Book Review: Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

Title: Allegedly
Author: Tiffany D. Jackson
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Date: January 24th, 2017
Pages: 400
Format: ebook
Source: Purchased

 

Synopsis (from Amazon):

Orange Is the New Black meets Walter Dean Myer’s Monster in this gritty, twisty, and haunting debut by Tiffany D. Jackson about a girl convicted of murder seeking the truth while surviving life in a group home.

Mary B. Addison killed a baby.

Allegedly. She didn’t say much in that first interview with detectives, and the media filled in the only blanks that mattered: a white baby had died while under the care of a churchgoing black woman and her nine-year-old daughter. The public convicted Mary and the jury made it official. But did she do it?

There wasn’t a point to setting the record straight before, but now she’s got Ted—and their unborn child—to think about. When the state threatens to take her baby, Mary’s fate now lies in the hands of the one person she distrusts the most: her Momma. No one knows the real Momma. But does anyone know the real Mary?

Review:

Only few books can shake me. Allegedly is one of them.

After I finished this compelling novel, I needed some time to process everything that was going on in the book, as well as calm myself so I could understand my feelings.

Reading this, you probably think I’m exaggerating.
If I was you, I’d probably think the same.
But I am telling the truth. Sometimes we don’t know how we’re going to react to a certain book, and sometimes our reactions can surprise us.

Going into this story, I knew it would be difficult for me. I was even aware how disturbing it was.
You probably hear about Allegedly, as one of novels written in own voices, one that was praised in “reading diversity” movement (if that’s a movement, I’m not 100% sure), the book that is important to read.

First of all, I agree with the statement how it is important for this book to be read, and for author’s voice to be heard.
This is one hugely important, disturbing book that represents not only people of color, but minority that we don’t get to read often about – teenagers in group home.

Honestly, I am afraid how I’m going to sound when I say this, but I will say it anyway: this novel reminded me how happy my life is. When I reflect and compare it to lives like ones I read about in this novel, to teenagers who yes, committed crimes during their lives, but are still alive and have to live with invisible “Scarlet letter” that follows them every where they go, without support of their families, in poverty and with someone else deciding about everything in their life, I understand how privileged I actually am.
And once again, I used the word I am really not a fan of, but there is no other word to say it better.

The story is told in first person, following Mary’s POV.
Beside Mary’s narration (and I have to state that Mary is one of the best narrators I had a pleasure to read about), there are bunch of newspaper articles, police interviews, excerpts from doctor’s papers and other similar stuff.

Reading Allegedly was thought provoking and emotional experience.
It definitely wasn’t easy.
Some scenes were violent and disturbing, some were harder to understand, some were extremely sad, but what hit me the most was how everyone underestimated Mary all the time.

I rooted for her, even though she never stated if she did it, if she killed the baby. She said she did, allegedly.
But yet, you as a reader don’t believe she would do such a thing. She does not seem like that kind of person.

The writing style is amazing, and I simply can not believe this is a debut novel.

One more thing I’d like to emphasize is the role of the State (here I mean criminal justice system and state foster care).
Mary’s (and other girls’) destiny depended so much on those two, that it feels like the State has it’s own personality.

There is one more thing we need to discuss: the last chapter.
I tried and tried to decide whether I like how this story ended.
At fist I was shocked, but resolved that I liked it.
Now, after some thinking, I wish the story ended differently.
Why?
Because, even though I understand why the writer chose to end the story the way she did, I can’t help but feel that some messages delivered through the story were (partly) erased with that conclusion.

Fun fact: When doing my research, I found out that this book was inspired by true event that happened in 2012, when 10 years old girl was charged with manslaughter of a three month old baby.

Book Review: Annabel Lee by Mike Nappa

Title: Annabel Lee
Series: Coffey & Hill (#1)
Author: Mike Nappa
Publisher: Revell
Date: March 1st, 2016
Pages: 363
Format: Paperback
Source: from Publisher for review

 

Synopsis (from Goodreads): On a farm fourteen miles east of Peachtree, Alabama, a secret is hidden–a secret named Annabel Lee. Her uncle’s last words before he hid her away: “Don’t open that door for anybody, you got it? Not even me.”

