Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng – A 4/5 Star Review!

This is not a feel-good book. It drowns you in grief and chokes you with secrets. It deals with family dynamics, gender roles, racial discrimination, and death. This is the story about the interracial family in the 1970s in a small Ohio town and how they deal with their favorite daughter’s shocking death. Was it suicide or was she murdered?

The Lee family dynamic was full of underlying messages that were not well communicated and often conflicted. Parents having different expectations for the same child. Siblings fighting over attention but only one getting it. Therefore, there are many cases of misunderstandings that cut to the core. Celeste Ng did a fantastic job of making each member of the family a complex with their substantial secrets. Each of them hid their struggles and they all seemed just out of reach from each other. It was a heavy read as the narrative changed between each family member including flashbacks from Lydia, the deceased. It was also a hard read because one of the underlying themes is that you can’t always achieve your dreams exactly as you wish because unexpected life circumstances will throw you out of orbit.

My favorite character in this book is Hannah. My heart went out to her as she was the most innocent and the most forgotten. She seemed to be a vehicle to move the story along as it can get stuck sometimes dwelling in the grief. She also seemed to channel the inner child in all of them that was desperate to connect the family.

I would recommend this book for adult readers who are looking for something heavy and complex. This is not a light-hearted book about families coming together with a happy ending. This is full of grief and misunderstanding. I would not recommend this book for readers who may be offended or triggered by the following: violence, infidelity, misogyny, racial discrimination, sexually suggestive scenarios, parental abandonment, gender roles, and the death of a sibling, child, and/or parent.

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The Duke Is But A Dream by Anna Bennett (Debutante Diaries #2)- A 5/5 Star Review!

Anna Bennett is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors.  I absolutely loved the previous book in this series, First Earl I See Tonight (see review here ) and had similar feelings for this book.  The Duke Is But A Dream also had adventure, humor, and (of course) romance.  This time it focuses on the headstrong and bold Lily Hartley’s love adventure following memory loss from a bar brawl injury.  This injury brings her and Nash, the Duke of Stonebridge, together in a unique situation that forces them to show their true character.  Even if Lily can’t remember her character, or her own name for that matter.  It then forces the question: Can you truly love someone if you don’t even know who you are?

This is not a simple romance.  All characters are dealing with heavy subjects that are not simply resolved by a true love’s first kiss (sorry Disney, I still love you).  Grief is an ongoing struggle that cannot truly be resolved, just like the void cannot truly ever be filled in reality.  However, this novel does portray how to cope with the grief in healthy ways and that trying to avoid it just makes you stuck and does not honor their memory well.  Abandonment is another issue that is dealt with as there does not seem to be anyone looking for Lily as she is missing and going by the name Caroline (as she does not remember her own name).  Don’t worry, reader, it was a misunderstanding that has a happy ending.

Additionally, this book briefly catches us up with the characters from the previous book in the series, Sophie, Gray, and her sister Fiona.  However, this book could be read as a standalone as it does not rely heavily on previous events.  Probably because Lily does not have any memory of previous events.  I did like the new characters that were introduced and I hope there are more books in the series.  I would love to see a story about Lily and Fiona’s close friend and colleague, Sophie.  I would also love to see a story about Nash’s sister, the bubbly and lovely Delilah.

I would absolutely recommend this book for fans of regency romance novels that have to do with brooding dukes and concerns about the reactions of the ton.  I would also recommend this book for adults as there are graphically sexual scenarios, mild foul language, violence, and alcohol use.

Please note: An electronic Advanced Readers Copy of this book was generously provided by the publisher via NetGalley for free in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you! 

I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella – A 5/5 Star Review!

Everything is not going perfectly for Fixie Farr. Which is not ok. Fixie got her nickname from her inability to leave things be, she has to fix them. Blindsided by her father’s death, she is the only one of her siblings that appears to want things to be as her father would want them in the family-owned store. She runs the shop with her mom, who is going on her first long-term holiday in a long time. When her mom leaves, her siblings and other family members try to step in and take over with their dominant ideas which clash with Fixie wanting things to stay as her father would want it. On top of that her former flame comes back into the picture, she rescues a stranger’s laptop, and she briefly gets back in touch with her old ice skating queen self. With everything falling apart, can she fix it in time for her mother’s return?

