Friday, September 1, 2017

Letters for Scarlet Review

Letters for Scarlet
By: Julie C. Gardner

Pain can take a lifetime to heal, but hope lasts even longer…

Corie Harper is twenty-eight years old when she is first visited by a ghost—in the form of a graduation letter she forgot she wrote. Although she spent a decade burying that desperate girl and her regrets, each page resurrects the past, dragging Corie back to a time when all she craved was Scarlet Hinden’s friendship and Tuck Slater’s heart. But she couldn’t keep them both and keep her word.

Scarlet is haunted in her own way, by memories of Corie and of a night that left her wishing she were dead. But Scarlet is not only alive, she’s carrying new life: a baby she never wanted and is terrified to have. Convinced she would be a disastrous mother, she questions whether or not she deserves the love of any man. Especially the father of her child.

"Letters for Scarlet" traces one friendship from deep roots to branches torn by broken promises and loss.
 


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

I will admit that before reading this book I did not read the synopsis and had no idea what it was about. Usually the synopsis colours my opinion and I begin the book with preconceived ideas of how I think it's going to go, or how it should be. Maybe reading the synopsis in this case would have helped me with this book, as it was completely unexpected and lackluster, in my opinion.

The story is told from two points of view, which I did enjoy as it gives an intimate view of more than one character and makes it easier for the reader to bond with both characters. Unfortunately this was not the case for me. While I found myself sympathizing with Corrie and really enjoying her points of view, I did not like Scarlet at all. Her character felt cold and juvenile and while I was able to sympathize with her life events I found myself unable to care about her well-being. The idea that she carried her pain from a childhood incident for 10 years, blaming her childhood friends for the events that happened the whole time, was childish and unrealistic. I thought that maybe motherhood would help her grow up a bit but that doesn't seem to be the case either. 

I often found myself speed reading through Scarlet's story to get to Corrie's. Corrie's character was pitiful which made her more likable than Scarlet. Her marital problems and fertility issues were so sad, that I absolutely felt for her plight. She seemed like a genuinely good person who wanted nothing more than to be happily married to her high school sweetheart, have babies and repair her friendship with Scarlet. I felt myself wanting all of that for her too. So the end of the book felt like a bit of a disappointment to me, although, based on what we know of Scarlet's character it wasn't a surprising outcome. 

I found a lot of the book to be dull and had a hard time reading through those parts to get to any interesting bits. The thing that kept me going the most was probably the writing style. I may not have enjoyed the story very much but I thought the author did a fantastic job at making me feel Corrie's emotions and giving a good visual description of the settings in the book. 

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

Thanks for reading!

Opinionated Bookworm

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Awash with Summer Roses Review

Awash with Summer Roses
By: Kestra Pingree

My name is Ri. I’m the kind of delinquent girl you hear horror stories about.

I had so many rule breaking plans this summer, but none of them involved my grandparents. Their livelihood is their dumb rose garden, and they live out in the middle of nowhere in a town called Fairgarden. My parents thought it would be the perfect place to reform my bad attitude. So they shipped me off.

But then I met Avery.

Avery works for my grandparents. He’s got more secrets than anyone I’ve ever known. I think he might be a bigger troublemaker than I am, though you couldn’t tell by the way he pretends to be this perfect angel.
Did I mention he’s blind and scary perceptive?
And he actually listens to me.
He’s weird, a mystery I have to solve.
I have to know his secrets.
Can two broken hearts make a whole?

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

SPOILERS!!

I will begin by telling you that before beginning this book I already had high expectations and fully anticipated enjoying the book because Young Adult is my genre of choice. That being said I have read a lot of YA novels. But somehow this was the first one I've ever read about a rebellious girl turned good by a good boy. It was refreshing. I was so involved in the main character, Moriah's, story that I read the whole book in one day. Which, I guess probably won't shock any of you who may actually know me. 

