Review: The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis

Goodreads/Amazon/Author Website
Release date: August 23, 2016

Publisher: Dutton

Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery 

Goodreads blurb: 

The Dollhouse. . . . That’s what we boys like to call it. . . . The Barbizon Hotel for Women, packed to the rafters with pretty little dolls. Just like you.” 

 

Fiona Davis’s stunning debut novel pulls readers into the lush world of New York City’s glamorous Barbizon Hotel for Women, where a generation of aspiring models, secretaries, and editors lived side-by-side while attempting to claw their way to fairy-tale success in the 1950s, and where a present-day journalist becomes consumed with uncovering a dark secret buried deep within the Barbizon’s glitzy past.

 

When she arrives at the famed Barbizon Hotel in 1952, secretarial school enrollment in hand, Darby McLaughlin is everything her modeling agency hall mates aren’t: plain, self-conscious, homesick, and utterly convinced she doesn’t belong—a notion the models do nothing to disabuse. Yet when Darby befriends Esme, a Barbizon maid, she’s introduced to an entirely new side of New York City: seedy downtown jazz clubs where the music is as addictive as the heroin that’s used there, the startling sounds of bebop, and even the possibility of romance.

 

Over half a century later, the Barbizon’s gone condo and most of its long-ago guests are forgotten. But rumors of Darby’s involvement in a deadly skirmish with a hotel maid back in 1952 haunt the halls of the building as surely as the melancholy music that floats from the elderly woman’s rent-controlled apartment. It’s a combination too intoxicating for journalist Rose Lewin, Darby’s upstairs neighbor, to resist—not to mention the perfect distraction from her own imploding personal life. Yet as Rose’s obsession deepens, the ethics of her investigation become increasingly murky, and neither woman will remain unchanged when the shocking truth is finally revealed. 

Review: 

I usually don’t gravitate towards books labeled as historical fiction, but the minute I read the blurb for this book and laid my eyes on that gorgeous cover I knew I had to give this one a chance. I am so glad that I did, this is such an interesting and dazzling debut.

The story is told from two perspectives; Darby, a young girl from Defiance, Ohio who has just arrived at the Barbizon Hotel for Women in 1952. She has led a very sheltered and simple life thus far and is initially overwhelmed when she is thrust into this new and glamorous world. Rose is a modern day journalist and is everything one would imagine a journalist to be; smart, ambitious, independent and gutsy. I love when books tell two parallel stories that merge at the end. It’s so fascinating and fun to try and figure out how things will tie together. 

Both of these woman were easy to connect with in their own ways. Darby is so naive and innocent, I felt immediately protective of her. She is intimidated by the other women living at the Barbizon and lacks the confidence to stand up for herself. As she struggles to find her place in NYC, a maid at the hotel befriends her. Esme is one of the few people to be kind to Darby and they begin spending time together frequently. Esme has a bit of a wild side that both intrigues Darby and scares her. She introduces her to the dark and seedy world of jazz clubs, where there are things happening that Darby could never even have imagined.

Rose has just been through a huge career setback and is working underneath her pay grade for an outlet that is too contemporary and fluffy for her taste. Her romantic life is a mess and she’s trying to find her new place in NYC. When she begins investigating a piece on the Barbizon, she starts to uncover secrets in Darby’s past. What really happened on the night of the rooftop altercation? Why does Darby always wear a veil to hide her face?

I had so much fun reading this book! I adored Darby’s sections and all the descriptions of life in NYC in the 50’s. Everything was so simple, yet so glamorous. I found myself just as dazzled as Darby was reading about the city and the men and women living there. The mystery was intriguing as well, it provided an intense backdrop for a gorgeous story. I am blown away that this is Davis’ debut, she is an excellent storyteller and I look forward to reading more from her.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to Dutton for my copy in exchange for an honest review.

Blog tour/Review:  Competing With the Star by Krysten Lindsay Hager

Competing with the Star
Krysten Lindsay Hager
(The Star Series, #2)
Published by: Limitless Publishing
Publication date: March 22nd 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult

Hadley Daniels’s life seems perfect…

Before the beginning of sophomore year of high school, Hadley and her family move to a beautiful beach town, where she makes amazing new friends and lands the boyfriend of her dreams-Nick Jenkins. He’s the kind of guy every girl swoons over, and it isn’t long until Hadley discovers some are still swooning.

