2018 Book #34 – All the Ever Afters by Danielle Teller

61NMINqPepLTitle: All the Ever Afters
Author: Danielle Teller
Date finished: 4/26/18
Genre: Fiction, fantasy, fairy-tale retelling
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: May 22, 2018
Pages in book: 373
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: Edelweiss and Library Thing NOTE: I received this book for free from Edelweiss and Library Thing 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:

In the vein of Wicked, The Woodcutter, and Boy, Snow, Bird, a luminous reimagining of a classic tale, told from the perspective of Agnes, Cinderella’s “evil” stepmother.

We all know the story of Cinderella. Or do we?

As rumors about the cruel upbringing of beautiful newlywed Princess Cinderella roil the kingdom, her stepmother, Agnes, who knows all too well about hardship, privately records the true story. . . .

A peasant born into serfdom, Agnes is separated from her family and forced into servitude as a laundress’s apprentice when she is only ten years old. Using her wits and ingenuity, she escapes her tyrannical matron and makes her way toward a hopeful future. When teenaged Agnes is seduced by an older man and becomes pregnant, she is transformed by love for her child. Once again left penniless, Agnes has no choice but to return to servitude at the manor she thought she had left behind. Her new position is nursemaid to Ella, an otherworldly infant. She struggles to love the child who in time becomes her stepdaughter and, eventually, the celebrated princess who embodies everyone’s unattainable fantasies. The story of their relationship reveals that nothing is what it seems, that beauty is not always desirable, and that love can take on many guises.

Lyrically told, emotionally evocative, and brilliantly perceptive, All the Ever Afters explores the hidden complexities that lie beneath classic tales of good and evil, all the while showing us that how we confront adversity reveals a more profound, and ultimately more important, truth than the ideal of “happily ever after.”

My rating:  4.75 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.

I have recently enjoyed the influx of fairy-tale retellings and the tales that are told from a different point of view. I loved the movie that came out a few years ago, Maleficient, and of course one of my all time favorites in this vein was the musical, Wicked. From these stories we learn that evil is not born but made, and truthfully is decided by the story-teller. Tales are exaggerated and told to paint the story teller in a sympathetic tone so that the reader will empathize with their plight. Agnes as a character was much easier to empathize with than I expected, especially considering how well the Cinderella story was ingrained in my mind prior to reading this book. Agnes as a character though was so strong-willed and determined to find a better life both for herself and for her daughters that it was easy to root for her success. And while many things in her life could be defined as “unfair,” her logical approach never let that fact weigh her down and instead she persevered in spite of the unfairness of her circumstances. At first I found the narration to be a tad overly wordy but after a little bit of adjustment it was easy to read, and the words painted such a vivid portrait that infused the text with emotions and feeling. I enjoyed this book immensely and I love that by reading it the reader is made to re-think the truths of good and evil. This was truly an enjoyable novel and I would definitely recommend it, especially for fans of the Cinderella story.

Link to author website

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2017 Book #45 – The Mediterranean Caper by Clive Cussler

51RzRwlEwRL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Title: The Mediterranean Caper
Author: Clive Cussler
Date finished: 5/14/17
Genre: Fiction, military
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Publication Date: July 16, 2013 (40th Anniversary reprint)
Pages in book: 220
Stand alone or series: #1 in the Dirk Pitt Adventure series
Where I got the book from: Terryville Public Library

Blurb from the cover:

On a quiet Greek island, a U.S. air force base has come under attack—by a World War I fighter plane . . . a famous yellow Albatros supposedly lost at sea in 1918.
Now it is up to Dirk Pitt, Al Giordino, and the rest of the NUMA team to root out the elusive truth behind the incident—and find out how it’s connected to mysterious acts of sabotage against a scientific expedition, an international smuggling ring, and a dark-haired beauty with some dangerous secrets.  The search for answers will lead Pitt from a lavish island villa, to a moving freighter eerily empty of crew, to a massive underwater cavern housing the heart of a criminal operation that is larger and more elaborate than he ever could have imagined . . . a lucrative operation that its mastermind would kill to protect.
With its fearless and dashing hero, high-stakes action, and non-stop excitement, The Mediterranean Caper is classic Dirk Pitt . . . and classic Cussler.

