Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo

He was the first person to inspire her, to move her, to truly understand her. Was he meant to be the last?

Lucy is faced with a life-altering choice. But before she can make her decision, she must start her story—their story—at the very beginning.

Lucy and Gabe meet as seniors at Columbia University on a day that changes both of their lives forever. Together, they decide they want their lives to mean something, to matter. When they meet again a year later, it seems fated—perhaps they’ll find life’s meaning in each other. But then Gabe becomes a photojournalist assigned to the Middle East and Lucy pursues a career in New York. What follows is a thirteen-year journey of dreams, desires, jealousies, betrayals, and, ultimately, of love. Was it fate that brought them together? Is it choice that has kept them away? Their journey takes Lucy and Gabe continents apart, but never out of each other’s hearts.

     Upon getting this book, I couldn’t wait to read this book. But upon reading the summary on the back cover I was a little unsure if I would like the story or not. I liked this story, but I had a hard time keeping it straight which character was “talking” at that point in the story. I found I could really get into the story every time I was able to pick it up. I was just a little confused on the characters each time and it would take me a little bit more time to read but I still enjoyed the book, I really liked the characters I found them to both interesting; both whenever they were together and as individuals.

     I really liked how the author organized the story and the way she made the story seem reminiscent to One Day (book & movie.) One of the things I do think would have helped me be able to follow the book easier is if there were sections/areas where it was mentioned who was supposed to be “talking” or “remembering.” I really liked the way the 2 characters intertwined over the course of 13 years; I found it an odd number, but figured maybe it could be Ms. Santopolo’s lucky number and that’s why she had written it that way. I really like the way Ms. Santopolo wrote the story, I just think it would have been easier to read if I knew which character was “talking” at that moment. I give The Light We Lost an 8 out of 10 and Jill Santopolo a 9 out of 10.

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

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Lola by Melissa Scrivner Love

The Crenshaw Six are a small but up-and-coming gang in South Central LA who have recently been drawn into an escalating war between rival drug cartels. To outsiders, the Crenshaw Six appear to be led by a man named Garcia . . . but what no one has figured out is that the gang's real leader (and secret weapon) is Garcia's girlfriend, a brilliant young woman named Lola. 

Lola has mastered playing the role of submissive girlfriend, and in the man's world she inhabits she is consistently underestimated. But in truth she is much, much smarter--and in many ways tougher and more ruthless--than any of the men around her, and as the gang is increasingly sucked into a world of high-stakes betrayal and brutal violence, her skills and leadership become their only hope of survival. 

Lola is a 26 year old from Huntington Park, a predominately Latino lower income city adjacent to South Central L.A. After a drug deal goes bad, she is given two days to find the cartel’s cash and heroin before they kill her. She also inherits or maybe even borderline kidnaps a young girl. 

Turns out that this young girl is in the same situation that Lola was in when she was younger; being pimped out by her junkie mom for a fix. No one knows that she’s the actual leader of the local gang called the Crenshaw Six. She is a boss dealing with being a woman and a minority in a male and while dominated field/city. The story does a great job of capturing real life details. This give readers a truer understanding of a different culture who literally lives only just 10 minutes away from the ‘liberal westside’. 

My only complaint (and I understand that I am only nit picking) is where did the gang name come from given that the street Crenshaw is nowhere near their city of Huntington Park? Other than that, it’s a very well written book from this first time author. You’ll also enjoy this book if you are a fan of Michael Connelly and other writers who base their stories in Los Angeles. Serendipitously, I just started watching a TV drama called Life for which this author happened to be listed as a screenwriter.  

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

Friday, September 8, 2017

Just the Thing (The Donnigans #2) by Marie Harte


Gavin Donnigan left the Marine Corps a shell of a man, hounded by guilt for deaths he couldn't prevent. But teaching a self-defense class at the local gym brings some stability to his life―along with a gorgeous leggy woman who won't give him the time of day.

Zoe York lost her twin sister to a freak car accident a few months ago. She's been struggling to bury her grief, but it isn't until she signs up for a self-defense class with its distractingly hot instructor that she begins to come out of her shell again. With the memory of her sister telling her to live a little, Zoe decides a fling with buns-of-steel Gavin Donnigan might be just the thing.

Soon they're sparring both in and out of the gym. And for the first time in a long time, each is looking forward to tomorrow.

 Just The Thing is the second book in The Donnigan's Series. If you have previously read Marie Harte's The McCauley Brothers Series, then you will recognize the name as the McCauley's cousins with which they often compete. This book focuses on Gavin Donnigan, which I was really excited about. He's always able to make me smile with his goofiness and charm. He is definitely more than meets the eyes though. Behind those muscles and fun-loving humor, Gavin has some very serious things he's dealing with after being medically discharged from the military. 

In the previous book that focused more on his brother Landon, we saw Gavin falling apart a bit and I was glad that he took Ava's advice and was now seeing a Dr. to help him deal with his PTSD and survivor's guilt. His work at the gym also seems to help him deal with these things. When he is flirting with the feisty girl at the gym and trying to snag a date I couldn't help but smile. I was happy though that Zoe finally came around to giving him a chance. 

They definitely have great chemistry and I liked that they were able to understand each other's grief and help each other to heal. They also have similar a sense of humor, which I thought was wonderful. When Gavin got Zoe involved in the family prank wars... HILARIOUS! That balance of the fun banter and budding romance, with the emotions and heartbreak of the characters loss, made this book a realistic and captivating read. Harte's writing is so genuine and satisfying.

 I can't wait to read the next one! I'm not yet sure if I am hoping it is about Theo (the youngest brother) or Hope (the sister). This book can be read as a standalone if you so wish. 

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

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