Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella

35411583I am a huge fan of Sophie Kinsella, and with Valentine’s Day having just passed, I thought it would be a great time to read a funny romance. I don’t usually like romance novels but I love Kinsella’s style; she’s the only romance writer whose work I enjoy. I was so happy to have gotten this ARC and I’ve been waiting for February to read it! Here’s my review:

Synopsis (Goodreads): After being together for ten years, Sylvie and Dan have all the trimmings of a happy life and marriage; they have a comfortable home, fulfilling jobs, beautiful twin girls, and communicate so seamlessly, they finish each other’s sentences. However, a trip to the doctor projects they will live another 68 years together and panic sets in. They never expected “until death do us part” to mean seven decades.

In the name of marriage survival, they quickly concoct a plan to keep their relationship fresh and exciting: they will create little surprises for each other so that their (extended) years together will never become boring. But in their pursuit to execute Project Surprise Me, mishaps arise and secrets are uncovered that start to threaten the very foundation of their unshakable bond. When a scandal from the past is revealed that question some important untold truths, they begin to wonder if they ever really knew each other after all.

Review: This novel was unexpected for me because it featured a married couple rather than 2 single people. This caught my attention right away and I was excited to see how Kinsella would put her funny and cute spin on things. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as great as I had hoped.

So the story is about how Sylvie and Dan find out that they are going to live to be very old and that they will be enjoying 68 years of marriage. And for some reason, this freaks them out. Maybe this is because I’ve never been married, but if you love your partner and have been happily married to them, wouldn’t this be good news? Why would finding out that you will be married for longer be a bad thing? This really confused me. Now, I get the whole “Surprise Me project” aspect; every relationship needs some excitement now and then. But the “funny” mishaps failed to make me laugh because they just didn’t have any context. For example, Dan buying Sylvie a snake would have been funny … if I had known that they joked about getting a snake all the time. Which I literally did not know about until that point in time.

The novel also takes a surprising turn into a more serious path. I felt like the segue was a little awkward but the actual concept was quite good. It made me like Sylvie’s character a lot more; she stopped being whiny and started showing some grit and resilience. It also helped me develop a liking to Dan, because until that point, I had no opinion of him whatsoever.

Do I think this was Kinsella’s finest book? No. And I wouldn’t recommend this to someone who has never read any of her books before, because she has definitely had better novels. But I liked that this novel became a little more serious and was uplifting near the end. I’m giving this a 3/5 stars.

I received this novel as an advance copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Happy reading ~


Keep Her Safe by K.A. Tucker

I received this novel as an advance copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This was a book that I really wanted to finish back in January … but I fell behind. However, I made it one of my top priorities for this month and got on this book as soon as possible! Here is my review:

Synopsis (Goodreads): Noah Marshall has known a privileged and comfortable life thanks to his mother, the highly decorated chief of the Austin Police Department. But all that changes the night she reveals a skeleton that’s been rattling in her closet for years, and succumbs to the guilt of destroying an innocent family’s life. Reeling with grief, Noah is forced to carry the burden of this shocking secret.

Gracie Richards wasn’t born in a trailer park, but after fourteen years of learning how to survive in The Hollow, it’s all she knows anymore. At least here people don’t care that her dad was a corrupt Austin cop, murdered in a drug deal gone wrong. Here, she and her mother are just another family struggling to survive…until a man who clearly doesn’t belong shows up on her doorstep.

Despite their differences, Noah and Gracie are searching for answers to the same questions, and together, they set out to uncover the truth about the Austin Police Department’s dark and messy past. But the scandal that emerges is bigger than they bargained for, and goes far higher up than they ever imagined.

Review: There are two aspects to this story: the actual mystery and the romance. I greatly preferred the mystery to the romance.

I was automatically drawn to the secret that Noah’s mother revealed to him. It promised to be the start of a complex tale – and it was! I loved all of the different twists and turns that the story took, making every single character a suspect. The author also did a great job highlighting important issues like corruption and human trafficking. However, I found the story to be quite long and I don’t think every part of it was necessary.

While I didn’t realize this novel had a romantic suspense angle, I didn’t quite love it. I liked Noah’s character just fine but I didn’t really like Grace. She was far too stubborn and pigheaded and there were moments where I really wish she had used some common sense. I have no problem reading about fiery female protagonists but when they act in an unintelligent way, it really annoys me. I also didn’t really find the development of the relationship between Noah and Grace believable. The beginning of it was a little too forced and fast-paced, but it eventually worked out as the story progressed.

I went into this novel with very high hopes because of a lot of positive reviews, however I didn’t love it as much as I wanted. It had a good plot and interesting twists, but I didn’t like all of the characters and I thought the romance aspect developed a little too quickly for my liking. I would give this a 2/5 star rating!

