The Birthday List (Devney Perry)

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Happily married to her college sweetheart, Poppy lived a blessed life with the husband of her dreams. Then everything changed. She is no longer a wife. She is no longer the envy of her single friends. Now, people look at her with pity as they whisper a single word behind her back.

Widow.

Years after her husband’s tragic death, years of pain and sorrow and wishing for the life she’ll never get back, Poppy decides to finish Jamie’s birthday list. She’ll do the things he wanted to most. Because maybe, just maybe, if she can complete his list, she can start to live again.

Poppy expects going through the birthday list will be hard. She expects it to hurt. But what she doesn’t expect is Cole. Could the man who delivered the news of her husband’s death and shattered her heart be the one to help her put it back together again?


“Crying doesn’t make you weak, Poppy. Sometimes, it takes more strength to let go than it does to keep it all inside.”

The Birthday List was a quick and satisfying read for me. I enjoyed it, but not as much as I had hoped to. I liked the premise that the story had and the plot but the characters were a huge miss for me.

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My main issues, character  wise, was Cole. Cole seemed like an arrogant jerk the first 50% of the book which in turn didn’t attract me to him. His demeanor was just all wrong for me. His vibe. Had I not had his POV though, I think I would have felt differently. The first half of the book he was unappealing and I didn’t care for his and Poppy’s interactions in the least bit. It was all just…awkward. I think I felt like that because I never felt their connection. It was kind of just, thrown in our face. “Here is a guy! Here is a girl! They are going to like each other!” Forced. Not for me.

Another set of characters that didn’t jive with me were Finn and Molly. I felt like the author brought them to light more in times when they shouldn’t of been. This wasn’t their story. It was Poppy’s, right? But a lot of the book felt like that is what it was, their story. And if that was the case, I would have just been happy with their story. I think that is why I couldn’t get into Poppy and Cole. The author gave us so much of Finn and Molly that I ultimately wanted them in the end. I focused on them way more than I did Poppy and Cole.

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“I cried because Cole’s hand under mine made me feel better. Better and worse, all at the same time.”

I did like the mix of mystery and connections that the story had. The writing was nice and the little twists added here and there were a nice touch as well. I really feel like, as a reader, if you can’t connect with the main characters you are in for a huge miss but since this book had a strong story line and was hugely plot driven, I didn’t feel like it was a huge miss for me.

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The Girl Behind the Red Door (Cassie Graham)

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British. Charming. Virgin.

Reed Windsor doesn’t do relationships. Though he could charm the pants off any girl he wants, he’s not interested. He’s always been too captivated by a special someone from his past to get serious with anyone else. Sure, she has no clue he exists, but he’s willing to bide his time and convince her he’s worth a shot.

Sassy. Beautiful. Way out of his league.

Charlie Oded is full of baggage – being left at the altar will do that to a woman. Having zero time for distractions, she’s not looking for . . . well, anything. She needs time to heal her heart, not another guy to string her along. Which is why when she meets the alluring Reed, she’s determined to keep things friendly.

But he makes her heart race and she makes him want to settle down.
And neither of them wants to walk away.
Reed’s never wanted a relationship, but Charlie’s changed the game, and he’s willing to play if she is.


“Tell me something real.”

I don’t read a lot of books like this normally. Not because I don’t want to but because they are usually a huge hit or miss for me. I can’t seem to find a middle ground with them. But The Girl Behind the Red Door was an absolute hit with me. And then some.

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This book is being advertised as a fun and feel good read and I 100% agree with said statement. The Girl Behind the Red Door was a light-hearted, witty, and definitely a feel good kind of read. While I was reading it I couldn’t help but keep feeling like everything was just playing out so smoothly and unforced. Cassie really made sure the plot was strong and that the characters meshed well together. Which brings me to my next point:

The characters in this story were my absolute favorite. If you follow my reviews you know I always go on spiels about secondary characters and how much I love them. With that being said, ALL of the characters you meet in The Girl Behind the Red Door play such a huge part whether it’s in Charlie or Reed’s life. I thoroughly enjoyed all of them, and that might even be an understatement.  I didn’t just like them for their personalities but for the chemistry they all had with each other. Even if it was just a platonic chemistry, it was there and it was felt strongly.  It didn’t feel like Cassie was just forcing these people into the story. They were just all fitting perfectly in their places, right where they belonged.

“Maybe anguish came later. Maybe it came from forcing emotions. Maybe it was bred in people. Either way, I couldn’t imagine feeling anything other than happiness with her.”

Cassie’s writing in this book showed to me just how dynamically different she really is. And not even just with romance. She writes with so much fun humor and wit that I was giggling and smiling my way through the entire book. It was so much fun to watch her quirky and fun personality come out in all of the characters within this book.

