A young woman with amnesia falls under the influence of a powerful doctor in Paris’s notorious women’s asylum, where she must fight to reclaim dangerous memories—and even more perilously, her sanity—in this gripping historical novel inspired by true events, from the bestselling author of Wunderland.
“I didn’t see her the day she came to the asylum. Looking back, this sometimes strikes me as unlikely. Impossible, even, given how utterly her arrival would upend the already chaotic order of things at the Salpêtrière—not to mention change the course of my own life there.”
When Josephine arrives at the Salpêtrière she is covered in blood and badly bruised. Suffering from near-complete amnesia, she is diagnosed with what the Paris papers are calling “the epidemic of the age”: hysteria. It is a disease so baffling and widespread that Doctor Jean-Martine Charcot, the asylum’s famous director, devotes many of his popular public lectures to the malady. To Charcot’s delight, Josephine also proves extraordinarily susceptible to hypnosis, the tool he uses to unlock hysteria’s myriad (and often sensational) symptoms. Soon Charcot is regularly featuring Josephine on his stage, entrancing the young woman into fantastical acts and hallucinatory fits before enraptured audiences and eager newsmen—many of whom feature her on their paper’s front pages.
For Laure, a lonely asylum attendant assigned to Josephine’s care, Charcot’s diagnosis seems a godsend. A former hysteric herself, she knows better than most that life in the Salpêtrière’s Hysteria Ward is far easier than in its dreaded Lunacy division, from which few inmates ever return. But as Josephine’s fame as Charcot’s “star hysteric” grows, her memory starts to return—and with it, images of a horrific crime she believes she’s committed. Haunted by these visions, and helplessly trapped in Charcot’s hypnotic web, she starts spiraling into actual insanity. Desperate to save the girl she has grown to love, Laure plots their escape from the Salpêtrière and its doctors. First, though, she must confirm whether Joséphine is actually a madwoman, soon to be consigned to the Salpêtrière’s brutal Lunacy Ward—or a murderer, destined for the guillotine.
Both are dark possibilities—but not nearly as dark as what Laure will unearth when she sets out to discover the truth.
I didn’t see her the day she came to the asylum. Looking back, this sometimes strikes me as unlikely.
The Madwomen of Paris by Jennifer Cody Epstein
As a former hysteria patient, nineteen-year-old Laure has been kept on at the famous Salpetrier hospital as an attendant in the Hysteria ward. Her life is lonely, and the work is endless, as she is the attendant to Rosalie, who Dr. Jean-Marie Charcot displays to explain what hysteria means. But that changes when Josephine arrives at the hospital. Covered in bruises and blood, Josephine is sure she committed a murder, but she can’t remember if she did. With rare beauty and highly susceptible to hypnosis, Josephine soon becomes Dr. Charcot’s star hysteric. But, with her memory returning and becoming more confident that she committed murder, Josephine and Laure start planning their escape. But Laure must find out if what Josephine did is the truth, and she must find a way to keep Josephine from going to the Lunacy ward. Will they escape? Did Josephine kill her former master?
When I was looking through the books on NetGalley, I came across this one. I was immediately drawn to the cover. Then I read the blurb and thought, “I must read this.” Since it was unavailable to request, I decided to wish on it. When I got the email saying that the publisher granted my wish, I was thrilled. Now that I have read it, I can tell everyone that this book was fantastic.
The Madwomen of Paris is a medium-paced book set in 19th-century Paris. The author took her time introducing Laure and explaining her background. She also took her time introducing Salpêtrière and explaining what hysteria was. Then she took time building up Josephine’s backstory. By the middle of the book, she amped up the slowness to a medium pace and kept it that pace until the end. There were some parts where I got frustrated with the pacing (mainly in the beginning), but by the end of the book, my irritation was gone. I understood why the author chose to pace the book as she did.
The main storyline concerns Laure, Josephine, Josephine’s amnesia, and their plans to escape. The storyline was well-written, and I got lost in the book as I was reading it. I loved that the author used real places (the Salpêtrière is a real hospital) and real people (Dr. Charcot was famous in 19th-century Paris). Those details added extra depth to the storyline. I also liked how the author explained hysteria and the different (and awful) ways of treating it.
I liked and pitied Laure. She suffered when she was younger, and I didn’t blame her for losing it. Losing two parents and an unborn sibling back to back would test even the strongest person. In a way, she did luck out when she was sent to Salpêtrière and again when she was hired to be an attendant. But she was lonely, so she got so caught up with Josephine.
I liked Josephine, but at the same time, I was wary of her. I didn’t doubt that her employer viciously attacked her, but I wondered if she had regained her memory of that night sooner than she had told Laure. At various points in the book, Iwondered if she was using Laure. She sent Laure to check out the house where she killed her master. Her actions at the end of the book spoke volumes and just cemented my wariness of her.
There is a romance angle in the book that was interesting, and I liked it. But, I felt that it was one-sided, and Josephine used Laure’s feelings to further her ambitions.
An author’s note at the end of the book explains hysteria, how it encompassed many things that ail women (mentally ill—you’re hysterical, like sex—you’re hysterical, like the ladies—you’re hysterical). It was revolting to see how women were treated back then, and the author showed that repeatedly.
The end of The Madwomen of Paris was interesting, and I liked the author’s twist. It was something that I didn’t see coming. I did see what happened between Josephine and Laure coming, though, and it got me a little mad. I did like that Laure got her happy ending.
I would recommend The Madwomen of Paris to anyone over 16. There is violence, mild language, and sexual situations. I will warn that there are graphic scenes of a rape being reenacted through hypnosis, as well as Dr. Charcot showing what a body can do under hypnosis.
Many thanks to Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Ballantine Books, NetGalley, and Jennifer Cody Epstein for allowing me to read and review The Madwomen of Paris. All opinions stated in this review are mine.