Happy reading ~

Deceptions by Kelley Armstrong – Cainsville #3

It may have seemed like I forgot about this series. BUT I DID NOT! I have been biding my time, trying to make a dent in my TBR list, and I’ve decided to make a real go at catching up with this series. Here is my review:

Synopsis (from the book): After Olivia Taylor-Jones found out she was adopted – not the child of a privileged Chicago family, but of a notorious pair of serial killers – her life exploded. Fleeing the scandal, she found a refuge in the oddly secluded but welcoming town of Cainsville. Working with Gabriel Walsh, a precociously successful criminal lawyer with links to the town, she managed to partially clear her parents’ name in an investigation that also revealed darker forces at work in the place that had offered her a haven. Fleeing Cainsville, Olivia now finds herself not only the target of the Cainsville elders and of the Huntsmen, but also of her ex-fiance, James. And this happens as her feelings deepen for Ricky, the son of the leader of a motorcycle gang, and confusingly also her feelings for Gabriel. Visions continue to haunt her; particularly ones of a little blond girl in a green sundress who insists she has an important message for Olivia. Will Olivia be able to prevent the tragic outcome that has been foretold?

So if I’m going to be honest here, I don’t think I enjoyed this book as much as I did the rest of the books in the series. And I think it had to do with the content of the novel. For most of the other books in the series, the story was about solving a mystery while understanding more about the fae. That’s what I loved about the series: there were sinister characters and gruesome deaths, and Olivia was learning how to recognize and interpret the omens and visions she was receiving. However, with this novel, there was a huge focus on this love triangle that the author decided to add into the mix. This book was more of a romance than a mystery novel, and it felt like I had been deceived (haha – get it, deceptions, deceived?!) by the premise of the story. I really don’t like love triangles because they are so tedious to get through and they don’t really add anything to the story. I also don’t like it because it changes the dynamics between certain characters. There was some mystery to it because we learn some more about the fae and Olivia’s connection to everything, and we do find out about the Larsens and whether they are innocent …. but it was all overshadowed by the love triangle, which was a little annoying for me. I will still be continuing with this series because I think it still has merit, but I definitely hope that the love triangle gets resolved soon so that I can focus on the really juicy stuff! But this book specifically gets a 2/5 stars from me.

Happy reading ~


Soulless by Gail Carriger – Parasol Protectorate #1

Going into this novel, I had no idea what to expect. All I knew was that the premise contained all of my favorite things: supernatural beings, the Victorian era, and a feisty heroine. That was enough to intrigue me and give this book a shot. After reading it, I am so glad I did. Here is my review:

Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations. First, she has no soul. Second, she’s a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette. Unfortunately, Alexia accidentally kills the vampire while protecting herself – and the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate. News on this vampire’s death leads to an investigation that reveals that unexpected vampires are appearing and expected vampires are disappearing. And everyone seems to believe that Alexia is somehow involved. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London’s high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy?

To define this book by one genre would be doing it an injustice because it is such a mashup! You’ve got steampunk, Victorian social etiquette, comedy, romance, and of course, supernatural/paranormal fantasy. I loved this eclectic mix of themes because it added so much variety to the story! I absolutely adored Alexia. She is funny, and inquisitive, and everything I wanted her to be! She adheres to Victorian etiquette standards only when it suits her and her independent thinking gets her into a great deal of trouble. I love that the author always keeps her in the center of the action and never makes her rely on men to fix things for her. I also loved her romance with Lord Maccon, which I had guessed would happen right from the start; it is VERY believable and not exactly pg-13 (so I would advise younger teenagers to not read this book). The story itself was intriguing, with witty humor thrown in every now and then. I liked the mystery and the action, and the different supernatural beings who were involved. If anything, I wish the organization of the different societies had been given more details, as that would have given me a better understanding of this world that Alexia lives in. I had a great reading experience with this novel because I just found it to be so funny and interesting that I couldn’t put it down. I’m giving it a 5/5 stars for being weird and funny and everything else in between!

Happy reading ~

A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan

I received this novel as an advance copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Grandmére Ursule was one of the most powerful witches in her family. But when she dies trying to save the life of her tribe, her magic seems to have died with her. Even so, her daughters do their best to keep the Old Faith, practicing the spells and rites that have been a part of their family for generations. Then one day, Ursule’s young granddaughter steps into the circle, and magic flows anew. The story traverses 5 generations of witches, from early 19th century Brittany to London during WWII as they fight the battles of their time, deciding how far they are willing to go to protect their family, their heritage, and ultimately, their futures.

