2.5 Star Books · ARC Book Reviews · Book Reviews · contemporary fiction · contemporary romance · romance

What Happens in the Ruins by Kelsey McNight | Romance Novel

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What Happens in the Ruins by Kelsey McNight 

Rating: 2.5 stars 

Published: July 8, 2019 

Publisher: Tule Publishing 

Pages: 222

Genres: romance, contemporary romance 

Recommend to fans of: contemporary romance novels in Scotland

 

Synopsis:

Can she stop her past from ruining her future?

Sorcha Mackinnon isn’t your typical tortured artist. She is also a party girl, a vintage shopper, and the heiress to a whisky fortune. But when inspiration suddenly flies out the window, she’s left with an empty whisky glass and a blank canvas…until a childhood friend waltzes back into her life.

She’s known Danny Gordon since birth, but they lost touch as their careers took them in different directions. He offers to show her the parts of Scotland he swears will spark life back into her brushes. And as they tour the sights on the back of his motorcycle, Sorcha realizes that under the tattoos and smart mouth, Danny may inspire more in her than just a new painting.

But as a good time begins to morph into an ever after, Sorcha is reminded of old wounds that just won’t heal. Danny tries to open her heart, but her self-imposed isolation makes things harder than ever. Now she must decide what to do, because what happens in the ruins doesn’t always stay there.

Review:

Thank you to NetGalley, Tule Publishing, and Kelsey McNight for an ARC ebook copy to review. As always, an honest review from me. 

Like:

  • Builds the romance and most importantly the friendship between Danny? And Sorcha before jumping into the sexy times. There’s still enough flirting and mild physical contact to remind me reader that it’s a romance novel they’re reading. 
  • The sexy times start about 25% of the way through the book, which I think is the right time (enough pages to get to know the characters as people, but not so much that it becomes a contemporary fiction novel with only a tiny bit of romance)
  • The settings: a good mix of old and new places to create a perfect atmosphere for new romance to spark

Love: 

  • The setting – beautiful, romantic, interesting, and unique for a romance novel 
  • The cover = beautifully done!

Dislike: 

  • For a second, I thought there was going to be someone cheating on their best friend (still not sure), so that took away from the enjoyment of the book for a bit
  • A little more interpersonal tension that I would have lived in a romance novel 
  • The story/plotline aspect didn’t really capture my attention, which is vital to me in a romance novel … or really any novel 

Wish that: 

  • More unique – it’s cute but a generic romance novel. Nothing that particularly sets it apart 
  • The different moments within the story were more cohesive into the overall story 

Overall, fairly good in the romance aspect but a bit of a let down when it comes to the contemporary fiction story telling. A great read, but as someone who is very particular about her romance novels, I’m going to give this one a pass. Not a bad book, so I would still say to consider reading it if the synopsis interests you. 

 

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2.5 Star Books · ARC Book Reviews · Book Reviews · mystery · thriller

The Moroccan Girls by Charles Cummings | ARC #BookReview

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The Moroccan Girls by Charles Cummings 

Published: February 12, 2019 

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Pages: 368 

Genres: mystery, thriller 

Rating: 2.5 stars 

Recommend to fans of: spy novels set in Europe

Foodie Vibes: coffee at an outdoor cafe and people watching 

 

Synopsis: 

Kit Carradine is the successful author of several best-selling novels. When he is approached by MI6 and asked to carry out a simple task on behalf of his country while attending a literary festival in Morocco, he jumps at the chance.

But all is not as it seems. Carradine soon finds himself on the trail of Lara Bartok, a leading figure in Resurrection, a violent revolutionary movement targeting prominent right-wing political figures around the world. Caught between competing intelligence services who want Bartok dead, Carradine faces a choice: to abandon Bartok to her fate or to risk everything trying to save her.

 

Review:

Thank you to NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press and Charles Cummings for an ARC ebook copy to review. As always, an honest review from me. 

I needed up DNFing this book about halfway through, because honestly I was bored …. Which is not something you want in a spy thriller. 

Like: 

  • The premise of using a novelist who writes thrillers, as a spy 
  • The overall atmosphere of sitting outside in a European country waiting for the action to happen

Love:

  • The cover – GORGEOUS!

Dislike:

  • Boring! For a spy thriller, there wasn’t much action happening. Granted, I ended up DNFing it at 50% of the way through, but this genre should capture my attention way before that. 

Wish that: 

  • I had more to say about the book. Nothing was bad per say, but nothing was great either. 

Overall, not the book for me. Maybe I’m the only one that feels this way, but these are my thoughts on the book. I did learn that I’m not as big of a spy thriller fan as I originally thought. So maybe that had something to do with my opinions on the book. Who knows? 

 

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How long do you wait before you DNF a book?

 

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2.5 Star Books · ARC Book Reviews · Book Reviews · mystery · suspense · thriller

What We Did by Christobel Kent | ARC #BookReview

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What We Did by Christobel Kent

Published: February 5, 2019

Publisher: Sarah Crichton Books

Pages: 320

Genres: mystery, thriller, suspense

Rating: 2.5 stars 

Recommend to fans of: revenge books

Foodie Vibes: very little food because after you do what these women did, who can eat?

 

Synopsis: 

He stole her childhood . . . she’ll take his future

Something happened, she didn’t know what, something spun, the world turning, back, back, too fast. She would be sick. Bridget put out a hand to steady herself against the wall.

Bridget has a secret–one she keeps from everyone, even her husband. One that threatens to explode when her childhood music teacher, Carmichael, walks into her dress shop. With him is a young girl on the cusp of adulthood, fresh-faced and pretty. She reminds Bridget of herself at that age, na�ve and vulnerable.

Bridget wants him away–away from her, away from that girl. But Carmichael won’t leave her alone, won’t stop stalking her. And Bridget’s not a little girl anymore. When he pushes her too far, she snaps. But what she thought was a decisive act only unravels more insidious threats–more than she could have ever imagined–and from which no one is safe, not even her family.

The bestselling British author Christobel Kent has written yet another thrilling page-turner with a twisted, riveting conclusion. What We Did is a nightmarish, impossible-to-put-down tale of the secrets we keep from our families, of chilling childhood abuse, and of long-awaited retribution.

 

Review:

Thank you to NetGalley, Sarah Crichton Books, and Christobel Kent for an ARC ebook copy to review. As always, an honest review from me. 

Like:

  • The relationship between the sisters
  • The mystery of what will happen next throughout the whole story
  • The day to day life working in a clothing store

Love: – 

Dislike: 

  • The flippancy the sisters have over serious topics
  • Despite all the drama and action, most of the time I was bored
  • All the triggers

Wish that:

-I related to the main character more, but then again based on some of her actions maybe it’s better that I don’t relate

Overall, not the book for me due to multiple reasons. Despite the promising plot, the story lacked much. 

 

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Have you read What We Did?

What did you think?

 

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2.5 Star Books · Book Reviews · non fiction · Self Help

The Art of Mindful Relaxation by Ed Shapiro

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The Art of Mindful Relaxation by Ed Shapiro

Published: August 15, 2018

Publisher: Ixia Books

Pages: 112

Genres: non fiction, self help

Rating: 2.5 stars

Recommend to fans of: learning more about Yoga Nidra, ways to relax 

Foodie Vibes: healthy vegetarian dishes 

 

Synopsis:

Most of us experience some degree of stress and many are too frustrated and exhausted to deal effectively with life’s pressures. Consumed by the mind’s chatter, we cannot appreciate the beauty and wonder of creation and we lose touch with the real purpose of our lives.
Ed Shapiro trained with the originator of yoga nidra and draws upon the timeless wisdom of centuries of Eastern meditation teachings to offer an in-depth, easy-to-follow path to profound relaxation and relief. By following these techniques, we can truly still our minds, tapping into a tremendous inner source of richness and creativity, and finding the freedom to realize our true potential.

 

Review:

Thank you to NetGalley, Ixia Press and Ed Shapiro for an ebook copy to review. As always, an honest review from me. 

Throughout the book the author tells his journey of learning to relax. Studying Yoga Nidra helped to greatly inform his beliefs and outlook on life. The book isn’t quite what I expected. More is his life journey, rather than information that may help the reader on their journey towards a more relaxed life. For a book that was only a little over 100 pages, it took me forever to get through it. The book isn’t bad, it just didn’t resonate with me.

The sections about various types of breathing exercises could be helpful for people who are unfamiliar with them. If you’re looking to learn more about yoga practices, especially the mental aspect, then The Art of Mindful Relaxation might help you. But not the book for me. 

 

How many of you do yoga? Let me know in the comments below.

