Book Review | The Shadow of Kyoshi

Title: The Shadow of Kyoshi

Author: F.C. Yee

Publisher: Amulet Books

Published: 21 July 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5.

How does Yee make me fall more in love with both Kyoshi and Rangi? It’s a mystery but these two characters have my heart forever. Also, if I could ask the gods, spirits, the Avatar themselves to find someone to love me like Rangi loves Kyoshi, that would be great. Thanks!

The second book in Avatar Kyoshi’s series and I’m surprised that I enjoyed it just as much (if not more) as the first book. We first see Kyoshi in the Earth kingdom trying to handle the gangs that have infiltrated the lower ring of Ba Sing Se. There is also an introduction to a new character Jinpa, a monk from the Southern Air Temple, who has become Kyoshi’s secretary since she visited there.

Kyoshi receives a letter from the Fire Lord asking for the Avatar’s assistance with a national matter. She aquieces, mostly because she wants to reunite with Rangi (refresher: Rangi went to the North Pole with her mom, Hei-Ran, who needed to be healed from Jianzhu). Seeing them reunite was so stickin’ adorable, but it was also great to see the first interaction between Rangi and Jinpa play out like they were old friends. They both ganged up on Kyoshi for not taking care of herself.

Yet, the Fire Nation is not the pantheon of peace that most people think. There is a coming civil war in the land and Fire Lord Zoryu needs all the help he can get to keep his country intact. Not only that but it appears that Yun is not as dead as we thought.

The content of this book really begins to highlight Kyoshi coming into her own power and having to make those difficult decisions. We see her grow and mature, just like all the other characters in the book. And of course, we have some prime Kyoshi and Rangi romance moments that I can’t help but highlight:

  • Kyoshi had gone so long without her center she almost forgot what it felt like. Rangi made her human again, balanced and whole (pg. 74)
  • Rangi tells Kyoshi before the party with the Fire Lord that Kyoshi can’t touch or kiss anywhere above Rangi’s neck because it’s a sign of disrespect. To which we have this great line of narration: “But those were Kyoshi’s favorite parts.” And I definitely like to imagine Kyoshi’s face as someone who has kicked her puppy.
  • On a whim, she picked Rangi up by the waist and whirled her around. No one was there to schold them for inappropriate touching. Rangi laughed despite herself and tried to swat at her but couldn’t reach as far. “Stop it! You’re embarrassing me!” “That’s the point!” (pgs. 156-157)
  • The word echoed with bitterness and dread in Rangi’s throat, and through it Kyoshi saw deeper into the fire of her glowing girl than she ever had before. (They then go on to discuss Rangi taking Kyoshi to visit her home). (pg. 160)
  • I can’t tell you anything for certain about the future. Only that I’ll be there with you. (Rangi to Kyoshi, pg. 328

I cannot get enough of these two! But there was more to the story. This one had political intrigue and clans vying for power that developed more of the history of the Avatar world, specifically the Fire Nation. In the end, there is the hints of the clan system soon ending and the Fire Nation being only loyal to the Fire Lord (the seeds of the power-hungry Sozin and Ozai being planted).

This book was mostly a focus on not just power and the lengths we would go to achieve power, but also a focus on revenge and how corrupt we can become when we decide our self-regard is more important than the entire world. I’m super upset that this is the last book in this series, but I’m hoping that there are more books in the future that have more spin-offs of other characters or Avatars.

Happy Reading Darlings!

Book Review | Malice

Title: Malice

Author: Heather Walter

Publisher: Del Rey

Published: 13 April 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Oh my word!! Not only was this book such an amazing retelling of the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty, but the world building, the characters, and the LGBTQ+ representation was wonderful as well. I’m just completely blown away by how much this book exceeded my expectations.

