Bookish Speed Reviews || Lost Letters, Story Structure and Magical Lands, Oh My!

Happy Friday my fellow book lovers! I have but one question for you. Did you click on this post thinking you’re going to get information about how to speed read? Don’t worry – you’re not alone! Apparently YouTube thought that’s what I wanted as well when looking up videos on speed reviews this weekend. Speed reading ≠ speed reviews.

This idea was actually inspired by one of my favorite YouTube channels. She does this style but with makeup (my weird YouTube viewing obsession – weird because I don’t wear makeup but I love her videos). Here’s a few examples by Jessica Braun:

It intrigued me that there are hardly any book reviews on YouTube which follow this style, considering it’s concept is such a big one in the beauty community. Have I stumbled upon something completely new here? You’ll never, ever, see my ugly mug in a YouTube video!

So here’s the format these sections will follow. I’ll pull six titles from this site’s On My Bookshelf page: three from What I’ve Read, two from Upcoming Reads, and one from that dreaded DNF (Did Not Finish) pile. From What I’ve Read, you can expect my final thoughts on plot, character development, and a star rating. From Upcoming Reads, my expectations or hopes for the book. And perhaps even a prediction or two. Finally, from the DNFs, what made me close the cover for good and if I’ll ever attempt to read it again.

The First Section: What I’ve Read

THE LOST LETTER
by Mimi Matthews

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I didn’t know this when I picked up THE LOST LETTER, but apparently Matthews is a crown jewel in the historical fiction world. This was one of those late night two o’clock in the morning finds and, you know what? I don’t regret at all.

While I love a good mystery wrapped with history, I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about the addition of romance. It’s funny; I love it in fairy tale retellings (Melanie Dickerson‘s and Jody Hedlund‘s collective works come to mind). The question must be asked: how many genres, or elements of genres, are too many before they begin detracting

THE LOST LETTER still contains within it a great mix of characters. There was a bit too much time spent on Colonel Sebastian Conrad’s inner struggles, though I’m sure it’s there to show his character growth. Anger can be a great device but, when used too much, can make a character one dimensional (think Jafar from Disney’s latest live action remake of Aladdin).

If you’re looking for a romance based in the Victorian era with little tastes of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, then THE LOST LETTER may be your next read worth picking up.

Mimi’s Links

STORY STRUCTURE: THE KEY TO SUCCESSFUL FICTION
by William Bernhardt

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Did you, like myself, jump into writing your first novel forgetting the very basics of story structure? It’s always a good idea to have non-fiction books on improving your craft around, and Mr. Bernhardt’s book spells it all out in a no nonsense, common sensical (I made “sensical” up) way.

This book, one of ten in Bernhardt’s Red Sneaker series, is a very good starting point if you can only handle non-fiction in small doses. It expands upon several key points I’d completely forgotten from my time in English Lit class during high school.

That being said, I’m intrigued by the title of another book in this series: SIZZLING STYLE. I think Bernhardt had loads of fun writing these books. I’m sure it was as much a trip down memory lane as it was for me just reading STORY STRUCTURE.

If you’re looking for something more in depth, I suggest STRUCTURING YOUR NOVEL by KM Weiland. But, if you’re just starting your writing journey, STORY STRUCTURE: THE KEY TO SUCCESSFUL FICTION just may be all you’ll need.

William’s Links

FOREST OF FIRELIGHT
by Shari L. Tapscott

Rating: 4 out of 5.

FOREWARNING: THIS SPEED REVIEW CONTAINS A SINGLE SPOILER ALERT, so skip on by if you don’t want to know what it is. (Don’t worry – it’s not a plot spoiler).

Someone once said to never judge a book by its cover, but this book’s cover is exactly what drew me to it. We readers are highly intuitive creatures who want to visualize everything, and covers help us do just that. I don’t know who originally coined the aforementioned term, but they must have had very little imagination.

Sorry not sorry.

This New Adult story follows two very different main characters from two very different countries – one fully affected by a terrible magic and one just beginning to feel the effects of the same magic. As much as I was unsure of one of the plot devices used to bring the characters together (I’ll let you read to judge for yourself), there are redeeming qualities in both Rhys and Amalia.

But I detect some betrayal coming in Book 2, SEA OF STARLIGHT.

