The Year I Left by Christine Brae Review

The Year I Left by Christine Brae

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.

I had the pleasure of reading an ARC of The Year I Left by Christine Brae, and it didn’t disappoint. Word on the street is that this is Brae’s very last novel; she plans to step away from the booksphere and focus on her other career. Her readers (myself included) will be sad to see her go, but if there were to be any last words for Christine to leave us with, it’s perfectly said in The Year I Left.

Women face many obstacles. We fall in love, we grow and birth children, we raise them, we work to care for them, and sometimes, if we’re not careful, we lose ourselves in this cycle. Some might say that this is the ideal type of woman, the one who immerses herself so wholly in others that the person in her mirror is a stranger, but I disagree. I’d argue that it’s impossible for a woman to care for others authentically if she can’t face the woman in her mirror. Brae tackles these issues in this novel with bravery and honesty. She tells the truth, and she isn’t shy about it.

“I agreed that nothing made sense when you looked at me from the outside. Everything was so in place, it was ridiculous. I had no secrets, no scandalous past. Just an ordinary life with ordinary joys and ordinary sorrows. At least that’s how it looked to me.”

I had a hard time connecting with Carin for a large portion of the novel. I kept having a feeling that the story was going to move forward in a way that would leave me feeling angry. BUT, I was delightfully surprised that it ended perfectly. I loved witnessing the struggles Carin went through, and the way she came out a better person because of it all.

“Sometimes, life keeps you pretty close to the ground. There are no guarantees that one day you’ll take flight.”

This novel bears Brae’s best writing, hands down. It is really cool to see her grow and experiment and write about different aspects of life. The Year I Left wasn’t what I was expecting at all, but it ended up being even MORE than I expected. If you are looking for a heartfelt summer read that tugs at your insides and makes you question things, this is it.

To see purchase options for The Year I Left through Amazon, CLICK HERE! This novel is currently available to pre-order and will be live on 8/20.

The Year I Left by Christine Brae Review

The Rebound by J.R. Rogue Review

*This novel is currently available for pre-order and will be live on July 18th*

The Rebound by J.R. Rogue

Some love affairs aren’t meant for the public eye. Some love affairs won’t survive the fallout.

Calliope das Dores is not the perfect rebound, even if her name means “muse”. She is not who I should be running to. But I want her anyway.

She keeps telling me my squeaky-clean image can’t handle the scandal, but this want between us is not black and white, and it never will be.

I don’t care that she’s my uncle’s wife—or that she shares my last name. After finding my girlfriend in bed with my uncle at the end of my worldwide tour, the truth is clear: Calliope and I are the only family we both have left now.

In the beginning, after flying to the Ozarks to tell her of our partners’ sins, I tell myself it’s just so she won’t hear it from someone who would lie to her. But my manager and best friend say I’ve wanted her since I was a kid, and now, finally, she is allowed to want me back.

She says we can get over them with each other—even if it’s in secret, for a summer—but I have to promise her I won’t fall in love. It’s not part of the plan. The details in our past deny us of any future we could have had. 

What starts out as a rebound for both of us eventually consumes me. But the flames don’t reach her.

My muse is consumed, too. But not with me.

Did I just read an all consuming book that made me swoon like crazy and wonder if these characters are actually real and living out in the world somewhere? I sure as heck did. You guys, this book was all that I was hoping for and more. Get ready to hear me gush because I seriously can’t help it.

I knew that the main character in this novel was going to be based on Shawn Mendes. When I first heard about it, I didn’t really get it. Sure, I’d heard a few of his songs on the radio before, but I didn’t know anything about him other than that. As time went on and news of ARCs being released came out, I started to do some preemptive research to see what I was getting myself into. I listened to his music and watched some of his interviews. You guys. I’m not even kidding you when I say that I think J.R. Rogue literally wrote the actual personality of Shawn Mendes into her character Sean. It is crazy how I can listen to his song lyrics and relate them all to the character she built. I don’t know exactly what kind of skill you’d call this, being able to translate a real-life muse so seamlessly, but J.R. Rogue DEFINITELY HAS IT.

