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Recent Reviews

Here you will find books that I have read previously, along with their reviews. While some books will not rate as highly for me than other ones, each book is like a dear friend. Some books will click instantly with a person and teach them many lesson, show them different ways of viewing the world, or change how they feel about themselves on a personal level. All books, like people, are unique. Not every book will be dearly loved by every person who reads them, but that does not make a book any less valuable to those who cherish it.

All novels, series, books of every sort are a piece of artwork. Just like with painting, there are a plethora of different styles available... the only limit to that artwork is how far a person will let their imagination take them, and still be brave enough to share it with the world.

Happy reading!


“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”

-Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood





Watch Out for Her


Goodreads Description:


Wherever you go…

she’ll be watching.


Sarah Goldman, mother to six-year-old Jacob, is relieved to move across the country. She has a lot she wants to leave behind, especially Holly Monroe, the pretty twenty-two-year-old babysitter she and her husband, Daniel, hired to take care of their young son last summer. It started out as a perfect arrangement—Sarah had a childminder her son adored, and Holly found the mother figure she’d always wanted. But Sarah’s never been one to trust very easily, so she kept a close eye on Holly, maybe too close at times. What she saw raised some questions, not only about who Holly really was but what she was hiding. The more Sarah watched, the more she learned—until one day, she saw something she couldn’t unsee, something so shocking that all she could do was flee.


Sarah has put it all behind her and is starting over in a different city with her husband and son. They’ve settled into a friendly suburb where the neighbors, a tight clique of good citizens, are always on the lookout for danger. But when Sarah finds hidden cameras in her new home, she has to wonder: Has her past caught up to her, and worse yet, who’s watching her now?


A tense psychological thriller about a mother who must keep watch at all times if she wants to keep her family safe—from USA TODAY and #1 national bestselling author Samantha M. Bailey.

A spine-tingling, page-turning novel from USA TODAY and #1 national bestselling author Samantha M. Bailey, Watch Out for Her is psychological suspense at its very best—a chilling look at trust, voyeurism, and obsession in the modern age, and how far we will go to watch out for those we love.


My Thoughts: 3 Stars


Holly is in her early twenties, has a wealthy father and stepmother, a stepsister, and more pressure than she can bear. The pressure is always on for her to win new investors for her father's business in pharmaceuticals. After a party where all of the big shots are, and after winning over the investor that her father had his eye on, Holly finds herself in a tough situation. Fortunately for her, the neighbors hired her to babysit their son. Unfortunately for Holly, she and Sarah, the mother of the child she is babysitting, get themselves into a tangled mess. The view point of the book switches between Holly in the past and Sarah at the present day. Everyone except the sweet innocent child, Jacob, have secrets that they hold close and refuse to share.

These secrets lead to emotional pain for all involved, along with putting their physical wellbeing in danger.

This was a good book and I enjoyed reading it. I will look forward to more books by this author in the future.


"Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!" Sir Walter Scott, 1808


I received an early copy in exchange for an honest review.

 


The Great Gatz


Goodreads Description:


A dog tries his best to keep his two co-parenting owners and their happiness afloat in this hilarious and touching sequel to Joint Custody by Lauren Baratz-Logsted and Jackie Logsted.


The Man is happy. The Woman is happy. That means Gatz is happy. He'd like to forget about the trouble he made to get them back together--only slightly ashamed at his antics--and focus on the future. The Woman and New Man are about to get married, after all. But when The Woman loses her job because of some bad press about the two of them, her confidence is broken and she can't help but feel resentful towards New Man when his own career stays intact. Gatz has to give it to him; New Man remains as patient as a saint (of course he does).


The Man is doing better, too, thanks to the New Woman in his life, who just so happens to be a writer as well. But two authors in the same relationship can sometimes be one too many, and they find themselves getting quite competitive with each other. But Gatz has faith in them--The Man did learn from his mistakes, didn't he?


Gatz doesn't know what happened to these two perfectly happy couples, but he knows one thing is for sure: not all families are alike, and happiness can be found in the unlikeliest pockets--just like treats!



My Thoughts: 3 Stars


I adore books that are told from the dog's perspective, especially when done correctly. I adored this book. I adored Gatz. He reminds me a bit of one of my dogs and how I imagine they would think and respond if they could. Gatz finds himself in some rather uncomfortable and down right embarrassing situations, but handles them with humor and whit. He spends his days of shared custody with "the woman" and "the man" and their new partners. We get a good look at the different personalities of the significant others of "the woman" and "the man" and what they go through as editors or authors. This whole book gives the warm fuzzy feeling that is desired when reading a book from the dog's point of view. I am excited to see what this author writes next.


I received an early copy in exchange for an honest review.

 


Such A Pretty Smile


Goodreads Description:


A biting novel from an electrifying new voice, Such a Pretty Smile is a heart-stopping tour-de-force about powerful women, angry men, and all the ways in which girls fight against the forces that try to silence them.


There’s something out there that’s killing. Known only as The Cur, he leaves no traces, save for the torn bodies of girls, on the verge of becoming women, who are known as trouble-makers; those who refuse to conform, to know their place. Girls who don’t know when to shut up.


2019: Thirteen-year-old Lila Sawyer has secrets she can’t share with anyone. Not the school psychologist she’s seeing. Not her father, who has a new wife, and a new baby. And not her mother—the infamous Caroline Sawyer, a unique artist whose eerie sculptures, made from bent twigs and crimped leaves, have made her a local celebrity. But soon Lila feels haunted from within, terrorized by a delicious evil that shows her how to find her voice—until she is punished for using it.


2004: Caroline Sawyer hears dogs everywhere. Snarling, barking, teeth snapping that no one else seems to notice. At first, she blames the phantom sounds on her insomnia and her acute stress in caring for her ailing father. But then the delusions begin to take shape—both in her waking hours, and in the violent, visceral sculptures she creates while in a trance-like state. Her fiancé is convinced she needs help. Her new psychiatrist waves her “problem” away with pills. But Caroline’s past is a dark cellar, filled with repressed memories and a lurking horror that the men around her can’t understand.


As past demons become a present threat, both Caroline and Lila must chase the source of this unrelenting, oppressive power to its malignant core. Brilliantly paced, unsettling to the bone, and unapologetically fierce, Such a Pretty Smile is a powerful allegory for what it can mean to be a woman, and an untamed rallying cry for anyone ever told to sit down, shut up, and smile pretty.


I received an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.



My Thoughts: 2 Stars


I was excited when I was approved for this book from St. Martin's press in exchange for an honest review.

This book was eerie in so many ways. I have a feeling that more details I missed this first time reading it will appear again when it is re-read. Yes, I have a high chance of reading this book once more, and probably more times after that.

Caroline has a blank spot in her past, one that she sometimes wishes she could fill in with memories and other times is too afraid to try to remember. She is an artist. She creates dark, lovely sculptures. She loves her daughter dearly and is afraid for her constantly. Will her daughter develop the same haunting phantoms that she suffers from? What little she does know of her past is kept hidden, afraid that if they are brought to the surface, they will transfer to her beloved child.

