Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker- a 5/5 Star (Life Changing) Review!

Cass and Emma Tanner are the famous sisters that mysteriously disappeared three years ago. Now, only Cass has returned. What happened to Emma? That’s exactly what Dr. Abby Winter is going to find out. What she has discovered in the last three years since the girls vanished and her investigation begun is one thing: nothing is what it seems. Dr. Abby Winter knows firsthand how traumatizing it can be to have a childhood ruled by a narcissistic mother. That is what got her into this line of work in the first place. But can she keep her past from clouding her judgement in the present?

I loved this book and found it masterfully created. Each chapter ended with a cliffhanger that made me as a reader want to read “just one more chapter” for several chapters. It was told in alternating perspectives between Cass and Abby (Dr. Winter) which I thought enhanced the story as it gave deeper perspective into both characters as well as gave different views on the supporting characters.

To be more personal than I have been in any of my previous reviews, I cannot explain well enough to give it justice just how immensely tied to this book I was. I had to put it down some chapters because it related too well to my childhood with a narcissistic mother that too much of it in one sitting could be overwhelming. Fortunately, I were raised mostly by my (selfless, hilarious, and dedicated) father so I did not have the damages quite as bad as these girls, but the scars are still there. Time does not actually heal all wounds. Some scars will always remain, even if they are hidden just under the surface.

There are variances with every family and experience with any personality disorder. Yet there were pages and pages that I kept highlighting and excitedly screaming out “YES! Exactly!”. It was fascinating to see what I experienced play out in a fictional tale. The quote that I had to read over and over because it was accurate, relatable, and glaringly honest was:

“Mrs. Martin had never been punished for anything she had ever done. She was a master illusionist. Even people trained to see, even people looking for exactly what was there to be seen, could still not see”.

I am immensely pleased that Wendy Walker had the courage and skill to take this topic of Narcissistic Personality Disorder and create a story that is masterful regardless of if a reader has had an experience with it. There has only been one other book that I have read on this topic several years ago, Dr. Karyl McBride’s Will I Ever Be Good Enough?. This book was nonfiction and absolutely changed my life because it put the facts of Narcissistic Mothers in my face and helped me learn how to cope and live my own life. If you are someone who has gone through an experience with someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, particularly with a Narcissistic mother, I highly recommend both Will I Ever Be Good Enough? and Emma in the Night. You should also know that you are not alone!

I would also recommend this book for those readers who are fans of surprise twists as there are several. Furthermore, the ending is unexpected, twisted, and genius.

For those who may be offended: there was foul language, sexually explicit scenarios, drug use, alcohol use, infidelity, incest, and child abuse.

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

How to Change a Life by Stacey Ballis- a 3/5 Star Review!

Eloise is devastated by the news of her favorite teacher passing. The event becomes bittersweet as it is at this beloved teacher’s funeral that she is reunited with her old friends Teresa and Lynne. Can their newly regained friendship survive the first major hurdle that comes their way or has time eroded away at their trust?

Eloise, Teresa, and Lynne met in grade school and bonded over their birthdays being right around the same time. Their reunion inspired them to make a bucket list before their upcoming fortieth birthday. It was fun to see the three of them create and execute their own personal bucket lists as well as have an incentive with the donation to their late teacher’s charity tied into it. Furthermore, it was interesting to see how each of them accomplished their tasks.

However, this book was a quick read-because I skimmed most of it. It relied heavily on adjectives and every detail about every dish that was thrown into the book. The adjective “amazing” was overused to the point of irritation. Additionally, the author seemed to rely heavily on dialogue between characters for character development. Yet the main character still came off as juvenile and shallow to me despite the other characters repeatedly inflating her ego.

I would recommend this book for those approaching forty or already over forty as the fortieth birthday was a central theme. Furthermore, I would also recommend this book for those foodie readers out there as the author went into great detail about every meal prepared in the book. There are even recipes in the back of the book.

On the other hand, I would not recommend this book for readers who may have shared the same feelings I had about adjective abuse and extreme detail. I also would not recommend this book for those who may be sensitive: there were sexually suggestive scenarios as well as foul language.

Please note: I was generously provided with a copy of this book electronically for free through Penguin’s First To Read program.

The Marriage Pact: A Novel by Michelle Richmond-a 1/5 Star Review

Jake and Alice are a recently married couple who receive a unique gift from a new friend. This gift was an invitation to The Pact. An exclusive society that values marriage and strives to maintain the sanctity of it. It is not to be discussed with people outside of The Pact and the rules get more outrageous from there. Basically, it’s Stepford Wives meets Fight Club. Obnoxious.

For the record, I only managed to get 18% into the book before crying out “Oh for the LOVE of GOD I DON’T CAAAAAARE”, which may also be considered obnoxious to some.

