Set Boundaries, Find Peace by Nedra Glover Tawwab

4 stars

The cover of Set Boundaries, Find Peace displayed on an e-reader.
Set Boundaries, Find Peace offers practical advice to help readers learn to set healthy boundaries.

I discovered Nedra Glover Tawwab, a licensed counselor, through Instagram, and was inspired by the helpful advice she offered on setting boundaries on her feed. 

As helpful as her posts are, I felt like I needed more depth than the collection of quotes and lists on her feed provided to truly apply her advice to my life. 

Her book “Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself” introduced me to the definitions, practical advice, and examples I needed to be able to set healthier boundaries in my personal and professional life. 

She makes a strong case that boundaries are critical to healthy relationships and to personal peace. Her assertion that boundaries are the root of self-care was a powerful insight for me. 

Tawwab also offers practical tips, exercises, and quizzes that empower readers to assess whether they have porous, rigid, or healthy boundaries and feel more assured in setting healthy ones.

I appreciated that the book discussed a variety of settings (social media, work, friendships, dealing with toxic people) where boundaries can be applied, although it was a little repetitive at times. And, like most expert advice books, some parts resonated with me and my circumstances, and parts weren’t really relevant at all.

Recovering people-pleasers or individuals who frequently feel overwhelmed and resentful but aren’t sure why will find this book helpful. This guidebook will be most useful to those who need a foundational understanding of what boundaries are, but even expert-level boundary-setters stand to pick up a tip or two.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

4 stars

I think I’m the last person on earth to read this book. I have seen it all over Bookstagram, the Twitter Reading Community, and my Goodreads feed. I am happy to report that it mostly lived up to the hype. 

A paperback copy of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Tara Jenkins Reid on a black slate background surrounded by pearls and gold earrings.

I knew from reading Malibu Rising a few months ago that Reid is an excellent storyteller. The pages of Evelyn Hugo ooze the same intoxicating readability as Malibu Rising. Again, I encountered characters who are flawed and complex and weirdly relatable given that I don’t have anything in common with their glamorous, star-powered lifestyles.

I liked the Old Hollywood setting of this novel. Reid succeeds in making the reader feel like an insider to the real story behind the lives of these (fictional) movie stars. Evelyn’s confidence and shrewdness combined with her vulnerability made her an interesting character. While there were moments in the book where I both loved and hated her, I was never bored by Evelyn.

In my opinion, Monique was an underrated character. She doesn’t get mentioned in the title and only a few of the chapters are told from her perspective but she’s more central to the plot than a couple of Evelyn’s husbands. Her life is also impacted more by Evelyn’s choices than are several of the other people in the novel. I loved how Monique grew through the small glimpses we got of her life.

A lot of readers and reviewers have commented positively on the gossip columns and news clips that were interspersed throughout the book. Personally, I didn’t feel like they added a lot of authenticity to the story since much of the plot already felt like it was ripped right out of a People magazine story.

Although I gave this book the same star rating as Malibu Rising, I’d give a slight edge to Evelyn Hugo. And, after reading and liking both, I’m looking forward to reading my third TJR book, Daisy Jones and the Six, which is waiting impatiently on my overflowing TBR shelf.

My review of Malibu Rising is linked here.

Have you read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo? Tell me your thoughts in the comments!

Refraction by Terry Geo

5 stars

A paperback copy of the book Refraction by Terry Geo.
Refraction by Terry Geo

Based on the reviews and the Twitter hype, I had high expectations going into this book. In fact, I was so excited about it, I bought the e-version and the paperback  so I would have my choice of formats when I was ready to enjoy.  Refraction did not disappoint!

With a lot of build up and a clear turning point for the action, Refraction feels like two different  books in the most amazing way. Geo takes his time setting up the adventure, planting little seeds and letting you get to know each of the characters who will go on an action-packed, head-spinning ride in the second half of the book. 

From there, we encounter a unique world where reality and dreams collide in unpredictable and unexpected ways. 

It is truly difficult to pick out what I enjoyed most about this book. From the London setting, the truly imaginative plot, the fun pop culture references, to the diverse cast of likable characters, there is so much to love and enjoy.

I read The Cracked Reflection, Geo’s introductory novella, first. After reading Refraction, I want to go back and reread it to see if it changes how I interpreted Maria’s story.

My review of The Cracked Reflection is available here.

Both books are available on Amazon and Terry Geo’s Refracted World website.

