Blame

Blameby Nicole Trope

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I couldn’t put this book down! It follows the police interviews of two friends after the tragic death of one’s daughter. Each chapter switches back and forth between the two women, each telling their side of the story. Each woman blames the other for the death of the child. I found it sad to realize that such a long friendship could be ended in a moment.
The story is well written and flows easily. I like that you end up with a good sense of the background of each character, without it feeling dry. The ending was a twist I didn’t expect, which is great. It’s hard to surprise me.
The only thing I wasn’t happy about is that they don’t tell you what happened to the daughter or why the women are being investigated until about halfway through the book. It was hard for me to understand why the detectives were acting like they were and why the friendship broke apart until I found out how the daughter died. I think it could have easily been introduced earlier without ruining the flow of the story.

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It Is Well

It Is Wellby James D. Shipman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is an interesting story about life at home during wartime. You don’t really hear much about that, since people seem to focus more about the actual war and politics. The family/characters were believable, as well as the story line. I read it rather quickly, as the story is fast-paced. It covers a lot in a short time.
My only issue with the book is that it is very much a “slice of life” story. Each character’s story branches off, so you follow all simultaneously. However, the book just suddenly ends. I expected there to be more and was shocked that there wasn’t. There is no real resolution to the story. Perhaps this is the author’s way of making a comment on the human condition. Perhaps there was no resolution, no neat ending.

Everything Is Negotiable: The 5 Tactics to Get What You Want in Life, Love, and Work

Everything Is Negotiable: The 5 Tactics to Get What You Want in Life, Love, and Work by Meg Myers Morgan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a difficult read for me, but in a good way. I can usually read a book this size in a couple of days, but this one took me over a month to read. It is chock-full of hard truths, nearly all of which really hit home for me. Every couple of paragraphs, I had to put it down to mull over what was said and how it applies (or can be applied) to my life. This book forced me to take a hard look at me life and how my actions affect it.

I love that it is written as if the author is just chatting with you and that she uses her own real life experiences to demonstrate her points. I much prefer this style to other self-help/motivational books that read like textbooks. The only downside, is with the large volume of anecdotes, some of them go unfinished or get broken up into pieces with others in between.

One thing to keep in mind when considering this book, is that it is targeted at women. The title does not do a great job at making that obvious. While I think men could still benefit from some of the advice, it is clear upon reading the book that the author is speaking to other women.

Overall, I think it’s a great read, just give yourself some time to reflect in the process.

A Gentleman’s Promise

A Gentleman’s PromiseA Gentleman’s Promise by Penny Hampson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A Gentleman’s Promise is a good clean romance with mystery and intrigue. I’ve rated this book so highly because the author really took the time to make the story believable. She was able to create a romantic story without any of the usual (and often vulgar) love scenes. This is also one of the few clean romances that I have read that were not also steeped in religious rhetoric.
The mystery aspect actually made sense. I deducted a star for the “bad guy” and their motive being made pretty obvious to the reader, even though it too way too long for the main characters to figure it out.
All in all, I think it is better than your typical romance novel and it’s doubly attractive to anyone who likes a good mystery. Worth the read.

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Topaz Eyes

Topaz Eyesby Nancy Jardine

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I really wanted to like this book. The story line sounded interesting. I love mysteries, romances and history. A novel where a couple searches for heirloom jewelry, while being pursued by mysterious bad guys sounds amazing. I have been trying to force myself to finish the book for months, so I could write a well-informed review, but honestly I just can’t get into the story.
Keira, the leading lady, is a great character. She is a well-traveled translator and an all-around good person. I would love to BE her. The leading man though, is awful. He is moody, secretive, and borderline abusive. Keira deserves better and because of this, I hate their romance. Also Teun is supposed to be American, but he uses a ridiculous amount of British phrases and colloquialisms. This discord bothers me so much, that it is constantly pulling me out of the story line.
Everything in this book is also entirely too convenient. Two out of the 3 people invited to the search just happen to meet at a cafe in a huge city, just hours before the designated meet up. They just happen to find various photos and other references to the jewelry with barely any help or research. They just happen to find some jewelry in a relative’s attic hours before the bad guys break in and then burn the place down. It just isn’t realistic.

Thanks to net galley and the publisher for the free advance copy.

Review: The Rage of Plum Blossoms

The Rage of Plum Blossoms
by Christine M. Whitehead

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Attorney Quinn Jones-Chang’s world is turned upside down when her husband dies suddenly. Police rule it a suicide, but Quinn is convinced it is murder. She sees too many things wrong with the situation to believe it and decides to take things into her own hands. As she investigates, she rather coincidentally meets a delightful cast of characters, who just happen to have all of the right skill sets she needs to uncover the truth. I really liked the characters. They’re quirky and fun. A couple fall immediately & hopelessly in love with her. The mystery is complex. The action is gripping. The ending is surprising. I definitely recommend this book and hope to see more from this author soon.

