2017 Book #39 – Almost Missed You by Jessica Strawser

511YXgsLkWLTitle: Almost Missed You
Author: Jessica Strawser
Date finished: 4/26/17
Genre: Fiction, thriller
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: March 28, 2017
Pages in book: 319
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Violet and Finn were “meant to be,” said everyone, always. They ended up together by the hands of fate aligning things just so. Three years into their marriage, they have a wonderful little boy, and as the three of them embark on their first vacation as a family, Violet can’t help thinking that she can’t believe her luck. Life is good.
So no one is more surprised than she when Finn leaves her at the beach—just packs up the hotel room and disappears. And takes their son with him. Violet is suddenly in her own worst nightmare, and faced with the knowledge that the man she’s shared her life with, she never really knew at all.
Caitlin and Finn have been best friends since way back when, but when Finn shows up on Caitlin’s doorstep with the son he’s wanted for kidnapping, demands that she hide them from the authorities, and threatens to reveal a secret that could destroy her own family if she doesn’t, Caitlin faces an impossible choice.
Told through alternating viewpoints of Violet, Finn and Caitlin, Jessica Strawser’s Almost Missed You is a powerful story of a mother’s love, a husband’s betrayal, connections that maybe should have been missed, secrets that perhaps shouldn’t have been kept, and spaces between what’s meant to be and what might have been.

My rating:  4.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book is about Violet, her husband Finn, and their 3 year old son Bear. Violet and Finn had a short courtship compared to most, but Violet has never doubted that fate brought them together. Their story seems like a real life fairy tale and she is beyond happy with their family and their life together. And so she is blindsided when Finn disappears from their Florida vacation without a word, taking Bear with him. And after the FBI gets involved with trying to find Bear, Violet learns about the secrets that Finn has kept from her about his past and begins to wonder how well she really knew her husband. Meanwhile, Finn and Violet’s best friends Caitlin and George each have secrets of their own in their marriage and the most recent one added to the list is that Caitlin is allowing Finn and Bear to hide out in their family cabin at the lake. When Caitlin decides enough is enough though and that Bear must be returned to his mother, the secrets start to unravel with explosive consequences. And once everything is out in the open, we’ll see who’s left standing at the end.
Overall I liked this book a lot. To be honest the main topic (a mother having her son ripped away from her without a word or a clue) made me a bit sick to my stomach. I can’t even imagine the hopelessness and the pain that must have been unbearable for Violet’s character. The author did a great job of capturing this I thought but that piece of it is difficult for the reader to live through Violet’s eyes but necessary to the story. This was an incredibly intense novel that had my heart pounding for most of the novel. The author did an amazing job of building tension and creating drama, revealing secrets at just the right time and adding in perfect plot twists. At the end I still felt so bad for everyone involved but man it was a wild ride. I would definitely recommend this book, this one is going to be a must read for the summer!

The bottom line: Wow this was definitely an intense book. I liked it a lot but at the same time I hated how sad it was. This one is definitely a must-read though!!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2017 Book #38 – I Dared the Duke by Anna Bennett

51QomAefeLLTitle: I Dared the Duke
Author: Anna Bennett
Date finished: 4/25/17
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Publication Date: April 4, 2017
Pages in book: 365
Stand alone or series: #2 in the Wayward Wallflowers series
Where I got the book from: NetGalley NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

DARE TO FALL IN LOVE
Alexander Savage, the Duke of Blackshire, is known throughout the ton for three things: the burn scars on his neck, his ornery disposition, and the trail of broken hearts behind him. None of which would concern Miss Elizabeth Lacey in the least—if she weren’t living under his roof. As his grandmother’s companion, Beth is all too concerned with the moody and compelling duke. Incensed by his plans to banish the sweet dowager duchess to the country, Beth refuses to do his bidding. If Alex wants her help, he’s going to have to take her dare…and grant her three wishes.
Alex adores his grandmother, which is precisely why she must leave. A string of unfortunate incidents has him worried for the safety of everyone around him—including the dowager’s loyal and lovely companion, Beth. But the notorious wallflower isn’t as meek as she appears, and as their battle of wills heats up, so does Alex’s desire. He’s dangerously close to falling in love with her…and revealing secrets he’d rather keep hidden. How can he convince her that his darkest days are behind him—and that, for the first time in forever, his heart is true?