In the kingdom of Briar, Graces live to dole out charms and elixirs to the wealthy and nobles of the land, while the common people strain to feed themselves day to day. It’s a land of greed and materialism. Long ago, before the Graces existed, the humans kept trying to obtain the Fae’s gifts, their power and magic. It wasn’t until Leythana came and retrieved Oryn’s crown that the Fae’s made a pact with humans, but only with Leythana’s line. The Vila, dark Fae’s for lack of a better term, cursed Leythana’s line. Of course, the Fae slightly mitigated the curse that the Vila cast on Leythanan’s line. Each daughter would have 21 years to find true love or die. Alyce doesn’t think much of this. She’s the only surviving Vila left forced into service by the Briar King and the ambassador of the Fae, Endliwild. Yet, by a twist of fate Alyce and Aurora, the last descendant of Leythana meet, and create a pact to try to break the curse without having Aurora kiss any other prince. Soon Alyce begins to fall in love. But it can never be that easy, can it? Because Aurora is the princess….and Alyce, Alyce is the villain.

I’m going to break this review down into 3 main categories that I want to talk about, to make it easier to follow: world-building, characters, and themes.

World Building:

Wow! One of the most impressive parts of Walter’s book is that it wasn’t a strict retelling of the Sleeping Beauty Maleficent storyline. IN actuality, the name Maleficent is not actually named in the book. The closest the author comes to it is the cruel nickname that one of Alyce’s “sisters” (one of the other Graces) bestows on her “Malyce.” Walter truly did take the Sleeping Beauty story and created her own version, while still remaining loyal to the themes and ideas we know. There is still the spindle that curses Aurora at the end. There is still the ostracization of Alyce (Maleficent) in the book. Of course, in the story we actually know the princess and the fae do not fall in love. Disney’s live-action Sleeping Beauty did give us a new version as well by showing the love a mother has for her daughter. In this one, we see the romantic love bloom between Alyce and Aurora.

The world-building for the rest was so well-detailed and expansive. The storyline of the war between the Fae and Vila that started everything and would eventually lead to Alyce’s downfall. How Briar is ruled by Queens who over the years gave more and more of their power over to their husbands, becoming nothing more than figureheads. The Grace system that was put into place when the Fae and Humans created their alliance. The Fae give certain humans their power, in turn they are able to create elixirs and potions for patrons. Of course, over the years this system too has become corrupted and twisted. As I was reading, I could definitely see that great time and effort was taken to fully flesh out the world that Walter built.

Characters:

I love, love, love Alyce!! I do. I saw so much of myself in Alyce, from the way she is treated by society to her anger and rage by the end. There are many times when I just want to burn it all down because they do not deserve anything. Alyce was such a complicated and wonderful character. There were many characters throughout the story who were complicated and again, it shows the strength of Walter’s writing that none of these characters were flat (except maybe the King but eh, you can’t win them all). With Aurora, she’s so young and naïve in her viewpoint of how to rule and what will happen when she takes the crown. Mariel is someone who deeply loves her daughter but when I was reading the parts with her in it, you can feel frustration leaking off of her in waves. It felt like she didn’t even know how she got to this point of being married to a man who broke her curse one day and took all of her power now. Laurel the only Grace who was kind to Alyce had layers to her as well, and definitely has me considering some ethical conversations about right, wrong, and the greater good. Even the Graces you don’t like, Rose and Marigold, are more than what they seem through trying so hard to hold on to this fleeting power because it’s all that matters.

These characters were not lovable at all times nor were they supposed to be because people aren’t lovable at all times. They’re complicated and ugly and gray and so, so beautiful.

Themes:

The last part to bring up is themes which I did start touching on in the characters section. There are many themes a reader can pick out of this book. From the idea of good vs. evil, to ostracization and otherness, to the question of is it okay to hurt the one to save the many. There is no shortage of themes in this book to choose from. I particularly want to focus on the ostracization of the other because that was obviously a big one that the author focused on.

As someone who lives in a world that ostracizes people who are not white, straight, cis-gendered, I completely felt much of the pain that Alyce felt throughout the book. The horror inflicted on me was not nearly to the extent that Alyce had to go through as a child, but the psychological and emotional pain is still there and one I struggle with. It’s also telling how much Alyce does grow throughout the book, how much she changes and reconsiders her viewpoints once Aurora comes into her life.

