Book Talk: A Witch in Time

Title: A Witch in Time
Author:
Constance Sayers
Publisher: Redhook  (Hachette)
Publication date: February 11, 2020
Pages: 448
My rating: 88%

A young woman in Belle Epoque France is cursed to relive a doomed love affair through many lifetimes, as both troubled muse and frustrated artist.

In 1895, sixteen-year-old Juliet LaCompte has a passionate, doomed romance with the married Parisian painter Auguste Marchant. When her mother — a witch — botches a curse on Marchant, she unwittingly binds Juliet to the artist through time, damning her to re-live her affair and die tragically young lifetime after lifetime as the star-crossed lovers reincarnate through history.

Luke Varner, the worldly demon tasked with maintaining this badly crafted curse, has been helplessly in love with his charge, in all her reincarnations, since 19th century France. He’s in love with Nora, a silver screen starlet in 1930s Hollywood. He’s in love with Sandra, a struggling musician in 1970s Los Angeles. And he’s in love with Helen, a magazine exec in present-day DC who has the power to “suggest” others do her bidding.

In this life, Helen starts to recall the curse and her tragic previous lives. But this time, she might have the power to break the cycle…

A Witch in Time is perfect for fans of A Secret History of Witches, Outlander, and The Time Traveler’s Wife.

Hi guys! This is more of an informal book talk on A Witch in Time so I hope you don‘t mind my random rambling.

I randomly picked up ‘A Witch in Time’ a few weeks ago because I was intrigued by the blurb. I’m a sucker for witch stories, and the fact that this book would have three different time lines made me really excited about this book.

Quick summary

The story starts with Juliet, a sixteen-year-old girl who begins a naive love affair with a painter (who initially paid her to be his muse…guess he ltook painting her like one of his French girls a bit too seriously and put it on a whole new level) . Once her mothe finds out, she does what any other good mother would do — she drags her daughter down to the kitchen, performs some painful dark magic on her and, there you go, puts a curse on her daughter’s former lover. Too bad she accidentally curses her daughter too. This is where we get to the juicy part: How did she know this sort of magic? And how could this curse go wrong so badly? Too bad Juliet now gets reborn every time she dies and will probably never find out the reason because death has a way of finding her.

Present day Juliet, now called Helen and a recent divorcee, doesn‘t remember a single thing about her past. It‘s only until she meets Luke Varner that her memories come flooding back (the physical consequences low-key reminded me of The Butterfly Effect) and from there we are taken on a wild ride.

My thoughts

This book put me on an emotional rollercoaster. It‘s hard to put it into one box because it has a little bit of everything — fantasy, romance, historical fiction and so much more. What initially seems to be a simple curse only, quickly turns into a much darker story where the lives of Helen/Juliet versions, Luke and Auguste Marchant are unevokably connected to each other.

A Witch in Time is a fascinating read, but what makes it even more intriguing is the character growth each character experiences throughout time. With nothing but a little bit of guidance from Luke as well as her own ‘memories’, Helen is pushed through a series of unfortunate events in her past lives. While she initially wasn’t the most likable character I have ever met (she was a little bit too posh for my taste and living the bougie D.C. lifestyle), she did go through significant changes in a very short time and it surprised me how much character depth the author was able to project on her in this very short period. Even though all four ‘Juliets’ that we meet throughout history bear the same soul, all of them are their own person in their own right. As Helen slowly unveils the secrets to her pasts and the mystery surrounding her mother, she is thrown into a web of betrayal, unrequited love, cruel reality and hope. It was fascinating to follow the different leads that inevitably accumulate in tragic events that shaped the future and curse of Helen forever. It was even more interesting to see how the different side characters have evolved over time, uncovering the different layers to them which at times really surprised me.

I love how the author was able to lead the characters through different times and locations — from late 1890s Paris to 1930s Hollywood, to 1970s LA to present D.C. — the reader is instantly wrapped into the richness of history and the author’s love for details. There is so much charm in every single page and I love how each time epoch read like a single story, yet every story is also connected back with present-day Helen. It was like a quick rewind through history, and with the nostalgic and almost melancholic, at times unexpectantly hilarious writing style, I slowly grew to love the world the author has created.

