Christmas Bliss by A.S. Fenichel-a 4/5 Star Review!

John is a very serious Earl of Compton, who tirelessly spends his days arguing in the House of Lords.   Women seem to only be after his status and fortune rather than his intelligence and determination.  Until he meets Emma.

Emma is on the run from her abusive uncle, Drake, who is hell-bent on taking away her much younger brother Oliver’s inheritance.  Protective of her young brother, she runs away with him while he is sleeping yet only makes it across the street to the Earl of Compton’s residence before she is struggling to carry her brother’s sleeping body.  That short distance is enough to change both of their entire lives.

Where I live, we have been fortunate to have a fairly warm winter.  Then we hit a cold snap around the same time that I had just finished Foolish Bride, also by A. S. Fenichel.  I loved Foolish Bride and was aching to read another one of A.S. Fenichel’s books.  It so happened that I came across Christmas Bliss and, despite it being mid-March, it was a fun book to curl up with on a cold night.  The holiday is only briefly mentioned a time or two and I found myself wishing there was more of the holiday spirit.

The story is brief in length yet deep in complexity.  Both John and Emma have spent their days fighting others.  John arguing in the House of Lords and Emma fighting her uncle to protect her brother.  Both John and Emma had missed out on seasons in the ton and even each other.  They were practically strangers to each other despite living across the street.

Very quickly, John and Emma are taken with one another yet hesitant to go all in.  John proposes a solution to Emma’s situation of protecting her brother and his inheritance from her greedy uncle: marriage.  What I enjoyed most was the focus on the trepidation before deciding to go forward with the engagement.  It helped the brief romance because both of their doubts were explained thoroughly.

Little Oliver was my favorite character.  He was enthusiastic, well-mannered, and optimistic for one who has endured so much in his youth.  I liked that the villain was very present rather than a concept that loomed around.  I also liked how selfless John became when it came to Emma and Oliver.

I would recommend this book for readers who enjoy romance and brief engagements.  However, I would not recommend this book for readers uncomfortable with graphic violence.  I do not recall reading any foul language.  The romantic interactions are not sexually explicit, in my opinion.

Uglies (The Uglies #1) by Scott Westerfeld- a 5/5 Star Review!

Tally Youngblood is Ugly and the worst part is that her best friend, Peris, just turned Pretty. Therefore, they have to cut off all communication and Peris has to start a new life among the Pretties. It is a fun transition as the newly minted Pretties party nonstop while the Uglies sit in purgatory waiting their turn. She decides one night to sneak out and surprise Peris by dropping in to say hi, even though the consequences may be severe.

But Peris is completely different, not just physically. The disappointing trek back to Uglytown has her crossing paths with Shay, a fellow Ugly sneaking to see her friends who had just transitioned. The two of them form a friendship that has them both testing their beliefs and their newfound friendship.

I was surprised to find that I really enjoyed this book! I was introduced to it by the Young Adult Book Club that I joined recently and was able to pick it up at my local library. It was easy to breeze through and once the setup is described in detail, then the action really picks up. I have already recommended this book to a 13 year old that I babysit as I think it is geared more towards his age group. Also because the use of hoverboards made for an exciting adventure. Despite not being in that age group anymore, I still found myself connecting with these characters. I remember being swayed by new friends when I had other plans in place. I remember the naïveté of that age where you believe that adults can be trusted and the world is a certain way for a good reason. I also remember the sharp pain that comes when your crush is crushing on someone else, or the pull when your friend’s crush is crushing on you.

Another point that I really liked about this book is how Tally’s potential and anger builds slowly. She initially did not want to be part of the “Smoke” but was forced to be in order to be allowed to turn into a Pretty. The experience leaves her so jaded and rightfully so!

I would recommend this book for those in the early teens or older who can understand a bit better.

I would not recommend this book for those who may be offended by malicious acts, manipulation, espionage, plastic surgery, rule-breaking, and murder. I did not notice anything sexual in nature nor any foul language or graphic violence.

Please note: This book does end on a cliffhanger!

Trouble by Samantha Towle (AudioCD)-a 3/5 Star Review!

Mia has only known pain from men. Her father, Oliver, was a successful surgeon as well as a vicious child abuser behind closed doors. Her boyfriend, Forbes, is also abusive and a successful lawyer. Forbes takes his heartless dominance to a point where Mia finally flees Boston, finally leaving her abusive past behind.

Jordan is immature and has sworn off love after seeing his dad fall apart twice from a broken heart. He sleeps with women but never stays long enough for feelings to develop. He has been careless with gambling and alcohol just as he has been careless with women. His best friend, Beth, is the only woman he trusts and is committed to, and she’s into women, so romance is perfectly impossible between them. Taking over his father’s hotel while he’s out of town, Beth sends a tourist his way. A tourist that may not ever leave.

