Fairytale by Danielle Steel

Fairytale: A Novel by [Danielle Steel]

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Date of publication: October 10th 2017

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance, Drama

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Alibris | IndieBound | Indigo |Audible | Walmart eBook

Format Read In: eBook

Where Did I Get Fairytale: Library via Overdrive

Trigger Warning: Mild violence, attempted sexual assault, death of a parent, grief, cancer

Goodreads Synopsis:

Camille Lammenais has grown up in the beauty of the Napa Valley, surrounded by acres of her family’s vineyards. Her parents, Christophe and Joy, still deeply in love after two decades of marriage, have built a renowned winery and château modeled after Christophe’s ancient family estate in his native Bordeaux. Camille has had a perfect childhood, safe in her parents’ love. After graduating from Stanford, she returns to help manage Château Joy, her lifetime goal. But their fairytale ends suddenly with her mother’s death from cancer.

Six months after losing his wife, the devastated Christophe is easy prey for a mysterious, charming Frenchwoman visiting the valley. The Countess de Pantin is the essence of Parisian seductiveness and sophistication. Within weeks they are a clandestine couple, making love like teenagers, glowing with their secret. Camille, still grieving for her mother, is shocked by the news that her father intends to remarry. Then she begins to see past the alluring looks, designer clothes, and elegant manners of the countess, while her innocent father is trapped in her web.

When tragedy strikes again, Camille is at her stepmother’s mercy, and that of the two evil stepbrothers who appear. Camille needs to fight—first for her legacy, and then for her very life. But as she grapples with the plots being carried out against her, the countess’s elderly, kind, clever mother becomes her only ally, and a childhood friend emerges as a prince worthy of any fairytale.


First Impressions:

When I was browsing my library (virtually, of course) and saw that Fairytale was available for takeout, I was excited. My grandmother introduced me to Danielle Steel when I was a tween. She had a vast collection of her early works and was more than happy to share them with me. So, I had to take this book out and read it.

I was a little taken aback by the lack of dialogue in the first half of the book. While it was beautifully written, I wanted to see some verbal interactions between Camille, Christophe, and Joy.

The characters came across as flat. I couldn’t connect to Joy, Christophe, or Camille. That frustrated me because I wanted to connect but couldn’t.

Going into the middle of the book, I got bored and put the book down for 2-3 days. I debated on continuing. I decided since I had already read 1/2 the book, then I will continue reading it.


Mid-Book Impressions:

The middle of the books starts with Christophe meeting Maxine. I knew what she was the minute she came into the picture. A gold digger and I knew her true colors would come out as soon as they got married.

They did, oh boy, did they. Maxine dropped her act with Camille as soon as she said her vows. She was trying to separate and alienate Christophe from Camille, and it almost worked.

I will say that the book did get better when Maxine brought her mother over from France. I loved her!! She brought much-needed laughter and light to an otherwise depressing part of the book.

I wish that Camille had more of a backbone. She let her stepbrothers, Maxine and Cesar, run rampant all over her. There were parts of the book where I was shaking my head in disbelief. Of course, it only amped up after Christophe died and left Camille his sole heir.

There was a lag in the middle of the book, and it almost derailed it. I also found that there was a lot of unnecessary repeating of events. I wouldn’t say I liked that there was an emphasis on how evil and bad Maxine’s sons were. It kept being driven home. After the 4th or 5th time, I was like, “Stop; I get it. They’re evil jerks.


End of Book Impressions:

The last half of Fairytale was challenging for me to finish. I will admit, I skimmed over some parts. I couldn’t wrap my head around a woman being pushed around the way Camille was. I mean, she was forced out of her house and into a freaking horse barn, and she allowed it!!!! I wanted to reach through the book, shake her, and tell her to be assertive. Uggh.

The Cinderella angle of the book came into play during the last half of the book. I was looking forward to seeing how that played out. I was sorely disappointed. There were 3-4 (maybe a couple of more) chapters with Camille in the Cinderella role. Such a disappointment!!

The end of Fairytale was predictable and boring. The minute that Camille decided to go to the Harvest Ball, I figured something would happen. I also figured who was involved. But I didn’t figure the surprise twist. That took me by surprise because it came out of nowhere.


My Overall Thoughts on Fairytale:

While I am a fan of Danielle Steel, I was not too fond of this book. The book seemed hastily written with a lot of repeating of unnecessary scenes/dialogue. The characters came across as flat and two-dimensional. They got into predictable situations that had predictable outcomes. The Cinderella angle of the book was short and kept to only a few chapters.

I would recommend that no one under the age of 21 read this book. There is sex but it isn’t graphic. There is an attempted sexual assault (not graphic) and talk of elder abuse.

In Her Shadow by Kristin Miller

In Her Shadow: A Novel by [Miller, Kristin]

3.5 Stars

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Ballantine Books

Date of publication: April 21st, 2020

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Women’s Fiction

Where you can find In Her Shadow: Barnes and Noble | Amazon | BookBub

Book Synopsis:

A pregnant young woman becomes obsessed with the disappearance of her lover’s wife–only to discover that she may be headed for the same fate–from New York Times bestselling author Kristin Miller.