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I’m not a fan of insta-love. I’m just not. I really yearn for that slow burn romance because I like to feel the build of the characters connections but what was even better about this story was it was a friends to lovers type of slow burn. So while we still got to witness these characters falling for each other we got to see them be friends first. Them just hanging out and being themselves and figuring each other out. I loved that more than anything.

“I was mesmerized. I wanted to know that girl behind the red door. Charlie, you’ve never been far from my mind. My heart. Not ever.”

I kick myself every time I think about all of Cassie’s books I have missed out on. That won’t happen any more. She is on my TBR for 2018 and I will get caught up on all of her books before it’s all said and done.  Her writing style is so refreshing and clean I can’t help but read her work in one sitting. I hope this isn’t the last of these characters. I know a few in this story who deserve a story of their own.

 

Then She Was Gone (Lisa Jewell)

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Buy link: https://amzn.to/2K7BuJM

THEN
She was fifteen, her mother’s
golden girl. She had her whole life ahead of her.
And then, in the blink of an eye, Ellie was gone.

NOW
It’s been ten years since Ellie
disappeared, but Laurel has never given up
hope of finding her daughter.
And then one day a charming and charismatic stranger called Floyd walks into a café and sweeps Laurel off her feet.
Before too long she’s staying the night at this house and being introduced to his nine year old daughter.
Poppy is precocious and pretty – and meeting her completely takes Laurel’s breath away.

Because Poppy is the spitting image of Ellie when she was that age.
And now all those unanswered questions that have haunted Laurel come flooding back.

What happened to Ellie? Where did she go?
Who still has secrets to hide?


The twist and turns had me baited with Then She Was Gone but the writing and the story line had me hooked. Line and sinker. 

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The story line and plot within this story was a huge breath of fresh air for me. It wasn’t like any other story line I had read before and for that I’m thankful. It was original and neat. It wasn’t dramatic just to be dramatic and it wasn’t thrown together in a messy way. It was nice to sit down and read a book that played out the entire story line neatly. That’s how you get lost in a book. 

Strong character driven novels are so enjoyable to me and I feel like this is one of those books that fits into that category. When an author can make you so invested in all of the characters, mentally and emotionally, it’s a win for me. Ellie, Laurel, and Poppy and Floyd. Check check check check. 

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There are quite a few clues thrown in within the book and although some are predictable- you still enjoy the story you are reading. And right when you get towards the end and think it’s all safe and sound, there’s an emotional punch that was strategically placed within the story and I loved it. I was hoping for it. 

Then She Was Gone was an addictive and mesmerizing read. I couldn’t put it down and I ended up reading it all today. In one day! I got so lost in the story line that I lost track of time. That’s always a great success to me. 

Birthday Girl (Penelope Douglas)

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Buy link:
https://amzn.to/2Ja8xeK

JORDAN
He took me in when I had nowhere else to go.
He doesn’t use me, hurt me, or forget about me. He doesn’t treat me like I’m nothing, take me for granted, or make me feel unsafe. 
He remembers me, laughs with me, and looks at me. He listens to me, protects me, and sees me. I can feel his eyes on me over the breakfast table, and my heart pumps so hard when I hear him pull in the driveway after work. 
I have to stop this. It can’t happen. 
My sister once told me there are no good men, and if you find one, he’s probably unavailable. 
Only Pike Lawson isn’t the unavailable one. 
I am. 

PIKE
I took her in, because I thought I was helping.
She’d cook a few meals and clean up a little. It was an easy arrangement. 
As the days go by, though, it’s becoming anything but easy. I have to stop my mind from drifting to her and stop holding my breath every time I bump into her in the house. I can’t touch her, and I shouldn’t want to. 
The more I find my path crossing hers, though, the more she’s becoming a part of me. 
But we’re not free to give into this. She’s nineteen, and I’m thirty-eight. 
And her boyfriend’s father. 
Unfortunately, they both just moved into my house. 


“I hope that tomorrow is better than today.”

A FORBIDDEN BOOK THAT DOESN’T INCLUDE CHEATING? OH OK, SIGN ME ALL THE WAY UP!

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I loved Birthday Girl. Shamelessly and completely. It feels so good to say that! Anything that is powered by drama and angst and mixed in with forbidden desires is just for me. Especially when I mix up my reading genres, I’m so happy to have read this one at the time that I did. I hadn’t read a steamy read in quite some time so it was almost refreshing for me.

