One of my reading goals this year was to get to longer novels that I've had on my reading list and that always get pushed back because romance novels are always so much more...alluring and quick to read. But I found this novel on audio, and that suits me perfectly so I spent several days listening to China Dolls by Lisa See.

My Rating: ❀'s
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
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I had read a novel by Lisa See before, that book being Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, which was very good women's fiction (in that it dealt with women's issues and history) and I loved that novel. So I was expecting this book to draw me in just as much, to paint a world that was foreign and yet, one I could relate to as well. However, I have to say, I was disappointed with this book. It's set shortly before, during and then after World War II and it deals with three women who are friends--but unusual friends, friends drawn together by circumstance and these women are nothing alike. Sometimes you wonder if they are really friends. It was difficult for me to picture these women's lives, dancing in nightclubs, seeking fame, being utterly American and yet, being other as well. The experiences were interesting, the story was interesting but yet, I couldn't make connections to these characters. And some of their choices struck me as self serving, selfish and I couldn't help but call their motivations into question. For me, it was like these characters were not entirely formed. I couldn't understand where they were coming from.

Another reason this novel doesn't sit well with me is because I expected by the end that these women would have learned something from one another, that their bond--friendship--would be solidified by something and become much deeper and more meaningful. However, I did not see that happen. And it seemed that the end, they went their separate ways but still remained bound together, but how, I did not understand, other than their shared history and fame. Somehow, it didn't strike me as enough. They seemed like friends more fractured and it called into question their closeness.

The writing was good, if the narration switching between the women was at times abrupt, the story was engaging, but it lacked in feeling in this reader's opinion.

Happy Listening,
Jewels


Marie Force''s The McCarthys of Gansett Island series is a sweet, contemporary series that is a lot of fun to read. I remember totally loving the first book, and so far there isn't a novel in this series that I have not enjoyed. The stories are usually focused, the characters well matched and I just like the feel of this series; the setting and easy pace of the writing seem to go hand in hand.

Series: The McCarthys of Gansett Island, #4
My Rating: 4 ❀'s
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Falling for Love did not disappoint. I was intrigued by the possibility of Grant and Stephanie as a couple in the third novel, and very curious to know more about Stephanie. I have to say, I wasn't expecting her to be so sassy! I love sassy heroines. She is also sweet too, and her sad past and story remind us that life is not always fair, or just or kind. But, sometimes life throws us pleasant surprises as well. And these two are certianly a pleasant surprise for one another.

I will say, I was concerned about how much page time the past couples, Mac and Maddie, Joe and Janey and an upcoming couple, Laura and Owen were getting. It drives me nuts when previous characters/couples start taking over a novel, and in some series, I have ended up disappointed and frustrated because of this. I thought that might be happening in this novel, but in the end, Grant and Stephanie got the focused story and solid romance that they deserved. So I was pleasantly surprised (and relieved) myself.

While I think this novel was well focused, and the heroine and hero adorable together, I have to say the story was wrapped up rather quickly. Happily, and sweetly, but quickly. I would have liked the resolution to be a bit more fleshed out--maybe an epilogue was called for? Regardless, this was a nice addition to the series and I have to say, I'm eager to read the next book to discover what Laura's happily ever after will be.

A sweet, solid romance, it's an easy breezy read that will leave a smile on your face.

Happy Reading,
Jewels
Adored in Autumn was the last novel in the Seasons series by Jess Michaels. I had been looking forward to Felicity's story very much, seeing as her past was filled so much pain and had affected those around her so very much. I had no idea what to expect, and I think I might have expected something a little different...but this novel certainly was a nice wrap up to the series.

Series: Seasons, #4
My Rating: 4 ❀'s
Genre: Historical Romance
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The story centers around finding a coded book that will reveal Felicity's secret. She killed her husband when he was trying to murder her in a fit of rage. And murder her he would have, he was already a very abusive husband. Just reading the one scene he was in was enough to paint his soul as black in my eyes. Felicity's brothers are determined to find the book that contains the secret and destroy it, and to do so they call in the help of a childhood friend and playmate, Asher.