Lila is struggling in school. Her bestfriend does not treat her well, and there are new feelings simmering below the surface. Her friend is boy crazy and loud and wild, but Lila tries not to feel jealous of her best friend's affections towards older boys. Between complications of having only one friend, one she wishes would know how she really feels, and wishing her mom would just tell her about the secrets and her father caring more about his new baby and ignoring her, Lila is getting fed up.

Unfortunately for Caroline and Lila, the past is about to sneak up and become a threat to both of their futures.

This was a great book. It really brings to the surface how men brush off women and what we say. We are told to be quiet, be pleasant, SMILE more so you'll look prettier, keep your problems to yourself. Stay in the kitchen. It was infuriating but it felt so good at the same time to have this brought up in this book (in the best way possible). If people would simply listen to one another, no matter their gender, so many issues could possibly have a chance at a good resolution instead of horrible endings. This is a book that I am going to have to gift to my female friends... and maybe some male friends as well. This book would be a great tool for discussions for so many topics. One of the best and aggravating, thought provoking books I have read so far this year.



 

The Lost Sister


Goodreads Description:


Our family was torn apart by our father’s hunger for power...



Meira:


I’ve lived two hundred years without my sister--my twin. And the worst part is she doesn’t even know I exist.


Now, I’m sneaking into the kingdom where I was born, right under the nose of our megalomaniac father, who happens to be the king.


He can’t know I’m here, or we’ll both be trapped.


I can only pray that my sister isn’t cruel like him. That she will accept me and want to escape. I have to save her. Or die trying.




Rina:


My father is a tyrant king. And now he’s betrothed me to a monster. This palace is just a gilded cage, and I have to find a way out.


Just when I give up and decide to do something desperate--a miracle. My mirror image appears in the market.


This stranger claims to be my twin. She promises me escape.


If I don’t go with her now, I’ll be trapped here forever.




The Lost Sister is a high fantasy adventure. This epic voyage has dark elements, heart breaking romances, and plenty of narrow escapes on the high seas and islands in the world of Theria.


***This is the first book in the Daughters of Elydon duology. That means this book has a “to be continued…” ending.


****This series contains adult content in terms of language, situations, and relationships. Fade to black romance and off page abuse are mentioned. Please be advised beforehand.


I received an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.



My Thoughts: 2 Stars


I saw this book description and was instantly excited to send in a request and read it. It sounded exciting, enthralling, something I could truly enjoy reading. Within the first chapter, I knew I was in for disappointment. However, I pushed on and wanted to give it a try. Sometimes books take a little while to get going and live up to their hype. Unfortunately, that never happened. I did not like the characters.... at all. There was the typical tall, quiet, growly, "dark past" guy. There was also the girl who tried too hard to put a "girl power" front on. Then there is a princess who is being challenged to have character growth. Obviously some badies are thrown in for a little extra razzle dazzle. The world building was great, it was the characters that make my rating so low. They were just unbelievable. This book also poked at some of my pet peeves. I find it rather obnoxious when characters smirk, especially when they smirk a lot in situations that do not need a smirk in them. I actually went through and counted how many times certain words were used, and I think the author or editor could have replaced some of them with something better.

Smirk/ed/s count: 37 times

Growl/ed count: 34 times

Female/s count: 86 times

Male/s count: 203 times

As mentioned above, the world building was done wonderfully. The characters were simply not my style. They rubbed the wrong way. I am willing to give this author another chance in the future to see how they grow. I always enjoy seeing growth in authors and seeing where they go and what wonderful worlds they create.

 

The Therapist


Goodreads Description:


The multimillion-copy New York Times bestselling author B.A. Paris returns to her heartland of gripping psychological suspense in The Therapist--a powerful tale of a house that holds a shocking secret.


When Alice and Leo move into a newly renovated house in The Circle, a gated community of exclusive houses, it is everything they’ve dreamed of. But appearances can be deceptive…


As Alice is getting to know her neighbours, she discovers a devastating secret about her new home, and begins to feel a strong connection with Nina, the therapist who lived there before.


Alice becomes obsessed with trying to piece together what happened two years before. But no one wants to talk about it. Her neighbors are keeping secrets and things are not as perfect as they seem…



My thoughts: 4 Stars


I always love a good "who did it?" I enjoy authors that keep me guessing. Typically, I figure out who the "bad guy" is rather quickly or as soon as they pop up in the book. This story kept me guessing a little longer than others. Alice is smart woman with a painful past. She was raised by her grandparents after her parents and sister were killed in an accident. As an adult, the pain of that loss is still great. One day she has a change encounter with Leo. He is charming and also intelligent. They hit it off and after a while of dating, they decide to move in together. Alice rents out her cottage and Leo buys a house in a gated community. The house and neighborhood is beautiful. The neighbors all get along and welcome Alice and Leo when Alice invites them all over for drinks in order to meet her new neighbors. That one innocent night starts Alice down a twisting path of questions without answers, things that go bump in the night, and a not-so-closed-case murder. After finding out about the murder that took place in the house she now lives in with Leo (and which Leo did not tell her about), Alice becomes frantic, almost obsessed with figuring out who really killed Nina, the woman who lived here before. The troubles drive a wedge between Alice and Leo, but she is relentless. Can she really trust her neighbors? Did one of them actually kill Nina? Why are they so willing to accept that the person that was accused of the murder actually killed the woman? This was a great book and is one that I would definitely visit again. Thank you to the publisher for a free copy in exchange for an honest review. Audio review: This narrator did a fantastic job. Her accent was lovely to listen to and she voiced the characters well, giving them emotions and captured my attention from the start. There is not a bad thing I can say about this narrator or how she told the story. I have listed to quite a few audiobooks and many come off sounding like a computer reading to me. Not this one. She was great! I will be glad to listen to her narrate other books in the future.

 


The Stolen Child


Goodreads Description:


Inspired by the W.B. Yeats poem that tempts a child from home to the waters and the wild, The Stolen Child is a modern fairy tale narrated by the child Henry Day and his double.


On a summer night, Henry Day runs away from home and hides in a hollow tree. There he is taken by the changelings—an unaging tribe of wild children who live in darkness and in secret. They spirit him away, name him Aniday, and make him one of their own. Stuck forever as a child, Aniday grows in spirit, struggling to remember the life and family he left behind. He also seeks to understand and fit in this shadow land, as modern life encroaches upon both myth and nature.


In his place, the changelings leave a double, a boy who steals Henry’s life in the world. This new Henry Day must adjust to a modern culture while hiding his true identity from the Day family. But he can’t hide his extraordinary talent for the piano (a skill the true Henry never displayed), and his dazzling performances prompt his father to suspect that the son he has raised is an imposter. As he ages the new Henry Day becomes haunted by vague but persistent memories of life in another time and place, of a German piano teacher and his prodigy. Of a time when he, too, had been a stolen child. Both Henry and Aniday obsessively search for who they once were before they changed places in the world.


The Stolen Child is a classic tale of leaving childhood and the search for identity. With just the right mix of fantasy and realism, Keith Donohue has created a bedtime story for adults and a literary fable of remarkable depth and strange delights.


