Based off of Clue, but somehow not as fun | In the Hall with the Knife by Diana Peterfreund [ARC]

A few students are left behind at Blackbrook Academy tying up a few loose ends. This wouldn’t ordinarily be a problem, but when a harsh winter storm hits, they’re left stranded in one of the school’s dorm houses and have no choice but to bunk down for the night. When they wake up the next morning, they find that Headmaster Boddy has been stabbed! Was it suicide? A looter? Or someone in the house?

TL;DR – The mystery itself wasn’t super compelling and in the end it came out feeling half-baked.

I requested this book for two reasons: 1) I like Clue and 2) I’ve really enjoyed some of Diana Peterfreund’s other books (the Jane Austen retellings). Unfortunately, this book fell extremely flat for me. First of all, I couldn’t figure out what this collection of students was doing on campus? Why wasn’t anyone else there? This may have been explained and I just missed it, but that question was hanging over the entire book for me.

Another problem was that I didn’t feel a connection to any of the characters. They all had these backstories, but none of them got enough screen time to get fleshed out. Instead, tragedies were hinted at (repeatedly) but never explained. This just ended up making me annoyed with all of the characters for not explaining themselves. There were also two random characters that were completely unnecessary? I guess this is supposed to be the first book in a series, so maybe they’ll come into play in later books. But honestly, this book does not make me want to pick up the rest of the series. If I had to pick a favorite character I guess I would say Orchid? She was the least annoying.

And then we come to the “mystery”. It felt extremely light. A murder occurred IN THE HOUSE that all of these students were sleeping in and I felt like there should’ve been a more…horrific tone to the book perhaps? But that just wasn’t there. I didn’t find the mystery compelling at all and wasn’t super invested in figuring out who the killer was. Too many of the characters were like, “Well, I know it’s not ME”. With the actual game of Clue it very well COULD be you, so that may have been something interesting to play with (sleepwalking? bad reaction to sleeping pills?). Unfortunately, what we actually get is an unsatisfying, half-baked solution tacked on at the end.

Overall, I felt like this just wasn’t a great book. I didn’t feel like it was written very clearly. I thought it did fairly well as a Clue tribute, but it even had some room to lean into that a little more too. In the end, I think they should have more firmly chosen what direction to take this book in (Clue tribute or murder mystery) without trying to do both. That may seem contradictory…but that’s how I feel.

Overall Rating: 2
Language: None
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: None
Sexual Content: None

Note: I received a copy of this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Advertisements

Well…at least I can say I’ve read it | Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Jane EyreJane Eyre is an orphan raised by her uncle’s wife. Despite her uncle’s dying wish to have Jane raised as one of his own children, his wife treats Jane as nothing more than a nuisance. Jane is glad to be sent away to school where she makes new friends and eventually grows into a learned young lady. After some time, she feels that it is her duty to move on and advertises her skills as a governess. Her employer, Mr. Rochester, is unlike any man she’s ever known. As she finally starts to find happiness in her life, Jane will have to find the strength to stick to her principles and learn what it means to be an independent woman.

TL;DR – A deliciously Gothic setting surrounds two characters who I really don’t care about.

I became interested in reading this book because it’s one of those stories that I think a lot of people generally know (he kept his crazy wife in the attic!) but I knew nothing else about it. Then I read My Plain Jane and really enjoyed it, but there were a few plot points that I was just like, “Wait…does this REALLY happen in Jane Eyre?” So I had to read the source material to find out.

Unfortunately, I did not like this book. I feel bad about it because both my mom and sister told me this was one of their favorite books but I just…didn’t feel the same (why is this book a favorite? WHYYYYY????). Firstly, I didn’t care for Mr. Rochester. He didn’t really seem like that great of a guy to me. I found almost all of his conversations with Jane to be abrasive and confusing–it was like a very aggressive ping pong match that he was playing with himself. Despite that, he also had these moments of ultimate patheticness and I just wanted to grab him by the collar and say, “BE AN ADULT”. He was both overly aggressive and overly whiny and it just wasn’t a good combo.

