Posted in book reviews

BOOK REVIEW: The Man She Married by Alison James

BOOK REVIEW: The Man She Married by Alison JamesThe Man She Married by Alison James
Published by Bookouture on January 13, 2020
Source: NetGalley, Bookouture
Goodreads
two-half-stars
Synopsis

How well do you know your husband?
Since Alice’s fiancé walked out on her, she never thought she’d meet ‘The One’. But all that changes when she meets Dominic. Handsome, charming and kind, Alice can’t believe her luck when he proposes a few months later and moves into her West London home.
Three years on, Alice’s catering business is thriving and she is married to a man she adores. So when she sees that little blue line, it should be the happiest moment of her life: they’re going to have a baby. But then the police knock on her door and Alice’s whole world is turned upside down… Dominic is dead.
Distraught, Alice goes to identify the body. There’s no doubt that it’s her husband. Yet when his estranged brother comes to view the coffin, he insists the man lying there is not Dominic. Alice refuses to believe it at first, but when confronted with irrefutable proof, she finally has to face the truth:
The man she married is not the person he said he was. And if he lied about that, what else was he hiding from her?


I received this book for free from NetGalley, Bookouture. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

I just want to begin this review by saying it’s entirely possible I’m missing something. At the time I began writing this review, the average rating for The Man She Married was 4.3 stars.

Unfortunately, it was a 2.5 star read for me.

I think I’m a pretty liberal reviewer. Most of the books I read get at least 3 stars for being “okay.” I don’t think that’s a bad rating. In my reviews, an okay/3-star book means it’s worth the read but it probably isn’t gonna knock your socks off. 4 stars means I loved it but that I found a few nit-picky things to knock a star off for…because I’m stingy with the 5 stars. So if I give something 5 stars, that’s because it blew me away and I either couldn’t find a bad thing to say about it or whatever bad I could say wasn’t bad enough to take even half a star from the book.

Not everyone is going to agree with me. Reviews are opinions and highly subjective. The Man She Married is apparently a great example of people not agreeing with me.

The Story:

Okay. I’m not normally one to keep reading a book I’m not enjoying. So obviously not awful.

I enjoyed the writing itself and my attention was held enough to get me through the book. And seriously… I absolutely loved this opening! It gave me chills!

“As I draw closer, I glimpse the tip of his nose against the pleated white satin of the coffin lining. The sight is so odd and other-worldly, it makes my head swim and the carpeted floor feel unsteady under my feet. My heart is pounding as I get close enough to see him; all of him.

I have no idea who gave the undertaker the suit and tie he’s wearing; I only know it wasn’t me. I take in the curve of his mouth, the sweep of hair from his forehead, the angles of his profile. On his left hand is a wedding ring. I remove my own wedding ring and drop it into the coffin.

The only thought in my mind is how this is like one of those riddles you find inside a Christmas cracker. Because the man lying inside my husband’s coffin is not my husband.

He’s a total stranger.”

So I went into this expecting to love it! But I didn’t really enjoy it until I was 88% done. I know this because I made a note that said “Okay now it’s getting good…here? At Part Three???? What the… “

I felt cheated.

Because the author can write. And she can tell a story. But this story didn’t work for me. It’s too unbelievable and predictable. I know that you go into the story knowing that Alice’s husband wasn’t who he claimed to be – it’s inferred in the title, it’s spelled out in the book description, and it’s literally on the first page. But did everything have to be so easy to see coming?

I really want to give examples, but I’m keeping this spoiler-free. That’s the really hard thing about thriller/mystery/suspense reviews – almost everything is a spoiler!

The Characters:

Ugh. Alice has got to be one of the most naive women to ever have not existed. There were about a billion warning signs about her husband that she flat out ignored. And it’s not because she’s led a totally sheltered life. She just ignores the obvious right in front of her. It’s not just with her husband, it’s with everything! I just couldn’t relate to her at all.

My favorite character was Alice’s best friend, JoJo. She may have saved this book for me. I just wish she’d have shown up on the page more often. She’s smart, funny, independent and wildly loyal and loving despite Alice’s oblivious-ness.

I wanted to murder-kill Alice’s husband, Dominic. Or at least smack him a few hundred times? Which is probably how I was supposed to feel so he’s a good villain.