A famous ex-girlfriend makes matters more complicated…

After some time dating, Hadley and Nick form a deep bond. But insecurity sets in when Hadley discovers her boyfriend once had a huge crush on her friend-who just happens to be the beautiful former teen TV star, Simone Hendrickson.

The past is the past-or so they say…

Hadley confronts Nick, who confesses about his history with Simone. Though he claims to only have eyes for Hadley now, it’s hard to believe-especially when she’s blindsided with the news that Nick and Simone kissed after school.

Now Hadley must determine who is telling the truth. Love, betrayal, friendship…who needs soap opera drama when you’re busy competing with a star?

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble

Review:

Hadley is a typical teenage girl dealing with typical teenage girl problems and issues. At the beginning of the book she’s just started dating Nick. She’s new to town and while she seems to be fitting in just fine, she’s still insecure and self conscious about her place in the world and especially her place in her new high school with her new friends. She’s a sweet, naïve girl who made me think about the person I was in high school. It’s such a hard time, trying to figure out where you fit in all the while trying to navigate high school cliques. 

Hadley is a relatable young woman and I think young readers would especially connect with her character. Some of her so called friends tend to play games mean girls style. There’s a lot of drama between her and her group of girlfriends, it reads like a YA soap opera. I don’t say that in a bad way, I like a soap opera myself and high school is a lot like a soap opera at times. 

 This is the second book in a series and while it was apparent that I was missing some backstory, I wasn’t lost or confused. You can definitely read this as a standalone. This was a nice, clean YA novel with nothing inappropriate whatsoever. It’s the type of book that I would be totally comfortable letting my daughters read when they’re teenagers. It centers around the sweet and cute love story between Hadley and Nick while it coveys a good message about loving and accepting yourself. 

It was a light and easy read that I finished in almost one sitting with a good message that wasn’t overpowering or too sophisticated for YA readers. I appreciated the fact that it wasn’t too mature they way some YA books tend to be today.

Overall rating: 3/5 

Author Bio:

Krysten Lindsay Hager is a book addict who has worked as a journalist and humor essayist. She is the author of the LANDRY’s TRUE COLORS SERIES and the STAR SERIES. TRUE COLORS was her debut novel and the first book in the LANDRY’S TRUE COLORS series. BEST FRIENDS…FOREVER? (Book 2) was #1 in Amazon’s hot new releases in teen & young adult values and virtues fiction and #1 in Amazon’s hot new release in children’s books on values. Landry in Like (Book 3) was #3 in Amazon’s Hot New Releases for Girls & Women. Her work has been featured in USA Today, The Flint Journal, the Grand Haven Tribune, the Bellbrook Times, and on the talk show Living Dayton. Check out her YA novel, NEXT DOOR TO A STAR (book 1 in the STAR SERIES) and COMPETING WITH THE STAR: Book 2 in the STAR SERIES. You can follow her at: http://www.krystenlindsay.com.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter


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Review: New World Rising by Jennifer Wilson

Amazon/Goodreads/Author Website
Release date: August 4, 2016

Publisher: Oftomes

Genre: Dystopian, YA, Science Fiction 

Goodreads blurb: 

Since witnessing her parents’ murders at the age of eleven, Phoenix’s only purpose in life has been to uphold her mother’s dying words- to be strong and survive. But surviving outside of The Walls- outside of The Sanctuary- is more like a drawn-out death sentence. A cruel and ruthless city, Tartarus is run by the Tribes whose motto is simple, “Join or die.” 


Refusing to join and determined to live, Phoenix fights to survive in this savage world. But who can she trust, when no one can be trusted? Not even herself.

Review: 

Like some of you, I went through a huge dystopian phase a few years back. They were all the rage, and there were some really good ones at the time! I’m talking about The Hunger Games, Divergent, and The Maze Runner, etc.I really enjoyed all of these. Then, any dystopians I read after seemed to pale in comparison. It was disappointing and I pretty much steer clear of them for the most part. I am so excited to say that my spell of reading lackluster dystopians is officially broke! 

