Blogmas Day 19: ARC Book Review: One Night Gone by Tara Laskowski

Happy BLOGMAS Day 19!

One Night Gone by Tara Laskowski

352 pages

ISBN: 9781525832192

Published: 10/1/19 by Graydon House

Genre: Mystery / Thriller

Rating: ★★★✩✩

Thank you to NetGalley / Graydon House for the digital copy in exchange for an honest review!

B&N | Amazon

Goodreads Synopsis:

It was the perfect place to disappear…

One sultry summer, Maureen Haddaway arrives in the wealthy town of Opal Beach to start her life anew—to achieve her destiny. There, she finds herself lured by the promise of friendship, love, starry skies, and wild parties. But Maureen’s new life just might be too good to be true, and before the summer is up, she vanishes.

Decades later, when Allison Simpson is offered the opportunity to house-sit in Opal Beach during the off-season, it seems like the perfect chance to begin fresh after a messy divorce. But when she becomes drawn into the mysterious disappearance of a girl thirty years before, Allison realizes the gorgeous homes of Opal Beach hide dark secrets. And the truth of that long-ago summer is not even the most shocking part of all…

Review:

That had been their mission, all of her friends. One week before college. Get wasted. Let your hair down. Wasn’t that what everyone came here for?

Trigger warnings: Depression, cheating, mention of rape, physical abuse, murder, gambling.

Characters | I didn’t have a particular favorite character. They were all pretty basic as far as thriller characters go. Allison and Maureen were equally interesting to me. You learn a lot about their home lives and their relationship with their parents. You even get a lot of backstories from side characters—Clay and Tammy. I honestly don’t have anything to say about them.

Story | The story is told in two different perspectives: Maureen and Allison. It opens up during the summer of 1986 in Opal Beach. There is a girl at a party who sees a “missing person” poster taped to a pole. Before she can do anything, the paper flies off into the darkness.

Skip ahead to September 2015, Allison is going through a rough patch with her divorce attorney and antidepressants. She used to be a meteorologist at WDLT before she called her ex-husband out on television. Her sister begs her to stay at a beach home during the off-season to get away from her troubles. Her friends know a couple who is going away to Europe, and Allison can watch their cat, Catarina, and watch over the house. 

October 2015: Allison decides to go for it! It’s only a two-hour drive from downtown Philadelphia—between Ocean City and Atlantic City. She stays in the Worthington’s home. It has a lot of upkeep—salt on the windows and the plants need constant attention. 

She goes to a coffee shop called The Sweet Spot where she meets Tammy. Tammy thinks that Allison is somehow related to Maureen. They become friends and Tammy ends up talking about Maureen and her thoughts on what happened to her during that summer.

Don’t let the sunshine fool you into thinking you belong here.”

Alternate timeline: Maureen, June 1985. She works at a carnival with Jacqueline and Clyde, the owner. Unfortunately, she has to deal with Desmond, Clyde’s brother, who always shorts her on her checks. He also watches her change through her trailer window.

One night at a party, Maureen meets Clay Bishop—his family lives next door to the Worthington’s. Him and Tammy save Maureen from Desmond, and the friendship blooms from there. The only hurdle is Mabel, Tammy’s “friend.” She hates Maureen.

Clay has to put up with his father’s shenanigans. You actually deal with Phillip and his brother, Zeke, more throughout the story but I don’t want to spoil anything! Maureen got mixed up in it, and Allison does too—obviously.

There is a lot of back and forth with this novel. I thought I knew what was going on but it threw me for a loop, even though the plot twist wasn’t all that surprising.

Writing | I really enjoyed the writing style. It wasn’t over the top but it wasn’t basic. There were some thought-provoking quotes throughout. I always like the alternating perspectives. It keeps the anticipation going in a thriller.