Before Aurora, Alyce was ready to cast Briar away. To leave the place that had tortured her and never look back. But then Aurora changes it all. Call it love or foolishness but Alyce does see that burning everything to the ground out of vengeance does not always solve our problems. She just needed one person, someone, anyone to truly see her. Not as Vila or a monster or mongrel or abomination or any of the cruel words they threw at her her whole life. She just wanted someone to see Alyce, just Alyce and love her anyway. Yet, even in the end they couldn’t do that. They couldn’t listen to what really happened and take her word for it. Alyce is the monster. That’s what they’ve been told. That’s what they believe, so that’s what she becomes, because what’s the point anymore. They’re not going to change their minds, so she might as well burn it to the ground.

Happy Reading Darlings!

eARC Review | Blackout

Title: Blackout

Author: Marco Carocari

Publisher: Level Best Books

Published: 30 March 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I received an ARC ebook copy of the book from Books Forward in exchange for an honest review.

To start off, if you’re looking for a fun, beach read for the upcoming summer break, I’d definitely keep this one in mind. Carocari’s debut book was an interesting book for the genre of mystery, murder, and crooked cops. I read it in 2 sittings (would’ve been one, but I had a class to get to), so it definitely kept me hooked enough to keep me reading.

Franco saw someone being murdered across the street from his apartment…or did he? There’s no body nor crime scene and Franco was not exactly in the right mind. He was having a one-night-stand and his “date” offered him a joint laced with drugs, so Franco’s memory is a bit spotty. As the protagonist, Franco is a relatable character and really fleshed out. He makes mistakes, still hooking up on dating apps, but he tries to do right by his friends and family.

A few days after the supposed murder, there is a body found in an alley down the street. Not only does Franco know the dead man, but all of this connects back to the murder of Franco’s dad, 40 years ago.

As I said, it’s definitely a fun and easy read. I definitely wanted to keep reading but it wasn’t a book that I completely lost myself in. I absolutely loved Franco’s friends, they were all so supportive of him and also fleshed out like Franco. The scenes of the back and forth between all of them was well-written as well.

I was a bit surprised by one of the twists at the end, but I was also not that surprised. I also felt that the plot was a bit reminiscent of the TV show Castle (if anyone has watched the show and know what happens to Kate’s mom, then you’ll probably figure out the ending of all of this). The only difference between the two was more Italian and a straight couple instead.

The red herring in the book, O’Shea (Franco’s dad’s old partner), was super annoying and not as fleshed out as I would’ve wanted, as well as some other side characters. Most of the less fleshed out characters were the bad guys. They all seemed a bit one-dimensional and the motives were unclear at the end, besides saving their owns skins and money. Which are good motives, but they can be a bit boring and over-used. By the end, everything with the case is wrapped up, but it felt a little rushed and slapped together. I also didn’t understand the last chapter; I felt like there was supposed to be another chapter or two to really finish strong.

There was a romance sub-plot between Franco and one of the other lead detectives on the case Aidan Torrance, which I’m all for Queer romance in any book.

Again, overall a good weekend or beach read book for anyone who wants something light and fun to read!

Happy Reading Darlings!

eARC Review | Tools of a Thief

Title: Tools of a Thief

Author: D. Hale Rambo

Publisher: Fiercewood Press

Publication: 25 May 2021

Pages: 170

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

I received an ARC ebook copy from Books Forward in exchange for an honest reivew.

I’m not even sure where to start on this. I read this in one sitting not out of interest really but out of complete boredom (and the fact that I had to write a review). To start off, Zizy assumed quitting her job, stealing from her boss/aunt, and magically crossing across the continent was a way to stop being a thief and get away from her insane aunt. Not so much because Zizy’s aunt catches up to her and wants Zizzy to steal something else for her to repay what Zizy stole. On the way, Zizy befriends Laysa (romance soon blooms between them) and Pace, and Zizy will either have to finish the job or loses the people she loves.

First, I don’t even know what’s going on in this world. I felt mildly confused most of the time as I was reading by the world that Rambo created. It didn’t feel well explained or planned out. It felt like I was starting in the middle of a series or even on a side story, instead of the first book in a series. I’m not even sure if it is a series.