Once his secretary, Colleen is now pregnant with Michael’s baby. When he brings her to his opulent estate, Ravenwood, she is abruptly thrust into a life of luxury she’s never known. But Colleen finds the immense house suffused with the memory of Michael’s beautiful wife, Joanna, who left months ago and who haunts her imagination. It quickly becomes apparent that there is little room for a new mistress of this house: The staff greets her with hostility, and there are entire wings and corridors from which she is prohibited to enter.

Then bones are unearthed in the grove across the street.

When Michael falls under the suspicion of the detectives investigating the case, the soon-to-be mother of his child finds herself hurled deeper into her boyfriend’s dark past–a past that threatens to upend all her dreams. But the terrifying secrets lurking in the shadows of Ravenwood pale in comparison to the drastic measures Colleen will take to stake a claim to her new life.

Inspired by Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, In Her Shadow is the chilling story of one woman’s desperate desire to be loved and the ghosts that get in her way–but only if she lets them.


First Line:

“Help.”

In Her Shadow by Kristin Miller

My Review:

When I read the blurb for In Her Shadow, I was intrigued. Seeing the comparisons to Rebecca caught my interest right away. The blurb deepened my interest in the book. It sounded perfect for me. Then I read it. While I liked some parts of the book, there were other parts that I didn’t like. Those parts did factor in my rating of the review.

In Her Shadow had a fast plotline, which I liked. The book takes place within a week of Colleen moving into Michael’s house, Ravenwood. There were no dropped characters and, more importantly, no dropped storylines. The flow of the book was ok. Because the book had several different POV’s (always in 3rd person), the flow did get interrupted. I felt that if the author kept to Colleen, Michael, and maybe Joanna’s POV, the book would have had a better flow to it. I did not need to read about the detective, Michael’s friends, the cook, or the maid’s POV.

I liked, and felt terrible, for Colleen during the first half of In Her Shadow. She was thrust into a world that she did not know about. She had to deal with a staff that treated her like she was invisible. Adding to that, she was pregnant, and it was high risk. I didn’t blame her for feeling that she was overshadowed in the first days there. I also didn’t blame her for becoming obsessed with Joanna and her legacy. But, saying that, I wasn’t expecting what she found out.

I didn’t like Michael. From the beginning, he came across as skeevy. I had my doubts about him from the start. I mean, who moves on less than a month after his wife disappears? And then gets his new girlfriend pregnant? That was a huge WTF for several people in the book and me. But, as skeevy as he was, I didn’t quite believe that he killed Joanna. He was a coward and a bit of a wuss, but he didn’t spark that “I’m a killer” vibe to me.

The secondary characters most definitely made the book. From the police detective to Joanna’s best frenemy to Michael’s best friend, those characters breathed life into the book when it needed it.

The mystery angle of the book (Joanna’s disappearance) was well written, but it held no mystery for me. I was able to guess what happened to her before the author got there. I also guessed certain specific details that occurred before they happened (if that makes sense).

The thriller angle of the book was very well written. The author was able to keep me on my toes during those scenes.

The end of In Her Shadow was intense. Considering the prologue, I was expecting the book to end a certain way. I was not expecting what happened to happen. But, as I mentioned in the above paragraph, there was a huge plot twist that took me by surprise. I was not expecting what was revealed. I also was not expecting the final chapter or the countdown. Does that mean another book is in the works?


I would give In Her Shadow an Adult rating. There is sex. There is language. There is violence. I would recommend that no one under the age of 21 read this book.

I would reread In Her Shadow. I would recommend it to family and friends.

**I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book**

Truths I Never Told You by Kelly Rimmer

Truths I Never Told You: A Novel by [Rimmer, Kelly]

5 Stars

Publisher: Harlequin – Graydon House Books (US & Graydon), Graydon House

Date of Publication: April 14th, 2020

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Where you can find Truths I Never Told You: Barnes and Noble | Amazon | BookBub

Book Synopsis:

From the bestselling author of The Things We Cannot Say comes a poignant novel about the fault in memories and the lies that can bond a family together—or tear it apart.

With her father recently moved to a care facility for his worsening dementia, Beth Walsh volunteers to clear out the family home and is surprised to discover the door to her childhood playroom padlocked. She’s even more shocked at what’s behind it—a hoarder’s mess of her father’s paintings, mounds of discarded papers and miscellaneous junk in the otherwise fastidiously tidy house.

As she picks through the clutter, she finds a loose journal entry in what appears to be her late mother’s handwriting. Beth and her siblings grew up believing their mother died in a car accident when they were little more than toddlers, but this note suggests something much darker. Beth soon pieces together a disturbing portrait of a woman suffering from postpartum depression and a husband who bears little resemblance to the loving father Beth and her siblings know. With a newborn of her own and struggling with motherhood, Beth finds there may be more tying her and her mother together than she ever suspected.

Exploring the expectations society places on women of every generation, Kelly Rimmer explores the profound struggles two women unwittingly share across the decades set within an engrossing family mystery that may unravel everything they believed to be true.


