Friday, August 18, 2017

The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck Review

The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck
By: Bethany Turner

Steamy romance writer Sarah Hollenbeck's career is at its peak, but reconciling her writing with her newfound faith proves more difficult than she imagined--and falling for her pastor doesn't make things any easier.


I received an Advanced Reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This was my first foray into the Christian Romance genre, and I found myself somewhat pleasantly surprised by it. I have always been hesitant to pick up any type of religious book with a sense of trepidation that the story would be lost in the religious aspects of the writing. The author did a great job at putting the story first and giving religion a back seat. 

The main character, Sarah, goes on a journey of self discovery after her sudden divorce in an attempt to find out who she is now that she's no longer 'Sarah McDermott'. During her marriage she identified herself based on the man she was with, it made her seem pathetic. As does the journey she takes to find herself again. I applaud the author's attempt to give Sarah a meaningful journey, making her into a famous and popular steamy romance novelist, but she took a sharp turn at Sarah's out of the blue "salvation" and it just didn't feel authentic. Especially as she became ashamed of the novel she had written because of it's sexual content. The one thing that she had done on her own, that helped her become her own person had suddenly (literally, in the span of a minute's decision) became an embarrassment to her and she wished it didn't exist. 

I enjoyed Sarah's relationship with pastor Ben. His character was cute and charming and his story was tragic. I liked the bit of drama the author threw in, and also that it wasn't blown out of proportion and was, for the most part, easily dealt with once all parties were on the same page. I did feel as though Sarah's character was falling back into her past desire to identify herself by her husband. She cared a great deal and thought a great deal about what their fellow churchgoers would think of her and her actions as a pastors wife, and whether or not they would accept her as such. The idea that a group of her peers would judge her based on a fictitious novel that she wrote is exactly the intolerant attitude that I have always thought gave religion a negative connotation.  

The book was a light, quick read that was a nice interlude from the darker novel's I have been reading as of late. It was exactly what I needed to distract me from the negative. Based on my impressions of this book I will definitely not be more open to trying more books from this genre with an open mind. Apparently, no matter the type, I will always be a sucker for a romance. 

Final Rating:
✬✬✬✫✫
Probability of Rereading:
Yes

Thanks for reading,

Opinionated Bookworm

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Mask of Sanity Review

The Mask of Sanity
By: Jacob M. Appel

On the outside, Dr. Jeremy Balint is a pillar of the community--the youngest division chief at his hospital, a model son to his elderly parents, fiercely devoted to his wife and two young daughters. On the inside, Dr. Jeremy Balint is a high-functioning sociopath, a man who truly believes himself to stand above the ethical norms of society. As long as life treats him well, Balint has no cause to harm others. When life treats him poorly, he reveals the depths of his cold-blooded depravity. In contrast to fictional predecessors like Dostoyevesky's Raskolnikov and Camus's Mersault, Dr. Balint is a man who already has it all--and will do everything in his power, no matter how immoral, to keep what he has.


I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I don't even know where to start with this book. I just finished reading it a minute ago, and I usually give myself some time to collect my thoughts before I write my review, but honestly, this book disturbed me so much that I don't want more time to think about it. Thinking about it gives me the creeps. It's not an overtly scary read, but the main character Dr. Balint is so disturbing that I literally got chills from this book. Which is also why it took me so long (3 days) to read it. I took many breaks during this one to absorb my family, life and surroundings before delving back into Balint's sociopathic mind. I've read a lot of books, and watched a lot of serial killer documentaries, but none of them have ever affected me quite the way this novel did. The writing of this book was absolutely amazing. The story had such a realistic quality to it, and the mind of the serial killer was characterized so well that I had to remind myself a few times that this book was fiction.