Thanks to Net Galley and the publisher for the ARC.

Review: Marie Antoinette’s Darkest Days: Prisoner No. 280 in the Conciergerie

Marie Antoinette's Darkest Days: Prisoner No. 280 in the Conciergerie
by Will Bashor

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love history, but despise how history books are written. They tend to be dry and tedious. This book was written in a much more engaging way. I would say that it is written more like a lecture than a novel. If you liked history class in school, this book is for you.

It is extremely well researched. I especially enjoyed the details provided. They make the events more dramatic and relatable. The author details every move Marie Antoinette made and lets the reader know where he got that information from. It makes it quite easy to imagine exactly what happened to her and how she was feeling in her last days.

I highly recommend this book to any history lover who wants a more in depth story of the end of Maire Antoinette’s life.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.

Purchase on Amazon: here 

 

Review: Ondine

Ondineby Shannon Drake

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was initially surprised when I found out that this book was originally written in the late 80’s. I can usually tell when a book was written, even if it has a historical setting. This book is written very much like the historical romances you find today.

This book is unique to those modern romances, however. It is actually two stories in one, and is therefore longer than your average novel. Each of the main characters, Ondine & Warwick, have their own trials to overcome. This novel essentially solves one issue, then moves on to the next. Modern romances tend to try to conveniently solve a similar problem all at once. I found Ms Drake/Graham’s solution easier to follow and more realistic.

What I did not feel was realistic, was that a nobleman would take a bride off the gallows and not be able to tell she is of noble birth. On top of that they somehow managed to fall in love with each other, even though they were only ever being hateful and antagonistic towards each other. I wouldn’t consider that a healthy relationship.

Thank you to the publisher and Net Galley for the ARC to review.

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Review: The Grain Brain Whole Life Plan: Boost Brain Performance, Lose Weight, and Achieve Optimal Health

The Grain Brain Whole Life Plan: Boost Brain Performance, Lose Weight, and Achieve Optimal Healthby David Perlmutter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I like this book better than most grain-free diet books, because it truly provides you with a whole life plan. It not only outlines proper food choices, but gives you supplement, exercise, and stress reduction suggestions too. The diet itself is essentially the ketogenic diet with a bit of the intermittent fasting diet thrown in. You eat a lot of protein and fat and greatly reduce your sugar and carbohydrate intake. It is a bit difficult for me as the diet is dairy-intensive and I am lactose intolerant. However I am adapting as best as possible. I have tried similar, but more drastic diets before with good results, but completely altering your lifestyle is extremely difficult. Especially when you go out to eat or to a friend’s house for dinner.

The Brain Grain Whole Life Plan is difficult to maintain for anyone who works a stereotypical job. Dr Perlmutter recommends a schedule of eating and exercise that that is practically impossible if you are away from home for long periods of time, especially if you have a designated meal time at work/school. Parts of it are simpler, like make veggies the star of the plate and drastically reduce carbs/starches (looking at you, potatoes). I am also not a fan of the suggested 72 hour fasts. These would basically send your body into starvation mode. The suggested mini skip-breakfast fasts do not bother me nearly as much. Skipping one meal is not dangerous and may actually keep you metabolism guessing. All this being said, if you can manage it, I think it will be helpful. I will try to follow the plan as closely as possible, but I cannot see myself following it to the letter.

Thanks to the publisher and Net Galley for the ARC.

Review: Maggie Dove’s Detective Agency

Maggie Dove's Detective Agency
by Susan Breen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Having read and enjoyed the first book in this series, I was excited to read the next! This one doesn’t disappoint. I still love the main character Maggie Dove. She is not your typical PI. She is a widowed retiree, who is looking for something meaningful to do. This book further develops the character, so she is constantly improving herself and her instincts. She is breaking out of her shell.

The story takes place around Halloween, so it was great that I got it in October. It explores the world of modern-day witchcraft and how Wicca is still perceived. It is truly enlightening. Ms. Dove even has a new grumpy black cat to make it even more Halloween themed!

However, even with the serious setting, it is not a psychological thriller at all. It is a simple old-school sleuthing novel. There is a bit of action, especially at the who-done-it reveal, but the book did not keep me constantly at the edge of my seat (thankfully). I can really tell that there was a lot of thought put into this book. I highly recommend this series to any fans of classic sleuthing novels!
Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for my ARC.