Aside from creating a character that feels authentically realistic, this same character is also completely swoon worthy. Sean das Dores will make you ditch your life-long book boyfriend so hard that you forget you ever had one other than him. No joke. He’s THAT good and THAT dreamy.

“I don’t want to capture the world the way she does, I just want to watch her do it.”

One of my favorite things about this novel is how both characters have so much depth. By glancing at the title and reading the synopsis, it may seem like you’re in for an easy beach read. That couldn’t be anything further from the truth. Both of the main characters are sharp and profound, and J.R. Rogue does a great job of building them both up until the very last page. And that ending. Oh my gosh, that ending. I’ve never read one that I’ve loved so much. It was absolutely perfect.

“If you listen to what your body is telling you, the answers are clear. But we often mistrust the gut instincts, the tingling tell that so badly wants to tell us something. Anything.”

Of course, this wouldn’t be a J.R. Rogue novel if it didn’t have awesome writing, which it does. Her words are like crack. I’ll read anything she writes. She has this way of putting things you’ve always wondered about into words you could never form. It’s so easy to tell how smart she is and how linguistically heightened she is. I’m so glad she writes books, because I love reading them. And I absolutely LOVE The Rebound. This will be a book that I reread someday, and then I’ll reread it again, and again, and again. I loved it that much. The Rebound has my heart.

To see purchase options for The Rebound through Amazon, CLICK HERE!





The Rebound by J.R. Rogue Review

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult Review

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

Sage Singer is a baker. She works through the night, preparing the day’s breads and pastries, trying to escape a reality of loneliness, bad memories, and the shadow of her mother’s death. When Josef Weber, an elderly man in Sage’s grief support group, begins stopping by the bakery, they strike up an unlikely friendship. Despite their differences, they see in each other the hidden scars that others can’t.

Everything changes on the day that Josef confesses a long-buried and shame­ful secret and asks Sage for an extraordinary favor. If she says yes, she faces not only moral repercussions, but potentially legal ones as well. With the integrity of the closest friend she’s ever had clouded, Sage begins to question the assumptions and expectations she’s made about her life and her family. In this searingly honest novel, Jodi Picoult gracefully explores the lengths to which we will go in order to keep the past from dictating the future.

Disclaimer: I’m a Jodi Picoult fan. The first book I read by her was My Sister’s Keeper which we read in my eleventh grade English class. It was the first time I read something in a high school class that genuinely intrigued me. I ended up buying my own copy so I could finish at home ahead of my classmates; I had to know what happened. Jodi Picoult’s stories do that to readers. They immediately suck you in and keep you prisoner until the very last page. The Storyteller is no different.

“It doesn’t matter what it is that leaves a hole inside you. It just matters that it’s there.”

I thoroughly enjoyed this story, although at times the subject matter was rather difficult to bear. I cried and I yearned for the world to be different, for history to have been different. As always, Picloult highlights the gray areas of life. She has this way of forcing readers to see things from different angles, ones they may have never before encountered. From a young age we are taught to view the world as black and white. Wrong and right. I feel as though Picoult would argue that there’s hardly anything that simple, and that we are all mostly consumed in gray. This is what makes her storytelling so compelling.

“Good people and bad people. As if it were that easy. Everyone is both of these at once.”

The Storyteller jumps back and forth between the past and the present, between a larger story and a smaller one, and between characters. Picoult’s style is a success. Never was I confused about what I was reading or where I was in the timeline. I was simply captivated. The characters are well developed, all weaving in and out of the story at a perfect and precise pace. Picoult even managed to shock me by throwing a wrench in the plot at the end. Her writing is well crafted. Just look at those quotes. The woman knows what she’s doing with words.