Overall | Would I recommend this? Yes, to readers who are trying to enter the thriller/mystery genre. If you read a lot of thrillers, then this would probably bore you. That doesn’t mean this was a bad story, it just means that there isn’t anything new being done and that’s okay! I still had a lot of fun reading it, and I would pick up more from this author.


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ARC Book Review: The Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang

The Dragon Republic (The Poppy War #2) by R.F. Kuang

560 pages

ISBN: 9780062662637

Publication Date: August 6, 2019 by Harper Voyager

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Amazon | B&N | Goodreads

Thank you to Harper Voyager / Netgalley for allowing me to read a digital copy in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS:

Rin is back focusing on what she had done to end the third Poppy War. She’s still addicted to opium. It affects her performance and it becomes a problem. She also has the pressure of her god, the Phoenix. The sole reason she keeps herself alive is to seek revenge on the Empress who sold the Nikan to their enemy.

Rin wants to create a new Republic, and she will go through anything to do so. She even works with the Dragon Warlord to conquer Nikan. She wants that dream so bad that she throws herself into the Warlord’s war. She experiences all this as part of the Cike.

Of course, the Dragon Warlord’s motivations aren’t what they seem. The Empress is a lot stronger than anticipated, and Rin finds herself relying on the Phoenix more than she should. She will go to devastating extremes to create this new life for the Nikan.

REVIEW:

Characters | I’m going to be honest and say that I didn’t care for any of the characters. It is surprising because you learn so much about all of them. If there is any book in this series that can help me connect with the characters in this world, it should be this one, right?

Rin was out of control. She didn’t think about the consequences of anything. Yes, she had the pressure of the Phoenix, but she doesn’t have that the entire time. She is so temperamental, and it reminds me of a young adult fantasy main character. She is extremely angst-y. I never find myself rooting for her.

Suni was actually my favorite out of everyone. He was so sweet to Rin even though she was a total brat. I wish I had a finished copy so I could give you some quotes from him! Suni had been a student at Sinegard, and was expelled when things went wrong. Despite all of that he was a gentleman.

Nezha had no backbone. Anytime Rin would confront him he would back down and apologize. I would give the sass right back to Rin, just like Chaghan did.

They had a lot of backstory, but they lacked raw emotion. They lacked anything that allowed you to connect and relate. They were, however, very entertaining to read about. That much is true.

Plot | The plot honestly confused me a little bit the further I trekked into the story. I don’t read a ton of fantasy, so that issue could be on me. I just couldn’t understand exactly where they were at any given time. This is why I write notes, but apparently it doesn’t help at all.

It’s very easy to understand the motivation of the story. Kuang makes that very clear, which I am appreciative of!

The beginning scenes were the best part of the novel, in my opinion. It’s very clear and concise. There is a specific scene where Rin is taken over by the Phoenix in the beginning that I thought was well done. I really enjoyed reading about it. As the story progressed I just lost all interest in what was happening. I enjoyed that even though it was a fantasy novel, the characters couldn’t stand being on a ship for long periods of time.

I think I go into fantasy novels expecting a deeper, thought provoking plot. I read too much literary / contemporary fiction. It seems to have become an issue.

Writing | I think that Kuang always shows so much promise. She writes fantasy tomes that readers can immerse themselves in. I just find that the writing drags after 40% of the novel. I wonder what else she would write outside of The Poppy War. I think that she could have tightened it up a little bit. Cut out some of the parts that didn’t need to be in the story.

Overall | This wasn’t a bad novel at all. It was entertaining, and the writing was solid. I just wanted it to be shorter and the writing could be compressed. I’m not sure if I’ll continue with the series. I’m assuming there’s another one. I would like to see where it is even going, but at the same time I don’t want to find myself a year from now writing another middle of the road review for it. I would hope things would change, but so many people adore this series. I don’t want to bring people down.

Would I recommend it? Sure. Take my opinions with a grain of salt. I’m sure this is a fantastic fantasy series. I haven’t read fantasy a ton. Would I buy or reread this? No, sorry.