Enter our hero. A son of a lowly servant, now raised in society, but a man who still feels as though he is not enough. That he has a certain place, and although he still has strong feelings for Felicity and it's evident that she has strong feelings for him, he can't see them getting past this plain fact. Never mind that he helps her learn how to trust again--and the main person Felicity needed to learn to trust was herself--he just isn't sure they can break the barriers that stand between them. I have to say, Asher kinda annoyed me with this line of thinking. He was a fair minded, kind man otherwise, and I like how solid a character he was, level headed and gentle, but this stuff about deserving or not deserving drove me a bit insane.

Nevertheless, we have a HEA--with a surprise for Celia and Rosalinde--and I liked the way Felicity stood up to Asher and let him know he was her choice, and fought for them. It was all after he had seen the light, but it was good for Felicity to lay it out there and I liked that.

I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Happy Reading,
Jewels
It's hard to know where to start with this book. I mean, it's just fabulous! I have admired this author's since I first began reading her novels, but this one really blows me away. I didn't expect something so thrilling, or for this to remind me of Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I'm not even sure why it does; perhaps it's the style of writing, or the mystery at the heart of the story, but it does and maybe that connection made this novel all the more gripping for me. I kept waiting for something horrible to happen.

My Rating: 5 ❀'s
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
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I enjoyed the way this novel unfolded, hinting at terror in the first chapter and then beginning the story at the beginning, with the unexpected death of Celine, Maggie's best friend. Maggie starts to ask questions when she stumbles across some curious items, and begins to delve into the life of her friend, unearthing truths and half truths as she investigates her friend's death.

I have to admit, there were times listening to this novel that I held my breath. I didn't know who to trust, doubting even those Maggie trusted as she looked for the answers to what truly happened that night that Celine downed too many meds with half a bottle of vodka. There was so much about Celine's life that was dark and hidden, that you could not help but wonder where the story would lead you. I enjoyed every minute of it, even when there were moments I was unsettled by certain things. I felt for the characters, yet I questioned their choices, especially those of Celine. The story held a poignant sadness when it came to her, a life ruined, and one that had held so much promise.

Since the story pivoted around Celine's suspicious death, you can't help but wonder which of the characters is guilty. I have to say, it's hard to figure out who. I had a bad feeling about all of them, never settling on one as the culprit, so I can't say I was surprised, but I wasn't ever really sure it was who it turned out to be either. The novel does a wonderful job  keeping you second guessing everyone.

This mystery will not disappoint. You'll enjoy the methodical story as it plays with your head just enough and there are, finally, answers.

Happy Listening,
Jewels
I have come to really enjoy Marie Force's easy style and engaging novels. The third book was an easy read, with characters that were vivid and well suited to one another, with a back story that was sad. Ready for Love was a second chance romance but from the first it gave me pause.

Series: The McCarthys of Gansett Island, #3
My Rating: 4 ❀'s
Genre: Contemporary Romance
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Our heroine, Sydney, has suffered a huge loss. A drunk driver killed her husband and two children. She is trying to rebuild her life, and she's not the sort of woman to always look back, so she's trying to look forward, to carry on and get past the grief. I can respect her strength after such a loss. This kind of loss can and has destroyed people. How does one carry on after losing their entire family, their children? So from the beginning, it was hard for me to imagine that Sydney was ready for a relationship, even with her old flame, Luke. It simply seemed way too soon, only a year and a half later, and while I love that Syd got a HEA, it wasn't easy to buy into the premise of this story at first.

It got a little easier as the story went along. Luke has loved Syd forever, and he knows and understands her. He is patient with her, taking things at her pace, listening to her, and I came to understand that while Syd had been happy in her marriage and with her life, that she had always regretted leaving Luke. That her husband had never meant to her what Luke meant to her. It made the relationship easier to understand and accept, and I did warm up to the romance. Luke and Syd fit so nicely together, any disagreements quickly cleared up once things cooled and they understood each other's point of view, and seeing how well they were in tuned, this was never angsty or agonizing. I have to say I liked how easily they recognized each other's feelings, it was both sweet and intimate.

I am very intrigued to read the next novel in this series, as it's been nicely set up and quite piqued my curiosity.

Happy Reading, 
Jewels