Not Alone in praising Noyes

Review of ‘Alone’ by EJ Noyes

Uff, this one was intense!

I just need to start at the beginning of my experience reading this novel. Literally, as I read the first sentence, I smiled. Yep, happy sigh. First person POV, you have become my favorite. First person POV written by EJ Noyes, I love you! Ms. Noyes, at the risk of sounding like a lunatic to you (again), you singlehandedly are responsible for my first person POV obsession. Your first person POV is simply genius. I’ve read other books written in first person, but none that resonate with me like when written by this author.

Did I mention my smile right? Well, that’s the last time I did until later, later in the book. This is Celeste Thorne’s first-person POV recount of her participation on a psychological study. The goal is for her to endure four years in close to complete isolation from human contact. The story begins after the third year, when suddenly Olivia Soldano, a lost hiker, appears on the edge of the compound. Suddenly Celeste must readjust to this person who is simply everything she ever wanted. The problem is that after such isolation, Celeste’s feelings are in disarray and she struggles to determine what is real and what is part of an elaborate lie.Read More »

Review of ‘Alone’ by E.J. Noyes.

Celeste Thorne is taking part in a scientific experiment that involves solitary confinement for four years with a final prize of half a million dollars. More than three years into the study, she finds a woman lurking in the border of her compound. Olivia Soldano is beautiful, caring and enigmatic but her sole presence in the house breaks the rules of the experiment and ultimately, can Celeste trust her?

Oh well… E.J. Noyes cannot stop surprising her readers, can she? ‘Alone’ is a book hard to categorise: it’s a game of contrasts. It’s dark but also optimistic, it’s about solitude but features a couple, it’s unsettling but, at the same time, hopeful. If you are acquainted with Ms. Noyes’s work, you will recognise the imprints of her style that readers have learned to love. Her books are always written in first person usually from the point of view of a broken woman with her co-lead presented as a flawed but righteous rescuer. What I consider outstanding is that, despite this apparent repetition, the stories have very different settings (war zone, corporate world, sports and now a psychological experiment) that make them all very distinctive, original and, at the same time, realistic.Read More »

Review of ‘Gnarled Hollow’ by Charlotte Greene.

I really enjoyed this. This is the fifth book I have read by Greene and by far my favorite. The best way to describe this would be paranormal/mystery/crime, with a little romance. The paranormal is on the darker side, you could almost put a horror tag on this. I was well and truly creeped out at times. This would be a perfect book to read around Halloween time.

Emily is an English professor, who has just been laid off before reaching tenure. She is feeling bleak and a bit depressed with no new jobs on the horizon. When she gets a letter, inviting her to study the papers of an important deceased author, she hopes this is the break she needed. Little is known about the author’s life since she became a recluse in her estate of Gnarled Hollow until death. Emily and a few other scholars will be spending the summer living and learning about the estate, art, and the author’s diaries. But when Emily gets to Gnarled Hollow she quickly realizes there is something strange going on. Gnarled Hollow is hiding secrets that may put their lives in danger. Can Emily and her fellow scholars figure out the mystery before it is too late?

When I read the blurb for this book I was very excited to read this. This sounded like my kind of book. The book ended up being everything I was hoping for. I have to be honest that Greene felt like a new author to me. Not sure if she was just having fun writing this book, but I felt like it was a big step up from her previous books. I really hope she would consider writing more paranormal or mystery-crime books in the future.

As I mentioned above this book is a little dark, some violence, and touches on some disturbing subjects. I could easily see this as a movie that makes you jump and hold the covers up by your face. But it’s far from all dark. It has a very interesting mystery and a bit of a sweet romance. The main character of Emily was pretty easy to root for and get behind. Her blossoming romance with another scholar was a nice change of pace to have in the book. There are no explicit sex scenes, but with everything going on in the house, it might have felt a little odd to be reading about steamy sexy time in the middle of a haunted house.