As for the characters, they were fine. Nothing to really complain or hype about. Zizy was probably the most fleshed out of the three main characters, but the story was also so short I didn’t even feel like I had a chance to get to know or connect with any of the characters. Not to mention the fact that the three main characters all became a team and friends quickly with no real strife.

The story itself was interesting and so was the set-up. But then it just all kind of fell apart for me. Each time there was a problem, something magically saved them. I didn’t even feel any suspense or terror with Emba, Zizy’s aunt, or Carmela, the woman who Zizy is supposed to steal from (and as a sidenote Emba and Carmela know each other).

All in all, the whole thing just felt off. The pacing was weird and the characters felt too much like cardboard cut outs. I can’t even say that the romance between Zizy and Layla made up for it. Again, the story line sounded interesting which is why I wanted to read it, but I do think it needs a lot more work.

Happy Reading Darlings!

Book Review | Beach Read

Title: Beach Read

Author: Emily Henry

Published: 19 May 2020

Publisher: Berkley

Trigger Warnings: Death of a parent, divorce, cult, child abuse

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

If you know me, then you know this is not my usual fair of reading material. Yet, I did end up enjoying it more than I thought I would.

January Andrews is what is expected of a romance writer. She always finds her happily ever after. And if it doesn’t exist, then she makes one up. Augustus Everett is one of the great new literary writers on the scene that always looks at life as a realist. Never given the option to have a happy ending.

January and Augustus are neighbors now in this small-town. Yet, there’s one small hitch, they’ve met before. January and Augustus are writing enemies, so will they get along or will everything come crumbling down.

I did actually enjoy the book, as I said, it’s not my usual read but it did feel more down-to-earth than other (white, hetero) romance novels I’ve read. January is unable to continue on with her happily ever after story she always told herself when her father dies and a secret affair comes out. She’s at his lake house to clean it out and sell it. Unknowingly, the woman he had the affair with lives in the town as well. It’s all a bit of a mess.

Before her father’s death, the only other difficult time in January’s life was when her mom was diagnosed with cancer. She did beat it, but then it came back again when January graduated from undergrad. The reason January became obsessed with romance novels is she read them during her mom’s chemo treatments. A way to find the happiness in such a horrible situation.

Augustus’s takes time to reveal his story, as he definitely plays his cards close to the touch. But his reticent and closed-off personality does become more understandable when it’s revealed that his dad was horribly abusive and his mom never left him. He never understood why she stayed, hence his research into cults for his next story. He’s trying to understand why someone stays.

Of course, everything comes together in the end. And January and Augustus do get together as well, since how could a romance story end without the two leading characters getting together.

This was definitely the kind of book someone reads during the summer, on a beach, with a piña colada, unfortunately, I was just in my house reading it. I still had a fun time reading it and it was definitely a good brain break of a good.

Happy Reading Darlings!

Book Review | Hazel’s Theory of Evolution

Title: Hazel’s Theory of Evolution

Author: Lisa Jenn Bigelow

Published: 20 October 2020

Publisher: HarperCollins

Trigger Warnings: bullying, miscarriage, still birth, medical trauma, pregnancy, pregnancy after loss

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Oh my word!! I cried buckets of tears as I read this book and after I finished it. But gosh, it was amazing! I absolutely love Hazel and her family and this whole book.

Hazel is pretty much your typical teenager. She’s trying to figure out how to survive her 8th grade year at a different school from her best friend (due to redistricting) without anyone noticing her. Hazel loves animals, all kinds of animals, even the ones that most people find gross, like skunks, cockroaches, and worms. She’s read through many animal encyclopedias when she’s not hanging out with her best friend, helping out with the goats on her family’s farm, or taking care of her dog.

But there are some things that can’t be answered by reading dusty old encyclopedias like what if she experiences the same bullying at her new school that she had at her old one? What will happen to one of her moms, who is pregnant again after having two miscarriages? Why do things have to change?

Oh my Hazel! I just want to wrap her up in my arms and give her a hug. Truthfully, she reminds me of myself, holding all the emotions and feelings in until they explode out. Hazel is excited for the new baby, but she’s also deathly afraid of what may happen to the baby and her mom. She tries to act happy, yet her moms can tell she’s lying.