If you enjoyed this review of The Madwomen of Paris, then you will enjoy these books:
Haunted by the death of his best friend and hunted by the FBI for war crimes he didn’t commit, Finn lands on an island paradise that turns into his own personal hell in this gripping follow-up to Steel Fear and Cold Fear —from the New York Times bestselling writing team Webb & Mann . . .
“Webb & Mann have done it again. Blind Fear has it great characters, an amazing plot, and an incredible setting. This novel moves like a hurricane!”—Connor Sullivan, author of Wolf Trap
By day, AWOL Navy SEAL Finn is hiding out on Vieques, a tiny island paradise off the eastern coast of Puerto Rico, living in a spare room behind a seafood restaurant owned by a blind local. By night he scours the dark web, hunting for the rogue officer responsible for the crimes he is accused of committing.
But Finn’s world is about to be turned upside down by a new nightmare, when his employer’s two grandchildren go missing. To find them, he’ll have to infiltrate the island’s dangerous criminal underbelly and expose a shadowy crime network known as La Empresa—even if it means exposing himself in the process.
As the children go on their own harrowing odyssey to stay one step ahead of a cop-turned-killer, a hurricane batters the coastline, cutting Puerto Rico off from the rest of the world. Taking his pursuit to the sea, Finn’s skills and endurance will be tested to their limits to rescue the lost children and escape his own pursuers before the clock runs out. No one is to be trusted. And those who are seemingly his friends might be the most dangerous foes he’s faced yet.
They have been out there for hours, climbing the great rock cliffs overlooking Black Sand Beach, then down by the water, poking through the shells and driftwood left by the ebbing tide, cooling off in the sky-blue sea as they drift toward the western tip of their island home.
Blind Fear by Brandon Webb and John David Mann
After fleeing Iceland, Finn settled on a small island off the coast of Puerto Rico. Living in a spare room behind a seafood restaurant, Finn spends his days helping the blind owner and his nights on the dark web, looking for clues to the identity of the man responsible for the crimes Finn is accused of committing. But that changes when two things happen. The restaurant owner’s grandchildren go missing, and a hurricane is barreling toward the island. Desperate to find the children, Finn must take down a criminal empire called La Empresa and risk exposing himself. But can Finn trust his friends? Or will they be the people who will turn him in?
Blind Fear is a fast-paced book that doesn’t let up on its pace during the book. There was almost no lag (a tiny bit in the middle of the book). That did not distract me from the storyline.
There were three separate storylines in Blind Fear. The first storyline follows the children (Pedro and Miranda), their kidnapping, and their journey across the jungles of Puerto Rico. The second storyline is centered around Finn, his search for the children, and his search for the killer of his friends. The third storyline centers around Monica Halsey and her search for Finn. When I realized that there were three different storylines, I got worried. Usually, one overshadows the other storylines. But this wasn’t the case. Each storyline was well-written, with well-fleshed-out characters. By the time the three storylines came together, they merged seamlessly.
The storyline with the children was well-written and kept me glued to the book. Pedro was a likable kid who kept Miranda, who was younger, safe. He had to make adult choices, some of which weren’t right. But everything Pedro did was to save his and Miranda’s life. He was also very confident that Mimo (Finn) would rescue them.
The storyline with Finn is ongoing, carried over from Steel Fear. I did not read book 2, so I didn’t understand the references to Iceland or what happened there. The author explained what happened later in the book but didn’t detract from this storyline. I liked how Finn juggled four things:
Finding Pedro and Miranda.
Finding out who Papa Bear was.
Staying ahead of the agents.
Exposing La Empresa.
In my experience, something gets dropped or forgotten when a main character has a lot going on. But, in this case, it didn’t happen. The author slowly merged each thing until they were a singular entity.
I wasn’t sure if I wanted to classify the storyline with Monica as one of the main storylines. But, as I read the book, the more she came into play, I decided that the storyline was the main one. Monica was different than how she was featured in the first book. She had it out for Finn. She wanted him to serve time for what she thought he did.
The end of Blind Fear was terrific. The authors wrapped up the Puerto Rican storylines in a fantastic way. I loved how every single bad guy got what they deserved. Both Finn and Monica’s storylines were not wrapped up. What the author did instead was a perfect lead into book 4.
I would recommend Blind Fear to anyone over 21. There are no sexual situations but extreme violence and language.
Many thanks to Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Bantam, NetGalley, Brandon Webb, and John David Mann for allowing me to read and review Blind Fear. All opinions stated in this review are mine.
If you enjoyed reading this review of Blind Fear, then you will enjoy reading these books:
A music critic stuck in a spiral of epic proportions targets her teenage crush for a career comeback and a chance at revenge. What could possibly go wrong?
Sammy Espinoza’s life is a raging dumpster fire. Her desperate attempt to win back her singer ex-girlfriend has landed her in hot water at work, and she has one last chance before her editor cuts her column. Luckily, Sammy has a plan to redeem herself, but it won’t be easy.
Rumor has it that Max Ryan, the former rock god, is secretly recording his first-ever solo album years after he dramatically quit performing. And it just so happens that he and Sammy have Right before Max got his big break, he and Sammy spent an unforgettable night together.
Exclusive access to Max’s new music would guarantee Sammy’s professional comeback and, even better, give her the opportunity to serve some long-awaited revenge for his traumatic ghosting.
But Max lives in Ridley Falls, Washington, and Sammy has history there as a family that never wanted her and a million unanswered questions. Going back would mean confronting it all—but what else does she have to lose?
People like to say you can’t go home again, but for me that’s more than a literal statement than a figurative one.
Sammy Espinoza’s Last Review by Tehlor Kay Meija
Sammy Espinoza’s life is a mess. An attempt to win back her singer ex-girlfriend exploded in her face. The fallout resulted in her being on probation with the threat of her editor pulling her column unless she could redeem herself. And Sammy does plan on redeeming herself. She had just discovered that Max Ryan, a former rockstar and former one-night stand who ghosted her, might be recording his first solo album. If she can get an interview and an inside scoop about his music, she will be redeemed and forgiven. But Max lives in Ridley Falls, Washington, and Sammy doesn’t want to go back. That would mean facing her estranged family and getting answers to questions that she has had for a long time.
