Review: Almost Missed You, by Jessica Strawser

Almost Missed YouAlmost Missed You by Jessica Strawser
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Imagine this: You’re on vacation with your husband and young son. Everything is seemingly perfect. In fact, your considerate husband has agreed to watch your son while you relax with a drink and a good book on the beach for a couple of hours. Then, you return to your hotel room to find everything missing except for your personal belongings. Your husband and child are nowhere to be found. No note. Nothing.

That is exactly what happens to the heroine in this book, Violet. I cannot even begin to imagine the all-consuming sense of betrayal that she must have felt. My heart broke for this mother and her child.

As more time passes and it becomes clear that Violet’s husband, Finn, is not planning to return, pieces of the puzzle start to fall into place. Finn has secrets that he’s been keeping from Violet…and he isn’t the only one. It seems that some of her closest friends have been keeping secrets from Violet as well. Truth be told, she has been lying to herself for a long time also.

Told from the POVs of Violet, Finn and their best friend, Caitlyn, this story comes together little by little. Jumping between past and present-day, Violet and Finn’s fateful first encounters seem to be straight from a storybook. As Finn’s past is revealed, the image of a picture-perfect marriage with Violet begins to show cracks.

I don’t want to say too much about this story, because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. However, I will say that I was completely absorbed in this story and the mystery, until right about 80% or so. Once Finn’s motivations were revealed, I have to say that I was a little let-down. All I could think was, “Seriously? That’s it?”. Then, there was some other craziness toward the end that seemed a little unnecessary and unbelievable as well.

Overall, it was a good story. It did start to lose appeal toward the end for me, but it had my rapt attention up to that point. All things considered, I give it 3.5 stars.

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Review: Lone Star, by Paullina Simons

Lone StarLone Star by Paullina Simons
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

‘Lone Star’ is a beautiful coming of age story, brought to us by the same author that gave us ‘The Bronze Horseman’. It tells the story of a group of teenaged friends from Maine that set out on a European adventure before they begin college. I enjoyed this story immensely.

However, I couldn’t help but to keep comparing it to Ms. Simons’ better-know work, ‘The Bronze Horseman’. In contrast to that epic story, ‘Lone Star’ fell noticeably short, despite being great in and of it’s own accord. In so many ways, it isn’t a fair comparison to make. They are different types of stories and, let’s face it, not many books will ever measure up to the greatness of ‘The Bronze Horseman’ in my mind. Nonetheless, I couldn’t help but to compare them.

That being said, I loved the way that Ms. Simons was able to capture the essence of youth in this story. More often than not, I find that teenagers are either portrayed as mini-adults or pre-teens. Accurately capturing the behaviors and emotions of this age group seems to be particularly challenging for many authors. This is probably because their emotions and maturity levels are all over the place. Regardless, I thought that Ms. Simons did a great job of selling these characters as believable teenagers. The one exception to that would be Johnny Rainbow, which I’ll get to later.

Told from multiple points of view, this story follows Chloe, her best friend, Hannah, and their boyfriends as they travel eastern Europe. Barcelona is their destination, but to gain permission to go on this trip of a lifetime, Chloe had to agree to a few conditions set by her grandmother. She must lay flowers on the grave of her grandmother’s one-time lover, who was murdered by the Nazis in WWII.

Along the way, the four meet another young American traveler. Johnny Rainbow is an incredibly charming young man that seems to be an expert on getting around Europe. He repeatedly crosses paths with the other young travelers and insinuates himself into their group. It was clear that he had eyes for Chloe. The only person that seemed unaware of this was Chloe’s oblivious boyfriend, Mason.

Johnny was a pivotal character in this story. I always had a strong distrust for him, even as he seemed to do everything perfect. In fact, that was probably it. He was just too damn perfect. Like me, Blake was suspicious of Mr. Perfect right from the start.

Aside from his overwhelming charm and charisma, I had a hard time believing that he had done everything that the author would have us believe. At nineteen, he had traveled Europe, making connections virtually everywhere that they were going. He had also been accepted to some very prestigious schools, and promptly been kicked out. He had a band and performed in the US. He was a street performer and a tour guide. Whatever the topic may be, Johnny was an expert on it. Want to go somewhere? He’s already been. Etc., etc. I just found him to be a little too accomplished for a nineteen year-old boy.

Despite not buying into Johnny completely, I still found myself lost in this story. I loved Chloe and as she began to fall for Johnny, I fell for him also. Their story was reminiscent of naiveté, youth and summer flings. It was sweet and innocent and earth-shattering all at the same time.

