The Girl With No Past by Kathryn Croft-A 3/5 Star Review

Leah Mills has a life under the radar without friends, partners, or hardly any activity at all. Her only companion is the shame from a traumatic event that happened years ago that has haunted her ever since. She has her quiet job then goes home to her quiet apartment and quietly reads every quiet night of her quiet life. Get the picture?

But one day, she decides she’s had enough of the loneliness and quiet, so she tries an online dating chat website in the hopes of communicating with people she would never meet. Little does she know, this opens Pandora’s Box.

This book jumps from the plot of what happened leading up to the traumatic event in high school to coping with adulthood with the weight of the guilt from that horrific night. This was a bit frustrating for me as a reader because her modern-day adult life was mundane and the idea that she is miserable and alone is beat into the reader’s head. When the story flashes back to her time in high school, she also has that teenage angst of being misunderstood and left behind. The book was so melancholy that it was hard for me to read too much of it at one time.

It was also confusing at times with the present day as she reaches out to people from her past because they kept talking about how awful she is without much support. I understand it is the suspense of what actually happened but it, at times, felt like it exaggerated the concept that everyone hated her. It is not until the last 10%-15% of the book that the reader discovers what happened that night but, even then, the reason for her constant rejection by others is not clear until the very last chapter of the book. However, what does happen does clear a lot of things up (except for how is she not imprisoned? Surely with certain details it would be clear that it was intentional?).

The last thing I did not like: the title. I’m not really sure what it has to do with anything. It seemed like perhaps it would be about someone in the Witness Protection Program or someone with amnesia, but neither apply and it doesn’t seem to fit at all.

All in all, I don’t hate the book, but I don’t want to rave about how great it is either. It’s a book that I am glad that I finished, however, for those that did not finish it-I get it. It definitely drags and is confusing, especially at the beginning. I would not recommend this book for those who may be offended or triggered by the following: violence, murder, rape, sexually suggestive scenarios, stalking, bullying, or foul language.

Please note: an electronic ARC of this book was generously provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. (Sorry it took me almost 3 years to read it!)

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A Lady In Shadows (A Madeleine Karno Mystery #2) by Lene Kaaberbol- a 3/5 Star Review!

Madeleine Karno, a.k.a. “Doctor Death”, is female forensic pathologist in the late 1800s. She also finds herself to be an investigator as one particular case of a murdered prostitute whose abdomen was destroyed. Faced with constant scrutiny based on her being a female, Madeleine is determined to find the young woman’s murderer.

This book is extremely detailed in the scientific aspects where the author has clearly done a lot of research not only in forensic pathology but for obstetrics. Furthermore, it is extremely detailed in the historical aspects which may have history buffs rejoicing. However, it is also heavy with multiple concepts thrown into it which can be confusing at times. I understand that the author was probably trying to point out how very different life was in the 19th century. Especially for a female, a bisexual, and a prostitute-these are actually three different characters. Yet, to me it felt distracting. For example: I am still not really sure what the point of Madeleine’s fiancee’s former male lover had to do with the story. It seemed to be yet another (forced) example of what a wonderful character Madeleine is in her willingness to still be with her fiancee as she would have to provide for him once they were married because this would otherwise put him exile. A lot of the book has to do with other characters complimenting the main character on her strength, intelligence, persistence, caring nature, fearlessness, and her slim figure. Personally, I found her to be my least favorite character as she came across as spoiled, quick to anger, disrespectful, and insufferable.

Although this book is part of a series, it can easily be read as a standalone. I was not even aware that this was the second book in a series until I went to write the review. For those who are fans of audio CDs and/or audiobooks in general, I would recommend listening to this book on AudioCD or audiobook. Nicola Barber does a wonderful job narrating the book and her inflections and varying voices greatly contribute to the overall tone of the book.

Conversely, I would not recommend this book for anyone who may be triggered or offended by the following: graphic violence, kidnapping, murder, abortion, prostitution, infidelity, sexual scenarios, and anti-feminism. Moreover, if you find that trauma to the eye is especially offensive (like I do), be warned that there is an especially graphic scene involving that horrific concept.

