Publisher: Ballantine Books

Review: All the Beautiful Girls by Elizabeth J. Church

Posted April 17, 2018 by Lily B in Reviews / 8 Comments

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Review: All the Beautiful Girls by Elizabeth J. ChurchAll the Beautiful Girls by Elizabeth J. Church
Series: standalone
Published by Ballantine Books on March 6th 2018
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 336
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 2.5 Stars
Heat:two-half-flames

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

A powerful novel about a gutsy showgirl who tries to conquer her past amongst the glamour of 1960s Las Vegas--and finds unexpected fortune, friendship, and love.
It was unimaginable. When she was eight years old, Lily Decker somehow survived the auto accident that killed her parents and sister, but neither her emotionally distant aunt nor her all-too-attentive uncle could ease her grief. Dancing proves to be Lily's only solace, and eventually, she receives a "scholarship" to a local dance academy--courtesy of a mysterious benefactor.
Grown and ready to leave home for good, Lily changes her name to Ruby Wilde and heads to Las Vegas to be a troupe dancer, but her sensual beauty and voluptuous figure land her work instead as a showgirl performing everywhere from Les Folies Bergere at the Tropicana to the Stardust's Lido de Paris. Wearing costumes dripping with feathers and rhinestones, five-inch heels, and sky-high headdresses, Ruby may have all the looks of a Sin City success story, but she still must learn to navigate the world of men--and figure out what real love looks like.
With her uncanny knack for understanding the hidden lives of women, Elizabeth J. Church captures both the iconic extravagance of an era and the bravery of a young woman who dances through her sadness to find connection, freedom, and, most important, herself.

TRIGGER WARNING for Child Abuse/Sexual Assult.

 

I wish I knew about the trigger warnings in this book before I started reading this. I love historical fiction and have read quite a bit of it in the past, so needless to say when the author dwells into parts of child sexual abuse as part of her story, it took me a bit by surprise. I never expected it to be so in my face and in a way, graphic. I would have appreciated it if the author had implied the fact, but this felt like it crossed a line when a scene between the main character and her uncle takes a very disturbing turn. Was it meant to shock people or make them aware of such incidents?

The story follows a young girl named Lily, she is the sole survivor after her family ends up in a car crash. She ends up living with her Aunt and Uncle and as a little girl, she always craves for her aunts love and approval. Only problem is? Her aunt never had children and does not really know how to give love in the way Lily craves it. Her uncle on the other hand, is a disgusting pig who visits Lily at night time and takes advantage of her. I found these parts really hard to read, but I have this bad habit of not finishing a book so I somehow managed to plow on through all the stomach rolling scenes. To top it off, the frustration mounted when Lily, as a teenager finally lets the secret slip in front of her Aunt and she does not believe her despite the shock that rolls through her.

I felt as a reader, I am aware of certain things and that the author wrote some of the scenes between Lily and her uncle as a shock value. If it’s meant to educate, I guess I can understand that, but I felt that implied would have been enough in the case that this is a historical fiction.

Moving on, Lily is in Vegas and is struggling. She is now going by the name of Ruby Wilde. She really wants to be a dancer, but is not cut out to be the type of dancer she wants. She is approached by a man asking her to reconsider being a showgirl and upon attending a show, Ruby Wilde changes her mind about how distasteful it is and becomes a showgirl.

This book started out rocky, it got a lot more interesting in the middle. I loved the entire part about her being the showgirl and her struggles with her past that she had to overcome in order to be comfortable around men and in her own skin. I have never read anything about Vegas in this era before so it was fascinating to learn about the type of bubble they lived, the glitz and the glamour while the rest of the world was going through reality and struggles.

I really loved how Ruby got close to her girlfriends and there was a struggle with drug use, but she managed to get past that with the help of her friend Rose.

It felt like it was going great, until Ruby meets a man and the book takes a disturbing turn into abuse category again. To top it off, it also proved that there was no character growth for Ruby until the last few chapters of the book. It was both infuriating and frustrating, especially since so many people who she trusts tried to warn her and help her.

I do have to say, the writing itself in this book was actually really well done. The author is a gifted writer, that is for certain, it’s just the story in general did not work for me.

Overall, once you bypass the first part that wasn’t just hard, but disturbing and disgusting to read – the Vegas parts of this book were informative – and then it takes a turn with the love interest I did not care for. I can’t say I recommend this book, but if your interested, a library is a great way to go.

