Review: The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means that I’ll receive a commission–at no additional cost to you–if you click on them and make a purchase. 

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The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo

Release Date: 9 May 2017

Synopsis

He was the first person to inspire her, to move her, to truly understand her. Was he meant to be the last?

Lucy is faced with a life-altering choice. But before she can make her decision, she must start her story–their story–at the very beginning.

Lucy and Gabe meet as seniors at Columbia University on a day that changes both of their lives forever. Together, they decide they want their lives to mean something, to matter. When they meet again a year later, it seems fated–perhaps they’ll find life’s meaning in each other. But then Gabe becomes a photojournalist assigned to the Middle East and Lucy pursues a career in New York. What follows is a thirteen-year journey of dreams, desires, jealousies, betrayals, and, ultimately, of love. Was it fate that brought them together? Is it choice that has kept them away? Their journey takes Lucy and Gabe continents apart, but never out of each other’s hearts.

This devastatingly romantic debut novel about the enduring power of first love, with a shocking, unforgettable ending, is Love Story for a new generation.

Review

Some books tell stories that are bound to make you a little (or, okay, extremely) emotional. And you have to simply accept that it will happen. You’ll re-read passages, feel completely immersed in the scenes and wonder if everyone else who’s read it experienced the same thing. For me, this was the case with Jill Santopolo’s The Light We Lost. I’d heard a lot about the book, I’d even 1-clicked it for my Kindle but never got around to reading it until last week.

Wow. I loved following Lucy and Gabe’s story. Theirs is not a conventional love story. There is no HEA. I’m putting it out there for you now. If that’s what you want, this is not the story for you, but it is a heart wrenching portrayal of love found, love lost and what happens in between as these two lovers find themselves separated by distance, by principles and sometimes by other people.

What I especially liked with The Light We Lost was how flawed both Lucy and Gabe are as characters. Yes, they are both selfish sometimes and they will do things that will often leave you wondering why you even empathise with them, but ultimately they stand by the choices they make and, for me as a reader, I could completely understand their reactions and decisions, even when I could not imagine myself doing the same.

I just read that The Light We Lost is in development to be a movie. It will be interesting to see who they cast to play Lucy and Gabe.

Anyway, I loved The Light We Lost. I will probably re-read it in a few weeks just because. Do I recommend it? Absolutely. But bear in mind that, even those this is a romance, it’s more in the lines of One Day or Me Before You. And if you’ve read either of those, you know exactly what I mean.

My rating?

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Disclaimer: The links included in this review are affiliate links.

Review: Strings of Subversion by K. Victoria Chase

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Title: Strings of Subversion

Author: K. Victoria Chase

Genre: Historical Fiction, IR/Multicultural Historical Fiction

Release Date: 30 April 2017

 

SYNOPSIS

Based on true events.

Berlin 1935

On the eve of the Olympics, musician Willie Cooper is banned from performing her beloved jazz. With her half-German niece and nephew in need of food and shelter, she turns to the music underground to earn money. Each illegal gig brings the feared SD closer to her people, who are needed for an experiment only spoken of in feared whispers on the streets.

British Intelligence Agent Klaus Hummer’s mission is to observe and report as a journalist for Das Schwarze Korps, the Nazi’s premiere newspaper. The immersion into Nazi propaganda and culture reveals an alarming agenda that will put him on a path to sacrifice the life of a beautiful jazz singer for an assignment that cannot fail.

REVIEW

I love historical romance, so when a friend recommended K. Victoria Chase’s Strings of Subversion, I was intrigued.

You could say that Strings of Subversion is a forbidden love story: it’s set in Nazi Germany in 1936, just prior to World War II, with Germany preparing for the Berlin Olympics. Willie, an African-American jazz singer and violinist is living in Berlin with Margot, the German common-law wife of her uncle John, and their two children, Johannes and Dorotea. Though the Nazis are making life ever more difficult for all who are not “aryan” enough, Willie doesn’t want to leave Margo and her children on their own–especially with John out of the country performing and funds being low. So Willie and her musician friends do what they can to make ends meet, performing jazz (which has recently been forbidden by the Nazis) in underground clubs as well as German classical music in clubs that will still allow black and Jewish musicians to perform. Into the fold walks Klaus Reithoffer–handsome, charming…and possibly a Nazi. Or is he…? One thing is certain: sparks fly between Willie and Klaus, even when both have good reason for keeping their distance.