In mentioning words like almost horror and violence, I hope I’m not putting people off. While yes this book is dark, but it wasn’t really graphic if that makes sense. While I was jumpy and creeped out at times, I was never really scared. The book was more intense and hooked you in, not a stomach-turning too hard to read kind of book. It had some good twists and kept me in suspense until the end. In fact, I was a little sad when it ended. While this is longer than the average Bold Strokes’ book, I would have loved even a little more.

I would absolutely recommend this to paranormal-crime/mystery fans. Because it is a bit dark and creepy, I know it might not appeal to everyone, but this was definitely my kind of book. I really hope Greene takes the opportunity to write more books in similar genres. I would love to read them if she does. 5 stars.

An ARC was given to me by BSB for an honest review.

Review of ‘The Fall’ by Robin Alexander.

This was just fantastic. However, before I declare that, I have to admit a couple of things. I listened to this one since it was included in Audible’s Romance Package. Once upon a time, I started the audiobook but quit early on. I could not get through the first family dinner scene. I was so overwhelmed by, wait for it, the Italian family (too close to home folks) that I had to move on. Since then, I’ve read two other Alexander books and loved them. Also, I have listened to two books narrated by Lisa Cordileone and also loved them. So, here I was looking for my next audiobook when I bumped into ‘The Fall’ again. I will not lie. I struggled through that same dinner scene at the beginning. Then I realized I had listened to it before and I had a choice to make. Well, since now I’m older and wiser, I pushed through and I am so happy I did!

Noel Savino is a dentist only interested in casual relationships after failing at finding true love a few times. She meets town newcomer Sunny Chase, who has only done serious dating but is looking to change to casual in order to leave her dating rut. After agreeing to casual, Noel puts her foot down and wants to date Sunny for real. This after her niece, Harper, made her promise to stay away from Sunny. Meanwhile, Harper is a teenager struggling with finding her sexual identity after meeting Lydia, Sunny’s daughter. This book just becomes a family affair.

‘The Fall’ is really two stories in one. Yay! This is about Noel/Sunny and Harper/Lydia. They were both fantastic on their own but worked so well together. Noel and Sunny were great together and tackled adult issues. Harper and Lydia were sweet and were in charge of navigating the first love waters. Together they touched on family, parenting, dating guidelines and more. Ms. Alexander wrote so many hilarious scenes that I just volunteered to mown the lawn so I could continue to listen. I’m sure some neighbors are wondering why one needs to laugh out loud while doing such an ordinary chore. The thought behind a person being a dog or a cat in terms of dating…that was priceless. By the way, I am so a dog! Everyone needs to read this to understand, then we can discuss it!

The characters are likable and so entertaining. The ones that are less likable grow on you and end up making you laugh along. The dialog is spot-on but never fails to be outrageously funny. Now, what really pushed this one to 5 stars was the secondary and surprisingly endearing topics such as first love and even some thought-provoking ones such as homosexuality and church. All these were in the background but when the story hits the proverbial fan, it was wonderful to see the author skillfully take the story along these paths without outlandish behaviors. Everything in this book seemed over the top without actually being over the top. That was refreshing!

Overall, a sweet and hilarious story that will no doubt win Ms. Alexander new fans. 5 stars.

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Review of ‘And Playing the Role of Herself’ by K.E. Lane

It is unfortunate that I simply had no clue lesbian fiction existed until a couple of years ago. On the upside, I am fortunate to be able to look at reviews and pick and choose books that have been well received in the past. Sometimes I feel just darn spoiled! I have been wanting to read this book for some time now as one can look at reviews, and even awards, and see how successful it was. I’m happy to say it lived to those expectations.

Caidence Harris is an actress in a hit primetime cop show. She is in her thirties, has come to terms with her sexuality but has not been able to act on it. Her attention for the past couple of years has been on another actress, Robyn Ward, who makes her heart race and her mouth babble when in her presence, but who is also very unavailable and involved with a handsome and charismatic tennis player.

