Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Chocolate Lovers' Christmas Book Review

The Chocolate Lovers' Christmas by Carole Matthews

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Lucy loves running Chocolate Heaven but she hasn't spent time with her boyfriend, Aiden, in weeks. And then her ex-fiance turns up and things become even more complicated.

Nadia hasn't let herself get close to a man in a long time, yet she can't help feeling drawn to Jacob. Will he be her last chance for a happy ending?

Chantal and her husband, Tex, are besotted with their baby daughter Lana - but she's not sure that's enough to base a marriage on.

Autumn is dealing with a tragedy that has hit too close to home. But when she doesn't get the support she needs from her fiance, will she look elsewhere for comfort?

Can friendship overcome all?

Review by Brittany:

I am a longtime Matthews fan, importing all of her books because she's UK based and I am not. This book is actually the third in what has become a series about the friends of the Chocolate Lovers' Club.

This is the first book of the series in which I really felt exasperated with Lucy. She's clumsy and goofy and often doesn't think things through before she acts. In the other books, it was more endearing than it was in this one. By the end of the book I felt as if she really needed to do some more growing up.

That being said, Nadia and Autumn had much more of an impact on me in this book than in previous novels. Autumn deals with the death of her brother and the ways in which that is impacting her relationship with her fiance, Addison. She had an opportunity to develop more in this novel than I felt like she did in previous novels. I was able to look at her more as a serious, grounded adult and less like a lighthearted hippy type. Nadia is also dealing with a tragedy, the death of her husband and trying to go back to work to support herself and her young son. This experience develops her character more and gave me a chance to get to know her a little better.

I liked that there was more development of some of the characters, and the relationships between the friends got a little strained in this novel, which is different than what has happened in other novels. I think this added a nice depth to the novel because, realistically, four women being friends is going to have some tension sometimes.

Overall, I loved this book. Matthews writes such beautiful chick lit that I know I'm never going to be disappointed. The fourth book in the series has already been released, and I know that I'll be reading that one as well.

Notable quotes:

In trying to be kind, understanding, grown up, modern, had she simply stirred the hornet's nest?

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Shadow of Night Book Review

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

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Picking up from A Discovery of Witches' cliffhanger ending, Shadow of Night takes Diana and Matthew on a trip through time to Elizabethan London, where they are plunged into a world of spies, magic, and a coterie of Matthew's old friends, the School of Night. As the search for Ashmole 782 deepens and Diana seeks out a witch to tutor her in magic, the new of Matthew's past tightens around them, and they embark on a very different - and vastly more dangerous - journey. 

Review by Brittany:

This is the second novel in the All Souls Trilogy by Harkness, and because I enjoyed the first one, I decided to pick this one up.

This second novel did not work for me in the same way as the first one did. I felt like there was a lot more history review than action to move the plot of the book forward. The spurts of action were enjoyable, particularly as Diana learns more about her magic and what she can do. Her experiences in the first book were indicators of what she finds out about herself in this book, and I am looking forward to reading more about Diana's experiences as she grows in the third book.

I'm also curious about how Diana and Matthew's presence in the past is going to alter the present and future. Because this entire book took place in the past, I think it will be interesting to see how the present is doing when they return in the third book.

I also have curiosities about Ashmole 782 - what does it mean and how will it be used in the third book? I'm hoping that there will be some kind of big reveal about the manuscript in the final book because I still don't feel like I truly understand it's role in the trilogy at this point.

I did like that Matthew and Diana experience some relationship development in this book. Their romance was one of my favorite things about the first one, and although I am no longer as in love with Matthew after this one, I do want to see how their relationship will change after developments and discoveries in this book.

Overall, I don't have too many comments on this book. For me, it was very much the filler second book in the trilogy. There was just enough to move the plot forward, but mostly it left me feeling like I needed to read the third book for something to happen. In that way, this book did its job.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

All the Missing Girls Book Review

All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

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Like the spellbinding psychological suspense in The Girl on the Train and Luckiest Girl Alive, Megan Miranda's novel is a nail-biting, breathtaking story about the disappearances of two young women - a decade apart - told in reverse.

It's been ten years since Nicolette Farrell left her rural hometown after her best friend, Corinne, disappeared from Cooley Ridge without a trace. Back again to tie up loose ends and care for her ailing father, Nic is soon plunged into a shocking drama that reawakens Corinne's case and breaks open old wounds long since stitched.

The decade-old investigation focused on Nic, her brother Daniel, boyfriend Tyler, and Corinne's boyfriend Jackson. Since then, only Nic has left Cooley Ridge. Daniel and his wife, Laura, are expecting a baby; Jackson works at the town bar; and Tyler is dating Annaleise Carter, Nic's younger neighbor and the group's alibi the night Corinne disappeared. Then, within days of Nic's return, Annaleise goes missing.

