Wednesday, August 16, 2017

I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi

A story from debut author Abby Fabiaschi that is "as absorbing as it is illuminating, and as witty as it is heartbreaking."

Maddy is a devoted stay-at-home wife and mother, host of excellent parties, giver of thoughtful gifts, and bestower of a searingly perceptive piece of advice or two. She is the cornerstone of her family, a true matriarch...until she commits suicide, leaving her husband Brady and teenage daughter Eve heartbroken and reeling, wondering what happened. How could the exuberant, exacting woman they loved disappear so abruptly, seemingly without reason, from their lives? How they can possibly continue without her? As they sift through details of her last days, trying to understand the woman they thought they knew, Brady and Eve are forced to come to terms with unsettling truths.

Maddy, however, isn’t ready to leave her family forever. Watching from beyond, she tries to find the perfect replacement for herself. Along comes Rory: pretty, caring, and spontaneous, with just the right bit of edge...but who also harbors a tragedy of her own. Will the mystery of Maddy ever come to rest? And can her family make peace with their history and begin to heal?

Upon receiving this book, I couldn’t wait to start reading this book. When I started the first chapter, I was immediately drawn into it. I wasn’t sure what I was reading, the way “Maddy” was explaining about having found the perfect candidate to put into her husband’s and daughter’s life had me a little confused at first. I wasn’t sure if “Maddy” was already dead or if she was sleeping and deciding what she was hoping to accomplish once she died. When I read the summary on the back cover I already knew that she died, but then starting the story, I was surprised at the way it started. While I was expecting the story to start completely different than it did, I was caught up in I Liked My Life already.

 I hadn’t planned to read 4 chapters in one sitting, but I was glad I did. I love how Abby Fabiaschi could draw me in to the story so quickly. I loved how much emotion the author put into each character and could make me feel it just by reading about them and what they were going through. I felt a lot of sadness and uncertainty with “Brady” and I felt a lot of mixed emotions, but sadness and anger the most with “Eve”; I could imagine if I was going through a tragedy like that and trying to move on exactly how I would feel during that terrible time. I really liked how although “Maddy” was dead she still had a lot of emotion and say-so in what was going on with her family. Although “Maddy” had died I was still able to put myself in her shoes and feel the same feelings she did and I was rooting for her just as much as I was for her husband and daughter. I loved how concerned “Maddy” was for them even beyond the grave.

     I liked how involved “Maddy” was in everyone else’s life too not just her husband’s and daughter’s. The way I was wrapped up in I Liked My Life, I felt like it could be an actual movie or something that was happening to someone who was close to me. By the last 2-3 chapters of the book, I was both surprised and happy at the same time. I was surprised because I thought I already knew the details about what had happened to “Maddy” and then it seemed to me like the plot did a 180 degree turn and ended a little different than I thought it would. 

I was happy as well because I thought that although things weren’t as they seemed everything worked out for everyone and it seemed like “Brady” and “Eve” were able to move on and find happiness again. I really liked the way Ms. Fabiaschi separated the chapters. It made it easier to follow along by knowing who which character was speaking or had the spotlight at any given point. I wish more authors would do that, sometimes it gets confusing trying to remember which character is “talking” at any certain point. I think a lot of readers who like Jodi Picoult will enjoy reading this author too. I give I Liked My Life a 10 and Abby Fabiaschi a 10! I can’t wait to read more of her books, I hope they’re all as good as this one was.

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. Tiffany

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Good Widow by Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke

Elementary school teacher Jacqueline “Jacks” Morales’s marriage was far from perfect, but even in its ups and downs it was predictable, familiar. Or at least she thought it was…until two police officers showed up at her door with devastating news. Her husband of eight years, the one who should have been on a business trip to Kansas, had suffered a fatal car accident in Hawaii. And he wasn’t alone.

For Jacks, laying her husband to rest was hard. But it was even harder to think that his final moments belonged to another woman—one who had left behind her own grieving and bewildered fiancĂ©. Nick, just as blindsided by the affair, wants answers. So he suggests that he and Jacks search for the truth together, retracing the doomed lovers’ last days in paradise.

Now, following the twisting path of that fateful road, Jacks is learning that nothing is ever as it seems. Not her marriage. Not her husband. And most certainly not his death… 

I was immediately hooked with the story after only reading the first two chapters. I was a little confused with the first chapter, but I knew I wanted to find out who the couple was and what her secret was. Once I finished the second chapter I was wanting to find out the answer to “Jacqueline’s” question regarding her husband. I felt bad for “Jack’s” but at the same time I caught myself laughing at the question itself. 

