A Wedding in December by Sarah Morgan – A 5/5 Star Review!

Another great romance novel from Sarah Morgan! Having read her From Manhattan With Love series and a couple of standalones (see reviews: Sleepless in Manhattan (From Manhattan With Love #1)  , Sunset In Central Park (From Manhattan With Love #2)  , Miracle On 5th Avenue (From Manhattan With Love #3)  , New York, Actually (From Manhattan With Love #4)  , Holiday in the Hamptons (From Manhattan with Love #5)  , Moonlight Over Manhattan (From Manhattan With Love #6)  , A New York Christmas Story  , How To Keep A Secret  , The Christmas Sisters  , One Summer in Paris ), I expected romance, humor, and character building.  I was not disappointed! Sarah Morgan has crafted building hope from trauma in her characters.  She also shows that bumps will happen in life but turning to those you love in those hard times help you get through.

This is not a simple sappy Christmas romance.  There is grit, trauma, misunderstanding, but there is also hope, love, and strength.  Rosie has moved an ocean away from her loved ones leaving her sometimes overprotective family behind.  She has found how to overcome her lifelong battle with asthma as well as how to stand on her own two feet for once.  She has also found love.  With her soon to be mother-in-law at the helm, she finds herself engaged with a Christmas wedding! Her family has to scramble to get to America and get through the blizzard to get to the wedding but what could possibly go wrong?

Everything.  Of course.

I highly recommend this romance to those getting ready and excited for the holiday season! It has a beautifully depicted backdrop of snowy mountains and treehouses at a resort I would absolutely love to go to for a vacation.  I would also recommend this novel for adults as there is mild foul language and sexually explicit material.

This is a standalone novel but I would love if further novels developed from this novel.  I would also recommend her other standalones as well as her From Manhattan with Love series!

Please note: an electronic version of the Advanced Reader Copy of this novel was generously provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review (Thank you Harlequin!).

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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.

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! 

Fallen Mountains by Kimi Cunningham Grant – A 3/5 Star Review

This book had a plot that progressed well, had vicious villains, and other great characters. However, it was very heavy on hunting and guns, as well as other things I am not interested in. There were a couple of scenes that were very graphically detailed. For example, there is a scene where Chase Hardy is hunting deer and intentionally decides to shoot one in a location where the deer would suffer an incredibly painful death, rather than killing it instantly. Another example is when Transom shoots a rabbit and then the narrator goes into gory detail on how the rabbit is then skinned. These scenes made me uncomfortable but I will say that they contributed symbolism and foreshadowing to the plot.

What also made me uncomfortable in this book was how Laney was treated for being a woman. Not only that but how she was written in the book as being weak, particularly around men. There is a scene where Transom literally refers to her as a piece of meat yet she still falls for his charms. I was screaming “GIRL NOOO!!”and it infuriated me how she was treated by Transom and she accepted it. Another example of this is when she tells Transom that she is seeing Chase and he blames Laney for their affair, even though she had initially told him she was no longer interested in their affair.

It is a well thought-out story and I absolutely loved how well the environment of the setting was described. It is very easy to be submerged into this plot and have strong feelings-good or bad- about each character. It is because the reader is so easily submerged that those graphic scenes and the Laney character in general had me more uncomfortable than I remember feeling about a book.

I would recommend this book for readers who enjoy hunting and/or may have grown up on a farm. This book is very heavy on farm life and the pros and cons of it. I would recommend this book also for readers who enjoy a surprise ending as this one is great.

On the other hand, I would not recommend this book for readers who may be triggered and/or offended by: grief, death, male chauvinism, graphic violence, kidnapping, hostage situations, violence towards animals, hunting, addiction (prescription pills in particular), fracking, deforestation, and betrayal.

Please note: an Audio CD of this book was generously provided by the publisher for free through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers Program in exchange for an honest review.

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!).

A Lady’s Virtue (Everton Domestic Society #3) by A. S. Fenichel- A 5/5 Star Review!