Dr. Balint's character was truly frightening. On the outside he was perfect; a doctor, a husband, a father. He outwardly displayed emotions of sympathy and empathy that he didn't actually feel. He did it completely nonchalantly, as though he had been playing the role of 'caring human being' his whole life, for the sake of those around him. At the same time he did feel true emotions when it came to those he loved. He was capable of genuinely loving his children and his parents. He wanted to protect his children and saw his actions of murder as a way of ensuring their safe and happy futures. He was genuinely concerned for the welfare of his parents and showed them affection. However, when he came face to face with the loved ones of those he had killed and looked their grief in the face he felt nothing. He took people away from their families, and had absolutely zero remorse for the people they had left behind; and in some cases even talked himself into believing he had done his victims and their families a favour by ending their lives! Bizarrely enough, I found myself actually caring about Balint and hoping that his spree would end and he would just slip quietly back into his life as though nothing had happened. I wanted him to go on with no repercussions, while at the same time completely despising his actions. The author had somehow found a way to write Balint's character in a way as to make the readers care for him. Seriously, I cannot say enough about the writing of this book.

The overall flow of the book was pretty good, it felt like there was always something happening. The serial killer plot line went hand in hand with the marital issues Balint was experiencing but at the same time they were kept separate. Funnily enough by the end of the book I actually disliked Balint's wife far more than Balint himself. The author did a great job at detailing the married life that Balint and his wife shared and what sort of  social experiences they had together. The pages in which Balint was planning his next murder and victim did get a little dry at the end, but only because his thought processes were all the same, understandably the gist of it was 'kill this person and don't get caught'. And because he was so meticulous in the planning, the descriptions of it tended to be a bit drawn out.

This book brings to light the seriousness of mental health issues and offers a very clear picture of what the mind of a sociopath looks like. It is absolutely terrifying how well Balint can hide his true personality whilst maintaining a full and meaningful life both with his family and professionally, and no one's the wiser for it. This is definitely a book that, though I may never read again, I am not likely to forget any detail of it anytime soon.

Final Rating:
✬✬✬✬✬
Probability of Rereading:
No

Thanks for reading!

Opinionated Bookworm

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Tenants of 7C

The Tenants of 7C
By: Alice Degan

On a back alley in Toronto's Kensington Market, above the Heaven & Earth Bakery, there's an apartment with a room for rent. The rent is negotiable. The location varies. Humans need not apply. For Nick, who calls 7C home, real life can be a lot weirder than his friends' role-playing games. Between regular stints at his job delivering bread and cinnamon buns to the otherworldly population of the city, these days he finds himself dodging attacks from vampire-hunting tourists, possessed pigeons, and his boss's unborn child. Welcome to a world of obnoxious fairies and bored vampires, satyrs who love '80s music and demons who play video games. Welcome to 7C. Good luck finding the bathroom.


I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I was pleasantly surprised by this book. The synopsis did absolutely not do this book any justice. Everything from the plot lines to the characters to the setting were all such original ideas that I couldn't help but be surprised and enthralled at every turn. From the moment that the apartment (7C) was described I was completely hooked. I wanted to be there, exploring it. I wanted to talk to the characters and ask them questions, get to know them. All except for Claire, who is the most unlikeable character in the book.

Every time a new class of being was introduced I was excited to see as to what capacity the author was use them and how they would differ from my current (and admittedly poor) knowledge of mythical creatures. Each of the main characters brought something new and different to the story, while at the same time being human in their feelings and actions. The tenants of 7C were all something independent from each other but all intertwined in their relationships and caring for one another.

The book was short, and was surprisingly full of conflict for a book of it's size. It didn't dwell on any one thing in particular or drag anything circumstances out, so there were no dull parts in the book. It was a nice smooth, descriptive and interesting read that I enjoyed far more than I expected to. I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

Final Rating:
✬✬✬✬✬
Probability of Rereading:
Yes

Thanks for reading!

Opinionated Bookworm

Spitfire Review

Spitfire
By: Suleiman Ocheni

Ivy thought being forced to marry a genocidal dictator as a teenager was the worst thing that could possibly ever happen to her… however, she was wrong.