The chemistry in this book is undeniable and probably my most favorite thing about the entire story. The way Penelope made you fall for Pike and Jordan being together was definitely my favorite thing about this book. She didn’t rush it and she didn’t make it awkward for the reader and she made the burn so slow you actually end up craving them together. It was palpable. I was ready for it, I was all hands-on deck!

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The dual POV was a nice touch to this story. I enjoyed the scenes that were from each POV, it just added so much more to the story. The resilience and strength of Jordan was shown not just in her POV but in Pike’s also which I loved. Loved that he seen it and that the supporting characters around her could see it. She really was a great character. She had just enough push and pull in her to fuel a good story.

I love how the story line came full circle. I felt complete once I finished the entire book and had the hugest smile on my face. I know I can always count on Penelope when I need a good time or in this case a very hot and steamy and drama filled good time. So, in my opinion, this book lives up to the hype. Without a doubt. Pick it up when you want something to read and can’t find anything.

Six Feet Under (Whitney Barbetti)

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Six wasn’t the hero I needed.

But he was the man I wanted.

And it was my selfish craving, the desire to own him, that would be our undoing.

No one tells you that love is a disease. An infection that tears your heart apart, leaving you half the person you were before. A malady that leaves open wounds. An invisible disorder tracing scars in the places you couldn’t see if you weren’t looking for them.

I was sick, but love didn’t heal me.

Instead, it festered in my marrow, and drove me to unforgivable mistakes.

Six was my first mistake, but he wouldn’t be the last.


“Sometimes, in moments like that one, I wondered at all the love I held for him. Love that seemed too big for me to contain behind my ribs.”

Years. That is the amount of time I have waited for this story from Whitney Barbetti. Weeks. That is the amount of time it took me to read and devour this book. That’s not a bad thing though. It’s quite the opposite. I beta read this book for Whitney and she sent me bits and pieces at different intervals of time. I am so glad I read it that way because the level of deep that Whitney digs into with SFU consumed me and then buried me whole. I needed those bits and pieces and I needed those days in between (no matter how much I begged her for more). One day. That is how long it took me to read the entire book once I received my ARC copy. A lifetime. That is how long this book will stay with me.

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“This was my advantage; I knew that love was a disease for me. Love was contagious and my immune system was weak so abstaining from men outside of a purely physical connection was my only choice. The only way to keep myself sane.”

I feel like if I sat here and talked about the things that drew me to Mira, we would be here for days and I would have eventually have a novel wrote. She spoke to me. Not just to me as a person but she spoke to my soul, to my emotions, to every single part of me. I’m not sure if Whitney meant to craft a character who does that so easily but, she did. Watching Mira really figure herself out was magical. As the pages flip and the years pass it was so fascinating watching Mira transform into the person she was meant to be. It was a struggle, of course but that struggle was so worth it. When I closed the book I pictured her to be this baby dragon that all of the sudden emerges from it’s ashes as the majestic fucking dragon she so deserves to be.

“You look so beautifully wild,” he said, “like a thunderstorm, right before it unleashes its fury.”

Whitney’s writing in this book is fan-fucking-tastic, and I never use that type of language in my reviews. I just cannot get over it. It’s like a whole brand new side of her that I have never read before so that was very exciting for me and something I wasn’t quite expecting.

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Quite a few of these scenes had me holding my breath. They had my eyes welling up with tears and my heart squeezing so damn tight I thought my anxiety would take me out along with Mira. A lot of the moments between her and Six shook me to my core. I felt it in my bones and I shook with emotions as each year passed by with more and more growth of Mira.

With SFU I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I knew it would be spanning years and a lot of things would be going on but the story line and the plot that Whitney was following never faltered. Not even for a second. The flowing of the story and the writing was just incredible and I love the direction that she is heading towards. What I do not like, is that I have to wait for more. Pieces of Eight cannot come soon enough!

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A lot of people are probably reading this review and saying “ugh, Talon is friends with Whitney, of course she loves this book.” You guys, I do not play like that. What Whitney has created in Six and Mira’s world is something I have never felt or read or even experienced before. It’s truly MAD LOVE. The kind that our souls need. The kind we need to save ourselves. Because contrary to popular belief, sometimes we do need someone to help save ourselves from well, ourselves.

I have also bumped this book up to my top five so HOW BOW DAH! Grab this book, ya’ll. Let Mira engulf you. Take over you. Soak her up and take her all in. She’s one hell of a female character lead. The best kind of sea creature there it.

