It’s In His Kiss (Bridgerton, #7) – Julia Quinn

Source: Goodreads

Hyacinth Bridgerton may be the youngest of the Bridgerton clan, but she is far from the picture of refined elegance that her elder siblings garnered in the ballrooms of London. Hyacinth has been dealing professionally in gossip and intrigue since she was born. It’s no wonder, then, that her best friend in the world is the only woman in London able to speak her mind whenever she pleases: Lady Danbury. They have an appointment every Tuesday, where Hyacinth usually entertains the grandmotherly figure by reading the latest novel that they’ve come upon.

It is at one of these Tuesday appointments that Hyacinth makes the unfortunate acquaintance of Lady Danbury’s grandson, Gareth St. Clair. Gareth is a younger son forced into the position of heir, but still unable to escape his father’s ominous shadow. When he comes upon his only inheritance from his paternal grandmother, an old diary written in Italian, Gareth knows he will help to translate its contents and potentially locate her missing jewelry in order to rescue the St. Clair estates from his father’s clutches. Enter Hyacinth, who has less than a firm grasp of Italian, but is his maternal grandmother’s trusted friend, the exact kind of person Gareth himself is short on these days.

As Gareth and Hyacinth delve into Grandmother St. Clair’s diary and churn up the truth about Gareth’s past, the young man must also come to terms with his present and future, and decide if that future has space enough for Hyacinth, who is herself discovering what kind of woman she wants to become.

After the clump of books 4, 5, and 6 happening concurrently, it felt nice for time to pick back up to its normal pace again. Hyacinth has always been one of my favorite characters, as has Lady Danbury, and Gareth’s sarcasm and wit fit into the mix quite nicely. The rest of the Bridgertons orbited our hero and heroine well, and the twists and turns of the plot kept me guessing. Hyacinth is nothing if not the queen of mischief, so it was no surprise that she got up to all kinds of escapades in her own story. The hunt for the jewels and the addition of Italian as the language of choice for the diary really set this one apart. Once you’ve finished all of the Bridgerton novels, you’ll definitely want to check out The Bridgertons: Happily Ever After for even more fun with all of the couples – though Hyacinth’s final story will forever hold a special place filled with glee in my heart.

HHC Rating: 5 Stars.

Other reviews in this series:
Book 1 – The Duke And I
Book 2 – The Viscount Who Loved Me
Book 3 – An Offer From A Gentleman
Book 4 – Romancing Mister Bridgerton
Book 5 – To Sir Phillip, With Love
Book 6 – When He Was Wicked
Book 8 – On The Way To The Wedding(Review available on May 28th)

May Bird Among The Stars (May Bird, #2) – Jodi Lynn Anderson

Source: Goodreads

May Bird is stuck in the land of the dead, but for the first time in her young life she doesn’t feel alone. She has Fabbio, and Bea, and Pumpkin, and Somber Kitty. They survived the bogey’s wild chase, and have made it to the train to North Farm, where a letter claims a lady can help them. The road to the north is strewn with the downtrodden, the fearsome, and downright petrifying, but May is determined to get home to her mother in Briery Swamp, West Virginia.

This second book in the May Bird trilogy, rather than being struck down by the sophomore slump, used its time to build up May’s character. Leaping off of May Bird And The Ever After‘s set-up of the world of the dead and May’s presumed destiny, as well as some of the obstacles she will face, May Bird Among The Stars helps May along the path to growing up and becoming who she was meant to be, willing or not. As she pushes to get home, May is unable to put on blinders that would prevent her from being influenced by the world around her. Deserted towns, refugee encampments, souls kept live slaves… It all has nothing, and everything, to do with May Ellen Bird. Word has spread quickly about her entry in The Book of The Dead – That she will vanquish the evil Bo Cheevil and safe The Ever After from certain disaster – but May would rather blend in and stay hidden until she can get home. As she approaches her destination, May must come to terms with what it means to be “The Chosen One”, and how she can only blend in for so long, when she was born to stand out.

HHC Rating: 4 Stars.

Other reviews in this series:
Book 1 – May Bird and the Ever After
Book 3 – May Bird Warrior Princess(Review available on May 21st)

When He Was Wicked (Bridgerton, #6) – Julia Quinn

Source: Goodreads

Concurrent with the previous two books in the Bridgerton saga is Franchesca’s story. Although she is rarely mentioned and even more rarely seen in the previous novels, Francesca is a Bridgerton through and through. Married a few years before the start of this story, Franchesca is supremely happy with her husband, John Stirling, Earl of Kilmartin, and they are set to celebrate their anniversary when he dies suddenly. Left widowed, she turns to the new Earl, John’s cousin Michael, for support. Michael, however, feels suddenly that he must get away from Franchesca as well as John’s memory, and flees to India for three years.