I felt like everything “Jack’s” knew about her life and depended on were taken away from her and flipped her entire world upside down and she had to learn how to get her life back and learn a new way of moving on. I loved how “Jack’s” wasn’t the only person whose world was turned upside down, by the information about her husband’s death. I felt bad for “Nick” as well because his life was turned upside down as well. I loved that “Jacks” and “Nick” could help each other through their difficult time and find out exactly what happened to their other halves.

     I really loved how the story was written; I like that the story was written in 1st person, from the main character point of view. I honestly felt like I could see and experience everything “Jacqueline” was doing and going through. It made it an easy read and I loved how involved I felt in the investigation that her and “Nick” were doing. 

I really like how Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke broke up the chapters, with before/after and then with the character’s name that that certain chapter is more centered around. I love these types of stories that deal with mysteries and a family or husband and wife. I thought this was a great book and a quick and wonderful story. I give The Good Widow an 9 and Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke a 9.5 out of 10.

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Tiffany

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Clockwork Samurai (The Gunpowder Chronicles #2) by Jeannie Lin

As a physician, Jin Soling can see that the Emperor is cracking, relying on Opium to drown his troubles. The Ch’ing Empire is failing, and war with the British is imminent, but the man to whom Soling was once engaged has a bold idea to save it.

A leader within the Ministry of Engineering, Chang-wei suggests an alliance with Japan, whose scientists claim to have technical advancements that could turn the tide of the war. But Japan has kept itself in isolation for the last two hundred years, cutting all diplomatic ties with the Ch'ing Empire. Chang-wei must enter the island nation in disguise to seek an alliance—an alliance forbidden by the Japanese shogunate.

Seeking to escape the politics of the imperial court, Soling arranges her own passage on the airship to Japan. But once they land, Chang-wei and Soling become targets of the shogunate's armored assassins. Caught between two empires, in a land distrustful of foreigners, the deadly war machines are the least of their worries... 

 In Clockwork Samurai by Jeannie Linn, the reader is thrown back to China in the mid 1800s.  Being a female physician is a challenge during this time.  Jin Soling has the added challenge of serving the Emperor of the Qing Dynasty.  While serving the Emperor’s large harem, Jin navigates the difficult world of palace politics.  The Empire is in trouble with an opium epidemic and a potential war with the Yangguizi. 

            Jin Soling’s old love, Cheng Chang-Wei, reappears to serve the Emperor.  As a leader in the Ministry of Engineering, he is interested in the technological advancements of the Japanese.  Despite the conflict between the two empires, Jin and Chang-Wei set off to attempt to negotiate between the two powers.  Unfortunately, the Shogunate is not on board with this plan.  With assistance from retired Samurai, other scientists, and a variety of other colorful characters, Jin and Chang-Wei work to get out alive.

            There is a great deal of history about China and Japan in this book, and it is more adventure story than romance.  The steampunk elements are great—the focus on accumulation of novel types of weapons, the mechanically enhanced soldiers, and the scientific bent of the characters.  While the focus is not on romance, Lin does not neglect the relationship of her two main characters.  Her characters subtly draw closer together over each book.  If you are looking for a fast, quick romance, this is not the book for you.

            I liked the first book in this series better than this one, but this was still an enjoyable romp.  This book was definitely an “on the road” novel where most of the time, the characters are travelling from one place to another.  It became a bit tedious toward the end, and I was ready for the resolution to happen.  I would still read a third book, even though this was not my favorite installment.  You really should read the books in this series in order to get the most enjoyment out of them.

            Jeannie Lin writes books that no one else is writing.  Her unique settings—both of time and place—make her novels interesting and fun.  If you are at all interested in steampunk, Clockwork Samurai is worth a read.

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Regina

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Whitefern (Audrina #2) by V.C. Andrews

The long-awaited sequel to My Sweet Audrina, one of V.C. Andrews’s strangest, most beloved books—and now a Lifetime movie! Whitefern swallowed Audrina’s childhood—and now the sprawling Victorian mansion threatens her adult life too… Audrina remembers a better time, when her husband, Arden, was a young man with a heart filled with devotion for her. He didn’t used to be this ambitious, expansive…this cruel. But then, the death of Audina’s father changed a great many things. When the reading of her father’s will reveals that Audrina herself will control fifty-one percent of the family brokerage—the halls of Whitefern again don’t feel safe. Arden’s protestations become frantic, nearly violent. And while Audrina didn’t anticipate running the family business, she’s curious to do so. And she can’t help but wonder what had made her father change his will at the last minute? What did he know about Arden that she didn’t? Trapped in the middle of it all: her fragile, simple sister—the beautiful, trusting Sylvia. Audrina promised her father she’d watch over the young woman. But after years of relative quiet, the dark days of Whitefern may have returned…

Audrina is married to Arden. When her father dies she must take care of the mansion “Whitefern”, the brokerage firm, and her sister Sylvia, who is special. Her father changed his Will and left things to Audrina and not Arden. Is there a reason? What does Audrina not know?