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Birds of Paradise (Anne Malcom)

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Pre-order link:
https://amzn.to/2JT3ikW

He collected beautiful things.
Rare things.
Ripped them out of their natural environment and preserved them in all of their dead splendor.
The problem was I wasn’t beautiful. I was all of the hideous and ugly realities of the world packaged into one broken human being.
He came to kill me.
That was his business.
Death.
He ripped me out of my natural environment, the prison I’d created, and locked me away with all of his beautiful dead things.
I hated him.
I still hate him.
But if I was given the choice and the ability to leave this cage, come back to life, I’d stay dead.
In all of my hideous splendor.
Because my murderer can only possess dead things.
And I can only be possessed by someone more broken and ugly than me.


“Life was my penance, my sentence. The price I was paying. And I deserved to live through every second of misery. I needed more of it to pay for my sins.”

Okay, so- this book was not terrible. It truly wasn’t. I actually read it all in one day. The cover is stunningly beautiful and I highlighted so many powerful lines all through out the book. Like- a lot a lot. So, what gives?

THE PLOT. That’s what gives. Meaning, where was the plot? And if you can locate the plot, can you please tell me what it is? I cannot for the life of me figure it out and that is a huge pet peeve of mine. Will the real plot please stand up?

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In all seriousness and lack of plot aside, the read was good. Elizabeth is a dark character but I feel like we never really got to explore that darkness any further because all we get is a couple of flashbacks here and there. I think within the entire book there was three or four flashbacks. That just wasn’t enough in my honest opinion. I feel like with this type of story, the readers should have been able to see the past and her life with Christopher a little more than we actually did. Once we got those flashbacks, I feel like we could really determine what the author meant for this plot to be and the kind of woman the author wanted Elizabeth to wind up being.

“You chose life for me. And that’s about as permanent as death right now, and for the foreseeable future.”

I wish I could say that I saw Elizabeth’s growth as a character but she was very two dimensional to me. As time goes by we see her still stuck in the same place, only now we know she is sparring and apparently shooting guns in her free time but yet, we never see that part. It’s just like all of the sudden she’s a trained assassin. She’s also in love? Before we even know anything about this guy? Does she know something we as readers don’t know? Very unbelievable to me, unfortunately.

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This was my first book by this author so I didn’t really have anything to compare it to. The writing was dark and eerie and the setting of the story was vibrant and very visual thanks to said writing. The ease of the writing also helped create such a dynamic world but unfortunately I kept wanting more. I wanted more for the characters and I wanted for the story line. A book with fantastic writing and no plot or story line is just…meh.

Sometimes I Lie (Alice Feeney)

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Buy link:
https://amzn.to/2GLxnoy

My name is Amber Reynolds. There are three things you should know about me:
1. I’m in a coma.
2. My husband doesn’t love me anymore.
3. Sometimes I lie.

Amber wakes up in a hospital. She can’t move. She can’t speak. She can’t open her eyes. She can hear everyone around her, but they have no idea. Amber doesn’t remember what happened, but she has a suspicion her husband had something to do with it. Alternating between her paralyzed present, the week before her accident, and a series of childhood diaries from twenty years ago, this brilliant psychological thriller asks: Is something really a lie if you believe it’s the truth?


“I’m not someone who cries; I have other ways of expressing my sadness.”

This book left me feeling very…dissatisfied. I think that is a good word for it. It wasn’t a bad read– I just don’t like feeling like I am left hanging or “out of the loop” after I spend my time reading a book. I’m just not very content with that ending. And I’m certainly not content with the way the author plugged in so many plot holes, like I wouldn’t pick up on them. That’s all that I can really say about that without giving away too much of the story.

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I love the cover of the book and the story was actually full of lots of twists laced with very compelling writing. I’m usually always a fan of the “unreliable narrator” but Amber was too much. It got to the point where she was exhausting me with all of her back and forth. It wasn’t calculated or smooth, it was choppy and all over the place. Like with her husband, Paul. All throughout the book she talks about how he doesn’t love her. Um- okay. Because every time he is in the picture I don’t pick up on that at all. I don’t see it through out the entire book if we are being technical. And the little girl in the pink gown? What is all of this about, Amber!?

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The cool part of the book is how the author chose to structure the story line. With diary entries, then, now, and later POVs, I was constantly going in different directions and never sitting still. To me, that was necessary for this story. Too much of one of the point of views would have gotten really tiring.

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“When I first start to fall, I forget to be afraid, too busy noticing that the hand that pushed me looked so much like my own. But as I plummet into the darkness below, my worst fears follow me down. I want to scream, but I can’t.”

The characters in this story are all bland and I never took a liking to any of them which was another reason why I couldn’t rate this any higher than what I did. And why was Edward even involved in this story? It was redundant and unnecessary. Especially some of the things he did. What was the purpose of that again?!

All in all, my expectations of Sometimes I Lie was just too high. I kept seeing mentions of the “crazy and unpredictable twists” and while there were- it just wasn’t for me.