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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Desperate Bride (Forever Brides #3) by A.S. Fenichel- a 5/5 Star Review!

Dorothea (Dory) Flammel is in a tough spot. Having rejected too many eligible men over the course of several seasons, her options are limited. Then, she is not given any option at all as her father makes an agreement for her hand in marriage in exchange for the forgiveness of his enormous debt. To a very old man. The man who is known for his wandering eye and misogyny.

Thomas Wheel has loved hearing Dory play the pianoforte, especially when she does not know other people are in the room. They have been friends for many years and has snuck in to hear her play many times. But he is below her in rank and would not embarrass her by making his feelings known. So what is he to do when she runs to his house in the middle of the night begging him to marry her?

Dory and Thomas are big supporting characters in the last two books (see my reviews: here & here) and their romance was hinted at several times, so it was very exciting to see their own love story come together in this book. As read in the previous 2 novels in this series, Dory has a hard time trusting others, but is a fiercely loyal friend. Thomas always does the right thing and is a selfless friend to the gentlemen in the previous books. Since I started reading this series, I have been anxiously waiting for Thomas’ own love story. I just KNEW he would be perfectly romantic and I was swooning through these pages (especially the part where he brushed her hair for her!). I did not expect, but was also pleased with, him to be a progressive feminist for the time period that they are in which added to his perfection. It also was perfect for his romance with Dory as she had been told her whole life that her musical talent is useless because she is a woman as well as been treated as property rather than as a woman. Therefore, Thomas treating her as an equal seems too good to be true and she has a hard time trusting the situation that they were thrown in.

A.S. Fenichel does a wonderful job of creating characters that develop through love, on both sides of the romance, and are incredibly endearing. Although these books could be read as standalone, in my opinion, it is fun if they have been read in order as I did find myself squealing in excitement when the main characters in previous books were referenced or made an appearance.

I would recommend this book for all fans of historical romance, especially those who also enjoy unexpected twists and/or steamy love making scenes. I would also recommend this book for those who enjoy elements of music intertwined with romance.

On the other hand, I would not recommend this book for those who may be triggered or offended by explicitly sexual scenarios, mild foul language, misogyny, or violence.

Please note: an electronic copy of this book was generously provided for free by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Special thanks to A.S. Fenichel not only for writing this fantastic story, but also for posting on Facebook when the book was available on NetGalley 🙂

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.

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!).

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.

 

You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott-a 1/5 Star Review

Devon Knox had an accident as a young child that resulted in the amputation of a few toes on her foot. But that has not stopped her from being the rising star in gymnastics. She trains for hours every day on top of keeping up good grades. She is determined to be in the elite, then on to the Olympics. Her parents are buried in debt but they are taking the risk for the chance of their daughter to be an Olympian. They fear the puberty that could come any day, the high risk that everything could be ruined by one tiny mistake in a routine, and that one small mistake could cause an injury that can’t be bounced back from. But they face it all to make Devon a household name.

But one night, something goes terribly wrong in their small gymnastics community and it is another name that is spoken in every household.

It took me over 2 weeks to read this book because I dreaded picking it back up. The characters lacked depth and I could not establish any kind of connection with any of them. The parents, Eric and Katie, were immature, narcissistic, and oblivious. They consistently ignored their son, Drew, in order to focus on themselves or mostly on their oldest daughter, Devon. Drew, however, was written to not mind being ignored and to be very laid back. He “understood” the attention that had to go to Devon and “never had a problem with it”. Not only did it come across as very unrealistic but it also came across as useless. Devon did not demand attention outside of the gymnastics gym, rather she kept to herself and kept secrets. Devon clearly favored her father and (in somewhat of a juvenile retaliation) her mother, Katie, stuck to Drew. Poor Drew developed Scarlet Fever and still received little attention from his family.  His mother even left him alone in the car and then revealed that it was not the first time she had done that.  She had left him in the car because she had forgotten he was even in there when he was much younger.  They put Devon into a fellow gymnast’s home (read: mansion) so she wouldn’t catch what Drew had.  The fellow gymnast whose mother footed the bill for the renovations to the gymnastics training center. This mother, Gwen, footed the bill after much wining and dining with Devon’s father, Eric, so that his daughter could improve with better equipment. Oh, and Gwen’s daughter, Lacey, could also improve. But no one would ever be as good as Devon!

Not only were the characters a disappointment but the writing was also hard to appreciate, in my opinion. The plot did not flow well, neither did the chapters. There were snippets of paragraphs that seemed to be copied and pasted to piece together a chapter rather than being more fluid. There were even paragraphs that could have been “pasted” together and it would have flowed better. It was jagged and frustrating to read. Furthermore, there was a lot of repetition for minor details that came across as redundant to me. Katie’s ringtone being the same song that Devon has a floor routine to, saying “I love him so much!”, are just two examples. I have heard many great things about Megan Abbott and, as a result, had looked forward to receiving an ARC of this book. I cannot say that I would have that same excitement in the future.

I would not recommend this book. I think I have made that very clear. Furthermore, I would certainly not recommend this book for those who may be sensitive to foul language, violence, tumultuous relationships, murder, manipulation, parental neglect, and sexually suggestive scenarios.

Please note: an advance reader copy of this book was generously provided electronically by the publisher 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.