I really wanted to love this novel but I didn’t. The book is broken down into multiple parts such that each witch from the next generation gets her own story. I love the idea of magic being passed down from mother to daughter but I think that is where the problem of this novel lay: for each generation, the story from the previous generation must be recounted, and the same reactions from the newest witch are described, and it just starts to become repetitive. It’s hard to break from that cycle when it is that very cycle that is being described in the novel. I think that out of all of the witches that were described, there was only one that was truly different from the rest. While I get that the same traits and powers will run in the family, the personalities of the different witches were too similar for my taste. And as I mentioned, the concept was interesting in the beginning but the story itself was too cyclic and repetitive to maintain my interest. The author did put a valiant effort in trying to tie in different historical events to change things up between generations, but the scenarios remained the same. I also wish there had been more supernatural elements; I would have loved to read about the different spells and things that they learned and the reasons why they did certain rituals. For me, there was just not enough of a unique story and so, I’m giving this a 2/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay

I received this novel as an advance copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

One of the first classics I ever ready was Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I loved it so much that I read a bunch of her other novels. While I may not have loved all of them, I have fond memories of curling up with an Austen book. The title of the novel caught my attention and the premise held it. So here is my review:

Mary Davies enjoys her job as an engineer. It doesn’t hurt that there is an adorable and intelligent consultant working alongside her. But things aren’t perfect. When Mary’s estranged childhood friend, Isabel, offers her a two-week stay in a gorgeous manor house in England, she reluctantly agrees in hopes that the holiday will shake up her quiet life in just the right ways. But Mary gets more than she bargained for when Isabel loses her memory and fully believes she lives in Jane Austen’s Bath. While Isabel rests and delights in the leisure of a Regency lady, attended by other costume-clad guests, Mary uncovers startling truths about their shared past, who Isabel was, who she seems to be, and the man who now stands between them.

This book is not like your typical Austen-style book. It doesn’t try to be a modern version of any Austen classic; instead, it takes the Austen characters and analyzes them through the pretense of an Austen-themed costume weeklong getaway. I loved the concept behind it: strangers sign up to live in a manor that is set up in the Regency era, and each person chooses a character from Jane Austen’s novels and pretends to be them for the duration of their stay. It’s the kind of adventure I would want to do! I really loved Mary’s character; she was one of the most realistic characters I have ever read about. The thoughts and feelings she has are ones I could relate to, and her actions make a lot of sense. She isn’t overly dramatic and doesn’t live in her own fantasy world; she is a quiet character who has her unique strengths and weaknesses. Mary was the kind of character I could envision as my friend because she was just so real! I also loved all of the other cast members of this novel, and how each played their part in telling this story. I thought that Isabel’s memory loss could have been done better (it was a little wishywashy in its appearance and disappearance and just didn’t have as strong of an explanation as I would have liked) but this did not detract from the novel’s story. The romance was done very nicely in this novel; again, it was not too dramatic and the misconceptions that occurred here were ones that I could see happening in the real world. I guess what I loved about this book so much was that it was so realistic and plausible that I could easily fall into the story and believe in it. All in all, I had a great time reading this book and would give it a solid 4/5 stars!

Happy reading ~

House of Shadows by Nicola Cornick

I received this novel as an advance copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I love historical fiction but I really don’t read much in the genre. Maybe because the most recent novels out there always seem to be either sci-fi/fantasy or mystery/thrillers. Either way, I relish the chance to read a historical fiction novel every now and then and this was one of those opportunities! So here is my review:

London, 1662:
There was something the Winter Queen needed to tell him. She fought for the strength to speak.
‘The crystal mirror is a danger. It must be destroyed – ‘
He replied instantly. ‘It will’.

Ashdown, Oxfordshire, present day: Holly gets a call from her niece saying that Holly’s brother, Ben, has disappeared. As Holly desperately tries to find Ben, she finds out that he was researching their family tree. And he has left Holly 2 clues: an ornate antique mirror and a diary of Lavinia, a 19th century courtesan who lived at Ashdown House before it burned to the ground 200 years ago. Intrigued, and determined to find out more about the tragedy at Ashdown, Holly’s only hope is that uncovering the truth about the past will lead her to Ben.

This was a historical fiction novel with romance and some magical elements to it. And I loved this blend of genres! I was definitely interested in the events happening in the past, but Holly’s story is also very intriguing. The author did a great job of tying in the two different time points and creating such memorable and unique female characters. I loved the diary entries featuring Lavinia and how all of the pieces of the puzzle fit together. I wish there had been more of a focus on the supernatural elements; it was such an intriguing feature what with its historical significance, and I felt that the author could have allowed it to play a more prominent role. It would have made the connection between the past and the present a bit stronger, and also give the myth behind the objects a little more complexity. Surprisingly enough, I really liked the romance between Holly and Mark, which occurred in the passages focusing on the present; it was at times cheesy but the intensity was believable and the attraction felt genuine. All in all, this was a solid piece of work and I really enjoyed reading it! 3/5 stars from me!