Sylvia Dowder, surrounded by shame from a broken engagement, joined the Everton Domestic Society.  This way her twin sister could still have a chance at an engagement this season.  Dumped due to her social status being lower than her fiancée’s, she gets back at the ton by moonlighting as a secret gossip columnist.  This is a creative outlet for her sparky nature to put certain gossipers in their place by calling them out in this column.  Getting a job through the Everton Domestic Society working for Anthony Braighton, the new Earl of Grafton, makes it harder to keep her writing a secret.  What other secrets is she able to keep?

 

Not too surprisingly, I loved this book! I have been a fan of A. S. Fenichel’s writing since the beginning of the trilogy before this series, the Forever Brides series (see my reviews #1, #2, #3, and Bonus).  The first book of the Forever Brides series (Tainted Bride) was about Sophia Braighton, Anthony’s sister.  It was fun to read the interactions between Anthony and his sister Sophia.  It was also fun to see the dynamic differences between the American siblings, Anthony and Sophia, and the rest of the English characters.  I found it very interesting how the author contrasted the character reactions to the new social status of Sylvia’s former fiancée and Anthony Braighton.  What also enriched the plot was how Sylvia and Anthony’s frank personalities brought them together.

 

This book is the third in the Everton Domestic Society series (see my reviews on the earlier here  and here ) but it can be read as a standalone.  There are references to previous characters, however, there are brief background updates for each of them that does not halt the pacing of the story.  I was very excited when a familiar character came into the story and it felt like a party was building with the familiar guests showing up.

 

I would definitely recommend this book for romance readers, particularly those fond of Regency Romances.  The romance is slowly built over situations and time making it more authentic for me as a reader.  I would recommend this book for adults as there are some graphically sexual scenarios.

 

I would not recommend this book for readers who may be triggered or offended by: graphically sexual scenarios, public shaming, alcoholism, parental dominance, or mild foul language.

 

Please note: an electronic ARC of this book was generously provided through the Goodreads Giveaway program.

She Lies in Wait (DCI Jonah Sheens #1) by Gytha Lodge – A 2/5 Star Review

One girl has to tag along embarrassingly with her older sister on a camping trip with her sister’s friends. One night of secrets. One death that will take 30 years to solve. One Detective who knows more than he lets on.

This book was kind of hard to fly through at times. There is a fine line between detailing the setting and overloading on details as filler. However, it could also be the case that the overwhelming amount of details was due to it being the author’s debut novel. It was mostly very heavy on the interactions and operations of the office.

Furthermore, there is a subplot on a newbie detective with an abusive stalker of an ex-boyfriend that forces her to spend the night in a hotel at one point. The main issue with this is: there doesn’t seem to be a point to it. Since this is the first book in a series, perhaps the author is setting up a villain for the next book. Or could it be that the author was trying to humanize the character? There is not a resolution to this issue and it makes the plot a bit sporadic.

Another reason why I did not care for this particular book is because of the alternating narratives. Authors like Liane Moriarty (see review ) can pull off weaving multiple storylines and distinct narratives into one cohesive plot. Unfortunately, this did not happen in She Lies in Wait. Mostly because it starts off solely as alternating narrators of DCI Jonah Sheens in the present and Aurora in the past with chapter separation. Then, the narration switches between a random assortment of characters with only Hanson as a fairly common one with her confusing subplot. Furthermore, some of the other detectives are not established well so sometimes it was confusing on who the narrator was even supposed to be and pretty much muddied the plot.

The final reason why I did not care for this book is because it was almost obvious who the killer was from the early chapters. I had hoped that it couldn’t possibly be that obvious and must be a red herring but I was disappointed.

And so I can’t say that I am eager for the next book in the series. I do give props to the author as it is very hard to get your debut novel published. I would imagine it is even harder if that book is the first in a series. But, for me, this book is not one that I would recommend.

The following things were found in my reading of the book that may be offensive or trigger some readers: violence, drug use, alcohol use, drug abuse, sexual assault, sexually suggestive scenarios, foul language, murder, stalking, and psychological abuse.

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