My thoughts: 2.5 Stars


While wandering my local library and looking for something different to read, I noticed this book tucked away between others. I have wandered these same rows of books many times over the years, and yet this was a new discovery for me. It looked like many people had read this copy before me, so I figured it must be worth a try. It is not a thick novel, but the pages felt nice and the title was intriguing. This story shows you two different points of view; that of a child stolen away from his family, and that of the changeling (or hobgoblin) that took his place. The author takes you from the time that the original Henry Day is a child, to the point where the Henry Day that took his place is now an adult. The author shows you both of their points of view as they age in their own way. Henry the changeling adapts to his world and slowly forgets his old hobgoblin pals. However, as he ages, his past comes back to haunt him. The child he replaced, the original Henry Day, has to learn how to adapt to his own life and the new "family" he has. Their lives are not easy, but they do their best to make the most out of what life they have.

This is a dark-ish tale. There are mysterious children in the woods full of mischief and a touch of magic. There are adult situations that the hobgoblin turned Henry Day must struggle through. Life is not easy for them and the book both wanders along and rushes through their life events.

This was a decent read and the author did a good job, but it is one that I will not likely read again.

If you like stories about changelings, this may be a good read for you. I also like changeling stories, but this one hit the mark for me.


 

It's Better This Way



Goodreads Description:


My mother told me that men would speak about the Golden Age as a time of peace and happiness for all… However, the women of our age would tell a very different story…


Cronus, God of Gods, whose inheritance is the world. Among his possessions: women, imprisoned and fated to serve. The strong-minded Althea Lambros controls her own fate and lives to honor her dying mother’s plea to protect her two sisters at all costs. Althea’s journey toward crushing the tyranny has begun. It is a destiny foretold by the Fates. And she is following their visions.


On the southern isle of Crete, hidden among mortal women who have fled the Titans, is the Boy God, son of Cronus and believed dead. He shares Althea’s destiny to vanquish the Almighty—fate willing. Because Cronus has caught wind of the plot. He’s amassing his own forces against Althea’s righteous rebellion and all those who will no longer surrender or run. There will be war. If she’s to survive to write their history, the indomitable Althea must soar higher than any god.


My thoughts: 3 Stars By Guest Blogger, Moonstones


I love Debbie Macomber. I am an avid reader of Debbie Macomber: I have never been disappointed or not enthralled by her books, ever. She writes of normalcy: of how our lives really work. She doesn’t throw us cheap “bodice ripper” novels, but books of thinking woman who have a life, a career: women who have aspirations and dreams: educated women who are working out their lives in their own way and in their own comfort zones, even though (as often happens) life throws them a curve. They fall in love, or not: they live and go on with their lives. Her books are almost always rich and rewarding reads. I say “almost always” because this book left me nonplused. I don’t know if it was the fact that I could not connect to the characters, the plot or the general theme of the book, but, to me at least, this was book was just not up to her standards. While I understand animosity and angst, I am forced to deal with it every day in my life. I must face people who gossip, misunderstand, and exaggerate every thing I do that displeases them. I have family members on both sides who do not understand me when I try to explain why I feel the way I do about some things. But I read to escape the trauma and drama of my everyday life. I suppose that, in a way, this book’s premise is very close to my daily life so, instead of it being a reprieve, an escape from the small-minded prejudice and animosity of my life, it plunged me headfirst into comparing the things going on in my life to the attitudes and prejudices (and outright misinterpretations) of the characters introduced in this novel. It disquieted me and made me anxious and agitated. When I read to escape my life, I don’t want to feel compelled to compare my tome of choice to my reality. This book is full of misunderstandings being fed by the secondary characters to the main characters. You want to reach in the pages and grab the trouble makers by the throat and shake them, saying “THAT IS NOT THE TRUTH!! That maybe YOUR truth but it is tainted by your anger and hatred!” When I close a book, I want to feel good: like something in that book made me a better person: helped me think another way or look at an issue in a different light. This one just hurt my heart. As I said, I love Debbie Macomber; this book just wasn’t to my liking.


A free copy was received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


 

Wings of Fury



Goodreads Description:


My mother told me that men would speak about the Golden Age as a time of peace and happiness for all… However, the women of our age would tell a very different story…


Cronus, God of Gods, whose inheritance is the world. Among his possessions: women, imprisoned and fated to serve. The strong-minded Althea Lambros controls her own fate and lives to honor her dying mother’s plea to protect her two sisters at all costs. Althea’s journey toward crushing the tyranny has begun. It is a destiny foretold by the Fates. And she is following their visions.


On the southern isle of Crete, hidden among mortal women who have fled the Titans, is the Boy God, son of Cronus and believed dead. He shares Althea’s destiny to vanquish the Almighty—fate willing. Because Cronus has caught wind of the plot. He’s amassing his own forces against Althea’s righteous rebellion and all those who will no longer surrender or run. There will be war. If she’s to survive to write their history, the indomitable Althea must soar higher than any god.


My thoughts: 4 Stars


I have been in a reading slump for quite some time now. Have I read good books? Of course! Have I read books that made me want to finish them quickly but also not want the story to end? Not in a while. This book has definitely brought me out of my reading dry spell. This is the first time I am reading a book by this author. I enjoyed her simplistic story telling. The description of the landscape is a bit bare, but it allows you to build the world up in your imagination. We already know the general setting, so it is easy to form landscaping from there.

The characters showed so much growth and were likeable from the start. The main character was a strong young woman who vowed to protect her sisters when she was only a child. She witnessed the death of a loved one the very night she takes that vow, and she does her best to live up to it. She has two sisters who she loves more than anything, and that love for each other will send them on a great, tiring journey together. They will have to learn how to trust other people, especially two men in particular, in order to survive.

In their world, women are owned, branded, and compelled to obey their husbands. They have no say in anything. They are stolen away from their families if they are beautiful and given to the god of gods as a lovely "gift" to the point where girls start scarring their faces to avoid being taken due to their beauty. The women also have to wear masks to hide their faces when out in public. This is not the world to live in if you are a woman. In this story, the three sisters learn the truth about their parentage and the gods that every serves. This is a quick page turner and I cannot wait for the next book to be released!


 

The Good Sister



Goodreads Description:


From the outside, everyone might think Fern and Rose are as close as twin sisters can be: Rose is the responsible one and Fern is the quirky one. But the sisters are devoted to one another and Rose has always been Fern's protector from the time they were small.


Fern needed protecting because their mother was a true sociopath who hid her true nature from the world, and only Rose could see it. Fern always saw the good in everyone. Years ago, Fern did something very, very bad. And Rose has never told a soul. When Fern decides to help her sister achieve her heart's desire of having a baby, Rose realizes with growing horror that Fern might make choices that can only have a terrible outcome. What Rose doesn't realize is that Fern is growing more and more aware of the secrets Rose, herself, is keeping. And that their mother might have the last word after all.


My thoughts: 3.5 Stars


This book was.... well, this book was actually really good! I am trying to branch out more with the type of books I pick up and read. This was one of those, "Well, let's give it a try!" reads. I was definitely not disappointed. The story focuses on twin sisters, Fern and Rose. Rose is seemingly normal and perfect from the outside, with the usual quirks that makes anyone their own unique person. Rose's POV take place in the journal that she keeps. She explores her and Fern's childhood and their mama drama. Rose is no afraid to get into the dark and horrible things that she experienced in her childhood. As an adult, her marriage is falling apart and she desperately wants a baby of her own.