Review:

Annabel Lee was somewhat interesting read.
It’s a suspense thriller, and I naively fooled myself into thinking I’d read horror (don’t even ask me how I managed to do it, I’ll just blame the cover) so my whole reading experience was similar to the one one would have if he turned on TV thinking he would watch House at the End of the Street, but ended up watching an episode of CSI Miami instead.

However, I enjoyed reading this book.

The story follows three perspectives: Trudy’s, Mute’s and Annabel Lee’s.
Two of them are told in third person (Trudi’s and Mute’s), while Annabel’s was written in first person (later in the story we find out that her perspective are actually pages from her diary).

The story talks about 11 years old girl, Annabel Lee, who’s uncle locked her in the basement (with his dog whom Annabel is afraid of) and gave her an order not to open the door to anyone, not even to him, without a secret code.

We don’t know why Annabel’s uncle Truck did what he did, nor was it done with an aim to protect Annabel, or protect someone else from Annabel.
We get an impression that Annabel is important, even special in a way, but we don’t know why.

Right after her put her in the basement, Annabel’s uncle was killed and Mute witnessed the murder.
Now, Mute’s mission is to keep the girl safe, before bad guys take her. In order to save her, Mute has to get her out of the basement, but he has no secret code.

That is where spouses from Coffey & Hill come in (Trudi and her ex husband Samuel). Samuel got the secret code from Truck years ago, and now all three of them work together to save Annabel.

Nappa’s writing style is solid and although this book reads quickly, the pacing is very slow, with lots of descriptions.

I enjoyed reading all of the perspectives, but Annabel’s POV was my favorite.
She is really smart, educated and patient little girl who gets under reader’s skin so easily.
Regardless, I have to state that I didn’t like how she often sounded like a 30 years old women, instead of like 11 years old girl that she is.

Mute was my best-loved character in this story.

What I liked the most was the relationship between the girl and her uncle’s dog.
It’s development was described so well, and I welcomed how at the very beginning anytime Annabel talks about the dog she calls him “it”, and along as the story progesses, “it” becomes “he”.

When it comes to the bad guy who wanted to take Annabel, his idea was mean, but yet genius at the same time.
I don’t want to sound weird here, but I kind of admired his purpose.

One thing that needs to be stressed is that Annabel Lee is piece of Christian fiction.
To be honest, I am not sure why is that, because I didn’t feel like anything religious was forced in this story (or maybe I am just blind to those kind of things).
One thing that I noticed was that in the basement, among so many books, there was also a Bible.
And once, closer to the end of the novel, Annabel said something about Jesus and his purpose.
It was only one sentence and it felt more like a general thought.

This is the first book in the series, but the story it covered is completed.
In the next book, The Raven, we follow Trudi and Samuel solving another case.
I already have the book in my possession, and I plan to read it pretty soon, while the characters are still fresh in my mind.

Book Review: The Chocolate Lovers’ Christmas by Carole Matthews

chocolate-lovers-christmas

Title: The Chocolate Lovers’ Christmas
Series: Chocolate Lovers’ Club (#3)
Author: Carole Matthews
Publisher: Sphere
Date: October 22nd, 2015
Pages: 496
Format: Paperback
Source: purchased

 

Synopsis (from Goodreads): Christmas is just around the corner but the women of The Chocolate Lovers’ Club have more to worry about than present shopping . . .

Lucy loves running Chocolate Heaven but she hasn’t spent time with her boyfriend, Aiden, in weeks. And then her ex-fiance turns up and things become even more complicated.

Nadia hasn’t let herself get close to a man in a long time, yet she can’t help feeling drawn to Jacob. Will he be her last chance for a happy ending?

Chantal and her husband, Ted, are besotted with their baby daughter Lana – but she’s not sure that’s enough to base a marriage on.

