Believe Me by JP Delaney- a 4/5 star review!

Claire Wright is a British immigrant in NYC with a passion for acting.  While waiting for her big break, she moonlights helping a private investigator catch cheating spouses.  Until one night, a client is brutally murdered.  Was Claire the last person to see the client alive?  Did Claire go too far and commit murder?

Another great book by JP Delaney! I should have known better than to think I had Believe Me all figured out halfway through.  It is a roller coaster ride with an epic conclusion.  This book is only similar to his previous book, The Girl Before, was my favorite book of 2017 because of it’s twisted ending that had me floored.   It is very heavy on theater as a whole as well as heavily focused on the poet Charles Baudelaire making the extreme research very apparent.

However, I did take one star away because although the main character, Claire, was dark and complex, I couldn’t feel connected to her.  She seemed very self-centered and shallow for most of the book.  This is told mostly in Claire’s perspective with the occasional input from other characters in script form (again, heavily focused on theater).

For those who may be sensitive to certain themes or triggered: there was mild foul language, graphic violence, sexually explicit scenarios, mental illness, stalking, and manipulation.

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

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Carnegie’s Maid by Marie Benedict-A 4/5 Star Review!

Carnegie’s Maid is a romantic approach to the tale of the iconic Carnegie family and offers an idea of perhaps why the family turned to philanthropy once they built their wealth.  This story also includes a focus on the struggles of immigrants as well as how the Civil War and President Lincoln’s assassination impacted people of all classes.

I really liked the juxtaposition of the subservient side of Clara when she is Mrs. Carnegie’s maid with her bold businesswoman side when she is sneaking in secret moments with Andrew Carnegie.  Furthermore, I liked the innocence of their romance despite the imbalance of power as well as both of their loyalties to their respective families.

My favorite character in this book was Mr. Ford.  I would go on further, however, I do not wish to spoil anything.  Therefore, I will simply state that his character seemed to be the most generous in that he was generous with his good attitude and generous in doing small good deeds for others.

One of the reasons why I did not give this book 5 stars is because it kind of dragged on at certain points as if length was the goal rather than depth.  Another reason is because the antagonist was weak, however, I am not even sure if it is the character that I am thinking of or if the antagonist is supposed to be a group of people.  Lastly, I did not care for how Andrew Carnegie conveniently appeared (and appeared quite often) when Clara was alone.

For those who may be triggered or offended: the only things that I could find within the book were poverty, pollution, religious themes, and death.

Please note: an electronic copy of this book was generously provided for free from the publisher via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. 

Piper by Jay Asher & Jessica Freeburg, Illustrated by Jeff Stokely-a 4/5 Star Review!

I had the exciting opportunity to meet and see a presentation by the author Jay Asher recently (Thanks to my local Westerville Public Library for hosting!).  Although he is very nice, funny, and everyone should go see him if they get a chance-I left really excited because of his next book that was being released: Piper.

Piper is a graphic novel collaboratively written by authors Jay Asher and Jessica Freeburg and illustrated by Jeff Stokely.  It is a retelling of the Pied Piper and the twist is that his music does not affect one person: Maggie.  Maggie is a deaf girl, hence why his music does not endanger her.  Maggie’s hearing was lost due to an act of violent bullying and the injustice only stems from there as villagers continue to bully her relentlessly.  Yet she continues to make the best of it by telling funny stories to her caretaker, Agathe.

The Pied Piper heroically comes to save the village from the rat infestation that has wiped out the population with starvation and/or disease.  But this rescue comes at a price.  A price that the village decides not to pay once the deed is done.  But if they refuse to pay in cash, they will have to pay at a different price-revenge.

Graphic Novels are something that I have only recently begun to develop an interest in, my first being Brian K. Vaughn’s Saga series.  I simply must find more graphic novels that have been illustrated by Jeff Stokely as the artwork is marvelous.  The expressions of the characters, the movement of the wind, and the playful innocence portrayed in a single panel where the Pied Piper is eating an apple under a tree in front of a peacock, for example.  I was just so moved by the illustrations and they greatly improved the storyline.

Personally, I was hoping for more out of the character of Maggie.  I was initially so excited about this graphic novel because it centered around a deaf character.  Both of my parents are deaf and so I expected great things from this character but I was a little disappointed.  I had to take a star away because it seemed like being deaf only came into play when someone walked up behind her and scared her, when she was incorrectly pronouncing words when Agathe wrote down her stories, or when she was being bullied.  I just wish a little more research would have gone into her character because although lip-reading is a way to communicate, there was not any sign language at all.  Granted, I was not expecting American Sign Language in a story based in the medieval times, some home signs between Agathe and Maggie would have been redeeming.  Furthermore, going back to the sneaking up behind her example, when I try to sneak up on my parents, they can feel the vibrations from my walking behind them and it doesn’t always work.  What is failed to be mentioned is that when you lose one sense, the other senses get stronger.

Although I had to take one (slightly biased) star away, the story itself is minimalist yet powerful.  The elements of greed and the despicable villagers are well-balanced by the purity and optimism of Maggie and Agathe despite their tragic situation. Another well-balanced aspect in this story is how both of their backgrounds are isolated, tragic, and yet they find hope in one another.  Furthermore, when they go in different directions, they still protect one another making their love story even more emotional.

I also enjoyed that this was a retelling of the Pied Piper as I thought that was unique.  So many fairy tale retellings have centered around the princesses and Red Riding Hood lately that this one stands out.  And since I heard about it, Eminem’s song “Lose Yourself” has been stuck in my head:

I was playing in the beginning, the mood all changed

I’ve been chewed up and spit out and booed off stage

But I kept rhymin’ and stepped right in the next cypher

Best believe somebody’s paying the Pied Piper

In conclusion, I would recommend Piper for readers who enjoy retellings, tragic love stories, unexpected heroes, and graphic novels.

I would not recommend Piper for those who may be offended on how Maggie’s deafness is portrayed, or those who may be offended or triggered by bullying, violence, kidnapping, and revenge.

The Switch by Lynsay Sands-a 4/5 Star Review!

Twins Charlotte (“Charlie”) and Beth are running away from their horrid uncle who is marrying them off to the highest, and most scoundrel, bidder to pay off his steep debt. They are caught in the act of running away by a Lord Radcliffe who decides to take them under his wing for awhile until they can get on their feet and get to London. He doesn’t know the half of the story, however, as he believes he is helping a lad named Charles (Charlie disguised as a man) and his sister Beth.

Hooray for another fun romance and adventure story from Lynsay Sands! This author is quickly climbing up the charts of my favorite authors (see my review for Love is Blind here) and I am so glad my friend recommended her to me (Thanks Laura! 🙂 ). There was adventure, surprise twists, embarrassing moments that had me blushing for the characters, mixed with warmth of friendship and steamy romantic scenes. The concept of the twin girls playing brother and sister and switching roles was unique. Especially as the romance is concerned when Radcliffe finds himself attracted to the sister at times and confused by his attraction to the brother at other times.

The bond of sisterhood between Beth and Charlie was very relatable. The compromises that they made for each other and their strong sense of loyalty to one another reminded me fondly of the relationship with my sister and I. Although I am not a twin as they are, how they developed separately yet still tied to one another resonated with me.

The only thing that I had to take one star away for was that the narrative would switch between Charlie and Radcliffe without distinction which I found to be confusing at times. It was also confusing when Radcliffe was called Jeremy only in the last few pages when he had been called Lord Radcliffe the entire book.

That being said, I did really enjoy the book! I loved the main character, Charlie, and how strong, fearless, selfless, and full of integrity she was throughout the story. I found it incredibly endearing how Radcliffe took Beth and Charlie under his wing and then Charlie took Bessie, puppies, and a mother and her 2 children and then another orphan under her wing, that was still under Radcliffe’s wing. It was like an umbrella effect and my love for the book grew as their troop expanded.

I would recommend this book for those who enjoy a hilarious love story with an underlying theme of loyalty. Furthermore, I would recommend this book for readers who enjoy historical romances with adventure, twists, and puppies!

I would not recommend this book for readers who may be triggered or offended by gambling addiction, prostitution, suicide, alcohol addiction, explicitly sexual scenarios, kidnapping, violence, mild foul language, and murder.

The Breakdown by B.A. Paris-a 4/5 Star Review!

Cass and her husband, Matthew, live in a house far away from many things. Only a couple of neighbors down the road but it is quiet and peaceful. That is, until one stormy night on her way home a woman is stranded on the side of the road. Cass made the decision that she would later regret: she does not help her. The next morning, the woman is found dead.

Riddled with the guilt of not having done anything, and horrified that this could happen in her small and remote neighborhood, Cass gets spooked and lives in fear. When she discovers that the woman was her new friend, Jane, she nearly falls apart. Does the murderer know that it was Cass who passed by?

Let me begin with the end. The end of the book really ties everything together and makes up for the redundant middle of the book. Although many thriller books are compared to Girl On The Train, I will add this one to the list for this very reason. I gave up on Girl On The Train because the middle was so redundant on how she is drunk every day. I later had the book spoiled for me and wished I had carried on. I almost did the same for this book. The middle of The Breakdown becomes cumbersome to read as it does not feel like much of anything is progressing. The daily actions of Cass waking up devastatingly convinced to have early onset dementia like her mother had, taking pills, falling asleep, waking up again to pretend to be normal when her husband comes home, and going to bed again happens so often. However, there are snippets of clues subtly dropped within this chunk of monotony that it is easy to miss them. I would not say that this book is something that I could not put down. For a lot of the book I had a hard time actually picking it back up, but I am glad that I did as the ending makes up for everything.

I would recommend this book for anyone who could endure Girl On The Train. I also recommend this book for readers who enjoy getting in the mindset of the narrator. This reads in first-person narrative and does not jump back and forth between past and present.

For those who may be offended, there are themes of manipulation, stalking, murder, early onset dementia, and overdose.

Please note: An electronic advanced reader copy was generously provided by St. Martin’s Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple-a 4/5 Star Review!

Eleanor Flood is a distracted mother who moved from the bustling New York City to Seattle with her husband, Joe, ten years ago and is itching for a change. Her son, Timby, named after an autocorrect mistake, has a recurring stomachache that interrupts the poetry lesson that she has weekly. One day she takes him to the doctor for it and this is the day that a majority of the book is centered around. This is the day of misunderstandings, random adventures with former employees, and a day of reckoning her pain from the fall out with her sister, Ivy.

This is my second book that I have read by Maria Semple and I will be looking for her other books to read as well. I was very happy to read that she was (is? Season 5 announced!) a writer for Arrested Development, one of my all-time favorite tv shows. Much like the characters in that show, the main character in this book, Eleanor Flood, was self-centered, aloof, sometimes deep, and yet hilarious. This is also like the main character in Where’d You Go, Bernadette? Where she is not the stereotypically warm and overly coddling mother, quite the opposite. An example of this is when she leaves her son, Timby, with a stranger just so she can run off to solve a misunderstanding. Another example is when she leaves her dog, Yo-Yo, in a Costco parking lot for hours. I can see where some readers may not enjoy this consistency of personality, however, I appreciate it. I also liked the unique career that she has of an animator of The Flood Girls, as well as how that comes into play with her relationship with her sister, Ivy. Lastly, I enjoyed the unexpected turn that the book went in towards the resolution. I actually listened to this on AudioCD, read by Kathleen Wilhoite, who was simply fantastic. She gave distinctive voices to each character and at one point even sang beautifully. I do hope to be able to listen to more audiobooks narrated by her as she made them more interesting and unique.

I did not give the full 5 stars because the storyline was choppy. Some scenes ended abruptly and unapologetically that it was just assumed that the reader could figure out the rest on their own. I would not recommend this book for readers who do not enjoy foul language, atheism, family drama, or marital distress.

However, I would recommend this book for fans of Arrested Development and her other book Where’d You Go, Bernadette? I would also recommend this book for those who love Seattle as there is a lot of mention of it as well as it is where the book is set.

The Roanoke Girls: A Novel by Amy Engel-a 4/5 Star Review!

Lane Roanoke has spent childhood desperate to find out more about her family. Frustrated by her mother’s depression and secrecy, she is still stunned when she discovers that her mother left this world and her behind by suicide. Even more stunning is when she discovers there has been a family waiting to meet her and bring her back to her mother’s childhood home.

But Lane only stayed for one summer. One summer was far long enough and chaotic enough for her to understand why all of the Roanoke Girls are special. And why they all leave. Or die.

Although Lane makes it out of Roanoke alive, she is called back years later when her cousin Allegra goes missing. Lane and Allegra were inseparable that summer that she spent at Roanoke. Despite the time and distance that separated them, Lane knew immediately that she had to go back and find her.

Roanoke does not seem to have changed much in the time Lane has been gone. Nor do the people in it. Can she find her way back out alive once again?
This novel was a dark and twisted novel about how things can be too good to be true. Also, it is about how those who seem perfect on the surface often have twisted secrets buried deep away from the light.

My favorite character was Cooper because he worked hard to overcome what he came from. This is a daily struggle and he strives to make the right choices. Lane tests these choices yet he continues to try to do the right thing, and is understanding and forgiving with her. I also enjoyed that he was somewhat of an underdog figure in the beginning. A character that could be easily assumed would never change, yet develops and deepens the more contact the reader has with him.

This book jumps from the past to present every other chapter. It is mostly told in Lane’s perspective, however, there are a few brief chapters where the perspective is given to the other Roanoke Girls. I thought the alternating perspectives in this case added to the story as it mostly told about how those Roanoke Girls left or died.

The main thing that is holding me back from giving this book a five star review is that there were some points throughout the novel where I felt it lagged in action. Furthermore, the setting was beautifully described but the heat of the summer discussed far too much that it seemed repetitive to me.

I would recommend this book for those interested in a dark novel about how family secrets can stay with us forever, regardless of how far we try to stretch our ties.

On the other hand, I would not recommend this book for readers who may be uncomfortable with the following: foul language, violence, explicitly sexual scenarios, adultery, incest, depression, suicide, abortion, miscarriage, substance abuse, manipulation, and physical abuse.

Please note: a paperback copy of this book was generously provided for free in exchange for an honest review.