At Hazel’s new school, she does start keeping her head down and remaining unnoticed, but she soon finds herself two friends, Yoshi (a cis-gendered Japanese-American boy) and Carina (a Mexican American trans girl) who accept Hazel, along with all of her quirks. Yet, as she finds these two friends, she finds she is slowly drifting apart from her best friend, Becca. Becca now is friends with Hazel’s bully and has joined the cheer squad. Hazel’s unhappiness about all the change is understandable during these formidable years.

There’s so much beauty and heartbreak and love in this book, that it overflowed and made me feel all the emotions that the characters themselves were feeling. I also loved the fact that there were such diversity in the book, not only with Hazel’s two new friends, but also one of her moms (the one who is pregnant) is Black. Becca and her family are practicing Jews as well. It was so great to see that in this book, as well as the foundational ideas of an asexual character in the book. Bigelow never came out and actually used the word asexual to describe Hazel. It is hinted at throughout the book that Hazel is asexual and the author spells it out at the end with her author’s note.

Even though this is listed as a book for those between the ages of 8 and 12, I definitely would recommend it to anyone of any age.

Book Review | The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

Title: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

Author: Becky Chambers

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Published: 5 July 2016

Pages: 443

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Oh! My! Goodness! I had not really heard about this book but kept seeing it on people’s 2020 year end reviews. The library I work at recently acquired it, so I over the Christmas holiday break, I decided why not read something fun. And, I made such a great decision!

This book follows a motley crew on an exciting journey through space that brings me serious Firefly feelings! And yes, be prepared for Firefly gifs!

Rosemary Harper doesn’t expect much when she joins the crew of the Wayfarer. The patched up ship has seen better days, but it offers her a bed, a chance to explore the far-off corners of the universe, and most importantly, distance from her past. Also, sounds to me like Serenity!

Rosemary is an introspective woman who learned to keep most things close to the chest, but she’s never met anyone remotely like the ship’s diverse crew, including Sissix, the exotic reptilian pilot, chatty engineers Kissy and Jenks who keep the ship running, and Ashby, their noble captain. I’m just saying if you cannot see the similarities between this crew and the Serenity’s crew, then I don’t know what to say.

Life aboard the Wayfarer is chaotic and crazy, which is exactly what Rosemary wants. It’s also about to get dangerous when the crew is offered the job of a lifetime. The Wayfarer tunnels wormholes through space and tunneling wormholes through space through to a distant planet is definitely lucrative. Risking her life wasn’t part of Rosemary’s plan, but she’ll soon have to learn how to rely on others on this adventure in the far reaches of deep space.

Okay, if you couldn’t tell, I absolutely loved this book and totally understand why so many others had it on their favorite reads list of 2020! I definitely think this book was so much fun to read and one of my favorite aspects was the relationship between Rosemary and Sissix that soon developed into a romantic relationship. They were adorable and so loving, along with respecting each other and I just cannot with these two adorable people….uhh person and…non-person…??

I will say that this book wasn’t really plot driven. Yes, they were going to create wormholes for a new planet being added to the larger galactic legal system thing (I don’t remember what it was called, sorry). But it takes a while to get there, so most of the book was about the characters and was definitely character-driven. Thankfully, Chambers does such an amazing job of making these characters so lovable and enjoyable to learn about and see interact. There is some action at the end, as the one of the people from the planet doesn’t want it to be included and sabotages the whole thing. So, there is some action. Obviously, it’s not the important part and as you can see it didn’t leave that much of a mark on me. I definitely recommend this book to everyone, especially to those who are Firefly fans!

Happy Reading Darlings!

ARC Review | Everyone Knows Your Mothers is a Witch

Title: Everyone Knows Your Mother is a Witch

Author: Rivka Galchen

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Publication: 8 June 2021

Pages: 288

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I received an advanced e-copy of the book from Net Galley in exchange for my honest review.

I didn’t realize until the end that this was actually based on a true story. Katharina Kepler is a woman who lived in Leonberg, Germany. She’s the mother of the famous astronomer Johannes Kepler and was accused of being a witch in 1615.