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Guest Review: Twenty-One Days by Anne Perry

Posted April 14, 2018 by Lily B in Guest Post, Reviews / 4 Comments

Guest Review: Twenty-One Days by Anne PerryTwenty-One Days by Anne Perry
Series: Daniel Pitt, #1
Published by Ballantine Books on April 10, 2018
Genres: Historical Mystery
Pages: 320
Format: Hardcover
Source: Gifted
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4.5 Stars

In this first book in a new series, Thomas Pitt's son Daniel races to save his client from execution, setting him against London's Special Police Branch.
It's 1910, and Daniel Pitt is a reluctant lawyer who would prefer to follow in the footsteps of his detective father. When the biographer Russell Graves, who Daniel is helping defend, is sentenced to execution for the murder of his wife, Daniel's Pitt-family investigative instincts kick in, and he sets out to find the real killer. With only twenty-one days before Graves is to be executed, Daniel learns that Graves is writing a biography of Victor Narraway, the former head of Special Branch and a close friend of the Pitts. And the stories don't shed a positive light. Is it possible someone is framing Graves to keep him from writing the biography--maybe even someone Daniel knows in Special Branch?
The only answer, it seems, lies in the dead woman's corpse. And so, with the help of some eccentric new acquaintances who don't mind bending the rules, Daniel delves into an underground world of dead bodies and double lives, unearthing scores of lies and conspiracies. As he struggles to balance his duty to the law with his duty to his family, the equal forces of justice and loyalty pull this lawyer-turned-detective in more directions than he imagined possible. And amidst it all, his client's twenty-one days are ticking away.

I love that the author is tackling the next generation with this first book in the Daniel Pitt series. I adored the long running series set in the late Victorian era about Daniel’s parents. This one is during the Edwardian Era and begins perhaps a decade after the last released Thomas and Charlotte Pitt book.

Daniel is fresh out of university with a law degree and his father helps get him in with a prestigious London law firm. Now he must prove himself to his new employer and to his father with his first courtroom case- a big one, since his client is in the dock for murder. No sooner than he finishes this trial than he is put on an even bigger one.

I loved getting to know this adult Daniel who has the best of both his parents in him and lots of promise. He’s vulnerable and also confident, but he has definitely been tossed into the deep end with these cases. I enjoyed getting to know the situation and the surrounding cast of characters.

The author uses her gift for historical setting, social issues of the day and a profound gift for writing complex characters to tell a steadily paced, twisting mystery. Daniel uncovers the clues that will either hang his detestable client or free him, but things get complicated fast leading close to home. The case brings out domestic abuse, the plight of people with disabilities, the issues of responsible writing when it comes to tell-alls, illegitimacy, women’s equality, and so much more. The author teases out these social issues as part of the plot without getting pedantic.

As usual, the mystery is not as easy as it looks from the beginning and the moral dilemma that comes with it is just as challenging for Daniel. The title refers to the fact that he has twenty-one days from the time his client is charged with murder and the hanging date. I started to get an inkling when the clues popped up, but that just made things more knotty instead of easier. I enjoyed how the mystery tied this first of Daniel’s cases back to the earlier series so his parents make an appearance, but also established itself in its own right.

I hope the new cast of characters will end up being regulars because I loved the Blackwoods with their shades of gray quirkiness, Daniel’s kind landlady, Miriam the female forensics scientist who is the daughter of Daniel’s boss.

So yes, this first in the new spin-off series was great. Love this peek at the Edwardian Era, a new main character, and a great twisting mystery plot. While I think a reader could get by starting with this book, it does have strong ties to the earlier Thomas and Charlotte Pitt series- and they are fabulous so why miss them. Definitely a recommend for historical mystery lovers.

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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Review: Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin

Posted March 28, 2018 by Lily B in Reviews / 11 Comments

Review: Black-Eyed Susans by Julia HeaberlinBlack-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin
Series: standalone
Published by Ballantine Books on May 31st 2016
Genres: Mystery, Thriller, Psychological Thriller
Pages: 352
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 3.5 Stars

A girl's memory lost in a field of wildflowers.A killer still spreading seeds.
At seventeen, Tessa became famous for being the only surviving victim of a vicious serial killer. Her testimony put him on death row. Decades later, a mother herself, she receives a message from a monster who should be in prison. Now, as the execution date rapidly approaches, Tessa is forced to confront a chilling possibility: Did she help convict the wrong man?

