2018 Book #39 – The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll

51ehe9xFg0LTitle: The Favorite Sister
Author: Jessica Knoll
Date finished: 5/19/18
Genre: Suspense, thriller
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: May 15, 2018
Pages in book: 384
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:

When five hyper-successful women agree to appear on a reality series set in New York City called Goal Diggers, the producers never expect the season will end in murder…

Brett’s the fan favorite. Tattooed and only twenty-seven, the meteoric success of her spin studio—and her recent engagement to her girlfriend—has made her the object of jealousy and vitriol from her castmates.

Kelly, Brett’s older sister and business partner, is the most recent recruit, dismissed as a hanger-on by veteran cast. The golden child growing up, she defers to Brett now—a role which requires her to protect their shocking secret.

Stephanie, the first black cast member and the oldest, is a successful bestselling author of erotic novels. There have long been whispers about her hot, non-working actor-husband and his wandering eye, but this season the focus is on the rift that has opened between her and Brett, former best friends—and resentment soon breeds contempt.

The Favorite Sister explores the invisible barriers that prevent women from rising up the ranks in today’s America—and offers a scathing take on the oft-lionized bonds of sisterhood, and the relentless pressure to stay young, relevant, and salable.

My rating:  3.0 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.

I had read another of Knoll’s novels a couple of years ago, Luckiest Girl Alive, and I liked it ok. Do when I saw this new release coming out I wanted to check it out. This wasn’t my favorite book. The plot line was pretty interesting and there were a lot of great plot twists, especially towards the end of the novel, but the pace of the novel was frustratingly slow for me and I felt like there was a lot of really dry sections. I also found it kind of frustrating that there was so much vague referencing in the beginning of the book. I know that was kind of the point, to give the reader a tease about the consequence of the action and then later reveal what the action was. But I was frustrated and somewhat confused in the beginning by the flow of events and trying to keep up with who went where when and who wasn’t talking to whom when. The reality show this centers around too just ended up being about catty, bitchy women who for the most part couldn’t stand each other. I definitely wouldn’t call it a feel good novel. It was an interesting plot though, everyone on the show has their secrets but the real question is – whose secrets will be revealed in the end? Read to find out!

Link to author website

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

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2017 Book #87 – First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

51ssKKGyVGLTitle: First Frost
Author: Sarah Addison Allen
Date finished: 10/15/17
Genre: Fiction, magical realism
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: January 20, 2015
Pages in book: 291
Stand alone or series: Seems to be a sequel to Garden Spells
Where I got the book from: Terryville Public Library

Blurb from the cover:

Two magical sisters.
One cranky apple tree.

It’s October in Bascom, North Carolina, and autumn will not go quietly.  As temperatures drop and leaves begin to turn, the Waverley women are made restless by the whims of their mischievous apple tree…and the magic that swirls around it. But this year, first frost has much more in store.

Claire Waverley has started a successful new venture, Waverley’s Candies.  Though her handcrafted confections — rose to recall lost love, lavender to promote happiness and lemon verbena to soothe throats and minds — are singularly effective, the business of selling them is costing her the everyday joys of her family, and her belief in her own precious gifts.

Sydney Waverley, too, is losing her balance. With each passing day she longs more for a baby — a namesake for her wonderful Henry. Yet the longer she tries, the more her desire becomes an unquenchable thirst, stealing the pleasure out of the life she already has.

Sydney’s daughter, Bay, has lost her heart to the boy she knows it belongs to…if only he could see it, too. But how can he, when he is so far outside her grasp that he appears to her as little more than a puff of smoke?

When a mysterious stranger shows up and challenges the very heart of their family, each of them must make choices they have never confronted before.  And through it all, the Waverley sisters must search for a way to hold their family together through their troublesome season of change, waiting for that extraordinary event that is First Frost.

From the New York Times bestselling author of Garden Spells, lose yourself in Sarah Addison Allen’s enchanting world and fall for her charmed characters in this captivating story that proves that a happily-ever-after is never the real ending to a story. It’s where the real story begins.

My rating:  4.25 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 (October). This book has been on my “to read” list for a long time, one of the girl sin my Mom’s quilt guild has been recommending this author to me for years and with my reading schedule in recent years I haven’t had time to pick it up. I’m so glad that someone picked it for book club though and I got to read it this month! This book tells the story of the Waverly women, each of whom have some sort of special ability. Sydney is really good with hair, Claire is good with food and Bay knows where things belong. But knowing where things belong doesn’t help a teenage girl trying to find her way through high school. Nor does it help Bay navigate her suddenly emotional relationship with her mother. This book tells the story of the Waverly women leading up to the First Frost, when the apple tree in the back suddenly blooms. There was so much interesting about this book and I loved the magical realism and how seamlessly the author tied it into the story and made it seem real. This book reminded me a lot of The Simplicity of Cider by Amy E. Reichert and The Glass Kitchen by Linda Francis Lee. I would definitely read more by this author in the future!

