ARC Review: The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins

The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins
Rating: ★★★
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: January 5, 2021
Source: ARC via Netgalley
A delicious twist on a Gothic classic, The Wife Upstairs pairs Southern charm with atmospheric domestic suspense, perfect for fans of B.A. Paris and Megan Miranda.

Meet Jane. Newly arrived to Birmingham, Alabama, Jane is a broke dog-walker in Thornfield Estates—a gated community full of McMansions, shiny SUVs, and bored housewives. The kind of place where no one will notice if Jane lifts the discarded tchotchkes and jewelry off the side tables of her well-heeled clients. Where no one will think to ask if Jane is her real name.

But her luck changes when she meets Eddie­ Rochester. Recently widowed, Eddie is Thornfield Estates’ most mysterious resident. His wife, Bea, drowned in a boating accident with her best friend, their bodies lost to the deep. Jane can’t help but see an opportunity in Eddie—not only is he rich, brooding, and handsome, he could also offer her the kind of protection she’s always yearned for.

Yet as Jane and Eddie fall for each other, Jane is increasingly haunted by the legend of Bea, an ambitious beauty with a rags-to-riches origin story, who launched a wildly successful southern lifestyle brand. How can she, plain Jane, ever measure up? And can she win Eddie’s heart before her past—or his—catches up to her?

With delicious suspense, incisive wit, and a fresh, feminist sensibility, The Wife Upstairs flips the script on a timeless tale of forbidden romance, ill-advised attraction, and a wife who just won’t stay buried. In this vivid reimagining of one of literature’s most twisted love triangles, which Mrs. Rochester will get her happy ending?

In another installment of “ARCs I Should Have Reviewed Literally Years Ago,” we have The Wife Upstairs. I loved Rachel Hawkins’ Rebel Belle series, so I was excited to see an adult novel from her. In the interest of full disclosure, I have never read Jane Eyre, nor do I really know what it’s about aside from the most basic plot summary, so I can’t comment too much on the retelling aspect of this book and I’ll be looking at it just on its own merits.

And, on its own merits, it was good. Not great, but definitely good. I was hooked from the beginning and wondered how Jane, having grown up poor and in abusive situations, was going to assimilate into this culture of super rich women whose biggest concern is the landscaping of their neighborhood. As Jane seems to effortlessly transform into your stereotypical rich housewife, it also becomes clear that there’s a lot more than just landscaping problems going on in this neighborhood. There’s a thread of unease that starts running through her interactions with the once perfect Eddie, and then there’s the whole unsolved mystery of Eddie’s wife Bea’s disappearance.

The book is told from both Jane’s and Bea’s perspective, which provides a lot of tension as we’re just waiting for Jane to catch on to what’s really happening. There are a lot of twists and turns as we get to the ending, some of which I liked and others that I felt were a little over the top. Again, I have not read Jane Eyre so I’m not sure how much of that was inspiration from the original and how much was brand new from the author’s imagination, so I’m not really sure how judgy to be about some of those twists.

Overall, this was a really fun book. though I can’t say I 100% loved this book, I flew through it and it made me want to go read some of Rachel Hawkins’ backlist.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the free ARC of The Wife Upstairs in exchange for my honest review.

Previously: Rebel BelleMiss Mayhem

Have you read The Wife Upstairs? What’s your favorite modern retelling?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Mini Reviews: Across the Green Grass Fields & Where the Drowned Girls Go by Seanan McGuire

Across the Green Grass Fields by Seanan McGuire
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: January 12, 2021
Source: Borrowed
A young girl discovers a portal to a land filled with centaurs and unicorns in Seanan McGuire’s Across the Green Grass Fields, a standalone tale in the Hugo and Nebula Award-wining Wayward Children series.

“Welcome to the Hooflands. We’re happy to have you, even if you being here means something’s coming.”

Regan loves, and is loved, though her school-friend situation has become complicated, of late.

When she suddenly finds herself thrust through a doorway that asks her to “Be Sure” before swallowing her whole, Regan must learn to live in a world filled with centaurs, kelpies, and other magical equines―a world that expects its human visitors to step up and be heroes.

But after embracing her time with the herd, Regan discovers that not all forms of heroism are equal, and not all quests are as they seem…

It’s been a little while since I was in the world of Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children, but I was looking around my library and saw that two books had come out since I last thought about it, so I figured I might as well read them. Across the Green Grass Fields was neither my favorite nor my least favorite of this series.

In short, I thought the setting was interesting and I liked Regan and most of the equine characters. Or, more accurately, I should probably say that I liked how those characters treated Regan. I can’t say that I particularly liked the plot twist — it felt a little obvious to me — but McGuire’s writing was, as always, magical.

