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Misfortune of Song: Druid’s Brooch Series: #5 by Christy Nicholas – Review by Francis O’Sullivan

Misfortune of Song (Druid's Brooch #5)Misfortune of Song by Christy Nicholas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Misfortune of Song is the fifth book in Christy Nicholas’ Druid’s Brooch series. The series tracks a magical object – the brooch – as it is passed through the generations of an Irish family. Each book is set at a different point in history, jumping between different centuries. Misfortune of Song is set in the 12th Century.
I’m so impressed by the levels of detail in the historical setting. Every time I read one of the books I think “oh wow, Nicholas must specialise in this era in history” and then I read another and it has the same depth of description. I really feel like I’m being transported back in time. It’s so vivid and informative and specific.
Maelan is a fantastic leader. He has a strong moral compass and values traditions and rules. He seeks to be fair but maintain control, and is waiting to find the right person to pass that control onto. Like many great characters, his strengths are also his weaknesses. He struggles when presented with unfamiliar scenarios and those that set his moral beliefs up against the traditional values he seeks to uphold.
For me, this is a five star read. I’ve not quite managed to read them in order, but I don’t think that has detracted too much from my enjoyment of the book. Once I’ve read them all, I might go back and read them in publishing order (and then in chronological order of events – so many possibilities!). I’d thoroughly recommend them to anyone with an interest in Irish history and Celtic fantasy!

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Age of Saints (Druid’s Brooch Series #7) by Christy Nicholas – Review by Francis O’Sullivan

Age of Saints (Druid's Brooch #7)Age of Saints by Christy Nicholas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Age of Saints is the seventh book in Christy Nicholas’ Druid’s Brooch Series. The series consists of stories following the same family at different points in history, and a magical heirloom which plays a significant role in each of their stories. The books are not chronological, jumping between different centuries, and can be read as standalones or as part of the series.
What I really like about this series is the extent to which it is grounded in history and traditional folklore. Nicholas paints a vivid picture of every time and place we encounter, and doesn’t miss an opportunity to teach us a bit about life at the time. Age of Saints is no different – I swear I could smell the smoke and mud in the roundhouses!
Age of Saints follows Conall, who inherited the brooch from his father, and his sister Lainn. They are on the run from their abusive stepfather, desperate to find safety and reluctant to trust anyone. There’s a good dynamic between Conall and Lainn – they are protective and caring towards each other but with a healthy amount of teasing when safety allows for it.
I particularly enjoyed the animal characters. Lainn is able to communicate with them, and so they play a significant part in the story. Barnabus the bee is probably my favourite…
For me, this is a five star book. I love the rich, magical world Nicholas describes. I enjoy learning bits of Irish Gaelic and Irish history and how the fantasy elements draw on folklore and tradition. I’d recommend the series to fans of historical fantasy, particularly with an interest in Celtic settings.

Reviewed by @translunartumshie

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Happily. Ever After? (The Italian Saga Book 6) by Gaia B Amman – Review by Francis O’Sullivan

Happily. Ever After?Happily. Ever After? by Gaia B. Amman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Happily. Ever After? is the sixth book in Gaia B Amman’s Italian Saga. Leda, the independent and adventurous heroine we’ve watched growing up over the past five books, is now in her early twenties. She’s had her heart broken and broken hearts. She’s struggled with mental illness. And coming through it all, she’s now focused on her course and her hobbies. But she can’t ignore her feelings for Sergio, and his demands on her attention.
Leda is great! The books are written from her perspective and Amman does a great job of getting inside her head. She is both mature and naïve, the paradox of young adulthood, and this comes across in her interpretation of situations. She’s clever, and I found myself learning a thing or two about biomedical sciences (Amman’s background really comes through here – I enjoyed the level of detail!).
I like the varied LGBT+ representation, particularly with bisexual and polyamorous characters. There’s generally a great cast of characters, building up throughout the books, and it’s good to have some diversity there!
The pace sometimes felt a bit odd – chunks of time would fly past and yet we get incredible amounts of detail about things which aren’t necessarily central to the plot – but it sort of feels like we’re focusing on the things that are important to Leda. We have to appreciate what her priorities and occupations are!
This is a five star book. A great insight into Italian life (as a teacher, I particularly enjoyed learning about the education system…) and wonderful to see Leda maturing. If you like coming of age stories spread out over a number of years, such as the Adrian Mole books, you’ll enjoy this series!