Meanwhile, I loved Blake also. While I can’t say that I ever grew especially attached to Mason or Hannah, I adored Blake. He was always the steady friend that could be counted on. He was kind and responsible, even while being taken for granted.

When their trip ends, the relationships between these friends are forever altered. Some will grow closer. Some will grow apart. Hearts will be broken. I even cried.

The ending is not necessarily the way that I had envisioned, but I thought it was fitting. In fact, I’d say that it worked out perfectly. Sure, it was kind of sad…but it was kind of beautiful also. I especially liked the tie-in to the characters from ‘The Bronze Horseman’ at the end. That was a really nice touch.

Overall, I thought that this was a fantastic love story. It was sweet and incredibly touching. It may not be the huge, epic romance that ‘The Bronze Horseman’ is, but it is still a wonderful story.

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Review: Sisters One, Two, Three, by Nancy Star

Sisters One, Two, ThreeSisters One, Two, Three by Nancy Star
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was the first book that I’ve read by this author, and I’m still not quite sure what to make of it. ‘Sisters One, Two Three’ certainly wasn’t my usual type of story. It ended up being “okay”, but not particularly interesting or compelling – at least, not for me.

I listed to the Audible version of this book and the narration was fine. However, the characters were unappealing and awkward for me. I just didn’t like any of them…and boy, did I try.

The story is told from the POV of Ginger and jumps back and forth between her present-day adult life and her childhood. The reader/listener is provided a front row seat to the inner-workings of two generations of strained mother-daughter relationships. There is the present-day relationship between Ginger and her daughter, Julia. Then, there is the relationships between Ginger’s mother, Glory, with Ginger and her sisters, Mimi and Callie.

Right from the start, I was appalled by Julia’s disrespectful behavior toward her mother. Oddly enough, while it seems that the intent of the author is to portray Ginger as some sort of over-bearing, out of control, worry wart, I didn’t find any of Ginger’s behaviors to be alarming. In fact, if anything, I found the lack of concern from her husband and the daughter’s bratty, entitled behavior to be the source of my outrage. I was with Ginger all the way. Her teenage daughter needed to be reined in and her husband needed a foot in his a$$.

Accordingly I didn’t buy into one of the major premises of this story, which was that Ginger’s over-bearing nature chased off her daughter. Apparently, when your underage teenage daughter hangs out in her bedroom with her boyfriend, it is going too far to expect her to keep the bedroom door open. Similarly, it should be alright for said teenage daughter to respond in a mouthy, disrespectful manner to her mother if she dares to ask “where she is going”, “who she is going with”, “what she is doing”, etc. I call bullshit! That is called “parenting”.

Of course, while I spent most of this book wanting to bitch-slap Ginger’s worthless husband, who spent most of this story mentally checked out, I couldn’t really jump on the “horrible Ginger bandwagon” that seemed to be driving the storyline. Nope. Nothing was going to convince me that a reasonable parent wouldn’t be concerned when their underage teenage daughter decided to run off with her boyfriend to become a…wait for it…STREET PERFORMER! I could definitely understand Ginger, it was every other adult in this book that concerned me. To think that Ginger’s husband was actually a counselor of some sort terrified me.

Meanwhile, Ginger’s memories provide a glimpse into her own relationship with her mother. If Ginger is overbearing, her mother was anything but. In fact, I’m not sure that her mother had a nurturing bone in her body. Glory was one of the most self-absorbed characters that I’ve ever encountered. Her children were little more than “accessories” or a “captive audience” to stroke her out of control ego. Toward the end, a little light was shed regarding her motivations for some of her actions. By that point, it made little difference to me. I loathed this woman.

I don’t want to give too much away, but there are many lies and secrets that prove to be pivotal in this story. Aside from highlighting some very troublesome mother-child relationships, this book illustrates how lies can be ruinous. There was so much dishonesty and it left destruction in it’s wake.

Overall, this ended up being a mediocre read for me. I didn’t feel like all of my questions were answered. For example, I still have questions about the nature of Glory’s relationship with Casper. I also felt like the “big reveal” was a bit anti-climactic. I guess after all of the waiting, I expected something more. In the end, it just never happened.

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Review: Attraction (Elements of Chemistry, #1; Hypothesis, #1.1), by Penny Reid

Attraction (Elements of Chemistry #1; Hypothesis, #1.1)Attraction by Penny Reid
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a light-hearted, fun story that had me smiling from start to finish. I enjoyed every minute of this audiobook. I needed something kind of sweet and this was the perfect story.