This was my first audiobook experience and it had it’s ups and downs. On the one hand, I did like the narrator for Jordan, but on the other hand I did not care for the narrator for Mia. I did like that they had alternating narrations, but I did not like that it repeated the same events in some chapters. I liked how deep and dark this book got but I did not like how Jordan’s immature and shallow personality was redundantly beat into the reader’s head. I apologize for being cryptic but I do not want to give the spoiler away; I am not sure how I feel about the plot twist. I did not see it coming, however, I am not sure how to feel about it. It just seems a bit of a stretch, in my opinion.

I got this AudioCD in 2014 from Goodreads Giveaways. I admit, at first, I was a bit disappointed. I expected it to be a physical book, not an AudioCD. I had not read the details completely and since my CD player in my car did not work, I had set it aside and moved on. I went back to it and downloaded it to play on my phone while driving around, but I ended up preferring music rather than an audiobook.

Fortunately, I recently got a newer car with a working CD player. I also recently joined a book club and a lot of my fellow members were raving about listening to audiobooks while driving around. My first thought was to fish this audioCD out of the drawer I had stuffed it in and give it another try. Third time was the charm.

To those who may be offended or triggered, there were the following in this book: foul language, explicit sexual scenarios, graphic violence, physical abuse, bulimia, parental abandonment, divorce, death, and sexual assault.

Please note: An AudioCD of this book was provided for free by Goodreads Giveaways. I apologize that it has taken me over 3 years to finally listen through it. I do sincerely appreciate this as it has helped me learn that I DO actually enjoy audiobooks! I have since started another one and I am confident that I will keep checking them out.

New York, Actually (From Manhattan With Love #4) by Sarah Morgan- a 4/5 Star Review!

Molly has been settling into New York City over the last couple of years since fleeing public humiliation in London. She has lost her friends and her pride. Since moving to New York, she only trusts her dalmatian, Valentine, and her friends and neighbors, Mark and Gabe. She stays busy by taking various classes such as salsa and spinning, and has a successful online blog as a relationship expert offering advice for those who ask.

This advice is usually the opposite of the advice that Daniel Knight gives his clients. As a successful divorce attorney, and as a witness to his parents’ tumultuous marriage, he has sworn off marriage and relationships in general. He does not have time for dogs, or women for that matter, but on his morning runs he has been crossing paths with a beautiful woman and her dalmatian. His sisters, twins Fliss and Harry, are the Bark Rangers who offer pet services. His decision to borrow a stubborn Brutus to help him talk to the woman in the park gets him far deeper than he could have ever expected.

My favorite characters in this book were the dogs. I loved how their interactions contributed to the story as well as how well they got along. I am not normally into book series, however, each book in this series reads as a standalone. I enjoyed that Eva and Lucas were characters in this one as they were the main characters in the previous book. Furthermore, I enjoyed that Daniel is the bridge from the Urban Genie trio of friends to the Bark Ranger sisters. I found it easy to figure out that the next few books will (hopefully) be about twins Fliss and Harry, Daniel’s sisters.

There are four reasons why I only gave this book 4 stars:
1. Molly being originally from England was not very apparent unless it was briefly mentioned in conversation that she had an “accent”. This “accent” did not come through to me, especially not in the chapters that were in her perspective.
2. Molly was supposed to be a psychologist yet she clearly had not moved on from a situation in her past that caused her to flee to New York. Furthermore, she was unable to figure out her feelings as well as was quick to become irrational in certain situations. For example: she finds out that Daniel borrowed a dog to try to find a way to talk to her and she is very angry and seeks revenge.
3. I am used to Sarah Morgan’s characters fighting their feelings for each other before they reach the point that they are in love. But in this story, once they had moved past that point, it seemed extremely rushed to reach the next steps in their relationship.
4. I may be biased, however, I could not help but compare Molly and Daniel to the main characters in the previous books ( See reviews: Here , here , here,  and this bonus one ). Despite being able to relate to parts of their backstories, I just could not feel strongly for either of them. I was more interested in both Fliss’ potential story as well as Mark and Gabe’s history.

Despite these minor setbacks, I did still really enjoy this book. As can be expected when I read a book by Sarah Morgan, I did look forward to reading it as well as mini-squealed whenever a character from a previous book was mentioned. Sarah Morgan is extremely talented and her books take me to a happy place. It truly feels as if one is part of this growing group of friends and family and I find myself missing the characters when the book is over. These books are the kind that stay with you after each conclusion. I would recommend this book for readers who enjoy romance and, most especially, dogs.

For readers who may be triggered or offended: there were mentions of divorce, animal abandonment, scenarios sexual in nature, and brief foul language.