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Book Review: 3 of Katie O’Neill’s Graphic Novels

Aquicorn Cove

Published October 6, 2018 by Oni Press

96 pages

ISBN: 9781620105290

Genre: Children’s Fantasy

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Amazon | B&N | Goodreads

SYNOPSIS:

Lana and her father visit Lana’s aunt at a seaside village. to help clean up after a storm. Lana ends up discovering Aquicorns, sea-horse like residents who live in the coral reef. They explain to her that the coral reef is dying and they need her help. Lana learns quickly that she cannot rely on grown-ups for this. She needs to be able to protect the ocean and her own happiness on her own.

REVIEW:

I loved the message this one sends out! It’s very important. I think kids would really benefit from reading this. It teaches you to think about what you’re doing to the environment. It goes into how we always want more. Sometimes more is too much and there will eventually be consequences.

I unfortunately didn’t enjoy this as much, but I still loved it! I have given up half star ratings, so I’m giving this a 4. I didn’t love the characters as much in this one. I feel like you aren’t given the option to really get to know them.

Illustrations were very cute and extremely similar to The Tea Dragon Society. I still highly recommend this one!

~

The Tea Dragon Society (Tea Dragon #1)

Published October 31, 2017 by Oni Press

72 pages

ISBN: 9781621014415

Genre: Children’s Fantasy

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Amazon | B&N | Goodreads

SYNOPSIS:

Greta is learning the ways of a blacksmith from her mother, and one day she ends up saving a little tea dragon. When she brings it back home her papa tells her that he knows who the dragon belongs to. The owner’s name is Hesekiel and he runs a tea shop. From there you meet Minette, Erik, Hesekiel himself, and all the cute tea dragons. You learn why the tea is so special and what it can do.

REVIEW:

This was probably the sweetest thing I have ever laid my eyes on. All of the characters were interesting, and I loved all of them equally! I bought the kindle version to read, but I have to buy the physical copy. It’s too pretty not to own.

I can’t believe it’s a children’s book! I loved it so much that I cannot wait for the second one!

~

The Tea Dragon Festival (Tea Dragon #2)

Publication date is September 17, 2019

136 pages

ISBN: 9781620106556

Genre: Children’s Fantasy

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Amazon | B&N | Goodreads

Thank you Oni Press / Netgalley for allowing me to read this in exchange for an honest review! 

SYNOPSIS:

In the Tea Dragon Festival you get more backstory of Erik and Hesekiel! They set off on a journey to discover what put the real dragon, Aedhan, asleep eighty years ago when he was supposed to protect Rinn’s village.

Rinn, Erik’s niece, grew up with Tea Dragons but when she discovers Aedhan one day, everything changes. She now has the challenge of teaching Aedhan to accept the fact that he has lost eighty years of memories. He can only make new ones from here on out.

REVIEW:

Adorable, heartwarming, beautiful.

This graphic novel talks about sign language, and whether or not dragons can choose between female and male forms! How awesome is that? Katie O’Neill has a way with words. She doesn’t have to say much in order to get her point across.

I loved this so much. I love The Tea Dragon Society and The Tea Dragon Festival in different ways. It’s really hard to explain even though they are part of the same series. They gave off different vibes. These graphic novels are a breath of fresh air for me. I’m used to reading science fiction graphic novels.

Highly recommend this with my whole heart. Please go pre-order this one. You won’t regret it!


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ARC Book Review: Buried (Agent Sayer Altair #2) by Ellison Cooper

Thank you to Minotaur Books/Netgalley for allowing me to read this for an honest review!