Fern is a different type of person. She focuses on her immediate surroundings. She is sensitive to sounds, crowds, lights, etc. She enjoys her job as a librarian and has dinner with her sister at least three times a week. The two sisters have a close bond. One thing that always sticks in Fern's mind, however, is something tragic that happened in her childhood that she will never let herself forget. She does not trust herself because of this incident, and it keeps her from forming a bond with other people. One day, Fern discovers that her sister desperately wants a baby but is unable to have one of her own. Being the good sister that she is, she comes up with a plan to help her sister get that baby. What she does not realize is that by trying to help her sister have her dream baby, her whole world will start to unravel. Suddenly people are not who she thought they were. They have their own motives that she is not able to understand. What is a constant, however, is her job and her coworkers... and that guy with a funny hat that she bumps into one day while on the job who looks just a bit like Wally from "Where's Wally?"

This was an enjoyable read and I loved how the author weaved the story. There was definite character growth and the story became a bit disturbing (in the best way) near the end before the grand reveal.

 

The Lost Village



Goodreads Description:



The Blair Witch Project meets Midsommar in this brilliantly disturbing thriller from Camilla Sten, an electrifying new voice in suspense.


Documentary filmmaker Alice Lindstedt has been obsessed with the vanishing residents of the old mining town, dubbed “The Lost Village,” since she was a little girl. In 1959, her grandmother’s entire family disappeared in this mysterious tragedy, and ever since, the unanswered questions surrounding the only two people who were left—a woman stoned to death in the town center and an abandoned newborn—have plagued her. She’s gathered a small crew of friends in the remote village to make a film about what really happened.


But there will be no turning back.


Not long after they’ve set up camp, mysterious things begin to happen. Equipment is destroyed. People go missing. As doubt breeds fear and their very minds begin to crack, one thing becomes startlingly clear to Alice:


They are not alone.


They’re looking for the truth…

But what if it finds them first?


My thoughts: 3 Stars


That was a suspenseful story from the start. Alice and a crew of people she knows have finally found a way to go and visit a village that's story has been lost to time. Decades ago, the whole population of the village disappeared.. except one little baby. What Alice and her team does not realize is that this is one adventure they maybe should have passed on. It has been Alice's dream to go there ever since she was a little girl. She grew up listening to her grandmother's stories about the people and lifestyle of that village. It is an old mining town, but things turn dark quickly when a stranger moves in. Soon, the people of that little village, too small to have a train visit more than twice a week and hardly any vehicles to speak of, start changing. Things begin to turn dark and twisted. The time jumps smoothly between the past and present, letting the reader see what really happened back before everyone disappeared, along with Alice and her crew in the present trying to unlock the mystery of what really happened. The story is eerily delightful. This is a great read for anyone who likes easy suspense but that may keep them up late at night going, "Just one more chapter..." The story sucks you in and does not let go. You just have to know what happened and why. Alice and her team are not any different from the story line from the past. They are seeing figures, a crew member starts to lose their mind, mysterious things are happening and everything spirals out of control. There is no such thing as cellphone reception and are hours away from the next town by car. If anything sinister happens, they are on their own...and it is lurking just around the corner.

 

Queen of the Unwanted



Goodreads Description:


In the riveting sequel to the feminist fantasy epic The Women's War, the ability to do magic has given women control over their own bodies. But as the patriarchy starts to fall, they must now learn to rule as women, not men.


Alys may be the acknowledged queen of Women's Well--the fledgling colony where women hold equal status with men--but she cares little for politics in the wake of an appalling personal tragedy. It is grief that drives her now. But the world continues to turn.


In a distant realm unused to female rulers, Ellin struggles to maintain control. Meanwhile, the king of the island nation of Khalpar recruits an abbess who he thinks holds the key to reversing the spell that Alys's mother gave her life to create. And back in Women's Well, Alys's own half brother is determined to bring her to heel. Unless these women can come together and embrace the true nature of female power, everything they have struggled to achieve may be at risk.


My thoughts: 3 Stars


I want to start off by saying that I absolutely loved the first book. I could no wait for the second book to come out. Unfortunately, it took until now for me to find the time to read the second book. Thanks to the publisher, I have an early copy to the third book. I am thrilled! Now, on to the review of this book. This was a decent read. However, it did have quite a bit of the "middle book syndrome" where not all that much happened in the 592 pages. The story gets really good in the last 15-20% range. We get to really get to know the other characters in this book, along with some new ones. I especially liked one character in particular that is brought in later in the book that is viewed as unwanted and different, but who is really a treasure of a person. Our main characters are an Abigail at an abbey, Alysoon, and Ellen. All of these women are forced to make sacrifices in their own way for the good of all women living in their world today and in the future. As I mentioned before, it felt as if not much was going on, but there was actually quite a bit going on under the surface. The characters are more complex and have motives that the other characters are not able to figure out or even notice enough to see where it is going. As always, there are a couple love plot lines going on that change as the characters have to make difficult decisions and grow. Overall, I liked the book, but it was not my favorite so far in this series.


 

I, Cosmo



Goodreads Description:


A golden retriever narrates a hilarious, heart-tugging tale of a dog and his humans as he tries to keep his family together while everything around them falls apart.


Ever since Cosmo became a big brother to Max ten years ago, he's known what his job was: to protect his boy and make him happy. Through many good years marked by tennis balls and pilfered turkey, torn-up toilet paper and fragrant goose poop, Cosmo has doggedly kept his vow. Until recently, his biggest problems were the evil tutu-wearing sheepdog he met on Halloween and the arthritis in his own joints. But now, with Dad-scented blankets appearing on the couch and arguing voices getting louder, Cosmo senses a tougher challenge ahead. When Max gets a crazy idea to teach them both a dance routine for a contest, how can Cosmo refuse, stiff hips or no? Max wants to remind his folks of all the great times they've had together dancing -- and make them forget about the "d" word that's making them all cry. Told in the open, optimistic, unintentionally humorous voice of a golden retriever, I, Cosmo will grab readers from the first page -- and remind them that love and loyalty transcend whatever life throws your way.


My thoughts: 3 Stars


Every now and then you just need a sweet story about a dog. This story is about Cosmo, who is a very good boy. He loves his human, Max. Cosmo is an old dog in the beginning of the story (do not worry, there is not a sad ending). Max's uncle comes home from being honorably discharge from the military and gets Max and Cosmo involved in a dog/human dance group. The prize at the end of the sessions is a possible spot in a movie. Max and Cosmo quickly find motivation to want to win this competition and excel at this dog/human dance duo. There is tension building in the household and Cosmo is always there to comfort Max and help him through the pains of growing up and learning how complicated love can be. I simply loved how wholesome and sweet this story was. We get to see how Cosmo thinks and sees the world around him. Cosmo, despite his age, also learns a wonderful lesson at the end of this book. At times I just had to pull one of my own dogs close and ask him, "Is this how you would speak with human words if you could?" If you need a feel good story with a bit of true life difficulties to keep it real, this is a great and quick read.