I have to admit that I began with a decided dislike of Moriah and her treatment of the people around her. She is ultimately rebelling against her neglectful parents and gets shipped to her grandparents house. Which is about the time that I began understanding her and disliking her parents (a dislike that I felt all the way through the book). The reader gets to watch Moriah's emotional evolution as she begins to make friends with other kids in town, and takes a particular liking to Avery. She starts treating her grandparents better and starts to create a life for herself in the small hick town that her parents shipped her off to. 

Avery is a bit of a puzzle himself. He runs hot and cold, one minute flirting with Moriah and the next ignoring her. He won't talk about how he lost his vision or about why he keeps sneaking off to the forest that no one is allowed to go into. In fact, he doesn't really talk about himself much at all. But for some reason, I liked him anyway. He comes across as being sweet, caring and dependable. He has a beautiful relationship with his mom and everyone in town seems to have very high opinions of him. In short, he's the polar opposite of Moriah. Which makes their attraction all the more interesting.

I was surprised by the added bit of magic and fantasy to the book. The 'forbidden' forest was a nice addition to the story and added intrigue. I also enjoyed the story behind it, the folklore that the town passed down about the forest and that all the townspeople took it seriously and avoided it at all costs. 

There were only two parts that I didn't like about the book and one was how easy Moriah's parents got off after being terrible parents. Moriah almost instantly forgave them for spending no time with her for the majority of her childhood and for sending her away. She talks about how she grew up literally alone, about how she has never had to sneak out at midnight to hang out with her friends because no one but her is ever home. How does a child grow up on their own, without anyone caring for them, and just move on from it after an apology from her parents? How do they just push past the bitterness that has fueled them and decide to get over it that easily? And her grandparents also seemed eager to forgive and forget the way they too had been pushed aside and forgotten about by their daughter and her husband, and how they treated their granddaughter before dumping her on their doorstep. It's the only aspect of the novel that felt forced to me. The only other downfall, in my opinion, was the ending. I need a good solid happy ending when I read a romance novel. And while Moriah and Avery may have ended up in a relationship I fail to see how that relationship will last with them living two hours apart. 

Overall I enjoyed the book as much as I had thought I would. I like the spin of the bad girl and good boy. I'm always impressed by authors that can write about the lives of teenagers in a way that even older audiences feel they can relate to the characters. I'm even more impressed when they write in such a way that I take on the emotions of the main character as I read the book, which definitely happened in this case. I found myself crying when Moriah cried, confused when she was confused and annoyed when she was annoyed. It's no small feat for an author to make a 30 year old woman relate to a 16 year old girl, and Kestra absolutely did that with this book.

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

Thanks for reading!

Opinionated Bookworm

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Corner Office Review

The Corner Office 
By: Katerina Baker

Tara Johnson's sacrifices are about to pay off: a senior executive at thirty-five at a Fortune 500 company, she's one of the two finalists in line for a Managing Director position. Unfortunately, her rival of fifteen years, the charming, infuriating Richard Boyd, is just as qualified, and unlike her, he's willing to cross pretty much every line to get what he wants. 

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

This was a quick, light read that I devoured in a couple of hours yesterday afternoon. Which, is also a testament to how into the book I was that I didn't want to put it down to do anything else. 

I liked the angle that the author started the book with, with the two main characters disliking each other. And I really did feel that it was mutual with the traded insults and the male chauvinistic attitude. The way that the book was written makes the reader automatically partial to the main character, Tara, without even really thinking about it. Which, in turn, allows her cynical and suspicious disposition to be adopted by the reader, making the reader apprehensive of  every interaction she had with Richard and Aidan. With good reason, as we find out eventually.

Adding in Tara's mother's ill health, her lack of social life and her failure of a love life, including a surprising lack of apprehension of Aidan when his attitude and treatment of her becomes peculiar, makes her character vulnerable only to the reader. She is very guarded and mistrusting, as she feels she has to be as a woman in a power role in her company, and it just serves to make her more endearing. I found myself wanting her to want a relationship with Aidan, in the beginning, wanting her to open up to him and trust him. It didn't last long though, because he very quickly shifted his personality and became frightening, but for whatever reason Tara didn't see it that way. I immediately picked up on his underlying abusive personality, but Tara kept playing into his hand until the very last minute when things took a seriously scary turn. I felt Tara's unguarded behavior towards Aidan, even after he became forceful and insulting, was out of character for her. A woman in her position should have seen him following her, calling her at inappropriate times and crossing the line at their workplace as serious warning signs and then stayed away from him. Which was not at all what she did.