Reading Goodreads reviews when I had finished, I realized that a lot of people really like Jane’s progression, I guess? While I do see some growth, I never particularly cared for her character either. There’s just something about her–even as a little girl–that rubs me the wrong way. I think similar to Rochester, there were some times that I just wanted to say, “PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER”. I don’t really see the strength in her that a lot of other readers see. I don’t understand how she managed to fall in love with Mr. Rochester while he was basically baiting her with the whole Miss Ingram situation. It almost felt to me like her feelings for Mr. Rochester were at least partially born from a sort of self-loathing? And because of that, I never liked them together. The parts where I most liked Jane is when she had moved on and had become a teacher. But then she goes on back to Mr. Rochester for no reason and with no notice (rude). I just don’t see their relationship as being romantic in any way. I’m sorry, I don’t.

Secondary characters were fine. I liked Adele though I wish we’d gotten some kind of translation for her (alas, I do not speak French). I liked Jane’s cousins too, but I feel like St. John kind of gets the shaft. He helps Jane immensely but then he doesn’t get a happy ending? I mean, I think he ended up doing what he wanted, but I’m not convinced he was happy. He was a good guy and I think he deserved more than that.

In the end, I’m glad that I can say I’ve read Jane Eyre now, but I’m not in any hurry to give it another go. I read it over the course of two months so perhaps if I read it quicker it would read better? With that being said, I don’t feel it would make me like the characters any more.

Overall Rating: 2
Language: None
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Mild

Twins, mountains that are castles, and evil princes | Crown of Coral & Pearl by Mara Rutherford [ARC]

Crown of Coral and PearlOnce a generation, the Varenians send their most beautiful girl to Ilara to marry the prince. It is a great honor and twins Nor and Zadie have been groomed their whole lives to become a princess. However, because of a childhood accident involving some blood coral, Nor’s cheek is scarred and she knows she could never be chosen. Nobody is surprised when Zadie is selected, but she’s in love with a boy from home and begs Nor to help her get out of it. In the end, Nor takes Zadie’s place, but she is unprepared for what she will find on the mainland and what she will need to do to save her home.

TL;DR – Nor says many unwise things and makes many unwise decisions, but is still a likable character. Some things don’t make a ton of sense, but can be ignored.

Preorder: Hardcover | eBook

This book was a little different than I thought it would be but at the same time is also exactly what I thought it would be. Does that make sense? Plotwise, there were many things that the reader knows is going to happen (because of course) but the author takes her sweet time getting there. For example, it took FOREVER for Nor to come to the conclusion that she needs to take Zadie’s place. I understand in the context of the story that it wasn’t that simple, but we probably could have saved at least 50 pages. It’s when Nor gets to Ilara that things take some interesting turns that I didn’t really anticipate.

I thought the relationship between Nor and Zadie was a really interesting one. The author herself is a twin (as I found out in the Acknowledgements section) and that gives authenticity to the sister relationship. Never having been a twin myself, I felt like I understood better what it would be like to go through life with someone always at your side. I appreciated that there was no jealousy between the girls. They were legitimately the best of friends and sisters.

There were some minor plot points that didn’t quite make sense to me. Some of them were explained (kind of), but some weren’t. There were times when Nor’s plans didn’t make sense and I can’t tell if that was purposeful to show her naivety or…what. I also felt like she didn’t act or speak with the appropriate amount of caution, especially when Talin was involved. Ceren is this seriously dangerous dude and she’s just randomly mouthing off to him or snubbing him in favor of Talin whenever possible. HE COULD END YOU, NOR.

As far as the other characters, I felt like the author was maybe trying to create some moral grey-ness with Ceren? But then she also wanted to make sure we knew he was a BAD GUY. It just made his character seem inconsistent and I didn’t feel like that worked with the story. Also, his and Talin’s relationship made approximately 5% of sense to me.

Overall, I actually liked this book quite a bit and will definitely be reading the second. Though, I’m not really sure where the plot can go from here? I have some suspicions, but if my suspicions are correct, I don’t like it. I guess we’ll see!