Sylvia wants to be in the rocking chair. This rocking chair brings flashbacks to Audrina of how her childhood was. It is said that the rocking chair is a way for Audrina and Sylvia to speak to their deceased father.

Can she handle the mansion as well as her past while taking care of the mansion and brokerage firm? Audrina must find a way to overcome her past and the secrets of the mansion that were dormant for some time. She has to find a way to deal with reality instead of letting the past take over the present time.

When things start to change Audrina must find the truth of the situation and what actually happened and how it happened. Will she be too late? Will she accept the reality?

This was a good read, a real page turner. There are twists and turns along the way. Just when I thought I had it figured out and what was going on there was sure to be another twist. A very well written book.

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Knevits

Monday, July 10, 2017

All Things New by Lauren Miller

Jessa has always felt broken inside, but she’s gotten very good at hiding it. No one at school knows about the panic attacks, the therapy that didn't help, the meds that haven’t worked. But when a severe accident leaves her with a brain injury and visible scars, Jessa’s efforts to convince the world that she’s okay finally crumble—now she looks as shattered as she feels. 

Fleeing from her old life in Los Angeles, Jessa moves to Colorado to live with her dad, where she meets Marshall, a boy whose kindness and generous heart slowly draw Jessa out of her walled-off shell and into the broken, beautiful, real world—a place where souls get hurt just as badly as bodies, and we all need each other to heal.

     I really liked the way All Things New started by having the main character “Jessa” narrating the story. Upon reading the first chapter I felt like I had just put the book down halfway through the story. I felt like “Jessa” was describing all the same experiences and emotions I had gone through at her age. While the story is a work of fiction and the characters aren’t real; I felt like the emotions and some of the situations could be real experiences (at least for some people.) I liked how Lauren Miller was able to incorporate real emotion into the character’s experiences and situations. While all authors put emotion into the stories they write; I felt like Lauren Miller succeeded in making me feel the same emotions as “Jessa” and at the same time I also felt a lot of sympathy for what she was having to go through.

     The two characters that I didn’t really care for were “Jessa’s” parents. I kept thinking that they were more into themselves and one-up each other. It seemed to me a few times that they didn’t really seem to care about what their daughter was going through. I thought it was sweet how “Marshall” really seemed like he was always trying to impress her. While he was able to break down the walls “Jessa” kept around herself he was able to help her at the same time to accept things the way they were. I felt bad that “Jessa” seemed to have a lot of trouble with her panic attacks and how she was having a lot of trouble trying to get used to her new reality. I think anyone who reads this story will feel sympathy for “Jessa” and will be able to see a little of themselves in her and her experiences.  I liked that the length of the chapters weren’t too long, but they weren’t too short either. I think the chapters were the right length especially for any young adults who read All Things New. Out of a 10 I give All Things New an 8.5 and Ms. Miller a 9. I think many young adult readers will love this story as well as many adults as well!

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Tiffany

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Dinner Party by Brenda Janowitz

This Passover Seder is not just any Passover Seder. Yes, there will be a quick service and then a festive meal afterwards, but this night is different from all other nights. This will be the night the Golds of Greenwich meet the Rothschilds of New York City.

The Rothschilds are the stuff of legends. They control banks, own vineyards in Napa, diamond mines in Africa, and even an organic farm somewhere in the Midwest that produces the most popular Romaine lettuce consumed in this country. And now, Sylvia Gold's daughter is dating one of them.

When Sylvia finds out that her youngest of three is going to bring her new boyfriend to the Seder, she's giddy. When she finds out that his parents are coming, too, she darn near faints. Making a good impression is all she thinks about. Well, almost. She still has to consider her other daughter, Sarah, who'll be coming with her less than appropriate beau and his overly dramatic Italian mother. But the drama won't stop there. Because despite the food and the wine, despite the new linen and the fresh flowers, the holidays are about family. Long forgotten memories come to the surface. Old grievances play out. And Sylvia Gold has to learn how to let her family go.