Black-Eyed Susan is about a woman named Tessa, who somehow survived the serial killer responsible for killing a bunch of young girls and burying them among the flowers Black Eyed Susan. Years later, she is still known as the surviving Susan, but with the “killer” on death row, Tessa teams up with Bill and Jo to uncover the truth about the real killer and hopefully release the wrongly accused man from being sentenced to his death.

This book follows two different timelines. We follow Tessie, a 16 year old girl and a survivor of her monster and Tessa in present time as a grown woman.

I don’t know how to feel about this to be honest. The mystery was interesting enough, but it was riddled with holes and the pacing made it hard to be really excited about.

Maybe it was just me, but I did not understand how they got the man that they did (the wrongfully accused) as the Black-Eyed Susan murderer. I thought it was going to be revealed through Tessie’s chapters, but I never got the answers I was looking for.

I did not understand why Tessie was spared and the other girls weren’t. How was she picked to be one of the victims?

I also did not understand who kept planting the Black-Eyed Susans years later.

The Lydia storyline seemed a bit far fetched an the end and really hard to believe.

I enjoyed the premise and felt it had a lot of potential, but it fell a bit flat for me. Also enjoyed the underlining commentary and an attempt to bring awareness of the whole justice system in Texas as far as Death Row goes. It was a bit terrifying and uncomfortable. I also enjoyed learning about forensic science and have discovered things I have never heard of before as far as bone identification goes.

Overall, it was a decent read but the pacing and the holes left in the story made me want a bit more. The ending I did not see coming and I was thankful for that, it took me a while to figure out who the killer really was.

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Guest Review: Devil’s Cut by JR Ward

Posted August 25, 2017 by Lily B in Guest Post, Reviews / 16 Comments

Hi guys!! Is summer going fast or what? I missed this place but I’ve got good news, I am not gone, I am coming back and despite the fact that I have not had time to blog – I have been reading. Oh and to start off this with a bang I have Sophia back from her summer vacation with another lovely review. Make sure to leave this girl some love <3

Guest Review: Devil’s Cut by JR WardDevil's Cut by J.R. Ward
Series: The Bourbon Kings #3
Published by Ballantine Books on August 1st 2017
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 432
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 5 Stars
Heat:three-flames

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

In #1 New York Times bestselling author J. R. Ward s thrilling finale of the Bourbon Kings series, the Bradford family dynasty teeters on the edge of collapse after the murder of their patriarch and a shocking arrest. At first, the death of William Baldwine, the head of the Bradford family, was ruled a suicide. But then his eldest son and sworn enemy, Edward, came forward and confessed to what was, in fact, a murder. Now in police custody, Edward mourns not the disintegration of his family or his loss of freedom . . . but the woman he left behind. His love, Sutton Smythe, is the only person he has ever truly cared about, but as she is the CEO of the Bradford Bourbon Company s biggest competitor, any relationship between them is impossible. And then there s the reality of the jail time that Edward is facing. Lane Baldwine was supposed to remain in his role of playboy, forever in his big brother Edward s shadow. Instead he has become the new head of the family and the company. Convinced that Edward is covering for someone else, Lane and his true love, Lizzie King, go on the trail of a killer only to discover a secret that is as devastating as it is game-changing. As Lane rushes to discover the truth, and Sutton finds herself irresistibly drawn to Edward in spite of his circumstances, the lives of everyone at Easterly will never be the same again. For some, this is good; for others, it could be a tragedy beyond imagining. Only one thing s for certain: Love survives all things. Even murder.

And now, we come down to it. The final pages of this addicting family saga romance about the wealthy and tumultuous, fast living Baldwines of Western Kentucky where horseracing and bourbon is king. Each book has drawn me into the world, the characters, and of course the tension-laden plot. Devil’s Cut delivered on all the early promise of The Bourbon Kings’ series.

Devil’s Cut is the third and final leg in the trilogy and follows the ongoing storyline began earlier in the series so it is not standalone or good out of order.

As I noted in the opening, this ongoing story follows the Baldwine-Bradford family and those close to them. There are multiple narrators and a few different plot paths that keep the readers on their toes without being utterly confusing. The pace of the story has picked up because of the plot points.