Please note: an audioCD of this book was generously provided by LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer program in exchange for an honest review.

Promise Me by Kelly Walker-A 3/5 Star Review

To say that River has hit a rough patch is putting it lightly.  River has run away from her hometown, her family, and most of all, her memories.  She gets by through working at a bar in a small town that she ran into during her escape.  But she gets stuck in a vicious cycle of self-abuse.  Until Ian walked in and changed everything.

Ian is only in this small town for a security job for a buddy.  He’s called “Ghost” because you don’t see him but he sees you and everything you do.  If you’ve got something to hide, he’ll find it.  If you’ve got a security issue, he’ll fix it.  What he doesn’t know is how to fix someone and their insecurity.

This book is full of emotion! It is a seesaw with the extreme sorrow, anger, and grief on the one end and joy, progress, and hope on the other.  It does seem very apparent that the author did a lot of research on mental illness, cyber safety, and grief.  I would recommend this book for readers who enjoy emotional highs and lows in a plot.  I would also recommend this book for readers who enjoy swooning over a very protective and strong (yet sensitive) hero as we certainly get that with Ian.

The story alternates between River and Ian’s respective perspectives.  I wish I could say differently but I honestly didn’t care for River.  I didn’t like how she physically attacked Ian when she was angry, how she was quick to either have a violent outburst or run away.  I also didn’t like how every situation got turned around to how she felt that no one thought about her.  However, I will say that I do appreciate the author’s intention on focusing on mental health struggles people can have through developing a character like River.

Another negative that I had about the book was that there were some pieces that didn’t seem to fit right.  The first piece that did not fit is River’s Harry Potter obsession.  In the summary of the book it claims that she is a “self-professed Harry Potter addict” but it does not really come up until River, more than halfway into the book, is letting her guard down instead of combating her feelings for Ian.  **Spoiler Alert** Then she and Ian have one conversation about the relationship of Snape and Lily at the end of one chapter and immediately afterwards the next chapter begins with River stating that she’s falling in love with Ian.  Because of one conversation?  It just kind of felt rushed and out of place, in my opinion**Spoiler Alert**.

The second piece that didn’t fit was that I found a lot of the character’s names to be confusing as they went from their last names to nicknames.  I was not aware until after wards that this book references characters in Kelly Walker’s Chadwell Hearts series.  This book is a standalone book that seems to be more of a bonus book to the series.   However, maybe reading the other books in the series would have better prepared me to follow along with the sudden name changes.  The most confusing was Ian’s.  Towards the end it comes out that his name is not actually Ian, so she’s supposed to call him “Ghost” unless she’s mad at him.  But she alternates from Ian to Ghost at random, regardless of her level of emotion, and so it got kind of confusing.

I would not recommend this book for those who may be triggered or sensitive to these topics: grief, mental illness, violence, sexually explicit scenarios, foul language, miscarriage, murder, child sex slavery, alcohol abuse, and suicidal thoughts.

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

 

The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia- a 3/5 Star Review

Antonina (“Nina”) Beaulieu is headstrong, passionate, and finally escaping the countryside to enter her first season in London. Instructed by her dispassionate and downright mean cousin, Valerie, to hide her telekinetic powers, Nina does not do a very good job of keeping it a secret. Mostly because she does not know how to control them (kind of like Elsa before she gets her gloves in Disney’s Frozen). She finally gets the chance to meet someone like her, Hector Auvray, who can help her rein her powers in until appropriate. But it’s not just her powers that attract Hector’s attention. It’s her connection to the one true love he could never get over; her cousin Valerie.

I took away one star because of the slow pace and how often it is beat into the reader’s head that Valerie is the villain. Although I appreciate that the reasoning for her cold and greedy heart was given, it still was too forced that she was the antagonist.

I took another star away for two reasons:

1. I did not get attached to the romance between Nina and Hector. I thought it was very immature and overly dramatic.

2. It is touted as sci-fi but that only came to the telekinetic powers that Nina and Hector have. I understand that the telekinetic element is supposed to unify Hector and Nina as it is something that they share as well as makes them outsiders in society, however, it didn’t scream science fiction to me.

