Before I Ever Met You by Karina Halle

Published: April 25th, 2017
Publisher: Metal Blonde Books

“I first met William McAlister when I was just a teenager.

He was handsome, had a beautiful wife and was on the verge of success, having just joined my father as his business partner. Mr. McAlister was full of smooth charm, but back then he was barely a blip on my radar. Just a family friend.

Fast forward ten years: I’m 25 years old and a single mom trying to make things right for her seven-year old son. I’ve made some mistakes, grappled with my demons and now I’m back in the city of Vancouver, getting a second chance at a better life.

I’ve started by working for my father’s production company as an executive assistant. My first day on the job and I already know I could have a promising career there.
That is until I see Will McAlister for the first time in a decade.

Now recently divorced and as sophisticated as always, Will has gone from being my father’s friend and business partner to something so much more.

We’re both older, for one thing, and he just oozes this worldly confidence and stark sexuality. Combined with his tall, muscular build and sharp suits, strong jaw and bedroom eyes, Will has turned into one hell of a distraction.

A distraction I’m having a hard time staying away from, considering his office is right across from my desk and I work with him in such close proximity.

But it’s just a harmless crush, right?

It’s just an innocent fantasy of screwing him on his desk, right?

It can’t ever be more because he’s my father’s best friend, business partner, and my boss.

Right?

Wrong.”

Review:

Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow. I have yet to have a bad Karina Halle read, and this one didn’t fail me either. 

This story was amazing from start to finish. There were so many things I could say about this book and how wonderful it was. Let’s name a few so I don’t get carried away.

First, the characters were written so well that I felt like they were real people in a situation like this. Jackie is a single mom with an awful ex and had to move home with her parents. Will is a partner in Jackie’s father’s company and just got over a messy divorce. These things seem very real and could happen to anyone. Karina Halle has a way with words that makes everything sound so legitimate and sincere.

Next, the story was amazing. There was so much chemistry and love within this book, I wanted to be put in it. Jackie and Will made the perfect couple. They’ve both had a horrible past, and they understood that about each other. I think that’s what I liked the best about the characters. Their individual stories brought them together.

Lastly, the setting is the best. I am a sucker for office romances and Karina Halle did such a wonderful job with the descriptions. The book told the story of how they started working together, and they’ve known each other, but have never seen each other in such a light. This book had it’s each individual promises and rolled it in to one beautiful book.

I love this book and I love Karina Halle. She is an author I recommend to those who love contemporary romance and beautiful stories. This one was particularly great for me because of the setting. Can’t wait for my next Karina!

Rating: ★★★★★

 

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

Publication Date: August 1st, 2017
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press

“In this riveting debut novel, See What I Have Done, Sarah Schmidt recasts one of the most fascinating murder cases of all time into an intimate story of a volatile household and a family devoid of love.

On the morning of August 4, 1892, Lizzie Borden calls out to her maid: Someone’s killed Father. The brutal ax-murder of Andrew and Abby Borden in their home in Fall River, Massachusetts, leaves little evidence and many unanswered questions. While neighbors struggle to understand why anyone would want to harm the respected Bordens, those close to the family have a different tale to tell—of a father with an explosive temper; a spiteful stepmother; and two spinster sisters, with a bond even stronger than blood, desperate for their independence.

As the police search for clues, Emma comforts an increasingly distraught Lizzie whose memories of that morning flash in scattered fragments. Had she been in the barn or the pear arbor to escape the stifling heat of the house? When did she last speak to her stepmother? Were they really gone and would everything be better now? Shifting among the perspectives of the unreliable Lizzie, her older sister Emma, the housemaid Bridget, and the enigmatic stranger Benjamin, the events of that fateful day are slowly revealed through a high-wire feat of storytelling.”

Review:

We all know the story of Lizzie Borden:

“Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks.
When she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one.”

This debut novel from Sarah Schmidt describes what seems like what happened the day of the murders of Mr. and Mrs. Borden. This book is told by four people: Lizzie, Emma, Bridget, and Benjamin. Going through each individual part, they each have their own story to tell. There are some things I actually learned from this book. I never knew that Mrs. Borden was their stepmother, for example. I liked this book, but it didn’t do spectacular things for me.