I expected the story to be much more fantasy-heavy but it was the star-crossed element to the book that was the soul of the story— a bittersweet tragic love story with people that are cursed to experience losses over and over again. It’s a story about trust and friendship and what can happen if you test fate.

The ending

It would be a lie to say that I weren’t blown away by the ending. It was neither predictable nor kitschy and instead gave the reader just the right amount of hope and sweetness. I’m so glad the book had an epilogue — I don’t think I could’ve slept the next few days if we didn’t get to see the last peek at Helen’s future. One of the most unexpected reads that I’ve grown to love during social distancing!

Btw, I cried about 5 times while reading the book and that’s even a high for me as an emotional reader

5/5 stars // 88%

Review: A Simple Wedding

Title: A Simple Wedding Author: Leigh Duncan Genre: Sweet Romance Publisher: Hallmark Publishing

Fall in love with Heart’s Landing, a romantic wedding destination, in the first book of a Hallmark series. Jenny always dreamed of getting married at Heart’s Landing. But when she finally visits the charming small town, she’s there to make wedding arrangements for someone else: her cousin, who also happens to be her boss and a famous movie star. Her cousin wants a simple wedding, not a media circus. To keep the event top-secret, she’s talked her assistant Jenny into pretending she’s the one getting married. Nick, a baker and lifelong resident of Heart’s Landing, is intrigued by this bride-to-be who starts visiting his bakery for sweet treats and conversation. It seems strange that her fiancé isn’t at least little involved with the wedding plans. As Jenny tries to keep up with her fickle cousin’s ever-changing demands—which exasperate the florist, the caterer, and several other vendors—she tries to hide her attraction to Nick. Meanwhile, the people in town talk Nick into trying to distract Jenny with a sightseeing tour in order to keep her from changing her mind again. The more time Nick spends with Jenny, the harder it becomes to remind himself that she’s already spoken for. Planning this wedding couldn’t be more complicated…and what will happen once the truth comes to light?

MY THOUGHTS

I’m a sucker for Hallmark movies. There, I said it. I like how they show imperfect relationships and sudden turning points in lives that change everything for a person. I know they follow a certain story formulas but I was curious to see how these storylines and emotions would translate into a book, and I was pleasantly surprised how well it was done. The story is about Jenny, a twenty-something professional who works as a personal assistant to her cousin, a famous Hollywood actress. You see, when private and personal life get mixed up, chaos has to be in the cards. No wonder it gets even more complicated when she is tasked to go to Heart’s Landing, a small town on the East Coast, to pose as her cousin who just got engaged after a whirlwind romance with a co-star in a movie. A Simple Wedding was a very light read, with lots of sweet and fluffy romance. Nick, who runs a bakery that specialises in wedding cakes (most shops in Heart’s Landing are involved in the wedding business), is initially less than excited to meet Jenny, who literally bumps into him while he’s on his way to make a cupcake delivery. However he quickly finds out that she has to be one of Heart Landing’s True Brides, which means he and the rest of the town will do anything to meet her wishes — there is something special about them. I liked how this book had a slow burn sort of romance with a couple that doesn’t rush into quick decisions but draws out time to treasure each simple moment. The author takes her time to carefully introduce the reader to each character and I really enjoyed seeing the tight-knit community growing together. What Jenny didn’t expect was to develop true feelings for Nick whom she can never tell that she is only a pretend-bride. The story exactly centers around this conflict — Jenny’s loyalty to her cousin, as well as her love for Nick. Over the course of a few weeks, we see how their relationship grows stronger against all odds, rooting for their happiness in times of uncertainty and betrayal. There were certainly some aspects that could have been more elaborated, such as her relationship with her cousin, it being rather shallow and not’t really growing over time despite their joint background. Nevertheless, A Simple Wedding gave me some very pleasant reading hours and I recommend it to anyone who is a hopeless romantic or is simply looking for a book for an easy and warm read.

