Forever My Girl (Beaumont #1) by Heidi McLaughlin-A 1/5 Star Review

DNF at 17%

The love of Josie’s life was her high school sweetheart, Liam. Was. Up until he left her at the altar to pursue his music career and left her behind. A tragedy brings Liam back into town but can it bring back their love?

Ok, I’ll admit. I went on a hunt for this book because I saw the trailer for the movie release. Conveniently releasing right around Valentine’s Day, the trailer looked like it teeters on the edge of a great love story and a hokey attempt at romance. The book falls over on the latter. I tried a few chapters and once I audibly groaned “OH MY GODDDD!”, it was over for me. It tries to mix in grief, friendship, and the-one-that-got-away romance but it just wasn’t blending well together. It felt very contrived and rushed with the dialogue between characters unbelievably cheesy. It felt more like a generic outline or brainstorm of a book rather than a well-developed plot.

 

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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. 

Moonlight Over Manhattan (From Manhattan With Love #6) by Sarah Morgan- a 5/5 Star Review!

Yet another great book in Sarah Morgan’s From Manhattan With Love series! This is the 6th book in the series but all books can be read as a standalone, in my opinion.  See reviews: #1#2#3#4#5, & BONUS!

Harriet has lived a sheltered life, protected by her older brother Daniel and twin sister Fliss. But when Daniel finds true love and Fliss is reconnected with the love of her life, Harriet is left to figure out life on her own. She comes up with a plan: Challenge Harriet. Every day until Christmas she is going to do one thing outside of her comfort zone whether it is to go on blind dates or wear stilettos, she is going to do it.

Dr. Ethan Black is an ER doctor and married to his job with no time for anything else. That is, until his sister calls in a favor-to dogsit. Fortunately, his sister has been a long-standing customer with The Bark Rangers and her dogwalker, Harriet, will help out. After an incident with the dog, Dr. Ethan Black loses his temper and Harriet’s stammer from childhood returns. Can Harriet overcome this Challenge working with Dr. Ethan Black?

As I said earlier, this love story is another great one by Sarah Morgan. I think I say this with each new book that she releases in this series, but this one is my new favorite! It has the magic of Christmas mixed with unexpected romance and overcoming complicated pasts. A beautiful combination of the three made me giddy while reading this book. I kept forcing myself to stop every couple of chapters because I wanted to savor the book rather than speed through-which was a Challenge!

I would absolutely recommend this book (and the other books in this series) to any adult reader who enjoys romance with comical moments. Also for readers who enjoy reading character development and overcoming the past to find themselves. This fast-paced book showed strong character development not only with Harriet, but with Ethan as well.

I would not recommend this book for readers who may be sensitive to or offended by mild foul language, violence, and sexual scenarios.

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

These Vicious Masks (These Vicious Masks #1) by Tarun Shanker & Kelly Zekas, Narrated by Heather Wilds- a 1/5 Star Review

 

Please note: A AudioCD copy of this book was generously provided for free through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program, in exchange for an honest review.

Piper by Jay Asher & Jessica Freeburg, Illustrated by Jeff Stokely-a 4/5 Star Review!

I had the exciting opportunity to meet and see a presentation by the author Jay Asher recently (Thanks to my local Westerville Public Library for hosting!).  Although he is very nice, funny, and everyone should go see him if they get a chance-I left really excited because of his next book that was being released: Piper.

Piper is a graphic novel collaboratively written by authors Jay Asher and Jessica Freeburg and illustrated by Jeff Stokely.  It is a retelling of the Pied Piper and the twist is that his music does not affect one person: Maggie.  Maggie is a deaf girl, hence why his music does not endanger her.  Maggie’s hearing was lost due to an act of violent bullying and the injustice only stems from there as villagers continue to bully her relentlessly.  Yet she continues to make the best of it by telling funny stories to her caretaker, Agathe.

The Pied Piper heroically comes to save the village from the rat infestation that has wiped out the population with starvation and/or disease.  But this rescue comes at a price.  A price that the village decides not to pay once the deed is done.  But if they refuse to pay in cash, they will have to pay at a different price-revenge.

Graphic Novels are something that I have only recently begun to develop an interest in, my first being Brian K. Vaughn’s Saga series.  I simply must find more graphic novels that have been illustrated by Jeff Stokely as the artwork is marvelous.  The expressions of the characters, the movement of the wind, and the playful innocence portrayed in a single panel where the Pied Piper is eating an apple under a tree in front of a peacock, for example.  I was just so moved by the illustrations and they greatly improved the storyline.

Personally, I was hoping for more out of the character of Maggie.  I was initially so excited about this graphic novel because it centered around a deaf character.  Both of my parents are deaf and so I expected great things from this character but I was a little disappointed.  I had to take a star away because it seemed like being deaf only came into play when someone walked up behind her and scared her, when she was incorrectly pronouncing words when Agathe wrote down her stories, or when she was being bullied.  I just wish a little more research would have gone into her character because although lip-reading is a way to communicate, there was not any sign language at all.  Granted, I was not expecting American Sign Language in a story based in the medieval times, some home signs between Agathe and Maggie would have been redeeming.  Furthermore, going back to the sneaking up behind her example, when I try to sneak up on my parents, they can feel the vibrations from my walking behind them and it doesn’t always work.  What is failed to be mentioned is that when you lose one sense, the other senses get stronger.

Although I had to take one (slightly biased) star away, the story itself is minimalist yet powerful.  The elements of greed and the despicable villagers are well-balanced by the purity and optimism of Maggie and Agathe despite their tragic situation. Another well-balanced aspect in this story is how both of their backgrounds are isolated, tragic, and yet they find hope in one another.  Furthermore, when they go in different directions, they still protect one another making their love story even more emotional.

I also enjoyed that this was a retelling of the Pied Piper as I thought that was unique.  So many fairy tale retellings have centered around the princesses and Red Riding Hood lately that this one stands out.  And since I heard about it, Eminem’s song “Lose Yourself” has been stuck in my head:

I was playing in the beginning, the mood all changed

I’ve been chewed up and spit out and booed off stage

But I kept rhymin’ and stepped right in the next cypher

Best believe somebody’s paying the Pied Piper

In conclusion, I would recommend Piper for readers who enjoy retellings, tragic love stories, unexpected heroes, and graphic novels.

I would not recommend Piper for those who may be offended on how Maggie’s deafness is portrayed, or those who may be offended or triggered by bullying, violence, kidnapping, and revenge.

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!).