How To Keep A Secret by Sarah Morgan-a 5/5 Star Review!

Lauren has her home and her life in England in perfect order, until one afternoon-everything becomes a disaster.

Her sister, Jenna, across the pond comes to the rescue but has struggles of her own.

Little do they know, their own mother also has secrets of her own that may tear the family apart.

Can these three find a way to work together and work though these issues?

​This book was heavy! I cried with the characters, I laughed with the characters, I felt second-hand embarrassment. Basically, this book has all of the feels and I absolutely loved it. Just when you think it can’t get worse, it often does. The images we portray are a mask for the secrets we keep. Thankfully, there is some scandal, humor, and hope thrown in to lighten the mood at times when it gets almost too dark.

​​How To Keep A Secret​ is different from the previous books that I have read from ​Sarah Morgan​, the From Manhattan With Love series (see reviews: #1 , #2, #3#4 , #5, #6#7 ) in ​the sense that the perspectives alternate from more than just the two main characters. On the other hand, this book was compares in the way that it dealt with more than one crisis at a time. But this one had four surprising crises! However, Sarah Morgan wrote this novel so fluidly that it all blended together well in a realistic “when it rains, it pours” sense. For me, it also helped with the pace. The emotions were so raw at times that I had to put the book down as the pain that each of these characters are going through is very evident. Most prominent were: grief, frustration, regret, and panic.

​My favorite character was Lauren’s teenage daughter, Mack, because she is brutally honest yet terribly insecure. I think out of all of the characters, she developed the most. She also was the source of a very pivotal surprise in the plot of which I laughed out loud in surprise then immediately felt guilty. I really appreciated that some of the perspective was told in her point-of-view as it added depth to the overall mood of the novel.

For those who may be triggered or offended: there are themes of ​grief, struggles with infertility, infidelity, mild foul language, and one graphically sexual scenario.

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

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Sharing You (Sharing You #1) by Molly McAdams-DNF at 20%

DNF at 20%-unrealistic and irritating. KC runs away from her upper-class family to avoid an arranged marriage and sets up her own bakery in a small town. This comes across as justified as her groom-to-be was painted as a misogynist snob. Brody is stuck in a marriage to a vicious woman who drains their bank accounts for fun. They accidentally run into each other (literally) and the spell was cast. They both can’t stop thinking about each other, dreaming about each other, and neither have ever felt this alive. Oh, the tragedy! To me, it all felt like a modernized regency romance where she is running away from her betrothed and miraculously into the arms of the rake/rogue/duke/earl (Brody who is miserably married in this case) that cannot marry/shouldn’t marry her for whatever reason.

Also, the dialogue was so cheesy to me that it was unrealistic. Someone you have only had a five minute conversation with comes into your work and asks you to define the relationship that you don’t have yet because you’ve only had a five minute conversation? And this is shortly after “accidentally” crashing the date you were on with someone else? How is this realistic? I have not read any books by Molly McAdams before but, based off of the writing in this book, I can’t say that I would be eager to read another one anytime soon.

Please note: A physical copy of this book was generously provided through the LibraryThing Early Reviewer’s program in exchange for an honest review.

The Intermission by Elyssa Friedland-a 3/5 Star Review

Cass and Jonathan may have come from different backgrounds but fate brought them together-twice. Blissfully married and writing down bets how long they think the newlyweds will last at weddings, things are going well. Or so it seemed. Secrets build into the shape of an elephant in the room and Cass demands a six-month intermission from their marriage. Can they work through the secrets or has their marriage crumbled?

The Intermission is told in alternating narratives flipping from Cass to Jonathan by chapter. This created two timelines which helped with the pace of the book, however, made the supporting characters’ identities (and significance) confusing. Furthermore, neither Cass nor Jonathan are characters of integrity. They are both equally entitled, immature, manipulative, and narcissistic. Their characters do not develop throughout the book and the ending was irritating to me because it felt like their behaviors were excused without consequence. Additionally, the book seems to gloss over the importance of communication and mental health.

On the other hand, the book is very well paced and it was easy to read quickly. The environments of Los Angeles and New York City helped distinguish the plotlines and the (albeit grandiose) “Puddles exchanges” helped with direction. I also did appreciate the several surprises sprinkled throughout the story.

For those who may be triggered or offended, there were graphic sexual scenarios, foul language, divorce, miscarriage, graphic violence, cancer, and infidelity.

Please note: an electronic copy of this book was generously provided through the Penguin Random House First To Read Program in exchange for an honest review.

This is a review of the Advanced Reader Copy of The Intermission.  It is my understanding that The Intermission by Elyssa Friedland is set to be released in the USA on July 3, 2018.

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.

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.