A Lady’s Honor (Everton Domestic Society #1) by A.S. Fenichel-A 5/5 Star Review!

Markus Flammel’s life is spiraling out of control. Constantly drunk to avoid confronting the grief that has haunted him the past two years since his beloved wife Emma died in childbirth, he does not even know what day it is. He has fired most of his staff in a drunken rage and his daughter has not spoken a word at the age of 2 and is being raised by the few staff members that are left. His mother hires a lady from the Everton Domestic Society to help but can she fix this pit of despair?

Phoebe cannot believe the state of Markus Flammel. She had known him as her late friend Emma’s husband but only as an acquaintance. Emma’s bright light had clearly been extinguished when she passed as her home had fallen into shambles. Determined to honor Emma’s memory, Phoebe gets to work restoring the place and the people in it. But things go a little too far when she works on restoring Markus to a sober, responsible, and dedicated father.

When I got the e-mail that access had been granted for A.S. Fenichel’s latest book, I squealed. I could not wait to get started on this book and I was even more pleased as I read when characters from her previous series, Forever Brides (see reviews: #1#2#3 ), made appearances. I love and highly recommend the Forever Bride series and each of those books can be read as standalones, which I imagine will be the same for the future of the Everton Domestic Society series. Having read those books, it was like running into an old friend. But there were brief descriptions provided in case the reader had not read those books.

Much like the previous books that I had read by her, the characters develop very well throughout the book. They are also often stubborn but with hearts of gold. Aside from that, these characters have very different personalities from the previous sets of characters. I loved how she incorporated Elizabeth, the toddler daughter, into the story and she was my favorite character as she turned out to be the glue for everyone. I also loved Honoria, she reminded me of Vladimir in the animated movie Anastasia: bubbly, intuitive, and supportive.

I would definitely recommend this book for romance readers who like to root for the underdogs. Much like the other books that I have read by A. S. Fenichel, the romance is complex yet lovely. I would recommend this book also for readers who love HEAs and overcoming large obstacles.

On the other hand, I would not recommend this book for those who may be offended or triggered by the following: alcoholism, addiction, spousal death, grief, sexually explicit scenarios, violence, and foul language.

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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Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella-a 5/5 Star Review!

Sylvie and Dan have been together for so long that they can finish each other’s sentences. One comment from their doctor at their annual visit that they’ll likely have almost 70 more years of marriage throws them into an emotional tailspin. They vowed to be together forever so they decide to cope by surprising each other with random and fun ideas. However, the biggest surprise ends up unveiling a huge secret. Will they still be together forever?

Typical of a Sophie Kinsella book, Surprise Me had my cheeks either aching in pain from laughing so hard or burning from secondhand embarrassment from Sylvie’s mishaps. Sophie Kinsella has also crafted a wonderful tale by portraying several of the different types of love through varying characters. Eros (sexual) love with Sylvie and Dan, Philia (friendship) love with her neighbor Tilda, Storge (familial/parental) love with their daughters, Agape (altruistic) love with their elderly neighbors on the other side, and Ludus (playful and/or flirting) with Robert. These many characters blend into a fun plotline that hit me with a MEGA surprise plot twist.

I highly recommend this book for any adult looking for a fun romance that balances the seriousness of the effects of grief and misunderstandings. My favorite characters were the elderly couple that lived next door and had such pure love and both came across as genuinely sweet.

I would not recommend this book for anyone who might be triggered or offended by the following: grief, parental death, sexually suggestive scenarios, and foul language.

Please note: an electronic ARC of this novel was generously provided through the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I Know My Name by C. J. Cooke-a 4/5 Star Review!

Washed up on shore with nothing but scrapes and bruises only to discover that the island is as deserted as her memory. The main character is rescued by 4 other people who happen to be on the vacant island for a writer’s retreat. As she struggles to remember anything about herself, even her own name, she also struggles to survive as not everyone on the island is as helpful as they initially seemed.

The story does get very deep as well as jump around a lot from past to present as well as between characters. Mostly between Eloise and Lochlan, her husband who is desperate to find her-alive. Although a time or two it moves into Gerda’s, Eloise’s grandmother’s, narrative. Once I read past the first two-thirds of the book, then it became very hard to put down as everything begins to come together quickly. The last 10% or so is very detail heavy and focused on mental illness which I appreciated, however, it is a big change in tone of the story as it begins to feel more like a lecture on mental illness rather than a work of fiction. On the other hand, it does wrap up the story in a warm manner.

My favorite character was Max. He seemed to portray the polar opposite of what Eloise’s childhood was as well as the “red rope” that tethered Eloise to her own self. He was so pure, so hopeful, so precious.

The only thing that I felt took away from the story was the red herring that brought forward a side of Lochlan that wasn’t really necessary. It was almost a red herring and a half as it is in regards to two side characters that I felt were pretty weak.

I would recommend this book for readers who enjoy psychological thrillers. I would also recommend this book for readers who are fascinated by mental illness.

Conversely, I would not recommend this book for readers who my be sensitive or triggered by: mental illness, drug abuse, sexual abuse, child abuse, sexual abuse to children, rape, violence, self-harm, parental abandonment, cyber invasions of privacy, and infidelity.

Please note: An electronic copy of this book was generously provided by the publisher via Netgalley for free 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.

 

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. 

As You Wish by Chelsea Sedoti-DNF at 25%

I am putting this down at 25% and marking it DNF for several reasons:

1. The writing style. It was slow and repetitive which made it quite boring, in my opinion. Which was so disappointing because I liked Chelsea Sedoti’s previous book, The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett. In that book, I enjoyed how the secrets were slowly revealed and how the concept of perfect is fake. This book seems to have kind of the same motivation with the main character, Eldon, which I will get to in the next point.

2. Eldon. The main character, the only perspective the story is told, and the tragic teenager. He was an all-star football jock with a great girlfriend and a great family in his small town but then he falls from glory. His girlfriend wishes to be prettier and dumps him. His sister is dead (or dying/in a coma? It’s kind of unclear at this point) and he is no longer the all-star athlete as other teammates have wished to be the best. His history has darkened his future, I get it. But I found him to be profoundly irritating. He has the extraordinary opportunity to make any wish he wants for his 18th birthday and he hates it. I get that other people’s wishes have had a negative effect on his life but he is actively rebelling and avoiding making the choice of what wish to make, but it does not do anything to prevent him from turning 18. This story seems to be more about how he is the bitterly angry victim rather than the underdog hero.

3. His parents. I understand that they too are under a tremendous amount of financial stress, however, I think the author is trying too hard to make them (one in particular) either the scapegoat or the villains. The guilt trips and the manipulations are slightly redeeming when their wish history is revealed, however, it is still a little bit of overkill.

In conclusion, I did not like this book. It’s taken me 3 weeks of debating whether or not I should pick it back up again before I finally decided to let bygones be bygones. I am not writing off (pun intended) the author, Chelsea Sedoti. I am just going to be the opposite of Eldon and be optimistic that her next book will be better.

Please note: An electronic copy of this book was generously provided for free by the publisher via Netgalley 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!).