Conclusion/Overall Impression:

Obviously, there are plenty of people who liked this book. But it’s just wasn’t a great read for me. The writing itself is good and I’d read another Alison James book but the characters killed this one for me. The last part of the book was enjoyable though.

What do you think? Have you read The Man She Married? Leave me a comment below!

two-half-stars
Posted in WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesday – February 12, 2020

Happy Wednesday Everyone! It’s time once again for WWW Wednesday ! WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words.


Don’t know what WWW Wendesday is or how to participate??? All you need to do is answer the following three questions and link back to Taking on a World of Words, or you can put your answers in the comments on her blog! (You can also leave your link in my comments to be sure I don’t miss your post!)

The three WWW questions are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

So let’s get started, shall we?

What am I currently reading?

Demelza: A Novel of Cornwall, 1788-1790 (The Poldark Saga #2)​​ by Winston Graham. I’m basically obsessed with the Poldark television series.​​ Every since I saw the first episode, my husband has had to hear me lament that I do not have the books and have not read them. So for Christmas, he gave me the entire set!! I blew through Book 1 in about 2 days (only because the kids required attention)​​ and I’m loving Book #2 just as much, although I haven’t been able to devote as much time to it as I wish. I’ll probably finish it up tomorrow though.

The Perfect Couple by Jackie Kabler. I have no idea about this one yet. I just started it this morning so you’ll have to check in later to find out how it goes. It’s about a woman who’s husband has disappeared and the police don’t believe her story when she reports him missing. I’ve been in a bit of a suspense/thriller mood lately apparently and this is right in line with that. I just hope it’s not as big a let down as most of the genre has been for me recently!

The Things We Cannot Say​​ by Kelly Rimmer. I’ve been listening to this one on audiobook and am​​ really enjoying it! I had to take a break from it though while I finished up​​ Code Name Hélène​​ by Ariel Lawhon. I never really thought I was much of a historical fiction junkie… okay, at least not historical fiction set during WWII… but lately I’ve really been getting into books set in this time period. It’s a big jump to this from the Tudor era historical novels I usually read. I’m super happy I took a chance and have found another time period that absolutely intrigues me like these are!

The Power of a Praying Parent​​ by Stormie Omartian. We’re going through this book in our women’s weekly bible talk on Wednesdays. For the most part, I’m liking it, but there are also some things I found completely upsetting and I just don’t agree with so I’ve gone back and forth on it. I might write a post after our group has finished the book just going through why I definitely wouldn’t recommend this book to another parent without a warning!​​ 

What did I recently finish reading?

Code Name Hélène​​ by Ariel Lawhon. Oh I cannot wait to share the review of this book with all of you! Just as soon as I can figure out the words to describe and gush about it,​​ I’ll be screaming to all of the universe about how absolutely amazing Nancy Grace Augusta Wake aka Madame Andree aka Lucienne Carlier aka Helene aka The White Mouse is!!!! I wish I could get everyone to read this book. I LOVED LOVED LOVED LOVED IT EVEN THOUGH IT BROKE MY HEART IN ABOUT A MILLION LITTLE PIECES MORE THAN ONCE!

What I’ll be reading next:

Siege of Eden

​​ 

Posted in book reviews

BOOK REVIEW: Home Girl by Alex Wheatle

BOOK REVIEW: Home Girl by Alex WheatleHome Girl by Alex Wheatle
Published by Black Sheep on September 3, 2019
Pages: 288
Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers Program
Goodreads
four-stars
Synopsis

This isn’t my home. Haven’t had a proper home since . . . This is just somewhere I’ll be resting my bones for a week and maybe a bit. This time next year you’ll forget who I am. I haven’t got a diddly where I’ll be by then. But I’m used to it.
New from the UK-based best-selling black British author and winner of the Guardian Children’s Book Award, Home Girl is the story of Naomi, a teenage girl growing up fast in the foster care system. It is a wholly modern story which sheds a much-needed light on what can be an unsettling life—and the consequences that follow when children are treated like pawns on a family chessboard.
Home Girl is fast-paced and funny, tender, tragic, and full of courage—just like Naomi. It is Alex Wheatle’s most moving and personal novel to date.