Autumn is dealing with a tragedy that has hit too close to home. But when she doesn’t get the support she needs from her fiance, will she look elsewhere for comfort?

Can friendship overcome all in . . . The Chocolate Lovers’ Christmas.

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Review:

If you’re into chick lit, you’re probably familiar with an author Carole Matthews.
She’s one of the most known writers of women’s fiction, with (I think) 30 novels written.
Also, her stories always come within the most adorable covers, so it’s hard not to pay attention to her work.

Being devoted reader of women’s fiction, I wanted to read her work for the longest time.
After few years of putting it off, I decided it was about time to finally grab one of those gorgeous paperbacks and start reading (plus TBD bargain section helped me to decide which one to choose).

The Chocolate Lovers’ Club is the third book in the series but it can be read as standalone.
However, if you want to read this book, I encourage you to read previous books first.
The reason why is because so many things happened in the first two books and, although an author mentioned them through the story and tried her best to keep new readers on track, I think that if I’d read the series in order, I would understand the characters better.

The story follows four women who are best friends whose love for chocolate connected them.
As the author herself said it in her letter to readers at the end of the book, the reason why she wrote this series is to show how women can be there for each other without judging one another.

I understand where she was coming from and I can say she solidly succeeded in her goal, but yet these women were so much different from where I come from, that even though I tried to go with an open mind into this story, at times it was really hard for me to understand them.
There is no girl code (one woman was one’s guy mistress and now her friend is dating him), with questionable morals (cheating and not knowing who your baby’s father is) and easy to fogive approach (becoming fast friend with your husband’s ex mistress who has his child (who’s by the way the same age as yours)).
If you’re a type of reader who avoids all of the above in their books, maybe this book is not for you.

The writing style is really, really good. I’d say it is the best part of this piece. Carole Matthews uses her words in a way that makes you fly through the story. That only is enough reason for me to want to read more of her work.

However, I wasn’t the biggest fan of how this book was concepted.
It follows four POVs, one of them (Lucy’s) written in first person and others all written in third person.
To be honest, I still don’t understand why Matthews chose to write her book that way.
For a really short period it gave me that Sex and the City vibe, in which Carrie tells the story, but then I realized that in those chapters that were written in third person when Lucy was mentioned, she was being Lucy, and not the person who tells the story, so that’s what confused me.

And while we’re talking about Sex and the City, I can say The Chocolate Lover’s Christmas is like a lighter version of it, only set in London and without parties.
Even some scenes reminded me of ones from that show. They would be amazing, if only they were original.

Overall, The Chocolate Lovers’ Christmas is a quick read perfect to put you into the festive mood, but if you don’t like not-so-smart protagonists nor promiscuity, you probably won’t like this novel either.

3

Book Review: There is Always More to Say by Lynda Young Spiro

there-is-always-more-to-say

Title: There Is Always More To Say
Author: Lynda Young Spiro
Publisher: New Generation Publishing
Date: April 18th, 2016
Pages: 168
Format: Paperback
Source: from Author for a review

 

Synopsis (from Goodreads): A heartfelt novel about the connections that bring people together.

Soho 1984: Two people meet and their worlds are changed forever. An unexpected meeting – a look that means their lives will never be the same again.

In There Is Always More To Say Lynda Spiro chronicles the lives of the couple through friendships, marriage, fleeting moments and snatched time. It is a passionate account about a connection between two people that never dies even when tested by distance and when life throws the unexpected at their feet.

“The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances. If there is any reaction both are transformed.” C G Jung

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Review:

There Is Always More To Say: A never-ending story about an everlasting friendship is a novel only 168 pages long, so I’ll try my best to write my review as short as possible.

This novel talks about love disquised as friendship. The love that couldn’t have happened for some reason, the love that is hard to let go, even years from when it started.
But the friendship I said was masked is real, so this book also talks about connection between two people, the connection so strong, it can’t be broken.