 

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2.5 Star Books · ARC Book Reviews · Book Reviews · contemporary fiction · contemporary romance · Domestic Fiction · romance

ARC Review | A Sister’s Survival by Cydney Rax

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A Sister’s Survival by Cydney Rax

Published: November 27, 2018

Publisher: Dafina

Pages: 352

Genres: contemporary fiction, romance, domestic fiction

Rating: 2.5 stars

Recommend to fans of: books about complex but strong relationships

Foodie Vibes: home cooked meal — potato salad, collard greens, cornbread 

 

Synopsis:

To keep their family ties strong, the five Reeves sisters meet regularly to give each other a reality check. But explosive family secrets begin to pour out like molten lava, and forever change all they treasure most . . .
 
After a shattering revelation, youngest sister Elyse struggles to overcome the sexual abuse that nearly destroyed her. Between her tough eldest sister, Alita, and a promising fresh start with a new man, she’s finding the strength to make the most of her fierce intelligence. But Elyse still has a score to settle with the perfect sister she feels betrayed by—and she’s going after everything Burgundy can’t afford to lose . . .
 
 Coco thinks her useless baby daddy is finally about to commit—until she catches him with a woman who’s everything she’s not. As she tries to move on with her life, she can’t resist carrying out the ultimate revenge. But when she inadvertently gets caught up in Elyse’s plan, she must reveal an unforgivable truth that could crush any chance these sisters have to make things right.

 

Review:

Thank you to NetGalley, Dafina and Sydney Rax for an ARC ebook copy to review. As always, an honest review from me. 

Trigger warning: sexual assault

A Sister’s Survival has a great premise, but didn’t end up being the right book for me. I liked that the female characters had strong supportive relationships. They felt comfortable discussing times they were sexually assaulted. Another book that fits in perfectly with the #MeToo Movement. It’s rare that people feel comfortable discussing such horrific circumstances with others. So I appreciated that the book was able to shine a light on living your life after sexual assault.

However, there is so much drama. Over the top drama, which was a bit much for me. There’s also a lot of cheating on others, which I’ve stated before that I’m not a fan of. Sleep with whomever you want, as long as it’s consensual and safe, but please don’t cheat. It does show that people are human though. Another aspect that frustrated me was the lack of continuity between chapters. Information that made me question if I had accidentally skipped pages, because it wasn’t make sense to me.

Overall, a good representation of characters that I don’t often see in books. But too much drama and inconsistencies for me to really get into the story.

2.5 Star Books · Book Reviews · Philosophy · Self Help

Purpose-Volume 1: Meditation on Love, Relationship, Fear, Death, Intuition, and Power – Uncovering Our Resistance to Life by Noura

 

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Purpose-Volume 1: Meditation on Love, Relationship, Fear, Death, Intuition, and Power – Uncovering Our Resistance to Life by Noura

Published: February 28, 2018

Publisher: ?

Pages: 276

Genres: self help, philosophy

Rating: 2.5 stars

Recommend to fans of: hard but helpful realities, examining your thoughts to make changes

Foodie Vibes: pure spring water

 

Synopsis:

Is it possible to have clarity about ourselves that enables us to understand ourselves totally so we never have to rely on any belief? If we can look and see clearly for ourselves, are beliefs necessary?

Some of the topics this book explores include but aren’t limited to the following:

” Using meditation as a tool for self-inquiry and observation
” Mastering the mind through the mastery of love, which doesn’t oppose
” Empowering ourselves through mastery of the mind
” Love as our natural state, which can be hidden or denied but never destroyed
” Darkness as the false in us to be undone through total understanding of ourselves
” Unity of purpose as the foundation of our thinking versus the belief in separation as the foundation of our thinking
” The strength of unity in relation to mental strength
” How fear and violence arise in our thinking
” Uncovering our resistance to life and freeing ourselves from that resistance
” Relationships, death, intuition, intelligence, greed, joy, forgiveness, and integrity
” Respecting the power of belief
” Boundaries versus defenses
” Duality versus nonduality
” The mastery of love versus the mastery of darkness
” Purpose

 

Review:

I won this book for free in a Goodreads Giveaway. Thanks to Goodreads, Noura and the publisher for an ebook copy for review. As always, an honest review.

Purpose-Volume 1 reads like a long continuous stream of someone’s thoughts that is later grouped into chapters. The book starts with telling the reader to keep an open mind and not make any judgments. I tried to do that, but couldn’t. Some of it was because I still have aspects of myself I need to work on. But other parts of the book I definitely disagree with, no matter how much of an open mind I keep.

Most of the book I agree with in general, but when it comes to putting the concepts into practice they don’t hold true. For example, being kind to everyone and giving up your defenses. It’s good advice to not be so guarded all the time. However I believe that giving up all your defenses is stupid. Be cautiously kind and optimistic but also keep yourself safe. Then again maybe I’m not as evolved and enlightened as the author. Also the writing style made it hard to hold my attention. In parts I had to force myself to keep reading.