Years later, with the whole country calling for her head, she faces life imprisonment or even execution after her husband is assassinated and all evidence left behind points to her.

Handsome, young and charismatic, detective Rylan Leven is the only person willing to come to her aid. Although he has been tasked with the job of bringing her to justice, his confidence in her virtue is the foundation of the love story that unfolds between them. Their journey to restore the freedom that was stolen from Ivy is one fraught with many challenges, but one they know they must embark on.

Will Ivy be punished for trying to get herself out of a toxic marriage or will she succeed despite facing innumerable obstacles?
  



I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The book started with a bang, as the readers are plunged straight into the aftermath of the King's murder. The first chapter was enticing and exciting. It gave a bit of back story about the type of person the King was and the perception of the type of person that Ivy was. Both seemed to be very interesting characters. It was, in my opinion, the best chapter in the whole book. It's from that point on that the story and plot line take a back seat to the romance in the story.

From the second chapter the book wasn't able to hold my interest and I found my thoughts wandering whilst I was reading to what I would make for dinner or trying to remember if I had switched the laundry over. I think the most disappointing part of the book for me, was Ivy's character. The author did an excellent job of building her character up, exhibiting her stubbornness and her sense of humour but also making her empathetic to those around her. She seemed like she was about to become a heroine of the story; a strong female character who is proud and very self aware. Unfortunately, her personality was completely warped by the romance aspect of the novel and she became weak and dominated by her feelings for Rylan. Their romance went from non-existent to head over heels so quickly I was thrown off balance by it. Throughout their whirlwind romance Ivy completely lets her guard down (very quickly for someone so strong willed) and gets her heart broken by Ryland more than once. But after a quick apology on his part she gets over it and moves on. Again, she seemed to be such a strong character and then just bends to Ryland's will. It's mind boggling. 

Ryland's character was pretty typical. The only thing intriguing about him is his looks. He's a wealthy cop who pays an obscene amount of money to get Ivy out of jail for no other reason than he thought she was innocent and she's attractive. But he treats her very poorly and makes it clear that he has no trust in her. He goes back and forth on how he feels about her, and everything he does it so dramatic and over the top, it just makes his character unlikable and disengaged. 

Although the plot line was pushed to the background I enjoyed the concept of it. I like the whodunit prospect of the king's murderer and wished the author had spent more time on the list of possible suspects and the murder investigation itself. I was exultant when I found out who the real murderer was. It was a fantastic twist that I had been hoping for. And it added a bit of excitement to the ending, as the romance between Ivy and Rylan had been doomed to be a happy ending from the beginning. 

Overall the book's focus on the relationship between Ivy and Rylan made the majority of it a dull read, but the conflict in between that kept things interesting and kept me reading until the end. 

Overall Rating:
✬✬✬✫✫
Probability of Rereading:
No

Thanks for reading and feel free to leave feedback!

Opinionated Bookworm

Friday, August 4, 2017

The Whole Man Review

The Whole Man
By: C.F. Rose

Evan O’Cleary was in college when she spent a passionate 48 hours with up-and-coming baseball star Jesse Walsh. But after he broke her heart, she vowed to never see him again. So why does her heart leap when she runs into him ten years later?

Jesse not only abandoned Evan, but also his dream of becoming a major league baseball player when his brother died in Iraq. Shattered by the loss, Jesse turns inward. He refuses to commit to more than a one-night stand, until he sets eyes on Evan again, whose body still draws him dangerously near…

Evan knows better than to trust Jesse, but when he protects her against an abusive ex-turned-stalker, one thing leads to another and she finds herself in a delicious encounter on his living room floor. Jesse may not be willing to commit just yet, but maybe Evan can break down the wall. As she gets close, though, Evan uncovers a devastating secret that could destroy their families and drive them apart forever.