The story is told from Caidence’s first-person point of view (POV). I love, love, love first person POV. I feel it lends to such intimacy and yet, the ability to have such witty internal dialog without simply stating it. I find the obvious thoughts of a character sometimes eye-roll inducing when they are just stated in third person POV. They are simply not funny unless someone is narrating it as they came up in their heads. I mean, we all have killer humor and witty internal dialogs right? If we don’t, please don’t embarrass me by pointing it out!

In a way, it is easy to see why this book was well received. There are the actress/Hollywood characters, the fauxmance and the misunderstanding of intentions amongst other tropes. The characters are endearing and I absolutely loved Caidence, who was very level headed and just real. The relationship between the main characters was great as I thought the arguments were legitimate and both of them held each other accountable for their actions. They manage to start the relationship sooner rather than later and Ms. Kane did a fantastic job at keeping things challenging and interesting through the remaining of the book. 

This was my second audiobook narrated by Lisa Cordileone, and another wonderful performance. She narrates the sarcasm and wittiness just like I would read it, so it simply was enjoyable to listen to and with several laugh-out-loud moments. The challenge was finding the time to listen to it. No time like the present to follow the low-speed limits in one’s neighborhood! I will point out I listened to it at 1.25x speed as I thought the regular speed was prolonging things a bit.

I did not realize this was an older book, although perhaps looking at the cover, it shows some. Nothing was outdated in the story and reads like a much more recent release.

Overall, a great romance with a fantastic and humorous inner monologue. 5 stars.

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Review of Waking the Dreamer by K. Aten.

What a thrill ride! This was a great action-packed romance that was exactly the kind of book that I love to read. While you can put the sci-fi tag on this, this really is a futuristic dystopian story with a good romance. I know some people don’t care for sci-fi, so don’t let that put you off. There are no aliens or spaceships or different planets, this is a look into a possible scary future of the world we know.

Around a century into the future the world is a much different place. With natural disasters, the sun heating up and air quality diminishing there are fewer and fewer good places to live. The USA is run by a general with his military in charge. Chicago is the new Capitol and that is where Julia lives. Julia is wanted woman because she is a Walker. A Walker is a person who can project out of their body into the world around them. The government has been collecting Walkers to force into service and be experimented on. Julia hides in plain site as a courier for a tech company. She lives her life alone with no family or friends. This all changes the day she runs into another Walker being hunted by the government. Julia can’t help but be attracted to Niko and wants to help her. These two women are the most wanted women in the USA. Is there any way for them to be together and stay free?

The book starts out and Aten takes the time to really explain what has happened to the world and what it is like now. It is a bit of info to take in, but it really works. Once you get by that first chapter you understand everything this new world is built. Then the story starts up and it’s this fast pace ride until the finish. I thought it was all well written. I never felt like I had questions unanswered or didn’t understand. Once the story picks up, everything flows very smoothly.

I’m such a character driven reader and I am happy to say I loved both characters. I was surprised how instantly I cared and connected with them. This is what I look for in a book and was very happy to find it. These are characters that I will remember for a long time. I also loved the Walker abilities. Julia is a real badass and it just made the book a lot of fun.

While this book is like reading the equivalent of a big blockbuster action movie, Aten takes the time for a good romance. I know romance fans are going to be happy; I loved these two as a couple. It is not insta love, but it is quick. Usually I like it to take longer, but in this kind of book with life and death in the balance I’m okay with it. And it’s not just that, it’s also that I believed in these two together. I believed in them as a couple and the connection they had. The sex scenes were all done well too.

Aten is a newer published author but every book she puts out is just a winner for me. She has quickly climbed her way to being one of my favorite authors. This book was just pure entertainment that I easily recommend to dystopian and romance fans. It was a joy to read and I can’t wait to see what Aten puts out next.

An ARC was given to me for a honest review.