Find the book here:

Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo

About the Author:

Author Leigh Duncan. (Photo by Chris Kridler)
Leigh Duncan, an Amazon bestselling author and a National Readers’ Choice Award winner, has written over two dozen novels, novellas and short stories, including A Simple Wedding, A Country Wedding, and Journey Back to Christmas for Hallmark Publishing, the Glades County Cowboys series for Harlequin, and her own Orange Blossom series. Leigh lives on Central Florida’s East Coast where she writes complex, heartwarming, and emotional stories with a dash of Southern sass.

Connect with Leigh:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads

Review: Matzah Ball Surprise

Matzah Ball Surprise

This Passover is starting to feel like the ten plagues might be coming back to haunt them before the weekend is over…one hilarious misstep after the next.

Gaby Fineberg just wants to get through Passover Seder without her “well meaning” family playing matchmaker. She needs a date, just for one simple meal—that includes singing, the history of her forefathers, and not one bit of yeast. The hot guy at her gym would be perfect. He probably hates bread, anyway, with a body like that. But when she finally works up the nerve to ask him…he doesn’t hear a word she said.

Levi Miller is deaf and happily single. Initially, he doesn’t know why this beautiful woman is talking to him, but it’s clear she needs help—and suddenly so does he. In a very complicated situation, Levi finds a simple solution. Gaby will pretend to be his new girlfriend to bail him out, and he’ll return the favor. But he didn’t bargain for a family dinner quite like this one…

Title: Matzah Ball Surprise
Author: Laura Brown
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Abtrennung

Matzah Ball was, hands down, one of my most highly anticipated contemporary romance releases in a very long time. I am currently trying to pick up some ASL and seeing that the main character is Jewish (I mean the book title literally screams “Passover food!”) made me super intrigued about the story. It’s diversity on a whole new level!

The book follows Gaby Fineberg, a woman who comes from a big Jewish family and who recently broke up with her boyfriend. Passover is just around the corner and since big families can get super nosy, she decides to ask out Levi Miller — a guy she just met at the gym — to pose as her fake boyfriend over the holidays so she can avoid awkward questions. With nothing seemingly connecting them — not even verbal language — the following days are destined to be one whirlwind of chaos and misunderstandings.

It was really easy to fall for the two main characters, Gaby and Levi. The book is told in dual POV, allowing each of them to have their own unique voices. Whereas Gaby was exactly the quirky, somewhat insecure but yet super fun character that I expected her to be, Levi was a whole different level. Seeing him being the professional disciplined deaf man with his own personal issues who eventually loosens up, you could feel the chemistry right between the two of them. I loved the easiness between them, seeing them fall for each other, as well as the way small gestures suddenly played a much bigger role in their lives since “standard” talking is not possible. Picking up these small hints and overcoming the challenges in communication was such a delicate feature of this book.
Now let’s talk about the big bear in the room: What initially drew me to this book was my curiosity to see how the author would translate non-verbal communication into dialogues in the book. In the end, it was really well executed! This book gave me a lot of insight on not only the everyday life challenges of deaf people, but also on how the deaf/hard of hearing community rolls. Their scenes were always really fun, and seeing their culture being integrated so well into the story was such a surprise twist. Before picking up the book I was afraid to have awkward feelings towards reading about a deaf character but none of this was to be true! Instead we learn a lot about life from their perspectives, e.g. how typing on phones are crucial for communicating with the outside world or seeing ASL beginners struggle with ASL. It was really cool how the author left some hints here and there on how to sign certain words too!
In addition, we also learn a lot about Jewish culture in modern America — something I have never seen being played out in a book before, so that was really interesting! With Gaby’s weirdly adorable family, it was no wonder this book left me charmed.

The only flaw I saw with this book was that the story takes place in a relatively short amount of time so the backgrounds of the caracters were not necessarily fully explored. I would have loved to see Gaby and Levi’s relationship being played out more, but given the story’s background, it definitely made up for it. Ultimately, Matzah Ball was a super light contemporary read that you will read in one sitting. Definitely recommend!