I did learn things about myself and highlighted lots of relevant passages. As the author says, use the book as a mirror to the inner workings of your mind.

Overall the book makes some good points about life, but the writing style makes it harder to read and less enjoyable. In theory it works, but in practicality not as much.

 

What do you look for in a self help book?

2.5 Star Books · Book Reviews · feminism · history · LGBTQIA+ Books · non fiction

ARC Book Review | A Politically Incorrect Feminist by Phyllis Chesler

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Be sure to scroll down to the bottom for a fun Bookish Question!

 

A Politically Incorrect Feminist: Creating a Movement with Bitches, Lunatics, Dykes, Prodigies, Warriors, and Wonder Women by Phyllis Chesler

Published: August 28, 2018

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Pages: 336

Genres: feminism, history, non fiction, LGBTQIA+

Rating: 2.5 stars

Recommend to fans of: feminist history, history not in the history books

Read with food: whatever you want

 

Synopsis:

Phyllis Chesler was a pioneer of Second Wave Feminism. Chesler and the women who came out swinging between 1972-1975 integrated the want ads, brought class action lawsuits on behalf of economic discrimination, opened rape crisis lines and shelters for battered women, held marches and sit-ins for abortion and equal rights, famously took over offices and buildings, and pioneered high profile Speak-outs. They began the first-ever national and international public conversations about birth control and abortion, sexual harassment, violence against women, female orgasm, and a woman’s right to kill in self-defense.

Now, Chesler has juicy stories to tell. The feminist movement has changed over the years, but Chesler knew some of its first pioneers, including Gloria Steinem, Kate Millett, Flo Kennedy, and Andrea Dworkin. These women were fierce forces of nature, smoldering figures of sin and soul, rock stars and action heroes in real life. Some had been viewed as whores, witches, and madwomen, but were changing the world and becoming major players in history. In A Politically Incorrect Feminist, Chesler gets chatty while introducing the reader to some of feminism’s major players and world-changers.

 

Review: 

Thank you to NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press and Phyllis Chesler for an ARC copy of the ebook for review. As always, an honest review.

I jot down notes while I read books, things that I want to remember for later to write my book reviews. For this book I had such conflicting notes written that I had a hard time figuring out what I thought overall. But it comes down to these two things. Number 1: I appreciate and respect the advances the author made in the feminist movement. Number 2: I disliked the tone the book was told with. Too angry and judgmental.

Starting out with the positives, because we could all use a little more positivity in our lives. The author’s voice is strong, clear and powerful. There’s no mistaking who she is and what she stands for. Her book tells her story as a feminist over the years, working to make things better for others. Looking back on how our society used to be for women makes me extremely grateful for the feminists before me. All the hard work they put in allows the women of today to have the rights we do. I learned a lot about feminist history in the U.S., especially when it pertains to the author’s life story.

However, the tone of the book makes it much less pleasant to read than it could have been. There’s a lot of judgment and anger. It’s understandable given the circumstances, but it doesn’t appeal to me. There’s also a lot of information, and it can be a bit too much at times. Maybe if your’e extremely familiar with feminist history, this won’t be the case for you. Also more of the book than I would like was the drama between the feminists. Not my cup of tea.

Overall Phyllis Chesler did a lot of good in her lifetime, but the writing feels angry and unapproachable. Informative, authentic, but not for me.

 

Bookish Question of the Review: 

Which feminist ideal do you wish were more prevalent in books? 

2.5 Star Books · Book Reviews · historical fiction · LGBTQIA+ Books · Literary Fiction · Uncategorized

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

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The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

Published: June 19, 2018

Publisher: Viking

Pages: 421 

Genres: literary fiction, historical fiction, LGBTQ

Rating: 2.5 stars

Recommend to fans of: historical fiction about the AIDS epidemic in the 80s

Read with food: Chinese takeaway

 

Synopsis:

In 1985, Yale Tishman, the development director for an art gallery in Chicago, is about to pull off an amazing coup, bringing in an extraordinary collection of 1920s paintings as a gift to the gallery. Yet as his career begins to flourish, the carnage of the AIDS epidemic grows around him. One by one, his friends are dying and after his friend Nico’s funeral, the virus circles closer and closer to Yale himself. Soon the only person he has left is Fiona, Nico’s little sister.