The bottom line: This book was very good, I love magical realism and this author did a great job of it. I can’t wait to read more by this author and I would recommend giving this one a read!

Link to author website

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

2016 Book #98 – Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

51kzmkkpjtl-_sy417_bo1204203200_Title: Practical Magic
Author: Alice Hoffman
Date finished: 10/16/16
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Putnam Adult
Publication Date: June 3, 1995
Pages in book: 317 (paperback)
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: own it

Blurb from the cover:

For more than two hundred years, the Owens women had been blamed for everything that went wrong in their Massachusetts town. And Gillian and Sally endured that fate as well; as children, the sisters were outsiders. Their elderly aunts almost seemed to encourage the whispers of witchery, but all Gillian and Sally wanted was to escape. One would do so by marrying, the other by running away. But the bonds they shared brought them back-almost as if by magic…

My rating:  4.5 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 (October). This book was about Gillian and Sally Owens, sisters who go to live with their elderly aunts in Massachusetts after their parents death. Gillian and Sally are as different as two sisters can be, but it is their status in the town that ostracizes them from society and forces them to be closer than they might have otherwise. Because there’s something different about Gillian and Sally and their aunts too – they’re all Owens women and they’re all witches. As Sally and Gillian grew into women, neither of them end up where they thought they would be. Sally lives in NY with her 2 daughters and hasn’t seen her sister in years, though they talk on the phone regularly. And Gillian moves through relationships at break neck speed until she meets the one that can make her stay, even though he’s a heartless abusive bastard. And then one night Gillian shows up at Sally’s house with a dead guy in the car, and both sisters lives are changed.
Overall I really liked this book. I’ve read this one before and it was actually my book club pick for this month. This is one of my favorite books of all time, I love how magical it is. For any of you that have seen the movie, the book is very different from the movies. The story lines are very different but I’ve always felt like the idea behind the story line stayed true. I like that the book went into more detail with all of their lives, including Sally’s daughters. There is magic and danger and romance all combined in a great story about love family. This is a great read and I would recommend, especially for those who like a touch of magic in their reads.

The bottom line: I love this book, it is probably my all-time favorite book. It is very different than the movie but I love both the book and the movie! A great read and I would definitely recommend.

Link to author website

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

2015 Book #120 – Almost Invincible by Suzanne Burdon

81dZAAdzscLTitle: Almost Invincible
Author: Suzanne Burdon
Date finished: 11/29/15
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: Criteria Publishing
Publication Date: May 1, 2014
Pages in book: 328
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: Author/publisher NOTE: I received this book for free from the author/publisher 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:

“She is singularly bold, somewhat imperious, and active of mind. Her desire of knowledge is great, and her perseverance in everything else she undertakes, almost invincible.” Mary Shelley began Frankenstein in 1814, when she was eighteen. By then, she had been living for two years in a scandalous relationship with the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, who was already married with children. The novel was conceived in a contest with him and Lord Byron to tell ghost stories. When she eloped with Shelley, Mary had been quite prepared to suffer condemnation from society. It was much harder to cope with her jealousy of Claire, her step-sister, who had run away with them and was also in love with Shelley. During the nine turbulent years Mary and Shelley were together, Claire was the ever-present third, whose manipulative behaviour often drove Mary to despair. Shelley was little help – his unconventional attitudes to love strained her devotion to its limits. They moved constantly throughout England, Switzerland and Italy, escaping creditors, censorious families and ill health. It was in Italy that they found their spiritual home, their ‘paradise of exiles’, but it was also there that the loss of her children nearly broke Mary’s spirit. Her writing became her grip on sanity, and Shelley never wavered from his belief in her creative genius – as she believed in his.

