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.

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!

Long Black Veil by Jennifer Finney Boylan-5/5 Star Review!

Judith Carrington has finally found herself and, in her middle age, she is content. The first couple of decades of her life were filled with torment and the peace she has found would have been inconceivable in her youth. As she is going through the airport on her way home from a work trip, the front page of a newspaper throws her back into the chaos of her younger years.

Casey has had it rough since the one fateful night in his early 20s. Ever since then, he has lost touch with his friends, lost his confidence, lost his hope. He is successful in business but it can never fill the void that was left in him since that night. Just when he thought it could not get worse, he finds himself as the main suspect in a murder investigation from that night.

The night when, young and dumb, he and his friends decide to visit an abandoned penitentiary. Not all of them come out alive. None of them can ever forget. Decades later, the past comes back for a visit in more ways than one.

The first few chapters were difficult to get through because there is so much information that is not coming together to make a clear picture yet. There are about 8 characters introduced in the first couple of pages and the plot jumps not only between past and present, but between narratives as well. It was almost enough to make me put down the book and mark it as a “DNF”. However, once this has been navigated, it reads far more smoothly.

Another reason why the first few chapters were difficult to get through, for me anyway, is because it started off in what seemed like a different genre at the time. It is a mystery/thriller but the mysterious villain initially seemed to be hinted towards supernatural in nature. I had feared it would become a sci-fi horror and it was starting to give me nightmares. It took me several days to read this book because I put it down often to try to understand the difference between characters or I was terrified.

Fortunately, by soldiering on through the chapters, the confusion cleared and it became far more exciting and deep. It is not just a book about murder. This is a book about how even the strongest of friendships can fray. How the future is never what we expect it to be, nor are people always what they seem. It is also a book that shows several examples of how one person’s choice can affect many people’s lives. Even if it is to make that person’s life better.

As I got further into this maze of a plot, I became entranced with the secrets of the characters. The turns are sharp but the design is masterful. I felt connected to each character. I felt fear, sorrow, happiness, and hope. Small details from the beginning of the book come back to play a bigger part later. I have already recommended this book to others and will continue to do so for it is just that incredible.

My favorite character in this book was a tie between Benny and Casey. Innocent little Benny whose childish mischief carries with him in age. Casey who has an excitable optimism, despite his weak self-image, and a pure sense of love.

I would recommend this book for readers who can fight through the initial confusion to get to the main road. I also would recommend this book for readers who enjoy deeply complex characters and do not mind the frequent jumping from past to present. Lastly, I would recommend this book for those who like fast-paced and mostly dark plots.

On the other hand, I would not recommend this book for readers who may be sensitive to the following: foul language, drug use, violence, sexually suggestive scenarios, and abortion.

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

Tainted Bride (Forever Brides #1) by A.S. Fenichel- A 5/5 Star Review!

Sophia has just arrived in London from Philadelphia where she not only left behind her family, but her past as well. She quickly finds new friends whose loyalty and devotion is tested when her past follows her across the Atlantic. Determined to be a spinster, she still attends balls in the hopes of becoming a familiar face among the ton. She meets Daniel, who has recently been scorned by love and is also determined to never fall in love. Can the two damaged hearts heal one another?

Daniel meet his friend Tom’s love interest and surprisingly finds himself being attracted to her as well. The newly arrived American keeps him on his toes and leaves him confused as she rejects him time after time. Why does he still chase after her despite her rejection?

As Sophia and Daniel endure tribulations together, they learn to rely on each other. On the other hand, each of their first responses to stress is to run away. Their friendship is tumultuous as are their feelings for each other.

In the past, I would be disinterested in a regency/historical romance. The books in those genres that I had read seemed unrealistic, even for their time periods, or the author would get too caught up in the details of the setting rather than the plot. Fortunately, A.S. Fenichel has changed my mind and is quickly climbing up my list of favorite authors. She makes the setting stunning yet it does not distract from the story. In the previous book that I read from her, Foolish Bride (Forever Brides #2), I loved the action sequences as well as the despicable villain. Similarly, this book also has a heinous villain that causes the sad backstory that follows Sophia across the ocean to England. Furthermore, just as with the other book, the supporting characters are vastly different yet band together to help Sophia through her highs and lows.

Both Tainted Bride and Foolish Bride can be read as standalone novels. I have proven this in my experience as I read Foolish Bride first without realizing that it was part of a series. The protagonist in each book are friends within the plot so reading one book will familiarize the reader with the characters in the other books. I am looking forward to reading the next book in this series!

I recommend this book for readers that enjoy action sequences, steamy romance, regency environments, and character development.

I would not recommend this book for readers who may be put off by explicit sexual scenarios, violence, mild foul language, sexual assault, slavery, and kidnapping.