First Line:

I am alone in a crowded family these days, and that’s the worst feeling I’ve ever experienced.

Truths I Never Told You by Kelly Rimmer

My Review:

I am not going to lie. Truths I Never Told You is a book that you need to read with a box of Kleenex nearby. That was something I wish I knew before I started reading it.

Truths I Never Told You is split into three povs. Grace, Beth, and Maryanne. Grace’s POV was hard to read. Her mental anguish was clear to see. It hurt me to see her not able to take care of her children or herself. When she did try to get help, she was told to suck it up. The decision she made in the middle of the book was a necessary one. Beth’s POV was just as hard to read as Grace’s was. Her anguish at not connecting with Noah and having to put her father in hospice was palpable. Maryanne, on the other hand, was this vibrant, over the top woman who breathed new light into the book. Her POV helped highlight how little rights women had back in the ’50s and ’60s. It also showed that a mother isn’t necessarily the one who birthed you.

The author did a fantastic job of highlighting what women’s rights were like back in the ’50s and ’60s. I had no issue imagining a woman with severe postpartum depression being forced into electroshock therapy or, as Grace was told, to snap out of it. I was horrified at how little help she had. I understood why Grace did in the middle of the book and why she contacted Maryanne to help her.

Beth’s experiences in the late 1990s were much better than Grace’s. But the stigma of having a mental illness hung over her head kept her from seeking help. Unfortunately, that still is the case these days. But, I was glad to see that Beth had a support system. She had siblings, a husband, and a mother in law who cared about her mental health.

Maryanne was the real MVP in this book. She didn’t get her own POV until the last half of the book. The author did a fantastic job of showing how she did what she thought was right and the fallout of that. Her scenes with Beth at the end of the book was poignant and heartbreaking.

The mystery angle of the story was well written. It was written around Beth’s father’s dementia and illness. That meant that I had a kernel of doubt about what happened until Beth unearthed the trunk. That scene blew it out of the book for me. The ring, the death certificate, the picture were all explained. And that meant even more tears on my end.

The end of Truths I Never Told You was well written. The author brought all the storylines (Beth, Grace, and Maryanne) together. I loved seeing everyone and how they healed from Patrick’s death and what was uncovered in Beth’s investigation.


I would give Truths I Never Told You an Adult rating. There is no sex. There is language. There is violence. I would recommend that no one under the age of 21 read this book.

I would reread Truths I Never Told You. I would recommend it to family and friends.

**I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book**

A Hundred Suns by Karin Tanabe

A Hundred Suns by [Tanabe, Karin]

4 Stars

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Publication Date: April 7th, 2020

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Historical Fiction

Where you can find A Hundred Suns: Barnes and Noble | Amazon | BookBub

Book Synopsis:

An evocative historical novel set in 1930’s Indochine, about the American wife of a Michelin heir who journeys to the French colony in the name of family fortune, and the glamorous, tumultuous world she finds herself in—and the truth she may be running from.

On a humid afternoon in 1933, American Jessie Lesage steps off a boat from Paris and onto the shores of Vietnam. Accompanying her French husband Victor, an heir to the Michelin rubber fortune, she’s certain that their new life is full of promise, for while the rest of the world is sinking into economic depression, Indochine is gold for the Michelins. Jessie knows that their vast plantations near Saigon are the key to the family’s prosperity, and while they have been marred in scandal, she needs them to succeed for her husband’s sake—and to ensure that her trail of secrets stays hidden in the past.

Jessie dives into the glamorous colonial world, where money is king and morals are brushed aside, and meets Marcelle de Fabry, a spellbinding French woman with a moneyed Indochinese lover, the silk tycoon Khoi Nguyen. Descending on Jessie’s world like a hurricane, Marcelle proves to be an exuberant guide to ex-pat life. But hidden beneath her vivacious exterior is a fierce desire to put the colony back in the hands of its people, starting with the Michelin plantations, fueled by a terrible wrong committed against her and Khoi’s loved ones in Paris.

Yet it doesn’t take long for the sun-drenched days and champagne-soaked nights to catch up with Jessie. With an increasingly fractured mind, her affection for Indochine falters. And as a fiery political struggle builds around her, Jessie begins to wonder what’s real in a friendship that she suspects may be nothing but a house of cards.

Motivated by love, driven by ambition, and seeking self-preservation at all costs, Jessie and Marcelle each toe the line between friend and foe, ethics and excess. Cast against the stylish backdrop of 1930s Indochine, in a time and place defined by contrasts and convictions, A Hundred Suns is historical fiction at its lush, suspenseful best.


First Line:

The house of a hundred suns.

A Hundred Suns by Karin Tanabe

My Review:

When I saw that A Hundred Suns was based in 1930’s French-occupied Vietnam, I was intrigued. I haven’t read a book about that period that A Hundred Suns took place in. I have also been intrigued by Vietnam. To my recollection, I haven’t read any books that take place in Vietnam. That was a huge reason why I decided to read the book.