When I read the blurb for Sammy Espinoza (I am shortening the title for this review), I knew I wanted to read it. I have a soft spot for damaged heroines, and I love to read about what caused the damage. I decided to wish on it since it wasn’t available on Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine’s NetGalley page. When I got the email that the publisher granted my wish, I was pretty pleased. This book has stuck around in my mind since I had wished for it. And guess what? I am glad that I read this book.
Sammy Espinoza is a fast-paced book set in the fictional town of Ridley Falls, Washington. The pacing for this book was perfect for it. I had no issue following the storyline, and there were zero times I had to backtrack. There was a tiny bit of lag in the middle of the book when Sammy was floating around Ridley Falls, but that didn’t disrupt my reading experience.
I will warn you; you will need Kleenex while reading this book. You will cry because the storyline will have you in emotional knots. Sammy’s issues constitute a significant part of the storyline. It was painful to read in portions (her mother had me seeing red) and, in other parts, joyful and hopeful.
I didn’t like Sammy at the beginning of the book. She was a hot mess. Her character was selfish, childish, and had a massive chip on her shoulder. After cementing that in my head, the author then went on to show the Sammy behind all of that. The real Sammy was insecure, scarred by her childhood, and desperately wanted to be loved. Then that Sammy slowly (it was painful to read at times) morphed into the Sammy I loved. She was a self-confident woman who was happy and surrounded herself with a family she chose.
I wasn’t too sure what to think about Max. He seemed like such a nice guy, but something was also tortured about him. I figured it was part of his act until he saw Sammy after he ghosted her. Then, a side of Max that I didn’t even think existed emerged. I sympathized with him and didn’t blame him for doing what he did after Sammy told him about what she wanted to do.
The secondary characters were the backbone of this book. Sammy had a fantastic friends with Willa and Brooke. Brooke made me laugh. She was blunt and didn’t deal with Sammy’s (or Willa’s) BS. Willa’s parents were characters. And Sammy’s grandmother was just fantastic.
The storyline involving Sammy, her mother, and her father’s side of the family was heartbreaking and infuriating. I got so mad for Sammy as the storyline went on, and it slowly revealed what a jerk and how self-centered her mother was. There was a scene with Willa’s mother and one with Sammy’s grandmother that broke my heart. Sammy’s issues (well, a good part of them) could have been resolved if her mother had done the right thing. I won’t get into that storyline anymore because there will be spoilers.
The storyline involving Sammy, Max, and the article made me irritated. Sammy should have been upfront with Max about why she came to Ridley Falls. But, at the same time, Max should have been upfront with Sammy about his issues and past. But it doesn’t excuse him for just jetting on her. Especially when something very significant happened, and she was left alone.
The end of Sammy Espinonza was perfect. It also gave me one of my favorite quotes, “Three Queers and a Baby.” I did get a giggle out of that. I also liked how hopeful the last chapter was. It made me happy for Sammy and her crew.
I would recommend Sammy Espinoza’s Last Review to anyone over 21. There is language, mild violence, and sexual situations.
Many thanks to Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Dell, NetGalley, and Tehlor Kay Mejia for allowing me to read and review Sammy Espinozia’s Last Review. All opinions stated in this review are mine.
If you enjoyed reading this review of Sammy Espinoza’s Last Review, then you will enjoy reading these books:
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Daughter of Doctor Moreau and Mexican Gothic comes a fabulous meld of Mexican horror movies and Nazi occultism: a dark thriller about the curse that haunts a legendary lost film–and awakens one woman’s hidden powers.
Montserrat has always been overlooked. She’s a talented sound editor, but she’s left out of the boys’ club running the film industry in ’90s Mexico City. And she’s all but invisible to her best friend, Tristán, a charming if faded soap opera star, though she’s been in love with him since childhood.
Then Tristán discovers his new neighbor is the cult horror director Abel Urueta, and the legendary auteur claims he can change their lives—even if his tale of a Nazi occultist imbuing magic into highly volatile silver nitrate stock sounds like sheer fantasy. The magic film was never finished, which is why, Urueta swears, his career vanished overnight. He is cursed.
Now the director wants Montserrat and Tristán to help him shoot the missing scene and lift the curse . . . but Montserrat soon notices a dark presence following her, and Tristán begins seeing the ghost of his ex-girlfriend.
As they work together to unravel the mystery of the film and the obscure occultist who once roamed their city, Montserrat and Tristán may find that sorcerers and magic are not only the stuff of movies.
An engorged, yellow moon painted the sky a sickly amber hue, illuminating a solitary figure.
Silver Nitrate by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Montserrat is a sound editor trying to make it in a highly competitive but male-only market in Mexico City. Her best friend, Tristan, is a former telenovela star trying to break into the business after being blackballed by his ex-girlfriend’s father, who blames him for her death. Tristan is thrilled when he discovers that his new neighbor is cult horror director Abel Urueta. Montserrat is slightly more reserved, but her interest is piqued when Abel tells a tale about a former Nazi occultist, Ewers, using silver nitrate film reels to imbue them with magic. But Ewers died before the film was finished, and Abel believes that caused him to be cursed. But, after agreeing to do so, Tristan starts seeing the ghost of his ex-girlfriend, and a dark presence haunts Monserrat. With cultists on their heels, Tristan and Monserrat must unravel the movie’s mystery and why it is so important to those people.
I am not a modern-day horror movie fan. I am not a fan of gore and blood. I am a fan of the type of horror movie that was made in the ’50s and ’60s. That is why I decided to wish on this book on Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine’s NetGalley page. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting the wish to be granted and was very surprised when it was. While it took me a while to get to read the book (thank you, backlog), once I did read it, I was immersed and very glad that I did. Silver Nitrate was a great book.