When it comes to characters, my favorite was Entienne, Hector’s friend. He was calm, loyal, and had a dry, frank sense of humor. If there were to be anything further done with this plot, be it a sequel or spin-off, I do so hope it focuses on Entienne. He honestly saved the book for me at the points where I was tempted to put it down and be done with it. The other supporting characters seemed to be either shallow or weak. I can see why Valerie’s husband Gaetan should be weak (for the most part) to balance Valerie’s ferocity, however, it was still somewhat redundant.

I would recommend this book for readers who enjoy a manipulative and selfish villain. I would also recommend this book for readers who enjoy telekinesis. Lastly, I would recommend this book for readers who enjoy insects, particularly beetles, as they play a large part in the plot.

I would not recommend this book for readers who may be triggered or offended by the following: mild foul language, suggestions of adultery, bullying, manipulation, and attempted murder.

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

The French Girl by Lexie Elliott- A 3/5 Star Review

Kate Channing is stressed out with starting her own business and looking so far in the future that she is blindsided when the past catches up to her. 10 years ago, she and some friends went on a holiday at a farmhouse out in the country, not everyone survives. What happened that day has haunted the survivors for the past ten years and now the case has been reopened. The investigation brings most of that group back together but so much has changed. This brings them each to ask the same questions: What happened that day? How well can you really know your friends?

I enjoy reading murder mysteries as well as stories about secrets within friendships. This book was well paced, however, I could tell who the murderer was fairly early in the story and the other red herrings were not strong enough to sway me. I did not really care for any of the characters, least of all pathetic Seb. I did not particularly like the narrating character, Kate, although her dark humor did have me chuckle a time or two. Another thing that I did not particularly care for about the book was that justice does not really ever come for the deceased. The story is confessed but there is only social reprimand for the villain, not anything legally, which could have caused a stronger conclusion in my opinion.

Two things were rather distracting for me: Kate’s business and the ghost haunting. Kate started her own business but it is on the verge of bankruptcy and she often takes off work to grab lunch, drinks, or coffee with a friend or two. Furthermore, there is an instance where she does not show up for work on time because she simply does not want to go in. Perhaps I’m a stickler for work ethic but that was distracting and irritating for me. Then the lingering ghost of the deceased was also distracting at times and even the main character states that she cannot figure out the purpose of the character’s presence.

On a more positive note, I did enjoy the eventual romance of two of the characters (I won’t say which in order prevent a spoiler) and thought that was authentic and sweet.

I would recommend this book for readers who like a murder mystery as well as a story on friendship. I would also recommend this book for those who are in/enjoy reading about the field of corporate law practice as that is included in the plot. Lastly, I would recommend this book for those who adore London as that is the setting for this book. This also makes room for some jokes about Americans that even I snickered at, despite being an American.

I would not recommend this book for those who may be offended or triggered by foul language, jealousy, manipulation, alcohol use, drug use, mild sexually suggestive scenarios, murder, and infidelity.

Please note: An electronic advanced reader copy of this book was generously provided by the Penguin First To Read Program in exchange for an honest review. This book is not expected to be released until February 20, 2018.

How to Change a Life by Stacey Ballis- a 3/5 Star Review!

Eloise is devastated by the news of her favorite teacher passing. The event becomes bittersweet as it is at this beloved teacher’s funeral that she is reunited with her old friends Teresa and Lynne. Can their newly regained friendship survive the first major hurdle that comes their way or has time eroded away at their trust?

Eloise, Teresa, and Lynne met in grade school and bonded over their birthdays being right around the same time. Their reunion inspired them to make a bucket list before their upcoming fortieth birthday. It was fun to see the three of them create and execute their own personal bucket lists as well as have an incentive with the donation to their late teacher’s charity tied into it. Furthermore, it was interesting to see how each of them accomplished their tasks.