A Hundred Suns did start slowly and stayed slow for the first 60% of the book. I got that the author had to lay Marcelle and Jessie’s backstories, but it seemed a bit dragged out. Once the scene at the train station happened, though, the book sped up. The last 40% of the book flew by. I wish that the first part of it did.

There was a small amount of lag in the events before Jessie’s unfortunate incident at the train station. It only lasted about a chapter, and the author was able to get the book back on track. Other than that small lag, the writing flowed beautifully, even with two separate POVs (Jessie and Marcelle). The author was able to switch back and forth between their characters seamlessly. I loved it!!

I liked Jessie. She did come across as conniving at the beginning of the book. I mean, she convinced her husband to move to Vietnam. But, as I got to know her character, I could see how strong she was. Her strength was apparent in the last half of the book.

Marcelle was my favorite in the book. She was deliciously devious and pulled off her plan perfectly. Even when Khoi was having issues with what was going on, Marcelle didn’t. She was willing to do anything to get revenge. And oh boy, did she ever. I did feel bad for her, though. Blinded by her hatred, she let it overcome her. She also failed to see that Jessie had nothing to do with what was going on in the plantations. To her, Jessie was the more available of the two options.

I didn’t like Khoi or Victor. Khoi was an enabler. He talked a good game, but when push came to shove, he wasn’t behind Marcelle when she wanted to go to the next step. He kept switching back and forth, and it drove me batty. I didn’t like Victor because he knew what was going on at the plantations, and he contributed to it!!

I thought that the use of Vietnamese (or Indochinese) and French language added an extra oomph to the plotline. As much as I liked it, I do wish that there was a glossary to explain specific terms. I ended up having to use Google Translate a lot to understand so of the words.

I do want to give a small warning. There is drug use (opium smoking) detailed in the book. I did like that the author chose to show how casual people were about smoking opium back then. But there might be people who are triggered by it. There is also a scene from when Jessie visits one of the Michelin plantations, where she witnesses pretty gruesome torture. I like to think that I am immune to stuff like that, and that made me pause while reading.

The end of A Hundred Suns was terrific. As I said, the book took off in that last 40% of the book. I am not going to get into it, but I will say that Marcelle and Khoi got what they deserved.


I would give A Hundred Suns an Adult rating. There is sex. There is mild language. There is mild violence. I would recommend that no one under the age of 21 read this book.

I would reread A Hundred Suns. I would recommend it to family and friends.

**I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book**

Been there, Married That by Gigi Levangie

Been There, Married That: A Novel by [Levangie, Gigi]

2 Stars

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Date of publication: February 11th, 2019

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Where you can find Been There, Married That: Barnes and Noble | Amazon | Bookbub

Book Synopsis:

A hilarious new novel full of Hollywood glitz, glamour, and scandal.

When he changes the locks, she changes the rules.

Agnes Murphy Nash is the perfect Hollywood wife – she has the right friends, the right clothes, and even a side career of her own as a writer. Her husband Trevor is a bigshot producer, and from the outside it looks like they’re living a picture-perfect celebrity life, complete with tennis tournaments and lavish parties.

But the job description of a Hollywood wife doesn’t cover divorce, which is the way Agnes’ life is headed after she comes home one day to find her credit cards cancelled and the security passwords to get into her enormous LA home changed. Oh, and there’s a guy there whose job it is to tase her if she tries to enter…which she does. Needless to say, Agnes’ husband is dead set on making sure she loses big time, but Agnes isn’t the type to just lie down and take it. In a world of fremenies and hot nannies, personal psychics and “skinny” jello shots, Agnes may be losing her husband, but could that mean getting her own life back?

Been There, Married That is a drop-dead hilarious battle of wills that will make you laugh out loud, cringe, and keep turning the pages to see what crazy disaster will happen to Agnes next…and how she’ll rise from the ashes.


First Line:

“A toast!”

Been There, Married That by Gigi Levangie

My Review:

I like contemporary women’s fiction as much as the next person. But, it seems like 90% of women’s fiction that I read ends up being rubbish. So, I wasn’t exactly thrilled when I got the email for Been There, Married That. I debated on deleting the email and pretending I didn’t see it. After reading the book, I wish I did.

The plotline for Been There, Married that was a mess. I do not have a problem following plotlines, but this one tried my patience. There was a significant amount of lag in the book. It happened right when Agnes had her mini-breakdown. The book never recovered. There were also dropped storylines, which is another thing I didn’t like. Don’t introduce a storyline and not complete it. Uggh!!

I found all of the characters (the teenagers included) to be unrelatable. I know that they are supposed to be a parody of what people think Hollywood wife is like, but man, it left a bad taste in my mouth. There were off-colored jokes and racial stereotypes (the Latina housekeeper). Let’s not forget that there were jokes about rehab. There were some funny parts of the book (Agnes being called A-Nus by Petra was one), but overall, I didn’t care for the characters.

The divorce storyline, unfortunately, was true to life. The lengths that Trevor went through to get dirt on Agnes and her sister, I believed. The fact that Penelope was caught in the middle, I believed also. I also believed that money buys things, and in this case, it was a frame-up of Agnes’s sister. Of course, the end of that plotline was as confusing as the rest of the book, but it was the most relatable thing in the book.