Silver Nitrate is a medium-paced book that starts slowly. At first, I was a little irritated with how slow the book was. But, as I got into the book and everything started unraveling, I appreciated the slow start. Without that slow start, I wouldn’t have known how Tristan’s background would affect him later in the book and how Momo girl bossed everything.
The main storyline of Silver Nitrate is centered around Momo, Tristan, the film, and the Nazi occultist. It was a meandering and sometimes infuriating storyline that was well-written. This storyline is like good wine; it must be read slowly and savored. If you read too fast, you will run into the problem of missing some essential information. Trust me; this book is worth reading slowly.
I like Momo. She was a great friend (well, almost too good, Tristan did walk all over her at the beginning of the book), a good sister, and she was a good employee. I felt terrible that she was in such a challenging profession. I never considered a sound editor a male-dominated profession in the ’90s. It didn’t cross my mind, and by the middle of the book, I was very mad for her. My other favorite thing about Momo is that once she committed to something, she committed. She started reading Ewer’s book to see if there were any clues about what was happening. I won’t get much more into it, but I was surprised at what she learned.
I hate to admit this, but Tristan annoyed me at first. He was childlike in his actions and mannerisms. I couldn’t understand why Momo even kept him around as a friend. But, as the book went on and the author peeled back Tristan’s layers (and there were many), my annoyance gave way to understanding and pity. His character growth during this book was immense, and I loved his epiphany towards the end of the book. I wanted to smack him and say, “Duh, you idiot.“
Even though he was dead, Ewers was a considerable presence in this book. I had read about Nazi occultists in the past, so I did understand what the author was writing about. But, she got into depth with his character. I was fascinated by everything that the author had written about him in the book. In the author’s note, she did explain that this character was a mishmash of a multitude of occultists, but the namesake was from a Nazi sympathizer who traveled to Mexico.
The book’s main secondary characters (Abel, Clarimonde, Ava, and Jose) were prevalent. They played critical roles in the film (both past and present). I won’t get into how they were involved with Ewers, but it was surprising when everything was revealed. And honestly, the only one I felt bad for out of the four was Abel. He had zero clue what was going on behind the scenes.
The horror angle of the book was very well written. This book wasn’t a gory, blood-everywhere horror. Instead, it was more of a psychological horror. It started with the uneasiness that Momo and Tristan felt when Abel explained what he wanted to do, and it just expanded throughout the book. I loved it.
The paranormal angle of the book was just as well written. I liked that it started gradually (Tristan seeing his dead ex, Abel having a premonition) and then started snowballing. The pinnacle was the scene toward the end of the book, where Momo did what she did.
I also was thrilled to learn about silver nitrate. I had never heard about it before this book, and I did read up on it. In a weird coincidence, my husband listened to a podcast detailing silver nitrate and films (like the book). Learning about silver nitrate was fascinating, frightening, and creepy (the occult angle).
The end of Silver Nitrate was exciting but not what I was expecting. While the author wrapped up the film/Ewer storyline, I wondered what would happen to Momo and Tristan. I wasn’t expecting the turn it took. But looking back, I did see that storyline turning in that direction.
I would recommend Silver Nitrate to anyone over 16. There is language, violence, and no sexual situations.
Many thanks to Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Del Rey, NetGalley, and Silvia Moreno-Garcia. All opinions stated in this review are mine.
If you enjoyed reading this review of Silver Nitrate, then you will enjoy reading these books:
My transformation from a poor, orphaned scullery maid into the enchantingly mysterious lady who snagged the heart of the prince did not happen–as the rumors insisted–in a magical metamorphosis of pumpkins and glass slippers. On the first evening of the ball, I didn’t meekly help my “evil” stepmother and stepsisters primp and preen or watch forlornly out the window as their carriage rolled off toward the palace. I had other preparations to make.
My stepsisters and I had been trained for this–to be the cleverest in the room, to be quick with our hands and quicker with our lies. We were taught how to get everything we want in this world, everything men always kept for themselves: power, wealth, and prestige. And with a touchingly tragic past and the help of some highly illegal spells, I would become a princess, secure our fortunes, and we would all live happily ever after.
But there’s always more to the story. With my magic running out, war looming, and a handsome hostage prince–the wrong prince–distracting me from my true purpose with his magnetic charm and forbidden flirtations, I’m in danger of losing control of the delicate balance I’ve created…and that could prove fatal.
There’s so much more riding on this than a crown.
I never thought the tale of my daring escape from servitude into the glittering world of the royal palace would be boring, but after the hundreth telling it had begun to lose its shine.
Thief Liar Lady by D.L. Soria
Ash (better known as Lady Aislinn) knew what she was doing when she met Everett at his birthday ball and used magic to have him fall in love with her. Under her stepmother’s tutelage, Ash had learned to lie, use her body, and use illegal magic to capture a man. Now that she has the prince, she needs to make it to the wedding, and she will be in the clear. Ash is marrying the prince for his money and title, and so much more is riding on her wedding. But, when she meets the hostage prince, the dashing Rance. Then everything she has worked so hard for is shaken. Ash cannot let Rance distract her from her plans. But when the unthinkable happens, and Rance is implicated, Ash must decide: Will she stand by her Prince Charming? Or will she follow her heart?
When I saw this would be a retelling of Cinderella, the book caught my interest. For some reason, I have seen many fairy tale retellings on my Goodreads home page, and when I saw that Random House had this as a wish on NetGalley, I decided to wish on it. I wasn’t expecting it to be granted, and when I got the email, I was thrilled. I was glad when Random House granted this wish because I enjoyed the book (even if I had a few quibbles about it).
Thief Liar Lady is a fast-paced book. Because it is a fast-paced book, the plot line lags slightly towards the middle (around the wedding and the events after). It didn’t affect how I liked the book or my ability to stay focused on it(I have outside influences that do that).
Thief Liar Lady takes place entirely in the country of Solis. Solis didn’t seem like a place that I would like to live. If you were a native Solisian, then you were alright. But there was much hatred and mistrust if you came from the kingdom that Solis had been at war with. I could go on about genocide and religious suppression, but I won’t. Just remember that it happened in this book and was heartbreaking to read.