However, this book was a quick read-because I skimmed most of it. It relied heavily on adjectives and every detail about every dish that was thrown into the book. The adjective “amazing” was overused to the point of irritation. Additionally, the author seemed to rely heavily on dialogue between characters for character development. Yet the main character still came off as juvenile and shallow to me despite the other characters repeatedly inflating her ego.

I would recommend this book for those approaching forty or already over forty as the fortieth birthday was a central theme. Furthermore, I would also recommend this book for those foodie readers out there as the author went into great detail about every meal prepared in the book. There are even recipes in the back of the book.

On the other hand, I would not recommend this book for readers who may have shared the same feelings I had about adjective abuse and extreme detail. I also would not recommend this book for those who may be sensitive: there were sexually suggestive scenarios as well as foul language.

Please note: I was generously provided with a copy of this book electronically for free through Penguin’s First To Read program.

Plus One by Elizabeth Fama- a 3/5 Star Review

Sol is a Smudge, part of the Night sector of the population that had been divided into half. She is a lowly factory worker struggling to juggle school, work, her brother’s abandonment, and being the sole caretaker for her dying grandfather. After finding out that her brother, Ciele, has gotten married and is expecting a baby soon with his new wife, she sets on a mission to make sure that her grandfather can hold his great-granddaughter before he dies. Even if it is just once, she would sacrifice everything for this one dying wish. She knows the consequences, a long jail sentence and probably miss out on her grandfather’s death, but she is bullheaded and fiercely loyal. This mission takes far longer than expected and goes way off course, but it is a journey filled with revealing secrets and unexpected friendships.

I am really torn on how to feel about this book. On the one hand, the idea of the population being separated by Day and Night and the Night people’s brains being affected by it felt very similar to Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies. Especially when two doctors are the ones who let the secret out to the protagonist who then uses it to their advantage later. But on the other hand, it is a different concept than the popular dystopian concept that this was forced because the world is in destruction and one population must save themselves from the other population who is ruining the world. Yet, it is in response to a flu epidemic that threatened to wipe out society. However, after the epidemic seemed to resolve, no action was taken to try to combine the two populations again.

Another thing that I am torn about with this book is that I felt that the romance was sweet at times yet forced at other times. I liked that she and D’Arcy (although I mentally kept calling him Mr. Darcy) had met each other in the past over a shared interest without realizing it until later. But I did not like how frequently Sol tried to sacrifice herself for him, often behind his back, as it came across as more of a dramatic need to be tragic rather than smart. It did not really feel like they worked together throughout the book but that he was a forced sidekick so that there could be an element of romance. Their love story just did not ever feel cohesive.

Another issue I had was the amount of kidnapping that happened. It was not just one baby that got kidnapped, but two babies and a dying elderly person. There were too many things that were far too convenient to make the action sequences seem like tangible concepts. The scene that annoyed me the most was when she had to carry a baby, zipped up under her hoodie, on a hot and bumpy subway that did not cry or make any noises at all. Then she got off the subway and took off and there was not any mention of the infant. What hoodie is designed to mask a live baby simply by zipping up?

Aside from these negatives of the book, it was not so terrible that I could not finish. Actually, I wanted to finish the book. It was an adventure when I was not stumbling through the literary obstacles. I must also admit that the cover of the book is lovely and perfectly fits this novel.

The narrator, Julia Whelan, did well in the sense that Sol’s “voice” would have had that pessimistic angst that seems to be a part of the stereotypical teenage character. However, the main woe-is-me voice got on my nerves after awhile. Conversely, the parts where she had to speak French and even sing made the book more interesting.

I would recommend this book for readers who are really interested in technology as that was a major factor. I would also recommend this book for readers who may be fluent in or familiar with French as that was also a large part of the book.

I would not recommend this book for those who may be offended by foul language, sexually suggestive scenarios, betrayal, kidnapping, bullying, gang activity, and death.

Please note: I was able to download an audiobook copy of this file for free through Audiofile magazine’s Sync’s weekly (this was one of Week 7’s book options) free summer audiobook program via using the Overdrive app (the link is here).