What I enjoyed about Strings of Subversion was how Chase weaves so many layers of intrigue into the story. Chase does a very good job of sketching her characters so that you can picture them and understand most of the motivation for their actions. I thought she did an especially good job of clueing us into Klaus, who proves that looks can be deceiving. I also loved the slow burn between Willie and Klaus and how not everything was as it appeared to be. I could easily see this story as a movie.

So why am I giving this story a 4-star review and not a 5-star review? Two things ate at me a bit while I was reading: Willie’s refusal to leave Berlin even when she understood how dangerous and inhospitable it was becoming, and the way the story ended. I know we need to have a strong-willed heroine, but I sometimes had a hard time believing that a sensible woman like Willie would remain in a country that was falling under the thrall of Hitler and the SS’s propaganda. Also, as the story came to a close, I’d expected that book #1 would tie up any loose ends and we’d get the rest of the story in the upcoming instalment. However, the ending came rather abruptly and was a cliffhanger. I’m not against cliffhangers, but this one took me by surprise.

Still, even with these two quibbles of mine, I really enjoyed reading Strings of Subversion and look forward to reading Book 2 in the series once it’s released.

Highly recommended!

My rating?

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Review: Saints & Misfits by S.K. Ali

Screen Shot 2017-06-24 at 19.58.48When I stumbled upon S.K. Ali’s Saints and Misfits a few weeks ago, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was such a delight to read that I wish there still more chapters to read. Saints and Misfits shares the story of Janna, a hijabi teen whose Indian father leads a secular life while her Egyptian mother continues to be a practicing Muslim. Janna is dealing with criticism from some of her Muslim friends for hanging out with non-Muslims, lack of understanding from some non-Muslim friends who don’t understand why she wears a hijabthe fear and frustration of being sexually assaulted by Farooq, the cousin of one of her closest friends and the sort of “perfect” boy that all parents adore. Farooq spends the better part of the novel stalking Janna and doing everything he can to make sure that he can have some influence over her. And then there is Janna’s crush on Jeremy, a non-Muslim boy at her school, her older brother moving back home and deciding to court Sarah–who’s just a little too perfect and has secrets of her own, Tats–one of Janna’s non-Muslim friends who is just a little boy-crazy and trying to play matchmaker between Janna and Jeremy, And Sausun, her badass niqab-wearing friend who is trying to change the way people think of niqab-wearing girls with her YouTube channel, Niqabi Ninjas.

I love how Ali makes sure that the reader understands that Janna’s situation isn’t very different from any other teenage girl: Janna is Every Girl, dealing with her own identity crisis, with wanting to fall in love, with worrying about if she is popular. And I loved how effortlessly this was conveyed to the reader. I also loved how Ali convey’s Janna’s struggles with her faith. This is handled so deftly, without ever veering into the heavy-handedness one often sees in stories that touch upon faith and any doubts related to it.

Another wonderful thing about Saints & Misfits is the characterization. Each character in the story is so well-portrayed and unique. You never have that foggy sensation of not knowing who is who. They all stand out. And I loved the portrayal of Janna’s relationship with Mr. Ram, whom she takes to the senior citizen center every week. Even when Janna sometimes took their friendship for granted, it was obvious that she cared about him and paid heed to the advice he gave her.

Would I recommend reading Saints & Misfits? You betcha! And not only would I recommend it–if I were still teaching, it would be required reading for my students *and* their parents. Definitely a 5-star read!

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Review: End of the World by Nesly Clerge

Screen Shot 2017-06-12 at 15.52.22Imagine a future where you are always connected and there is no need for TV or printed books or even the internet as we know it–the chip inside you knows everything, keeps track of your finances and even orders taxis for you. It knows when you need to order groceries, it knows when you are unwell. It knows *everything*–except what you’re thinking. This is the world scientist Gayle Conyers lives inhabits in Nesly Clerge’s End of the World: The Beginning with her two daughters and nanny/home help. In this world, those who are chipped are privileged. Those who are not are hunted down by the Order and “reformed” (or made into food a la Soylent Green, depending on who you ask).

Gayle is, for the most part, perfectly happy in this world. She likes her job, she doesn’t really question much the way things are, though she wishes she had more resources for her research into HIVm, a mutation of the HIV virus. After watching a debate between Dr. Armstrong, a renowned, agnostic scientist who claims he’s made a scientific breakthrough in successfully transplanting the brain intact to another body, and Dr. Kingsley who believes that the end of the world is coming and is being brought on by those in power (and those who are chipped) who are unwittingly worshipping at the altar of Lucifer when they think they are the enlightened ones. The next day, Gayle is contacted by Dr. Armstrong, who makes her an offer she cannot refuse. And then she is contacted by a rebel called Michael who wants her to spy on Dr. Armstrong and find out everything she can about his research.