Kaitlyn Parker is an introvert and a very quirky girl. She’s been matched as a lab partner with Martin Sandeke for 2 years. Despite the fact that they both come from families of extreme wealth and fame, the two couldn’t be more different on the surface. She’s the studious loner and he’s the resident manwhore.

The two have never spoken outside of the lab, until Kaitlyn overhears something that she shouldn’t have. When she hears the conniving plan of one of Martin’s supposed friends, she knows that she has to tell Martin what she’s overheard. She might think that Martin is a total “jerkface”, but she can’t stand by silently while somebody plans to drug him and have their way with him. That’s taking it too far.

When Kaitlyn approaches Martin to tell him about what she heard, the dynamics of their relationship changes immediately. Soon the two are engaged in a whirlwind romance. Martin convinces Kaitlyn to go away to his island home with him and some friends for a week. Let the fun begin!

One minute they’re hot. The next they’re cold. Both of them have some definite personality quirks and social hang-ups to contend with. Together, they’re absolutely hilarious. Kaitlyn’s inner monologue was enough to keep me in stitches. That girl was too funny!

Martin had plenty of selfish moments, which made for some tense moments. He was certainly used to getting exactly what he wanted, when he wanted it. Kaitlyn was good for him in that regard. She was the first woman that didn’t just throw herself at his feet.

Of course, this is only the first serial installment in the ‘Elements of Chemistry’ series. Accordingly, you can expect a cliffhanger ending that will leave you wanting the next serial immediately. Luckily, I waited until they were all released. So, I didn’t have to wait before diving into the next one.

This was a great, short, and absolutely adorable audiobook. It was sweet and very funny. The narration was great as well. It was a nice change of pace and I was able to jump right into the next one immediately.

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Review: Betrayal (Infidelity, #1), by Aleatha Romig

Betrayal (Infidelity, #1)Betrayal by Aleatha Romig
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What A Ride!

I cannot wait to get my hands on the next book in this series! I don’t think I’ve ever one-click, pre-ordered so quickly! The suspense is going to kill me while I wait two more months for the next book to be released.

After graduating from Stanford, Alex decides to spend a week with her best friend at a resort, cutting loose before she moves to NYC to begin law school at Columbia. She vows to have a week of fun, the likes of which responsible Alex never allowed herself to have before. Assuming the name of “Charli”, her free-spirited, fun-loving alter-ego, she finds more than she’d bargained for when she falls for the enigmatic Nox.

One week of fun was all it was supposed to be. No last names. No personal details. It was what they agreed upon. Alex couldn’t have imagined that one week would change her life so drastically.

Shortly after her time with Nox, Alex finds her world being turned upside down again. Summoned to return home by her mother, Alex is plunged back into a world she thought she’d left behind.

In no uncertain terms, she’s informed that she’s expected to marry and continue her family name. Until she does as she’s told, she won’t have access to her trust fund, or the means to support her lifestyle or pay her tuition. She’s allowed to complete her first semester at Columbia, only because it was already paid for.

Arriving in New York City, Alex is desperate. Her situation leads her to make some decisions that she never would have considered before, even a month prior. Unexpectedly, her past soon collides with her present reality.

The book ends with a cliffhanger that will keep me guessing until the next book is released in January 2016. I loved this story, but am kicking myself for doing this to myself. I knew I’d have to wait for the next book to be released and that it would kill me. So, let the waiting begin!

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Review: Lost in Translation, by S. L. Scott

Lost in TranslationLost in Translation by S.L. Scott
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I listened to the Audible version of this book while wrapping Christmas gifts earlier this week. At just under 3 hours, this was an incredibly short book — more of a novella really. The narration was good and the so was the story. It isn’t one that stands out as being spectacular, but it was a nice, sweet love story.

‘Lost in Translation’ follows Kandace Miller, an American college student, as she vacations in Paris. After a few humorous mishaps, she finds a friend in the incredibly handsome Oliver DeMarche. Oliver offers to show her around the city and Kandace is thankful to have a good-looking local give her the “authentic” Parisian experience.

Before long, the two are inseparable. Sparks fly. Kandace and Oliver fall head over heels in love.

Then, Kandace discovers a truth about Oliver that changes everything. She feels like a fool. Oliver is not the person he pretended to be.

Although this story was short and sweet, I thought it was a nice way to pass some time. Kandace and Oliver were entertaining, albeit a little immature for my tastes. As expected with such a short story, things did feel a little rushed for me.

If you’re looking for a quick, “light” read that you can easily finish in one sitting, this is a good choice. I can’t say that it will make a lasting impression, but it was a cute, fun read.

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