Rivka Galchen’s story begins in 1618: plague is spreading, the Thirty Years’ War has begun, and fear and suspicion are in the air. Katharina is an illiterate widow, known for her herbal remedies and success of her children, she also does herself no favors by being out and about and in everyone’s business. When the insipid Ursula Reinbold (Katharina calls her the Werewolf) accuses her of witchcraft, Katharina is in trouble. But the real trouble doesn’t being until she decides to go forward with a case of slander against her. That’s when the Ducal Governor decides to go forward with the case to save himself from his own mistakes. Soon everyone in town turns against Katharina, bringing up experiences from seven, ten, forty years previous. Johannes must turn his attention away from the sky and towards defending his mother. Facing the threat of financial ruin, torture, and even execution, Katharina tells her side of the story to her friend and neighbor, Simon.

I was actually a bit bored by the book. It wasn’t really what I was expecting when I first read the summary. I did really love Katharina! She was stubborn, fierce, down to earth, no-nonsense kind of woman who I could definitely get along with. Simon was also such a lovable, caring, if strange, friend.

Of course, no one actually knows if Katharina is a witch. All the testimony throughout the book seems to be either misremembering past events or twisting the event to show Katharina in a bad light. It’s horrible how one person can have a whole town turn against an aging widow. Thankfully, Katharina is found innocent of the charges and lives out the rest of her days with her daughter. However, the rest of the ending (written by Simon) felt like a let-down and was abruptly wrapped up with all the people who died, except Greta (Katharina’s daughter) who remarried.

I’m now interested in reading more books (non-fiction) on Katharina and the witchcraft trails. But, let us all remember no woman actually practiced witchcraft. Women were accused of being a witch because they expressed an opinion or said something that upset someone or any number of benign infractions.

Happy Reading Darlings!

Book Review | A Woman is No Man

Title: A Woman is No Man

Author: Etaf Rum

Publisher: Harper

Published: 5 March 2019

Pages: 339

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Deya is 18-years old and is starting to meet with suitors. She doesn’t want to, but her grandparents give her no choice. So, history is repeating itself. Deya’s mom, Isra, had not choice when she left Palestine as a teenager to marry Adam. However, Deya was raised to believe her parents died in a car accident. A secret note from a mysterious, yet familiar woman, makes Deya question everything she was told about her past. As the narrative alternates between Deya and Isra, Deya begins to understand the dark, complex secrets behind her community.

First off, this was a beautiful, yet horrific narrative, as many women across the world suffer from forced arranged marriages (which are very different from arranged marriages). I definitely want to praise Etaf for writing such a honest and raw book, and to have the courage and bravery to put it out to the public. I especially loved that this wasn’t centered around whiteness, nor was it centered around males, but it was centered around 3 Palestinian Muslim women. The book captures the complexity of generational trauma and family, the violence of occupation and diaspora, and the resilience of women.

This is definitely a book I will buy (it was a library book I read) and read it more and more. I also definitely want to learn more about the culture and customs of Palestine and Islam. I know this is a short review but I don’t want to give too much away, as you should just go and read it yourself!

Happy Reading Lovelies!

Book Review | Seven Days of Us

Title: Seven Days of Us

Author: Francesca Hornak

Publisher: Berkley

Published: 17 October 2017

Pages: 368

Rating: 3 out of 5.

For the first time in years, the Birch family will all be under one roof for Christmas. Emma and Andrew’s elder daughter, who is usually off saving the world as a doctor, is joining them at Weyfield hall, their aging country estate. Yet, the only reason Olivia is coming home is because she has to, she’s returned from treating an epidemic abroad and told she has to stay in quarantine for a week. So too should her family. For the next seven days, the Birches are on lock down, cut off from the rest of people and Wi-Fi, and forced into each other’s orbits. Younger, frivolous Phoebe is fixated on her upcoming wedding, while Olivia deals with the culture shock of being immersed in first-world problems. Andrew shuts himself in his office writing scathing restaurant reviews and remembering his glory days as a war correspondent, while Emma hides a secret that will turn the whole family upside down.