Thief Liar Lady’s storyline centers around Ash and the various activities that she is involved with. I loved that the author took the Cinderella fairy tale and had it take such a turn. I loved its what-if factor (What if Cinderella had an agenda). I also loved the backstory that the author built up for her. Ash was mistreated by her stepmother, there is no doubt about that, but she and her stepsisters were equally mistreated and trained, just like Ash. I did have a quibble with how Ash’s story was laid out. I wouldn’t say I liked starting the book in the middle of the story. It left me feeling off balance while reading. Also, I felt off balance while reading Ash’s backstory (how she got engaged and why). It was thrown in with no lead-in. This book’s use of magic (or lusture) was interesting, but Ash relied too much on it. Also, if Rance trained Puppy to detect lusture, why didn’t anyone pay attention when she started going nuts everything Ash was around?
I liked Ash. She was very straightforward with her intentions and why she was marrying Everett. She showed early in the book that she wasn’t easily manipulated. By the middle of the book, I liked that she decided she wouldn’t let people walk on her. That scene with Ryland was gold. I did worry for her when she started caring more for Rance than she should. I knew she was head over heels for him by the cottage scene. That’s what made everything that happened afterward so bittersweet.
I liked Rance but didn’t know what to think about him. He was an enigma and remained an enigma until the end of the book. I did have questions about his feelings for Ash throughout the book. I questioned how he felt until the end of the book.
I liked Everett, but I couldn’t tell if what I was seeing was the actual prince or the prince that had been repeatedly dosed with lusture. So, reading his scenes with Ash made me a little sick. Here is what seems to be a nice guy forced to be in love with someone he would have never looked at. The author focused his entire character on Ash, so I wonder if the guy I was seeing when the magic wore off was real.
The romance angle of Thief Liar Lady was well written. The central romance between Everett and Ash slowly leads to a love triangle between Everett, Ash, and Rance. And that slowly gave way to just Ash and Rance. As I mentioned above, the romance between Ash and Everett was forced because Ash had Everett under magical control. I didn’t get to see the build-up. Instead, the author highlighted the downfall. The romance whose build-up was highlighted was Ash and Rance. It was a prolonged build-up. It seemed to stall out there until the rebels kidnapped Ash and Rance. After that, it got going.
The storyline with Ash, her grandmother, and the rebellion was sad. Ash believed what she was doing was for the best. But, I feel her grandmother used her for information and didn’t care about her. The scene at the cottage only cemented that for me.
The storyline with Ash, her stepsisters, and her stepmother made me angry. The author gave little information about Ash’s childhood, but the glimpses were abusive. Ash and her stepsisters went through hell growing up. I wondered when the control Ash’s stepmother exerted over those girls would snap. It did towards the end of the book, and the fallout was explosive.
The end of Thief Liar Lady was not what I thought it would be. I loved how Ash fixed everything. It was unconventional, but it worked. The author was able to wrap up and end all of the storylines in ways that satisfied me.
I would recommend Thief Liar Lady to anyone over 16. There is no language, but there is violence and sexual situations.
Many thanks to Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Del Rey, NetGalley, and D.L. Soria for allowing me to read and review Thief Liar Lady. All opinions stated in this review are mine.
If you enjoyed reading this review of Thief Liar Lady, then you will enjoy reading these books:
2023 Sami Parker Reads Title Challenge 2023 (a book that has the name of a month in the title): Every Day in December by Kitty Wilson
Cover Scavenger Hunt 2023 (a tree): My Dead World by Jacqueline Druga
The StoryGraph’s Onboarding Read Challenge 2023 (Read a book published in the last three years that fits your reader profile): How to Train Your Viscount by Courtney McCaskill
The StoryGraph Reads with World 2023 (Norway): Paradise Rot by Jenny Hval
The StoryGraph’s Genre Challenge 2023 (a popular science book): Factfulness by Hans Rosling
Beat the Backlist 2023 (giving an author a second chance): Spirit of Denial by Kate Danley
Scavenger Hunt TBR Book Challenge (What object did you first see on the cover of the last book. Find another book with the same object on the cover): The Bronzed Beasts by Roshani Chokshi
Books I bought*:
*Normally, there won’t be a lot of books on here. But, I am going through my Goodreads shelves and downloading any free books I am coming across from books already shelved. This is an ongoing project, and I should be done by September.
On screen, they’re in love. Off screen, they can’t stand each other. Two co-stars with a complex history reunite to film the final season of a beloved paranormal drama in this tension-filled will they won’t they romance from the author of How to Fake It in Hollywood.
Lilah Hunter and Shane McCarthy are madly in love— at least, their characters are. As the stars of the hit paranormal TV show Intangible, they spent years pining for each other on-screen… until Lilah ditched the show at the end of season five in hopes of becoming a film star. With no such luck, she’s back to film the much-hyped ninth and final season, in which their characters will get together at last.
But coming back means facing one of the biggest reasons she left: Shane. Ever since their secret behind-the-scenes fling imploded at the end of the first season, the two of them have despised each other.
Now back on set together for the first time in years, with the world’s eyes on them and their post-show careers on the line, they’ll have to grit their teeth and play nice. But under pressure to give Intangible’s fans the happy ending they’ve been waiting for, Lilah and Shane are forced to get closer than ever. And if they’re not careful, they just might get blindsided by one final twist: a real-life happy ending of their own.
Lilah Hunter knew better than to get her hopes up.
Will They or Won’t They by Ava Wilder
Lilah and Shane play a madly in love, but kept apart, couple on the hit paranormal show, Intangilble. In real life, though, they loathe each other. So, it was a good thing when Lilah left the show to make a movie and see what else was out there. But the film was a flop, and Lilah wasn’t getting any work because of it. So, when the producers approached Lilah with an offer to return to the show, she wouldn’t turn it down, even if that meant working with Shane again. But Lilah and Shane realize that maybe their hatred towards each other was more than that (thanks to a risque photo shoot). What will they do? Will they give in to their feelings? Or won’t they?