Where the Drowned Girls Go by Seanan McGuire
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: January 4, 2022
Source: Borrowed
Welcome to the Whitethorn Institute. The first step is always admitting you need help, and you’ve already taken that step by requesting a transfer into our company.

There is another school for children who fall through doors and fall back out again.
It isn’t as friendly as Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children.
And it isn’t as safe.

When Eleanor West decided to open her school, her sanctuary, her Home for Wayward Children, she knew from the beginning that there would be children she couldn’t save; when Cora decides she needs a different direction, a different fate, a different prophecy, Miss West reluctantly agrees to transfer her to the other school, where things are run very differently by Whitethorn, the Headmaster.

She will soon discover that not all doors are welcoming…

Where the Drowned Girls Go is an interesting addition to the Wayward Children series since it takes place at an entirely different school than the rest of the books. The Whitethorn Institute isn’t a particularly welcoming place, and none of the children there are particularly happy.

This book follows Cora and Sumi, both of whom we’ve previously met in the series. It introduces several new characters with its new setting, some that I liked and some that I didn’t. The book itself had its ups and downs, sometimes keeping me interested and sometimes boring me.

This is the third book in a row from this series that’s been kind of meh for me, so I’ll be interested to see what I think of the next one.

Previously: Every Heart a Doorway

I didn’t write reviews for books 2-5, but here are my ratings:
Down Among the Sticks and Bones: ★★★☆☆
Beneath the Sugar Sky: ★★★★☆
In an Absent Dream: ★★★★☆
Come Tumbling Down: ★★★☆☆

Have you read either of these books? Have you read any good novellas recently?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book Review: Raising Good Humans by Hunter Clarke-Fields

Raising Good Humans by Hunter Clarke-Fields
Rating: ★★★
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: December 1, 2019
Source: Borrowed
A kinder, more compassionate world starts with kind and compassionate kids. In Raising Good Humans, you’ll find powerful and practical strategies to break free from “reactive parenting” habits and raise kind, cooperative, and confident kids.

Whether you’re running late for school, trying to get your child to eat their vegetables, or dealing with an epic meltdown in the checkout line at a grocery store—being a parent is hard work! And, as parents, many of us react in times of stress without thinking—often by yelling. But what if, instead of always reacting on autopilot, you could respond thoughtfully in those moments, keep your cool, and get from A to B on time and in one piece?

With this book, you’ll find powerful mindfulness skills for calming your own stress response when difficult emotions arise. You’ll also discover strategies for cultivating respectful communication, effective conflict resolution, and reflective listening. In the process, you’ll learn to examine your own unhelpful patterns and ingrained reactions that reflect the generational habits shaped by your parents, so you can break the cycle and respond to your children in more skillful ways.

When children experience a parent reacting with kindness and patience, they learn to act with kindness as well—thereby altering generational patterns for a kinder, more compassionate future. With this essential guide, you’ll see how changing your own “autopilot reactions” can create a lasting positive impact, not just for your kids, but for generations to come.

An essential, must-read for all parents—now more than ever.

I’ve been a parent for all of two months, but I’m trying really hard to be the best mom I can be. Part of that means that I’m trying really, really hard to be an empathetic parent, not a reactive one. I don’t like being yelled at and I don’t like yelling, so I don’t want to do it to my kid. Sure, he’s only a couple months old at this point, so there’s not much yelling to be done, but I’m sure he’ll test my patience pretty frequently as he gets older. I’d seen Raising Good Humans recommended pretty frequently, so I figured I’d check it out from the library.

This isn’t a bad book. At times, it can be pretty enlightening. But unfortunately, anyone who’s taken more than a moment or two to think about how their actions might affect other people is unlikely to be surprised by a lot of the talking points. Is it really that surprising that we should treat children like we would want to be treated? Or that we should put our phones down and try to be more present for them? There’s some advice in here about stepping away until you’re calm enough to handle the situation, and, I mean… yes, that’s good advice. But it’s also exactly what the pediatrician tells you about your crying baby.

There were some parts that I liked. The advice on how to make your home more Montessori-like, and therefore more child-friendly, was interesting, and I hope that I’ll be able to implement some of the suggestions as my son grows up. Some of the suggestions of phrasing will also be helpful as time goes on, such as “First we do (responsibility), then we can do (fun thing).”  I also liked the author’s commentary on ways to compliment your child and ways to express negative emotions in a healthy way.

Overall, am I mad that I read this? No. I got a couple good pieces of advice. But would I recommend it? Probably not. You can get a lot of the same information from parenting blogs and magazine articles, and it won’t take nearly as long to get through it.

Have you read Raising Good Humans? Is it on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Mini-Reviews: On a Sunbeam, Goldie Vance Vol. 1, & The Tea Dragon Society

On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 2, 2018
Source: Borrowed

An epic graphic novel about a girl who travels to the ends of the universe to find a long lost love, from acclaimed author Tillie Walden.