The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict

3 stars

In this novel, Marie Benedict hypothesizes about what happened during Agatha Christie’s most famous unsolved mystery, her own 11-day disappearance. 

The Mystery of Mrs. Christie

The book alternates between Agatha’s life when she first met and married Archie Christie and each day of her disappearance. In many ways, Archie Christie was the main character of this historical fiction work, and the portrait Benedict paints of Colonel Christie isn’t a flattering one. He comes across as demanding, domineering, and narcissistic, with all of Agatha’s actions centered on him.

It was interesting to read this book so soon after reading The Christie Affair by Nina de Gramont. While the books cover the same time period, the two fictional accounts are very different. I’d give de Gramont an edge in the writing – her prose was more captivating than Benedict’s flatter style. 

However, de Gramont definitely took a lot more creative license in her story. Benedict’s account was much more believable and seemed much closer to what could have actually happened. 

Both portray Agatha as a strong, talented woman but in different ways. The Mystery of Mrs. Christie deals more with her relationship with her mother and sister, her affection for her daughter, and the pressure she felt to be the perfect wife. For most of the book, The Christie Affair portrays her as a colder, more career-oriented person who seems ambivalent toward her daughter.

My full review of The Christie Affair is linked below: https://bookpicksandpics.com/2022/04/03/the-christie-affair-by-nina-de-gramont/

Dreamtaker by L. Krauch

5 stars

The cover of Dreamtaker by L. Krauch

Darker than its predecessor, Dreamtaker features many of the same characters as the original 13th Zodiac story. However, the sequel adds a few new players, most notably the evil Damien who takes the story in a new, more sinister direction. 

Dreamtaker is a riveting read that boomerangs you through a wide range of terrifying emotions for your favorite characters, particularly for the King and Queen of Chall.

Although Jase and Liya are prominent in this story, other familiar characters have their stories fleshed out a bit. The author’s trademark vivid descriptions of the action scenes and running jokes (apples, anyone?) are also present in the sequel. 

While I wouldn’t have thought it possible, I am even more excited for the next installment of the 13th Zodiac series than I was for Dreamtaker. As readers, we are set up for so many different possibilities, that I can’t wait to see what direction we are catapulted into next.

My review is based on an e-ARC provided to me by the author. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Dreamtaker releases on May 13, 2022, and can be purchased through Amazon.

My review of The 13th Zodiac: https://bookpicksandpics.com/2022/01/08/the-13th-zodiac-by-l-krauch/

Waiting for Saturday by Catherine Morrison

5 stars

Waiting for Saturday by Catherine Morrison

I picked up a digital copy of this book because I was intrigued by the title – in some ways, aren’t we all “Waiting for Saturday” to come around? 

Based on the crushed red lollipop on the cover, I was expecting this book to be either a lighthearted YA romance or a sinister thriller about a young villain. Instead, I found an unexpected gem of a story about a young woman slowly opening her eyes to the mistreatment she suffers and regaining trust in herself. 

On the surface, Abi seems to have it all – a beautiful 4-year-old daughter, a gorgeous house in an upscale neighborhood, and a husband who provides for her every need. One Saturday morning, she meets Henry and his son at the play center. A friendship develops that gives Abi a new perspective on what’s really happening in her life. 

I devoured this fast flowing 150 page story in one weekend morning, cheering for Abi with each page. Not everyone will be satisfied with how this books ends, but I appreciated some of the warnings and the hope Abi’s story offers.

After reading Waiting for Saturday, I definitely plan to check out more of Morrison’s work.

The Christie Affair by Nina de Gramont

4 stars

The cover of The Christie Affair by Nina de Gramont.
The Christie Affair

I picked up The Christie Affair because it is my book club’s pick this month. A historical fiction work, the novel imagines what happened during Agatha Christie’s brief, unexplained disappearance. 

Told from the point of view of Nan O’Dea, Archie Christie’s mistress, the story opens with a glimpse into O’Dea’s past and jumps to the present, a few days before Agatha vanishes. The story alternates back and forth between the two time periods, weaving in a lot of grief, heartbreak, and intrigue along the way.

The author’s explanation behind why the famous author disappeared is both fascinating and moving, though some of the events seemed a little far-fetched. The lovely prose, shrewd observations about humans, and a surprising take on the relationship between Nan and Agatha helped me look past some of the implausible moments. 

“I hadn’t learned yet. In this world, it’s the obedient girls who are most in danger.”

The Christie Affair

One of the lines that resonated with me in the book was, “I hadn’t learned yet. In this world, it’s the obedient girls who are most in danger.” I think every woman wonders at some point whether following the rules is going to be her downfall in the end.

Overall, this was a pleasant, well-written read that has me wanting to learn more about Agatha Christie. In fact, I’ve started to read The Mystery of Mrs. Christie, which is Marie Benedict’s take on the unsolved mystery of Agatha Christie’s 11-day disappearance. It will be interesting to compare the two novels once I’ve finished.

Are you an Agatha Christie fan? Have you read either of these books attempting to explain her disappearance?

Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney

4 stars

In a last-ditch effort to save their marriage, Adam and Amelia Wright go on a free weekend getaway to a renovated chapel in a remote area of Scotland. Shortly after the Wrights arrive, strange things start happening at the cottage. 

This atmospheric thriller with touches of horror is my first Alice Feeney read. I quite enjoyed her writing style. Short chapters – alternating mostly between Adam and Amelia’s points of view and interspersed with anniversary letters written to Adam – really keep the story moving.

Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney

Although the book paints a depressing portrait of marriage, it is cleverly written and has several funny quips. One of Adam’s lines that made me laugh was, “There are forests less shady than my wife.”

The story focused on a small set of characters, and I appreciate it when an author can keep a story interesting with fewer than a handful of characters. As a word lover, I also enjoyed that she included a word of the year, many of which were new to me. 

I did guess many of the twists in the book, but for the most part, I didn’t guess them until a few pages before the author was ready to reveal them to the reader.

I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys: twisty thrillers, stories where the setting can be considered its own character, or books where some of the main characters are writers.

The Backup Superhero by Kayla Hicks

4 stars

I absolutely loved the concept of this novella. In a genre where everything has been done before, the idea of having tiers of superheroes seemed original and intriguing. 

The Backup Superhero by Kayla Hicks displayed on an e-reader.
The cover of The Backup Superhero by Kayla Hicks

Tanser Girl, a D leaguer, is our heroine. After a bad day, she heads to the Hero’s Cave, a bar where the backup heroes hang out, to pick herself up. She meets up with Dwighter, a fellow level D superhero with a drinking problem, and Frank, the mysterious barkeep, both of whom are instrumental in the events that follow.

The spotlight-hating, funny, self-deprecating Tanser Girl is a likable character. With a Board of Superheroes and rules that apply to the different levels of superheroes, the story also gives us some background on the politics of saving lives. I thought these references added an interesting dimension to the book.

As much as I enjoyed the adventures of Tanser Girl, Frank, and Dwighter, the novella felt a little incomplete to me. It stops abruptly and seems more of a teaser to a fuller work than a stand-alone story. Lucky for us there’s more to the story in a second superhero book, The Original Superheroes.

The Backup Superhero and other works by Hicks can be found on her website: https://kayla-hicks.com/

Hicks has also written a young adult romance novel, Anywhere Else. My review of Anywhere Else is available here: https://bookpicksandpics.com/2021/09/04/anywhere-else-by-kayla-hicks/

The Guidal: Discovering Puracordis by Roxy Eloise

4 stars

The Guidal by Roxy Eloise

In this YA fantasy book, 16-year-old Aurora lives in the Boulderfell Institute where she and the other adoptees must adhere to a strict set of rules. The story starts with Aurora moving up from the Mustards, the children’s section, to the adult quarters (Navies). Her move makes her eligible for the Unity ceremony, an annual ceremony where disciples are matched to each other.

Eloise creates an intriguing character in Aurora, the strong-willed, white haired leading lady. Aurora grows more relatable throughout the story as we learn more about her past and she navigates her way through change, love and loss. At one point, Eloise accurately describes the disembodied experience of grief, when Aurora recalls, “I didn’t remember much of the past seven days because I wasn’t there to live it.”

With each chapter of Eloise’s debut work, I became more invested in Aurora’s journey and wanted to understand the unique world she was immersed in. Supporting characters, including Tayo, the juvie assigned to her care, and the beloved Nanny Kimly add heart to the story

The Guidal, which releases on April 2, 2022, ends with several unanswered questions, which hopefully means Eloise is planning a sequel.

The book is available through Eloise’s author website. For an extra treat, you can listen to Eloise read Chapter One on her YouTube channel.

Thank you to the author for providing me with a free e-ARC of this book. The opinions expressed in this review are my own and were not influenced by receiving a free copy.