Another favorite book by Sophie Kinsella! I have read many of her standalones under this surname and under her actual name: Madeleine Wickham ( see reviews: Surprise Me , My (Not So) Perfect Life). All of them are fun romantic adventures and this one just may be the most fun yet deep one. I think it is the most perfect romantic comedy. It has highs and lows, character building amongst all characters, deceptive villains, and family bonding.

The characters are so clearly identifiable with their own nuances that I felt like I really knew them. And they had personalities of people that I have met in my life! They are so finely tuned from beginning to end that it really becomes a masterpiece.

There was an undertone of grief and how it presents itself differently for every person. Furthermore, it depicts how simply pretending that the void is not there does not allow for healing. I also enjoyed how pride and appearances are thin veils of insecurity that can easily be torn-particularly by showboating and by social media.

True love does not mean fixing everything. True love does not just mean between lovers, it involves family too. Furthermore, a family is not just blood and sometimes we don’t even truly know those closest to us.

There were misunderstandings on many levels and so many characters that I rooted for. I thought the book had reached its conclusion and then I realized I was only about 2/3 of the way through! Once I had read further then I realized that the focus of the book, although a romance, is not on romantic love but on love in its many forms. This story further proves that love isn’t just the romance between lovers. This love story encompasses romantic love, familial love, and self-love.

In conclusion: I laughed, I cried, I snickered, I felt secondhand embarrassment, and I felt so proud of Fixie and her family, not just those related to her by blood. I absolutely loved this book.

I would recommend this book for adult readers who love romances, comedies, romantic comedies, and fiction in general. On the other hand, I would not recommend this book for readers who may be triggered or offended by the following: grief, parental death, sibling death, stealing, foul language, alcohol use, and/or sexually suggestive scenarios.

Please note: an Advanced Reader Copy of this book was generously provided for free by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

Under The Table by Stephanie Evanovich-DNF at 16%

DNF at 16%– I absolutely could not possibly read another page of this book. It took me three weeks of picking it up to read a chapter and finding more reason to delay reading more.

The main character is terrified of being in a major city like New York City and has to text her sister and her roommate when she has made it to destinations. Yet she is so city savvy that she is going to take on shy millionaire “geek” and teach him how to live in the tough city? Tristan is drop-dead gorgeous yet (OF COURSE) wears a bow tie and suspenders to a business dinner because we have to drill in the fact that he is a “geek”. It just seemed like the writing was so rushed that they took all of the brainstorms for a character and shoved it into the first two chapters in order to fill in a lack of a plot. I assume the ex-husband is supposed to be a villain character but instead he is also an over-the-top meathead. I also assume this is in order to contrast with “geek” Tristan to make him more perfect. It was excessive and I cannot force myself to go through any more of this so-called plot.

Please note: a physical ARC of this novel was generously provided by the publisher through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers Program-thank you for the opportunity!

Naturally Tan by Tan France – A 5/5 Star Review!

Tan France has a blunt sense of humor that comes off as fun and as if the reader were right there next to him as he spoke.  It was very authentic, sassy at times, and insightful. I found this book to be enlightening yet hilarious!  I found this book to be uplifting and I would recommend it to any reader, although I would advise that for younger readers there is foul language.  Even if you haven’t watched the new Queer Eye on Netflix (although I strongly recommend that show too!) don’t let that stop you from picking up this book.  It is not required before reading this but of course the show is referenced a fair amount.  Mostly it is about how he found himself, his career, love, and how he became an entrepreneur even before the show aired.

 

Please note: a physical advanced reader copy of this book was generously provided by the publisher via GoodReads Giveaway program in exchange for an honest review.

It is my understanding at the time of this review that the book is set to be released in the US on June 4, 2019.

Fallen Mountains by Kimi Cunningham Grant – A 3/5 Star Review

This book had a plot that progressed well, had vicious villains, and other great characters. However, it was very heavy on hunting and guns, as well as other things I am not interested in. There were a couple of scenes that were very graphically detailed. For example, there is a scene where Chase Hardy is hunting deer and intentionally decides to shoot one in a location where the deer would suffer an incredibly painful death, rather than killing it instantly. Another example is when Transom shoots a rabbit and then the narrator goes into gory detail on how the rabbit is then skinned. These scenes made me uncomfortable but I will say that they contributed symbolism and foreshadowing to the plot.