Throughout the deepest reaches of space, a crew rebuilds beautiful and broken-down structures, painstakingly putting the past together. As Mia, the newest member, gets to know her team, the story flashes back to her pivotal year in boarding school, where she fell in love with a mysterious new student. When Mia grows close to her new friends, she reveals her true purpose for joining their ship—to track down her long-lost love.

An inventive world, a breathtaking love story, and stunning art come together in this new work by award-winning artist Tillie Walden.

As I’ve come to expect with Tillie Walden, the art in On a Sunbeam is absolutely stunning. She has such a way with color palettes and using color to highlight emotion. Unfortunately, the art really stole the show, because the plot and characters left a lot to be desired.

The book really felt like 544 pages of really beautiful art with some words added in as an afterthought. Maybe that’s not a completely fair assessment, but I really felt like something was missing from this story. This was still a nice book, but at almost 550 pages, it’s pretty large to be missing a strong story.

Goldie Vance, Vol. 1 by Hope Larson
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 11, 2016
Source: Borrowed


Sixteen-year-old Marigold “Goldie” Vance has an insatiable curiosity. She lives at a Florida resort with her dad, who manages the place, and it’s her dream to one day be the hotel’s in-house detective. When Walter, the current detective, encounters a case he can’t crack, together they utilize her smarts, skills, and connections to solve the mystery…even if it means getting into a drag race, solving puzzles, or chasing a helicopter to do it!

Goldie Vance was the super cute detective story that I never knew I needed! I picked this one up from Hoopla on a whim and I’m so glad I did. Everything from the setting to the characters to the art was really well-done. My only criticism would be that everything that happened felt really convenient.

I’ve already borrowed the next volume and I’m hoping to read it soon!

The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 31, 2017
Source: Borrowed

From the award-winning author of Princess Princess Ever After comes The Tea Dragon Society, a charming all-ages book that follows the story of Greta, a blacksmith apprentice, and the people she meets as she becomes entwined in the enchanting world of tea dragons.

After discovering a lost tea dragon in the marketplace, Greta learns about the dying art form of tea dragon care-taking from the kind tea shop owners, Hesekiel and Erik. As she befriends them and their shy ward, Minette, Greta sees how the craft enriches their lives—and eventually her own.

I’d heard a lot about how cute The Tea Dragon Society was, and I have to say, it lived up to the hype. It was just so… nice. It’s very cute and full of casual diversity and characters who accept others just the way they are. And the dragons! These are the cutest little dragons I’ve ever seen in my life and I want one so badly.

This book was great, I just wish that it had been longer and more developed.

Have you read any of these books? Are any of them on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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ALC Review: Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: July 7, 2020
Source: ALC via Netgalley

A captivating and utterly original fairy tale about a girl cursed to be poisonous to the touch, and who discovers what power might lie in such a curse…

There was and there was not, as all stories begin, a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. But for Soraya, who has lived her life hidden away, apart from her family, safe only in her gardens, it’s not just a story.

As the day of her twin brother’s wedding approaches, Soraya must decide if she’s willing to step outside of the shadows for the first time. Below in the dungeon is a demon who holds knowledge that she craves, the answer to her freedom. And above is a young man who isn’t afraid of her, whose eyes linger not with fear, but with an understanding of who she is beneath the poison.

Soraya thought she knew her place in the world, but when her choices lead to consequences she never imagined, she begins to question who she is and who she is becoming…human or demon. Princess or monster.

I finished Girl, Serpent, Thorn almost a week ago and I’m still not entirely sure what I think. The premise was good. It was interesting, engaging, and just dark enough to keep me reading but not make me overwhelmed. The writing is also good. Bashardoust clearly knows her way around words, and the writing was never clunky and the dialogue was never forced.

The problem I had with this book mainly boils down to one thing. This book did not work for me as a standalone. Let’s get one thing straight: there is a lot going on in this book, and it’s only 336 pages. There was not nearly enough room for Bashardoust to develop both the characters and the plot, so events seem to jump around pretty quickly (and often conveniently), and aside from Soraya, very few of the characters feel like real people.

Another issue I had with this book was the romance. This was hyped up to be a great f/f romance, and while, yes, I suppose there is technically a f/f romance to be found here, it’s so minimal that you could blink and miss it. I loved the chemistry between Soraya and her female love interest and just wish it would have been fleshed out a little more. While it’s nice to finally have a YA fantasy novel that doesn’t prioritize romance over action, this romance was such a tiny part of the book that I almost wondered why it was included at all.

As for the audio, I thought the narrator did a great job. I did, as usual, have to listen on 1.75x speed to not fall asleep, but that probably says more about me than about the book.

In the end, if you’re really into YA fantasy and retellings, you might enjoy this.

Have you read Girl, Serpent, Thorn? Is it on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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