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 (May). This was a military adventure type novel, supposedly in the same vein as an Indiana Jones type novel. Dirk Pitt is called out to a Greek island with his friend Giordino to help with a problem that’s come up. Along the way, through a series of events that could only be arranged by fate, Pitt gets involved in a larger issue: major drug deals and a dastardly villain who is the very definition of evil.
Overall this was not my favorite book. The hero was so cocky and arrogant, I hated it. And it didn’t make any sense how he kept figuring out the scheme/story behind every twist and turn, I couldn’t understand how Pitt seemed to be this all-knowing character. I mean yes he was smart but it was ridiculous how much he knew about each facet of other people’s plans just by guessing. And I think part of the reason I didn’t love this book was because it was written so long ago there were certain things that just were cringe-worthy. In the first 40 pages of the book, Pitt meets a beautiful but sad woman on the beach, backhands her, and then has sex with her all within like a page and it was just so ridiculously unrealistic. So overall not my favorite but I can where it would appeal to certain readers.

The bottom line: This book was not my favorite, it just didn’t capture my interest. The hero’s character didn’t appeal to me personally but I am sure this book would appeal to some.

Link to author website

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2016 Book #111 – The Duke of Pleasure by Elizabeth Hoyt

51bydxjcvql-_sx305_bo1204203200_Title: The Duke of Pleasure
Author: Elizabeth Hoyt
Date finished: 11/23/16
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: November 29, 2016
Pages in book: 336
Stand alone or series: #11 in the Maiden Lane 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:

IN THE ARMS OF DANGER
Bold. Brave. Brutally handsome. Hugh Fitzroy, the Duke of Kyle, is the king’s secret weapon. Sent to defeat the notorious Lords of Chaos, he is ambushed in a London alley-and rescued by an unlikely ally: a masked stranger with the unmistakable curves of a woman.
IN THE HEAT OF DESIRE
Cocky. Clever. Courageously independent. Alf has survived on the perilous streets of St. Giles by disguising her sex. By day she is a boy, dealing in information and secrets. By night she’s the notorious Ghost of St. Giles, a masked vigilante. But as she saves Hugh from assassins, she finds herself succumbing to temptation . . .
ONE KISS WILL CHANGE THEIR LIVES FOREVER
When Hugh hires Alf to investigate the Lords of Chaos, her worlds collide. Once Hugh realizes that the boy and the Ghost are the same, will Alf find the courage to become the woman she needs to be-before the Lords of Chaos destroy them both?

My rating:  4.25 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 (finally!) of Alf. Alf has been a supporting character for a good portion of this series, when we’re first introduced to her character its as the young boy who is an information collector/seller in St. Giles. Alf was abandoned at a young age and so in order to protect herself, she’s disguised herself as a young boy for a very long time. She’s also recently started training to replace the most recent Ghost of St. Giles, since all the other ones we’ve learned of have settled down and retired and started families. So Alf takes on a new job as an informant for the Duke of Kyle, who she seems to have a bit of a crush on. And when the Duke of Kyle (Hugh) discovers that Alf is not only a girl, but also the Ghost of St. Giles who kissed him so passionately recently. And when Hugh realizes that he needs Alf’s help on an upcoming reconnaissance mission at a ball, he asks her to uncover the woman she really is deep down. As Hugh sees more of the facets that make up Alf though, he can’t resist falling in love with her.
Overall I really liked this book a lot. It was a bit unusual since the heroine starts out the story attracted to the hero but the hero thinks she’s a boy. And Alf is from the streets and it shows not only in her language but also in her thought process and her personality. I think that was one of the things I ended liking most about this book though was Alf and how full of life she was. And it was really great to read her story after hearing so much about her in the other books in the series. Readers be warned there are some steamy scenes in this book, this one definitely is a sexy read! But there was also some great character development and some really deep emotions in this book. Alf’s character develops from a cocky lad to a young lady in love (who is also still cocky). And I think the book had a great overall message, that sometimes you need to put your faith in love and have hope.

The bottom line: I really enjoyed this one, this probably ended up being one of my favorite books in the series. This was definitely an unconventional story though, Alf isn’t your classic romance heroine but she was entirely refreshing and fun. This was a great read and I would definitely recommend.