My rating: 3.75 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 a fictional telling of Mary Shelley‘s life from about the time when she met Percy Shelley in 1814 until he died in 1822. This book is a fiction novel but is based upon their true story of true love that stood the test of my obstacles. From the loss of 4 children to the unending interference of Mary’s step-sister Claire to the fact that Percy was already married when they met, Mary and Percy’s love was not easily formed or maintained but it was true and deep. I thought this ended up being a wonderful love story wrapped up in a mini-drama.
The book chronicles different periods of time in the Shelley’s lives during which they traveled to Switzerland, France, and Italy. Mary’s step-sister Claire tags along from the beginning, mostly because she thinks she is also in love with Shelley but also because she can’t stand to let Mary have any fun/happiness. Claire as a character was just so easy to hate and, at very few times, also to pity. Mary and Shelley’s story was also full of other well-known and not-so well-known people of the time, including Lord Byron, Leigh Hunt, and Edward Williams. Shelley always felt best when surrounded by people who sympathized with his plights and his tribulations.
Overall I enjoyed this book a lot, it was packed full of interesting characters. It became a little frustrating that Mary could never seem to catch a break and honestly Shelley was a bit too naive for my tastes. He kept thinking that his first wife Harriet would come live with him and Mary as friends and bring his children to live with them all and they would just be one big happy family. He couldn’t understand why that was not only illogical but completely unreasonable. His naivete became almost charming by the end though, mostly because in reality he is just an endless optimist who only wanted to make every one around him happy. And while at times he could be insensitive to Mary’s feeling son certain subjects, his deep esteem and affection for her was obvious and touching. The plot line of the story was well paced and honestly I didn’t want to put it down. I thought this was a great story and I would recommend it!

The bottom line: I thought this book was really interesting! There was drama and despair and also happiness and a very true love. Definitely a great read!

Link to author website

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

2015 Book # 92 – Sisters of Versailles by Sally Christie

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Title: Sisters of Versailles
Author: Sally Christie
Date finished: 8/31/15
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication Date: September 1, 2015
Pages in book: 432
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:

A sumptuous and sensual tale of power, romance, family, and betrayal centered around four sisters and one King. Carefully researched and ornately detailed, The Sisters of Versailles is the first book in an exciting new historical fiction trilogy about King Louis XV, France’s most “well-beloved” monarch, and the women who shared his heart and his bed.
Goodness, but sisters are a thing to fear.
Set against the lavish backdrop of the French Court in the early years of the 18th century, The Sisters of Versailles is the extraordinary tale of the five Nesle sisters—Louise, Pauline, Diane, Hortense, and Marie-Anne—four of whom became mistresses to King Louis XV. Their scandalous story is stranger than fiction but true in every shocking, amusing, and heartbreaking detail.
Court intriguers are beginning to sense that young King Louis XV, after seven years of marriage, is tiring of his Polish wife. The race is on to find a mistress for the royal bed as various factions put their best foot—and women—forward. The King’s scheming ministers push Louise, the eldest of the aristocratic Nesle sisters, into the arms of the King. Over the following decade, the four sisters—sweet, naïve Louise; ambitious Pauline; complacent Diane, and cunning Marie Anne—will conspire, betray, suffer, and triumph in a desperate fight for both love and power.
In the tradition of The Other Boleyn Girl, The Sisters of Versailles is a clever, intelligent, and absorbing novel that historical fiction fans will devour. Based on meticulous research on a group of women never before written about in English, Sally Christie’s stunning debut is a complex exploration of power and sisterhood—of the admiration, competition, and even hatred that can coexist within a family when the stakes are high enough.

My rating: 4.25 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: This book will be counting towards my goal for ARC August reading challenge, it wasn’t included on my sign up post but it will be my last book for the challenge. I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book is about the five Mailly Nesle sisters, four of whom were mistresses of King Louis XV, the fifth deciding to stay loyal to her husband, which appears to be rare for this time period. Louise is the eldest sister and a couple years after she marries she inherits a position in the Queen’s court. It is there that she meets the King and becomes his mistress. The next two eldest girls, Pauline and Diane, are sent to a convent after the death of their mother. The two youngest, Hortense and Marie-Anne go to live with their aunt after their mother’s death.
I loved this book. I thought it was extremely interesting, it was hard for me to put down. And I think that it is even cooler that it is based on actual events from the 1700’s. Since this is fiction not everything from the story is factual but there were actually 4 sisters who all slept with the same King apparently. I don’t want to give away too much from the story line so I won’t say much about the actual plot but there is enough romance, intrigue, love, revenge, death, and power to make all kinds of readers happy. I thought this was a great book and I can’t wait to see more from this author!

The bottom line: I very much enjoyed this book, it was full of power, intrigue, revenge, and love. I would definitely recommend!!