The story is written in second person. The main character is writing to her friend the book we get to read. The book is composed from letters, diary pages and emails.

I like how this novel makes you think and reminisce about life and relationships between people.
When I was reading, I couldn’t help but think about my own friend who I miss very much in my life, even though my friendship with my friend is simply pure female friendship, there are still many phrases from this book that can describe the feeling of longing. I even dreamed about my friend one night, so the impact this book had on me is immense.

We never got to know a friend’s name, but we got names of friend’s partner and the person friend had an affair with: Ashley and Sam.
I like it so much, and the reason for that is because Ashley and Sam can be female AND male names, so when I started to pay more attention, I realized we never got to know friends gender.
Because of that, this story can be interpreted in different ways. That makes it more special.

Also, the concept of this book is so wonderful. Every chapter starts and ends with beautiful quotes.

My main problem with this work of fiction was the fact that it is too repetitive. In my opinon, this piece of work would be so much more qualitative without some sentences and if it was one third shorter.
It also needs some editing. English is not my native language and if I, who taught myself this language can see it, then other will see it too.

There Is Always More To Say gives us just one side of the story, and we never get to see friend’s reasons behind his/her decisions.
It is a shame, but it is also what makes this book special and realistic, because often in life we don’t get answers to all of our questions, and sometimes we don’t get to see other sides of story.

Reading this book was an emotional experience and I would recommend it to readers who like to read literary fiction, as well to those who like for their books to have dash of phylosophy on their pages.

3,5

What Alice Knew Book Review (Blog Tour)

what-alice-knew-second

I am so happy to be today’s host in What Alice Knew Blog Tour.
I really enjoyed reading this book and I am excited to share my review.
I’d like to thank Rebecca Hunter from Penguin Random House UK, for giving me this opportunity.

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About the book:

Alice has a perfect life – a great job, happy kids, a wonderful husband. Until he goes missing one night; she receives a suspicious phone call; things don’t quite add up.

Alice needs to know what’s going on. But when she uncovers the truth she faces a brutal choice. And how can she be sure it is the truth?

Sometimes it’s better not to know.

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My Review:

Right after finishing the last sentence of What Alice Knew, I knew reviewing this engaging debut won’t be an easy task to do.
This psychlogical thriller is full of discussion worthy situations.
There’s so many things that happened and I am not sure where’s the thin line that separates what can be mentioned in review, and what is considered as spoiler.

The story follows Alice, an artist married to Ed, who is an Obstetrician. Alice’s life was perfect until one night when her husband didn’t come home on time.
What happened that one night turns their both lives complitely around and Alice has to make a decision whether she’ll stay behind her husband and pretend everything is fine, or if she’ll tell the true and endanger lives of their children, torn her family apart.

What Alice Knew is a psychological thriller by all means, but it is also very different from every other pshyhological thriller I have read before.
It  makes the reader question character’s actions and intentions, as well as it makes him requestion the same with every new chapter, but what makes this novel special is how it blurs the difference between what is moral and what is right.

Cotterell approached impressively to every situation that happened in this story, making the reader see it from different perspectives, going into depth when it comes to what kind of consequence one way of behaving would have over the other.
At the same time, the story follows only one perspective: Alice’s, who’s thoughts we can observe from first person POV.

The writing style is admirable. From the very first chapter, it pulls the reader in and does not let go.
Although this is almost 400 pages long novel, it reads really fast.
It probably can not be read in one sitting (unless you’re a really, REALLY fast reader), but I truly believe it can be read faster then other books with similar page count.

Filled with tension, What Alice Knew is the story that talks about one’s inner strugle in making the right choice and trying to find peace when living with decission that was made.

It perfectly portraits how true can hurt and how lies can burn, and how in difficult situations there are no obvious right and wrong ways. Sometimes, in life, all the roads we  can take are gray, and it is on us to decide what shade of gray we can bare.

The end of this intense read is complete, but it is open to interpretation. One reader can see it in a totally different way then the other.