Phoenix is an orphan who has one goal; survive. Her parents were brutally murdered in front of her when she was just eleven years old and obviously her life hasn’t been the same since. She is such a broken girl, she struggles immensely with some of the hard choices she’s had to make in order to survive. Can she still be a good person even after the horrible things she’s done? Is she worthy or capable of loving another human being? 

One fateful night Phoenix strays from her own script and decides to actually help someone else, at her own risk. Everything changes after she saves the life of a young girl, Mouse. A hidden “tribe” is revealed and nothing is as it once seemed. How is Phoenix’s past related to this mysterious organization, the Subversive? And how will her connection to Mouse impact her own wellbeing? 

Wilson created a stunning world, one that is dark, savage and bitter. The world building in this book is excellent, showcasing a world that is full of pain, torture, vulnerability and secrets. This cover is stunning and set a perfect atmosphere for what’s inside the book.

The characters are also fantastic and Phoenix’s development was outstanding and I can’t wait to see her growth in book two. There is a bit of romance here, but nothing that overshadows the main storyline. Speaking of book two, I need it NOW! This book ended with a huge cliffhanger, which is awesome but I need to know what happens next.

Huge thanks to the author, Jennifer Wilson for my copy in exchange for an honest review!

Overall rating: 4.5/5

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? Is a weekly post to share what you recently finished reading, what you’re currently reading, and what you plan on reading this week. It’s hosted by Kathryn at Bookdate.
I went out of town over the weekend for a girls winery trip, which was an absolute blast! I didn’t read at all while I was there, but overall I still had a pretty good reading week.

What I Read Last Week:


I started the week with The Last One. This was an okay read for me, nothing special.


Next was The Couple Next Door. I loved this one! 


Cut was my last physical book for the week and I liked this romantic suspense novel.
I also finished listening to the final book in the Selection series, review for the entire series will be up soon!

What I’m Currently Reading:


This one is good so far, it’s a YA dystopian.


I’m almost done listening to All The Bright Places. So many emotions and feelings with this one!

Up Next:


I’m part of the Competing With the Star blog tour this week and super excited about it!





What are you guys reading? 

Review: Cut by Emily Duvall

Goodreads/Amazon/Author Website
Release date: March 31, 2016

Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Goodreads blurb:

Jessica Cahill is having one perfect night. In six weeks she’ll walk down the aisle and marry her long-time boyfriend. But for tonight, she’s celebrating hard at her bachelorette party. It’s the time of her life until… she takes things too far. 


Brent Harrison is having the worst night of his life. Across town, seven rare diamonds are tucked safely in the vault at his brother’s mansion. These diamonds are special. They hold significance. They belong to the infamous Abbott Tiara. The task should be easy, he should have them by the morning. That’s when everything goes wrong. That’s when he runs into her. 


One tiara 

Seven diamonds 

Sometimes beautiful things come at a cost… 

Review: 

Let me start off by saying that this book is the second in the Flawless series and I did not read the first book. It can be read as a standalone, however I’m so curious about some of the backstory that I added the first book to my TBR. 

Jessie and Brent have undeniable chemistry within the first few pages of the book. She is pretty, fun and smart, out with her friends at her own bachelorette party when she meets Brent. He is dark, mysterious and sexy and the last thing he wants on the night the two meet is to begin a relationship, even though his attraction to Jessie is unquestionable.

Right from the start, tensions are high. Rare and extremely valuable diamonds are missing, people are getting seriously hurt, and family loyalties are questioned. Both Brent and Jessie have complicated family issues that seem to be linked to each other. Seeing each other is just a bad idea all around, especially since Jessie is engaged to another man, Carl. 

I’m hesitant to say too much about this book as there are quite a few twists that I could spoil. These weren’t jaw dropping twists like that of I Let You Go, but this book isn’t a typical thriller where the reader expects shocking turns of events. Instead, it reminded me more of Abduction where the romance is more at the forefront yet the suspense is a nice background.

If you’re a fan of romance books, yet like suspenseful novels as well, check this book out. It’s a fun read but there is definitely enough action that it’s not entirely about the love story. The romance and suspense in this book compliment each other well, much as Jessie and Brent compliment each other.

