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.

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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.

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.

 

Carnegie’s Maid by Marie Benedict-A 4/5 Star Review!

Carnegie’s Maid is a romantic approach to the tale of the iconic Carnegie family and offers an idea of perhaps why the family turned to philanthropy once they built their wealth.  This story also includes a focus on the struggles of immigrants as well as how the Civil War and President Lincoln’s assassination impacted people of all classes.

I really liked the juxtaposition of the subservient side of Clara when she is Mrs. Carnegie’s maid with her bold businesswoman side when she is sneaking in secret moments with Andrew Carnegie.  Furthermore, I liked the innocence of their romance despite the imbalance of power as well as both of their loyalties to their respective families.

My favorite character in this book was Mr. Ford.  I would go on further, however, I do not wish to spoil anything.  Therefore, I will simply state that his character seemed to be the most generous in that he was generous with his good attitude and generous in doing small good deeds for others.

One of the reasons why I did not give this book 5 stars is because it kind of dragged on at certain points as if length was the goal rather than depth.  Another reason is because the antagonist was weak, however, I am not even sure if it is the character that I am thinking of or if the antagonist is supposed to be a group of people.  Lastly, I did not care for how Andrew Carnegie conveniently appeared (and appeared quite often) when Clara was alone.

For those who may be triggered or offended: the only things that I could find within the book were poverty, pollution, religious themes, and death.

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

As You Wish by Chelsea Sedoti-DNF at 25%

I am putting this down at 25% and marking it DNF for several reasons:

1. The writing style. It was slow and repetitive which made it quite boring, in my opinion. Which was so disappointing because I liked Chelsea Sedoti’s previous book, The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett. In that book, I enjoyed how the secrets were slowly revealed and how the concept of perfect is fake. This book seems to have kind of the same motivation with the main character, Eldon, which I will get to in the next point.

2. Eldon. The main character, the only perspective the story is told, and the tragic teenager. He was an all-star football jock with a great girlfriend and a great family in his small town but then he falls from glory. His girlfriend wishes to be prettier and dumps him. His sister is dead (or dying/in a coma? It’s kind of unclear at this point) and he is no longer the all-star athlete as other teammates have wished to be the best. His history has darkened his future, I get it. But I found him to be profoundly irritating. He has the extraordinary opportunity to make any wish he wants for his 18th birthday and he hates it. I get that other people’s wishes have had a negative effect on his life but he is actively rebelling and avoiding making the choice of what wish to make, but it does not do anything to prevent him from turning 18. This story seems to be more about how he is the bitterly angry victim rather than the underdog hero.

3. His parents. I understand that they too are under a tremendous amount of financial stress, however, I think the author is trying too hard to make them (one in particular) either the scapegoat or the villains. The guilt trips and the manipulations are slightly redeeming when their wish history is revealed, however, it is still a little bit of overkill.

In conclusion, I did not like this book. It’s taken me 3 weeks of debating whether or not I should pick it back up again before I finally decided to let bygones be bygones. I am not writing off (pun intended) the author, Chelsea Sedoti. I am just going to be the opposite of Eldon and be optimistic that her next book will be better.

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

The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia- a 3/5 Star Review

Antonina (“Nina”) Beaulieu is headstrong, passionate, and finally escaping the countryside to enter her first season in London. Instructed by her dispassionate and downright mean cousin, Valerie, to hide her telekinetic powers, Nina does not do a very good job of keeping it a secret. Mostly because she does not know how to control them (kind of like Elsa before she gets her gloves in Disney’s Frozen). She finally gets the chance to meet someone like her, Hector Auvray, who can help her rein her powers in until appropriate. But it’s not just her powers that attract Hector’s attention. It’s her connection to the one true love he could never get over; her cousin Valerie.

I took away one star because of the slow pace and how often it is beat into the reader’s head that Valerie is the villain. Although I appreciate that the reasoning for her cold and greedy heart was given, it still was too forced that she was the antagonist.

I took another star away for two reasons:

1. I did not get attached to the romance between Nina and Hector. I thought it was very immature and overly dramatic.

2. It is touted as sci-fi but that only came to the telekinetic powers that Nina and Hector have. I understand that the telekinetic element is supposed to unify Hector and Nina as it is something that they share as well as makes them outsiders in society, however, it didn’t scream science fiction to me.

When it comes to characters, my favorite was Entienne, Hector’s friend. He was calm, loyal, and had a dry, frank sense of humor. If there were to be anything further done with this plot, be it a sequel or spin-off, I do so hope it focuses on Entienne. He honestly saved the book for me at the points where I was tempted to put it down and be done with it. The other supporting characters seemed to be either shallow or weak. I can see why Valerie’s husband Gaetan should be weak (for the most part) to balance Valerie’s ferocity, however, it was still somewhat redundant.

I would recommend this book for readers who enjoy a manipulative and selfish villain. I would also recommend this book for readers who enjoy telekinesis. Lastly, I would recommend this book for readers who enjoy insects, particularly beetles, as they play a large part in the plot.

I would not recommend this book for readers who may be triggered or offended by the following: mild foul language, suggestions of adultery, bullying, manipulation, and attempted murder.

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

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!)