Reviewed by @translunartumshie

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Coming Home (Flowers in December, #2) by Jane Suen – Review by Francis O’Sullivan

COMING HOME (Flowers in December, #2)COMING HOME by Jane Suen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Coming Home is the sequel to Jane Suen’s Flowers in December. Connor, whose return to his hometown for his mother’s funeral set the scene for Flowers in December, is coming back for good. He’s realised that the corporate life he worked so hard at isn’t making him, or Tom the cat, happy.
I was expecting this book to develop the relationship between Connor and Mary Ann that was the focus of Flowers in December. It was a pleasant surprise to find that it focuses more broadly on all kinds of relationships – friendships old and new, family and romance. It’s very much a Christmas story as Connor faces his first holiday season without his mum.
I wish Alana had more time to develop – I felt like she was very much in the background and we got most of her story in one go. But I guess it’s good that the book left me wanting more! I’m eager to read more of Alana’s story, as well as seeing how Connor and Mary Ann’s futures pan out.
For me, this is a four star read. If you want something comforting and festive, with plenty of originality, this is a great read! I would recommend starting with Flowers in December, but enough background information is given that you could probably get away with reading it as a standalone.

Reviewed by @translunartumshie

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What She Lost And Found by M.L. Garcia – Review by Francis O’Sullivan

What She Lost And FoundWhat She Lost And Found by M.L. Garcia
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What She Lost and Found by M.L. Garcia is an emotional story about a young woman, Daniela, whose life has been torn apart by rape and murder. Trying to build a new life in a new city, she finds her past holding her back from getting close to anyone, particularly men. As the story progresses, she realises she has a lot more to go through before she will fully be safe.
I really like the characters in this. Bridget, Daniela’s former roommate and closest friend at uni, is full of energy and love for her friends. Love triangle notwithstanding, I also like Nathan and Alex and admire how they respect Daniela and her boundaries.
It’s written in a first person, fairly informal style. At times I found this a little frustrating as Daniela’s thoughts and worries kept the story from flowing but I suppose that’s a pretty accurate portrayal of how her concerns were keeping her from getting on with her life. There’s a lot of detail – we are told exactly what Daniela is wearing every time she gets changed – which for me was a bit excessive but might for others help paint a vivid picture.
With rape and murder scenes, often fairly vividly described, this is quite a dark book but it is balanced with cheerful, playful friendship and gentle romance. It might be triggering for some readers. I found it quite tense at times, but mostly in an “I can’t put this book down!” kind of way.
For me, this is a four star read. I would recommend it to new adult readers who want a book about overcoming challenges and tragedy.

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WTF, God?: Understanding God in the Midst of Transition by Michelle N. Onuorah – Review by Francis O’Sullivan

WTF, God?: Understanding God in the Midst of TransitionWTF, God?: Understanding God in the Midst of Transition by Michelle N. Onuorah
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

WTF, God? is an inspirational memoir by Michelle N. Onuorah. In it, she explores her experiences as a young adult and the ways in which her faith guided her through decisions and changes.
The writing style is informal and passionate. Onuorah makes frequent reference back to the Bible, with references given for follow up. The book is more or less chronological, but also structured by the key lessons she has learnt through her experiences, and wishes to convey to the reader.
The word that keeps coming to mind when I think about this book is generous. In sharing her experiences, Onuorah is offering her reader hope and guidance. The tone is positive and optimistic, even when she is talking about struggles with mental health and rejection.
I would recommend this book to anyone, particularly young adults, who are struggling to find direction in their life. Throughout the book, Onuorah focuses on her faith and how her strong relationship with God helped her to make sense of her life and accept the things which she cannot control. Reading about the setbacks and delays she experienced inspires patience and hope.
For me, this is a five star book. It’s encouraged me to think, and comforted me. I’m glad I read it!

Reviewed by @translunartumshie

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The Future Memoir of Ann Jones by Alex Bailey – Review by Francis O’Sullivan

The Future Memoir of Ann Jones: A Time Travel Romance with a Splash of MagicThe Future Memoir of Ann Jones: A Time Travel Romance with a Splash of Magic by Alex Bailey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Future Memoir of Ann Jones is a captivating book by Alex Bailey. I was expecting something along the lines of The Time Traveller’s Wife but it’s more of a Sliding Doors sort of thing. But more so.
There were points where it felt a little bit weird, but the framing narrative more or less gives it permission to be a bit weird. After all, we don’t know what if any of the story is real, and how much has been altered as it’s been passed on.
It was an enjoyable read. From the start, I was intrigued and needed to know what was going on with the knitting club! The characters were certainly characterful! I particularly liked Helga, a young woman with a flair for palm reading, and Daniel, a chef who is always up for experimenting.
At the end of the book, we get an extra treat with the recipes for a few of the dishes mentioned in the story. I very much approve of this, as my mouth was watering pretty much all the way through (so much so that I had to take a break to go and get some chocolate before I could finish reading!).
If you like strange cult-like groups with innocent seeming facades (I was reminded of Hot Fuzz!) and a book that explores “what ifs”, then this is definitely worth a read! It wasn’t quite what I expected but I couldn’t put it down, so definitely gets five stars from me!