I received this book for free from LibraryThing Early Reviewers Program. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This book appealed to me on so many different levels. First, the description itself got me interested. But being a foster parent I’ve become more and more interested in stories telling the tale of both those in care and their carers. So when I got the notification I’d won a free ARC through Library Thing’s Early Reviewer program, I was super pumped! I just wish I’d been able to read it sooner!

Well, sort of…

I can’t get Naomi out of my head and have cried twice since finishing the book. Which is silly ’cause…fictional character!?!

Oh, well. Such is life when you live in fictional worlds, I guess. But this one definitely hit a little too close to home and forced me to deal with some of my own prejudices and issues as well.

The Story:

We’re introduced to Naomi, a 14-year-old white girl, as she’s being moved from her current foster placement. Her worker is trying to find her a new home but it’s proving difficult. While it’s not specifically addressed in the book, finding placement would be hard for no other reason than her age. But add to that she’s got attitude, a thick file, and that she’s being removed for accusing yet another of her carers of being a “prick fiddler,” and you’re looking at a kid who’s more likely to end up in a group facility than in a foster home.

It’s not right, but there it is.

So Naomi is giving her social worker a hard time while she’s trying to find an emergency placement for her. As a last resort, Naomi is placed with a black family on a temporary basis. Surprising to all…this is the best “home” Naomi has ever had and is the best fit for her. (Side note: As far as I know, we don’t have limitations or special classes or forms that have to be completed when accepting placement of a different race here. I’m guessing this is only a thing where the book takes place but it’s central to the story so felt it needed to be said here in the review.)

Colleen, her foster mom, spends hours on Naomi’s hair. She bonds with the two younger children in the house, and even when she acts up, Tony and Colleen are understanding. They don’t overreact and help her work through her issues.

And boy does Naomi have some issues! Her mother committed suicide. She was the one to find her and Naomi blames herself for not stopping her mother’s death. Afterward, she ends up caring for her alcoholic father at a time she desperately needed to be cared for herself and she had to grow up way too fast.

While I deeply enjoyed this read, it does have me questioning some of my own “issues.” The biggest one? Race in foster care. While staying with Tony and Colleen, Naomi has to deal with some prejudices about Tony and Colleen accepting a white placement when there are so many black kids who need a good home. I’m bi-racial and all of our placements have been bi-racial. While I don’t consciously think “I’m gonna say yes to this kid because we’re the same race,” I’m sure it does play a part. When we were taking time off but still receiving requests, there were times I had the thought “they’re white, someone is going to take them.”

Again, it’s not right. But there it is. I live in WV. There are a lot of white people. (And definitely more white foster parents than non-white foster parents. 🤷‍♀️)

The Characters:

People in foster care are complicated.

And I’m not just talking about the kids. The foster parents, the bio parents, the workers from every agency involved with the kids – even the judges and GALs – they’re ALL complicated. No matter how uncomplicated a life a person lived before getting involved in the foster care system (no matter how they became involved or what role they play(ed) in the system), once you get sucked in… COMPLICATED!!!

Life is a great big messy ball of one conflicting emotion and trial after another. It’s never-ending and there’s always something!

So for a writer to tackle a book like Home Girl, where they’ve got characters in every level of the system – kids, bio parents, foster parents, workers, secretaries, teachers, etc. – they’ve got to create some insanely complicated characters to deal with the complicated issues.

And I think that for the most part, Wheatle managed to do this.

I say for the most part because there were times when things were just unbelievable and characters didn’t react in a way I expected them to. Now, I understand that this is a book and part of why I love reading is that the characters get to do and say things I never could… but these weren’t always my fav characters.

For instance, while I loved Naomi, she could come across as TOO whiney and too self-involved. And the majority of other teen foster kids in the book act this way too. I know this is something that can happen with kids in care, but the opposite also happens. These kids are more aware of the world and what it can throw at them than most. So while they definitely can come across as selfish or too self-involved, it’s been my experience that kids in care (or who have been in care) have more compassion for others than those shown in Home Girl. It was kind of like the author went overboard on the “bad” kids. (Hope that made sense.)

I loved the adult characters!! Naomi’s worker was fabulous and I thought Tony and Colleen were great foster parents.

