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 »

In ‘The pet boutique’ the dog steals the show.

Review of ‘The pet boutique’ by Suzie Carr.

Taylor Henshaw is an accomplished bestselling author suffering from writer’s block. To help her find her writing mojo again, her editor sends her to work in a pet shop that needs serious building renovations. While working on the project, Taylor meets Lexie Tanner, an attractive photographer and pet shop manager. As the refurbishment project progresses, Taylor and Lexie explore their budding attraction, but Taylor is a complicated woman dealing with bereavement and unsolved issues from her past. Will they have a happily ever after?

This is a slow-burn romance with the background of a building renovation and a cute dog as a co-lead. ‘The pet boutique’ refurbishment progresses as Taylor rebuilds her life and heals her old wounds. Both women leads are multi-layered and believable, their chemistry is built slowly but surely with the help of Cashmere, the dog, who acts as a facilitator in their relationship. Ms. Carr knows how to bring a dog character to life, to showcase their bonding with humans, their ability to support their masters in times of need and to understand the heartbreak of losing a pet.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 ‘Taking chances’ by Erin McKenzie.

Valerie Cruz spent most of her childhood in foster care and now she is a children’s librarian who likes to keep to herself avoiding any serious relationships. After becoming a foster parent herself, she meets case worker Paige Wellington. Their attraction is undeniable but a conflict with Valerie’s foster children and her conviction to stay away from relationships make it hard for Valerie and Paige to have a future together.

This is as much a romance as a story about foster care. As a foster parent herself, the author knows the inner works of the system and it shows in the story. It gives a very good insight on fostering from the different points of view of the social workers, the fostering parents and the children.

The characters, adults and children alike, are well rounded, credible, and their actions are justified by their past. The children seem authentic considering their ages and their traumatic experiences. Connie, Paige’s boss, is a funny but savvy character that brings a bit of lightness to the plot. The dialogues are natural sounding and the balance between telling and showing is good.

The plot seems divided into two parts, the first half deals mainly with the fostering system and the second one focuses more on the romance. Some readers might not like that the romance takes so long to develop and then rushes slightly to the end. Other than that, this novel was interesting and entertaining to read.

Overall, a good romance with a deep insight on the US child fostering system. 4 stars.

ARC provided to me in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of ‘Shadowboxer’ by Jessica L. Webb.

Former boxer Jordan McAddie had a hard childhood and now she’s
dedicated to help street kids by teaching them the discipline of
boxing. With her mentoring duties, a full time job and her social
worker studies, she’s got enough on her plate and the least thing
she needs is her first love walking back into her life. As she
struggles to open up to a possible relationship, the street kids
are being targeted by an extremist group. Can she keep the kids
safe and give love a chance?

Throughout her short but productive career, Ms. Webb has written
action, mystery and psychological thrillers with romance at the
side. While ‘Shadowboxer’ has a mix of these genres, it’s her most
introspective work. There is a criticism of the social services
system and, more specifically, how adults fail to protect their
children and youth. Through boxing, Jordan and the teenagers under
her care learn more than the physical activity of fighting: they
build their self-esteem, learn to trust each other and to boost
their confidence. It’s not a fight against each other but rather a
struggle against their own ghosts, a bit like shadowboxing. No
wonder that, compared to the rest of Webb’s novels, this one feels
oppressive and darker. The author works with the lights and
shadows in the characters’ states of mind as reality throws
punches at them. It’s not an easy read but the heaviness is
balanced by the sweet redemption of romance and friendship.
Regarding the mystery and action scenes, they are short but
effective in keeping the reader hooked in the story. The
characters are well written and even though there are a good
number of secondary characters, they all have depth and feel real.
The romance is slow burn and sweet, both mains complement each
other and send a light of hope to the darker sides of the plot. My
only criticism is that the last couple of chapters seem a bit
rushed. However, this book is definitely worth a read.

Overall, a darker novel by Ms. Webb with a mix of action, mystery,
psychological thriller and romance. Not an easy read but highly
recommended. 4.5 stars.

ARC provided by Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an
honest review.

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Review of ‘The music and the mirror’ by Lola Keeley.

“Jump before you are pushed. In love, war and pas de deux”

I feel that my words won’t be enough to do justice to this book properly. What a fantastic read and even more so considering that this is a debut novel.

This is the story of Anna, a newbie in a successful dance company, and Victoria, former prima ballerina and its current artistic director. It gives us an insight of the ballet world with its high competition, the physical demands, the threatening of injury looming all the time, the jealousy and egocentric behaviours. Written from the point of view of both main characters, the change of pov flows naturally. Everything is so realistically described that you’d expect a dancer to leap out of the book at any time. Thanks to Ms. Keeley’s talent, she depicts ballet without sounding technical, boring or pedantic.

Victoria is the epitome of the British stiff upper lip, ice queen of ballet, in such control of herself that the reader feels her tension like a string about to snap any time. Her sarcastic comments, her strong discipline, even her wardrobe – always dressed in black – gives her an air of inaccessibility. Anna, on the other hand, is much younger, very eager to please, unaware of her incredible talent and friendly to the point of annoying, bringing a breath of fresh air to the dance company. She is almost the complete opposite of Victoria. And boy how opposites attract.

There’s a delicious slow thawing of the ice queen, step by step, jump by jump. Victoria’s sarcastic renaming of Anna as Annya and gradually accepting Anna in all her honest-to-god self, is a beautiful example of how their relationship evolves. Slowly they copy certain treats of each other, hinting the reader how they are falling in love even before they realise themselves. Their relationship is a huge dancing foreplay, Anna and Victoria’s chemistry is off the charts. Their scene in the wardrobe room is in my opinion, one of the hottest ever mastered in lesfic. Just for this brief but incredibly sexy scene this book is worth a read.

Overall, a fantastic debut novel. Highly recommended even if you are not interested in ballet. This book goes straight to my 2018 favourite books. 5+ stars.

ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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