Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng – A 4/5 Star Review!

This is not a feel-good book. It drowns you in grief and chokes you with secrets. It deals with family dynamics, gender roles, racial discrimination, and death. This is the story about the interracial family in the 1970s in a small Ohio town and how they deal with their favorite daughter’s shocking death. Was it suicide or was she murdered?

The Lee family dynamic was full of underlying messages that were not well communicated and often conflicted. Parents having different expectations for the same child. Siblings fighting over attention but only one getting it. Therefore, there are many cases of misunderstandings that cut to the core. Celeste Ng did a fantastic job of making each member of the family a complex with their substantial secrets. Each of them hid their struggles and they all seemed just out of reach from each other. It was a heavy read as the narrative changed between each family member including flashbacks from Lydia, the deceased. It was also a hard read because one of the underlying themes is that you can’t always achieve your dreams exactly as you wish because unexpected life circumstances will throw you out of orbit.

My favorite character in this book is Hannah. My heart went out to her as she was the most innocent and the most forgotten. She seemed to be a vehicle to move the story along as it can get stuck sometimes dwelling in the grief. She also seemed to channel the inner child in all of them that was desperate to connect the family.

I would recommend this book for adult readers who are looking for something heavy and complex. This is not a light-hearted book about families coming together with a happy ending. This is full of grief and misunderstanding. I would not recommend this book for readers who may be offended or triggered by the following: violence, infidelity, misogyny, racial discrimination, sexually suggestive scenarios, parental abandonment, gender roles, and the death of a sibling, child, and/or parent.

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The Duke Is But A Dream by Anna Bennett (Debutante Diaries #2)- A 5/5 Star Review!

Anna Bennett is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors.  I absolutely loved the previous book in this series, First Earl I See Tonight (see review here ) and had similar feelings for this book.  The Duke Is But A Dream also had adventure, humor, and (of course) romance.  This time it focuses on the headstrong and bold Lily Hartley’s love adventure following memory loss from a bar brawl injury.  This injury brings her and Nash, the Duke of Stonebridge, together in a unique situation that forces them to show their true character.  Even if Lily can’t remember her character, or her own name for that matter.  It then forces the question: Can you truly love someone if you don’t even know who you are?

This is not a simple romance.  All characters are dealing with heavy subjects that are not simply resolved by a true love’s first kiss (sorry Disney, I still love you).  Grief is an ongoing struggle that cannot truly be resolved, just like the void cannot truly ever be filled in reality.  However, this novel does portray how to cope with the grief in healthy ways and that trying to avoid it just makes you stuck and does not honor their memory well.  Abandonment is another issue that is dealt with as there does not seem to be anyone looking for Lily as she is missing and going by the name Caroline (as she does not remember her own name).  Don’t worry, reader, it was a misunderstanding that has a happy ending.

Additionally, this book briefly catches us up with the characters from the previous book in the series, Sophie, Gray, and her sister Fiona.  However, this book could be read as a standalone as it does not rely heavily on previous events.  Probably because Lily does not have any memory of previous events.  I did like the new characters that were introduced and I hope there are more books in the series.  I would love to see a story about Lily and Fiona’s close friend and colleague, Sophie.  I would also love to see a story about Nash’s sister, the bubbly and lovely Delilah.

I would absolutely recommend this book for fans of regency romance novels that have to do with brooding dukes and concerns about the reactions of the ton.  I would also recommend this book for adults as there are graphically sexual scenarios, mild foul language, violence, and alcohol use.

Please note: An electronic Advanced Readers Copy of this book was generously provided by the publisher via NetGalley for free in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you! 

I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella – A 5/5 Star Review!

Everything is not going perfectly for Fixie Farr. Which is not ok. Fixie got her nickname from her inability to leave things be, she has to fix them. Blindsided by her father’s death, she is the only one of her siblings that appears to want things to be as her father would want them in the family-owned store. She runs the shop with her mom, who is going on her first long-term holiday in a long time. When her mom leaves, her siblings and other family members try to step in and take over with their dominant ideas which clash with Fixie wanting things to stay as her father would want it. On top of that her former flame comes back into the picture, she rescues a stranger’s laptop, and she briefly gets back in touch with her old ice skating queen self. With everything falling apart, can she fix it in time for her mother’s return?