The end of the book was a confusing mess. I had to read the last chapters a few times before I understood what happened. I did NOT enjoy that.


I would give Been There, Married That an Adult rating. There are sexual situations. There is language. There is violence. I would recommend that no one under the age of 21 read this book.

I would not reread Been There, Married That. I would not recommend it to family and friends.

**I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book**

Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain

Big Lies in a Small Town: A Novel by [Chamberlain, Diane]

4 Stars

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Date of publication: January 14th, 2020

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Where you can find Big Lies in a Small Town: Barnes and Noble | Amazon | BookBub

Book Synopsis:

North Carolina, 2018: Morgan Christopher’s life has been derailed. Taking the fall for a crime she did not commit, she finds herself serving a three-year stint in the North Carolina Women’s Correctional Center. Her dream of a career in art is put on hold—until a mysterious visitor makes her an offer that will see her released immediately. Her assignment: restore an old post office mural in a sleepy southern town. Morgan knows nothing about art restoration, but desperate to leave prison, she accepts. What she finds under the layers of grime is a painting that tells the story of madness, violence, and a conspiracy of small town secrets.

North Carolina, 1940: Anna Dale, an artist from New Jersey, wins a national contest to paint a mural for the post office in Edenton, North Carolina. Alone in the world and desperate for work, she accepts. But what she doesn’t expect is to find herself immersed in a town where prejudices run deep, where people are hiding secrets behind closed doors, and where the price of being different might just end in murder.

What happened to Anna Dale? Are the clues hidden in the decrepit mural? Can Morgan overcome her own demons to discover what exists beneath the layers of lies?


First Line:

The children knew it was finally spring, so although the air still held the nip of winter and the grass and weeds crunched beneath their feet, they ran through the fields and woods, yipping with the anticipation of warmer weather.

Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain

My Review:

When I was approached to review Big Lies in a Small Town, I was a little hesitant to read it. I knew from reading the blurb that this was going to be a dual plotline book, which I am not a fan of. I also knew, from reading the book, that this was going to be an emotional read. I have to be in a certain mood to read a book that I knew was going to make me cry. I ended up accepting the review because I was curious. I wanted to know how the mural and Morgan were tied together.

Big Lies in a Small Town had two fast moving plotlines. I didn’t have an issue with following either plotline. What I liked, and what made the book enjoyable for me to read, was that the flow of the book wasn’t disturbed when going from 1940 and 2018. The author clearly marked those chapters with the names of Morgan or Anna at the beginning.

I had a hard time connecting with Morgan. Her attitude at the beginning wasn’t the best. But as the author got into her backstory, I understood why she acted that way. By the end of the book, I loved her. She was committed 100% to finding out what happened to Anna and to refinishing the mural. I liked that she was able to keep her head on straight during certain situations (the bar fight was one) and that she was able to admit that she had major issues. Her character grew so much during this book and it was wonderful to read.

I didn’t feel the same way about Anna. I liked Anna right from the beginning. She was determined to paint that mural the way she wanted it, not the way the influential men wanted it. I loved that she didn’t care if her friendship with Jesse was causing issues with the “good folk” in town. I also loved that she didn’t back down when Marvin Drapple’s wife and her friends were douchenozzles.

I do want to throw in a trigger warning. There is a somewhat graphic rape scene that ends with the death of the rapist. To be honest, it took me by surprise. I was not expecting it. I wasn’t expecting the aftermath either. What I was expecting was the blatant racism shown when it was in the 1940’s. It was the South. There were derogatory names used. There was the threat of violence (lynching was discussed). So, a warning.

There are a couple of twists in the plotline that took me by surprise. The first one involved Morgan and her release from jail. The other, well, it happened at the end of the book. I should have seen it coming but I didn’t. So, I was taken by surprise.

There was a romance angle to the book. I’m not sure if I like it or not. The only reason being what was happening in the other plotline. Both started about that time.

I learned more about art restoration than I ever wanted to know. I will admit, it was fascinating to read about how to do it. I never thought that much work went into restoring old paintings. But then again, until this book, I never had to think about that.

The end of Big Lies in a Small Town was bittersweet. The 2nd plot twist happened towards the very end of the book. Like I said above, I was taken by surprise. I shouldn’t have been. The very end of the book was a bit frustrating. Only because it ended and I wanted to see that meeting!!


I would give Big Lies in a Small Town an Adult rating. There is no sex (but an explicit rape scene). There is language. There is violence. I would recommend that no one under the age of 21 read this book.

I would reread Big Lies in a Small Town. I would recommend it to family and friends.

**I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book**

Seven Letters by J.P. Monninger

Seven Letters

3.5 Stars

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, St. Martin’s Griffin

Date of publication: October 8th, 2019

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Where you can find Seven Letters: Barnes and Noble | Amazon | BookBub

Book Synopsis:

J. P. Monninger, author of the international bestseller The Map That Leads to You, the novel Nicholas Sparks called “romantic and unforgettable”, tells a poignant love story of the ways the world divides two souls—and the way that love brings them together.