I think that Sarah Schmidt did a great job for her debut novel. This story was pretty interesting, and how she wrote it was pretty cool too. This is what she posted on her Goodreads page:

“I met Lizzie Borden in a second hand bookstore when a pamphlet about the Borden case fell off a shelf and landed at my feet. I wasn’t interested in the case whatsoever. I put it back and left the shop. That night I dreamt of Lizzie sitting at the end of my bed and she told me, ‘I have something to tell you about my father. He has a lot to answer for.’ It was one of the creepiest and most unsettling dreams I’d ever had but I ignored it, tried to go back to sleep. I had the same dream every night for a week. So I decided to write the dream down hoping it would go away. That was the very beginning of See What I Have Done. I had no idea it would take me 11 years to write it.”

This response, the synopsis, and the cover are what interested me in this book in the first place. This seems like she really thought about this book a lot, especially if it took 11 years to write.

First, the characters were all very good. I think Lizzie was the best in my opinion (as she should be). Sarah Schmidt made Lizzie come to life as a young girl who’s living with the explosive personality of her father and the spite of her stepmother. Sarah Schmidt really writes Lizzie like she is crazy, and I appreciate that so much. Emma moved out and receives the news that her father has been murdered. It seems like there is sadness there, but not too much. Benjamin is just a weird, weird guy. Every time I read his parts I thought the same thing over and over again.

I thought that the story was brilliant, but it just didn’t have the pizzazz for me. It didn’t shine like I expected it to. The writing style seemed a little slow at times, especially during the middle section of the book. There were some parts where I felt like I was reading the same thing over and over again. It definitely felt repetitive at times, but towards the end, it really picked up for me. I was very happy about that because I didn’t have a problem finishing the book. The ending was very, very good and I love the way Sarah Schmidt wrote it.

The last thing that I was confused on were the flashbacks and taking the reader to a different time. I feel like they were a bit out of place, and made me have to stop and go back. It stopped flowing for me a few times, unfortunately.

Overall, I think this book had a lot of potential and was good, but it definitely had it’s flaws. It’s expected from a debut novelist that it will have flaws, but I think Sarah Schmidt did very well. I love the story of how this ended up being written, and the cover makes me have heart eyes. I think this book is a job well done, and Sarah Schmidt should continue writing her dreams into reality!

Rating: 3.75/5

 

The Other F-Word by Natasha Friend

Publication Date: March 7th, 2017

“A fresh, humorous, and timely YA novel about two teens conceived via in vitro fertilization who go in search for answers about their donor.

Milo has two great moms, but he’s never known what it’s like to have a dad. When Milo’s doctor suggests asking his biological father to undergo genetic testing to shed some light on Milo’s extreme allergies, he realizes this is a golden opportunity to find the man he’s always wondered about.

Hollis’s mom Leigh hasn’t been the same since her other mom, Pam, passed away seven years ago. But suddenly, Leigh seems happy—giddy, even—by the thought of reconnecting with Hollis’s half-brother Milo. Hollis and Milo were conceived using the same sperm donor. They met once, years ago, before Pam died.

Now Milo has reached out to Hollis to help him find their donor. Along the way, they locate three other donor siblings, and they discover the true meaning of the other F-word: family.”

Review:

This story starts out when two lesbian couples go to use IVF to become pregnant. One couple have a girl named Hollis, while the other has a boy named Milo. They met at a very young age, and haven’t seen each other since. Milo suffers from severe allergies to many different things. Hollis has been dealing with a lot since one of her moms, Pam, died from cancer. Hollis’s other mom, Leigh, has been going a little out of her mind with the fact that the ghost of Pam still is with them, and when Milo reconnects with Hollis through Pam’s e-mail, Leigh believes it more than ever. It was a sign from Pam, according to Leigh. Leigh and Hollis hop on a plane to Brooklyn, New York where she spends a lot of time with her half brother and his best friend JJ Rabinowitz (winky face). When Milo and Hollis go through information, it turns out they have three other donor siblings (oh my god could you imagine!). Meeting again with the other siblings this time, they make a bond stronger than they’ve ever had before. This book was not only to show how donor kids feel (like they’re not good enough, etc.), but also shows that the other F-word – family, is the best thing you can have. Whatever life throws at you, your family is who will be by your side. I think this book definitely taught this very important lesson well.

There were many memorable moments in this book. I loved the fact that Natasha Friend brought some real issues and true definitions.