Happy reading ~

The Empress by S. J. Kincaid – Diabolic #2

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I remember when I read The Diabolic that I didn’t enjoy it and wasn’t planning on reading the next installment in the series. Well guess who received an ARC for the sequel??? That’s right, it was me. In order to ensure I was giving this book a fair review, I put aside my past assumptions and read it with an open-mind. So here is my review:

The Empire is finally changing. Tyrus has ascended the throne as Emperor, with Nemesis by his side. Tyrus has declared his love for Nemesis and his intentions in making her his Empress. Their visions for the new world is a positive one – it will be a place where science and information is shared with everyone, and creatures like Nemesis will be treated like humans. But having power isn’t the same as keeping it. Many of the ruling class are not happy with Tyrus and Nemsis, and will stop at nothing to ruin their plans. Nemesis plans on protecting Tyrus at any cost; he is the love of her life. But she can no longer act like the killing machine she once was; she needs to prove her humanity to the entire Empire. But if proving her humanity means that she and Tyrus must commit inhuman crimes, is it even worth the fight?

Since I had read The Diabolic, I knew to expect the novel to be more centered around romance than science fiction. I think that’s why I enjoyed this novel more than its predecessor; I no longer felt tricked because I knew what I was getting into. That being said, this novel had a lot of political intrigue and romance angles to it. I still preferred the political conflicts over the romantic ones. I also thought that the author brought in some interesting points on what it means to be human and to have empathy; it was quite philosophical and I enjoyed seeing the author bring these issues up in a teen novel. There wasn’t as much action or gore and I wish Nemesis had been a bit more of a badass killing machine. My overall verdict is that this novel is better than its predecessor but only because I knew what to expect and it had good political intrigue and philosophical questions. My rating is 2.5/5 stars, rounded to 3.

Happy reading ~

A Dangerous Woman From Nowhere by Kris Radish

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My journey into the Western genre has been quite recent. While I usually stick to fantasy or thrillers or sci-fi as my go-to genres, I like to change it up a bit and I’ve found that Western novels are quite interesting! I also liked that this novel featured a badass protagonist who goes off to save her husband – instead of it being the other way around. So with all that in mind, I decided to read this book. Here is my review:

Briar Logan has always felt more comfortable alone. It was just a way of life for her, after having survived a terrible childhood, near starvation, and the harsh western frontier. But just as things are starting to look better for her, Briar’s husband is kidnapped by lawless gold miners. Desperate to save her husband, she is forced to accept the help of a damaged young man and a notorious female horse trainer. As they face thieves, whiskey runners, and dangerous men, the unlikely trio must form an alliance in order to survive – and get what they want. 

This is a very detailed novel that focuses on Briar and is told from her perspective. We learn about her and her relationship with her husband and other loved ones through flashbacks. The language is poetic, and Briar is definitely a strong female character. However, I didn’t really enjoy the story. It moved a lot slower than I had expected and it was hard to tell what this novel was: was it a love story? was it more of action? It felt more like a mashup of 2 novels than one independent story. I also found that the poetic language and the flashbacks impeded my reading experience and detracted from the plot. The other characters were interesting but not so much that I felt drawn or connected to them. While I appreciate the author’s attempt to showcase a strong female as the lead, the rest of the story didn’t work for me. For those reasons, I’m giving it a 2/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I’ve only read one other book by Alice Hoffman, but I really loved it. So I was super excited for the chance to read this one! This novel is a prequel to Practical Magic, which I have not read before and which the reader does not have to have read in order to understand what is happening in this story. But let me get on with my review:

For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man. Even though it has been hundreds of years, and there have been many changes in the world, Susanna Owens knows that her 3 children are talented – and dangerous. There’s Franny, perpetually grumpy but with an ability to communicate with animals; Jet, who is beautiful and kind, with the ability to read others’ thoughts; and Vincent, charismatic and addictive, with a penchant for getting into trouble. Knowing all this, Susanna has set down rules for her children: no walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they really are. And when they come back home to New York City, each sibling sets off on a risky journey to escape the family curse.

If you think this is just a story about spells and potions, then you would be wrong. This is about so much more than just magic. It’s about families filled with regret, it’s about gaining the courage to live life to the fullest, and it is about daring to love and dream and LIVE. As usual, the author has written a beautiful story about family and love and loss, with gorgeous prose. I really could not stop myself from turning the pages. Every character has been wonderfully created, and it is so easy to feel connected to them; I felt truly invested in their lives and their pursuit for happiness. This novel had me so emotional; I was literally sobbing at times because I could feel their emotions so deeply. One thing is for sure: I am DEFINITELY going to read Practical Magic. If you have never read a book by Alice Hoffman, I urge you to do so ASAP because she is such a talented author and everything she writes is amazing! I’m just glad she’s written as many books as she has, because now I have more books to enjoy!

Happy reading ~