Another favorite book by Sophie Kinsella! I have read many of her standalones under this surname and under her actual name: Madeleine Wickham ( see reviews: Surprise Me , My (Not So) Perfect Life). All of them are fun romantic adventures and this one just may be the most fun yet deep one. I think it is the most perfect romantic comedy. It has highs and lows, character building amongst all characters, deceptive villains, and family bonding.

The characters are so clearly identifiable with their own nuances that I felt like I really knew them. And they had personalities of people that I have met in my life! They are so finely tuned from beginning to end that it really becomes a masterpiece.

There was an undertone of grief and how it presents itself differently for every person. Furthermore, it depicts how simply pretending that the void is not there does not allow for healing. I also enjoyed how pride and appearances are thin veils of insecurity that can easily be torn-particularly by showboating and by social media.

True love does not mean fixing everything. True love does not just mean between lovers, it involves family too. Furthermore, a family is not just blood and sometimes we don’t even truly know those closest to us.

There were misunderstandings on many levels and so many characters that I rooted for. I thought the book had reached its conclusion and then I realized I was only about 2/3 of the way through! Once I had read further then I realized that the focus of the book, although a romance, is not on romantic love but on love in its many forms. This story further proves that love isn’t just the romance between lovers. This love story encompasses romantic love, familial love, and self-love.

In conclusion: I laughed, I cried, I snickered, I felt secondhand embarrassment, and I felt so proud of Fixie and her family, not just those related to her by blood. I absolutely loved this book.

I would recommend this book for adult readers who love romances, comedies, romantic comedies, and fiction in general. On the other hand, I would not recommend this book for readers who may be triggered or offended by the following: grief, parental death, sibling death, stealing, foul language, alcohol use, and/or sexually suggestive scenarios.

Please note: an Advanced Reader Copy of this book was generously provided for free by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

One Summer in Paris by Sarah Morgan- a 5/5 Star Review!

As the old saying goes: “Secrets, secrets, are no fun. Secrets, secrets, hurt everyone”. But everyone has secrets, don’t they? Some secrets hurt more than others. Like Grace, whose husband decides to tell her his secret. That he’s cheating with a friend. Their daughter’s friend who is more than half their age. And he decides to tell her this at dinner for their 25th Anniversary.

Other secrets we keep so we don’t get hurt or judged by others. Like young Audrey, who is dyslexic and just trying to get through high school. But it is hard to do when she has an erratic and constantly drunk mother.

Both Grace and Audrey meet by chance while each are escaping from their respective chaos in Paris. Both had more in common than they could have possibly expected and develop a strong friendship where they teach each other what it means to be completely honest and to bring out the best in each other. I loved that this book explored friendship love, parental love, love lost, and romantic love all in one story based in the city of love.

This is yet another wonderful book by Sarah Morgan! It is an emotional roller coaster full of secrets: heartwarming yet tense, funny yet serious, hopeful yet grieving. The amount of character development among multiple characters was astounding. There was one character in particular that I absolutely had feelings of rage whenever they were involved in the plot but towards the end I found myself (begrudgingly) rooting for. It also is a great book that highlights the important benefits of traveling, particularly internationally, as well as the importance of a strong relationship with grandparents.

As someone who simply adores my grandmother, Mimi is my favorite character of the book. She is one of the main character’s grandmother who is sassy, independent, unconventional, and just plain fun! She also has a secret that she has been hiding for decades that is later revealed.

I have read many other books by Sarah Morgan:

but, out of all of them, this was the hardest. This was simply not a book that I could finish in one sitting. Hear me out, it does get easier to read as the plot develops but, for me it was hard because, both main characters also had complicated relationships with their respective mothers. In particular, they both had difficult and unstable childhoods due to their mothers’ addictions. I could relate to each of the main characters as this was something I had also experienced. This made reading the book difficult as it brought up a lot of things that I had spent a lot of time repressing. Which also made this book cathartic in that it helped me work through some of it rather than repressing it. (Ms. Morgan, you can bill me later for the therapy 😉 ).

Therefore, if you are one who has also had to deal with a difficult childhood with a parent battling addiction, this book may be heavier than expected. However, I do still recommend it as it can also be healing.

I would also recommend this book for readers who enjoy stories about friendship, traveling, and romance. I would recommend this book for adult readers as it does have foul language, heavy topics, and sexually suggestive scenarios.