 


Down Comes The Night



Goodreads Description:


He saw the darkness in her magic. She saw the magic in his darkness.


Wren Southerland’s reckless use of magic has cost her everything: she’s been dismissed from the Queen’s Guard and separated from her best friend—the girl she loves. So when a letter arrives from a reclusive lord, asking Wren to come to his estate, Colwick Hall, to cure his servant from a mysterious illness, she seizes her chance to redeem herself.


The mansion is crumbling, icy winds haunt the caved-in halls, and her eccentric host forbids her from leaving her room after dark. Worse, Wren’s patient isn’t a servant at all but Hal Cavendish, the infamous Reaper of Vesria and her kingdom’s sworn enemy. Hal also came to Colwick Hall for redemption, but the secrets in the estate may lead to both of their deaths.


With sinister forces at work, Wren and Hal realize they’ll have to join together if they have any hope of saving their kingdoms. But as Wren circles closer to the nefarious truth behind Hal’s illness, they realize they have no escape from the monsters within the mansion. All they have is each other, and a startling desire that could be their downfall.


Allison Saft’s Down Comes the Night is a snow-drenched romantic fantasy that keeps you racing through the pages long into the night.


Love makes monsters of us all.


I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


My thoughts: 3 Stars


This book had everything I could have wanted from it: gothic fantasy, a dark mystery, a bit of romance, a strong heroine. Wren is a young woman born to a cruel fate. Just about all young people are forced into active duty to the queen. They sacrifice themselves for a war that began generations before they were even born, and that war has no end in sight. Wren is a healer for the military. She is also a bit soft hearted .She wants to heal and help everyone. Her emotions often control her, and she is seen as weak for her compassion in her cruel world. While on duty one day, her compassion costs her everything she holds dear, and now she does not like the look of her future. She can live a life of horror, or she can run. When she receives a mysterious letter from a man from a country that has never involved itself in their war, she has a chance to change her fate. This simple piece of paper and her own difficult choices will help her grow into her full potential. Life will never be easy for her, and never has been easy for her, but at least now she will have a choice. Unable to please the queen, Wren takes a leap of faith and ends up in a dark mansion with a mysterious host and the last person she ever expected is the one she is charged with to heal. Not everyone is as they seem, with hidden agendas and dark desires. There is death in that house, and Wren is not quite sure who it will come for next.

 


The Wife Upstairs


Goodreads Description:


A delicious twist on a Gothic classic, Rachel Hawkins's The Wife Upstairs pairs Southern charm with atmospheric domestic suspense, perfect for fans of B.A. Paris and Megan Miranda.


Meet Jane. Newly arrived to Birmingham, Alabama, Jane is a broke dog-walker in Thornfield Estates––a gated community full of McMansions, shiny SUVs, and bored housewives. The kind of place where no one will notice if Jane lifts the discarded tchotchkes and jewelry off the side tables of her well-heeled clients. Where no one will think to ask if Jane is her real name.


But her luck changes when she meets Eddie Rochester. Recently widowed, Eddie is Thornfield Estates’ most mysterious resident. His wife, Bea, drowned in a boating accident with her best friend, their bodies lost to the deep. Jane can’t help but see an opportunity in Eddie––not only is he rich, brooding, and handsome, he could also offer her the kind of protection she’s always yearned for.


Yet as Jane and Eddie fall for each other, Jane is increasingly haunted by the legend of Bea, an ambitious beauty with a rags-to-riches origin story, who launched a wildly successful southern lifestyle brand. How can she, plain Jane, ever measure up? And can she win Eddie’s heart before her past––or his––catches up to her?


With delicious suspense, incisive wit, and a fresh, feminist sensibility, The Wife Upstairs flips the script on a timeless tale of forbidden romance, ill-advised attraction, and a wife who just won’t stay buried. In this vivid reimagining of one of literature’s most twisted love triangles, which Mrs. Rochester will get her happy ending?


I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


My thoughts: 3 Stars


I am an absolute fan of Jane Eyre. I try to read it at least once a year, I love it so much. Naturally, when I found what looked like a modern day retelling of this story, I just had to try to get a copy to read. There are a few similarities: Jane is an orphan, Eddie has a large house, a wife locked away, etc. That is where the similarities end. Jane is a dog walker in a rich neighborhood. She comes from nothing, has survived abusive foster homes, and loves to do a five finger discount of things that do not belong to her simply because she wants them. She takes what she wants and does not feel bad. Jane morphs herself to fit in with any situation, trying to control it and use it for her own benefit. She lives with a gross roommate who will cause her all kinds of trouble. One day, she catches the eye of Eddie. She thinks she has finally made it; large home, rich boyfriend, no more living with her scumbag roommate. Now she just needs to convince the neighborhood ladies she used to work for that she is one of them. What looks like a golden life and opportunity starts to not look so shiny rather quickly. Eddie is starting to change a bit each day. There's a darker side to him that she didn't notice before. Things start to not add up and her life and story is about to take a wild turn.

While I enjoyed this book, I will be sticking with my traditional Jane Eyre. The characters were hard to like in this rendition of the classic tale, but perhaps that is what the author was aiming for. The writing style was smooth and I enjoyed having different points of view occasionally. While I love the classics, this was nicely done and I know there are many out there who will adore this tale written by such a talented author.


 

The Forgotten Kingdom


Goodreads Description:


The story continues in The Forgotten Kingdom, the second book in the astonishing Lost Queen trilogy, already hailed as “Outlander meets Camelot” (Kirsty Logan) and “The Mists of Avalon for a new generation” (Linnea Hartsuyker).


AD 573. Imprisoned in her chamber, Languoreth awaits news in torment. Her husband and son have ridden off to wage war against her brother, Lailoken. She doesn’t yet know that her young daughter, Angharad, who was training with Lailoken to become a Wisdom Keeper, has been lost in the chaos. As one of the bloodiest battles of early medieval Scottish history scatters its survivors to the wind, Lailoken and his men must flee to exile in the mountains of the Lowlands, while nine-year-old Angharad must summon all Lailoken has taught her and follow her own destiny through the mysterious, mystical land of the Picts.


In the aftermath of the battle, old political alliances unravel, opening the way for the ambitious adherents of the new religion: Christianity. Lailoken is half-mad with battle sickness, and Languoreth must hide her allegiance to the Old Way to survive her marriage to the next Christian king of Strathclyde. Worst yet, the new King of the Angles is bent on expanding his kingdom at any cost. Now the exiled Lailoken, with the help of a young warrior named Artur, may be the only man who can bring the Christians and the pagans together to defeat the encroaching Angles. But to do so, he must claim the role that will forever transform him. He must become the man known to history as “Myrddin.”


Bitter rivalries are ignited, lost loves are found, new loves are born, and old enemies come face-to-face with their reckoning in this compellingly fresh look at one of the most enduring legends of all time.