I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Whole Man was what I would call the 'comfort food' of books. It's a predictable romance novel with a happy ending. There were no surprises. There were no cliff hangers. There were no life or death situations. The whole thing was a sedative read that didn't require any brain power or real concentration to understand what was happening or going to happen at all times. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing. I think everyone could use the comfort of a predictable romance novel every now and then. It's like a blanket that never loses it's warmth.

The main character, Evan, was pretty infuriating in that she couldn't make up her mind about her feelings about Jesse until the last minute. But also, she led him on throughout the whole novel which made me think very little of her character. Especially as she herself says that Jesse is a good guy who deserves better. Jesse is a macho jock who doesn't stick up for himself until after Evan drags his heart through the mud more than once, and even then in the end he goes right back to her as soon as she apologizes. Both characters were lead by their hormones far too much, and that aspect of the book was very far fetched. Who the hell can't stop themselves from groping someone long enough to consider their feelings, surroundings, or whatever conflict they're caught up in?

The one aspect of the book that really let me down was the abusive ex boyfriend. Not gunna lie, I was hoping for the big standoff; the fear of the victim, the show of assertiveness by the abuser, the act of heroism by the new love interest and I got none of that. Literally, nothing. The showdown between Evan and her abuser was so short lived that I almost missed it. It was so anticlimactic that I was actually upset afterwards. The author had created this terrifying situation of Evan being stalked and terrorized by this man and then when he confronts her he does it in a public parking lot and gets caught quickly and easily.

I did enjoy the overall impression of the book. It was nice to be able to read about the characters conflicts and know that no matter what, the characters would get their happy endings and all would end well for them. It was a comfortable read that created a good diversion from life for a short while. Sort of like a mini vacation. What more can one ask for in a romance novel?

Final Rating:
✬✬✬✫✫
Probability of Rereading:
No

Thanks for reading!

Opinionated Bookworm

Simone Review

Simone
By: Angel Berry

In the year 1930, the community of Potluck, Louisiana was one of divided lines - not of black and white, but of the haves and the have-nots. Of the residents of Potluck was one Simone Tout, a young woman of twenty years born an only child to a father who started the town school and a mother, Berta, who was proudly employed as a cook in the mayor's kitchen.

Georges Andrieux, the handsome, well-educated son of the mayor, is a man that Simone despises - a man who is more than aggressive in his determination to make Simone his wife. Berta of course is thrilled, but against her mother's wishes the headstrong Simone has plans of her own in the form of Cotton Neal, a young man who Berta considers as nothing better than a common thug, jailbird, and bootlegger from the wrong side of the tracks.

But to Simone, Cotton is the air she breathes - her future husband and the love of her life. 

While Simone and Cotton prepare to run away together, the owner of a local opium den is found floating face down in the river. When Cotton is blamed for the murder he disappears, and while law enforcement work vigilantly to apprehend him, Simone is left to endure Georges' bitter, violent form of jealousy. When he threatens to reveal Cotton's whereabouts, Simone finally falls into his trap as he uses blackmail as a form of revenge.

Toni...

You run away only to have your car break down on the side of the road. You accidentally murder the mother of a good samaritan...

The events that follow will change the lives of each woman forever.



I received this Early Readers Edition in exchange for an honest review.

This was the most intense short novel I've ever read. It was a very quick read though and I finished it in three hours. It was captivating, almost from the beginning. Simone's character is truly pathetic and you can't help but feel for her because her character never really catches a break. Toni's character is only briefly in the book, but her circumstances are devastating and you can't help but see a direct line of sadness and hopelessness linking her to Simone; a character she never knows but who she becomes intertwined with nonetheless.

A lot of the things that happen in the book were given away by the synopsis (again, it's a short novel, not a whole lot of room there for conflict) but still, somehow, I could not put this book down. The level of detail in this novel was perfect. The author didn't go into detail with every aspect of the book, which would have made it over-explained and drawn out needlessly, but she described things in a way that was almost poetic. Immediately I was hooked on descriptions of the characters and the setting. It added that extra bit of flavour to an already beguiling story.