Conclusion:

Overall, I enjoyed Home Girl. It’s definitely worth the time reading. The story was great and I liked the writing, although the characters irked me at times. It wasn’t so much that it took me out of the story though, so there’s that. Since I’m one of those people who love character-driven stories and usually think the characters “make” the book, for me to say I loved it even though I didn’t love the characters is really saying something!

What do you think? Have you read Home Girl or do you think it’s something you’ll enjoy? Leave a comment below and/or find me on Twitter!

four-stars
Posted in Wrap-up

January 2020 Wrap-Up


Some of my favorite posts to read on other blogs are the monthly wrap ups so I’m excited to actually do one here! (Any feedback or suggestions on how I can improve these over the next few months would definitely be appreciated!)

One of my goals for 2020 is to post more consistently…I didn’t really manage to do that, although I did post more often than I had been so I guess that’s something!

I posted only four reviews the entire month! Click the links to read my thoughts on the following books:

Another goal I have is to post more about the audiobooks available I’ve narrated and/or the books I’ll be or I’m currently working on. I failed miserably since these are the only two audiobook posts I managed in January:

And the remaining few January posts were as follows:


So there you go.A summary of my January journey combing through the pages here on my little space of the internet. How was your January?

Posted in book reviews

BOOK REVIEW: Dragon Connection by Ava Richardson

BOOK REVIEW: Dragon Connection by Ava RichardsonDragon Connection (The Stone Crown Series Book 1) by Ava Richardson
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
five-stars
Synopsis

One crown can unite them—or destroy them all.

The three kingdoms lie splintered, their aging dragon riders content with stories of glorious battle victories. But a new evil creeps across the land. Inyene, a powerful noblewoman of the Northern Kingdom, plunders valuable resources to power mechanical dragons in her quest to gain a foothold in the Middle Kingdom. From there she will ascend the High Throne, once again uniting the realms under a single crown.

For the wearer of the Stone Crown can wield unlimited power—if it can be found.

Narissea has spent a quarter of her sixteen years slaving away in the mines, accused of a crime she didn’t commit. When word reaches her of the horrors assailing her village, Narissea knows she must act despite the risk. Already her arm is scarred with four brands signifying previous escape attempts. If she’s unsuccessful in her fifth, it will mean death.

But her life forever changes when she stumbles upon an injured dragon, discovers an ancient shrine, and learns the true purpose behind Lady Inyene’s mechanical abominations.

Now, Narissea has only one choice: gain Inyene’s trust and find a way to thwart her plans, even if it means sacrificing that which she desires most of all.

Her freedom.

This book contains violence.


I received this book for free from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

I haven’t read a whole lot of fantasy lately and I was feeling nostalgic for a good ol’ Dragon tale. When I stumbled upon Dragon Connection by Ava Richardson, I didn’t just find one such tale, but discovered an entire series I’m going to need to get caught up on!!

The Story:

 Dragon Connection tells the story of a time when most of the dragons have gone and with them, the Dragon riders. The land is being dominated by a vicious wannabe queen who is enslaving many free citizens under ridiculous charges. Narissea is one of the unfortunate souls taken from her homeland on trumped up charges and forced to work in the mines for the “queen”, Inyene.

Narissea has made multiple attempts to escape. She’s been promised by the overseers that her next attempt will be her last. No more branding her arm as punishment…death will put an end to her misery.

As further punishment for her latest failed prison break, Narissea is sent into treacherous territory to hunt for Dragon scales. She thinks her luck has turned for the better when she discovers more scales than anyone ever has! And not just any scales – these are black, large and fully intact. She follows the trail and eventually finds herself in a precarious situation,which is made all the more deadly when find herself face to face with a living,breathing,black Dragon!

Narissea has no idea how the connect made that day will change her life – and possibly the lives of her people.  When she returns from her punishment/adventure, she’s in even more danger than before.

The Characters:

I fell in love with almost every character in this book! Narissea, her “uncle”, her best friend Oleer – even the queen’s brother, Abioye. And of course I grew quite attached to the mage, Montfre! I’ve got a special place in my heart for mages and dragons. I can’t wait to start the next book in the Stone Crown series to see where their story goes from here!