There are so many curious and captivating moving parts to the plot, but with a veteran move, the author controls the reins and ties each thread up neatly by the end. Relationships, character growth, and a few secrets along with the big murder mystery all resolve in what I thought was a satisfying way.

All in all, I loved my time with this series and all, but devoured this last book in a day. I enjoyed all the emotions I felt including being surprised over some twists and sad over a loss. I can highly recommend this book/trilogy for those who enjoy a blend of contemporary romance, family saga and suspense.

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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Review: If Not for You by Debbie Macomber

Posted April 17, 2017 by Lily B in Reviews / 20 Comments

Review:  If Not for You by Debbie MacomberIf Not for You by Debbie Macomber
Series: New Beginnings #3
Published by Ballantine Books on March 21st 2017
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 368
Format: Kindle Edition
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 2 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

An emotionally stirring novel that shows how obstacles can be overcome, differences can be strengths, and sometimes a choice can seem wrong even though it s absolutely right
If not for her loving but controlling parents, Beth Prudhomme might never have taken charge of her life and moved from her native Chicago to Portland, Oregon, where she s reconnected with her spirited Aunt Sunshine and found a job as a high school music teacher. If not for her friend Nichole, Beth would never have met Sam Carney, although first impressions have left Beth with serious doubts. Sam is everything Beth is not and her parents worst nightmare: a tattooed auto mechanic who s rough around the edges. Reserved and smart as a whip, Beth isn t exactly Sam s usual beer-drinking, pool-playing type of woman, either.
But if not for an awkward setup one evening, Beth might never have left early and been involved in a car crash. And if not for Sam who witnessed the terrifying ordeal, rushed to her aid, and stayed with her until help arrived Beth might have been all alone, or worse. Yet as events play out, Sam feels compelled to check on Beth almost daily at the hospital even bringing his guitar to play songs to lift her spirits. Soon their unlikely friendship evolves into an intense attraction that surprises them both.
Before long, Beth's strong-willed mother, Ellie, blows into town spouting harsh opinions, especially about Sam, and reopening old wounds with Sunshine. When shocking secrets from Sam s past are revealed, Beth struggles to reconcile her feelings. But when Beth goes a step too far, she risks losing the man and the life she s come to love.

Beth escapes her mother and moves to Portland, Oregon, where her aunt lives in order to live her own life. She gets a job as a teacher and is very excited to be independent without her mother hovering everyday. Her friend Nichole, a fellow teacher one day decides that Beth should meet up for a blind date with a guy Sam – who happens to be Nichole’s husband’s best friend. The date is a disaster, but what follows the rest is even more painful as Beth gets into a car accident in front of Sam and is badly bruised. They bond over the accident during her hospital stay and despite not liking each other at first – maybe they click after all?

Gah, I wanted to like this I really did. I am familiar with the authors writing and enjoyed her books in the past. I did not like this one at all. This was not her best for me.

I felt like Sam and Beth acted like children most of the book. If something did not go their way, they pouted, closed off and asked that maybe the other person shouldn’t call them again? Really, you have been seeing each other for a month and when one cancelled plans for a reason you think they shouldn’t call you again? Who, the hell does that?

Their entire relationship was just giving me an eye twitch. It was suppose to be all sweet and cute and it ended up being a complete failure. I never thought these two should be together and honestly in the end it would have been a better book if they went their separate ways.

I hated Beth, I really did. There is a difference between growing up sheltered and insensitive. That woman, unless it came to her, failed to count other peoples feelings, especially when she would consistently butt into their lives. What’s worse? She would dig up old wounds, ones that she had no business of sticking her nose in and not for one moment consider how that might affect the person she is screwing over.

That thing in the end with Sam. He opened up to her and shared a really painful thing from his past and she almost ruined him because not for one moment she stops and thought – oh gee, Sam will never be able to do anything about what I am just about to rub it into his face. It was like slashing open old wounds and rubbing salt into them over and over again. I was horrified that she couldn’t see what she did wrong there. I was even more annoyed that in the end, Sam took her back. No, he should, he let her walk away. Oh, and that ending with how they got back together was really so unnecessary. On second thought, someone should consider not letting this woman drive.

The only person in this book that I liked in this book was Sunshine. I thought she was the only character that did not grate my nerves, outside of Nichole and
Rocco.

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