This was an all-encompassing read, but it wasn’t easy. Some chapters were very hard to get through due to the intensity of the situations and how realistically Picoult paints those pictures. The subject matter is in relation to WW2, so know that it tackles those tough subjects in depth. The Storyteller is a great reminder in how important it is to never neglect nor demerit history. We should use it as fuel to better the world as time moves forward.

“History isn’t about dates and places and wars. It’s about the people who fill the spaces between them.”

I loved the bread making aspect that Picoult relied on in this story. Over the last year I’ve been experimenting with baking, specifically different types of savory breads. It was interesting to read about baking from a baker’s perspective, and I even picked up a few tips and tricks to keep in my pocket. Bread is its own character in this story, and Picoult used it wisely.

Part of me wants to read this again someday because I know Picoult said a lot of things in between the lines that I missed out on. Another part of me doesn’t want to ever read it again because of how painful some of the subjects are. To me, this is a sign of a really good book.

To see purchase options for The Storyteller through Amazon, CLICK HERE!





The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult Review

Cover Reveal: The Year I Left by Christine Brae

The Year I Left
Christine Brae
Published by: Vesuvian Books
Publication date: July 30th 2019
Genres: Adult, Contemporary

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.

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Author Bio:

Christine Brae is a full time career woman who thought she could write a book about her life and then run away as far as possible from it. She never imagined that her words would touch the hearts of so many women with the same story to tell. Her second book, His Wounded Light was released in December, 2013.

Christine’s third book, Insipid, is a standalone that was released in June, 2014, and her fourth book, In This Life, released in January 2016.

Her latest work, Eight Goodbyes was released on August 28, 2018.

When not listening to the voices in her head or spending late nights at the office, Christine can be seen shopping for shoes and purses, running a half marathon or spending time with her husband and three children in Chicago.

Christine is represented by Italia Gandolfo of Gandolfo Helin Literary Management.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram


Cover Reveal: The Year I Left by Christine Brae

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys Review

salt to the sea by ruta sepetys

Winter, 1945.

Four teenagers.

Four secrets.

Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies… and war.

As thousands of desperate refugees flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Willhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom.

Yet not all promises can be kept. 

Ruta Sepetys is so SO good at what she does: writing YA historical fiction and highlighting pieces of history that aren’t commonly known. She is the QUEEN of this craft. I went into Salt of the Sea without any knowledge at all. I didn’t read the blurb, had never read a review, nothing. I just trusted that this would be great because of how stunning Between Shades of Gray was.

This book follows four different characters, and the story is told from their different perspectives. I was a little confused at first because the perspectives jump really quickly which didn’t give me much time to get a good grip on who was who. I’m not sure if Sepetys had a purpose for doing this (maybe it’s a YA thing that I need to learn about) but it made me feel like I needed to play catch up early on. Once I got the characters figured out though, I was good to go.

I love when a story is somehow fast-paced but doesn’t feel rushed. The pacing in this book was perfect. As soon as a question would pop up in my mind, I’d get a little taste of an answer, and then something would happen that brought up more questions. I was engaged in this story from beginning to end. My mind was constantly working through what was going on. This is one of the reasons I’d like to have this book in my future classroom, because I feel like it will engage students (adults too!) from the first page to the last page.

“What had human beings become? Did war make us evil or just activate an evil already lurking within us?”

I’m really the biggest fan of Ruta’s writing and story-telling capabilities. Her writing is flawless and will attract teens and adults alike. Her goal of shedding light on certain pieces of history is really a treat for anyone who has the pleasure of reading her books. Reading her books is like having a live action history class where readers get to experience first hand the effects of life during WW2. The story she uncovers in Salt to the Sea is one I didn’t know anything about, and of course now I’ll be researching it because how on earth did I not now about this before?

“I became good at pretending. I became so good that after a while the lines blurred between my truth and fiction. And sometimes, when I did a really good job of pretending, I even fooled myself.”

