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.

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.

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.

The Waking Land by Callie Bates- a 2/5 Star Review

It was a great start but quickly lost stamina for me. There were a lot of characters that I could not keep track of as well as inconsistencies with the personality of the main character, Lady Elanna Valtai. She was confused yet she was certain. She was loyal to the King that raised her like a daughter yet barely fought for her best friend. She was defiant and stubborn with everyone except the (conveniently handsome) sorcerer Jahan. I understand that she was supposed to be immature as she is a young teenager who is just now discovering that her whole life was a lie. However, her character was too erratic for me to be able to enjoy. I gave it two weeks to try to finish and I still cannot bring myself to, so I am moving on and marking it as a DNF at 31%.

Please note: an electronic copy was generously provided for free from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review (thanks!).

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.