Book Review: The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister

   My plan this morning was to skim the first chapter of The Scent Keeper, by Erica Bauermeister, just to get a feel for it. Five hours later, I’ve finished the book and I’m still spell-bound.

   Emmaline and her father live alone on island, surrounded by all the wonders of nature. In their cabin, her father stores small vials, the smells of a thousand memories bottled and sealed in an effort to preserve them forever. But as the scents begin to fade, and Emmaline’s curiosity pushes her farther from her father’s rules, everything she’s known is at risk.

   Through a series of tragic events Emmaline finds herself in the harsh, noisy “real world” where her understanding of smells is the only thing she has to help navigate the new town, school, and relationships she lacked on the island. And beyond it all is the lingering mystery of who Emmaline really is and where she came from.

   The Scent Keeper is a beautifully written, lyrical story that pulls at your heart and engages your senses. The emotions and descriptions are so vivid that you will feel the heartache and smell the scents. It’s a mesmerizing and enchanting journey of self-discovery and self-awareness. All I can say is, just wow. Great writing and a great book.

*I received a copy of The Scent Keeper from NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.  

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Book Review: Romanov by Nadine Brandes

     One of the stories from history that has always intrigued me (and so many other people) is that of the Romanov family, particularly Anastasia. So much mystery still surrounds the last hours and minutes of her life, as well as her death. And so many theories have been entertained. In Romanov author Nadine Brandes offers her own creative imaginings about the life and death of young Anastasia “Nastya” Romanov. This novel is historical fiction, but with an imaginative bit of magic thrown into the mix.

   The strongest part of the novel, in my opinion, was the relationship between Nastya and her family. It was the one aspect in which I felt a strong emotional connection with the storyline. The family relationship felt loving, intense and authentic. Unfortunately, the rest of the novel felt emotionally distant to me, I didn’t feel a connection to the characters or action outside of that.

   There were some historical inaccuracies (perhaps creative stretching of facts to meet a storytelling goal?) and some things that were glossed over that could have used more attention and flushing out for a stronger storyline.  The inconsistencies in the novel as well as the historical inconsistencies were a bit distracting.

   Another thing that could have used more details was the world-building—especially the magic. It felt unformed and underwhelming.

   All-in-all Romanov was a decent read, an entertaining re-imaging of history, but it wasn’t as great as I’d hoped.

*I received a copy of Romanov from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review

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Book Review: Baby of the Family by Maura Roosevelt


Baby of the Family is a novel about the once influential Whitby family.

Roger Whitby, the four times married family patriarch, has died after squandering a majority of his wealth. He’s left what remains of his estate to his youngest (adopted) son, Nick, the son of his fourth wife. Nick is a young man who has been struggling to find a purpose in his life. As his father is dying, Nick becomes involved in an act of political activism, and then goes missing.

Brooke, Roger’s daughter from his second marriage, is dealing with her own issues. She’s pregnant by a man she doesn’t love, afraid to admit to the love she has for Allie, and her house—the one thing she has from her dad—has just become part of Nick’s inheritance. Brooke doesn’t even really know Nick and has no idea if she’ll be forced out of the house. She’s barely able to get by on her nursing job, and the thought of having to add rent or a mortgage to her financial plan—in addition to the cost of having a baby—has left her unsure of the right decisions.

Roger’s daughter Shelley is living with her mother in the New York apartment Roger walked out of years ago. Her mom has left after descending into a years-long cycle of depression. Desperate for income, Shelley takes a job with a very peculiar man, and ends up in a complex relationship with him.

Told from the point of view of these three Whitby children, each abandoned and let down by their father, it explores the complex relationships between children and their parents. It’s really about finding and being yourself, despite your familial relations.

It was hard to identify with the characters (for obvious reasons—the lack of my own family fortune), but they were interesting enough to keep me reading. Baby of the Family wasn’t a novel that drew me in and kept me on the edge of my seat, but I was passively interested enough to continue reading to find out what happens to each of the characters.

*I received an ARC of Baby of the Family from Netgalley and Dutton Books in exchange for an honest review

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Book Review: Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

I was mesmerized by the description of Gilded Wolves and thrilled when I received a copy. The promise of secret societies and art heists in Paris during the late 1800’s were all the temptation I needed.