With all of that being said, there was something missing from this story that I felt like I needed. A lot of people I’ve talked to about this book said it broke their heart, but this one didn’t touch me nearly as deeply as Between Shades of Gray did, and I think it’s because I didn’t get to know the characters well enough. For me personally this is a negative, but I think when I use this in my future classroom it will give the students a wider lens to see the story through. I also see the fast-paced story line contributing to not knowing the characters well, but again, I see the fast-paced story line as a positive for my future classroom.  Ultimately, though, this provided a way for me to disconnect from the story a bit, which causes me to give this book a 3 star rating.

To see purchase options for Salt to the Sea, CLICK HERE! I’ve linked you guys to the paperback because it’s cheaper, but know ahead of time that it has a different cover than the one in my post.

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys Review

Elevation by Stephen King Review

elevation by stephen king

Although Scott Carey doesn’t look any different, he’s been steadily losing weight. There are a couple of other odd things, too. He weighs the same in his clothes and out of them, no matter how heavy they are. Scott doesn’t want to be poked and prodded. He mostly just wants someone else to know, and he trusts Doctor Bob Ellis.

In the small town of Castle Rock, the setting of many of King’s most iconic stories, Scott is engaged in a low grade—but escalating—battle with the lesbians next door whose dog regularly drops his business on Scott’s lawn. One of the women is friendly; the other, cold as ice. Both are trying to launch a new restaurant, but the people of Castle Rock want no part of a gay married couple, and the place is in trouble. When Scott finally understands the prejudices they face–including his own—he tries to help. Unlikely alliances, the annual foot race, and the mystery of Scott’s affliction bring out the best in people who have indulged the worst in themselves and others.

Before I get into my review, I have to tell you guys how this book landed in my lap because it’s a sweet story. Last week, I took my daughter to our new local library. By new I only mean new to us, because it’s actually quite old and rickety. Since we moved, this is our closest library until the new one is built even closer to us. Anyway, I’ve been a little depressed at the thought of this particular library being ours not because it’s old, but because it’s really small, which means the book selection is small, and it has really weird hours. So my thoughts going into this place were along the lines of, “man, I wish we could be closer to a different library.”

But the people at this library touched my heart. When we first got there, the lady at the front desk told us that a story time would be starting in about thirty minutes and that she would be so excited if we stayed and joined them. How could we say no to that? Then, when I was looking at the new book shelf, an older gentleman who was stocking books asked me if I was looking for anything in particular. We ended up chatting for a while and he was the sweetest thing. He asked me if I was a King fan and if I had read his newest short story. I said no, and he handed it to me and asked if I wanted it. He said he hadn’t read it yet but offered it to me first. SWEET MAN! After that, we sat down for story time and it was so sweet and simple with songs and a story. The librarian was animated and it was easy to tell that she loved spending time with the kids. Turns out, I love this little, old library.

Unfortunately, Elevation doesn’t hold as dear of a place in my heart.

This is my first Stephen King book because I’m a ginormous chicken who can’t watch scary movies or read scary books without it being stuck in my head for weeks (sometimes months, thank you Strangers movie.) But after reading She Said, He Said Book Reviews thoughts on Elevation, I figured I could handle this one. And I did. This one isn’t scary in the least bit. But it is frustrating.

This book is written extremely well. I can see why King is the king. This is one of the reasons that leads me to being frustrated with the book, because I can’t figure it out. I know if I went and talked to a couple of my professors from last semester, they would tell me the meaning behind this book and all of the symbolism and metaphors present. But I haven’t been looking through those lenses long enough to look at this short story and pinpoint what’s happening between the lines.

Aside from that, it’s also very anticlimactic. Readers know early on that the main character, Scott, is losing weight at an alarming pace, and the rest of the story is left leading up to what will happen to him. And then it happens. And that’s it. And it’s really, really dissatisfying and boring. I closed the book thinking, “really, that’s all we’re going to get?” The end of this book left me feeling confused, dissatisfied and a little bit peeved that I spent time reading this book all for that lame ending. This is ultimately what makes me give this book a 2 star rating. Because it could’ve been really cool, but it completely fell flat and ended up going nowhere.