Each percent was a chapter so I did get 18 chapters in, however, when it is 18 out of 100ish chapters, it’s not that big of a feat. It was told from Jake’s perspective up until that point which made it seem like Jake was obsessed with his wife, Alice. But Alice’s responses tended to be passive in terms of big events. For example, when he proposed, she simply said “Ok”. Another example is when they decided to join The Pact, her response was “why not?”. Because it’s obviously a cult, that’s why not.

Alice is an overworked lawyer and Jake is a therapist, yet their communication seemed to be lacking and a lawyer read the terms and conditions of The Pact and decided to go through with it because “Why not?” just did not seem realistic to me. Furthermore, Jake’s thoughts on things relied on what Alice thought of them. Which caused flat sentences such as “Alice does not like ___” and “Alice likes ____”. It made him seem like a doormat. It reached a breaking point for me when they were at a work social for Alice and there was a co-worker that went up to Jake (allegedly unaware that he was the husband of Alice) and they talked about the bet that went on at the office that she wouldn’t marry ‘the therapist'”. It seemed immature and pointless.

Last rant: I could not stand Vivian. She reminded me of Dolores Umbridge and I am sure she is supposed to be the villain so I am not supposed to like her. However, she was irritating at best.

Clearly, I was not a fan of this book and I would only recommend it to readers who are fans of cults.

However, many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for giving me free access to the book in exchange for an honest review.

 

His Semi-Charmed Life (Camp Firefly Falls #11) by Lisa Hughey-a 5/5 Star Review!

Diego Ramos has started from the bottom and rose to the top by one thing alone: hard work.  Inspired by an argument he had when he was a camp counselor with a summer camper has set his life on a path of success.  Now he is set to merge his company with a huge and successful company that will make him a billionaire; his dream.  The only hurdle left before the merge is a company retreat at a familiar place: Camp Firefly Falls.

Penny is finally back, many years later, at Camp Firefly Falls.  A place that holds many great summer memories-and a bad one.  However, even the bad memory of an interaction with a camp counselor years ago was good in that it gave her advantaged childhood some perspective.  Not everyone has food to eat.  Now she is determined to get her thesis, urban gardens for corporate offices that donate the food that grows to charity, into reality.  She is set to pitch the idea at a corporate retreat at Camp Firefly Falls.  This could be the opportunity to get her idea off of the ground.  Little does she know that history is going to be waiting for her when she gets there, in more ways than one.

I have been fortunate to have had access to other books by Lisa Hughey in the past (see reviews Here and Also here ).  Those books were differently themed in that those previous books had plots about special agents and intense action.  That being said, I enjoyed the difference! It really speaks to Lisa Hughey’s talent and skill to be able to write so strongly in multiple genres.  This book flowed just as well as the previous books and the characters developed just as strongly.  I found this book very difficult to put down and the pace is very quick.

Although this was the 11th book in the series, it can easily be read as a standalone.  I am very interested in the characters that were mentioned in the book, particularly those in the Billionaire Breakfast Club, and I hope to be able to go back and read the other books in the series to find out their stories.  I would recommend this book for readers who enjoy steamy romance, car repair, underdogs,  farming, the attraction of opposites, and who enjoy reading about summer camp life.  Although I myself have never been to summer camp, I was still able to enjoy the setting.

For those who may be triggered or offended: there are several graphic sexual scenes, explicit foul language, and infidelity.

Please note:  an electronic copy of this book was generously provided by the publisher (Red Adept Publishing) via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Breakdown by B.A. Paris-a 4/5 Star Review!

Cass and her husband, Matthew, live in a house far away from many things. Only a couple of neighbors down the road but it is quiet and peaceful. That is, until one stormy night on her way home a woman is stranded on the side of the road. Cass made the decision that she would later regret: she does not help her. The next morning, the woman is found dead.

Riddled with the guilt of not having done anything, and horrified that this could happen in her small and remote neighborhood, Cass gets spooked and lives in fear. When she discovers that the woman was her new friend, Jane, she nearly falls apart. Does the murderer know that it was Cass who passed by?

Let me begin with the end. The end of the book really ties everything together and makes up for the redundant middle of the book. Although many thriller books are compared to Girl On The Train, I will add this one to the list for this very reason. I gave up on Girl On The Train because the middle was so redundant on how she is drunk every day. I later had the book spoiled for me and wished I had carried on. I almost did the same for this book. The middle of The Breakdown becomes cumbersome to read as it does not feel like much of anything is progressing. The daily actions of Cass waking up devastatingly convinced to have early onset dementia like her mother had, taking pills, falling asleep, waking up again to pretend to be normal when her husband comes home, and going to bed again happens so often. However, there are snippets of clues subtly dropped within this chunk of monotony that it is easy to miss them. I would not say that this book is something that I could not put down. For a lot of the book I had a hard time actually picking it back up, but I am glad that I did as the ending makes up for everything.

I would recommend this book for anyone who could endure Girl On The Train. I also recommend this book for readers who enjoy getting in the mindset of the narrator. This reads in first-person narrative and does not jump back and forth between past and present.