When I wished for Will They or Won’t They, I was on a huge contemporary romance kick. I hoped I liked the book because the blurb seemed rather bland. Unfortunately, I feel the same way now that I have read the book. This book didn’t create any strong feelings for it either way.
The medium pacing of Will They or Won’t They did suit the book. This pacing allowed Lilah and Shane to recount their past relationship (working and personal) on their own and with the therapist. There was some lag toward the end of the book, but since it was the end, it didn’t affect anything for me.
Will They or Won’t They takes place mainly in Hollywood, with a brief scene in New York City and a chapter in Canada. I was disappointed that the author mostly kept to where the show was filmed, convention centers and hotel rooms. I would have loved to see more of those cities and where they filmed in Canada.
The main storyline in Will They or Won’t They are Lilah and Shane’s love/hate/love relationship. The author did a great job of giving Lilah and Shane’s backstories in a way that didn’t seem forced. I could see a behind-the-scenes romance blowing up and causing issues. I could also see a producer wanting his main stars to get along and send them to couples therapy. But, once the book started focusing on the present day, I began to feel “meh” about it. The storyline seemed to be Lilah and Shane rehashing stuff from their past. Also, I wasn’t a massive fan of how their romance ping-ponged back and forth.
I didn’t care for Lilah. She came across as a neurotic pain in the butt who was also a bit of a diva. She self-sabotages almost every relationship she has had (and she admits this at one point in the book). But, at the same time, I felt terrible for her. Growing up, she had a horrible home life that caused her severe anxiety. Her mother got her into acting to overcome it, and things took off. I also felt how she treated Shane was pretty crappy, both past and present. Now, he was no angle, but she took it to another level.
I had no real concrete feelings for Shane. For most of the book, he came across as bland. He went out of his way to needle Lilah (the whole donut scene at the beginning of the book stands out the most to me). I did guess what his real feelings were reasonably early in the book and guessed what he would do with those feelings.
The romance angle of Will They or Won’t They bored me. While I like secret romances, I wasn’t a huge fan of theirs. How can a relationship flourish if they never go out together and always have sex? It can’t, and in the long run, if this were real, I would say they didn’t have a chance long term.
The end of Will They or Won’t They was pretty standard. The author surprised me with a twist towards the end of the book. The author explained the twist in the epilogue, and I was back to feeling “meh” about the characters.
I would recommend Will They or Won’t They to anyone over 21. There is language, mild violence, and sexual situations.
Many thanks to Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Dell, NetGalley, and Ava Wilder for allowing me to read and review Will They or Won’t They. All opinions stated in this review are mine.
If you enjoyed reading this review of Will They or Won’t They, then will you will enjoy reading these books:
Summer and Leo would do anything for each other. Inspired by the way each has had to carve her place in a hostile and unforgiving world, and united by the call of the open road, they travel around sunny California in Summer’s tricked-out Land Cruiser. It’s not a glamorous life, but it gives them the freedom they crave from the painful pasts they’ve left behind. But even free spirits have bills to pay. Luckily, Summer is a skilled pickpocket, a small-time thief, and a con artist–and Leo, determined to pay her own way, has learned a trick or two.
Eager for a big score, Leo catches in her crosshairs Michael Forrester, a self-made billionaire and philanthropist. When her charm wins him over, Leo is rewarded with an invitation to his private island off the California coastline for a night of fabulous excess. She eagerly anticipates returning with photos that can be sold to the paparazzi, jewelry that can be liquidated, and endless stories to share with Summer.
Instead, Leo disappears.
On her own for the first time in years, Summer decides to infiltrate Michael’s island and find out what really happened. But when she arrives, no one has seen Leo–she’s not on the island as far as they know. Plus, there was only one way on the island–and no way off–for the coming days. Trapped in a scheme she helped initiate, could Summer have met her match?
I learned to pick a pocket when I was about eight.
You Can Trust Me by Wendy Heard
Summer and Leo are best friends and would do anything for each other. Summer, abandoned by her free spirit mother as a teenager, took Leo in when she found her panhandling one day. From that day forward, they have survived by doing petty crimes and trying to con the rich together. So, it was no surprise when Leo, eager for a big score, latches on to the tech billionaire, MichaelForrester. It is also no surprise when Leo is swept away to Michael’s private island. But, when Leo doesn’t answer any of Summer’s texts and when she doesn’t return from the island, Summer gets worried. Summer’s plan: to infiltrate the island, look for Leo, and get out. While infiltrating the island is easy, finding Leo isn’t. Met with more questions than answers, Summer intensifies her search. What happened to Leo? Can Summer find her? Will Summer (and possibly Leo) be able to escape the island?
I am a big fan of psychological thrillers. They make up about 75% of what I read (the other 25% is split between romances, dystopia, mystery, and different genres). So, when I kept seeing You CanTrust Me floating around the blogosphere, I knew this book would be right up my alley. I am glad I read this book because it was a great read!!
You Can Trust Me is a fast-paced book set mainly in Los Angeles and an island off Catalina Island’s coast. The fast pace of this book suited the storyline. Why? Because You Can Trust Me takes place within a week of Leo disappearing. Any slower pace would have ruined the storyline.
You Can Trust Me has dual 1st person POV storylines. The storylines break into Summer and Leo right from the beginning. But then the author does something interesting. She goes back a few days to detail what Leo was doing while keeping Summer’s POV in the present. I liked that. It upped the thriller aspect of the book and kept me guessing what would happen next.
You Can Trust Me has two major storylines and one significant secondary storyline introduced about halfway through. The two major storylines are centered around Summer and Leo. The author details their backgrounds and how they ended up together. Then the storyline splits between Summer’s search for Leo and Leo’s time on the island. The back and forth between the two storylines was almost exhausting in places, and I was on edge, wondering if Summer would find Leo.