My rating:  4.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book tells the story of Elizabeth Lacey, the middle sister of the Wiltmore Wallflowers. Elizabeth has recently become a lady’s companion to the dowager duchess Blackshire in an effort to make herself feel useful. Having been a wallflower for three years and with one of her sisters recently married, Elizabeth has been looking for something to do with herself, and she has found the dowager duchess to be an engaging friend and conversationalist. When she meets the Duke though, she doesn’t find him as charming as the rumors claim him to be. Alex has recently found himself the target of a couple accidents that seem too odd to be coincidental. He has determined that his grandmother must retire to the country for her own safety until the whole situation gets sorted out. But he didn’t expect to find her being guarded by the fearsome Miss Lacey. Elizabeth is determined that Alex should not send his grandmother away, as it would surely break her heart, but in doing so Miss Lacey is walking right into the crossfires of whatever is threatening Alex.
Overall I really liked this book. Alex was just the right amount of surly and endearing. Beth was charming and kind-hearted. I especially liked how, when describing what Alex liked most about Beth, he admired her for her kindness towards his grandmother. There were numerous times in the book that Alex compliments Beth on things beside just her physical appearance and I really liked that, for a rogue, he wasn’t all that shallow. And I love Beth’s sisters, I especially can’t wait to hear brash Julie’s story. I liked this book a lot and I like the series overall too.

The bottom line: I liked this book a lot, the story line was interesting and the cast of characters was engaging. If you like historical romances especially, this is a good pick! It is a quick read with a romantic story, just what we all need.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2017 Book #37 – The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

515qNGaUTcLTitle: The Bear and the Nightingale
Author: Katherine Arden
Date finished: 4/24/17
Genre: Fiction, fantasy, magical realism
Publisher: Del Rey
Publication Date: January 10, 2017
Pages in book: 336
Stand alone or series: Book #1 of trilogy
Where I got the book from: NetGalley NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.
After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.
And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.
As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

My rating:  4.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book tells the story of Vasilisa Vladimirovich, a girl born with the second sight, whose mother dies right after childbirth. Her father, Pyotr, loved her mother, Marina, fiercely and was devastated when she died. And it made him angry that Marina knew this child would most likely kill her and she chose to have it anyways. Vasya is a sweet and generous child though, and it is almost impossible not to love her. As she grows she learns the ways of her land and learns from the different magical creatures that haunt the stables and the house. As she grows older though she is in danger from a shadow in the forest, and as the old ways are forgotten for fear of God, the whole village is in danger of the Bear devil in the forest.
Overall I really liked this book a lot. The Russian terms made the story a little harder to get into at first but once I was engaged with the story line I didn’t want to put it down. It was a beautifully woven fairy tale with just enough of the fantastical to make it feel perfectly magical. Vasya was fierce and brave, I loved her character. The plot line was thrilling and filled with danger and excitement. I’m excited to see where the story will take us in the next installment of the trilogy.

The bottom line: I loved this book. While it took a little time to get into the story, it turned out to be an utterly captivating story and I can’t wait to read more.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2017 Book #36 – Highland Barbarian by Hannah Howell

51IxrMFU04L._SX304_BO1,204,203,200_Title: Highland Barbarian
Author: Hannah Howell
Date finished: 4/21/17
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: Zebra
Publication Date: March 28, 2017 (Reprint)
Pages in book: 384
Stand alone or series: The Murrays series book #13
Where I got the book from: NetGalley NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Sir Artan Murray was right when he decided that the dying old man who bid him collect his niece didn’t know her at all. The furious woman facing him is neither “sweet” nor “biddable.” She demands the brawny Highlander return her to the wedding party from which he took her. But Artan has no intention of allowing so spirited and bewitching a creature to endure a loveless marriage to a ruthless lord for her clan’s sake. He aims to woo the lass and to show her that true love also yields unforgettable pleasure. . .
Cecily Donaldson knows a bond forged by danger and desperation cannot endure. But Artan’s touch leaves her breathless, and she knows this to be her one chance to experience true passion before an arranged marriage seals her fate. Yet once begun, passion cannot be denied. . .nor can a love with the promise to change everything. . .

My rating:  4.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book tells the story of Sir Artan Murray and Miss Cecily Donaldson. Artan’s foster father, Angus, who is as healthy as they come, takes to his bed and claims to be near death. His dying wish is that Artus go to the Lowlands and bring his niece Cecily to see him. With no other heirs, Angus also hopes that Artus will marry Cecily and inherit his estate. Cecily’s parents and brother died when she was young, leaving her under the care of her guardians, who are cousins of her father. Raised her whole life thinking she was a burden to her cousin’s family, Cecily is set to wed Sir Fergus Ogilvey at their request. But when Artus shows up two weeks before her wedding she starts to wake up and realize that this may not be the path she wants. And as she spends more time with Artus, she sees how little respect she’s been treated with over the years. Artus has been doing some observing of his own and he sees how abominably everyone seems to treat Cecily, who is the sweetest woman he’s ever met. And when he learns that Cecily’s guardians might have had a hand in her father and brother’s death, he knows that he has to get her back to Glascreag in order to keep her safe, whether she’s willing to come with him or not.
Overall I really liked this book. The plot was interesting and I loved the tension and the drama of the story. I especially liked Cecily’s character, she was fierce but also feminine and I just loved how fearless she was. And I loved the community that surrounded Cecily once she made it to the Highlands, it was touching to see that she had finally found the family she had always looked for. This was a sweet but fierce story and I liked it very much, I’d be interested to read other books by this author and in this series.