Link to author website

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2016 Book #88 – At Risk by S.G. Redling

41e3is00ccl-_sx332_bo1204203200_Title: At Risk
Author: S.G. Redling
Date finished: 9/26/16
Genre: Fiction, thriller
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Publication Date: September 20, 2016
Pages in book: 238
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:

Colleen McElroy grew up wealthy and pampered, the daughter of a prominent society family in Lexington, Kentucky. But her privileged upbringing could not prepare or protect her from her cruel and abusive first husband. Although her calamitous marriage left her with physical and emotional scars that have yet to heal, they haven’t prevented her from doing her best to rebuild her life.
Charismatic Patrick McElroy has scars of his own from his traumatic childhood in the foster care system, but with his business partner, John, he has built a celebrated, state-of-the-art home for at-risk youths. When one goes missing, Colleen is plunged into a nightmare of uncertainty about the girl’s disappearance. Is she paranoid, seeing disasters where there is just bad luck, or does an unspeakable evil lurk behind the new life she’s made for herself? No longer sure of whom she can trust, Colleen will have to rely on herself to discover the truth.

My rating:  4.25 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 is about Colleen McElroy, a woman who gets herself involved in a very sticky situation. Colleen was recently divorced from Heath Searon (within the last couple years) who beat her so badly that she had to have her spleen removed. Colleen meets Patrick McElroy while he is helping her with some around the house projects she takes on when moving into her own place. She very quickly falls in love with him and is married not even a full year after her divorce from Heath. This piece of information was a tad bit surprising to me since Colleen was so deeply scarred from her first marriage I would have thought it would take more convincing to get her to come around. But anyways, Patrick and his business partner, John, own Macaroni Brothers Freight Company. John’s wife, Bix, as well as John and Patrick, grew up in the foster care system and now they use some of the profits from their business to run a foster care home for children. When Colleen starts seeing John with her ex-husband Heath though, she begins to suspect that there may be something shady going on. Can she prove anything without putting herself in danger though?
Overall I really liked this book. I thought that there were a couple holes/unbelievable areas in the plot line but they didn’t end up taking away from the story for me. I was on the edge of my seat waiting to find out what was going to happen. And there were a lot of great plot twists in the story, I didn’t want to put it down! I liked that the reader saw Colleen get some of her strength as a person back by the end of the book too. She went through some awful things but in the end she was able to forge ahead and be more like the daring woman she once was. This was a great read and i would definitely recommend!

The bottom line: This book had me on the edge of my seat with my heart pounding. It was a quick read but definitely thrilling. I would recommend!

Link to author website

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2016 Book #54 – Duke of Sin by Elizabeth Hoyt

51OK+NK3wVL._SX308_BO1,204,203,200_Title: Duke of Sin
Author: Elizabeth Hoyt
Date finished: 5/28/16
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: May 31, 2016
Pages in book: 368
Stand alone or series: #10 in the Maiden Lane 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:

A MAN OF SIN
Devastatingly handsome. Vain. Unscrupulous. Valentine Napier, the Duke of Montgomery, is the man London whispers about in boudoirs and back alleys. A notorious rake and blackmailer, Montgomery has returned from exile, intent on seeking revenge on those who have wronged him. But what he finds in his own bedroom may lay waste to all his plans.
A WOMAN OF HONOR
Born a bastard, housekeeper Bridget Crumb is clever, bold, and fiercely loyal. When her aristocratic mother becomes the target of extortion, Bridget joins the Duke of Montgomery’s household to search for the incriminating evidence-and uncovers something far more dangerous.
A SECRET THAT THREATENS TO DESTROY THEM BOTH
Astonished by the deceptively prim-and surprisingly witty-domestic spy in his chambers, Montgomery is intrigued. And try as she might, Bridget can’t resist the slyly charming duke. Now as the two begin their treacherous game of cat and mouse, they soon realize that they both have secrets-and neither may be as nefarious-or as innocent-as they appear . . .