Please note: an electronic ARC of this book was generously provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review (Thank you!).

First Earl I See Tonight (Debutante Diaries #1) by Anna Bennett-A 5/5 Star Review!

In order to protect her family, Fiona must do something unconventional: propose to an Earl.  Not just any Earl, but the angry and recently single from an engagement Earl Ravenport.  Also, their marriage needs to happen in a matter of weeks in order to save her family.  Who would possibly say no to that?

This book was fantastic! It had romance, humor, adventure and an especially heartless villain.  It also tested loyalties among the characters as well as how far one is willing to go for the ones they love. Easy and fun to read with the narratives alternating between Fiona and Gray.  It was especially hard to put down around the 75-80% mark where all of the tiny details sprinkled along the way turned into a storm (literally) of chaos where I just kept saying “no no no no no no”.  This was the part of the book that I think was the best!

Favorite character was Earl (“Gray”) Ravenport because the author was able to slowly reveal his warm, funny, and charming personality.   Initially he comes across as defensive and distant (often described in the book as “cold”) but through interactions with his grandmother and Fiona he finally warms up.

Furthermore, I enjoyed the use of the Fortress in disrepair like Gray was after his broken engagement to Lady Helena.  Yet with his grandmother as his main motivation and Fiona’s help he was able to get a lot of progress on restoring it, and himself.  It reminded me a little bit of Beauty and the Beast, without the animated furniture, in that Belle’s love for Beast was able to restore the castle (and Beast) to it’s original beauty.

Lastly, I really appreciated the use of the relationship between Fiona and her sister Lily, as well as the relationship with Gray and his grandmother.  I am fortunate enough to be very close with my sister, just as Fiona and Lily are close.  I am also fortunate to be very close with my grandmother whom is well-loved by everyone she meets, just like Gray’s grandmother.  I hope the next book in the series is about Fiona’s sister, Lily, as it seemed to have set up a conflict that could continue for her that I would like to see resolved.

I would recommend this book for adult readers who enjoy romance, especially regency romance, the strong bonds of sisterhood, and the restorative power of love.

On the other hand, I would not recommend this book for readers who may be offended or triggered by the following: graphic violence, foul language, suicide, blackmail, betrayal, gambling, prostitution, and sexually explicit scenarios.

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

The Christmas Sisters by Sarah Morgan-a 5/5 Star Review!

I know what you might be thinking, dear reader. It’s far too early to be reading a Christmas book. And I would be inclined to agree with you-it’s not even Halloween yet! However, the temptation to read another Sarah Morgan romance novel outweighed the holiday timing principles. Make no mistake: I will be reading this again during the holiday season. It was <i>that</i> charming and magical.

This is a story mostly about three sisters: Posy, Hannah, and Beth. These three sisters each have very tricky relationships with each other, with their adopted parents, and with their respective significant others. Each one is also trying to overcome their own significant hurdle in their lives but all things come back to the one fateful night that their parents died in an avalanche years ago just a days before Christmas. That night has not only impacted their lives, but also the lives of those who would come to know and love them afterwards. How can they move forward 25 years later when that night comes back to haunt them every Christmas?

Sarah Morgan is easily my favorite author (see reviews: #1#2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, & #8,). Every book she writes has characters that are authentic, complex, and hard-working. In this book, each sister handled the traumatic experience of their parents’ death differently. Yet each sister needed to rely on the other in order to overcome it many years later. Each sister had their own mountain to climb but learning to work together rather than only relying on their own self made it easier to face.

I seem to have a problem choosing my favorite character in each book Sarah Morgan writes. In this book, I choose Stewart. Stewart and Suzanne took in the three orphaned sisters and raised them as their own. Stewart is the calm yet adventurous, quiet yet funny, father figure that we honestly could all use. I found him to be incredibly endearing and entertaining.

I would recommend this book for all adult readers, regardless of the time of year, as it pulls you into the Scottish Highlands and takes you to new heights. I would also note that there is a big surprise about 70% into the book that changes everything.

On the other hand, I would not recommend this book for readers who do not enjoy or may be triggered by parental death, grief, mild foul language, or sexually suggestive scenarios.

Please note: an Advanced Reader Copy of this book was generously provided for free by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

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.