Kate Moreton is in Ireland on sabbatical from her teaching position at Dartmouth College when she meets Ozzie Ferriter, a fisherman and a veteran of the American war in Afghanistan. The Ferriter family history dates back centuries on the remote Blasket Islands, and Ozzie – a dual citizen of Ireland and the United States – has retreated to the one place that might offer him peace from a war he cannot seem to leave behind.

Beside the sea, with Ireland’s beauty as a backdrop, the two fall deeply in love and attempt to live on an island of their own making, away from the pressures of the outside world. Ireland writes its own love stories, the legends claim, and the limits of Kate and Ozzie’s love and faith in each other will be tested. When his demons lead Ozzie to become reckless with his life—and Kate’s—she flees for America rather than watch the man she loves self-destruct. But soon a letter arrives informing Kate that her heroic husband has been lost at sea, and Kate must decide whether it is an act of love to follow him or an act of mercy to forget.


First Line:

The Irish tell a story of a man who fell in love with a fairy woman and went with her to live on an island lost to time and trouble.

Seven Letters by J.P. Monninger

My Review:

I don’t know why I kept putting this book off!!! Well, I understand why. Life got in the way, and it wasn’t at the top of my priority list, which happens to the best of us. So, when I realized that I missed the publication date (huge oops!!), I took Seven Letters off of the backburner and read it. It was a good read, and I really should have read it sooner.

Seven Letters went between having a fast-paced plotline, and a medium paced one. That did aggravate me while reading. It provoked me because I like my books to have one speed while reading. If I have to adjust my reading speed continuously, then it takes away from my experience. I also didn’t like that several secondary storylines were either ended abruptly or left hanging.

I liked Kate, but she annoyed me during the book. The choices she made were a huge source of irritation for me. Take her relationship with Ozzie, for instance. She knew he had issues (drinking, possible PTSD), and she jetted once the honeymoon phase was over. But, she did change. Her character matured, and she realized that her choices weren’t the right ones. By the end of the book, she was a different woman, and I liked it.

I felt terrible for Ozzie. But at the same time, I wanted to shake him and say, “Dude, get help!!”. He never told Kate about his time in the service (in his defense, though, she never asked). He never told her about his demons from that time. I do think that he was the better person when he let her go. He knew that his demons were too strong, and he couldn’t live with himself. He needed that time apart to heal.

The romance angle of the book got me. Kate and Ozzie burned fast and bright in the beginning. It was almost too quick and bright, and I knew that something was going to happen. By the second half of the book, they were floundering, and I did wonder if they would ever get past everything. But the end of the book, oh my. Talk about deep romance there. I was in tears from the minute Kate landed in Ireland to the very end.

The end of the book was hard to read. It got almost too much for me to read. I did guess at some of the ending details. The last letter, though, made my heart sing (and I did shed a few tears).


I would give Seven Letters an Adult rating. There is sex. There is language. There is violence. I would recommend that no one under the age of 21 read this book.

I would reread Seven Letters. I would recommend it to family and friends.

**I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book**

Cilka’s Journey (The Tattooist of Auschwitz: Book 2) by Heather Morris

Cilka's Journey: A Novel (Tattooist of Auschwitz Book 2) by [Morris, Heather]

4 Stars

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Date of publication: October 1st, 2019

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Historical Fiction

Series: The Tattooist of Auschwitz

The Tattooist of Auschwitz—Book 1

Cilka’s Journey—Book 2

Where you can find Cilka’s Journey: Barnes and Noble | Amazon | BookBub

Book Synopsis:

From the author of the multi-million copy bestseller, The Tattooist of Auschwitz, comes the new novel based on an incredible true story of love and resilience.

Her beauty saved her life – and condemned her.

Cilka is just sixteen years old when she is taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp, in 1942. The Commandant at Birkenau, Schwarzhuber, notices her long beautiful hair, and forces her separation from the other women prisoners. Cilka learns quickly that power, even unwillingly given, equals survival.

After liberation, Cilka is charged as a collaborator for sleeping with the enemy and sent to Siberia. But what choice did she have? And where did the lines of morality lie for Cilka, who was sent to Auschwitz when still a child?

In a Siberian prison camp, Cilka faces challenges both new and horribly familiar, including the unwanted attention of the guards. But when she makes an impression on a woman doctor, Cilka is taken under her wing. Cilka begins to tend to the ill in the camp, struggling to care for them under brutal conditions.

Cilka finds endless resources within herself as she daily confronts death and faces terror. And when she nurses a man called Ivan, Cilka finds that despite everything that has happened to her, there is room in her heart for love. 


First Line:

Cilka stares at the soldier standing in front of her, part of the army that has entered the camp.

Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris

My Review:

I usually do not read books that are based on real events. I have found that my knowledge of the event overshadowed the book. I couldn’t help but compare what happened to what was going on in the book. I would almost always end up disappointed in the book. Then I read The Tattooist of Auschwitz, which is the first book in this series. I was taken away by Lale’s story. Cilka was introduced in this book. She was a mysterious and enigmatic character. I wondered what happened to her at the end of the book. What I read in Cilka’s Journey broke my heart.