Please note: An electronic copy of this book was generously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

You Were Here by Gian Sardar-DNF at 28%-1 Star Review

Rarely do I ever put a book down as a DNF but I just could not get into this one. There were a lot of names thrown out and it was hard to know which names would develop into characters the reader would get to be familiar with later. Typically, I enjoy books with parallel plots and that jump from past to present. However, there were so many characters introduced in both tenses that it came off as overwhelming to me. Furthermore, I did not care for one of the main characters in the present tense, Abby. I was not sure if she was supposed to have a panic disorder, anxiety, or if her tragic theatrics are what attracted the attention of her boyfriend, a screenwriter looking for his big break. The meltdown that Abby has at a restaurant, where she just got into her hometown that she hadn’t been to in a long time, with her mother and her mother’s best friend about a potential serial rapist in town was what made me put the book down for good. Maybe it’s because I’m a city girl and her hometown was small suburb of Minneapolis, and therefore she might have been in imminent danger. But it just did not connect for me nor did it seem realistic.

DNF at 28%, maybe some time away from the book will allow me to come back and pick it up again.

Please Note: an electronic copy of this book was generously provided for free from Penguin Random House’s First To Read Program in exchange for an honest review.

Please also note: for readers who may be triggered or offended, there were mentions of infidelity, sexual harrassment, incest, violence, murder, and rape.

Enchantment by Orson Scott Card- a 4/5 Star Review!

Ivan’s childhood was full of changes. His family had to change religions which brought Ivan and his father Piotr to the painful decision of post-infancy circumcision. Then they had to move from Russia to America. Through all of these changes, what brought Ivan peace and stability was running. One run through the forest on his uncle’s farm brought him to a magical chasm where the leaves danced away as Ivan approached for a closer look at a woman sleeping on a bed of rock. Ivan did what he did best: he ran.

Years later, Ivan never could shake off the feeling that he should have looked closer at the woman and tried to help her. Through a series of seemingly coincidental events, Ivan finds himself back at his uncle’s farm. One curious run into the forest and Ivan finds the same woman buried under the leaves. This time, he doesn’t run.

This was a selection for a book club that I have recently joined, otherwise I might not have picked it up. This is the first book that I have read by Orson Scott Card as fantasy books are not really my preferred genre. However, fairy tales are one of my favorites, and this came across as a clever retelling of Sleeping Beauty mixed with the folk tales of Baba Yaga and other deities. Orson Scott Card’s Enchantment, although fantasy, surprised me in this combination of the three. I was further surprised that there were a few points where I lost interest yet it was quickly regained. This is not the sort of book that I could read in one sitting, as it was rather long and at some points long-winded. However, it is the sort of book that I could quickly pick up again the next day or even a few hours later. That is to say that I found it neither repulsive nor gripping.

I enjoyed the storyline for the most part and I also enjoyed the alternating perspectives between Ivan, Katerina, and Baba Yaga. I thought Baba Yaga was the character written the strongest as she was despicable yet entertaining. I also enjoyed the minor details earlier in the book that became major details later. For example: a vague note from a deceased neighbor in the beginning of the book played a major factor in one of the final action sequences. Although I love fairy tales, I do enjoy the struggle that Katerina and Ivan had in their relationship. They did not love each other immediately, rather they fell for each other at different paces.

I would recommend this book for any reader looking for an enchanting fantasy read with a leading female character and a bit of historical fiction.

On the other hand, I would not recommend this book for readers who do not enjoy foul language, violence, revenge, murder, and sexually suggestive scenarios.

Hunted: ALIAS #2 by Lisa Hughey- a 3 Star Review

Maria Torres has had a large part of her life taken away from her.  She was kidnapped and held captive for many years until she finally had the courage and opportunity to escape.  That experience has been haunting her life, making it very difficult to establish relationships and even trust others.

Dwayne Lameko has had a crush on co-worker Maria Torres since she joined the company.  He can charm most women, except for her.  She shuts down when he is near and refuses to tell him anything about herself.  She shocks him when she volunteers to go in on a mission and is even more shocked when he is assigned to be her partner.  Can they get over their awkward boundaries and work together as a team?

I read the first book in the series, Stalked: ALIAS #1 (see review here: Stalked ARC (ALIAS #1) by Lisa Hughey-5/5 Star Review), and I enjoyed the fast pace and high-powered action scenes.  The plot in that book was well developed, as were the characters, and there was a great balance between action and passion.  That being said, this book was a bit of a let down.  I went into Hunted expecting the same level of pace and character development but the story line felt truncated.  It focused more on the awkward romance growing between evasive Maria and alpha Dwayne than the thrill of the mission.  Furthermore, the “plot twist” was predictable.

I would not recommend this book for readers who may be sensitive to violence, sexually explicit scenarios, kidnapping, rape threats, and foul language.

Please note:  an electronic copy of this book was generously provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.