Even with my uncertainty, I immediately pre-ordered SEA OF STARLIGHT.

Because I need to know what happens.

The resolution (hopefully) happens in Book 2, unless there are more stories planned. So SPOILER ALERT: this isn’t a standalone read.

If you’re looking for a standalone read, start with the first book in today’s speed reviews: THE LOST LETTER. This is the first book I’ve read of Shari’s, and I’m excited to explore more stories by her.

Shari’s Links

The Second Section: My Upcoming Reads

FINDING LADY ENDERLY
by Joanna Davidson Politano

I’ll not include any stars for these entries as I’ve yet to read them. Instead, I’ll include its brief synopsis, why I picked it up, and what I hope will come from the story.

Books and films set in in the Regency period usually follow one of these three genres: Romance, Mystery and Military. For such a short period in history, Regency authors also have several sub-genres to choose from. The most common of these, that I’ve seen, has been Regency Romance.

Naturally, when I stumbled across FINDING LADY ENDERLY one night (why does all my book-buying happen at night?), its synopsis intrigued me. I say “naturally” because this doesn’t feel like it adheres to any one genre but combines elements from all three of the aforementioned. I also feel that many authors, not just those within the Romance world, are writing stronger female characters. Ones who don’t always need rescuing. I’ll still never say no to heroism! And Politano’s Lady Enderly sounds strong indeed.

Have I set my hopes too high for this particular tale? Perhaps. But discovering what mystery lies within the pages of this particular book is what I’m looking forward to the most this coming Sunday afternoon.

I preemptively picked up A RUMORED FORTUNE and LADY JANE DISAPPEARS, both also by Miss Politano as well.

Joanna’s Links

BANQUET OF LIES
by Michelle Diener

I’ll not include any stars for these entries as I’ve yet to read them. Instead, I’ll include its brief synopsis, why I picked it up, and what I hope will come from the story.

I first fell in love with Michelle’s writing when I stumbled across her IN A TREACHEROUS COURT trilogy several years ago. It was so different from anything I’d previously read that I couldn’t put it down. So I credit both her and Melanie Dickerson both for introducing me to historical fiction.

The mystery and intrigue woven throughout this synopsis convinced me to pick up yet another Diener book.

Even though I couldn’t quite get into Diener’s previous novel in the same series, THE EMPEROR’S CONSPIRACY, I really do hope to fall in love with this.

In the streets where she once walked freely among polite society, she now hides in plain sight, learning the hard lessons of class distinction and negotiating the delicate balance between servant and master.

Source – Amazon Synopsis

Oh yes – give me all the juxtaposition!

Michelle’s Links

The Third Section: What I Did Not Finish

TAPESTRY II and TAPESTRY III
by Cady Elizabeth Arnold

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Everyone has a few plot devices or tropes that, when they come across them in a book, makes it very hard to want to finish it. This was most certainly the case for me with the TAPESTRY series. Spoilers ahead.

I’m sure, with Ms. Arnold’s background in social work, this story’s reflects many truths from what she’s seen and possibly experienced. However, the age difference and potential romance between the two main characters gave me such pause that I couldn’t commit to finish it.

Don’t get me wrong; I absolutely loved the tale’s beginning and logical explanation for the young female lead’s muteness. I did have to wonder if Ms. Arnold was influenced by a certain plot line from the CW television show Reign, because I found several similarities in a particular arc.

Finally, call me petty all you like, but I also couldn’t get behind the series’ successive titling (I, II, III).

Overall, while very well written, I find first person narration and jumping POVs distracting. As such, these are all the reasons I couldn’t finish TAPESTRY II or TAPESTRY III.

It could, perhaps, be just the novel series you’ve been looking for. Don’t let my feelings for it deter you from giving TAPESTRY I a try.

Cady’s Links

Well? What do you guys think?

I’d like for these Speed Reviews to become a regular thing. However, since they’re a lot of work, I don’t know if I can do them every Friday. Bi-monthly? Once a month on the third Wednesday? Sundays at exactly 2:56 PM? Okay, now I’m just being ridiculous.

I hope you had fun reading through these titles and my thoughts on them.
Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Published by Leigh A. Hartman

Hey all! Welcome to my website! I'm currently writing my first novel series called The Firedamp Chronicles. Check out the following links to find out more about why I write!

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