Overall Rating: 4
Language: None
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Mild

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Probably the darkest 12 Dancing Princesses retelling you’ll ever read | House of Salt & Sorrows by Erin A. Craig [ARC]

House of Salt and SorrowsAnnaleigh just wants her sisters to stop dying. There used to be twelve of them but now that Ava, Octavia, Elizabeth, and Eulalie are all dead, there are only eight of them left. As she struggles to mourn the latest death, Eulalie’s, Annaleigh must also find a way to comfort her younger sisters when the town starts theorizing about a family curse. Frustrated that all of the young men are too afraid of “the curse” to court them, the sisters realize they must try to find young men that have never heard of them or their dead sisters. They think they might have found a way, but what will it cost them?

TL;DR – The story of the 12 Dancing Princesses darker than you’ve ever heard it. Part mystery and part fairytale retelling, it comes together better than expected even if a little confusing at times.

Order: Hardcover | eBook

Sometimes I request books on NetGalley and then when it’s finally time to read and review, I’ve forgotten what the book was supposed to be about. I went into this book pretty blind–I didn’t realize at first that it was a retelling until they were buying their “fairy shoes”. With that being said, I love a good retelling and I’ve actually read quite a few retellings of the 12 Dancing Princesses. This one was different. A lot of the ones I’ve read stick to the “secret door in their room that leads to another place” outline. I’ve even read one or two where the princesses are forced to dance against their will. Craig’s take on the story felt a lot more insidious. I think part of it was Camille’s desperation and refusal to let go of this outlet she’d found and part of it was the spooky stuff that was going on with Verity.

Annaleigh was a likable character from the beginning. Her sisters varied in likability depending on what was going on, but they were all enjoyable. The only thing I wished was that we got to see the softer, kinder side of Camille. Annaleigh states that they grew up as best friends, but we never really see that side to their relationship. Camille is mostly just bratty and grumpy the whole book. Craig did a good job of making a lot of the secondary characters feel kind of grey. I wasn’t sure who was supposed to be good and who was supposed to be bad until almost the very end. It seemed like maybe we were getting set up for a love triangle, but the author managed to turn that on its head as well. I wasn’t super into Cassius as the love interest. I mean, he seemed perfect, but (as is often the case) we’re not really given any concrete reasons as to why he likes Annaleigh. He seems like this perfect guy (too perfect) so what exactly does he want with or flawed main character? Authors! We need an explanation for this!

The plot was twisty and suspenseful. I genuinely didn’t know what was going to happen next or what the conclusion was going to be until it was upon us. Without giving anything away, I will say that I’m a little disappointed by some character resolutions…I’ll just leave it at that. I thought the religious system could have used a little more explanation. Maybe the author could have started each chapter with a myth or legend about the gods that these people believed in. It’s just that almost nothing is said about their gods in the first 2/3 of the book, and then all of the sudden they start playing this huge role.

Overall, I would recommend this book for people who are looking for darker fairytale retellings. While it has a happy(ish) ending, I wouldn’t say that it’s feel good at all. It was definitely darker and creepier than I had anticipated–I was surprised by the touch of horror! I would definitely say this could be a good book to read in late September or in October to get ready for Halloween.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: None
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Mild

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

BLOG TOUR: Who I Am with You by Robin Lee Hatcher [GIVEAWAY]

who i am with youWho I Am with You
by Robin Lee Hatcher
Release Date: December 11, 2018
Genres: Christian fiction, Romance

Goodreads|Amazon|B&N

SYNOPSIS: For these two broken hearts, the first step toward love will be a huge leap of faith.

Jessica Mason isn’t looking for love when she meets Ridley Chesterfield. Instead she is still reeling from the tragic, unexpected loss of her husband and daughter—and awaiting the arrival of her unborn child. Harboring the secret of her husband’s betrayal, her pain is deeper than anyone knows.