The bottom line: I liked this book a lot, it was a good story and the heroine was fierce and amazing. I would love to read more in this series!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2017 Book #35 – The Young Widower’s Handbook by Tom McAllister

51kxyLgkYMLTitle: The Young Widower’s Handbook
Author: Tom McAllister
Date finished: 4/19/17
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Publication Date: February 7, 2017
Pages in book: 282
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: LibraryThing NOTE: I received this book for free from LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

For Hunter Cady, meeting Kaitlyn is the greatest thing that has ever happened to him. Whereas he had spent most of his days accomplishing very little, now his life has a purpose. Smart, funny, and one of a kind, Kait is somehow charmed by Hunter’s awkwardness and droll humor, and her love gives him reason to want to be a better man.
And then, suddenly, Kait is gone, her death as unexpected as the happiness she had brought to Hunter. Numb with grief, he stumbles forward in the only way he knows how: by running away. He heads due west from his Philadelphia home, taking Kait’s ashes with him.
Kait and Hunter had always meant to travel. Now, with no real plan in mind, Hunter is swept into the adventures of fellow travelers on the road, among them a renegade Renaissance Faire worker; a boisterous yet sympathetic troop of bachelorettes; a Midwest couple and Elvis, their pet parrot; and an older man on an endless cross-country journey in search of a wife who walked out on him many years before. Along the way readers get glimpses of Hunter and Kait’s lovely, flawed, and very real marriage, and the strength Hunter draws from it, even when contemplating a future without it. And each encounter, in its own peculiar way, teaches him what it means to be a husband and what it takes to be a man.
Written in the spirit of Jonathan Tropper and Matthew Quick, with poignant insight and wry humor, The Young Widower’s Handbook is a testament to the enduring power of love.

My rating:  3.25 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book tells the story of Hunter Cody, whose wife dies suddenly and tragically at a very young age (I can’t remember exact age but it was 25-ish I think). Hunter has always been an oddball and an anti-social person, and Kait is the only one he felt has ever understood him and loved him for who he really is. He loves her immensely, and while their marriage has the same ups and downs of a normal marriage, they are truly happy together. When Kait dies suddenly, Hunter is grief stricken and lost. He decides to travel from Philidelphia to California with Kait’s ashes, trying to give Kait the vacation they had always talked about but never taken. Along the way he discovers some things he never knew about himself and he starts to learn how he will manage to continue to live after Kait.
Overall I didn’t end up being a huge fan of this book. I wanted to like this book SO BADLY!! It started out with such promise, and I have so many quotes (listed below) from the book that really spoke to me and that I really loved. The story line was just too repetitive for me and I just could not connect to Hunter’s character. At first I found the prose enchanting but in the end it was just too selfish/whiny/repetitive. I really wanted to love this book but I just couldn’t. I would still reommend it, I thought it had some really great commentary for married couples.

The bottom line: I wanted to like this book so much but it got to be too repetitive and whiny for me.

Favorite Quotes:
“Romance is temporary, predicated on countless variables working synchronously to create something memorable that vaguely recalls a scene from a familiar movie… Love, it’s this other thing, a thing that manifests itself in the most unremarkable moments.”

“It’s the arguments that breathed life into the relationship. It’s in the arguments that you ultimately felt the love.”

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2017 Book #34 – The Lady and the Highlander by Lecia Cornwall

51Xw01CMWjLTitle: The Lady and the Highlander
Author: Lecia Cornwall
Date finished: 4/18/17
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: Swerve
Publication Date: April 4, 2017
Pages in book: 277
Stand alone or series: Highland Fairy Tales series #3
Where I got the book from: NetGalley NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Laire MacLeod’s father has married a mysterious widow who is a vain beauty that deals with potions and spells. Laire does not drink them with the rest of her family and is the only one who could see through her stepmother’s games. When Laire flees to find help from her Uncle, the Lady’s huntsman follows her with orders to kill. Laire must survive in a dangerous new city and find the antidote to a poisonous potion before it is too late.
Iain Lindsay is cursed. He is bound for seven years to be the hunter of a Lady who uses him to bring back birds to use in her potions. When Laire MacLeod escapes the Lady’s nets, Iain tracks her to Edinburgh, where she’s found shelter with an unusual band of thieves, but he cannot bring himself to harm her. Instead, he finds himself falling in love with the MacLeod beauty.
But a Highlander’s oath is his bond, and the price for helping her is death, both his own, and of those he loves.