Not a lot happens in the story–there are long discussions about religion and science with the rebels on the side of religion trying to convince Gayle that everything she knows and believes in is wrong or is part of a plan to deceive her and others–and this is what ultimately lead to a 3-star rating from me. I think the story has potential, but I wanted more of Gayle discovering whatever is the truth on her own rather than having two (actually three, counting Kingsley) men constantly telling her what they believe in and assuming she will bend to whatever it is that they’ve deemed the truth.

Since End of the World is billed as a sci-fi thriller, I was expecting more excitement and more things to happen. I also wanted Gayle to be more proactive in the story. And while I like the premise of the story, I felt like the religious aspects of it ended up taking up way too much of the story and bogging it down.

What worked for me was Gayle’s growing distrust of being under constant surveillance through the chip implanted in her and through the nanny who acts as a caregiver to her children. The more she learns (through Armstrong and Michael), the more she does not trust KATE (the system that watches over everyone and everything), but she must keep up a facade. I also liked how Gayle doesn’t feel she can trust any of the men trying to convince her to join their side–no matter which side seems to be more “right”.

End of the World is an interesting novel, but–if you’re looking for an action-packed story, it’s probably not the story for you. If you are interested in religion and discussions of good versus evil, then you’ll probably be pulled into the story. This is the first book in a series, so be forewarned that there is a cliffhanger-style ending.

My rating? 3 stars

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Book Review – An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole

Screen Shot 2017-04-11 at 06.50.37Alyssa Cole has done it again: written a historical IR romance set in a tricky time period and done so with amazing aplomb! I am usually skeptical about IR romances set during the American Civil War. This is due to too many of them romanticising the master-slave relationship in a way that, for me, feels disingenuous. In An Extraordinary Union, Cole takes the completely different angle to her story.

Instead of giving us the stereotypical master and slave who fall in love trope, we get something far more exciting–two Union spies in the Loyal League infiltrating the household of a Confederate senator. One of the spies is Elle, a free Black woman with the gift of being able to remember *everything*; as a spy, she puts her life on the line by going to Richmond, Virginia to pretend to be a mute house slave to get information that will help foil the Confederacy. The other spy is Malcolm, a Scottish immigrant pretending to be a Confederate soldier who manages to get close to the senator for the very same purpose–to get whatever information he can about the Confederates’ plans in order to bring them down.

Of course their paths cross in a not-so-meet-cute, but it’s exciting and it sets up the story well. We are reminded constantly of the dangerous situation that Elle and Malcolm are in–if they are found out, they will be tortured and/or killed. And for Elle, who has seen the horrors of slavery as a child and has willingly put herself back in the same situation for the sake of the Union, she is not willing to give in to the attraction she feels for Malcolm–initially she does not know he is also a spy, but also because she has seen the reality of her situation face to face–she and other slaves are property, they are seen as breeders, less than human, disposable. And she’s seen it from the side of slavery and from the abolitionists, some of whom view abolishing slavery as a mission while not caring about or even respecting the very people they claim to want to help. Malcolm’s own experiences in Scotland at the hands of English tyranny have left an indelible mark on his life and that of his family. And while he knows it cannot compare to what Elle has seen and experienced, it does make him more aware of the reality they face and it strengthens his conviction that this is not the sort of world–where men can deem other men as being less than human, buy and sell other men, rip apart families, even kill other men with no fear of the law–he wants to live in.

Cole has woven an exciting story that hooked me from the first page. And my skepticism was completely blown away thanks to her writing a story that does not shy away from the harsh realities of slavery and racism. I used to live in Richmond, Virginia–the capital of the Confederacy–so it was nice being able to picture the story taking place there.

Highly recommended! I am definitely looking forward to the next instalment of this series.

My rating?

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Release Blitz: The Marriage Pact by K. Larsen & Mara White

3DTitle: The Marriage Pact

Author(s): K. Larsen & Mara White

Release Date: April 4, 2017

Genre: Contemporary Romance

 

Synopsis:

Ryan Walters and Jackie Bowen became instantaneous friends during their wild and free years of college. He, the rugged, yet all American football player from a stable family fell hard for Jackie, the exuberant, spontaneous girl from a broken home who lived and loved life to the fullest. Too young to commit and wary of damaging the unique bond they shared, the friends to lovers make a pact promising to find one another again at the age of thirty and marry—if not already committed.