Reviewed by @translunartumshie

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An Italian Adventure (The Italian Saga, #1) by Gaia B. Amman – Review by Francis O’Sullivan

An Italian Adventure (The Italian Saga, #1)An Italian Adventure by Gaia B. Amman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An Italian Adventure is the first book in Gaia B Amman’s Italian Saga. It is told from the perspective of Lee, an adventurous and imaginative child in Italy in the 1980s. It has everything you could want in a book about childhood – long, warm summer days full of seemingly endless possibilities, secrets, confusing adults, monsters, tears…
Lee is absolutely charming. She’s tough and always ready to stand up for herself, but also sensitive and loyal. Pretty much all of her friends are boys, and a big theme in the book is her (and them) figuring out if they see her as a person or a girl. I really like how her relationship with Viola, her older sister, develops over the course of the book. Where Lee is on the brink of teenagerhood, Viola is approaching adulthood with the stress of final exams looming over her.
It’s a very enjoyable book. I felt a lot of nostalgia for my childhood reading it, and it made me think a lot about my own experiences. I also learned a lot about childhood in Italy (and a few Italian swear words…) which was interesting!
For me, this is a five star book. It’s the first in a long series, so I’m looking forward to following Lee’s adventures as she grows up. I really enjoyed reading this, and getting to know the characters.

Reviewed by @translunartumshie

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Full Glasses and Burju Shoes by Blake Blessing – Review by Francis O’Sullivan

Full Glasses and Burju ShoesFull Glasses and Burju Shoes by Blake Blessing
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Full Glasses and Burju Shoes is a romantic standalone novel by Blake Blessing. It tells the story of Perrin, a young, vivacious woman whose main coping mechanism is throwing herself into adventurous hobbies, and Emil, a war veteran trying to build a new life.
One of the central themes in this book is PTSD. Emil and many of his friends from the army are struggling with PTSD and adapting to civilian life, and with a variety of characters we see how this can manifest in different ways. From Emil’s perspective, we get the vivid flashbacks and his concerns as he tries to build a new life and relationships with civilians. We also see how PTSD affects his friends, as well as the other people in their lives. It is done sensitively, highlighting the pain and potential consequences as well as offering hope.
I was drawn to this book by the focus on dancing, and liked that it was central to the plot. Having studied a bit of music psychology, I was particularly pleased about the references to music therapy! The descriptions of dancing are very detailed, and it makes me want to try bachata.
For me, this is a five star book. It’s not always a comfortable read, and there are some scenes that might be triggering (including references to drug and alcohol abuse, suicide and descriptions of war) but it is ultimately optimistic and very well written.

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Beneath the Surface (Gray Ghost #3) by Amy McKinley – Review by Francis O’Sullivan

Beneath the Surface (Gray Ghost #3)Beneath the Surface by Amy McKinley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Beneath the Surface is the third book in Amy McKinley’s Gray Ghost series, which centres around a group of predominantly ex-military people who take on brave and dangerous assignments. It takes place at roughly the same time as the previous book, Eye of the Storm, but focuses on different characters. It can be read as a stand alone book, but is particularly enjoyable when you’ve already encountered the characters and some of the events.
The main character, Hannah, is very interesting. A Russian sleeper agent, working for the CIA, and hoping one day to avenge her parents and sister, she has many conflicting motivations. Not to mention the inconvenient feelings she has for Jack, a member of the Gray Ghost team who she once dated.
The story flicks between the present and episodes from Hannah’s past. I found it a little confusing at times as the present is in third person and the past in first person, but it is made clear at the start of each chapter when the story is and is good to see it unfolding in both directions.
Jack is the main Gray Ghost character we encounter in this story, and like Hannah he experiences some conflict between his orders and his emotions. With rather a lot at stake, he has difficult decisions to make particularly when he realises he doesn’t know the whole truth.
This is an exciting action story with plenty of romance and a fair bit of mystery. It’s exciting, dramatic and intriguing. I found it hard to put down, so it’s five stars from me! I’d recommend reading from the start of the series if you’re interested in action romances, but start with this one if it’s the whole Russian sleeper agent thing that particularly interests you.

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