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.

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.

Poison by Galt Niederhoffer- DNF at 20%

There are too many great books out there for me to waste time on books like Poison. It felt like I was reading a basic outline of a piece of fiction rather than a completed novel. I skimmed through a lot of this 20% that I did read because the writing style is excessive yet basic. For example, when describing the wife it was something along the lines of saying she’s a former single mother of two, now baby makes three, and new husband makes a family of five. She works from home, requiring a babysitter so she can work while at home, working on the household chores while working, baby screaming while she’s on the phone, covering the phone with her hand to block out the screams, yet keeping a professional tone despite the maternal desire to soothe the baby.

I wish I could say that was an extreme example, however, I do not think it was that far of a stretch. It was excessively wordy yet not really revealing anything. The new husband is also excessive. He is over the top in the examples of how seemingly perfect he is supposed to be that I already did not trust him within the first few pages. It is clear that he is a bad guy, but what is not clear yet is why and how. I am sure that is further discussed in the book but, quite frankly, I just don’t care.

Please note: An electronic copy of this book was generously provided for free from the Publisher via NetGalley in exhcange for an honest review (thank you!).

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!).

Anna Dressed In Blood (Anna #1) by Kendare Blake- a 5/5 Star Review!

Cas is a ghost hunter, traveling all over North America to take down murderous ghosts with his special weapon; the athame. While still a high school student, hopping from one school to another does not exactly provide time and availability for long-term friends his own age. He is seeking to avenge his father’s death while saving the lives of the unsuspecting victims of the ghosts he kills. Until he meets the one ghost he doesn’t want to kill.

Anna.

Anna is famously called “Anna Dressed In Blood” in the small Canadian town of Thunder Bay. She haunts the house she died in decades ago and brutally murders anyone who dare step foot in it. Until Cas finds himself inside her house and lives to tell the tale.

I was very surprised at how much I loved this book. It was a Halloween themed pick for this month for a book club that I am in; it is perfect! It is equally haunting and humane. The best example of this is with the ghost of Anna. Her acts of violence are graphically gory, yet her backstory encourages sympathy.

The story was fast-paced and smooth, told in Cas’ perspective. The scenes are so well described that it the gore was discomforting, as it should be. It is kind of like a blend of the tv show Supernatural and the YA book Six of Crows. I recently read Six of Crows (see review here) and so I kept thinking that Cas in this book was misspelling Kaz. In truth, it was the scene in the basement with Cas that reminded me of the scene on the corpse boat with Kaz. The story itself is distinctive, however, particularly in how the story concludes. Therefore, I would certainly recommend this book for fans of Six of Crows and Supernatural.

Conversely, I would not recommend this book for those who may be offended or triggered by parental death, graphic violence, heavy foul language, domestic violence, murder, bullying, witchcraft, ghosts, or VooDoo.