Find the book here:

Amazon | Nook | iBooks | Kobo

About the Author:

Laura Brown author photo

After spending her childhood coming up with new episodes to her favorite sitcoms instead of sleeping, Laura Brown decided to try her hand at writing and never looked back. A hopeless romantic, she married her high school sweetheart. They live in Massachusetts with their two cats and son. Laura’s been hard of hearing her entire life but didn’t start learning ASL until college, when her disability morphed from an inconvenience to a positive part of her identity. At home the closed captioning is always on, lights flash with the doorbell, and hearing aids are sometimes optional.

Connect with Laura:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

arc review (blog tour): when we left cuba

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In 1960s Florida, a young Cuban exile will risk her life–and heart–to take back her country in this exhilarating historical novel from the author of Next Year in Havana, a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick.Beautiful. Daring. Deadly.
The Cuban Revolution took everything from sugar heiress Beatriz Perez–her family, her people, her country. Recruited by the CIA to infiltrate Fidel Castro’s inner circle and pulled into the dangerous world of espionage, Beatriz is consumed by her quest for revenge and her desire to reclaim the life she lost.As the Cold War swells like a hurricane over the shores of the Florida Strait, Beatriz is caught between the clash of Cuban American politics and the perils of a forbidden affair with a powerful man driven by ambitions of his own. When the ever-changing tides of history threaten everything she has fought for, she must make a choice between her past and future–but the wrong move could cost Beatriz everything–not just the island she loves, but also the man who has stolen her heart… 

April 9, 2019
Women’s Fiction/Historical Fiction
Penguin/Berkley

AbtrennungI remember when I finished reading Next Year in Havana a year ago, I got an awful book-hangover because I fell hopelessly in love with Elisa and Marisol’s stories and I could not believe I would have to leave their extravagant world behind. By the way, the fact that Camila Caballo’s Havana was being played non-stop on radio stations at that time certainly added to the fact that it ended up being one of my favourite reads of last year. When I heard that Cleeton had another book coming out focusing on another Perez sister, I knew that i.) I had to read it and ii.) it would be really hard to live up to the first book. I never quite connected with Beatríz in the first book in the way I connected with Elisa since she was a little bit too reckless in my opinion so I was curious to see if the author could convince me otherwise. Spoiler: If Elisa’s story was a tornado sweeping off your feet, then Beatriz’s was one of fire burning you from the inside. Passionate, adventurous, loving and fierce — these are only some words trying to capture the essence of When We Left Cuba.

Just a little background: Forced to flee her native country Cuba for the US with her family, Beatriz suddenly finds herself in a life she never wanted for herself. Somehow belonging in but not really, scrutinised by the society for being different, surviving on her family’s assets in the US but not truly living, she naturally just feels like any queen who has been pushed down from her throne (in her case, the throne in Havana): Hurt, betrayed and bored. You can smell it from the first page that trouble has its way of finding her, and unfortunately, she likes trouble just as much. Inevitably she is more than willing to join when she is approached by the CIA to assassinate Fidel. From then on, it is a sweeping story leading the reader from Florida to Washington D.C., then to London over Havana and eventually back to Miami. As we follow Beatriz’s journey to fight for her kind of justice, and eventually her love, you can’t help but fall in love with her headstrong and fierce character. I don’t think I had so much fun reading a character’s voice in a while — unique, refreshing and without filter, she just states things the way they are.
While I really enjoyed the book’s very unconventional plot, I could not help but wonder if these types of events really happened (just the fact that a single girl is supposed to kill Fidel? Loco…). You can tell though that Cleeton put a lot of research into her book, something that she also addresses in the afterword, mixing fiction with reality so seamlessley by capturing the time’s zeitgeist. This book is full of life and it is like a collection of strong emotions, grave historical events and strong characters. Another thing I really enjoyed was how Cleeton sometimes added present-day chapters to the book that is mostly set in the 1960s. While it was pretty clear for me from the beginning to where the story is going, it definitely added some tender and sweet moments to the whole story, poking at possible turnouts of events which makes the reader even more eager to find out what other things Beatriz has up in her sleeves.