I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


My thoughts: 4.5 Stars


I first fell in love with this series and author when the first book came out. As with many trilogies, the dreaded "middle child" book syndrome is something many readers worry about. Will the middle book just be a filler? Would it be better if it was simply a duology? In this case, no! The second book is just as wonderful as the first. There are multiple points of view, so we are able to see everything that is going on with all of our favorite characters instead of being stuck with just one. There is so much that happens with this book and there is never a dull moment. Just when a character is starting to go into a part of their tale that would be everyday, nothing special, type of story, the author switches point of view and keeps you on your toes. There is battle, different types and changing love, finding one's inner strength, finding a purpose, adapting to situations and so much more in this story. I cannot wait for the final book to come out, but at the same time dreading the end of this wild ride of a trilogy. If this author keeps getting better (which she has already shown great growth since the previous book), I do not know what I will do until she starts a new project. It is a very well done story and one that I will find myself revisiting over the years.

 

Ten Rules for Faking It



Goodreads Description:


What happens when your love life becomes the talk of the town?


As birthdays go, this year’s for radio producer Everly Dean hit rock-bottom.


Worse than the “tonsillectomy birthday.” Worse than the birthday her parents decided to split (the first time). But catching your boyfriend cheating on you with his assistant?


Even clichés sting.


But this is Everly’s year! She won’t let her anxiety hold her back. She’ll pitch her podcast idea to her boss.


There’s just one problem.


Her boss, Chris, is very cute. (Of course). Also, he's extremely distant (which means he hates her, right? Or is that the anxiety talking)?


And, Stacey the DJ didn’t mute the mic during Everly’s rant about Simon the Snake (syn: Cheating Ex).


That’s three problems.


Suddenly, people are lining up to date her, Bachelorette-style, fans are voting (Reminder: never leave house again), and her interest in Chris might be a two-way street. It’s a lot for a woman who could gold medal in people-avoidance. She’s going to have to fake it ‘till she makes it to get through all of this.


Perhaps she’ll make a list: The Ten Rules for Faking It.


Because sometimes making the rules can find you happiness when you least expect it.


I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


My Thoughts: 3 Stars


Where do I even begin with this book? It was amusing at times, sad at others, but always with a hint of hope underneath it all. Everly has just turned 30 years old. Her life is not how she may have always wanted it to be, between her parents on again off again marriage, her anxiety, her inability to find a significant other she feels passionately about, etc. Everly works at a radio station. She loves her job and her co-worker is her best friend. On the morning of her 30th birthday, she brings her boyfriend some coffee and a treat in the morning, only to find his secretary helping him do something other than take messages for him. With her birthday already in shambles, she goes to work. This day will be the beginning of a new adventure for Everly. After venting to her friend about her troubles with men and not knowing they were live on air, a new chapter begins for her. Men are more than willing to go out with her, and so her almost "bachelorette" radio reality and blog begins. Not all men were to her taste obviously. My memorable mention for the dates was for the following man. I, too, have a Lhasa Apso (Mr. Darcy is his name) that I love to dress up for holidays. This bachelor #1 would have been my choice, but he was simply not to Everly's taste. However, this guy would be perfect for me if he was real. My dogs are my life. Why can't this guy be real? "Oh, the pictures. There were so many pictures. By the time she'd seen his Lhasa Apso in a pumpkin costume, a dog-size Green Bay Packers jersey, and Christmas pajamas, she needed a refill on her drink. 'He sleeps on my bed. My last girlfriend didn't like sharing her pillow, so I've trained him only to use mine,' Corbin said.... I'm guessing that wouldn't be my issue, dude." While he was a hard pass, Everly was able to find a few suitable gentlemen for her radio show. As her journey continues with her ten rules for faking it progresses, she grows and comes to some great conclusions such as, "Even if it goes wrong, you have to try." Yes! A thousand times, yes! Say it louder for the people in the back! Another favorite was, "Just because it's hard doesn't mean it's not worth it." Everything in life that is worth having is not easy. A person has to work at what they want to achieve. Ugh. I just adored Everly so much. Her anxiety felt so real. Everyone feels anxious now and then. Some people have anxiety all of the time. No matter if you have hardly any anxiety or have it all of the time like Everly, you can feel for her. You can sympathize. While the plot itself may have been lacking in a few spots, I am still giving this book a 4 stars because I adored Everly and all of the good quotes I got from this book. Now to end with my favorite one, "I don't need to change who I am to feel good about myself, but I do need to push myself to be better. To be more."

 

When I Was You


Goodreads Description:


You meets Fatal Attraction in this up-all-night psychological thriller about a lonely empty-nester's growing obsession with a young mother who shares her name.


It all begins on an ordinary fall morning, when Kelly Medina gets a call from her son's pediatrician to confirm her upcoming "well-baby" appointment. It's a cruel mistake; her son left for college a year ago, and Kelly has never felt so alone. The receptionist quickly apologizes: there's another mother in town named Kelly Medina, and she must have gotten their numbers switched.


But Kelly can't stop thinking about the woman who shares her name. Lives in her same town. Has a son she can still hold, and her whole life ahead of her. She can't help looking for her: at the grocery store, at the gym, on social media. When Kelly just happens to bump into the single mother outside that pediatrician's office, it's simple curiosity getting the better of her.


Their unlikely friendship brings Kelly a renewed sense of purpose, taking care of this young woman and her adorable baby boy. But that friendship quickly turns to obsession, and when one Kelly disappears, well, the other one may know why.


My Thoughts: 3 Stars


I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. When I Was you is a story about a woman who is unhappy in her marriage to a man who has become a stranger to her. He works away from home and only comes to visit on the weekends...sometimes. After becoming an empty-nester, Kelly tries to find new hobbies. She works out more with her friend and goes out to lunch. She has become involved with organizing her kitchen cabinets and labeling everything. Sounds like a rather boring life, right? But things start hinting that not everything is as simple as it first appears. There are hints that something about Kelly's internal dialogue is not quite right. One morning, Kelly receives a phone call reminding her about her upcoming wellbaby visit. What? She does not have a baby! Her son is 19 years old and in college. Curious, she decides to find out who this other Kelly is that has her exact same name. What starts out as curiosity quickly progresses into obsession. The other Kelly is a young single mother and the two Kelly's with the same name soon become entangled in plots and plans that cause terrible trouble in the end. No one is as innocent as they seem.

This sounds like an exciting story, but honestly? Nothing really happens. Sure, you see Kelly spiraling out of control a bit, but the story goes at a rather leisurely pace. It was an okay read for me that others have adored. As always, do not take my opinion and not try a book. You never know! You may just love it.

 

Her Lord of Death


Goodreads Description:


Enter into an ancient Greek world both harsh and beautiful, a place of gods and magic—and love worth every sacrifice.


With her uncle’s kingdom terrorized by a murderous creature, Kora reluctantly agrees to marry the one warrior capable of defeating it. Acheron is the champion of a neighboring king, one whose reputation precedes him—brutal, deadly, barely human.


But Kora soon discovers that Acheron is a more complicated man than his reputation suggests—and he just might be everything she’s been seeking all her life. Yet more is at play than the simple marriage alliance that Kora thought she was getting into. Behind this alliance lie the machinations of a sorcerous queen—one with her eyes on Kora’s unusual ability to see and speak with the dead.


Acheron, however, is not about to let anything happen to Kora, a woman of quiet beauty and hard truth, one who slips past his barriers and into parts of his heart that he’d thought long dead. He will face anything, even his worst nightmares, to protect her.


