Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak- A 3 Star Review!

The Birches have much reason to celebrate this holiday season. Their daughter Olivia is coming home for Christmas, for once. Olivia is a doctor returning from a trip to Liberia where the Haag epidemic has been traumatizing and she is forced into quarantine for 7 days after her return. Joining her will be her mother, Emma, who is keeping a major secret so as not to ruin Christmas. Also present will be her father, Andrew, who writes a column reviewing restaurants and his secret from more than three decades ago will make an appearance. Then her sister, Phoebe, who demands the attention of everyone, still lives at home with her parents, and is planning her wedding during the quarantine. Can they get past the miscommunication and secrets to have a happy Christmas or will the secrets prepare for a battle of betrayal?

It took a long time to pick up speed. Little bread crumbs had been dropped along the way which did build up to the second half, however, the first half was so slow that I was tempted many times to move on to another book. Fortunately, I did make it through and it picked up very quickly after about 60% into the book. A great portion of it was predictable, yet the character development finally comes through and I could not put the book down.

I gave it three stars because I took one star away for how long it took for the story to pick up speed and therefore the amount of times that I was almost at the point of giving up. I took another star away because there were far too many coincidences with the characters and too many secrets that it became overwhelming at times. When Jesse met Emma, for example, and she reveals her secret to him, a stranger. Emma then went on to meet Sean, Olivia’s secret. Jesse also met George, Phoebe’s fiancee, randomly while on a walk and again randomly in a bar and discovered his secret.

I would (and have) recommended this book for those who have traveled to Africa and feel that the warfare and politics of Africa are far too easily ignored in the West. Additionally, for those who feel that the rest of the world groups Africa into one general concept rather than it being an entire continent. I would also recommend this book for readers who enjoy reading about family dynamics and secrets being revealed. Much like (one of my favorite authors) Liane Moriarty books, that are told in different perspectives and center around secrets.

I would not recommend this book for those who may be offended or triggered by: foul language, cancer, sibling rivalry, homophobia, infidelity, infectious diseases, and warfare in Liberia.

Please note: an advanced reader copy of this book was generously provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review (thank you Berkley Publishing Group!)

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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.

Desperate Bride (Forever Brides #3) by A.S. Fenichel- a 5/5 Star Review!

Dorothea (Dory) Flammel is in a tough spot. Having rejected too many eligible men over the course of several seasons, her options are limited. Then, she is not given any option at all as her father makes an agreement for her hand in marriage in exchange for the forgiveness of his enormous debt. To a very old man. The man who is known for his wandering eye and misogyny.

Thomas Wheel has loved hearing Dory play the pianoforte, especially when she does not know other people are in the room. They have been friends for many years and has snuck in to hear her play many times. But he is below her in rank and would not embarrass her by making his feelings known. So what is he to do when she runs to his house in the middle of the night begging him to marry her?

Dory and Thomas are big supporting characters in the last two books (see my reviews: here & here) and their romance was hinted at several times, so it was very exciting to see their own love story come together in this book. As read in the previous 2 novels in this series, Dory has a hard time trusting others, but is a fiercely loyal friend. Thomas always does the right thing and is a selfless friend to the gentlemen in the previous books. Since I started reading this series, I have been anxiously waiting for Thomas’ own love story. I just KNEW he would be perfectly romantic and I was swooning through these pages (especially the part where he brushed her hair for her!). I did not expect, but was also pleased with, him to be a progressive feminist for the time period that they are in which added to his perfection. It also was perfect for his romance with Dory as she had been told her whole life that her musical talent is useless because she is a woman as well as been treated as property rather than as a woman. Therefore, Thomas treating her as an equal seems too good to be true and she has a hard time trusting the situation that they were thrown in.

A.S. Fenichel does a wonderful job of creating characters that develop through love, on both sides of the romance, and are incredibly endearing. Although these books could be read as standalone, in my opinion, it is fun if they have been read in order as I did find myself squealing in excitement when the main characters in previous books were referenced or made an appearance.

I would recommend this book for all fans of historical romance, especially those who also enjoy unexpected twists and/or steamy love making scenes. I would also recommend this book for those who enjoy elements of music intertwined with romance.

On the other hand, I would not recommend this book for those who may be triggered or offended by explicitly sexual scenarios, mild foul language, misogyny, or violence.

Please note: an electronic copy of this book was generously provided for free by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Special thanks to A.S. Fenichel not only for writing this fantastic story, but also for posting on Facebook when the book was available on NetGalley 🙂

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.

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.

The Marriage Pact: A Novel by Michelle Richmond-a 1/5 Star Review

Jake and Alice are a recently married couple who receive a unique gift from a new friend. This gift was an invitation to The Pact. An exclusive society that values marriage and strives to maintain the sanctity of it. It is not to be discussed with people outside of The Pact and the rules get more outrageous from there. Basically, it’s Stepford Wives meets Fight Club. Obnoxious.

For the record, I only managed to get 18% into the book before crying out “Oh for the LOVE of GOD I DON’T CAAAAAARE”, which may also be considered obnoxious to some.

Each percent was a chapter so I did get 18 chapters in, however, when it is 18 out of 100ish chapters, it’s not that big of a feat. It was told from Jake’s perspective up until that point which made it seem like Jake was obsessed with his wife, Alice. But Alice’s responses tended to be passive in terms of big events. For example, when he proposed, she simply said “Ok”. Another example is when they decided to join The Pact, her response was “why not?”. Because it’s obviously a cult, that’s why not.

Alice is an overworked lawyer and Jake is a therapist, yet their communication seemed to be lacking and a lawyer read the terms and conditions of The Pact and decided to go through with it because “Why not?” just did not seem realistic to me. Furthermore, Jake’s thoughts on things relied on what Alice thought of them. Which caused flat sentences such as “Alice does not like ___” and “Alice likes ____”. It made him seem like a doormat. It reached a breaking point for me when they were at a work social for Alice and there was a co-worker that went up to Jake (allegedly unaware that he was the husband of Alice) and they talked about the bet that went on at the office that she wouldn’t marry ‘the therapist'”. It seemed immature and pointless.

Last rant: I could not stand Vivian. She reminded me of Dolores Umbridge and I am sure she is supposed to be the villain so I am not supposed to like her. However, she was irritating at best.

Clearly, I was not a fan of this book and I would only recommend it to readers who are fans of cults.

However, many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for giving me free access to the book 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.