Final thoughts: When We Left Cuba is a tragical at times, heart-wrenching for most of the parts but ultimately hard-to-resist book, and while it definitely is not an easy story because of the raw political and social events at that time, it was a powerful story of loyalty, passion and female empowerment, making you race through the book in no time.
Seeing Beatriz grow, mature and becoming the strong lady we eventually see in the final chapters of the book, set against the retro and nostalgic backdrop of America’s old money political elite, is like tasting a sweet forbidden wine — unique and unforgettable.

AboutTheAuthor

Originally from Florida, Chanel Cleeton grew up on stories of her family’s exodus from Cuba following the events of the Cuban Revolution. Her passion for politics and history continued during her years spent studying in England where she earned a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Richmond, The American International University in London and a master’s degree in Global Politics from the London School of Economics & Political Science. Chanel also received her Juris Doctor from the University of South Carolina School of Law. She loves to travel and has lived in the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia.

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Review: Next Year in Havana (Blog Tour)

Next Year in Havana.jpgAfter the death of her beloved grandmother, a Cuban-American woman travels to Havana, where she discovers the roots of her identity–and unearths a familysecret hidden since the revolution…

Havana, 1958. The daughter of a sugar baron, nineteen-year-old Elisa Perez is part of Cuba’s high society, where she is largely sheltered from the country’s growing political unrest–until she embarks on a clandestine affair with a passionate revolutionary…

Miami, 2017. Freelance writer Marisol Ferrera grew up hearing romantic stories of Cuba from her late grandmother Elisa, who was forced to flee with her family during the revolution. Elisa’s last wish was for Marisol to scatter her ashes in the country of her birth.

Arriving in Havana, Marisol comes face-to-face with the contrast of Cuba’s tropical, timeless beauty and its perilous political climate. When more family history comes to light and Marisol finds herself attracted to a man with secrets of his own, she’ll need the lessons of her grandmother’s past to help her understand the true meaning of courage.

February 6, 2018
Women’s Fiction/Historical Fiction
Penguin/Berkley

AbtrennungStarting this book, I didn’t know much about the history of Cuba or even its culture. Chanel Cleeton makes sure that you are going to pick up so many pieces of Cuba along the way of reading the book. Alternating between Marisol’s POV — the present — as well as Elisa‘s POV, as a reader, you are instantly drawn into two worlds. One, the one of Marisol, seems to be carefree and somewhat melancholic. As a member of the Perez family, she never had much to worry about; it isn’t until her grandmother’s death however that she is catapulted back into her family’s history. Traveling back to Cuba, a place she only knows from stories, she can finally see the country of her dreams for herself — only  to realize that there are so many layers of Cuba.
Something that really surprised me was the author’s realistic approach to the situation in present Cuba, as well as the political undertone to the book. Chanel Cleeton draws a perfect picture of the many facets of Cuba, vividly painting its lush, lively culture and twisted history, and she sure did an amazing job in making the setting as authentic as possible.

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Book Talk with Tessi: THE FALLEN PRINCE

TFP RWB Banner.jpg

I am more than THRILLED to be part of the blog tour in celebration of Amalie Howard’s The Fallen Prince book release! In case you didn’t know, TFP is the second book in The Riven Chronicles, following The Almost Girl which I liked very much.

talk-that-talk

There is barely any book out there that has left me with such mixed feelings. While the book did not exactly trigger one rollercoaster ride of emotions in me, it still left me breathless in the end. Oh, and can I just say how fascinated I am by the world Howard created?

But let me start from the beginning.