Ridley Chesterfield is hiding out in Hope Springs, Idaho, avoiding a political scandal and the barrage of false media headlines that have tarnished his good name. The last thing Ridley wants is a relationship—but when fate leads Ridley to form a friendship with his reclusive and pregnant neighbor, he wonders if this small-town hideout might be more of a long-term destination.

When Jessica begins to read her great-grandfather’s Bible, she finds a connection with a man she never knew. Somehow the verses he marked and the words he wrote in the margins open her heart to healing. And as Ridley and Jessica help each other forgive the people who have broken their hearts, they must decide if the past will define them or if they will choose to love again.

Who I Am with You weaves together a modern-day romance with Jessica’s great-grandfather’s story from the 1930s, reminding us that some truths can cross generations and that faith has the power to transform families forever.

Who I Am with You is the first book in Robin’s new “A Legacy of Faith” series.

REVIEW: I’m always a little wary of Christian fiction because I think sometimes the religion aspect is too heavy handed. That being said, I thought Hatcher struck a great balance with this book. Obviously their faith is present, but the characters aren’t talking to God or reflecting on Christ every other paragraph.

Both Jessica and Ridley were enjoyable, sympathetic characters. They both start off the book a little angry because of things that had happened to them in their past and it was interesting to see the different ways that they dealt with that anger. Ridley chose to escape and turn to God, while Jessica chose to become more closed off and independent. The reader gets a chance to see both characters develop as they work towards forgiving those that have wronged them.

The plot is nothing crazy, but it helps us to get to know the characters and by the end, the reader really wants both Jessica and Ridley to be happy. Andrew’s sections were not quite as compelling to me, so I was glad that they were significantly shorter than the present day narrative. One thing I wished was that more of a connection was struck between Jessica and Andrew. I think it mentions her reading through his Bible once? They were going through some similar things I would have liked to have seen Jessica find more comfort and kinship in her great-grandfather.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read. It’s the first book in the series and it looks like the next book starts with Jessica handing off Andrew’s Bible to another relative. It will be interesting to see how Andrew’s story continues with this new family member.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: None
Violence: None
Smoking/Drinking: None
Sexual Content: Mild


Who I Am with You blog tour

Click on the banner above to be taken to the giveaway!



robin lee hatcherABOUT THE AUTHOR: 
Robin Lee Hatcher is the author of over 75 novels and novellas with over five million copies of her books in print. She is known for her heartwarming and emotionally charged stories of faith, courage, and love. Robin is an ACFW Carol Award winner and an eight-time finalist and has won two RITA Awards and been a finalist eleven times. Her numerous other awards include the Christy Award, the HOLT Medallion, the National Reader’s Choice Award, and the Faith, Hope & Love Reader’s Choice Award. She is also the recipient of prestigious Lifetime Achievement Awards from both American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America.

When not writing, she enjoys being with her family, spending time in the beautiful Idaho outdoors, Bible art journaling, reading books that make her cry, watching romantic movies, and decorative planning. A mother and grandmother, Robin and her husband make their home on the outskirts of Boise, sharing it with a demanding Papillon dog and a persnickety tuxedo cat.

For more information, visit www.robinleehatcher.com, Facebook: robinleehatcher, Twitter: @robinleehatcher and Instagram @robinleehatcher.


Note: I received this book free from the author/blog tour in exchange for an honest review.

Food and drama and family, oh my | Love ĂĄ la Mode by Stephanie Kate Strohm [ARC]

Love a la ModeRosie and Henry are both on their way to Paris to live at the Ecole. It’s a culinary high school for teens around the world who love to cook. Rosie is from a small town in Ohio and isn’t sure if she really belongs at the Ecole since her passion is baking, not cooking. Henry is from Chicago and just wishes that his mom would get off his back and let him do what he loves–cook. Both Henry and Rosie will need to prove to themselves that they really belong in Paris and along the way, they may find something else as well–it is the city of love after all.

TL;DR – Loved the food aspect, but everything else (characters, drama) felt exaggerated and shallow.