Author’s note: previously published under the pen name Kyla D. Knight. Contains adult content and dark themes.


I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


My Thoughts: 3 Stars


I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This was a heartbreaking tale about a man who was once a slave, and a woman who experienced the tragic loss of her parents and now feels the pull towards Hades. Acheron is the king’s champion. He had experienced horrible things in his life that have left him physically and mentally scarred. He has no intention of marrying and keeps everyone away emotionally. He’s known as a trained killer. Who wouldn’t be after his years fighting and killing for the pleasure of others? Kora is a sweet girl with a gift that is not accepted by others. She had a wonderful soul and enjoys helping those who are sick and injured. A queen with only her desires to think about causes Kora and Acheron to join together in a way neither one wants. The queen does not care who is hurt or killed, so long as her plan works. Acheron and Kora will go through many trials and much pain before the end of the story. Can they find affection or love? Can they overcome and destroy those who harm them? This was interesting, even if the scenes made one cringe when imagining it.

Warning: there is rape, slavery, questionable consent, etc.

 

The Long Road Home


Goodreads Description:


Bestselling novelist Danielle Steel takes us on a harrowing journey into the heart of America's hidden shame in a novel that explores the power of forgiveness, the dark side of childhood, and one woman's unbreakable spirit.


From her secret perch at the top of the stairs, Gabriella Harrison watches the guests arrive at her parents' lavish Manhattan townhouse. At seven, she knows she is an intruder in her parents' party, in her parents' life. But she can't resist the magic. Later, she waits for the click, click, click of her mother's high heels, the angry words, and the pain that will follow. Gabriella already knows to hide her bruises, certain she is to blame for her mother's rage--and her father's failure to protect her. Her world is a confusing blend of terror, betrayal, and pain. Her parents' aristocratic world is no safeguard against the abuse that knows no boundaries, respects no person, no economic lines. Gabriella knows that, try as she might, there is no safe place for her to hide.


Even as a child, her only escape is through the stories she writes. Only writing can dull the pain of her lonely world. And when her parents' marriage collapses, Gabriella is given her first reprieve, as her father disappears, and then her mother abandons her to a convent. There, Gabriella's battered body and soul begin to mend. Amid the quiet safety and hushed rituals of the nuns, Gabriella grows into womanhood in a safe, peaceful world. Then a young priest comes into her life.


Father Joe Connors never questioned his vocation until Gabriella entered the confessional and shared her soul. Confession leads to friendship. And friendship grows dangerously into love. Like Gabriella, Joe is haunted by the pain of his childhood, consumed by guilt over a family tragedy, for which he blames himself. With Gabriella, Joe takes the first steps toward healing. But their relationship leads to tragedy as Joe must choose between the priesthood and Gabriella, and life in the real world where he fears he does not belong, and cannot cope.


Exiled and disgraced, and nearly destroyed, Gabriella struggles to survive on her own in New York. There she seeks healing and escape through her writing again, this time as an adult, and her life as a writer begins. But just when she thinks she is beyond hurt, Gabriella is once again betrayed by someone she trusts. Brought to the edge of despair, physically attacked beyond recognition and belief, haunted by abuse in her present and her past, she nonetheless manages to find hope again, and the courage to face the past. On a pilgrimage destined to bring her face-to-face with those who sought to destroy her in her early life, she finds forgiveness, freedom from guilt, and healing from abuse. When Gabriella faces what was done to her, and why, she herself is free at last.


With profound insight, Danielle Steel has created a vivid portrait of an abused child's broken world, and the courage necessary to face it and free herself from the past. A work of daring and compassion, a tale of healing that will shock and touch and move you to your very soul, it exposes the terror of child abuse, and opens the doors on a subject that affects us all. The Long Road Home is more than riveting fiction. It is an inspiration to us all. A work of courage, hope, and love.




My Thoughts: 2 Stars


There have been numerous reviews written about this book over the years, but I would like to focus on Gabriella's despicable, spineless, pathetic, pitiful excuse for a father. Let us all pause and slow clap for this waste of oxygen. While he is not active in a vast majority of the book, whenever he is around, I find myself gritting my teeth in disgust. What type of man just watches his wife abuse their child like that? I will tell you; one that does NOT deserve children. I cannot go to far into this without revealing some major spoilers, but I would definitely not read this book again. I would throw it across the room if it wasn't a library book. Maybe I would even toss it into the bonfire during my next camping trip coming up. While Danielle' Steel's writing was great and inducing anger in me, I do not exactly enjoy feeling that way. I am a chill person. I like being happy. I was definitely not happy when reading this book. Steel did everything in her power to destroy and torment this character beyond what most people would not be able to endure. At least Gabbie got a happy ending right? Rather unbelievable, if you ask me. I read a more recent book of hers lately that I enjoyed. Perhaps the writing style of her older novels simply are not for me. I will stick with her more recent novels if the mood strikes me. I knew this was going to be a bumpy ride when I first picked this book up from the library, and it definitely lived up to my expectations. I always try a book whether or not the reviews are amazing or horrible. You never know, right? This was simply not the story for me. It was too gruesome. What makes it worse is that I cannot stand people who stand by and see something like this happening to a child without stepping in. Let's end this confusing review that keeps going off into multiple directions of angst and simply go with this: this was not my favorite book. Steel did a good job making me feel furious and fired up, so kudos there. The story was simply not for me. Happy reading!


 

Royal


Goodreads Description:


In this spellbinding tale from Danielle Steel, a princess is sent away to safety during World War II, where she falls in love, and is lost forever.


As the war rages on in the summer of 1943, causing massive destruction and widespread fear, the King and Queen choose to quietly send their youngest daughter, Princess Charlotte, to live with a trusted noble family in the country. Despite her fiery, headstrong nature, the princess's fragile health poses far too great a risk for her to remain in war-torn London.


Third in line for the throne, seventeen year-old Charlotte reluctantly uses an alias upon her arrival in Yorkshire, her two guardians the only keepers of her true identity. In time, she settles comfortably into a life out of the spotlight, befriending a young evacuee and training with her cherished horse. But no one predicts that in the coming months she will fall deeply in love with her protectors' son.


She longs for a normal life. Far from her parents, a tragic turn of events leaves an infant orphaned. Alone in the world, that child will be raised in the most humble circumstances by a modest stable manager and his wife. No one, not even she, knows of her lineage. But when a stack of hidden letters comes to light, a secret kept for nearly two decades finally surfaces, and a long lost princess emerges.


I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


My Thoughts: 3 Stars


First, I will start off with this warning: if you are not horse crazy like I am, then this is probably not the book for you. This year I read my first Danielle Steel book. When I saw this one coming out, I was excited to receive an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Charlotte is a princess, third in line to the crown, and longs to help with the war efforts and tasks just as her two older sisters do. Due to her health, her parents are firm about not letting her do her duties and send her away to the country for her safety. She is unhappy at first, but with the bombings, her parents simply do not want to risk it. Charlotte expects to return home in a year once she is 18 years old, but her future is not what she planned. While staying on an aging estate, she meets a fellow young lady of a similar age to her. Here, she finds love and encounters death and sadness. The other young lady who stayed at the estate one day decides to take her savings and leave with an orphaned baby and make a life for herself. She holds a secret close and guards it like a dragon would it's gold. Finally, one day it is time for the truth to emerge. When the truth comes out about the child, everything will change for her family and the child.