Buried by Ellison Cooper

368 pages

ISBN: 9781250173867

Publication date: July 16, 2019 by Minotaur Books

Genre: Suspense/Mystery

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Amazon | B&N | Goodreads

SYNOPSIS

Special Agent Sayer Altair is back in action! This time the crime takes place in Shenandoah National Park. Skeletal remains are found, and they date back almost two decades. It just might connect to a disappearance of a local teen, a woman, and her daughter. Before Altair can solve the case, the suspect sabotages Altair’s team. Within the process she also finds out that one of her anonymous psychopaths for her study is someone powerful in D.C. He will not let the killer ruin his plans for Sayer.

REVIEW

You don’t necessarily have to read the first book to read this one. I will recommend it though because you will miss out on Altair’s backstory and personal life. There isn’t a lot of it, but I think it’s important.

I will end up reading about these characters until the very end. This book is 100% a guilty pleasure. The publishers sent me the first book last year, and I enjoyed every bit of it. No, these aren’t the best books you’ll ever read, but they are entertaining. Cooper does a great job at writing them as well. I think they are well thought out and executed.

Altair is great at what she does, but she is still very humble. She takes care of people in her life that need her. She tries her best all of the time, and I think that’s why I love her as a main character. It does get her in some rough situations, but she manages.

The side characters in this one aren’t as interesting to me. They were all very basic. I’m happy that Ezra is back though! He is another favorite character from this series. He had a traumatic event happen in the last book, but I’m glad he is okay. He has been determined from the start.

The climax of the book didn’t surprise me all that much. There were odd details that threw me off the path. I am appreciative of that. The writing is very straightforward, and it’s not difficult to read at all!

Yes, I will continue on with the series. These books have a great balance of personal life and agent life. There isn’t any cheesy romance that every other novel has. It’s a very basic book that does what it set out to do. It’s never too complicated. I would recommend this only if you want a guilty pleasure read.

Caged by Ellison Cooper – Book 1 Review


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ARC Review: Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

Thank you to Dutton Books & Netgalley for allowing me to read a digital copy of this in exchange for an honest review. 

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

384 pages

ISBN: 9781524745141

Publication date: July 2nd, 2019 by Dutton Books

Genre: Thriller

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Amazon | B&N | Goodreads 

Synopsis: 

Jules no longer has a job or a boyfriend. Her life consists of feeling like a burden while she stays on her friends’ couch. She finds an ad for an apartment sitter, and she goes for it. When she gets to the apartment it wasn’t what she expected. It was the Bartholomew, a very Gothic but high-class building that most people know about. She meets up with a woman who shows her around, and just when Jules thinks it’s a done deal, there are rules. Rules that don’t seem practical, but Jules takes the job anyway. Soon she finds out that this place isn’t what it seems. It has history that dates back a long time, and it’s not pretty.

Review: 

Characters | Surprisingly, Jules is my favorite character in this story. I don’t tend to like the main character of a book. She is quick on her feet, she is strong physically and emotionally, and she has a heart of gold. Her family’s past is very sad and depressing, but she doesn’t really learn that until later in the story. All I wanted to do was give her a hug. She was a well thought out character that I wanted to be friends with. The events and the people she dealt with in this novel are crazy. You can’t trust anyone, but you’re not sure why. You are following Jules on her terrifying journey in the Bartholomew.

Ingrid is another favorite of mine. I will admit that she was sketchy to me at first. I had an odd feeling that she was in on everything. It’s just because you don’t get to know her very well in the beginning, but she ends up being very helpful. She is also quick on her feet and strong. She goes through hell, but she makes it to the other side with Jules.

I hated Nick from the beginning. Don’t even get me started with him. He gave me bad vibes from the start. I’m not going to say anything else about him.

Story | I will admit that the story isn’t perfect. I did give it five stars, but it did drag a tiny bit in the middle. Nothing that made me want to stop reading. I couldn’t put it down. The story will get to you. You will get upset because you can’t figure out what the hell is going on. I did that in all three of his novels, but this one was intense for me. It gave you just enough information so that you couldn’t piece anything together. You were basically Jules the entire time. You learned information when she did.