There was a lot of sadness, death and frank language and treatment of African American's that was hard to read, but necessary to the story. It made the story the tragedy that it was, but because of it I don't know that I could read the book again. I always have a hard time reading about characters who truly deserve a happy ending and never get the extent of what they deserve. It's the only thing stopping me from giving this book a five star rating.

Final Rating:
✬✬✬✬✫
Probability of Rereading:
No

Thanks for reading!

Opinionated Bookworm

In the Strictest Confidence Review

In the Strictest Confidence (A Frankie Wilson Mystery, #1)
By: K. Britt-Badman

Your secrets are safe with her, but some secrets are deadly.

Counsellor Francesca 'Frankie' Wilson, divorced mother of two, lands her dream job at ASF Technologies. Is she as lucky as she seems? From the very first day things start happening to her — bad things! Who is responsible and why? Could it be one of her clients?

Stephen Lime, who appears to hate women, and is keeping a secret.

Isabelle Toms, a profoundly deaf tester, who feels lonely and isolated, within an organisation where no one else can use sign language.

Verity Froom, who dresses like a woman far beyond her years, suffers from ill health, but who refuses to visit a doctor.

David Shaw, who's young and handsome, but who has just lost his wife to a hit and run driver, and is devastated by grief.

Or is someone else responsible?



I received this Advanced Readers Copy in exchange for an honest review.

Let me begin by confessing that I love British dialect. I have no idea why, but I am partial to words like 'shops' instead of stores, 'lift' instead of elevator, 'oi' instead of hey, and 'flat' instead of apartment (it may have something to do with my Harry Potter obsession). As silly as it sounds, it just gives the book an exotic feel to me. So the fact that this novel had that type of jargon was already a win for me. Add to that the non-stop mystery of who was terrorizing Frankie and here was a novel that I did not want to put down.

Reading this novel was a little bit like watching Pretty Little Liars to me; everyone was a suspect and my mind was constantly changing about who the vandal was. My main suspects were Stephen Lime's mother, Verity Froom's husband and David Shaw. Throughout the novel each one of the characters seemed to have motive and I could never pinpoint who exactly I thought it was. Funnily enough only one of the characters was actually in the book. Two of them were only talked about, never actually introduced. Needless to say, the end was a twist for me and made me love the book even more. 

The primary draw of the book to me was the main character, Frankie. Reading about her life, her childhood, her family, her home and her children actually gave me a sense of calm. Her character is genuinely likeable and good. She is always trying to do the right thing in every situation and is very honest to everyone in her life. I admired her courage and perseverance in furthering her schooling, even while trying to keep her marriage on track and keep her children happy. The accomplishment of actually landing her dream job and meeting her goals gives the reader the feeling of optimism and ambition. Because of Frankie's winning personality and charisma I found myself feeling what she was feeling as I read the book. When she was sad, I felt her sadness. When she was angry, I felt her anger. When she was scared, I felt her fear. Which is always what I want when I read a novel; to become so engrossed in the book that it almost becomes a part of me for a time.

Frankie's clients were a very interesting addition to the book, as their characters were all complex and confounding. In every one of her counselling sessions I was always trying to guess, along with Frankie, as to what their underlying issues may be, and what the truth was that they weren't telling her. I found myself looking forward to the once a week sessions with her client's just to see how much deeper Frankie would dig and what new information she would uncover about them. My favorite of them was Stephen Lime. His character was so bizarre to me and until the very last session I really couldn't form a solid opinion of him that stuck.

This has been, thus far, my favorite advanced reading copy to date. And I fully plan to buy the book once it's released and give it a home on my bookshelf. I anticipate In the Strictest Confidence becoming one of my favorite books to reread on lazy afternoons.

Final Rating:
✬✬✬✬✬
Probability of Rereading:
Yes

Thanks for reading!

Opinionated Bookworm

The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck Review

The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck By: Bethany Turner Steamy romance writer Sarah Hollenbeck's career is at its peak, but reconcilin...