Overall rating: 3.5/5

Huge thanks to the author, Emily Duvall for my copy in exchange for an honest review.

Top 5 Wednesday 

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly post that is hosted by Sam from Thoughts on Tomes and there is also a Goodreads group where you can find more information.
This weeks topic is Favorite First Sentences. I decided to use books that are currently on my bookshelves this week, mainly because it was easy for me to flip through them, then take pictures of the first line. Some of these books are still on my TBR and are only based on my initial impression of the first line. 

Favorite First Sentences:



First up is The Summer That Melted Everything by Tiffany McDaniel. In case you can’t quite read that, the first line says; The heat came with the devil. So simple and yet so interesting to me. 



Next pick is 14 Days to Die by A. B. Whelan. It says; It was a fine winter day that eighth of February when I decided to kill my husband. Wow, this is coming up in my TBR list soon and after reading that killer opening line I’m so excited to read it! 



Shatter Me is my next pick, doesn’t that line make you desperate to know why she’s been locked up for so long?! It says; I’ve been locked up for 264 days. 


This Savage Song is my next choice, it says; The night Kate Harker decided to burn down the school chapel, she wasn’t angry or drunk. Hello, attention grabber! 


Did you guys really think I was going to make a list and not include It Ends With Us? 😂 It says; As I sit here with one foot one either side of the ledge, looking down from twelve stories above the streets of Boston, I can’t help but think about suicide. 

What are your favorite first lines?

Review: The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

Goodreads/Amazon
Release date: August 23, 2016

Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books

Genre: Psychological Thriller/Mystery

Goodreads blurb: 

How well do you know the couple next door? Or your husband? Or even—yourself?  


People are capable of almost anything. . . 

Anne and Marco Conti seem to have it all—a loving relationship, a wonderful home, and their beautiful baby, Cora. But one night when they are at a dinner party next door, a terrible crime is committed. Suspicion immediately focuses on the parents. But the truth is a much more complicated story.


Inside the curtained house, an unsettling account of what actually happened unfolds. Detective Rasbach knows that the panicked couple is hiding something. Both Anne and Marco soon discover that the other is keeping secrets, secrets they’ve kept for years. 


What follows is the nerve-racking unraveling of a family—a chilling tale of deception, duplicity, and unfaithfulness that will keep you breathless until the final shocking twist.

Review: 

This blurb is the thing my reading dreams are made of. A missing baby? Unreliable characters? Deceit, lies and blackmail? More twists and turns than a rollercoaster? Yes please! 

Anne and Marco decide to leave their infant daughter at home while they attend a neighbors dinner party. Yes, you read that right. I was immediately judging the two of them for even considering doing this, much less actually going through with it. It’s like the very definition of bad parenting, so from the start I didn’t care about them at all, what kept me reading initially was my interest in their baby daughter, Cora.

That changed rather quickly as I began to see that there is much more to this story than meets the eye. I did find myself sympathizing with Anne as she was living one of my worst nightmares. I had a pit in my stomach at the simple thought of one of my children going missing. Shudder. All of the characters have hidden secrets; the neighbors, Anne’s parents, Anne and Marco themselves. The reader is always trying to figure out who to trust, just as the characters are trying to figure out who to trust. There are so many complicated relationships going on, which I love. How well does anyone really know another person? 

Most of the characters are pretty unlikable, (neglectful parenting anyone?!) but I really liked the local detective investigating the disappearance, Rashbach. He is sharp, determined, and relentless, unwilling to stop until he uncovers the truth. Wow, does he have his work cut out for him as these characters have tangled themselves in a dark and twisted web of deception, lies and betrayal. 

I read this book at a frenetic pace, absolutely dying to find out what happened to Baby Cora. Is she alive? Murdered? Missing? As things began to spiral out of control, it all leads to an ending that left me breathless and delivers a final shocking twist in the very last page, the last few sentences even.

I have to add that when I received my copy in the mail I was delighted by the packaging. The book was wrapped in a newspaper with headlines from the case, so clever! 


Huge thanks to Shari Lapena and Pamela Dorman Books for my copy to review. 