I came across this as I was coming up with books for the Top Ten Tuesday topic books on my winter TBR. From the description I found, it seemed like a fun book to read over break, as well as being something similar to the movie, The Family Stone. This was a quick and easy read but gosh was I frustrated as I read this book.

I get that the British motto is “keep calm and carry on,” but does this mean they can’t sit down and talk!? This applies to all the characters but I’ll go in order.

First off, Andrew, the father. He’s not only writing scathing reviews for restaurants, work he doesn’t want to do, but trying to figure out how to handle a long lost son coming on the scene. When he was a war correspondent, he had a one night stand with a woman in Lebanon (I think it was Lebanon, I could be wrong, don’t hate me) and found out only a few years ago that she had a son she gave up for adoption. That’s not what’s bothering him during quarantine, it’s the fact that this son, Jesse, is coming to England for “work” and wants to meet him. Jesse is under the assumption that he was born way before Andrew started his relationship with Emma, however, since Emma’s upper-class, titled family wouldn’t like Andrew, they faked their first meeting. So, technically, Andrew cheated on Emma with Jesse’s mom.

Next up is Emma, who has found out only a couple of days earlier that she has cancer (I truly cannot remember what type) but refuses to let anyone in the family know. She especially doesn’t want Olivia to know because then she won’t come for Christmas. Overall, Emma tries to keep up a happy, family facade. She doesn’t’ want anyone on the outside or even her own family to know what’s really going on, as long as they can act like they’re all happy that’s all that matters.

Phoebe, the youngest of the Birches, is self-absorbed and only really cares about herself. She became engaged with her fiance, George, a few days before quarantine began. Yet, she isn’t in love with George, but more in the idea of being in love, of being married. She wants to be married so she doesn’t have to date anymore. There’s also the problem that George is either gay or bisexual.

Last on the list is Olivia, the doctor who is still reeling from the horrors of Haag and finding her family and their concerns trite in comparison. Olivia also has a secret, while she was working as a doctor, she met Shaun, an Irish pediatrician, who she broke protocols with and they had sex.

All of the Birches have issues communicating. Olivia has a difficult time talking with her family as they really don’t want to hear about what’s going on with Haag. Strangely, Olivia’s dad as a war correspondent could sympathize the most with what Olivia’s going through, but he’s so absorbed in what’s going on with Jesse that he doesn’t see what his daughter’s going through. Since, Emma is diagnosed with cancer she refuses to tell anyone, which is frustrating when you’re daughter is coming from a place with a deadly virus and you’re immunocompromised?!?!

I understand that Emma wants to see her elder daughter but how do you think you’re daughter will feel if she’s responsible for your death.

Phoebe’s issues are so annoying and her parents don’t help, as they baby her all the time. Since, Olivia doesn’t need them, they go overboard with Phoebe. Phoebe is so self-involved she doesn’t even notice that her fiance doesn’t really want to marry her, nor is he that into her either.

And Olivia is no better, as she decided at a young age to not rely on anyone and therefore, she has pretty much cut herself off from her family all these years. I’m also confused as to why she’s staying with her family. Wouldn’t the health department want her to be quarantined by herself in an apartment or some safe-house they set her up with? I was very confused by the set-up for this whole thing. Olivia is also keeping the secret of her relationship with Shaun a secret, and it isn’t helped by the fact that Shaun is diagnosed with Haag and is in quarantine at a London hospital. Since, no one knows about their relationship, Olivia suffers in silence. But, there’s more problems as Olivia slowly starts developing symptoms of Haag…it’s not Haag though. I knew pretty early that it wasn’t Haag but instead that Olivia was pregnant.

Once the Birch family finds out Olivia is pregnant and they’re all back in their London house, it brings them all together. So, crazy! I mean, it’s cute and all and makes for a fun story, but in reality, if they don’t actually work through their problems, then they will still be the same people. So, of course, to make them work more through their problems, Hornak kills off Shaun. He dies from Haag, Olivia is depressed for a few days later. Phoebe comes to the rescue and brings her sister out of it. But again, they need to actively work on themselves.

I know, I’m probably being too hard on what’s supposed to be a fun book. I did enjoy it and it was a fun read during Christmas break, so it did hit the spot for an enjoyable, no-thinking read.