Cilka was a child when she caught the attention of The Commandant. Which sickened me in the first book. In this book, I was still sickened. What he did to Cilka in those years was heartbreaking. But, it was what happened after Auschwitz was released that broke my heart.

Cilka was found to be a Nazi collaborator because the Russian Army found out that she was sleeping with The Commandant. Instead of earning her freedom, she was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in Siberia. I was outraged when I read that. She was traumatized at a young age, forced to watch friends and family die/killed, and then, instead of being able to heal, she was retraumatized on top of that.

I know that I am making a big deal about Cilka’s age in this book. She was 16 when she was sent to Auschwitz. She was around 20 when she was sent to Siberia. She suffered trauma after trauma in Auschwitz. So, yes, I was shocked when the Russian Army sent her to Siberia. She was forced to do what she had to survive, which mean becoming a camp wife of a soldier. I can’t tell you how that affected me. The abuse shook me. She suffered in both places. There were points where I wanted to hug her, take her away, and get her therapy.

The prison camp in Siberia was as bad as Auschwitz. But, and stress this, the prisoners could leave, if they survived to the end of the sentences. It was an awful place to live. Disease and violence were rampant. To my knowledge, I don’t think that I have read a book that takes place in one. I have heard of them and have seen them mentioned in books.

Cilka’s Journey was not an easy read. There were times I had to put the book down and walk away because I was that disturbed by it. The emotional impact that it had on me lasted days after I read it.

The end of Cilka’s Journey was informative. The author included a note about Cilka and her life after the prison camp. While the characters portrayed in the prison camp were fictional, the camp itself wasn’t. The author explained what happened to it and when it closed down.


I would give Cilka’s Journey an Adult rating. There is sex. There is mild language. There is graphic violence. I would recommend that no one under the age of 21 read this book.

I would reread Cilka’s Journey. I would recommend it to family and friends.

**I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book**

An Unorthodox Match by Naomi Ragen

An Unorthodox Match: A Novel by [Ragen, Naomi]

4 Stars

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Date of publication: September 24th, 2019

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Religion

Where you can find An Unorthodox Match: Barnes and Noble | Amazon | BookBub

Book Synopsis:

California girl Lola has her life all set up: business degree, handsome fiancé, fast track career, when suddenly, without warning, everything tragically implodes. After years fruitlessly searching for love, marriage, and children, she decides to take the radical step of seeking spirituality and meaning far outside the parameters of modern life in the insular, ultraorthodox enclave of Boro Park, Brooklyn. There, fate brings her to the dysfunctional home of newly-widowed Jacob, a devout Torah scholar, whose life is also in turmoil, and whose small children are aching for the kindness of a womanly touch.

While her mother direly predicts she is ruining her life, enslaving herself to a community that is a misogynistic religious cult, Lola’s heart tells her something far more complicated. But it is the shocking and unexpected messages of her new community itself which will finally force her into a deeper understanding of the real choices she now faces and which will ultimately decide her fate.

An Unorthodox March is a powerful and moving novel of faith, love, and acceptance, from Naomi Ragen, the international bestselling author of The Devil in Jerusalem.


First Line:

Leah Howard sat there facing Rabbi Weintraub’s empty chair, rehearsing what she was going to say to him.

An Unorthodox match by Naomi Ragen

My Review

When I got the invite to review An Unorthodox Match, I almost didn’t accept it. I do not read books that are straight, religious books, even those that are masked as women’s fiction. But the blurb caught my attention, and I decided to read An Unorthodox Match.

Having grown up in a community that was Jewish, I assumed that I knew a lot about the religion. I always knew that there was an Ultraorthodox part of the religion but knew nothing about it. Then I read An Unorthodox Match, and my mind was blown. There was so much that I didn’t know and so much that took me by surprise. It was learning about the Ultraorthodox religion that made this book for me.

I liked Lola/Leah. But I do wish that her backstory had been told better. I got a little irritated because her backstory was broken up. The author did say at the beginning of the book that Lola/Leah had been through a lot as a child and an adult. But after that, it was fragmented and drove me nuts. It wasn’t until that important scene with Yaakov at the end of the book that everything was put together in chronological order. I also thought that Lola/Leah was too lenient with Shaindele after what that twit put her through. But I will get to that in a little bit.

I liked Yaakov and felt awful for him. I guessed what had happened to his first wife early in the book. His grief and guilt came off the page. I wanted to hug him and tell him it wasn’t his fault. I liked that the author made him human. He had three children at home who he needed to take care or and provide for. He did what he had to, which included giving up his studies, to care for them. That included going to someone to help find a wife (which is done in this religion).

I do have to mention Shaindele, Yaakov’s oldest daughter because she played a massive part in Lola/Leah and Yaakov’s relationship. I didn’t like her. I found her behavior disrespectful throughout the book. I did feel bad for her. Losing her mother the way that she did and not being told the truth about how/why she died was traumatic. But it did not excuse how she treated the younger children or Lola/Leah. Which is why I was surprised that Lola/Leah talked Yaakov out of doing what he wanted to do.

