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 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.

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.

Anna Dressed In Blood (Anna #1) by Kendare Blake- a 5/5 Star Review!

Cas is a ghost hunter, traveling all over North America to take down murderous ghosts with his special weapon; the athame. While still a high school student, hopping from one school to another does not exactly provide time and availability for long-term friends his own age. He is seeking to avenge his father’s death while saving the lives of the unsuspecting victims of the ghosts he kills. Until he meets the one ghost he doesn’t want to kill.

Anna.

Anna is famously called “Anna Dressed In Blood” in the small Canadian town of Thunder Bay. She haunts the house she died in decades ago and brutally murders anyone who dare step foot in it. Until Cas finds himself inside her house and lives to tell the tale.

I was very surprised at how much I loved this book. It was a Halloween themed pick for this month for a book club that I am in; it is perfect! It is equally haunting and humane. The best example of this is with the ghost of Anna. Her acts of violence are graphically gory, yet her backstory encourages sympathy.

The story was fast-paced and smooth, told in Cas’ perspective. The scenes are so well described that it the gore was discomforting, as it should be. It is kind of like a blend of the tv show Supernatural and the YA book Six of Crows. I recently read Six of Crows (see review here) and so I kept thinking that Cas in this book was misspelling Kaz. In truth, it was the scene in the basement with Cas that reminded me of the scene on the corpse boat with Kaz. The story itself is distinctive, however, particularly in how the story concludes. Therefore, I would certainly recommend this book for fans of Six of Crows and Supernatural.

Conversely, I would not recommend this book for those who may be offended or triggered by parental death, graphic violence, heavy foul language, domestic violence, murder, bullying, witchcraft, ghosts, or VooDoo.

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.

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.

Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown-A 5/5 Star Review!

Billy is a wife, a mom, a hiker, a free spirit, and missing, presumed dead. Her husband, Jonathan, and her daughter, Olive, have struggled over the past year since she went missing both emotionally and financially. Jonathan could not focus on work and resigned in order to work on a memoir on his missing, potentially late, wife. As he works on additional research for the memoir he begins to discover the secrets and lies that hid beneath the surface. Their daughter, Olive, wants to get the search party back on to find her mother as she begins to have visions of her that become frequent yet are cryptic. This causes her grades and her relationships with friends and family to decline. Will it all be worth it to find Billy?

At first, I thought this book would be just another rendition of Gone Girl. I was pleasantly mistaken! It has a unique portrayal of both family dynamics and growing up. The story is told in alternating perspectives, mostly from Olive and Jonathan’s. Which I did not find it confusing and found it to be helpful in strengthening character development. I also liked the fairly fast pace of the book as well as the many red herrings that had me pausing to think. It is sweet at times and twisted at others, but made for a fun read overall. Lastly, I also liked the twist and how it was an imperfect ending.

I would recommend this book for those who enjoy an adventurous mystery. I would also recommend it for those who like to read how the past comes back to haunt a character.

For those who may be offended: there is foul language, sexually suggestive scenarios, visions, negativity towards religion, drug abuse, and alcohol abuse.

Please note: I got a physical copy of this book for free from LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review.