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. I have been a big fan of the Maiden Lane series from the beginning, this one being the tenth book in the series. This is my second book I’ve finished during my Reading Retreat, the first one being the previous book in this series. This book starts up pretty much right where the last book left off, with a scene between Valentine, the Duke of Montgomery, and his housekeeper, Bridget Crumb. The last book in the series left off in something similar to a cliffhanger, meant to entice the reader by leading them into this book’s story. (***SPOILER ALERT***) As we learned in the last book in the series, Bridget was planted in Val’s house on purpose in order to retrieve certain items he was using to blackmail women that Bridget knew well. While working for Val though, Bridget grows to care for him (somehow) and even though she knows he is somewhat evil, she still finds herself falling in love with him (again somehow).
Overall this was not my favorite book in the Maiden Lane series. I was really looking forward to this book because Hoyt (usually) does such a great job of taking a total jerk and making the reader like him. And Val had been mentioned in the last few books in the series as a quasi-villain so I was interested to see how she was going to turn his character around. I didn’t really feel like that ended up happening though. Val kept up with his blackmail and actually killed someone in front of Bridget in this book and she still ends up liking him. Most of the other villain-y heroes in the Maiden Lane series have some kind of redeeming quality but from what I could tell from this book Val was pretty much a sociopath. He had no version of right or wrong, he thought he could do whatever he wanted without caring about consequences, he was power-hungry, and he thought everything revolved around him. He did act redeeming in certain situations, for example his actions towards his sister Eve, but overall I didn’t see how anyone could’ve fallen in love with him and survived. He wasn’t really a good man. He was willing to join the Lords of Chaos for more power without really caring about the fact that they were harming women and children. So anyways, suffice it to say I couldn’t really connect with the hero and heroine in this book. It was still a good book and it was interesting to hear Val’s story but it wasn’t what I expected.

The bottom line: This definitely wasn’t my favorite in the series but I would still say that this is a good addition to the series so I would still recommend!

Link to author website

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2015 Book #84 – Steele Resolve by Kimberly Amato

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Title: Steele Resolve
Author: Kimberly Amato
Date finished: 8/11/15
Genre: Fiction, mystery/suspense
Publisher: Little Crown Productions
Publication Date: March 3, 2015
Pages in book: 153
Stand alone or series: #1 in Jasmine Steele series
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:

Jasmine Steele’s life was exactly where she had wanted it to be. She had the love of her life, a job as a detective and never gave up on her dream of writing the next great novel. It’s true what they say about life, it changes without warning, and Jasmine’s dreams slammed to a halt the minute her brother was killed. Between guilt, becoming the guardian of her nephew, hiding her grief – she lost her soulmate, her dreams and ultimately herself. Now Steele is now faced with a series of murders that pulls her back into her brother’s case and puts everyone around her in grave danger. Forced to face her demons, Steele must find out who the killer is before she loses someone else she loves. The killer doesn’t care who dies, especially if it keeps Steele quiet – permanently. Sometimes your worst enemy is yourself.

My rating: 2.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: This book will be counting towards my goal for ARC August reading challenge, it is #6 on list from my sign up post. I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book tells the story of Detective Jasmine Steele, who is now the guardian of her seven year old nephew following the tragic accident that her brother and sister-in-law were killed in the year before. Jasmine is having trouble adjusting not only to handling her grief but also the new responsibilities that have been thrust upon her. In doing her best just to get through each day she has ended up pushing away the love of her life by putting up a wall between them, something she deeply regrets.
And while she tries to think of a way she could possibly fix the mess that her life is, things get even scarier. Someone calls and threatens both her and her nephew Chase. And then as she starts to dig deeper into the case, she realizes that her friends are also in danger, including the woman she is still in love with. Since Jazz is a detective with the police force, she knows better than anyone how to hunt down a killer. The problem though is what if the killer was hunting her first?
Overall I thought this was an fairly good book. I wouldn’t say it was my usual style, it was a little dark and bloody. The mystery story line was quite good though so if you like gory mysteries then I would definitely give this one a try. This to me just screams beach read, I always think reading scary books like this is less scary when you’re in the bright sun and surrounded by a calm ocean. Anyways, while for me the story line started out a tad slow, once we got into the whole hunt down the killer thing I was hooked. And while we deal with the immediate threat in this first book in the series, there is still a larger threat looming ahead that Jazz must face at some point in the future. I’m looking forward to reading the second book in the series (Melting Steele, up next!) and I peeked ahead and noticed that there is going to be a third book in the series as well.

The bottom line: I thought this was a good mystery novel, it kept my interest and was a fairly quick and easy read. This is what I consider a good beach read but I know that’s fairly subjective.

Link to author website

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