Link to author website

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

2015 Book #55 – The Duke In My Bed by Amelia Grey

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Title: The Duke In My Bed
Author: Amelia Grey
Date finished: 6/8/15
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Publication Date: December 30, 2014
Pages in book: 306
Stand alone or series: #1 in The Heirs’ Club of Scoundrels series

Blurb from the cover:

HERE COMES THE GROOM
As a notorious member of the Heirs’ Club, Bray Drakestone can’t resist a challenge from one of his well-heeled colleagues-especially when it involves money and horses. But the friendly wager takes an unexpected and deadly turn. Bray is forced to agree to marry one of his challenger’s five sisters-sight unseen. Now gamblers all over London are placing bets on whether Bray will actually go through with it…
THERE GOES THE BRIDE
Miss Louisa Prim, the eldest sister, doesn’t care a whit what the reckless rogue at the Heirs’ Club promised her brother-she has no intention of marrying the future Duke of Drakestone. Bray, however, sees her rejection as another challenge. He bets that the fiery Miss Prim will not only agree to marry him, she will propose to him! With four sisters behind her, Louisa knows she can’t lose. But why does her opponent have to be a divinely handsome scoundrel? And so sweetly, irresistibly seductive…

My rating: 3.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: This book will be counting towards my goal for the Pop Sugar Reading Challenge 2015 checklist under the “a book by a female author” check box since it was written by a woman. I saw this book at the Bristol library and I have read a couple books by her before, but really it was the cover that grabbed me (I love the purple flow-y dress) so I thought I would give it a try. And I have to say I picked this one up for reading at the perfect time, because after the devastation that was the Hunger Games series, I needed something more light and sweet. This book was exactly what I needed!
Louisa Prim is everything her name suggests: prim and proper, as she must be since she is the main caretaker for her four younger sisters, ranging in age from eighteen to six. Her mother passed away shortly after her youngest sister, Bonnie’s, birth and her father passed away only a couple years after her mother. Her brother inherited her father’s title and proceeded to discover all that London had to offer to a young and slightly wealthy man. It was because of this that her brother, Nathan, was in a curricle race once dark and foggy night, which that led to his untimely demise. The race was with a young heir to a dukedom, Brey Drakestone. Nathan coerced Bray with his dying breath to marry his oldest little sister and take care of his family. Bray protested at first, but with so many onlookers it was really quite difficult to deny this dying man’s last request. Cut forward to two years later, and Louisa thinks that she and her sisters are managing just fine without the scandalous Duke. So when he suddenly shows up and basically says “Well I guess I could marry you now” she wants nothing to do with him.
I very much liked this book. I liked Bray’s character a lot and I have to say it was different for the woman to be the one in the wrong for a change. Bray and Louisa’s relationship was interesting to watch evolve, and I liked Louisa’s big and boisterous family. There were some characters in the book that I would have liked to see get scolded a little more but I guess that wasn’t necessarily central to the plot. Overall was a good read though and relatively quick/easy.
The bottom line: I would recommend this book, I liked it a lot. I think this would make a great beach read! If you’re looking for something heavy and thought-provoking, I wouldn’t say this is the book for you though.

Link to author website
Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2015 Book #39 – To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

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Title: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before
Author: Jenny Han
Date finished: 4/28/15
Genre: Young Adult
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: April 15, 2014
Pages in book: 355
Stand alone or series: There is a sequel to this book coming out next month (P.S. I Still Love You)

Blurb from the cover:

What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them…all at once?
Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.

My rating: 2.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: This book will be counting towards my goal for the Pop Sugar Reading Challenge 2015 checklist under the “a book you can finish in a day” check box mostly since I finished this book in a day. I had seen this book on a lot of other blogs with rave reviews so when I saw it at the Harwinton Public Library I decided to give it a try. I have to be honest though, this was not one of my favorite books. I mean the book itself was a fine book and I can see why many people like it. It was just a little too much teen angst for me, which is one of the reasons I haven’t read many young adult novels since I was in high school. I am trying to get back into them because many of them have only a medium, tolerable amount of teen angst and that’s fine. This book though just had a little too much for me, I was so frustrated with Lara-Jean in the beginning of the book that I just wanted to scream.
I wasn’t a fan of this book in the beginning and then as the story progressed things seemed to get better. I began to like the story more and I was slightly hooked and wanted to keep reading. About 50 pages before the end though, things started going downhill for me again. I guess I just don’t get the point. I started to think that the point was that we liked Peter. But he cheats on his tests, he is continually hanging out with his ex-girlfriend that he’s still in love with (umm can anyone say red flag??) and he did not make an effort to dispel Gen’s evil rumor that he and Lara-Jean had sex in the hot tub on a school trip. Excuse me, but this doesn’t exactly sound like a stand up guy to me. Certainly not one I would want to date. But then after Lara-Jean’s mad for awhile she pretty much just let’s it go and starts writing Peter a letter. Is she doing this to get back with him? To be done with him for good (my vote)? The book just ends there. And I get that there is a sequel but honestly I was kind of mad. I put all this time and effort into reading the story and I can’t even leave off with the heroine being happy with a good guy? It was just too much frustration for me.

The bottom line: Was too much angst and not enough resolution for me. Although this is altogether a popular book, I would probably not recommend.

Link to author website
Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page