What also made me uncomfortable in this book was how Laney was treated for being a woman. Not only that but how she was written in the book as being weak, particularly around men. There is a scene where Transom literally refers to her as a piece of meat yet she still falls for his charms. I was screaming “GIRL NOOO!!”and it infuriated me how she was treated by Transom and she accepted it. Another example of this is when she tells Transom that she is seeing Chase and he blames Laney for their affair, even though she had initially told him she was no longer interested in their affair.

It is a well thought-out story and I absolutely loved how well the environment of the setting was described. It is very easy to be submerged into this plot and have strong feelings-good or bad- about each character. It is because the reader is so easily submerged that those graphic scenes and the Laney character in general had me more uncomfortable than I remember feeling about a book.

I would recommend this book for readers who enjoy hunting and/or may have grown up on a farm. This book is very heavy on farm life and the pros and cons of it. I would recommend this book also for readers who enjoy a surprise ending as this one is great.

On the other hand, I would not recommend this book for readers who may be triggered and/or offended by: grief, death, male chauvinism, graphic violence, kidnapping, hostage situations, violence towards animals, hunting, addiction (prescription pills in particular), fracking, deforestation, and betrayal.

Please note: an Audio CD of this book was generously provided by the publisher for free through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers Program in exchange for an honest review.

One Summer in Paris by Sarah Morgan- a 5/5 Star Review!

As the old saying goes: “Secrets, secrets, are no fun. Secrets, secrets, hurt everyone”. But everyone has secrets, don’t they? Some secrets hurt more than others. Like Grace, whose husband decides to tell her his secret. That he’s cheating with a friend. Their daughter’s friend who is more than half their age. And he decides to tell her this at dinner for their 25th Anniversary.

Other secrets we keep so we don’t get hurt or judged by others. Like young Audrey, who is dyslexic and just trying to get through high school. But it is hard to do when she has an erratic and constantly drunk mother.

Both Grace and Audrey meet by chance while each are escaping from their respective chaos in Paris. Both had more in common than they could have possibly expected and develop a strong friendship where they teach each other what it means to be completely honest and to bring out the best in each other. I loved that this book explored friendship love, parental love, love lost, and romantic love all in one story based in the city of love.

This is yet another wonderful book by Sarah Morgan! It is an emotional roller coaster full of secrets: heartwarming yet tense, funny yet serious, hopeful yet grieving. The amount of character development among multiple characters was astounding. There was one character in particular that I absolutely had feelings of rage whenever they were involved in the plot but towards the end I found myself (begrudgingly) rooting for. It also is a great book that highlights the important benefits of traveling, particularly internationally, as well as the importance of a strong relationship with grandparents.

As someone who simply adores my grandmother, Mimi is my favorite character of the book. She is one of the main character’s grandmother who is sassy, independent, unconventional, and just plain fun! She also has a secret that she has been hiding for decades that is later revealed.

I have read many other books by Sarah Morgan:

but, out of all of them, this was the hardest. This was simply not a book that I could finish in one sitting. Hear me out, it does get easier to read as the plot develops but, for me it was hard because, both main characters also had complicated relationships with their respective mothers. In particular, they both had difficult and unstable childhoods due to their mothers’ addictions. I could relate to each of the main characters as this was something I had also experienced. This made reading the book difficult as it brought up a lot of things that I had spent a lot of time repressing. Which also made this book cathartic in that it helped me work through some of it rather than repressing it. (Ms. Morgan, you can bill me later for the therapy 😉 ).

Therefore, if you are one who has also had to deal with a difficult childhood with a parent battling addiction, this book may be heavier than expected. However, I do still recommend it as it can also be healing.

I would also recommend this book for readers who enjoy stories about friendship, traveling, and romance. I would recommend this book for adult readers as it does have foul language, heavy topics, and sexually suggestive scenarios.

Please note: an electronic ARC of this book was generously provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review (Thank you!).