My rating:  4.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book tells the story of Laire MacLeod, sister to the other MacLeod girls from the first two books in the series. Laire is one of twelve sisters, and one of the ten that still live at home. It is this plethora of innocence and beauty that draws in an evil witch disguised as a stepmother, Bibiana. Bibiana puts everyone in the castle under a spell by dosing their wine. Laire is the only one who is able to keep her wits about her, solely because of a traumatic experience in her youth that left her with a fear of drinking anything but water. And after a dangerous encounter with Bibiana, Laire flees for her life with the unexpected help of Bibiana’s hunter, Iain. Iain has his own scars from the past and serving Bibiana in her evil endeavors has not helped in the least. But when he meets Laire he knows he can’t turn a blind eye to this young woman’s fate as he has done so often already. He knows he must do everything in his power to save her or be lost in the process.
Overall I really liked this book! It was interesting and intriguing and scary. It was a great take on the classic Snow White tale. There were pieces that did get a bit repetitive, it seemed like every one and their mothers were out to do harm to Laire, but that was probably realistic for a beautiful young woman traveling entirely alone. Iain’s character was pretty dark, but as his character develops you can see the softer sides to him. And the relationship between Iain and Laire, while complicated, was touching and heart-felt. I felt so bad for Laire through the story, to be so powerless against this daunting evil force. It made her character seem even more strong and resilient though which was an important piece of the story. I especially liked the ending of this one, I thought that it was a creative/neat way to resolve the last issue of the plot line.

The bottom line: I liked this book a lot, it was a good story and I liked the Snow White based story line. A couple frustrating parts but overall I liked it. I like this series as a whole so far and I’m interested to learn more about the other sisters. I would love to have a documented list though so I could keep track of which ones share which mothers and the order they were born in!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2017 Book #33 – Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs

51Glh2DZSAL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Title: Running With Scissors
Author: Augusten Burroughs
Date finished: 4/15/17
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: July 10, 2002
Pages in book: 304
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: Terryville Public Library

Blurb from the cover:

Running with Scissors is the true story of a boy whose mother (a poet with delusions of Anne Sexton) gave him away to be raised by her psychiatrist, a dead-ringer for Santa and a lunatic in the bargain. Suddenly, at age twelve, Augusten Burroughs found himself living in a dilapidated Victorian in perfect squalor. The doctor’s bizarre family, a few patients, and a pedophile living in the backyard shed completed the tableau. Here, there were no rules, there was no school. The Christmas tree stayed up until summer, and Valium was eaten like Pez. And when things got dull, there was always the vintage electroshock therapy machine under the stairs….
Running with Scissors is at turns foul and harrowing, compelling and maniacally funny. But above all, it chronicles an ordinary boy’s survival under the most extraordinary circumstances.

My rating:  1.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I read this book for the Terryville Library’s Fiction Lover’s Book Discussion group discussion for this month (April). I think this book was an exception to the rule because we usually read fiction but it seems that this month we’re reading non-fiction. This book tells the story of a boy named Augusten, who lives with his alcoholic father and mentally ill mother. After his parents divorce though, Augusten lives for a period of time with his mother’s psychiatrist, who to be honest didn’t seem all that sane himself. The only thing I can say about the plot of this book is that Augusten goes through what can only be described as disturbing, and sometimes horrific, experiences throughout his childhood. And while he seems to always survive “unscathed,” the damage that results from these experiences is evident to the reader.
Overall I really just didn’t like this book, mainly I think because its almost the exact opposite of my “usual” type of book. I like fiction books with happy endings and this book was a traumatizing description of a poor young man’s childhood that didn’t seem to have any other purpose in the tale other than shocking the reader. The sex scenes (of a thirteen year old boy) are extremely graphic, some of which were detailed rape descriptions. I felt dirty after reading the book. For me this was an unnecessary look into the mind of a deeply traumatized and disturbed youth. If that’s the kind of book you like then I would recommend trying this one but overall I can’t see how there was enough actual plot/content to make this a good read for even the most open-minded of readers.

The bottom line: This book was not one that I personally would recommend. I think its absolutely awful that this is a true story and that someone actually experienced this.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page