The author introduced the secondary storyline halfway through the book. I didn’t think anything of this storyline until it exploded towards the end of the book. There was a point where I couldn’t believe what I was reading. It was absorbed when Summer and Leo’s storylines were merged back together.
I liked Summer, even if she did some questionable things. I did find her backstory very sad. She was born without a birth certificate, and her mother refused to tell Summer her last name or anything about her (the mother’s past). Summer was left to fend for herself when her mother abandoned her when she was sixteen. Without a birth certificate or a last name, Summer had limited choices of what she could do to support herself. Becoming a petty criminal was the most straightforward and obvious choice. So, I understood why she felt she needed to do something when Leo disappeared. Going to the police wasn’t even a thought. She was going to save her friend.
I liked Leo, too. Her backstory was even more tragic than Summer’s. Leo lived with an overwhelming sense of guilt. She was the last person to talk to her sister before her sister was found dead in a forest. She blamed herself, and it did seem like her parents blamed her too. Leo’s way of dealing with her trauma was to leave. I liked Leo’s enthusiasm for the crimes that she did with Summer. She was desperate to get a big score, so she took the chance with Michael.
I was very cautious about Michael. He seemed almost too good to be true. I am going to leave it there because, well, anything else about Michael will be a huge spoiler.
The psychological thriller angle of the book was well-written, and it kept my attention. I invested in both Summer’s and Leo’s stories.
The mystery angle of You Can Trust Me was terrific. Again, I can’t go into why but I will say that a couple of massive twists surprised me towards the end of the book. I was internally screeching when the author revealed everything; that is how explosive everything was.
The end of You Can Trust Me did disappoint me. After everything that happened, it was a letdown. I was expecting some closure with a couple of the storylines, but the only closure I got was with Summer’s. Again, I can’t go into details because of spoilers but arrrggggh!!!
I would recommend You Can Trust Me to anyone over 21. There is language, moderate violence, and moderate sexual situations (the actual sex scenes were fade to black).
Many thanks to Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Bantam, NetGalley, and Wendy Heard for allowing me to read and review You Can Trust Me. All opinions stated in this review are mine.
If you enjoyed reading this review of You Can Trust Me, then you will enjoy reading these books:
This powerful and moving novel from the New York Times bestselling author of A Long Petal of the Sea weaves together past and present, tracing the ripple effects of war and immigration on one child in Europe in 1938 and another in the United States in 2019.
Vienna, 1938. Samuel Adler was six years old when his father disappeared during Kristallnacht—the night their family lost everything. Samuel’s mother secured a spot for him on the last Kindertransport train out of Nazi-occupied Austria to the United Kingdom, which he boarded alone, carrying nothing but a change of clothes and his violin.
Arizona, 2019. Eight decades later, Anita Diaz, a blind seven-year-old girl, and her mother board another train, fleeing looming danger in El Salvador and seeking refuge in the United States. However, their arrival coincides with the new family separation policy, and Anita finds herself alone at a camp in Nogales. She escapes through her trips to Azabahar, a magical world of the imagination she created with her sister back home.
Anita’s case is assigned to Selena Duran, a young social worker who enlists the help of a promising lawyer from one of San Francisco’s top law firms. Together they discover that Anita has another family member in the United States: Leticia Cordero, who is employed at the home of now eighty-six-year-old Samuel Adler, linking these two lives.
Spanning time and place, The Wind Knows My Name is both a testament to the sacrifices that parents make and a love letter to the children who survive the most unfathomable dangers—and never stop dreaming.
A sense of misfortune hung in the air. From the early morning hours, a menacing breeze had swept through the streets, whistling between the buildings, forcing its way in through the cracks under doors and windows.
The Wind Knows My Name by Isabel Allende
Samuel was six years old when his father, a doctor, disappeared during Vienna’s infamous Kristallnacht. Saved by a veteran neighbor, Samuel’s mother secured passage for him on the Kinderstransport, a train taking Jewish children out of Nazi-occupied Austria. Samuel was delivered to England and, after being bounced between a couple of foster homes, was adopted by a Quaker couple. Eighty years later, Anna Diaz, a blind seven-year-old, was captured with her mother trying to cross the border into the United States illegally. She is separated from her mother and put into a detainment camp for unaccompanied minors. Her way of dealing with the trauma of being separated from her mother and the horrors of abusive foster homes is to escape to an imaginary place called Azabahar. Samuel and Anna’s paths cross when a social worker and lawyer do pro-bono work and find that Anna has a relative in the San Fransisco area. That relative is Samuel’s housekeeper, and she has been living with Samuel since Covid shut the country down. While Anna gets settled with Samuel and Leticia, the lawyer and the social worker continue their search for Anna’s mother. Will Anna and her mother be reunited?
What attracted me to The Wind Knows My Name was the cover. That is why I wished for it to begin with. What also attracted me to this book was the plotline (which I did try to summarize in the paragraph above). I usually don’t read books that closely follow recent (think within the last 3-4 years) events but something about this book and how the blurb was written made me want to read it. I am glad I did because this book was a great read.
There are numerous trigger warnings in The Wind Knows My Name. I won’t lie and say they weren’t graphic; some triggers were. But, and I stress this, the ones that involved children, the author only did the bare bones. She explained enough for me to get the gist of what was happening and then left it. The triggers are:
Confinement (non-graphic, on page):Anna was confined to a center where the border patrol agents took unaccompanied minors after they were captured crossing the border. Samuel and Leticia were limited to the house during the pandemic.
Death (mostlynon-graphic, on page): Death was a running theme throughout the book.
Genocide (slightly graphic, on page): Samuel escaped Nazi Austria and discovers his mother and father died in concentration camps. Leticia and her father, by pure luck, escape their village in El Salvador, being decimated by rebels.
Racism (graphic, on page):Samuel and Anna experience racism during the book.
Sexual Violence (non-graphic, on page): Both Anna and her mother experience sexual violence towards them during the book.