Gilded Wolves is a YA fantasy about an ancient order with a drastically diminishing number of houses. Severin is an exiled member of his house—and an antiquities thief–, trying to earn his way back by finding an ancient artefact. In order to do so, he enlists the help of a group of colleagues and friends, each as unique and varied in skill as well as personality.

This book is rich in magic and artistry, as well as multi-cultural mythologies and beliefs. I found it very difficult to get in to, the first several chapters were slow to grab me in all honesty. But once I was finally drawn in to the story line, I was pulled along on a magnificent journey.

I adore how intricately the mythos was woven into the storyline and the subtle undercurrent of history and science that happens throughout this novel. Of course there are comparisons to Six of Crows, but I think Gilded Wolves has set itself apart as it’s own unique world and Roshani Chokshi has developed it beautifully.

*I received a copy of Gilded Wolves from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

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Book Review: Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward

Beautiful Bad by Annie  Ward

There’s been a 911 call, screaming, and an officer arrives at a house to find blood everywhere. Welcome to Meadowlark, Kansas and “The Day of the Killing”.

Beautiful Bad is told from multiple POV’s and throughout different points in history. Maddie and Ian meet overseas and fall in love. They are married and have a son. After a camping accident that leaves Maddie with no memory of the events, she begins journaling as therapy.

So many things come to light as we jump between time periods and POVs: Maddie’s ambitions, Ian’s PTSD and drinking, and Maddie’s broken friendship with Jo. Twenty years is a lot of time for people to build up fears and resentments, it’s a lot of time for things to simmer, and when they boil over (and you find out the how and the who), you’re left with nothing to say but, “DAMN!”

Maddie’s writing was my favorite, her voice chilled me and made me sad and scared all at once. But, as I finished, I found myself appreciating every POV for what it contributed to the final outcome.

I’m really afraid to say more because I could go on-and-on, which will inevitably lead to spoilers (and I hate spoilers!). Annie Ward has crafted a magnificently plotted psychological thriller and Beautiful Bad is a book I’ll be thinking about for a long time to come.

 

*I received an ARC (Advanced Reader’s Copy) of Beautiful Bad from  Harlequin and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

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Book Review: Legendary by Stephanie Garber

First, thank you to Stephanie Garber, Flatiron Books and NetGalley for an ARC of Legendary 

Caraval is over and its secrets have been exposed…or have they?

When Caraval ended Donatella Dragna had just received a message from “A friend” hinting that her mother would be proud, but that she must keep up her side of the bargain if she hopes to see her again. Bargain?

Legendary opens on the day after Caraval. Scarlett and Tella are heading to Valenda for a special Caraval in honor of Empress Elentine’s birthday. Julian and Dante are still in the mix, as are some of the original Caraval actors.

Legendary is primarily Tella’s story and weaves all the magic of Caraval with some deeper myths from these lands, both of which are a threat to the existence of the other. Legend remains a mysterious and threatening presence, and in order to save her mother, Tella must discover Legend’s real name. The Fates—gods who once ruled the world—are desperate to return and can only do so with Legend’s magic, but Legend aspires to have the power of the Fates. And, as with every other Caraval, it is impossible to know who is telling the truth, who is lying, who is living, and who is simply playing a part.

Tella seems like a much stronger and more complex character in Legendary than she did in Caraval and it was nice to have this different POV. I thought Legendary had all the magic and beauty that I loved in Caraval, and the world building was amazingly vivid.

My absolute, favorite part of the book though, was at the end. While I can’t share it (it’s a bit of a spoiler) I’ll say that I whispered, “Yes!”, as I closed this book!

Oh…and it was just announced that there will be a book 3! (And I’m going to need to be added to the list for a copy of that as well!)

I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review

 

Buy Legendary on Amazon or from Barnes & Noble

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Book Review: American Panda by Gloria Chao

An incisive, laugh-out-loud contemporary debut about a Taiwanese-American teen whose parents want her to be a doctor and marry a Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer despite her squeamishness with germs and crush on a Japanese classmate.

Mei is seventeen and just entering her freshman year at MIT. She is on track to become a doctor and to marry the ideal Taiwanese mate, all according to the “plan” laid out for her by her parents.

The problem is Mei is a bit of a germaphobe, would prefer to be a dancer, and has zero interest in the boy her parents want her to marry. Mei has found herself pulled between wanting to pursue her own dreams and the knowledge of what it means to go against her parents.