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Years apart, after much growth and change, the two best friends seek one another out. In college, neither Jackie or Ryan could possibly know that every relationship to come would fall short of the one they’d shared together all those years ago.

When the two meet again, love and chemistry soar beyond their wildest dreams and they agree to make good on their promise. But a second chance at love can be fickle and fleeting.

The Marriage Pact is a story about letting go and loving with your whole heart no matter the circumstance—or how much it hurts.

The Marriage Pact, the second book in The Viral Series following Missed Connection, by romance authors K. Larsen and Mara White is based on a heartbreaking viral Reddit post. Each book is a stand alone novel.

Purchase Links

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2nOUZxD
B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-marriage-pact-k-larsen
Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-marriage-pact-9
iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-marriage-pact/id1220146402

 

tmpteaser (2)The Review

The Marriage Pact is one of those novels that will tear you up inside. This is the story of two people who are meant to be but fear of commitment and other issues always seem to get in the way. Jackie and Ryan, our couple in question, are not a love at first sight couple. This is more of an easing into love…at least for Ryan. They’re friends, they are also something more, though neither puts it into words at the beginning.  But Jackie plays too many games with Ryan in an attempt to hold him at arm’s length. So why is it called the Marriage Pact? The two made a pact that they’d marry one another if they hadn’t found the One by the time they turned thirty. And since we follow these two from their youth to adulthood, we have plenty of time to see the progression and the pitfalls of their relationship.

I am a huge fan of Mara White’s writing, and I really enjoyed Missed Connection, her previous novel co-written with K. Larsen. This is an emotional rollercoaster of a read with the sort of flawed characters I love reading about and who may not always be likeable but whom you eventually come to love.

Highly recommended!

My rating?

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Review: Once Upon a Royal Christmas by Robin Bielman

screen-shot-2016-11-02-at-07-23-22I love holiday romances and I love reading stories about royalty and commoners falling in love, so Robin Bielman‘s Once Upon a Royal Christmas was a good fit for me. Set in the small town of Marietta, Once Upon a Royal Christmas tells the story of how Rowan and Prince Theo meet and fall in love.

It’s got the makings a of perfect holiday romance–the hunk of a hero who just happens to be a royal, the feisty heroine who is a little clumsy but still a charmer. It’s a smartly written romance with great banter that reminded me of the romantic comedies of the past starring Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy or even Jimmy Steward and Donna Reed. I like how Bielman gives the characters a chance to get to know one another as their attraction grows. It makes for a very nice build up to their passion.

My only quibble is that, since this was my first time reading a Robin Bielman novel, I felt like I needed to know a little more about what exactly Rowan did that disgraced her at the local newspaper. I didn’t really understand it since we didn’t get enough info to make it feel plausible. However, I loved how she described the town of Marietta, so I think I’ll be reading a few more Marietta stories before the year is out.

A fun holiday read!

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Note: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, but was not required to write a review or influenced in terms of my review.

Book Tour: Watching the Sky Cry by J.B. Hartnett

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New from J.B. Hartnett!

Watching the Sky Cry is a beautifully written,

emotional story and is NOW AVAILABLE

& Free on Kindle Unlimited!

 

Amazon US: http://amzn.to/2cXnRNh

Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/2d3EQfk

 

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Blurb

Ten years is a long time when you’re thirty-two. We’d seen our share of ups and downs, but I could honestly say, they were mostly up. That’s the thing about happiness though. It lulls you into a false sense of security.

Neither one of us ever thought we’d ever be touched by crippling loss or immeasurable grief. But not all stories have a happy ending, and I knew, better than anyone, that sometimes, one of you won’t make it till the end. One of you has to go first. And one of you will be left behind to pick up the pieces.

That one is me.

But starting over isn’t what I thought it would be. I need escape from the memories that plague me, remind me. So I went back to where it all began. To the town where I was born. To the place whose beauty could pierce my pain. Where I experienced my first kiss, where I fell in love, where a man was my earth. And I…

I was his sky.

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Excerpt

You never had a girlfriend.” I whispered.

“No, Rylie. I didn’t.”