There is romance in this story, but it is not as heavy as one would expect at first. A large portion is about horses and the love of those beautiful creatures. There is also a time where a character has to make a decision; follow their heart and keep their dream or give up the person they love and forget their life dream. It was a fast read and the horse racing was thrilling! I definitely recommend this book for those who like light to medium gentle romance with a ton a of amazing horses!

 

Girl, Serpent, Thorn



Goodreads Description:


A captivating and utterly original fairy tale about a girl cursed to be poisonous to the touch, and who discovers what power might lie in such a curse...


There was and there was not, as all stories begin, a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. But for Soraya, who has lived her life hidden away, apart from her family, safe only in her gardens, it’s not just a story.


As the day of her twin brother’s wedding approaches, Soraya must decide if she’s willing to step outside of the shadows for the first time. Below in the dungeon is a demon who holds knowledge that she craves, the answer to her freedom. And above is a young man who isn’t afraid of her, whose eyes linger not with fear, but with an understanding of who she is beneath the poison.


Soraya thought she knew her place in the world, but when her choices lead to consequences she never imagined, she begins to question who she is and who she is becoming...human or demon. Princess or monster.


I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.



My Thoughts: 3.5 Stars


Actual rating is 3.5 stars. I enjoyed the story line and the characters (who had such lovely sounding names!). What I was not certain about at first was the narrator's voice. She did not seem like she would be a good fit at first for this type of story, but as the characters came in and she added accents, she ended up being brilliant for this role! Each character had a distinctive voice that was easily recognizable and the accents brought the characters to life. The story moved at a good pace and kept going without too many spots where the story was in danger of dragging. It was a combination of quite a few fairy tales and it was not easy at times to always pick out where everything came from, which is what I like to see in a retelling. I do not want to give anything away to those who have not had the chance yet to read it, but it is definitely a story to check out and read when you have a chance. There is so much growth with not only the main, but all of the characters as well. They do not feel two dimensional and it is not your typical YA novel with the cookie-cutter plot. There are beautiful gardens, a poisonous princess, secrets, lies, stories, battles, good guys who are bad and vice versa. It's simply brilliant!

 

The Silent Companions


Goodreads Description:


When newly widowed Elsie is sent to see out her pregnancy at her late husband's crumbling country estate, The Bridge, what greets her is far from the life of wealth and privilege she was expecting . . .


When Elsie married handsome young heir Rupert Bainbridge, she believed she was destined for a life of luxury. But with her husband dead just weeks after their marriage, her new servants resentful, and the local villagers actively hostile, Elsie has only her husband's awkward cousin for company. Or so she thinks. Inside her new home lies a locked door, beyond which is a painted wooden figure--a silent companion--that bears a striking resemblance to Elsie herself. The residents of The Bridge are terrified of the figure, but Elsie tries to shrug this off as simple superstition--that is, until she notices the figure's eyes following her.


A Victorian ghost story that evokes a most unsettling kind of fear, this is a tale that creeps its way through the consciousness in ways you least expect--much like the silent companions themselves.



My Thoughts: 4 Stars


The Silent Companions was an incredibly eerie, heebie jeebie inducing, something going bump in the night type of story. Elsie is a new bride... and a new widow. Pregnant with her deceased husband's child, she is on her way to his ancestral home where he has died without warning. Her new beginning on this backwoods, superstitious town does not start well. Her carriage wheel gets stuck, there is ankle deep mud and muck, a random cow, and unfriendly people who live in the town with rundown homes. What she does not know is that this first impression will be the most positive experience she has for her entire time living in her new environment. Stuck with her late husband's cousin Sarah, the two women will need to form a bond in order to survive what the future holds for them. After the ordeal of her husband's funeral, things suddenly go downhill fast for Elsie and the household. There are too many secrets hidden in the house, and this house holds a grudge.

"Hiss. Hiss."

Strange sounds start up during the night and Elsie is determined to find out what is the source. Is it rats? Is it something worse? The answer lies behind a locked door in the garret, but that door opens mysteriously one day before the locksmith comes to fix it. Inside, Sarah, Elsie and the lovely black cat find something that will haunt them the rest of their days. Sarah finds two diaries from a previous wife that lived in the house a couple hundred years ago. That diary will be the key to figuring out what is going on and if it is madness overtaking them, or if there truly is something haunting this old house. Elsie is not as fortunate in her findings. There are companions, wooden cutouts of realistic painted people, in the attic.

This story spans the time of Elsie in her current day living in an asylum and the doctor who is determined to cure her and get her sent to trial, Elsie as a new widow, and a past woman who was married to the heir of the house back in the 1600's. All three story lines tie together beautifully, making the story flow evenly. I am not one to get creeped out while reading a story, but this author did an amazing job. At one point I had goosebumps and, thankfully for the mask that kept my facial expression hidden, I am sure a horrified look on my face. This is a book that will definitely stick with a person long after they put it down.

 

The Hero of Hope Springs



Goodreads Description:


Will Gold Valley’s most honorable cowboy finally claim the woman he’s always wanted?


For as long as brooding cowboy Ryder Daniels has known Sammy Marshall, she has been his sunshine. Her free spirit and bright smile saved him after the devastating loss of his parents and gave him the strength to care for his orphaned family. Only Ryder knows how vulnerable Sammy is, so he’s kept his attraction for his best friend under wraps for years. But what Sammy’s asking for now might be a step too far…


Something has been missing from Sammy’s life, and she thinks she knows what it is. Deciding she wants a baby is easy; realizing she wants her best friend to be the father is…complicated. Especially when a new heat between them sparks to life! When Sammy discovers she’s pregnant, Ryder makes it clear he wants it all. But having suffered the fallout of her parents’ disastrous relationship, Sammy is wary of letting Ryder too close. This cowboy will have to prove he’s proposing out of more than just honor…


I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.



My Thoughts: 3 Stars


I am not normally one for reading romance novels, but now and then it is nice to wander off into a different genre for a short visit. I love cowboys/ranchers (by the way, Ryder is technically a rancher, not a cowboy. It is not the same thing) and I was able to go visit a wide open ranch in my imagination since the whole Covid thing is really putting a damper on the whole traveling experience this year. Ryder and Sammy have been friends for 17 years. Sammy comes from an abusive family while Ryder and his siblings/cousins have had to find their way through the years after the early death of their parents. Sammy's bond with Ryder and his family is strong, but one day the type of bond starts to change. Sammy is a free spirit and does not like labels or being tied down. After an argument with her mother, Sammy decides she wants a baby for her own various reasons. Ryder gets pulled into her plans and before they know it, their friendship changes and goes into a gray area that is the precursor for change. I do not want to spoil anything for people who have not read the book, but it was a decent, fast read with romance and serious growth in Sammy and Ryder's characters. I enjoyed the growth, put Sammy's reasoning seemed flaky at best and did not make sense. The ending dragged a bit, but overall was a good read.


I received a free copy from the publisher Harlequin in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts are my own and are not swayed by the early copy.



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