I really, REALLY liked the premise of this book. I’m not an awesome cook or anything, but I can appreciate good food and I love watching Food Network. Honestly, this book read like it was written by somebody who also just enjoys watching Food Network and doesn’t know much about the culture of cooking, etc. The main characters were in awe of a chef who won Chopped four times…I just have a hard time believing that’s actually what Michelin star winning chefs actually care about. I also questioned teenagers being sent to Paris for high school? But I guess people send their kids to boarding schools all the time, so maybe it’s not that weird.

The characters were okay for me. They seemed relatively immature and there was a bit of an instalove component between Henry and Rosie. I thought the friend group had the potential to have a great dynamic, but in the end it fell kind of flat for me. I felt like each secondary character was a stereotype or caricature of their culture…they all just felt so exaggerated.

Plotwise, again, the book was just okay. The drama between Henry, Rosie, and Bodie felt SUPER fabricated. Henry and Rosie are pretty much with each other 24/7 and they can’t find two seconds to talk and clear the air? I also didn’t appreciate how angry Henry would get at Rosie doing things with Bodie. Henry and Rosie weren’t actually dating and Rosie doesn’t owe him ANYTHING. I mean, she does end up liking Henry, but even if she did like Bodie, Henry has NO RIGHT to be upset about that.

The last criticism I have is how the author treated Henry’s “tiger mom”. Henry is Korean and his mom is super involved with his academics–even going as far as to email his teachers in Paris. To me, it feels like an Asian tiger mom can really be portrayed in a bad light and I feel like Henry’s mom was mostly portrayed negatively in this book. I feel like the tiger mom thing was used as a plot device to inject more drama into the story. Henry’s mom felt like just another character exaggeration and I didn’t really appreciate that coming from a white author.

Overall, this book was just okay. I liked the descriptions of food (hard to go wrong there), but the book itself didn’t really have any weight or depth. I’d probably advise a pass on this one.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: None
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Mild

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Celeb romance with a psychological twist | Tell Me No Lies by A.V. Geiger [ARC]

Note: This is the second book in a duology and may contain spoilers for the first book. For my review on the first book, Follow Me Back, please click here.

Tell Me No LiesTessa is obsessed with Eric Thorn and now her wildest fangirl dreams are coming true–they’re officially dating. It’s not quite the fairytale she imagined, however, as she just had to frame herself for Eric’s murder. Now she and Eric are in hiding, but when another celebrity outs Eric’s death as #fakenews, he’s forced to go back to work for his label and they’re working him harder than ever. Tessa barely gets to see him and she starts to wonder if Eric really still cares for her.

TL;DR – Not as good as the first book in the duology. The author spreads herself over too many minor plot points and the main plot suffers.

I don’t remember really having an issue with the main characters in the last book, but man, in this book both Tessa and Eric are kind of annoying. All of the sudden they both just seemed really young to me. I mean, I think they’re both supposed to be like 17? And they’ve run off together? Um, no. Just no. Their interactions with each other as well as with other characters just seemed kind of immature.

Something I did like is that this book kind of takes a look at social media and some of the potentially damaging effects of it. However, I didn’t feel like it was always seamlessly integrated. I also liked the mental health representation. I liked the fact that it was there, but I did find myself wondering every once in a while about the authenticity of it. I just felt like a lot of Tessa’s actions and reactions didn’t make much sense to me, but that’s coming from someone without an anxiety disorder. So if anyone has any input on how authentic they felt Tessa’s anxiety disorder was portrayed, please let me know.

The plot in this book was just not as good as the last book was. I felt like the author spread herself a little thin with her other minor plot points like Tessa’s relationship with her mom and the other thing that happens that I don’t want to mention because of spoilers. These other plot points, while potentially interesting, just seemed kind of random and unnecessary. I wish the author had spent more time developing the main plot. While the book still had me guessing who was behind everything, I don’t feel like it was as twisty-turny as the first book and that’s something that I really loved.

Overall, this book isn’t awful, but I also didn’t think it was that good. I just remember feeling really amazed and confused at the end of the first book and this one did not leave me with that same feeling.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: None
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: None
Sexual Content: Mild

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.