The Girl With No Past by Kathryn Croft-A 3/5 Star Review

Leah Mills has a life under the radar without friends, partners, or hardly any activity at all. Her only companion is the shame from a traumatic event that happened years ago that has haunted her ever since. She has her quiet job then goes home to her quiet apartment and quietly reads every quiet night of her quiet life. Get the picture?

But one day, she decides she’s had enough of the loneliness and quiet, so she tries an online dating chat website in the hopes of communicating with people she would never meet. Little does she know, this opens Pandora’s Box.

This book jumps from the plot of what happened leading up to the traumatic event in high school to coping with adulthood with the weight of the guilt from that horrific night. This was a bit frustrating for me as a reader because her modern-day adult life was mundane and the idea that she is miserable and alone is beat into the reader’s head. When the story flashes back to her time in high school, she also has that teenage angst of being misunderstood and left behind. The book was so melancholy that it was hard for me to read too much of it at one time.

It was also confusing at times with the present day as she reaches out to people from her past because they kept talking about how awful she is without much support. I understand it is the suspense of what actually happened but it, at times, felt like it exaggerated the concept that everyone hated her. It is not until the last 10%-15% of the book that the reader discovers what happened that night but, even then, the reason for her constant rejection by others is not clear until the very last chapter of the book. However, what does happen does clear a lot of things up (except for how is she not imprisoned? Surely with certain details it would be clear that it was intentional?).

The last thing I did not like: the title. I’m not really sure what it has to do with anything. It seemed like perhaps it would be about someone in the Witness Protection Program or someone with amnesia, but neither apply and it doesn’t seem to fit at all.

All in all, I don’t hate the book, but I don’t want to rave about how great it is either. It’s a book that I am glad that I finished, however, for those that did not finish it-I get it. It definitely drags and is confusing, especially at the beginning. I would not recommend this book for those who may be offended or triggered by the following: violence, murder, rape, sexually suggestive scenarios, stalking, bullying, or foul language.

Please note: an electronic ARC of this book was generously provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. (Sorry it took me almost 3 years to read it!)

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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.

A Lady In Shadows (A Madeleine Karno Mystery #2) by Lene Kaaberbol- a 3/5 Star Review!

Madeleine Karno, a.k.a. “Doctor Death”, is female forensic pathologist in the late 1800s. She also finds herself to be an investigator as one particular case of a murdered prostitute whose abdomen was destroyed. Faced with constant scrutiny based on her being a female, Madeleine is determined to find the young woman’s murderer.

This book is extremely detailed in the scientific aspects where the author has clearly done a lot of research not only in forensic pathology but for obstetrics. Furthermore, it is extremely detailed in the historical aspects which may have history buffs rejoicing. However, it is also heavy with multiple concepts thrown into it which can be confusing at times. I understand that the author was probably trying to point out how very different life was in the 19th century. Especially for a female, a bisexual, and a prostitute-these are actually three different characters. Yet, to me it felt distracting. For example: I am still not really sure what the point of Madeleine’s fiancee’s former male lover had to do with the story. It seemed to be yet another (forced) example of what a wonderful character Madeleine is in her willingness to still be with her fiancee as she would have to provide for him once they were married because this would otherwise put him exile. A lot of the book has to do with other characters complimenting the main character on her strength, intelligence, persistence, caring nature, fearlessness, and her slim figure. Personally, I found her to be my least favorite character as she came across as spoiled, quick to anger, disrespectful, and insufferable.

Although this book is part of a series, it can easily be read as a standalone. I was not even aware that this was the second book in a series until I went to write the review. For those who are fans of audio CDs and/or audiobooks in general, I would recommend listening to this book on AudioCD or audiobook. Nicola Barber does a wonderful job narrating the book and her inflections and varying voices greatly contribute to the overall tone of the book.

Conversely, I would not recommend this book for anyone who may be triggered or offended by the following: graphic violence, kidnapping, murder, abortion, prostitution, infidelity, sexual scenarios, and anti-feminism. Moreover, if you find that trauma to the eye is especially offensive (like I do), be warned that there is an especially graphic scene involving that horrific concept.

Please note: an audioCD of this book was generously provided by LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer program in exchange for an honest review.

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin-A 1/5 Star Review

It’s a question that many have been asked: If you could be told the exact date you will die, would you want to know? The 4 Gold siblings came across a fortune teller who offered this information right around a time where each of them discovered the fragility of life. Little did they know that finding out when they will die would affect the rest of their lives. Told in four parts, one part focusing on the life of each sibling, The Immortalists goes deep into the choices we make and their lasting effects.

 

DNF at 28%: Getting through Simon’s story took substantial effort and deflated any hope I had of finishing the rest of the book. It was fairly easy to tell the tone and style just through the first story alone. Dark and jagged. It is not for the optimistic, to say the least. Furthermore, it felt jagged in the sense that it feels like it was written with random ideas thrown in and then patched together instead of a smooth plot line. For example, Simon and his very serious boyfriend will be having a serious conversation and then, mid-conversation, Simon has his hands down his boyfriend’s pants. His boyfriend is even annoyed by this, as I was as the reader, as it seemed out of place and it happens often. It feels like the author wasn’t sure how the characters should handle conflict so she randomly threw in sexual moments that seem out of place. It basically lacked intimacy and fluidity. Along with that is that the story is so choppy that it is hard to feel connected to any of the characters. It felt like the author had a bunch of ideas that she came up with and threw them all in rather than catering the plot to the one or two great ideas. For example: Simon is the oldest, most responsible, supposed to take over the family business, yet runs off to San Francisco, becomes a dancer for a club named Purple (oooooooh what if we have the dancers paint themselves Purple to realllly blend it together?), yet also becomes a polished ballet dancer during the day with his miraculous talent that he only recently started training yet learns quickly and gets a part onstage.

For all of these reasons, I had to put the book down after Simon’s story and move on. I would not recommend this book, clearly. However, I would especially not recommend this book for those readers who may be offended or triggered by explicitly graphic sexual scenarios, foul language, broken families, grief, fortune-telling, death, STDs, runaway teens, or infidelity.

Please note: an electronic Advanced Reader Copy of this book was generously provided through Penguin’s First To Read program 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.