Overall rating: 5/5

Author Q & A: Bonnie Ferrante

I’m excited to have Bonnie Ferrante on the blog today! 

About the Author: 

Bonnie was a grad school teacher for thirty three years, and ten of those years also served as the librarian. She lives in Northern Ontario and spends most of her time drawing and writing. Her short stories, newspaper articles and columns, and novels have been published traditionally, and now she has begun simultaneously self-publishing novels and picture books and is doing her own illustrations. Since developing Parkinson’s Disease, she has switched from illustrating with acrylics and pencil crayon, to digital format but as this becomes more difficult, she is using photos instead.  She is also a Jodo Shinshu Buddhist lay leader, which shows up in unexpected ways in her writing. 

You can find Bonnie here:

Blog
Amazon Author Page
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Q & A

1. What’s a typical writing day look like for you? Describe your perfect writing environment.



It depends whether I’m working on a novel or children’s picture book. If it’s a novel, I start writing in the morning, somewhere around 9am and keep writing until my brain is fried anywhere between 2 pm and 9pm. Then I stay away from the work until the next day. 
If it’s a picture book, I pretty much pick at it all day. I will work on the illustrations while I’m watching television with my husband. I’ll stop in the middle of facebooking or doing the dishes and jump back into it to adjust something in the text or sometimes the illustrations.
2. How did you get started writing? Was it something that you’ve always loved?



 Yes, I loved writing stories as a child. I used to put puppet shows on for all the neighborhood children. I wrote teenage angst poetry in high school and enjoyed all my English classes in university. I loved arguing a point of view about a book on paper. I set out to become a teacher librarian and writer. I had several short stories published and wrote for the newspapers for a few years but when my school board cut librarians, I had to go into a classroom. I just didn’t have the time and energy to write much then. When I took early retirement for health reasons, I suddenly had the time and no excuse. I’ve been writing pretty much full-time now for six years.
3. Who are your favorite writers/inspirations?



I’m an extremely eclectic person. My reading passions vary from year to year. I could name dozens of writers that have inspired me from Shakespeare to Lucy Maud Montgomery, Orson Scott Card, Terry Brooks, T. H. White, Hans Christian Anderson, Oscar Wilde, Ray Bradbury, John Wyndham, Diana Gabaldon, and Betty Smith. 
There are certain writers that I absolutely adored for years and now can’t read a single thing from them. Stephen King, Anne Rice and Poppy Z. Brite are an examples; I just can’t take the gore. Other writers, other reasons. 
We had a very small community library where I grew up. I exhausted all the books for my age and was always disappointed at how short they were. So I latched on to Dickens, Jules Vern, Dumas, Hugo, Edgar Allen Poe, Mary Shelley, Jack London, and Melville. I’m not saying I completely understood them. Now, I don’t have the patience for those kinds of books.
As a teacher, I discovered C. S. Lewis and E. B. White and wished I had read them as a child. More recently, I’ve been very impressed by Suzanne Collins, Lauren Oliver, Philip Pullman, Scott Westerfeld, and John Green since they are writing in my genre. 
4. Anything you can tell us about upcoming projects?



I have a young adult book, Switch, about a teenager in Elizabethan times who sees ghosts. I worked on it for four years and it has now been sitting in the drawer for six months so that I can approach it with fresh eyes. I’m determined I’m going to finish it to my satisfaction by the end of the year. I have another young adult and a middle grade book, each on their fifth or sixth incarnation. I hope to get back to them soon. I have a number of ideas for picture books but right now I’m trying something new. I’m creating a picture book about dragons and merging photos with cut and torn paper and drawings. Because of Parkinson’s, I just can’t complete the illustrations the way I used to and I’ve seen some picture books with montages that were really cool.
5. Normally how do you develop plots/characters? Brief us on your process.



Most people ask if I’m a pantser or a plotter. Just like everything else in my life, I’m little of this and a little of that.
I usually start out with an incident in my head. I’ll write that incident and create the characters as I go. Then I’ll write a few more incidents thinking about where the book is going to go. Then I stop and create a list of characters, fill in their backgrounds, etc. I’ll make a rough plot outline and I’ll start writing. I generally get a third a halfway through, tear up most of what I’ve done and start over. I might do anywhere from three or four or more plot outlines for a book. I am sure I throw away 80% of what I write. Right now I’m about to sit down and do my eighth plot outline for Switch. Hopefully my last.
6. Favorite character from one of your own novels?