I loved learning the history of the Bartholomew. It’s so interesting and I wish it were real. It has such a dark past, and it was used for things that it should not have been used for. It blew my mind when I figured out why this building was notorious. I never even thought the twist at the end could be a twist. It never crossed my mind once. It is so good! One of the best story lines for a thriller. I’ve never read anything like it. I’m very impressed.

Writing | It is a very similar style to the rest of his novels. It flops back and forth between present day and days prior. The present-day bits made me feel so uneasy. I hate anything horror or thriller that takes place in a hospital. You know it’s not going to pan out. I think his writing style worked the best for this novel. It gave it more of an ominous vibe. This is my favorite book from him. Sager developed the story well. The characters were some of the best, and odd characters I have ever read about. I loved everything about it.

Overall | Please, please, please go read this when it comes out. I want this book to become very well known. If you have never read Sager before you should probably read Final Girls first, and then jump to this one. If you have read this and loved it, you should pre-order it! Support the authors that you love.


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ARC Review – The Naked Truth: A Memoir by Leslie Steiner

Thank you to Simon & Schuster for allowing me to read this in exchange for an honest review.

The Naked Truth: A Memoir by Leslie Steiner

Published on May 21, 2019 by Simon & Schuster

272 pages (Hardcover)

ISBN: 9781501174100

Genre: Non-fiction/Memoir

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Goodreads | B&N | Amazon

SYNOPSIS:

This is about Leslie’s adventure into a life of connections and sex. She is recently divorced after a twenty-year marriage. Her ex-husband was horribly mentally abusive and rude to her that she was finally free to love herself. Her plan is to find five lovers in a year to bring back the feminine side in herself.  

She managed to find men in many different places such as the airport, yoga class, and high school reunions. She did all of this without the hassle of a dating website. In the end, she discovers what it is like to be a middle-aged woman living in the world today. 

REVIEW:

I said this in my Goodreads review, and I’ll say it here. I am not rating the experience this author had. I am not rating her life in any way. I am rating how well she told her story. It’s incredibly infuriating to read a nonfiction book and it be written horribly. 

I’m sure that this was a bit controversial for some readers. I am not sure if this is more accepted today, but I will say that I don’t find the concept controversial. There are some parts in this story that I didn’t agree with. Having relationships with someone that is dating/married to someone else is obviously something I don’t like reading about. I had no idea about that before going into the book. I didn’t read any reviews. If you don’t like reading about that, then I probably wouldn’t pick it up. 

►Her previous marriage that lasted twenty years was horrible. The only good thing that came out of it was the two kids. I felt so much sympathy for Leslie. Her ex-husband made her feel like she didn’t matter. There was so much mental abuse that I am surprised she bounced back so fast. I feel like I would suffer for a long time. Kudos to her for working on herself. It’s actually quite impressive.

I found all the men that she had flings with to be annoying. None of them were right for her, and it made me angry. I think I was expecting her to fall in love again and live happily ever after. 

►The writing wasn’t my favorite. I’m happy that she didn’t try too hard, but it wasn’t anything special. I am always in search of a nonfiction book that blows me away with the story and the writing.

►If you are looking for an entertaining read, then pick this up. It’s fast to read and quite entertaining. It is a story you never read about. I thought it was a very interesting concept. I wouldn’t read it again, but I don’t regret that I read it in the first place.

This is where I would put quotes, but it was an ARC and I don’t have a finished copy to compare it to.


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Book Review: Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Thank you to St Martin’s Press | St Martin’s Griffin for allowing me to read this eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Publication Date: May 14th, 2019 by St. Martin’s Griffin

432 pages

ISBN: 9781250316776

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Amazon | B&N | Goodreads

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This novel follows Alex, the son of the U.S. President, and Henry, the Prince of Wales. Alex’s mother, Ellen, is up for re-election, and she refuses to let anything stain her reputation. There are photos leaked of Prince Henry, and Alex, at a royal wedding that threatens the American/British relations. Now, Alex and Henry have to stage a fake friendship. That’s not the only thing these two young men have to deal with throughout the novel. Alex has to deal with his mom’s opponent. Henry has to deal with all of his ghosts. While the reelection starts, Alex finds himself beginning a secret relationship with Henry, and it’s not good for the campaign.