Because What Alice Knew examines situations and decisions from many different angles, it is a perfect book to be read in a book club or as a buddy read.
I believe people who read it together will have so many interesting topics to discuss.
Publisher made sure to provide some Reading Group Questions in a book proof copy I got, and I really hope those will be printed in finished book as well.

4,5

 

What Alice Knew comes out on December 1st (2016) in ebook format, and on April 20th (2017) in paperback.

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About T.A. Cotterell:

t-a-cotterell T.A. Cotterell read History of Art at Cambridge University. He worked in the City before resigning to become a freelance writer. He is now a writer and editor at the research house Redburn. He is married with three children and lives in Bristol.

 

 

 

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Follow the tour:

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Book Review: The Christmas Project by Maxine Morrey

the-christmas-project

Title: The Christmas Project
Author: Maxine Morrey
Publisher: HarperCollins UK, HQDigital
Date: November 14th, 2016
Pages: 263
Format: eARC
Source: from Publisher for a review

 

Synopsis (from Goodreads): Professional organiser Kate Stone has never – NEVER – been tempted to hit a client over the head with a snow shovel, but Michael O’Farrell is the most obnoxious – and heart-stoppingly gorgeous – man she has ever met. If he weren’t her best friend’s brother, she would not have waited on his doorstep in the freezing cold for five minutes, let alone an hour.

Kate knows, however, that her job isn’t just about tidying up, sometimes she needs to be part therapist too, and Michael clearly needs her help to declutter his heart as well as his home.

But with the festive season just around the corner there isn’t much time to get Michael’s house ready for the O’Farrell family celebrations, but everyone knows that at Christmas anything can happen…

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Review:

I feel like I’ve been so lucky with my books lately.
Since HoHoHo readathon started, I read some amazing festive novels, and this one did not dissapoint.
Now, I only hope my luck will continue.

The Christmas Project has everything you want in a festive read: beautiful cover that catches eye, amazing setting with beautiful descriptions of surrounding, cold and snow, interesting protagonist and likeable side characters, hot guy and cute puppies.

I mean, what else could you ask for?
Just based on everything I just mentioned you should at least consider giving this book a chance!

The story follows Kate Stone, a woman who works as a professional organiser.
Her latest job is to help her best friend’s brother organize his house for Christmas.
After his divorce, he stopped taking care of the place he lives in and the beautiful house started to look like a mass storeroom.

Kate was, as I already said, an interesting main character. She has a good personality, but is somewhat naive. She is a hard worker, really organized and good at heart. She likes to help people and she spends her free time helping in an animal rescue center.

Michael is a mysterious guy, hurt by his ex. In my own words, after his divorce, he became a grumpy hoarder.

I like how their relationship evoluted from hate/dislike to friendship, and then started to develop into something more.

All of the side characters in this novel were plain good.
I am still not sure how to feel about it. I mean, the story is full of white (I don’t mean skin color), one dimesional characters (there were, of course, two “bad” characters, that were also one dimensional).
I didn’t like how “bad” characters weren’t mentioned anough in the story, especially when it comes to Kate’s boyfriend. I get that she spent almost no time with him, but I wish he wasn’t just mentioned as an absent boyfriend, I wish we got to see him more before the “big scene”.
Also, when it comes to Michael’s ex, I wish we got a chance to hear her side of the story, or anything that happened before the divorce.
In other words, I think negative characters weren’t explored enough.

The writing style is simple and you can easily read the story, as it reads pretty quicky.
It is written in first person, following Kate’s POV.

This story will wake up your emotions, at least it woke up mine.
I was angry, frustrated, sad, happy, felt the joy in my heart… And I swooned. A lot.

As the story was coming to an end, it became better and better with every page.

What I’m sure I’ll get from this book is I’ll remember one particular scene for a looooong time to come: (SPOILER ALERT!! the scene in which Lily (Michael’s little niece) says how she heard her friend’s mom saying that she thinks Michael is sixty (but in reality, that mom said sexy)).