I’m super bummed that my first experience with Stephen King was such a downer. Maybe I’ll be more successful with some of his other works. I’ve always thought Carrie was interesting, maybe I’ll try that.

To see purchase options for Elevation through Amazon, CLICK HERE!

Elevation by Stephen King Review

Breaking Free by Rachel Jeffs Review

breaking free by rachel jeffs

Born into the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Rachel Jeffs was raised in a strict patriarchal culture defined by subordinate sister wives and men they must obey. No one in this radical splinter sect of the Mormon Church was more powerful or terrifying than its leader Warren Jeffs—Rachel’s father.

Living outside mainstream Mormonism and federal law, Jeffs arranged marriages between under-age girls and middle-aged and elderly members of his congregation. In 2006, he gained international notoriety when the FBI placed him on its Ten Most Wanted List. Though he is serving a life sentence for child sexual assault, Jeffs’ iron grip on the church remains firm, and his edicts to his followers increasingly restrictive and bizarre.

In Breaking Free, Rachel blows the lid off this taciturn community made famous by Jon Krakauer’s bestselling Under the Banner of Heaven to offer a harrowing look at her life with Warren Jeffs, and the years of physical and emotional abuse she suffered. Sexually assaulted, compelled into an arranged polygamous marriage, locked away in “houses of hiding” as punishment for perceived transgressions, and physically separated from her children, Rachel, Jeffs’ first plural daughter by his second of more than fifty wives, eventually found the courage to leave the church in 2015. But Breaking Free is not only her story—Rachel’s experiences illuminate those of her family and the countless others who remain trapped in the strange world she left behind.

A shocking and mesmerizing memoir of faith, abuse, courage, and freedom, Breaking Free is an expose of religious extremism and a beacon of hope for anyone trying to overcome personal obstacles.

Do you guys remember back in 2008 when the news went crazy about the cult that had been raided by the FBI? The images on the screen were astonishing. Women in matching pastel dresses, all with the same exact hairstyle, all speaking in the most timid and soft voices relaying how their children were taken away from them. The whole thing had an eerie and off feeling to it, and Americans watched these women suffer in sorrow. I remember watching the news when that happened completely flabbergasted by what I was seeing on the screen. This story is about that cult. Rachel wasn’t in that raid, but she talks about it in her book.  Rachel’s account of their lifestyle proves to me that what went on (and still does) in that community is worse than I ever could have imagined.

Rachel’s upbringing was the most horrific thing. Reading this book was like sitting on Rachel’s shoulder and watching her life unfold, piece by piece. The life she was handed was everything but easy. She was abused, emotionally and physically, neglected, and spent her entire life in the FLDS church being told what to do, when to do it, how to think, how not to think, where to live, how to live, etc. Even as an adult she was under the harsh rule of her father and the men that did his bidding. Her life was not hers for so long. Until she took the reins and made a new way for herself and her children.

This book left me feeling extremely grateful for my life and the people I have in it. I loved how Rachel described her new life with her children at the end of the book. It’s the little things in life that are important. Time with your family, special moments with the people you love where you can smile and laugh and be with each other. That’s what life is all about, and Rachel was able to understand that from a young age despite her upbringing.

I devoured this book and appreciate all of the hard work Rachel put into it. This doesn’t feel ghostwritten to me. It feels like her most honest portrayal of her life and I feel like it came straight from her. I applaud Rachel for having the courage to write this, which I’m sure brought back many difficult memories for her. This story has the power to inspire anyone to stop and smell the roses more often, and to seek gratitude in every day. This is the deepest look into the workings of a cult that I have ever come across. If these things mind boggle you as much as they do me, this book is for you.

Congratulations, Rachel. You are beautiful.

To see purchase options for Breaking Free through Amazon, CLICK HERE!





Breaking Free by Rachel Jeffs Review