The Passover Seder is a big deal in many (if not most) Jewish households.  It is a time for families to gather together and celebrate the most important holiday of the year.  In The Dinner Party, by Brenda Janowitz, two families meet for the 
first time and this becomes a dinner both will not forget. 

         The Gold family is hosting the dinner.  Mother Sylvia is obsessively worrying over every detail because there will be special guests at this dinner.  Her daughter is dating one of the Rothschilds.  The Rothshilds are a rich, prominent family and Sylvia will do anything to impress them (including farming most of the cooking duties out to an avant-garde chef).  The boyfriend, Henry Rothschild, is pretty lazy.  He got expelled from college and has no job.  Becca Gold, his girlfriend, is the ambitious one and is attending medical school.  The disparity in their relationship is wide and deep.

         Another daughter, Sarah, is dating an Italian who manages to get his loud, overbearing mother invited to the dinner.  The big surprise with Sarah is that, despite her family’s desire that she marry a Jewish man, she has secretly married the Italian!  And his father is in jail!   Add a son who works for Doctors Without Borders and his surprise black girlfriend, and you have the makings for family drama. 

         I cannot say that I hated reading The Dinner Party.  There were parts that were interesting and I did enjoy reading about the family dynamic.  My problem is that there was no plot to this book.  Not one thing happened.  The family came to dinner---and each person had some personal drama.  That was it.  It did NOT inspire “great bursts of laughter”, contrary to the back cover review.  Overall, the book was boring. 

         Fans of angst-filled family drama might enjoy this one.

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Regina

Monday, June 19, 2017

A Place Called Grace by Fran Driscoll Roberts

To say that Leah McPhillen is unlucky in love would be an understatement. Every man she has ever loved has suddenly left her without explanation. When she finally meets a man who piques her interest, the date is interrupted by a horrendous crash, and Leah's father, Officer Liam "Phil" McPhillen, is blamed for it since he was the officer in pursuit of the stolen truck. Add to this a young cousin whose life is in danger and Leah McPhillen is about to find love, danger and intrigue in the little town of Ocean Shores, Mississippi.

A Place Called Grace by Fran Driscoll Roberts is a mess of a book.  I just finished it, and I am not at all sure about what I just read.  I am afraid this review is going to be a bit of a rant.
         1.  The book started with an abused child locked in a house.  She is starving and talking about her mother’s boyfriend, who is her abuser.  The child’s mother seems quite content to continue sleeping with this man.  The child has old cigarette burns on her feet.  She has no food.  Her grandmother lives THREE BLOCKS away.  Apparently, the grandma has tried to get custody of the child but to no avail.  Too bad, little abused child! This was completely unrealistic.  The child speaks of her abuse and fear.  Oh, I almost forgot!  He takes PICTURES of the little girl—not naked pictures, but provocative ones that he SELLS.  The little girl makes her way to Grandma’s house and is spirited away to another town.  While there, she runs away three times.  One time, she nearly drowns after being knocked down by a wave.  When she returns home, one of the relatives who “saved” her from her abuser threatens to “tear up her bottom”.  Really?  Really?

2.  The main character, a sad single lady, starts dating a man who she meets at a library.  He seems nice, and sad single lady goes to lunch with him.  A car crashes through the window.  It is occupied by two teenagers.  One dies.  The car was being chased by a policeman, who happens to be sad single lady’s FATHER.  The community mostly blames the cop for the wreck.  Cue nasty phone calls, poop left on the porch, etc.  The parents of the teenager who dies in the wreck are characterized as people who are just out for money during the trial of the officer.  There is no discussion whatsoever of the appropriateness of the characters’ actions.

3.  There is a Bible verse at the beginning of every chapter for no discernable reason.

4.  Toward the middle of the book, the cop dad starts working on an unsolved cold case involving two dead CHILDREN—who both have wrist tattoos.  Wait, what?  And they are obviously related to each other and there is probably a third victim.  This story line never goes anywhere.  Murders are not solved.  We have no idea who did it.

5.  Sad single lady has a best friend who is marrying the biggest douche in the world.  She is basically told not to say a word against the boyfriend and to just suck it up.  Best friend loves him—end of story.

6.  Sad single lady’s boyfriend has a dead wife that she did not know about and a shady business life.  He keeps both of these things from her.  She forgives him.  And then—MIRACLE!  He decides to get baptized (and proposes and gives bigger flowers to sad single girl).

7.  Add a sick relative, the abuser coming back to kidnap the girl, some discussions about why a cop likes a motorcycle rather than a car, and you have the sum total of this book.

This one gets a firm PASS from me.

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. Regina