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I was expecting just a cute, fluffy read. This actually deals with a lot more than that. This handles LGBTQ+ topics, and what the characters mentally go through while being so high up on the social ladder. You find out which characters can be trusted, and which ones are conniving little sneaks.
The writing was not bad. I found it to be very average for a contemporary romance. I did find it quite long for what the story was about, and that’s why I dropped it down a star. I thought that some of it was unnecessary.
All of the characters were developed quite well. I did find a lot of them quite annoying, but I’m assuming that there are a few that were supposed to be annoying. I really liked Ellen. She wanted to keep her image clean, but she also supported her son. She was a good fictional momma.
My favorite character was probably Henry. As the story moves along, the reader learns a lot more about how he is handling everything, mentally. At one point he even has a panic attack. For someone to be a Prince, have a secret relationship with the President’s son, and still keep it together as best as he can, is very impressive. I really respect him as a character. He always did what he thought should be done. He supported Alex, and it melted my heart. They had a pretty good relationship throughout the book. It got rocky a few times, but they persevered.
There is some steamy parts in this, but I wouldn’t say they are intense. I honestly didn’t know what to expect while reading a male/male romance. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with it. I think McQuiston handled it quite well. Kudos to her.
This novel is worth the read if you are into cute romance novels that have deeper topics woven through them. It’s a fast read even though it is 400 pages long. I don’t think it’s mindblowing, but I did find it very well done. I think McQuiston broke some barriers as far as the type of romance. I guess I can’t say much since this is only my third actual romance novel. Please give it a try if you are interested!


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Netgalley Book Review: The Invited by Jennifer McMahon

The Invited

By: Jennifer McMahon

Publishing Date: 4/30/19 by Doubleday Books

ISBN: 9780385541381 (Hardcover)

368 pages (Kindle Edition)

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 (3.5)

Amazon | B & N | Goodreads

I was able to receive this on Netgalley for an honest review. Thank you Doubleday Books!

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Helen and Nate, totally uproot their lives, moving to forty acres of Vermont land. Helen, being the history teacher that she is, wants to build their dream home with pieces that hold a piece of the past. In doing so, she conjures up a part of the land that she never expected, three generations of Breckenridge women. 

Skip back to Hattie Breckenridge, the lady that was lynched a century before on that same piece of land. There is still something that she wants Helen to find while she’s living there.

Enter, Olive. Olive, a high school student, lives with her father, and hopes for her mother to come back. She also knows, and searches for the very thing Hattie desires. This is where all three lives collide in a chilling search for the truth. 

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That synopsis had me jumping in excitement. It’s not something I ever read about. I loved the story, and that was what kept me intrigued. The writing, however, was not my favorite. I felt that it was repetitive, and almost too simplistic at points. I was expecting more of an atmospheric read rather than the heavy focus on the characters.

Since it is more character driven, let’s talk about that. This novel is told in multiple perspectives, and that is my favorite way authors write mysteries. It helps build anticipation, and I think it helps answer more questions. You get both sides of one story. I will admit that the characters in this weren’t horrible, but I still felt like they needed more development. They were distinctive enough to understand who was who, but I did find myself getting a little mixed up at times. Nate was probably my least favorite of all the characters. He was annoying, and I honestly wanted him to die the whole time. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that kind of story.

I’m interested to know what McMahon’s previous novels are like. I own the Winter People, and would love to read it still. If any of you have read her previous pieces of work, please let me know what you thought!

I didn’t hate this, but it wasn’t my new favorite book. I’m going to go ahead and recommend it to anyone just looking for an easy read. I think it’s worth it.


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