Thirty years later, Fiona is in Paris tracking down her estranged daughter who disappeared into a cult. While staying with an old friend, a famous photographer who documented the Chicago crisis, she finds herself finally grappling with the devastating ways AIDS affected her life and her relationship with her daughter. The two intertwining stories take us through the heartbreak of the eighties and the chaos of the modern world, as both Yale and Fiona struggle to find goodness in the midst of disaster.

Review:

I received this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways. Thank you to the publisher and author for a copy. As always, an honest review.

I was disappointed by this read. The story takes place in the art world in 1980s Chicago and also present day Paris. The main focus is the lives of the gay community during the AIDS epidemic in the 80s, which the author does justice. Despite what could be a phenomenal book, it fell short for me.

I couldn’t connect with any of the characters, nor did the story draw me in. Therefore I went through the book appreciating and enjoying certain moments, but overall not invested in either story due to lack of connection. Also the two separate stories barely had anything to do with each other. They honestly could have been 2 separate books or even eliminated most of the present day Paris storyline.

The Great Believers had some redeeming benefits though. It told a story that isn’t always portrayed in the media and actually went into detail instead of glossing over unfavorable moments. A part of the history books that isn’t always done justice.

If you can connect with the characters, then you will probably enjoy it more than I did. But if not then take my thoughts into consideration. The tone of the book and writing doesn’t really change as you get farther along in the book.

 

I liked the overall concept, but it didn’t pan out for me.

 

Anyone have any other similar books that you really liked and would recommend to me?

 

 

2.5 Star Books · Book Reviews

Book Review: Don’t You Ever: My Mothers and Her Secret Son by Mary Carter Bishop

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Don’t You Ever: My Mothers and Her Secret Son by Mary Carter Bishop 

Published by Harper on July 3, 2018 

Pages: 256 

Genres: memoir, non fiction

Rating: 2.5 stars

Recommend to fans of: unique memoirs, stories about unfair childhoods

Read with food: fried chicken and ice cream … perfect for siblings catching up after years apart

 

Synopsis:

From a prizewinning journalist, Mary Carter Bishop, a moving and beautifully rendered memoir about the half-brother she didn’t know existed that hauntingly explores family, class, secrets, and fate.

Applying for a passport as an adult, Mary Carter Bishop made a shocking discovery. She had a secret half-brother. Her mother, a farm manager’s wife on a country estate, told Mary Carter the abandoned boy was a youthful “mistake” from an encounter with a married man. There’d been a home for unwed mothers; foster parents; an orphanage.

Nine years later, Mary Carter tracked Ronnie down at the barbershop where he worked, and found a near-broken man—someone kind, and happy to meet her, but someone also deeply and irreversibly damaged by a life of neglect and abuse at the hands of an uncaring system. He was also disfigured because of a rare medical condition that would eventually kill him, three years after their reunion. During that window, Mary Carter grew close to Ronnie, and as she learned more about him she became consumed by his story. How had Ronnie’s life gone so wrong when hers had gone so well? How could she reconcile the doting, generous mother she knew with a woman who could not bring herself to acknowledge her own son?

Digging deep into her family’s lives for understanding, Mary Carter unfolds a sweeping story of religious intolerance, poverty, fear, ambition, class, and social expectations. Don’t You Ever is a modern Dickensian tale about a child seemingly cursed from birth; a woman shattered by guilt; a husband plagued by self-doubt; a prodigal daughter whose innocence was cruelly snatched away—all living in genteel central Virginia, a world defined by extremes of rural poverty and fabulous wealth.

A riveting memoir about a family haunted by a shameful secret, Don’t You Ever is a powerful story of a woman’s search for her long-hidden sibling, and the factors that profoundly impact our individual destinies. 

Review: 

I received this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways. As always, an honest review.

I have a lot of mixed feelings about Don’t You Ever, but overall I finished the book feeling quite neutral and unengaged about it all. The author tells the story of her simple but well loved life compared to her brother’s much more difficult upbringing. He was treated much differently by his parents and society. Mary Carter was even told that he was her cousin, not brother, which is incredibly telling.

Eventually the author learns of her brother and reunites with him. He’s had a difficult adulthood as well, with multiple health problems. Mary Carter and Ronnie learn about each other. During this process she uncovers many of the reasons for her family’s actions. Emotions such as fear, guilty, shame and self doubt drove their actions.

Don’t You Ever speaks to the time and place in which these people grew up. Through her family we learn a lot, but I still didn’t connect with them. I felt myself reading the pages just to finish the book. It’s not a bad book, but I mainly felt indifferent to the story.

Maybe other readers will connect more to the characters and story.