Leya from The Sphere of Vision Book One is my absolute favorite. She’s a lot like me in that she takes a long time to learn from her mistakes. LOL.
7. Preferred method for readers to contact you? 



I’m on Facebook daily. I’m on Twitter and my blog two or three times a week.

Bonnie has a Goodreads giveaway running right now for her novel, Nightfall. 


Be sure and check out her Amazon page to see all her work!

Thanks so much to Bonnie for visiting my blog today. 

Review: The Last One by Alexandra Oliva

Goodreads/Amazon
Release date: July 12, 2016

Publisher: Ballantine

Genre: Dystopian, Thriller

Goodreads blurb:

Survival is the name of the game as the line blurs between reality TV and reality itself in Alexandra Oliva’s fast-paced novel of suspense.


She wanted an adventure. She never imagined it would go this far.


It begins with a reality TV show. Twelve contestants are sent into the woods to face challenges that will test the limits of their endurance. While they are out there, something terrible happens—but how widespread is the destruction, and has it occurred naturally or is it human-made? Cut off from society, the contestants know nothing of it. When one of them—a young woman the show’s producers call Zoo—stumbles across the devastation, she can imagine only that it is part of the game.


Alone and disoriented, Zoo is heavy with doubt regarding the life—and husband—she left behind, but she refuses to quit. Staggering countless miles across unfamiliar territory, Zoo must summon all her survival skills—and learn new ones as she goes.


But as her emotional and physical reserves dwindle, she grasps that the real world might have been altered in terrifying ways—and her ability to parse the charade will be either her triumph or her undoing.


Sophisticated and provocative, The Last One is a novel that forces us to confront the role that media plays in our perception of what is real: how readily we cast our judgments, how easily we are manipulated. 

Review: 

I had pretty high expectations for this book as I had read several reviews from my fellow book bloggers that said they enjoyed it. The blurb instantly caught my attention as well because I like a good dystopian novel and I’m a huge reality TV junkie. While I liked this book, I did have a few problems with it along the way.

The setup confused me quite a bit right from the start. First it’s told from the POV of the cast and production of the reality show, In the Dark. Then it switches to the perspective of Zoo, one of the contestants on the show. Her parts are a few weeks after filming begun and are easier to follow then the portions with the entire cast. The crew gives the cast nicknames, and there are a lot of contestants, so I had issues keeping everyone straight at first. When Zoo is narrating things, she uses real names which threw me off again. 

I did enjoy the reality show aspect and it reminded me a little bit of the TV show, Unreal. I love this show, it fascinates me to see just how much production teams manipulate the cast on reality shows. The book sheds a similar light as the manipulation and deceit is brutal. Some of the chapters close with pieces from online message boards and I also appreciated this touch. It was current and so accurate. 

Parts of the story just seemed to drag a bit for me and I had a pretty hard time staying engaged and eager to see what was going to happen next. I never wanted to quit reading it though, I just had to psych myself up a little to power through. I would say this book is decent if asked to describe it in one word, I just can’t muster up any excitement about it. I will be interested in seeing new things from Oliva though.

Overall rating: 3/5

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? Is a weekly post to share what you recently finished reading, what you’re currently reading, and what you plan on reading this week. It’s hosted by Kathryn at The Bookdate

What I Read Last Week: 


First up was How To Party With An Infant and this one was pretty funny! 


Next was A Summer At Sea which was a delightful little summer read.


Next was the powerful, amazing It Ends With Us. I’m sure everyone is sick of hearing me gush over this one, so I’ll just remind everyone to check out my giveaway.


First Comes Love was next, and while it wasn’t my favorite Giffin novel, it was an enjoyable read.

Good As Gone was a really good thriller!

I really wanted to like this one. Spoiler alert: I didn’t.

What I’m Currently Reading: 


I’m almost done with this one, review should be up later today.


I’m listening to the third book in The Selection series. Hoping to finish it and finish listening to All The Bright Places this week. 

Up next: 





How was your week last week? What did you read?