Told backwards - Day 15 to Day 1 - from the time Annaleise goes missing, Nic works to unravel the truth about her younger neighbor's disappearance, revealing shocking truths about her friends, her family, and what really happened to Corinne that night ten years ago.

Review by Brittany:

I was invited to view this book on NetGalley based on feedback for a book that was similar. I was intrigued by the idea of this story being told backwards to solve the two missing person cases.

From the beginning of the book, I was hooked. The backwards storytelling required that I pay attention to every detail, and it gave the author an opportunity to foreshadow events that had already happened and would soon be revealed to the reader. Miranda did a great job of building the story backwards, still leaving plenty of reveals for the reader all the way through.

The story of what happened to Corinne and how it would tie into what happened to Annaleise was explored all the way through. Nic served as a bit of an unreliable narrator, holding onto the pieces of the story that she didn't want to come to terms with. As she was finally able to come to terms with what happened 10 years ago, the pieces of Annaleise's story finally came together.

I also loved the way this book examined relationships. It went deep into friendships and romantic relationships and picked at the painful parts, forcing the reader to come to terms with the ways in which relationships aren't so beautiful and aren't so candy-coated. I loved that. There were no characters in this book who were innocent or who didn't have a secret that could have changed everything.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I thought the author did a fantastic job of keeping the reader in suspense, particularly in the way she handled telling the story in reverse. I also thought the author created really in-depth characters who were so human and real in their flaws. Fantastic book that I'd definitely recommend!

Notable quotes:

I was more generous with people's flaws. Everyone had his or her own demons, including me.

That a story is the most simplified version of events - something to file away into a sound bite, dulled and sharpened at the same time.

But she was just a kid, eighteen, and bursting out of her skin. Believing the world would bend to her will.

People were like Russian nesting dolls - versions stacked inside the latest edition. But they all still lived inside, unchanged, just out of sight.

Then they would've seen that perhaps there is nothing more passionate than loving someone in spite of yourself.

The facts were fluid, and changed, depending on the point of view.

But maybe there was nothing more intimate than someone knowing all your secrets, every one of them, and sitting beside you anyway, buying your favorite food, running his fingers absently through your hair so you can sleep.

There is nothing more dangerous, nothing more powerful, nothing more necessary and essential for survival than the lies we tell ourselves.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Sister Book Review

The Sister by Louise Jensen

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Grace hasn't been the same since the death of her best friend Charlie. She is haunted by Charlie's last words, and in a bid for answers, opens an old memory box of Charlie's. Soon it becomes clear there was a lot she didn't know about her best friend.

When Grace starts a campaign to find Charlie's father, Anna, a girl claiming to be Charlie's sister steps forward. For Grace, finding Anna is like finding a new family, and soon Anna has made herself very comfortable in Grace and boyfriend Dan's home.

But something isn't right. Things disappear, Dan's acting strangely and Grace is sure that someone is following her. Is it all in Grace's mind? Or as she gets closer to discovering the truth about both Charlie and Anna, is Grace is terrible danger?

There was nothing she could have done to save Charlie...or was there?

Review by Brittany:

This book was a NetGalley request I made based on the blurb. Psychological thrillers are always a bit intense but very interesting reads for me, and this one sounded like it would fit that idea.

This book jumps between the past and present, explaining how Grace and Charlie became such good friends and chronicling their lives as it leads up to Charlie's death. The present focuses on Grace in the aftermath of Charlie's death and her quest to learn about Charlie's life and meet her father, who Charlie herself never got to meet. I enjoyed the transitions from past to present and the way they kept me in the loop as it went along. The breaks in time also served to reinforce the suspense throughout the novel.

Anna's character was a bit of a trick. From the beginning she made me feel uneasy, the convenience of her being Charlie's sister a little too unreal for me. At the end of the novel, Anna's true identity and relationship to Grace is made clear, and it really didn't turn out the way I thought it would.

Interestingly, I think Dan's character was the most sinister of the book. Without giving away any spoilers, let me just say that I expected better from Dan. His behavior was the most surprising out of all the characters.

I do wish there had been more closure at the end of the book. I feel like there are a lot of threads still hanging for Grace and I have no idea what happened with the plot line of her job. Some things got a bit lost in the climactic ending, and I would have liked for those pieces to come together in some way.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. I think Jensen created some good, creepy characters. I do think that Jensen can develop her plot lines and character motives more in future novels, but I really liked reading this debut.

Notable quotes:

Strangers become friends, become lovers, become everything - and then become nothing. A full circle.