Overall, this was a great festive story and I highly recommend it to everyone who’d like to read something quick and easy that will put a reader in a festive mood.

4,5

Book Review: All She Ever Wished For by Claudia Carroll

all she ever wished for

Title: All She Ever Wished For
Author: Claudia Carroll
Publisher: HarperCollins UK, Avon
Date: October 6th, 2016
Pages: 496
Format: eARC
Source: from Publisher for a review

 

Synopsis (from Goodreads): A gorgeous story of chance meetings and unexpected friendships. Because sometimes what you’ve always wished for isn’t necessarily what life has in store . . .

Marriage. It’s a dream come true. Isn’t it?

One wet winter night, two women meet on a bridge. One is Tess Taylor, a personal trainer on the way to meet her boyfriend for date night. The other is Kate King, a celebrity married to a handsome billionaire who just happens to make her cry. In the cold dark evening, there is nothing to link them together but the bridge they shiver on. Little do they know they’ll both hold the key to each other’s future marriage…

All She Ever Wished For tells the story of what happens when your dream is about to come true. And what happens when that dream turns into a bit of a nightmare…

Claudia Carroll brings you a Christmas gift filled with second chances, fateful encounters and a lesson in what true love means.

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Review:

I will start my review with a warning: Don’t let the cover full you! This is not a festive read. I repeat: THIS IS NOT A FESTIVE READ.
Judging by it’s releasing day and the cover, you probably think this is a beautiful Christmas story, but, unfortunately, it’s not.
Whoever designed this cover did an amazing job when it comes to appearance, but it’s so misleading. I mean, they even put snowflakes on the cover!
Why would you do that, when there’s no winter, no Christmas in the story whatsoever?

This year I read Carroll’s short story In A New York Minute and complitely fell in love with her writing style. That short story was the best read I had in July and I knew I wanted to read more of her work.
When I saw All She Ever Wished For on Netgally and my reading request was approved, I was beyond happy.

I would lie if I told you my expectations for this novel weren’t high.
However, I don’t think that my expectations have much to do with my impressions.
The story was just not interesting enough for me to like it more.
I was bored many times while reading and characters didn’t help the case either.

All She Ever Wished For follows stories of two women who’s lives intertwine.
Kate had some hard time. She had an ugly divorce and now she’s proving her right ownershinp of the painting her ex husband bought her as a birthday present while they were still together.
She’s being called gold-digger by media but we get to see her side of the story.

Tess is getting married, but she also has to attend the court as a juror. While she has so much things to do to make sure everything goes right on her big day, with their families not on good therms, time spent on court at first comes as burden, but after some time, being in court jury makes her forget about all the obligations for a while and she starts to rethink her decision…

Kate’s story was so much more interesting then Tess’.
After all, Kate was the one who was fighting for her rights.

This is the story that describes many happenings at court.
And in whole honesty, those parts were simply boring.

There is also one side character who has a big role in the story: Will. I just couldn’t like him, no matter how hard I tried. I thought he was too nosy, asking questions and saying things that weren’t his business and it was all okay because he’s a writer. I get that writers are curious, and I get that there are people like him all over the world, but telling someone you only just met (wait, not even met properly, but only just saw because you are in the same room together) that the song she chose to have for her first dance on her own wedding is stupid, and suggesting her to go with another one is just plain rude. Oh and mind you, he knew what song she chose because he was listening to her phone call, which is also rude.
This is just one of the situations that made me came to conclusion that Will is simply rude.

The writing style was really good, it was the best part of the book.
Nevertheless, not even a good writing style can help the boring story make more interesting.
As I already said, it was pretty boring at times and in my opinion, too long.
I couldn’t connect with characters, especially with Tess. With Kate I couldn’t help but emphatize and feel for her as a woman.

The ending was good and satisfying.

Overall, I think this book just wasn’t my cup of tea, but I’m looking forward to read more books by Claudia Carroll because I really like her writing style.
I already bought Meet Me In Manhattan and I plan to read it soon.

3,5