LOVE to have a year where I kept up with all my scheduled reads. And the next month is still going to be crazy for me! But hopefully November continues to be a productive reading month! Hope you all had a wonderfully spooky Halloween and are looking forward to a festive Thanksgiving! Happy reading everyone!

2020 Monthly Status Update: September

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What a great month September was! It was my birthday month and a great month of reading. I was able to take a couple days off work even though we’re pretty busy right now. I found time here and there to read and I read some GREAT books! In addition to some of my scheduled books I was able to read a few fairy-tale retelling stories for my birthday month. Here are some reading highlights from September for me:

Monthly Stats:
# books read this month: 9
# pages read this month: 3,483
# books read year-to-date: 68
# pages read year-to-date: 22,896

Other Posts this month:

No other posts this month!

Favorite books from this month:

Man I read some GREAT books this month!

Thick as Thieves by Sandra Brown – 4.75 stars
The Evil Queen by Gena Showalter – 4.75 stars
Tools of Engagement by Tessa Bailey – 5.0 stars

Next Month TBR List:

  • Mirror Image by Sandra Brown
  • In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren
  • Code for Love and Heartbreak by Jillian Cantor
  • Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell

Hopefully October continues to be a productive reading month! It will definitely will be busy at work but if I manage my time I should be able to fit it in. Hope you all have a spooky October! Happy reading everyone!

2020 Book #64 – The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

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Title: The Lost Apothecary
Author: Sarah Penner
Date finished: 9/13/20
Genre: Fiction, historical fiction
Publisher: Park Row
Publication Date: March 2, 2021
Pages in book: 308
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: BookBrowse
NOTE: I received this book for free from BookBrowse in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

A forgotten history. A secret network of women. A legacy of poison and revenge. Welcome to The Lost Apothecary…

Hidden in the depths of eighteenth-century London, a secret apothecary shop caters to an unusual kind of clientele. Women across the city whisper of a mysterious figure named Nella who sells well-disguised poisons to use against the oppressive men in their lives. But the apothecary’s fate is jeopardized when her newest patron, a precocious twelve-year-old, makes a fatal mistake, sparking a string of consequences that echo through the centuries.

Meanwhile in present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, running from her own demons. When she stumbles upon a clue to the unsolved apothecary murders that haunted London two hundred years ago, her life collides with the apothecary’s in a stunning twist of fate—and not everyone will survive.

With crackling suspense, unforgettable characters and searing insight, The Lost Apothecary is a subversive and intoxicating debut novel of secrets, vengeance and the remarkable ways women can save each other despite the barrier of time.

My rating:  3.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

The cover on this book looked so intriguing, as did the book description, so I was excited to get the chance to read this. This book was an interesting combination of historical fiction and a contemporary viewpoint. The plot was great – the plot twists at the end I just didn’t see coming and I really liked the overall plot line. Caroline’s character was intriguing and curious, and her growth throughout the story was wonderful to see. And I LOVED that she didn’t stay with her husband, who was a manipulative asshole. Overall this was a sweet story and I really enjoyed it, I would recommend it!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2020 Monthly Status Update: August

August-Holidays

August flew by! The cooler weather is finally here (at least for the last couple days) and I am LOVING it. I also have set up a new desk space in my home so that I have a dedicated area while working from home and it is just perfectly functional and beautiful. I am really looking forward to the next month and to catching up with work tasks. I did have to focus a bit more on work over the last month so I haven’t had as much time for reading but I am trying to stay as productive as possible! Here are some reading highlights from August for me:

Monthly Stats:
# books read this month: 5
# pages read this month: 1,710
# books read year-to-date: 59
# pages read year-to-date: 19,413

Other Posts this month:

Here to Stay BLOG TOUR!!
ARC August Reading Challenge

Favorite books from this month:

I liked the books this month but didn’t particularly love any certain one

Next Month TBR List:

  • One by One by Ruth Ware
  • Nowhere to Hide by Leslie Kelly
  • The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner
  • Tools of Engagement by Tessa Bailey
  • The Glass Queen by Gena Showalter

Next month is also my BIRTHDAY month so I’m planning to read a couple books in the fairy-tale retelling theme! My husband and I have been watching Once Upon a Time lately and I always love the Descendants movies – I always find it so fun to hear a classic fairy-tale story told in a new way.

I hope everyone has a great September! Happy reading everyone!

ARC August 2020 – WRAP UP

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And so wraps up another ARC August! This wasn’t my most successful ARC August, I have been stressed about work and haven’t had as much time for reading lately. I still tried my best but I only got through a handful of books that I wanted to. Here’s how I ended up on the ARC Reading challenge for 2020:

MY PROGRESS

August 2020 ARC’s 

-The Love Scam by MaryJanice Davidson – Read and reviewed
-Kiss My Cupcake by Helena Hunting – Read and reviewed
-Here To Stay by Adriana Herrera – Read and reviewed
-Wednesdays, Walks and Wags by Melissa Storm – Read and reviewed

Backlog ARC’s

-Meet Me at Beachcomber Bay by Jill Mansell
-Nothing Like a Duke by Jane Ashford
-One Night at the Lake by Bethany Chase
-A Season of You by Emma Douglas
-A Better Trust by Valerie Joan Connors
-Lies by T.M. Logan
-29 Seconds by T.M. Logan

I didn’t get to any of my backlog ones. And I even ended up adding a 2020 August one that I got last minute and didn’t get to that one either. But that is a wrap for this year’s ARC August! I had a great time reading and I am already looking forward to next year’s challenge!

2020 Book #60 – Here to Stay by Adriana Herrera

Title: Here to Stay
Author: Adriana Herrera
Date finished: 8/28/20
Genre: Contemporary romance
Publisher: Carina Press
Publication Date: August 25, 2020
Pages in book: 393
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Starting over is more about who you’re with than where you live…

Julia del Mar Ortiz is not having the best year.

She moved to Dallas with her boyfriend, who ended up ditching her and running back to New York after only a few weeks. Left with a massive—by NYC standards, anyway—apartment and a car lease in the scorching Texas heat, Julia is struggling…except that’s not completely true. Running the charitable foundation of one of the most iconic high fashion department stores in the world is serious #lifegoals.

It’s more than enough to make her want to stick it out down South.

The only monkey wrench in Julia’s plans is the blue-eyed, smart-mouthed consultant the store hired to take them public. Fellow New Yorker Rocco Quinn’s first order of business? Putting Julia’s job on the chopping block.

When Julia is tasked with making sure Rocco sees how valuable the programs she runs are, she’s caught between a rock and a very hard set of abs. Because Rocco Quinn is almost impossible to hate—and even harder to resist.

My rating:  3.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I haven’t read anything by this author before, but I’ve heard a lot about her books on a couple of the podcasts I listen to and I’ve been wanting lately to read one. I liked the description on this book a lot and was excited to read it. I liked it a good amount. The hero and heroine were so passionate and lively and it really made for an interesting read. I can see why her books are so popular because even beyond the normal romance plot line there were some important issues that this book dealt with: immigration and emotional abuse being the major ones. I loved hearing about the after-school programs Julia had organized and all the information about her background and her education. She was fiercely successful and it was so great to see such a strong female character in a romance novel. Julia and Rocco also had just the most adorable nicknames and it made me melt. Some of the plot was a tad off-putting for me because the main conflict was somewhat the result of communication issues – which isn’t my favorite. Other than that though it was a really enjoyable read and I’d recommend it!

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page