According to this article, “Regardless of socioeconomic status, donor offspring are twice as likely as those raised by biological parents to report problems with the law before age 25. They are more than twice as likely to report having struggled with substance abuse. And they are about 1.5 times as likely to report depression or other mental health problems.” Natasha Friend wrote about Milo who had this awful issue with allergies to food, pollen, etc., and it wasn’t his biological mother who had it, therefore, there would only be one option left. He felt excited to possibly know who his father was to get some answers about his medical history. Hollis was different than Milo. Hollis didn’t want to know who her father was because she got the feeling of being “damaged goods”. Her father didn’t want her. He went to this donor building, why? She wanted the answers without having to meet him. She was depressed, still reeling from her mother’s death seven years prior. Natasha Friend brought some real issues to light and I’m very glad she did so.

Next, I want to talk about the characters. The character development in this book was very well written. The way that Hollis was in the beginning of the book was frustrating. At 14, she is pretty out of control. I guess it’s possible to blame the fact she is depressed and dealing with bullying throughout the school day, but she is pretty reckless. At the end of the book, her character really figures out who she is. My favorite character in this book is JJ Rabinowitz. His dialogue actually made me laugh out loud multiple times. He has this “I don’t care attitude”, but yet he struggles with his own demons of being adopted. Again, Natasha Friend brought the struggles that an adopted child might feel into this book.

The only thing that I disliked (I wouldn’t even call it that) is the fact that each character was written seeming a little older than they actually were. Hollis especially was a little bad with this. There were times in this book where she was hooking up with a guy named Gunner and skipping class just to do that. I mean I guess I could see it today where things are pretty sexualized, but I think at 14 years old, that’s a problem. She has a loving mother at home, and she doesn’t realize that what she’s doing is wrong. I don’t see how it’s justifiable for a 14 year old. If she was written at age 16/17, I would’ve been better with it.

Overall, I think this book really hit a lot of great topics that need to be discussed: adoption, IVF, cancer, depression, anxiety, family, etc. Natasha Friend’s writing captivated me right from the beginning. The first few sentences had me wondering what was going to happen at the end. The end did surprise me and I definitely wouldn’t be mad if there was a sequel. If there isn’t, I think it’s great just the way it is.

Rating: ★★★★ 

 

Girl In Snow by Danya Kukafka

Published: August 1st, 2017
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Who Are You When No One Is Watching?

When a beloved high schooler named Lucinda Hayes is found murdered, no one in her sleepy Colorado suburb is untouched—not the boy who loved her too much; not the girl who wanted her perfect life; not the officer assigned to investigate her murder. In the aftermath of the tragedy, these three indelible characters—Cameron, Jade, and Russ—must each confront their darkest secrets in an effort to find solace, the truth, or both.

In crystalline prose, Danya Kukafka offers a brilliant exploration of identity and of the razor-sharp line between love and obsession, between watching and seeing, between truth and memory. Compulsively readable and powerfully moving, Girl in Snow offers an unforgettable reading experience and introduces a singular new talent in Danya Kukafka.”

Review:

First, I want to say thank you to NetGalley, Simon & Schuster, and Danya Kukafka for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

This is a story of how a small town suffers loss as a young girl, Lucinda Hayes, is found murdered at the local park. The story is told between three characters: Cameron, Jade, and Russ. Cameron is a young boy who’s father is an ex-cop who went AWOL, leaving him and his mother behind in this small town in Colorado. Jade is a girl who used to be friends with Lucinda. She used to be a lot of things before she secluded herself to only herself, her home, and her sister. She can barely take those things. Lastly, Russ is a current police officer working in that Colorado town. He watched many things throughout the years, including what happened to Cameron’s father, Lee. The three struggle through the death of Lucinda in their own ways, but intertwine and help each other along the way.

The first thing I want to talk about is the cover. Goodness, it’s beautiful. The cover was the first thing that drew me to this book in the first place. After reading the synopsis, it sounded like a book that I would really enjoy. Originally, this book wasn’t marked as young adult, but personally, I believe it should be classified as such. It’s a high school story that anyone would enjoy.

I want to congratulate Danya Kukafka on having such a beautiful debut novel. She really wrote each character delicately, making sure that they seemed like they were living the lives that she had for them. I appreciate when there is more than one character in a book because it’s easy to forget when there’s only one. With three characters, the going back and forth between them all really kept my attention.

The only thing that saddens me is that I feel like there was just something missing. I think it was towards the end, I was waiting for a certain thing to happen between a few people, and it unfortunately never did. It might be just more of a personal preference of what I wanted to happen, but it fell a little short.

Overall, I gave this book 4 stars because it was a great read. The characters throughout were amazing and I really loved a lot of the scenes that Kukafka had written. I wish I could’ve given this five stars, but there were some things missing for me.

