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.

Six of Crows (Six of Crows #1) by Leigh Bardugo- A 5/5 Star Review!

Kaz Brekker has a band of misfits together to get this one job done. This job will be the hardest he has ever done, and the odds are stacked high against him, but the payoff will be worth it. Revenge and more money than any of them can imagine.

This book is very dark. In fact, it was so dark that I had to put it down at times to regroup. Yet hope still remains an underlying theme and driving force for this team. I was surprised by the romantic elements that were woven in but they added yet another level of attraction to the book for me.

I will warn that this book is set up for a series in that there is a big cliffhanger! Just when I thought the book was ending, it kicked back up again and then quickly ended. I will be reading the next book in the series because this book was just that good. It had supernatural elements yet dealt with elements of the human condition. It was a roller coaster of events and the violence is very graphic. One scene in particular had me literally covering my eyes. The characters are aggressively tested physically and mentally. As a result, their bonds are stronger and they set their eyes stronger on the prize. There were selfless acts, there were selfish acts. All of their pasts come back to haunt them and they are even stronger for it. The complex maze of this book was simply magical.

I would recommend this book for readers who enjoy Young Adult fiction, adventure, romance, and underdogs.

I would not recommend this book for those who may be offended by mild foul language, graphic violence, pick pocketing, drug use, prostitution, slavery, murder, and cliffhangers.

Holiday in the Hamptons (From Manhattan with Love #5) by Sarah Morgan- A 5/5 Star Review!

Fliss Knight is moving onwards and upwards.  She and her twin sister, Harriet, have followed their passions for animals and are the Bark Rangers; a dog-walking service in New York City.  Their business has taken off since working with Urban Genie (shout out to Eva, Frankie, and Paige from the previous books in the series).  Fliss is looking to expand the business, hire more people, looking forward.  She was so determined to move forward that she is thrown off course when her past comes back for her.

Seth Carlyle has followed his passion of animal welfare and has become a veterinarian.  He has tried to move on in the last ten years since he let the love of his life, his ex-wife Fliss, walk out of his life.  He has dated other women but no one has held a candle to her.  When tragedy strikes, he realizes life is too short to not follow your passions.  He followed his passion in his career, now he is determined to follow the biggest passion of his life: Fliss.

I was so excited to have received the next book in the From Manhattan With Love Series for review!  I have read the previous 4 books (See reviews: #1#2#3, & #4 ) and I am pleased to state that this book was just as great! It has the grit of miscommunication, insecurity, and surviving rough childhoods mixed with humor, wisdom from supporting characters, and the cleansing purity of true love.  It has the character development that is gripping and showcases that just because love is not about only the highs but how you go through the lows together.

This is the fifth book in the series, however, all of these books can read as standalones.  I started this series with the third book, loved it so much that I immediately dug into the first two books, and am now caught up and can’t wait for the next book!  The stories in the series zero in on each couple and how they develop their relationship rather than other series where the books must be read in succession in order to make any sense.  In fact, Eva has a strong presence in the first few books, especially in the book all about her love story in Miracle on 5th Avenue (From Manhattan With Love #3), and I was delighted that she is mentioned a time or two in this book.  Furthermore, Chase and Matilda were supporting characters in this book and I loved their romance.  After finishing this book, I was hoping a book later in the series would be about how they came together.  But GUESS WHAT? It turns out their love story started off this great romance series in the prequel book Midnight at Tiffany’s (From Manhattan With Love #0.5)!  I was not aware of this but I am so excited to dive into that book!  I am also excited to read the next book in the series which I hope will be about Harriet, Fliss’ twin sister. The readers get to know Fliss and Harriet as supporting characters in the last book as they are the twin sisters of Daniel, one of the two main characters, in the book New York, Actually (From Manhattan With Love #4).  Although their rough childhood with an emotionally and verbally abusive father was described in New York, Actually, it is described in Fliss’ perspective in this book and is therefore able to be read as a standalone.

My favorite character is Fliss and Harriet’s grandmother. My sister and I used to go to my grandmother’s cabin every summer and spent a lot of time together perfecting her perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe.  We also spent a lot of time in the water, although my grandmother’s cabin was on a lake and not by the ocean.  I felt that I could relate a lot to Fliss and her childhood memories in that sense.

I would highly recommend this book for all romance lovers as well as for readers who enjoy reading about overcoming the pain of the past.

I would not recommend this book for those who may be offended by mild foul language, divorce, mental abuse, miscarriage, and sexual scenarios.

 

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

What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum- a 5/5 Star Review!

Have you ever loved a book so much that every time you see the cover of it you just sigh happily?  Perhaps even swoon?  That is my current state with What to Say Next by the very talented Julie Buxbaum.  She has a way of hitting a reader right in the feels.  I laughed, I cried, I cheered, I felt a wide range of emotions.  I had this similar reaction with her previous book Tell Me Three Things (which I also highly recommend-see my Goodreads review: here ).  Also, there was a big plot twist that was unexpected and essentially had me locked into the book, racing along until the perfect ending.

This was a great book that dives into the tumultuous waters of high school drama and then the riptide of loneliness catches you and makes sure you stay.  It made me feel the grief, loneliness, and hope that the main characters, Kit and David, felt.  These two were opposites in many ways, yet each of them have their worlds flipped upside down, which brings them together.  It is a fresh reminder of the discomfort of finding yourself at the brink of adulthood.  It abuses the heart, really, as it is heart-wrenching at times, yet you feel your heart swelling at other times.   All in all, a must-read that is different from other YA romance novels in that it presents an exceptional approach of mixing humor with grief to the common struggle of finding yourself.

I enjoyed that there were unique attributes about the characters that set them apart from the general population in the book, particularly David’s Asperger Syndrome attributes.  I cannot say whether or not these features were accurate, however, I do enjoy the respectful and charming way of which his character was developed.  I would recommend this for any reader high school age and older who is a fan of innocent romance and deep situations.  I would also recommend this book for readers who are fans of math and science as David’s narrative is heavy in those fields.  On the other hand, it was not so heavy that those who are not strong in the math and science fields (including yours truly) could not follow along.

For those who may be offended: there was foul language, brief violence, infidelity, bullying, alcohol use, brief mention of drug use, and an overarching theme of grief.