I ended up liking Richard's character pretty early on in the book, and not understanding Tara's dislike of him. I felt that their relationship in the book was nice and slow, not at all rushed and unbelievable like the one she had with Aidan. I even started to like the dynamic between Tara and Richard, as it became pretty clear that there was some repressed feelings there, especially on Richard's part. Overall their story line had good flow and I found myself rooting for them to be end game. It wasn't a knock you off your feet, instant love connection which made it feel more realistic and relate-able. I thought the author did a great job with this book, and I look forward to reading more from her.

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

Thanks for reading!

Opinionated Bookworm


Monday, August 28, 2017

Book Hangover Blog

Have you ever read a book, or series of books, that captivates you so much that you literally fall into it? You have to be forced to stop reading, and when you're not reading it you still find yourself thinking about it. Thinking about the setting, envisioning yourself there, living in that fictional world. You think about the characters in it; wondering if you have any common characteristics. 

I took an unexpected break from reviewing last week. I grabbed my copy of Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy by Cassandra Clare, one of my favorites to reread, and settled in to recharge myself after weeks of reading new books. I wanted something comfortable and familiar to sink into. And I love the Shadowhunter series that Cassandra created. I love the magic, the strength, the world, the characters, but most of all I love the love. She created a race of super humans who are better in all aspects than regular mortals because of the angel blood that runs through all of their veins. This race is physically stronger, faster, smarter and therefore it stands to reason that their emotions also run deeper than the average human. The love stories that Cassandra creates in every new Shadowhunter series is what gets me every time. I actually started reading the books originally because of the Shadowhunter series on TV. It was the end of season 1 and the main characters discovered that they can never explore their relationship no matter how intense their feelings are because they are siblings. I could not wait until season two started to find out what happens with them, so I went out and bought all 6 of The Mortal Instruments books. From there I went on to buy The Infernal Devices series, Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy and now The Dark Artifices series. 

I still cannot get enough. I spent the last 10 days reading all the Shadowhunter books (except for The Bane Chronicles, because I didn't enjoy it enough to buy it), which is 12 large books because I could not stop after reading just one. I read them constantly, stopping only to work, sleep, eat and spend time with my children. Now that I have finished them I find myself at loose ends. At night for the last week I had been reading, and now I find myself unable to focus on anything else. Usually my other half and I curl up on the couch and watch either serial killer documentaries or ghost story documentaries and I haven't wanted to the past couple of nights because I'm still in the head space of the Shadowhunter novels. I call it my book hangover, and honestly it doesn't happen to me very often. But occasionally I find that amazing, encompassing book that I unwittingly dive into headfirst and then have a hard time extracting myself, even if it's ended. I just want it to go on. I find the Harry Potter books are the same way; the books have ended but I just wanna keep living the Harry Potter life. 

It's times like these that I reflect on the authors that write these amazing stories. These authors have these places, these characters living inside their heads just waiting to be let out into the world via a book or a series of books. And somehow the authors let them out in such a way that they captivate the readers, they make them come alive, they become more than just characters in books to us. Just as I imagine they are to the author as well. I have sometimes wished that I could take a tour of the library that lives inside J.K. Rowling's head. I imagine it to be extraordinarily neat and organized with tombs about the childhoods of each character and a special edition just for the amazing life and accomplishments of Dumbledore. I picture a small, cozy room with a fire place, and all of the walls covered top to bottom in bookshelves with not a single blank space, because if she imagined up the world of Harry Potter and all that it encompasses, can you just imagine what else would be in her brain?

I don't know how to cure a book hangover. I don't know if it goes away on it's own or if I can help it along by continuing down the list of books that I still have to read and review. I don't even know if it's a real thing, or something I've just made up. So, unfortunately for those of you who know exactly what I'm talking about this is really just one long ramble as opposed to me offering you any sort of sound advice as to how to overcome it (sorry I didn't say that until the end of this blog). However, if any of you have advice to give on the subject, feel free to leave a comment. I would love to hear your opinions.

Opinionated Bookworm

Goodbye, Good Girl Review

Goodbye, Good Girl
By: Renee Blossom

When eighteen year old Kandace Santellan is ditched in St. Louis by her boyfriend on a cross country trip to reach her estranged father, she finds herself trapped––she can’t go home and she doesn’t have enough money to reach Los Angeles. She then meets April, an ambitious exotic dancer with attitude, who has a one thousand dollar wager––that Kandace can make the money she desperately needs dancing at the gentleman’s club The Palace in just one night. Rumored as an adult playground of fast money and faster pills, it’s a place where fantasy is king and problems are forgotten. Anything can happen.
But can Kandace strip her clothes for money, even if it is her only way to repair her broken family?
Feeling like time is running out, and out of options, she gets curious…thinking that after one wild night dancing, she would be on her way to LA. And her friends and family would never need to know. Could she make it work? Or will the club’s fantasy lifestyle take the good girl from Pittsburgh, and make her into someone she’s never met?


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


SPOILERS!!!!!!!


This was a sort of coming of age story, where the main character is on a journey to find her dad but ends up finding out things about herself as she goes. The story was intriguing and full of adventure. I was completely absorbed by Kandace and her story and could not put this book down. 


Kandace is 18 years old and the oldest of her parents three daughters. Since her dad left two years ago, on some job related trip that never ends, her mother has become weak and prescription drug dependent leaving Kandace in charge of running her household and raising her sisters all while trying to go to college and get a job, herself. It's a lot of responsibility on one girl and you really start to feel sympathy for her plight, which makes her subsequent decisions a little puzzling. An intimidating stranger shows up at their front door looking for Kandace's dad which begins her cross country journey to find her dad and bring him home. During her trip she meets April and decides to spend a night exotic dancing, because of the money she can make from it. Exotic dancing leads her to using drugs and on stage lesbian experiences, which even though she started off being a "good girl" doesn't seem off character as the story is about her personal growth and personality changes. Throughout the book she keeps her strength and strong familial sense, often calling her family and friends to assure them that she's ok. 


The one part of the book I did not like was when she finally tracks down her dad. She finds him living in California and he gives her some weak excuses about why he never comes home and makes it clear that he has no plans to ever return home. Kandace accepts those weak excuses and spends time with him as if the trip to find him had been a social one and not the life saving mission that she had made it out to be. It was so anticlimactic that if the journey had not been so adventurous and fun, I would have thought of it as a waste. He is the literal description of dead beat dad; taking off on his family, not sending them enough money to survive on, not have any reliable way of communicating with them regularly. And for the most part he seems totally unconcerned by it all. Another puzzling aspect was the decision that Kandace made to stay in St. Louis (her original stip club city) to go to college because of her decision to continue dancing because of the amount of money she makes doing it. How she can leave her struggling mother and younger sisters for money blows my mind, and she herself makes the comparison of herself to her dad by making that choice to leave her family. On the flip side, it was nice that she felt able to make a completely self serving decision for once. While I don't believe her mom is strong enough to raise her children without Kandace's help, it's definitely about time that Kandace got to take back her own life and live it how she chooses to. 


The novel had a good flow from one event to the next and the author did a great job at building like-able characters that make the readers care about their fate. As with all novels, there were parts that were a bit slow, and I said previously, I was not at all impressed by her interactions with her father, but overall I enjoyed the book. I am looking forward to rereading it to see if there are any hidden moments that I didn't catch the first time through.


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

Thanks for reading!

Opinionated Bookworm

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 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

Letters for Scarlet Review

Letters for Scarlet By: Julie C. Gardner Pain can take a lifetime to heal, but hope lasts even longer… Corie Harper is twenty-eight years...