For those who may be offended, there are themes of manipulation, stalking, murder, early onset dementia, and overdose.

Please note: An electronic advanced reader copy was generously provided by St. Martin’s Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Lost Letter by Jillian Cantor-a 5/5 Star Review!

Kristoff has found a home, finally. Having been abandoned as a young child, finding his way as an adult has proved difficult. He finds refuge as an apprentice in the home of well-known stamp engraver, Frederick Faber. Frederick and his family, a wife and two daughters, are Jewish and living in Austria. However, as winter begins to invade, so do the Nazis, tearing Kristoff’s new family apart.

In another time and place, (California, 1989 to be precise) another family is tearing at the seams. Kate is struggling at work because her co-worker is her soon to be ex-husband. He filed the papers, she just needs to sign them. She is also juggling that with her father, Ted, a formerly avid stamp collector who has Alzheimer’s. She meets Benjamin, a philatelist, to get her father’s stamp collection appraised and one stamp in particular sends them on an adventure.

Although the plot jumped between the two stories, I thought it was done seamlessly. There were some chapters, however, where I wish it had not jumped because I was too eager to find out what happens next in one setting. It had several twists and turns, as well as several times where my heart ached for the characters. Although romance stories from World War II have been done quite often, this one stands out as unique. It brings elements of stamp engraving as well as collecting that I have yet to read elsewhere. Furthermore, the romance is a subtle build that is often cast aside in the urgency of the war period timeframe. The characters are not begging for attention nor are they overdramatic in responses. This is true for the stories in both time periods.

I do recommend this book for those who enjoy historical fiction, a bit of adventure, and romance. I read through it quickly as I found it to be gripping at times and heart-wrenching at other times.

For those who may be offended: there was kidnapping, guns, and sexually suggestive scenarios.

Please note: an electronic copy of this book was generously provided for free from Penguin’s First To Read program in exchange for an honest review.

New York, Actually (From Manhattan With Love #4) by Sarah Morgan- a 4/5 Star Review!

Molly has been settling into New York City over the last couple of years since fleeing public humiliation in London. She has lost her friends and her pride. Since moving to New York, she only trusts her dalmatian, Valentine, and her friends and neighbors, Mark and Gabe. She stays busy by taking various classes such as salsa and spinning, and has a successful online blog as a relationship expert offering advice for those who ask.

This advice is usually the opposite of the advice that Daniel Knight gives his clients. As a successful divorce attorney, and as a witness to his parents’ tumultuous marriage, he has sworn off marriage and relationships in general. He does not have time for dogs, or women for that matter, but on his morning runs he has been crossing paths with a beautiful woman and her dalmatian. His sisters, twins Fliss and Harry, are the Bark Rangers who offer pet services. His decision to borrow a stubborn Brutus to help him talk to the woman in the park gets him far deeper than he could have ever expected.

My favorite characters in this book were the dogs. I loved how their interactions contributed to the story as well as how well they got along. I am not normally into book series, however, each book in this series reads as a standalone. I enjoyed that Eva and Lucas were characters in this one as they were the main characters in the previous book. Furthermore, I enjoyed that Daniel is the bridge from the Urban Genie trio of friends to the Bark Ranger sisters. I found it easy to figure out that the next few books will (hopefully) be about twins Fliss and Harry, Daniel’s sisters.

There are four reasons why I only gave this book 4 stars:
1. Molly being originally from England was not very apparent unless it was briefly mentioned in conversation that she had an “accent”. This “accent” did not come through to me, especially not in the chapters that were in her perspective.
2. Molly was supposed to be a psychologist yet she clearly had not moved on from a situation in her past that caused her to flee to New York. Furthermore, she was unable to figure out her feelings as well as was quick to become irrational in certain situations. For example: she finds out that Daniel borrowed a dog to try to find a way to talk to her and she is very angry and seeks revenge.
3. I am used to Sarah Morgan’s characters fighting their feelings for each other before they reach the point that they are in love. But in this story, once they had moved past that point, it seemed extremely rushed to reach the next steps in their relationship.
4. I may be biased, however, I could not help but compare Molly and Daniel to the main characters in the previous books ( See reviews: Here , here , here,  and this bonus one ). Despite being able to relate to parts of their backstories, I just could not feel strongly for either of them. I was more interested in both Fliss’ potential story as well as Mark and Gabe’s history.

Despite these minor setbacks, I did still really enjoy this book. As can be expected when I read a book by Sarah Morgan, I did look forward to reading it as well as mini-squealed whenever a character from a previous book was mentioned. Sarah Morgan is extremely talented and her books take me to a happy place. It truly feels as if one is part of this growing group of friends and family and I find myself missing the characters when the book is over. These books are the kind that stay with you after each conclusion. I would recommend this book for readers who enjoy romance and, most especially, dogs.

For readers who may be triggered or offended: there were mentions of divorce, animal abandonment, scenarios sexual in nature, and brief foul language.

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