Mei’s brother, Xing, was banished from the family for following his heart and, as Mei discovers her own hopes and happiness, she fears how close she is to repeating his path. Mei finds herself torn between the desire to make her parents proud or to find her own happiness.

American Panda is engaging, and funny, as well as heartbreaking. The characters are so vividly portrayed I could hear them as if they were speaking and standing in the room with me. Even though this reality is so far from anything I’ve known in my life I felt the pain and pressure that Mei—and girls just like her—must feel. What a delightful and engaging story!

*Thank you to NetGalley and Simon Pulse for the chance to read an ARC of American Panda.

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Book Review: Bad Girl Gone by Temple Mathews

Imagine waking up in an orphanage surrounded by a strange mix of troubled kids. That’s exactly what happened to sixteen-year-old Echo Stone.

Echo doesn’t know how she’s gotten to Middle House, an orphanage, because she has parents. But Middle House is actually an “orphanage” for the ghosts of murder victims. It’s a sort of purgatory that these “in-betweeners” are living in until they can solve their murders/finish their business. Echo not only discovers she was murdered, but she visits the gruesome crime scene. With the help of Cole, another in-betweener, Echo sets about to figure out who could have disliked her enough to murder her. She also discovers she might not have been as well-liked as she’d imagined.

As the book opens I found myself as bewildered as Echo must certainly feel. What a strange place Middle House is! It took some time to get my bearings in this book and figure out what was going on. I appreciated the adventure of Echo trying to solve her own murder, dealing with the reality that her life—and those she loved—are far out of reach for her, and I found this to be a quick and easy read.

My criticisms are that I can’t say I ever really felt a connection to Echo, I was interested in the story, but didn’t develop the deep level of connection which makes me really care about the character. I also didn’t feel invested in her romance with Cole.

Overall, it’s a good, quick read for someone looking for something “light”.

*I received a copy of Bad Girl Gone from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

Buy Bad Girl Gone on Amazon or Barnes & Noble 

 

 

 

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Book Review: ARES ROAD by James L. Weaver

It is rare that I read (and review!) a book so soon after it’s released. However…I had just finished book 1 in the series and I was on a mob/crime book roll. Also, this is a pretty catchy series, I am definitely a fan of Jake Caldwell books now. So here it is…

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ISBN-13:9780994451217

Publisher:Lakewater Press

Publication date:03/02/2017

Series:Jake Caldwell, #2

Pages:294

 

 

“A teenaged girl screaming down a dead man’s cell…it’s Monday for Jake Caldwell.”

I mentioned when I reviewed POOR BOY ROAD (book 1 in this series) that I have a life-long obsession with all things mob related & am frequently disappointed in crime related books. That is even more often the case where sequels are involved. ARES ROAD, however did NOT let me down.
Jake Caldwell (former mob enforcer) is now trying to make his way on the right side of the law. He’s learning the PI business with the help of ex-cop Logan and they are hunting down a stolen briefcase. But that search has turned up a dead man and a girl screaming on the end of his cell phone. Jake is pulled into a deadly ring of bad dudes (Russian & Middle Eastern mob-types), crooked politicians, an FBI agent with her own secrets and crooked cops. And behind it all, his former mob boss still lingers.

 

ARES ROAD is another fast-paced thriller that was just as exciting as its predecessor. And now I can’t wait for the next book in the series.

You can purchase ARES ROAD at the following places:

Amazon.com Amazon.com.uk Amazon.com.au Barnes & Noble

 

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Book Review: POOR BOY ROAD (Jake Caldwell Book 1)

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I have a life-long obsession with all things mob related and am often disappointed with the books that purport to have mob-related characters or story lines. POOR BOY ROAD was not a disappointment. I was hooked from the first paragraph.

Jake Caldwell is an enforcer for the mob. Now he’s heading home where the abusive father he escaped from years ago is dying. He is also on deadline, his boss has given him a way out of the “business” only it involves taking his bone-breaking work to the next level: murder.

Jake’s new life and the old collide as he faces family obligations, old friends, a rekindled love, and the ticking clock of a murderous and unforgiving boss.

POOR BOY ROAD is a fast-paced thriller that was hard to put down. It is well written with realistic characters and dialogue. My interest never waned and I really cared about the characters. This is a story that could be happening in any town right now, which makes it even more realistic. I can’t wait for the next book in the series.

Available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Kindle Edition, 272 pages
Published March 21st 2016 by Lakewater Press
ASIN
B019X3WELC
Edition Language
English
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