Xenophobia (mostly non-graphic, on page): Anna and her mother experience xenophobia while trying to cross the border. Anna experiences it while living in foster homes. Leticia experienced it growing up in the United States.
Trafficking (mentioned, off-page): One of the villains worked for a human trafficker.
Grief (graphic, on page):Samuel experiences grief over his parents’ deaths and when he is forced to leave his mother. He also grieves over his wife’s death. Anna mourns the death of her sister, her mother leaving, and leaving her grandmother in El Salvador. Leticia grieves the death of her mother, siblings, and grandmother. Leticia’s father grieves for his lost family.
Death of parent (s) (non-graphic, on page):Samuel’s mother and father were killed in concentration camps. Anna’s father was killed when she was very young. Leticia’s mother, grandmother, and siblings were killed.
Forced Abandonment (graphic, on page): Samuels’ mother sent him away to England. Anna’s mother was forced to leave Anna at the detention center.
Deportation (graphic, on page): There are several scenes where immigrants were forcibly deported. Anna’s mother was deported to Mexico without her.
War (semi-graphic, on page):Samuel survived World War II. Leticia’s village was decimated during a civil war in El Salvador.
Child Abuse (semi-graphic, on page):Anna is forced to do her foster mother’s chores. She was verbally abused when she wet the bed. In one scene, she was locked in a closet for hours, only to be taken out by her social worker. A foster father attempted to abuse Anna sexually.
Child Death (nongraphic, off-page): Anna’s younger sister was killed in an accident that caused Anna to go blind.
Pedophilia (semi-graphic, on and off page):Anna and her mother were chased by a man who wanted to molest Anna. He had forced Anna to touch him once. Anna’s foster father attempted to molest her.
Stalking (non-graphic and off page): A corrupt ex-police officer stalked Anna and her mother in El Salvador. He stalked them to the United States border.
If any of these trigger you, I suggest not reading the book.
There are four plotlines in The Wind Knows My Name. When I figured that out, I was a little wary. In my experience, books with more than one plotline confuse the everliving out of me. I am happy to say that this book did not. The author marked the chapters, stating whose plotline it was and, in some cases, where in time that person was.
The first plotline centered around Samuel. It starts when he is six, and his world implodes during Kristallnacht. The plotline isn’t linear; it does jump around from past to present quite a bit. But, and I stress this, I was not confused or couldn’t figure out where in time it was. Samuel’s singular plotline ends when Leticia and then Anna move in.
The second plotline centers around Leticia. Now, this was a linear plotline, and it follows Leticia from a young girl recovering from ulcer surgery to her growing up in the United States. It details her rebellious youth and how that shaped her into the woman she grew into. Her singular storyline ends when she moves in with Samuel.
The third plotline centers around Selina and Frank. This plotline starts in the middle of the book. But it goes into Selina’s immigrant background and Frank’s white privilege background. This storyline intermingles with Samuel, Leticia, and Anna throughout the book.
The fourth storyline centers around Anna. This is a linear storyline and is told through Anna’s POV. Anna’s storyline details her horrific journey to the United States border and her horrible experiences in foster care/detention. I do want to note that her storyline is also in 2nd person. She is talking to her dead sister through her doll, and it is freaking heartbreaking.
Several secondary storylines flow throughout the book. The main secondary storyline was about Anna’s mother and where she could be. I was heartbroken by the way it ended. I did expect it to end the way it did, but at the same time, I was hoping it wouldn’t.
The characters in The Wind Knows My Name was well-written and well-fleshed out. Even the secondary characters had depth to them. The characters, along with the storyline, made this book.
When I realized that this book would take place during the pandemic (and I realized it fairly early in the book), I did almost DNF it. I did not want to read about the pandemic because I lived it. But the pandemic took a backseat to Anna’s story. But Anna’s storyline was so compelling that I chose to overlook that. I am glad that I did because this book was fantastic.
Immigration was a massive point in this book. The author didn’t sugarcoat what the border was like in 2019/2020 or how overwhelmed the agents were. Instead, she gave a good look into the chaos. And when Covid hit, the chaos just grew. There were some references to the political atmosphere during that time, and you know what? I agreed with what the author wrote. I never agreed with separating families; the author’s details were chilling when she wrote about that.
I liked Samuel, but he did not have it easy in life. I thought his being raised by Quakers was fascinating and wished that more detail had gone into his life with them. His traumatic past was why he was so attracted to Nadine and kept returning to her. Their relationship was exciting and different. The author could have written a whole book could have been written about that alone. Samuel, later on in life, was a better person than when he was younger. He was willing to do whatever it took to help Anna overcome her traumatic past. He was a gem, and I enjoyed his character.
I only got to know Leticia once the author explored her background. It was then that I started to understand her. She was like Anna in a way. She had lost her entire family in a rebel attack that wiped out her village, and she crossed the border illegally (with her father). Her reaction to being Anna’s only relative in America was spot on. But she had a big heart and couldn’t let that little girl stay in foster care. She was one of my favorite people in this book.
I loved Anna and was so mad for her throughout the book. Time and time again, she was let down by the adults in her life. I wanted to reach through the book, hug her, and tell her it would be alright. By the time she arrived at Leticia and Samuel’s house, she wasn’t the same girl she was at the beginning of the book. But, her time with Leticia and Samuel did heal her. She acted like a normal child instead of the withdrawn fearful child she was when she arrived.
The end of The Wind Knows My Name didn’t shock me. I figured it would end the way it did. I did like that Anna got her HEA, though. She deserved it after everything she had been through.
I recommend The Wind Knows My Name to anyone over 21. There is language, violence, and mild sexual situations. Also, see my trigger warning list.
Many thanks to Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Ballantine Books, NetGalley, and Isabel Allende for allowing me to read and review The Wind Knows My Name. All opinions stated in this review are mine.
If you enjoyed reading this review of The Wind Knows My Name, then you will enjoy reading these books: