Love Is Blind by Lynsay Sands-a 5/5 Star Review!

Lady Clarissa Chambray is a clumsy embarrassment to her stepmother, Lydia, who is desperately trying to marry her off while her father is away on business. But it’s not Clarissa’s fault! Her clumsiness is cured when she can use her spectacles. However, her cruel stepmother breaks them so she won’t wear them around eligible men, convinced they make Clarissa hideous.

Hideous is a term Adrian Montfort (who happens to be the Earl of Mowbray) has gotten used to since returning from war with a scar across the length of his face. He escaped several seasons in his country estate but, at the nagging of his mother, he has returned to society in the hopes of securing a marriage. Meeting a beautiful eligible woman who cannot see anything, much less his scar, seems almost too good to be true. Once he discovers that many of her accidents do not add up, he is set on a mission for her protection and her heart.

Apparently, I’m on a regency romance roll, but I don’t mind.  Especially when I simply adored each of them! This book was recommended to my by a friend and the first book that I have read by Lynsay Sands-I loved it! I thought it might just be a regency romance but there were plenty of obstacles for Clarissa and Adrian to overcome not just together, but with the help of their supporters. There was adventure, mystery, romance, and best of all-forgiveness. I loved Clarissa because she is determined to not let anything get her down, she sees the best in everyone, protects those closest to her, and is quick to forgive. She reminded me of Cinderella (my all-time favorite Disney Princess) at times, which may have added to my fondness for her. I had a very difficult time putting this book down as it did have a fast pace as well as many moments where I had to muffle a laugh.

I would recommend this book for fans of regency romance as well as for those who enjoy reading about characters overcoming adversity.

However, I would not recommend this book for readers who are offended or triggered by mild foul language, explicit sexual scenarios, bullying, violence, and infidelity.

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Best Day Ever by Kaira Rouda-a 5/5 Star Review!

Paul Strom is about to have the Best Day Ever with his wife, isn’t she lucky? They have 2 beautiful boys, a nice house in the suburbs, sensible SUVs, and she doesn’t have to work. Life is good, as it should be. As he has perfectly planned everything to be. But things aren’t always what they seem and the past has a sneaky way of coming back to haunt you.

I think what especially made this book so great was how it made me react as a reader. I did not like the narrator. I was uncomfortable and I wanted justice. Initially, this had me debating whether or not I should continue. Especially as it was based in where I currently live-Columbus, OH- and the descriptions gave mental images of more than a few people that I have met in the suburbs here. Coincidentally, I happened to have picked up the audiobook for You by Carolyn Kepnes (read by Santino Fontana who voiced the unreliable character Prince Hans of the Southern Isles in Disney’s Frozen) which also has an arrogant, sinister, and unreliable narrator which may have added to my discomfort level with Best Day Ever. For the record, I took a break with You so I could finish Best Day Ever first. Finally, this book also had a slow, arduous start as the readers are only given Paul’s malicious, misogynistic, and narcissistic perspective. However, somewhere around the halfway point, it quickly spirals into the suburban nightmare (kind of like B. A. Paris’ The Breakdown–see my review here) and the conclusion was redemptive and incredible.

I would recommend this book for fans of domestic thrillers, psychological thrillers, and fast-paced action at the end.

I would not recommend this for anyone younger than 18, nor for those who may be triggered or offended by: foul language, graphic violence, infidelity, revenge, arson, burglary, mental abuse, sexually suggestive scenarios, stalking, and misogyny.

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

What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum- a 5/5 Star Review!

Have you ever loved a book so much that every time you see the cover of it you just sigh happily?  Perhaps even swoon?  That is my current state with What to Say Next by the very talented Julie Buxbaum.  She has a way of hitting a reader right in the feels.  I laughed, I cried, I cheered, I felt a wide range of emotions.  I had this similar reaction with her previous book Tell Me Three Things (which I also highly recommend-see my Goodreads review: here ).  Also, there was a big plot twist that was unexpected and essentially had me locked into the book, racing along until the perfect ending.

This was a great book that dives into the tumultuous waters of high school drama and then the riptide of loneliness catches you and makes sure you stay.  It made me feel the grief, loneliness, and hope that the main characters, Kit and David, felt.  These two were opposites in many ways, yet each of them have their worlds flipped upside down, which brings them together.  It is a fresh reminder of the discomfort of finding yourself at the brink of adulthood.  It abuses the heart, really, as it is heart-wrenching at times, yet you feel your heart swelling at other times.   All in all, a must-read that is different from other YA romance novels in that it presents an exceptional approach of mixing humor with grief to the common struggle of finding yourself.

I enjoyed that there were unique attributes about the characters that set them apart from the general population in the book, particularly David’s Asperger Syndrome attributes.  I cannot say whether or not these features were accurate, however, I do enjoy the respectful and charming way of which his character was developed.  I would recommend this for any reader high school age and older who is a fan of innocent romance and deep situations.  I would also recommend this book for readers who are fans of math and science as David’s narrative is heavy in those fields.  On the other hand, it was not so heavy that those who are not strong in the math and science fields (including yours truly) could not follow along.

For those who may be offended: there was foul language, brief violence, infidelity, bullying, alcohol use, brief mention of drug use, and an overarching theme of grief.

Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker- a 5/5 Star (Life Changing) Review!

Cass and Emma Tanner are the famous sisters that mysteriously disappeared three years ago. Now, only Cass has returned. What happened to Emma? That’s exactly what Dr. Abby Winter is going to find out. What she has discovered in the last three years since the girls vanished and her investigation begun is one thing: nothing is what it seems. Dr. Abby Winter knows firsthand how traumatizing it can be to have a childhood ruled by a narcissistic mother. That is what got her into this line of work in the first place. But can she keep her past from clouding her judgement in the present?

I loved this book and found it masterfully created. Each chapter ended with a cliffhanger that made me as a reader want to read “just one more chapter” for several chapters. It was told in alternating perspectives between Cass and Abby (Dr. Winter) which I thought enhanced the story as it gave deeper perspective into both characters as well as gave different views on the supporting characters.

To be more personal than I have been in any of my previous reviews, I cannot explain well enough to give it justice just how immensely tied to this book I was. I had to put it down some chapters because it related too well to my childhood with a narcissistic mother that too much of it in one sitting could be overwhelming. Fortunately, I were raised mostly by my (selfless, hilarious, and dedicated) father so I did not have the damages quite as bad as these girls, but the scars are still there. Time does not actually heal all wounds. Some scars will always remain, even if they are hidden just under the surface.

There are variances with every family and experience with any personality disorder. Yet there were pages and pages that I kept highlighting and excitedly screaming out “YES! Exactly!”. It was fascinating to see what I experienced play out in a fictional tale. The quote that I had to read over and over because it was accurate, relatable, and glaringly honest was:

“Mrs. Martin had never been punished for anything she had ever done. She was a master illusionist. Even people trained to see, even people looking for exactly what was there to be seen, could still not see”.

I am immensely pleased that Wendy Walker had the courage and skill to take this topic of Narcissistic Personality Disorder and create a story that is masterful regardless of if a reader has had an experience with it. There has only been one other book that I have read on this topic several years ago, Dr. Karyl McBride’s Will I Ever Be Good Enough?. This book was nonfiction and absolutely changed my life because it put the facts of Narcissistic Mothers in my face and helped me learn how to cope and live my own life. If you are someone who has gone through an experience with someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, particularly with a Narcissistic mother, I highly recommend both Will I Ever Be Good Enough? and Emma in the Night. You should also know that you are not alone!

I would also recommend this book for those readers who are fans of surprise twists as there are several. Furthermore, the ending is unexpected, twisted, and genius.

For those who may be offended: there was foul language, sexually explicit scenarios, drug use, alcohol use, infidelity, incest, and child abuse.

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

Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown-A 5/5 Star Review!

Billy is a wife, a mom, a hiker, a free spirit, and missing, presumed dead. Her husband, Jonathan, and her daughter, Olive, have struggled over the past year since she went missing both emotionally and financially. Jonathan could not focus on work and resigned in order to work on a memoir on his missing, potentially late, wife. As he works on additional research for the memoir he begins to discover the secrets and lies that hid beneath the surface. Their daughter, Olive, wants to get the search party back on to find her mother as she begins to have visions of her that become frequent yet are cryptic. This causes her grades and her relationships with friends and family to decline. Will it all be worth it to find Billy?

At first, I thought this book would be just another rendition of Gone Girl. I was pleasantly mistaken! It has a unique portrayal of both family dynamics and growing up. The story is told in alternating perspectives, mostly from Olive and Jonathan’s. Which I did not find it confusing and found it to be helpful in strengthening character development. I also liked the fairly fast pace of the book as well as the many red herrings that had me pausing to think. It is sweet at times and twisted at others, but made for a fun read overall. Lastly, I also liked the twist and how it was an imperfect ending.

I would recommend this book for those who enjoy an adventurous mystery. I would also recommend it for those who like to read how the past comes back to haunt a character.

For those who may be offended: there is foul language, sexually suggestive scenarios, visions, negativity towards religion, drug abuse, and alcohol abuse.

Please note: I got a physical copy of this book for free from LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review.

Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices #1) by Cassandra Clare- a 5/5 Star Review!

Tessa is in London desperately searching for her brother Nate but the only thing she keeps finding is growing strength in her superpower as a shape-changer.  She did not even know she had this power until she was kidnapped right off of the boat in London from New York.  She is rescued by Will and finds herself immersed in the world of Shadowhunters who are often battling Downworlders.  She struggles to trust anyone in this new world but this journey not only teaches her what her powers are, but who she is entirely.

I will fully admit, fantasy was not a genre that I thought I would like.  That is until I read Enchantment recently (see review here: Enchantment by Orson Scott Card- a 4/5 Star Review! ).  Thanks to the book club that I recently joined, I got to check that out.  When the genre this month was Urban Fantasy and Clockwork Angel was selected, I was hesitant to say the least.  However, just like with the last few books that have been selected in the Book Club, my low expectations were exceeded.  Despite the length of the book, it was very fast-paced and I had a hard time having to put the book down each time.  I knew I was going to love Will from the beginning with his wit and charm.  I did not expect the depth his character brought nor that I would be so pleased that he wasn’t “rescued” by his emotional trauma just by one kiss.  I love when that happens in Disney movies but it would not have been appropriate for it to have happened in this gothic action plot.  I appreciate that Cassandra Clare treated their potential romance by requiring understanding and patience.  Furthermore, I also appreciated that the author made each of these characters distinct yet worked diligently at binding them together.  Furthermore, I listened to about half of this on AudioCD read by Jennifer Ehle who I highly recommend as an audiobook reader.  She was able to give unique voices and accents to each character yet have a different voice for when she is not reading dialogue.

There were victories, tragedies, heroes, betrayers, villains, unexpected twists, clever inventions, shape-shifting, disease, several sources of unrequited love, and there was a cat! The dialogue was deep at times and witty at others.  I found myself taking notes of lines from the book that struck a chord with me.  Some examples are:

“It’s all right to love someone who doesn’t love you back, as long as they’re worth you loving them.  As long as they deserve it”.

“It is as great a thing to love as it is to be loved.  Love is not something that can be wasted”.

 “Whatever you are physically…male or female, strong or weak, ill or healthy—all those things matter less than what your heart contains.  If you have the soul of a warrior, you are a warrior.  All those other things, they are the glass that contains the lamp, but you are the light inside”.

I love it when an author references other works of literature.  Additionally, I also simply adore when a romance starts from a mutual appreciation of reading.  This just adds to the many reasons why I love this book, she starts each chapter with a few lines of a poem.  Later on in her acknowledgements she states that she used poems that would have mostly been around in the time that this book was set.  I also enjoyed the references to A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.  After I finished this book, I quickly added it to the top of my TBR pile.  It is invigorating to read a book that inspires you to read books they slyly suggest.

I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy steampunk, historical fiction, fantasy, fast-paced action, unrequited love, complicated families, feminism, hints of romance, and those who love references to other books within a book (as I just mentioned).

On the other hand, I would not recommend this book to those who do not enjoy violence, murder, foul language (although I only noticed two curse words in the book), or demons.

 

The Lost Letter by Jillian Cantor-a 5/5 Star Review!

Kristoff has found a home, finally. Having been abandoned as a young child, finding his way as an adult has proved difficult. He finds refuge as an apprentice in the home of well-known stamp engraver, Frederick Faber. Frederick and his family, a wife and two daughters, are Jewish and living in Austria. However, as winter begins to invade, so do the Nazis, tearing Kristoff’s new family apart.

In another time and place, (California, 1989 to be precise) another family is tearing at the seams. Kate is struggling at work because her co-worker is her soon to be ex-husband. He filed the papers, she just needs to sign them. She is also juggling that with her father, Ted, a formerly avid stamp collector who has Alzheimer’s. She meets Benjamin, a philatelist, to get her father’s stamp collection appraised and one stamp in particular sends them on an adventure.

Although the plot jumped between the two stories, I thought it was done seamlessly. There were some chapters, however, where I wish it had not jumped because I was too eager to find out what happens next in one setting. It had several twists and turns, as well as several times where my heart ached for the characters. Although romance stories from World War II have been done quite often, this one stands out as unique. It brings elements of stamp engraving as well as collecting that I have yet to read elsewhere. Furthermore, the romance is a subtle build that is often cast aside in the urgency of the war period timeframe. The characters are not begging for attention nor are they overdramatic in responses. This is true for the stories in both time periods.

I do recommend this book for those who enjoy historical fiction, a bit of adventure, and romance. I read through it quickly as I found it to be gripping at times and heart-wrenching at other times.

For those who may be offended: there was kidnapping, guns, and sexually suggestive scenarios.

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