The book picks up about one year after where the story left off, but since no major changes have happened since, Riven is still on the run to find her father. Having read The Almost Girl almost two years ago already, I found it rather hard to get back into the story after such a long time. Of course there were some things that I still remembered from The Almost Girl such as Riven being a badass fighter/assassin or her inner struggles after the loss of many loved ones; nonetheless I did wish the book would have provided some memory aids especially in the first one or two chapters.
Unlike the first book, The Fallen Prince focuses on more serious themes than the first one. It revolves more around the question of how human Riven is rather than on how willing she is to save herself and her loved ones. You can tell that Riven has matured a lot by gaining more responsibility and empathy instead of focusing on her senses only. I often wished however that she would have just let her stubbornness go instead of keeping all of her anger to herself. That probably would have made the plot more exciting since the first half of the book was pretty predictable to me. There were times where she reminded me more of an unforgiving attack dog than a badass fighter but after all she has been betrayed by a lot of people.
We are also introduced to new characters who — like the other secondary characters — came a little too flat in the beginning. Maybe it is inevitable due to the book’s technology theme, but it sometimes felt that the book’s atmosphere was too clinical, leaving not a lot of space for emotions and big character developments.

On the romantic side, Caden and Riven are obviously still hot for each other (like really hot!) but again, I sometimes felt that Riven’s voice drifted too much to that of little whiny girl again. Caden is one of the few characters who can make her self-conscious, but instead of admitting to all of her feelings, she decides to let rationality run over emotions. This of course made Riven a fiercer and determined character but it also turned the book more into a one (wo)man show — which is not necessarily bad but it might have allowed more space for the secondary characters. (Note: I love badass heroines. Riven is a perfect example of why you only need yourself to be strong, but love can make you even stronger!)
Then on the other hand, I often asked myself if I would have acted differently if my DNA has been altered and changed. It always raised the question on how far scientists would go in order to create the perfect fighter.
However the book still follows a very fast-paced plot so the reader is literally thrown back into the story with no time to question small details. The last hundred pages or so are so worth of the reader’s patience. It didn’t fail to surprise me with new twists, more action-packed scenes, intrigues, new betrayals. You know what makes a good villain? If the villain has a deep motive to be evil and is convinced that whatever he does, it is for the good. The way they were shaped in the book — so three-dimensional — I couldn’t help but admire the author’s evil genius brain for coming up with such huge plot twists.

Overall, I still find it hard to give a proper review on the book without revealing too much. The book showed pieces of the best but also of the worst of humanity, making it so much more than ‘just’ a YA scifi book. Also, the world-building was the perfect blend of technology, scifi and fantasy. While there weren’t any dragging parts in the book, the first half of the book was still very predictable and foreseeable. However, the questions that were raised throughout the book — how far can science go? What makes a human human? — make up for the little ‘flaws’ in the story, adding a deeper meaning to the whole story. If you are looking for a book that is one of its kind, this one is for you.

Riven has fought for a hard-won peace in her world, and has come to shaky terTHE FALLEN PRINCE - coverms with who and what she is—a human with cyborg DNA. Now that the
rightful ruler of
Neospes has been reinstated, Riven is on the hunt for her father in the Otherworld to bring him to justice for hiscrimes against her people.

But when she receives an unwelcome visit from two former allies, she knows that trouble is brewing once again in Neospes. The army has been decimated and there are precious few left to fight this mysterious new threat.

To muster a first line of defense, her people need help from the one person Riven loathes most—her father. But what he wants in return is her complete surrender.

And now Riven must choose: save Neospes or save herself.

Get the book here, here, here, here or here.

Amalie Howard - headshot

AMALIE HOWARD grew up on a small Caribbean island where she spent most of her childhood with her nose buried in a book or being a tomboy running around barefoot, shimmying up mango trees and dreaming of adventure. 25 countries, surfing with sharks and several tattoos later, she has traded in bungee jumping in China for writing the adventures she imagines instead. She isn’t entirely convinced which takes more guts.She is the award-winning author of several young adult novels critically acclaimed by Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, VOYA, and Booklist, including Waterfell, The Almost Girl, and Alpha Goddess, a Spring 2014 Kid’s INDIE NEXT title. Her debut novel, Bloodspell, was a #1 Amazon bestseller, and the sequel, Bloodcraft, was a national silver IPPY medalist. She is also the co-author of the adult historical romance series, THE LORDS OF ESSEX. As an author of color and a proud supporter of diversity in fiction, her articles on multicultural fiction have appeared in The Portland Book Review and on the popular Diversity in YA blog. She currently resides in Colorado with her husband and three children.

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