Conclusion:

Dragon Connection by Ava Richardson is a fun, exciting, and emotional read. I recommend it to anyone who loves stories with dragons!

five-stars
Posted in book reviews

BOOK REVIEW: The Socialite by J’nell Ciesielski

BOOK REVIEW: The Socialite by J’nell CiesielskiThe Socialite by J'nell Ciesielski
Published by Thomas Nelson on April 14, 2020
ISBN: 0785233547
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 368
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
five-stars
Synopsis

Glamour, treachery, and espionage collide when an English socialite rushes to save her sister from the Nazis.As the daughter of Sir Alfred Whitford, Kat has a certain set of responsibilities. But chasing her wayward sister, Ellie, to Nazi-occupied Paris was never supposed to be one of them. Now accustomed to the luxurious lifestyle that her Nazi boyfriend provides, Ellie has no intention of going back to the shackled life their parents dictate for them--but Kat will stop at nothing to bring her sister home.
Arrested for simply trying to defend himself against a drunken bully, Barrett Anderson is given the option of going to jail or serving out his sentence by training Resistance fighters in Paris. A bar owner serves as the perfect disguise to entertain Nazis at night while training fighters right below their jackboots during the day. Being assigned to watch over two English debutantes is the last thing he needs, but a payout from their father is too tempting to resist. Can Barrett and Kat trust each other long enough to survive, or will their hearts prove more traitorous than the dangers waiting around the corner?


I received this book for free from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

So I was browsing NetGalley and had been in a historical fiction kind of mood when I saw the cover for The Socialite by J’nell Ciesielski. I don’t know what it was, but I fell in love with that cover and knew I’d be requesting it no matter what it was about! (This is a super bad habit I’m finding myself doing way too often lately.) I’m actually thinking about doing a monthly series titled “I Chose A Book by its Cover and…” But that’s a post for another day.

Basically, the cover drew me in and the description sealed my fate. I HAD TO READ THIS BOOK! So I did (obviously) and I loved it!

The Story:

The Socialite is about two English debutantes who find themselves in occupied France during World War II.

Kathleen Whitford has convinced her father to allow her to travel into Paris in order to retrieve her younger sister, who has run away with a Nazi officer. Kathleen is a mix of bravery, cowardice, strength, sarcasm, wit and naivety all rolled up into one very complicated woman. Of course, it’s not so easy to tell all that when we’re first introduced to her, as she’s about to sneak her way into a party teeming with German soldiers. When it’s revealed the hostess of this get together is Kat’s sister, Eleanor Whitford, my jaw literally dropped open!

Eleanor believes she’s found the perfect man in Major Eric von Schlegel. Despite his Nazi ideology, Eleanor is convinced he’s a good man who will care for her in a way she has never been loved before. So, of course, she’s not interested in going back with Kat to their father’s house, where she’s expected to live by high society standards. She resents that Kat always does what’s expected of her and never seems to just let go.

Kat’s world is further turned upside down by the introduction of Barrett Anderson, a Scottish bar owner she meets as he is also crashing the Nazi party her sister is throwing during Kat’s first night in Paris. Barrett is also living a very complicated life and he and Kat are drawn to each other for multiple reasons…none more interesting/disturbing than the hidden fact that Barrett is working for Kat and Ellie’s father.

Barrett views Kat in much the same light her sister does and he’s pretty uncompromising:

And you always follow the rules, don’t you? No matter who gives them or for what reason. My guess is you don’t ask the reason. You simply obey.

Barrett Anderson, The Socialite by J’nell Ciesielski

As the story unfolds, Kat, Ellie and Barrett are all shown to be more than meets the eye. And the trio end up trying to escape the Nazis together among multiple twists and turns that come together to create an amazing story I can see myself reading over and over again!

The Characters:

This is a novel where the characters really make it a memorable, wonderful read. They’re well developed and likable. I even found myself at I’ve point not completely hating evil Eric!

I think it’s speaks a lot to the writing itself that the author was even able to get these characters to a dinner with Hitler and make it believable. In fact, dinner with Hitler was one of my favorite scenes!

My favorite stories are always those where the people and places stick with me for years. The characters in The Socialite are definitely going to do that!

Conclusion:

If I haven’t already made it clear, let me just wrap up this review by saying I absolutely loved reading The Socialite by J’nell Ciesielski and definitely recommend picking it up if you’re looking for some historical fiction! It’s way more than just a pretty cover!

five-stars