As the years go by, Franchesca puts her time as the Countess of Kilmartin into running the estate in Michael’s place, but all the while she feels lonelier and lonelier. After three years, she happens to arrive in London for the season at the same moment that Michael returns from the continent, both of them ready to face the marriage mart. As they attempt to rekindle their friendship and navigate their way through the overcrowded ballrooms unexpected sparks begin to fly, and Franchesca finds herself running back to Scotland in the fear that she might dishonor John’s memory by reaching for the one thing she never thought she would find again: love.

I really wish we had focused a bit more on her first marriage, since John felt distant an unimportant, despite him being deeply involved in the storyline and the two main character’s lives. That being said, I quite enjoyed Colin’s interruptions of Michael’s quiet evenings, egging him on. We got to know both main characters pretty well despite Franchesca being a bit more of a loner than the rest of the Bridgertons, which explains her being rarely present in the previous books. Colin, Eloise, and Hyacinth are in nearly every book, meddling in their siblings affairs, but Franchesca operates almost entirely independent of her family. This book was mostly Franchesca and Michael insisting they could never do exactly what they were in the midst of doing, and people pointing out what they were doing, even while they denied it. The illness aspects of the book definitely helped move the plot along, but also detracted from potential character development.

I am always unsure how I feel about this one. On the one hand, I want more of Franchesca’s story. I need to understand her as a child, sharing a birthday with Eloise, in order to understand her as an adult. Maybe that is the problem I also had with the previous book. I needed more of a relationship between Eloise and Franchesca to understand Eloise.

HHC rating: 3.5 Stars.

Other Reviews in this Series:
Book 1 – The Duke and I
Book 2 – The Viscount Who Loved Me
Book 3 – An Offer From A Gentleman
Book 4 – Romancing Mister Bridgerton
Book 5 – To Sir Phillip, With Love
Book 7 – It’s In His Kiss(Review available on May 14th)
Book 8 – On The Way To The Wedding(Review available on May 28th)

May Bird and the Ever After (May Bird, #1) – Jodi Lynn Anderson

May-Bird-and-the-Ever-After-Jodi-Lynn-anderson

Source: Goodreads

May Bird lives in a mansion. It is old, and the only remaining building in town. She likes to explore the rundown square, as well as the woods that surrounds them. She hates school and the wall of briars that impedes her exploration of the forest. She also hates the ghost that comes to her room every night and watches her. Her mother can’t see him and wants to send her away from Briery Swamp to a boarding school somewhere in upstate New York. Everything changes when May Bird finds a letter, addressed to her, in the 50-year-old ruins of the Biery Swamp post office. Now a walk in the woods could change the course of her life, and death, forever. May Bird, her cat Somber Kitty, and the ghost are the only ones who can save the world of the dead.

I picked this one up at the library in 2016 simply because it had ‘ever after’ in the title. I like fairytales, alright? But this book is no fairytale. In fact, it took me a while to read its 300 pages because I kept scaring myself. I don’t do creepy or scary, and this has a decent helping of both, with a bunch of gross on the side. Nevertheless, once I got into it, I became completely sucked in. I could never have invented a place like the Ever After. It’s just not my style. But the fact that this world exists fascinates me to no end. It’s so perfectly detailed, and the writing is perfect. The trials that May Bird faces in this first book of the trilogy astounded me, and I laughed and cried and freaked out at varying points. Let me just say, for the record, that it’s hard to read with your eyes covered.

In all honesty, the book isn’t really that scary. I’m just a scaredy-cat. I hate being scared. I don’t do scary movies or scary books. I stopped watching the film of Stephen King’s It halfway through because my friends fell asleep and I was too scared to finish it alone. The only time I don’t get scared is when I’m protecting someone else. Then I can be brave. But reading scary books is not something I necessarily enjoy doing. I didn’t grow up reading the Goosebumps series because the covers scared me, but I’d guess that this is probably on par, especially since it came out a mere three years after the first Goosebumps book.