Rating: ★★★★

Suicide Notes by Michael Thomas Ford

Published: October 14th, 2008

I’m not crazy. I don’t see what the big deal is about what happened. But apparently someone does think it’s a big deal because here I am. I bet it was my mother. She always overreacts.

Fifteen-year-old Jeff wakes up on New Year’s Day to find himself in the hospital. Make that the psychiatric ward. With the nutjobs. Clearly, this is all a huge mistake. Forget about the bandages on his wrists and the notes on his chart. Forget about his problems with his best friend, Allie, and her boyfriend, Burke. Jeff’s perfectly fine, perfectly normal, not like the other kids in the hospital with him. Now they’ve got problems. But a funny thing happens as his forty-five-day sentence drags on: the crazies start to seem less crazy.

Compelling, witty, and refreshingly real, Suicide Notes is a darkly humorous novel from award-winning author Michael Thomas Ford that examines that fuzzy line between “normal” and the rest of us.”

Review:

Jeff is not crazy. He’s not sure why he’s in a psychiatric ward of a hospital. After sitting in with meetings of the other members of the ward, he really knows he’s not crazy. So why is he here? He must stay 45 days for treatment since he tried to commit suicide.

This book had a very interesting standpoint. I enjoyed this book, but I felt like I was reading the same chapter over and over again. It wasn’t until the end of the book that it became strong and won me over. I hate when that happens because I have to drop my rating. Finding out what actually happened in the end, and how everything adjusted, was very good. I wish it was that good throughout the book.

The characters in this book weren’t my favorite either. There were a few that I didn’t like and then later in the book, I actually found to be good people. This shows good character development and I love that in a book. If I can switch back and forth from hating to loving and back to hating again, the author did a good job.

I really expected a lot more out of this book and I’m sad that I can’t give it a higher rating.

Rating: ★★★

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Published: April 7th, 2015

“Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.”

Review:

This was the perfect story. If you are a teenager struggling to come out, I think this book would be extremely beneficial to read.

Let’s start with Simon and how he is the cutest human being alive. I loved him from the minute I picked up this book because he’s very relatable. He is closeted (obviously) but it’s not because he’s ashamed. It’s because he doesn’t want to make a big deal out of it. So when he gets caught emailing his anonymous pen pal about their situations, he knows he’s in deep trouble. It turns into a full on blackmail situation. The way Simon handles it is exactly how I would and how I would expect other people to handle it.

The characters in this story – Nick, Abby, Leah, etc. – are exactly how people are actually in high school. Their emotions are so high and everything is a big deal. This did the perfect storytelling.

I loved this book and the ending was absolutely wonderful. I thought it felt a little bit rushed like I was surprised to flip the page and see the acknowledgements. But when I went back and reread the last page, it really did end perfectly.

Rating: ★★★★★

The Romantics by Leah Konen

Published: November 1st, 2016

“Perfect for fans of Lauren Myracle and Rainbow Rowell, The Romantics will charm readers of all ages. Gael Brennan is about to have his heart broken when his first big relationship crumbles on the heels of his parents’ painful separation. Love intervenes with the intention of setting things right—but she doesn’t anticipate the intrusion of her dreaded nemesis: the Rebound. Love’s plans for Gael are sidetracked by Cara, Gael’s hot-sauce-wielding “dream girl.” The more Love meddles, the further Gael drifts from the one girl who can help him mend his heart. Soon Love starts breaking all her own rules—and in order to set Gael’s fate back on course, she has to make some tough decisions about what it means to truly care.”

Review:

Let’s start off with the narrator of this story: “Love”. This was the cutest idea I’ve seen in a long time when it comes to narration. Love is basically a emotion that makes things happen throughout the book. Whether it’s a chair getting pushed closer together or making one of them think about something, it’s her and it’s adorable.

Gael’s life is hard. He has this big relationship that ends in the worst possible way. His parents are divorcing. He doesn’t know if he has a best friend anymore. Things are really hard at the moment. On the way from leaving his own birthday dinner, his life gets even weirder when he meets Cara by smacking into her bike. Gael and Cara aren’t really that good for each other, but it seems that they really are into each other. What can Love do to stop it?

The story flowed very well and it was such an interesting concept to learn about. I’ve never read another book with a narrator like that. It’s like Love was a person and an emotion. Super great read. By the end of the book, I loved it, but overall I felt like there was just one thing missing, and it kept me from giving this book a five star rating. I’d recommend this book to anyone!

Rating: ★★★★