I did find how hard it was for Lola/Leah to be accepted into the enclave fascinating. I had no idea that it was so hard for converts to be accepted into the Ultraorthodox enclaves. I had no clue that even if they did marry, that their children would never be accepted. The prejudices were outlined perfectly in this book. There was a point where I thought Lola/Leah was fighting a losing battle.

The romance angle of the book wasn’t up and in your face. Lola/Leah and Yaakov had to overcome a lot even to meet. But once they met, I could see the attraction. What I liked also is that there was zero sex. No kissing. Per the religion, Yaakov couldn’t even touch Lola/Leah. So kissing her was out of the question. I loved watching their romance develop without that. It was refreshing.

The end of An Unorthodox Match pulled at my heartstrings. It was a typical HEA that made me tear up. What I appreciated was that the author included a glossary with all the Jewish and Yiddish terms that were used in the book. I was getting a bit frustrated and ended up googling 90% of those terms. I wish I had known about it earlier. It would have saved me a whole lot of frustration.


I would give An Unorthodox Match an Adult rating. There is sex. There is mild language. There is violence. I would recommend that no one under the age of 21 read this book.

I would reread An Unorthodox Match.  I would recommend it to family and friends.

**I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book**

The Year I Left by Christine Brae

The Year I Left by [Brae, Christine]

3 Stars

Publisher: Vesuvian Books

Date of publication: August 20th, 2019

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Where you can find The Year I Left: Amazon | BookBub

Book Synopsis:

Carin Frost doesn’t understand what’s happening to her. A confident businesswoman, wife, and mother, she begins to resent everything about her life. Nothing makes sense. Nothing makes her feel. Maybe it’s the recent loss of her mother in a tragic accident. Or maybe she’s just losing her mind. 

Enter Matias Torres. As their new business partnership thrives, so does their friendship—and his interest in her. Carin is determined to keep her distance, until a work assignment sends them to Southeast Asia where a storm is brewing on the island. In the midst of the chaos, Matias asks her to do something unimaginable, exhilarating, BOLD. Carin knows the consequences could be dire, but it may be the only way to save herself. 

An honest look at love and marriage and the frailties of the human heart, this is a story of a woman’s loss of self and purpose and the journey she takes to find her way back.


First Line

Sometime in the late summer when the air began to tingle and the leaves started to fall, I opened my eyes one morning and my view of the world changed.

The Year I Left by Christine Brae

When I read the blurb for The Year I Left, I was intrigued. A woman suffering from the loss of her mother meets a younger man who sweeps her off her feet. That meeting sets off a series of events that turn her world upside down. That made me go “Hrmmm” and decide to read the book.

I was disappointed by The Year I Left. The book did deliver on what the blurb promised. But, it was the characters that didn’t do it for me.

I did enjoy how The Year I Left was written. It was told in 2nd person and 1st person. I have read a few books where 2nd person was used successfully. The Year I Left was one of those books. Carin’s story was written as journal entries to Matias for the year they spent together. The 1st person part of the book was told from Matias’s point of view after that year had ended. It made The Year I Left a compelling read for me.

Along with how the book was written, I did like the plotline. It was simple and to the point. The author didn’t add drama to spice the plotline up. What Carin and Matias did was enough.

The author was able to keep the plotline’s pace for the entire book. There was no lag or slowing down of plotline. There were a few minor plotlines that were merged into the main plotline throughout the book.

As much as I saw promise and like the plotline, I couldn’t stand the main characters. Unfortunately, that colored my perspective of the book.

Let’s start with Carin. I could not stand her. I understand that her mother’s death and then her dog’s death a few months later scarred her mentally. I could understand her falling into a deep depression. Heck, I could even understand her not paying her bills and ruining her credit. But what I couldn’t understand is how she checked out on her son and husband. The scenes she had with them, she barely interacted with them. When Matias came into the scene, she was all about him. When he showed up on Carin’s mother/son trip to England, she ignored her son and showered Matias with her attention. When she decided to disappear with Matias, she didn’t think about how it would affect her son. As a mother, it made me sick.

I couldn’t stand Matias either. He knew that Carin was married and he still pursued her. If it were only that, I would have been OK with him. But he border lined stalked her. He texted and called her nonstop. Even after she asked him to stop. But it was when they decided to disappear that my annoyance with him morphed into dislike. He could see how much Carin missed her son. Instead of being compassionate and urging her to contact him, he threw a fit like a toddler. I also forgot to mention that he cheated on his fiancee with Carin. All that stuff together made me not like him.

The end of the book was interesting. But, because of what I thought about Matias and Carin, I couldn’t enjoy it. Matias also started acting like he did at the beginning of the book. Again, strong stalker vibes going on. Also, the epilogue didn’t do it for me. I didn’t believe it.


I would give The Year I Left an Adult rating. There is sex. There is language. There is violence. I would recommend that no one under the age of 21 read this book.

I don’t know if I would reread The Year I Left. I do not know if I would recommend it to family and friends.

**I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book**