The point of view alternates irregularly between May Bird and her cat Somber Kitty, who end up in the land of the dead, known as the Ever After. We’re given to believe that live people used to visit frequently, but that since Bo Cheevil has come to power, everything has gone to Hell in a handbasket. The ghouls are escaping their pit in the dead sea, and the Boogie Man has been operating with an iron fist (and some giant dogs). The addition of a prophecy and a mysterious lady who runs an even more mysterious farm sucks you into May Bird and the Ever After like a water demon.

This book is middle grade/juvenile fiction but contains some pretty creepy ghosts and monsters. Recommended if you like scary stories like R.L. Stines Goosebumps series, but also if you’re willing to put up with some creepiness in your awesome dimensional-traveling adventure book.

HHC Rating:  4 Stars

To Sir Phillip, With Love (Bridgerton, #5) – Julia Quinn

Source: Goodreads

Eloise Bridgerton has had her fair share of marriage proposals and turned them all down. She wants a love match, as impossible as that seems. While she waits for love, she is content to participate in society, and write copious amounts of letters. Just as her best friend and favorite brother are falling for each other, Eloise accidentally starts falling for her cousin’s widowed husband. When he invites her to visit, she decides to go and see if they would suit… without informing her family. As Eloise and Phillip, and his twins Oliver and Amanda, attempt to get along in a house filled with sad memories, a reckoning is on the way in the form of all four, very large, Bridgerton brothers. Will the quiet Phillip be up to their standards? Will Eloise be in it for the long haul, or will the sadness of the past push her over the edge?


This one doesn’t have as much character development as I always hope it will. We get a much better sense of Eloise’s personality in the other books, when she is a secondary character, than when she is the main focus. As a heroine, she nearly disappears except in the presence of Oliver and Amanda. Sir Phillip is so wrapped up in what he wants out of a second wife that he barely notices her, and then suddenly realizes just how dependent on her he has become. I wish he had been able to appreciate her varied character a little more, and I wish she had spoken up a bit more often, rather than attempting to smother her outspokenness so as not to scare him off. She never smothered that aspect of her personality before, so why now? That aspect of the character, of her being incredibly insecure when we’ve known her to be sure and steadfast throughout the series throws me every time. The ending definitely redeems Phillip, but I do tend to be quite frustrated with him by that point.

*** Trigger Warning for themes of suicide in this one, folks ***

HHC Rating: 4 Stars.

Other reviews in this series:
Book 1 – The Duke And I
Book 2 – The Viscount Who Loved Me
Book 3 – An Offer From A Gentleman
Book 4 – Romancing Mister Bridgerton
Book 6 – When He Was Wicked
Book 7 – It’s In His Kiss(Review available on May 14th)
Book 8 – On The Way To The Wedding(Review available on May 28th)

How Shirking My To Do List Brought Me A Writing Breakthrough That Was Five Years In The Making

I had a to do list today, just like I do every day. Most days I check off nearly everything on them. In a normal job setting, I chip away at everything as a brisk pace without delay, though in my personal life I am a master of procrastination and working frantically in equal parts. I had quite the list today: apply to full-time editing jobs, apply to part-time internships, shop for groceries, do a load or two of laundry, write a book review, read a book, work on my homework. It was quite a long, and mostly inconsequential list that can wait for tomorrow.

As Tuesday is my only quiet, peaceful, truly self-ordered day, I decided to hide out in a cafe where nobody would look for me and write. Not my primary WIP, which I’ve been diligently chipping away at and should still make my self-imposed deadlines for, but the elusive portal fantasy that I poke at time and again. It’s been simmering for well over a decade now, and I go back to drop in new ingredients, add a dash of this or that, give it a stir, and occasionally add a new side dish to. Someday it will be ready, but since it doesn’t have a recipe, I just have to wait and see when that day will be.

I scraped through yesterday on heaps of coffee and well-timed naps, and though I slept deeply last night, I woke this morning to the sort of quiet world that exists in the liminal spaces of life – somewhere between sleeping and waking, where anything is possible. Every once in a while I wake to this sort of feeling, and I know that the day is ripe to dive through the portal once again and see what I can discover about the world I started inventing and exploring back in the early years of the millennium.

Today, I discovered a new character. I knew his name before but could not conjure an image of him to my mind. He had bits and pieces to his life, and I knew he was important, but whether to me or to another character I hadn’t yet puzzled out. Today I saw his face, and learned his motivations, even while I was writing the inner thoughts of another character with whom he comes into contact. It is always cheering to see a new face among my pages. Like an adventurer myself I leap excitedly into the breach that takes me to Everest, where I am always clearing out the fog and greeting the new faces I find there.

A lot of how I write this particular book is based purely on personal experience. I started it in sixth or seventh grade and fumbled through the dark of how exactly a novel was supposed to be written. I did take a novel writing class in seventh grade which helped a little, and the feedback from it helped me to shape the world that my characters now call home. However, the actual story has changed at least three times since then and probably more than ten. I blame reading The Eye of the World that same year for my enormous vision, but once I had begun to create it I was committed. I devoted entire summers and Christmas breaks during high school to developing it, and even though it’s hardly close to being finished, I’ve broken through a kind of barrier that seemed to keep the characters at arms length over the years.

Writing without a real outline while you attempt to populate a planet is both a challenge and a delight. The world is always just at the edge of my thoughts, and even when I have writer’s block or can’t for the life of me see where a scene is going, I can go back and dive into the minds of my main characters and attempt to see the world through their eyes. What would they focus in on in this scene? What would they do in this situation? How would they remember a particular moment if they reflected on it? I can hardly recall now the date when my characters came into being, or where I plucked them from, only that they were the kind of heroes I wanted to read about, and that if I were to go on an adventure I should want to be like them as I did it. They have become my most constant companions, and I’ve learned to lean into their adventures when I become stuck in my own, and vice-versa. What would R do in this situation? I ask myself, and even occasionally translate my own experiences into the context of their world so I can play them through it. Some of these writings even maneuver their way into the actual manuscript, though that is not always the case.

Today has been one of those magical days where I was able to dive into the mind of a character without becoming wrapped up in world building, and walk through their thoughts and memories of a scene I haven’t even written yet. It was through writing their memories of a scene that I came across the face of my character – he is neither new nor so old to be called that either – and finally saw the scene as they must have, meeting him for the first time. And finally, finally, I knew how to finish a scene that I have been bemoaning for at least five years. Writing is magical that way. Sometimes you have to look at a scene from every direction (including backwards into a character’s memories) to realize what needed to happen.

I am ecstatic, to say the least, that I finally know where that particular scene is going. It’s been an ongoing itch, the need to fix and finish it, and the character I met today has also been at the edge of my mind. To find that they belonged together is immensely satisfying. I feel like I just finished reading a book with a perfect, happy ending because the narrative of my story is smooth and strong once again. This scene has been a chink in my armor for nearly five years if I estimate correctly, and finally fixing it absolutely makes up for the awful day I had yesterday, not to mention all the frustration I’ve felt over the scene since I first came across it.

And now, back into the breach I go. Adventure awaits.

Dealing With Dragons (The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, #1) – Patricia C. Wrede

Source: Goodreads

Princess Cimorene of Linderwall has very proper parents. She is nothing like her six elder sisters. Her hair is black and unruly. She avoids her dancing classes to fence with the castle armsmaster, learn magic with the court magician, practice economics with the court treasurer, or bake in the castle kitchens. Bored out of her mind, she summons her fairy godmother, who is no help whatsoever. So she runs away. Cimorene takes up the perfectly acceptable life of being a dragon’s princess, but she is nothing like the other captive princesses. She finds a place where her abilities (math, declining latin, cooking, baking, cleaning, magic) are welcomed and even useful. Now if only the knights and princes would stop showing up trying to fight Kazul and carry Cimorene off to live happily ever after.


Every year when International Women’s Day rolls around, I think of Cimorene. Wrede didn’t write her as a feminist. Equality is something that Cimorene takes as a given, not something she has to fight for. Anything that isn’t based in equality is just absurd, regardless of what is deemed ‘proper’ by the governing bodies. Cimorene is strong, smart, curious, and stubborn. She is, in short, my favorite literary character ever created and I hope I can write characters half as cool as her someday. I read this book at least once a year, usually more, and it is one of the biggest inspirations in my writing, equal to Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time and Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted. I bring a copy with me any time I babysit and read it to my charges regardless of age and gender because it never fails. This book is pure magic.

Dealing With Dragons is not a romance. It is about Cimorene finding her place in the world and turning it into her best life. When life gives you lemons, make fresh-scented soapy water. Trust me, it can solve most of your problems.

HHC Rating: 5 Stars

Other books by Patricia C. Wrede:
Sorcery & Cecelia, Or, The Enchanted Chocolate Pot