I pushed away from him, my mouth coating itself in preparation for what was to come, and ran toward the field behind his parents’ house. I threw up everything in my stomach, but I kept heaving with wracking sobs, unable to keep my shit together. If I’d listened….if I’d answered his letters…if I hadn’t met Nick…

His hands were in my hair, pulling it back, but it was no use. I was a mess in every way possible.

“This isn’t…” I hiccupped, “how I imagined this going.”

“Yeah?” he said softly. “How’d you imagine it?”

“We would have it out, and then we’d have angry sex, and then we’d fall in love and have babies and live happily ever after.”

See? Honesty.

“Oh Rylie,” he said with humor in his voice, not at all bothered when he wiped the edges of my disgusting mouth with his hand. “I’ll be pissing you off again…probably on purpose just so we can have that angry sex you just mentioned.”

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REVIEW

If you like you’re like me and a sucker for a second chance at love story, then J.B. Hartnett’s Watching the Sky Cry just the story for you. Get your tissues ready because Riley’s story of how she found love with Nick only to find it all falling apart and grieving, and then reconnecting with Quentin and finding love a second time is so emotionally charged and beautifully written.

The characters are complex and their journey to love is not smooth–which makes you want so much for them to find happiness. Really enjoyed this story, and I think you will too! A recommended read!

My rating? 4 stars!

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About the Author:

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Julie is a southern California native, a fan of a really good story (preferably a romance with a happily ever after), really good pie (preferably pumpkin)and copious amounts of coffee (preferably Folgers).

She has always enjoyed writing and at one time thought she might be a singer/songwriter. The ‘writer’ part is that one that stuck.

Julie is obsessed with Pi…the equation and the food. She’s allergic to cats, cantaloupe and hates mushrooms. So if you ever want to give her a gift, those are out for sure.

She currently lives with her romance hero husband and two boys in Melbourne, Australia.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

 

 

GIVEAWAY

$25 Amazon Gift Card

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Share link:  http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/share-code/MDk5NjRmMDM5ZDM4YTBjYWM0YzAyYzM0NGI2ODRhOjg5Ng==/?

 

Review: The Shooting by James Boice

theshootingcoverfinalThe Shooting by James Boice is one of those books that overwhelms your every sense. With its focus firmly set on America’s pervasive gun culture, The Shooting takes on what leads up to and the consequences of what happens when a young man is shot by a paranoid man with a guns.

Tightly written and almost uncomfortable to read at times, The Shooting forces readers to view the bruality and rawness of what makes Lee Fischer go from being a normal little boy longing for his father to come home to the wealthy, paranoid man with a gun in a penthouse who shoots the building superintendent’s sleepwalking son.

Don’t be put off by the rawness of the language, that is the beauty of The Shooting. Boice confronts the reader with bare bones honesty of his writing and his choice of subject. 

It’s not a feel-good novel. It’s a novel that confronts the reality of America today–a country where you are more likely to be shot simply for being the wrong color than for committing a crime, a country where the Second Amendment’s original intent has been bastardized. James Boice has an amazing writer’s voice, but it will not speak to everyone. Prepare to be challenged as you read. This is not a book for people who want escapism, but it’s a book which *should* be required reading for people sitting on both sides of the fence regarding gun control.

A must-read!

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Review: Something Old by Lena Hart

Something Old (Brides of Cedar Bend Book 1)Something Old by Lena Hart

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am a sucker for small-town romances and that’s exactly what you get in Something Old, the first book of Lena Hart’s Brides of Cedar Bend series. Mya and Guy are about to reunite, but it doesn’t go the way Mya had hoped. Which shouldn’t have been that big of a surprise when she left him on their wedding night–even if her reasons for leaving made sense–she was grieving the untimely death of her father and she felt cornered, even if she loved Guy more than she loved life itself. Now two years have passed and she’s back–but can she convince Guy to pick up where they left off?

Something Old is a second chance at love story that revolves around two very stubborn people. Both Mya and Guy want things their way–she wants him to forgive and forget (and I think she expects it a little too easily considering what happened) and Guy wishes she’d leave again so he could get on with his life without her (even though we all know that isn’t what he really wants at all). It’s fun and frustrating watching the two of them, especially when it’s obvious that they both love one another. I really enjoyed this story–my only complaints are that Guy gave in a little too easily for me–he should have made Mya work harder to win his trust and forgiveness again–and Mya’s reasons for staying away as long as she did didn’t really feel convincing. Still, they were fated to be together and their love story was charming.

Highly recommended!

View all my reviews