ARC Review : Secrets of a (Somewhat) Sunny Girl by Karen Booth

“Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a free ARC in return of an honest review.”

As sisters, they tell each other all their secrets…except one.

With divorce and infidelity hanging from nearly every branch of her family tree, Katherine Fuller sees no point in marriage. Boyfriends? Sure. Sex? Of course. Wedding vows? No, thanks. Still, when her younger sister Amy gets engaged, Katherine gathers all the enthusiasm she can. She won’t let Amy down. She’s done enough of that for a lifetime.

As the sisters embark on wedding plans, Katherine’s college love resurfaces. It nearly killed Katherine to part from sexy Irish musician Eamon more than a decade ago, but falling under his spell a second time forces her to confront everything she hid from him. The secrets surrounding her mother’s death are still fresh and raw in her mind, but one has haunted her more than the others. She can’t bear to tell anyone, especially not Amy. It could ruin far more than a wedding. It could destroy a sister’s love forever.

Twenty years ago, a ten-year old Katherine took a decision that set in motion the destruction of her family as it was. Now, an adult, she still struggles from the aftermath of that decision. Her sister Amy does too but it’s a lot harder on Katherina who had taken an oath – a drunken oath, to be precise – with Amy to never get married. Flashforward – Now Amy is getting married and Katherine is feeling out-of-sorts about everything.

I had inconsistent feelings throughout the book. I can’t count how many times I jumped between feeling sympathy and irritation towards Katherine. I liked the relationship between the sisters. The emotional attachment between them was pretty strong. But Katherine’s self-pitying thoughts just got under my nerves pretty quickly.

I had two problems with this story –

Firstly, Katherine gets blamed for something she did when she was 10 years old. Yes. A TEN-YEAR OLD CHILD. I just couldn’t get on board with that.

Secondly, the romance was not convincing. Katherine and Eamon had a few-months long intense affair during her visit to his hometown Ireland on a vacation. But they never contacted each other for a decade until Amy – not knowing their history – takes her to his concert (he’s a rockstar now). The very next morning, they meet for breakfast and he tells her that he  wants to start a serious relationship with her and that he never got over her. His reason for not contacting her all these years? He wanted to see if they were really meant for each other by leaving it up to fate. So he left it all up to fate and in the meantime got married to another woman and they had a daughter. My eyes were twitching at this point.

Eamon and Katherine’s relationship was really rushed. Yes, they knew each other before. But that was a decade ago and only for a couple of months. I’d have liked them to take things slower, not have phone sex within a few days and then have him and his daughter live in her apartment when he returns. I also wouldn’t have minded a few flashback. Maybe that would’ve made it easier for me to buy their romance? One can hope.

Anyways, If I didn’t make it clear by now, I just didn’t like Eamon.

Final words – I just didn’t find the storytelling convincing . I did like the ending. But story as a whole failed to engage me. I didn’t feel any connection to the characters.  The premise was good but the execution left a lot to be desired.

My Rating: ★★★☆☆

Publication Date: 16th October, 2018.
Source: ARC from Publisher (via Netgalley)
You can find this book in – Goodreads  | Amazon

Book Review : Sky In The Deep by Adrienne Young

Part Wonder Woman, part Vikings—and all heart.

Raised to be a warrior, seventeen-year-old Eelyn fights alongside her Aska clansmen in an ancient rivalry against the Riki clan. Her life is brutal but simple: fight and survive. Until the day she sees the impossible on the battlefield—her brother, fighting with the enemy—the brother she watched die five years ago.

Faced with her brother’s betrayal, she must survive the winter in the mountains with the Riki, in a village where every neighbor is an enemy, every battle scar possibly one she delivered. But when the Riki village is raided by a ruthless clan thought to be a legend, Eelyn is even more desperate to get back to her beloved family.

She is given no choice but to trust Fiske, her brother’s friend, who sees her as a threat. They must do the impossible: unite the clans to fight together, or risk being slaughtered one by one. Driven by a love for her clan and her growing love for Fiske, Eelyn must confront her own definition of loyalty and family while daring to put her faith in the people she’s spent her life hating.

Sky In The Deep is a deep fantasy YA that didn’t necessary feel like a YA. And I think that’s a good thing. Young Adult books these days seem to all follow a similar pattern such that at one point they all start to mesh into one anther. Even YAs that I like or enjoy follow the structure that seems to be the established norm for books of this genre. So, it’s always commendable when an author takes an entirely new direction with her take on YA.

The thing that hooked me about this book from the very first was the protagonist Evelyn. I was right with her from the start when she finds her brother alive and then is captured as a slave where her whole belief system is tested. I could feel her betrayal like it was my own. I felt bitterness towards her brother Iri and his adoptive family just as she felt it. A big part of me didn’t want Evelyn to forgive them which I knew she would. Now, creating such empathy for the protagonist in the reader is a credit all owed the writing.

Where the writer succeeds with her protagonist, she fails to create that same momentum with the love interest. I know that the author wanted Fiske to come across as mysterious. But I found him a little bland. I wanted more of his perspective. I wanted to know when his feelings for Evelyn started. I did like the romance aspect when it does emerge but the transition left a lot to be desired for. I think I had a problem with how Fiske treats Evelyn at the start. He knows that she’s Eri’s sister and yet his attitude with her felt unacceptable to me. Even Eri’s decision was to have decided to stick to his new life and family did not feel very well-explored to me.

I did appreciate the running themes of family and forgiveness. Although I wasn’t impressed with how easily Evelyn seemed to forgive her captors, I could understand the process. The way Evelyn slowly and surely discovers that people who she thought her enemies were actually quite similar to her own people was beautiful to see. But even here, I did not like that what united the two tribes was the threat of another tribe. So, these two tribes are supposed to be the good ones and the third tribe is the real evil? Why? What separates them? That they raid and kill or capture the other tribes? But Evelyn and Fiske’s tribes did the same too. Why exactly are the third tribe the only evil at the end? I would’ve liked a little more history and back-story about the enmity between the tribes. I didn’t even go into the book with any prior knowledge of the book and for the first few pages I was confused about the Riki actually were. Were they some magical creatures or animals? I found myself feeling a little stupid for thinking that when I realized they were all humans.

I think I’ve been very critical of this book so far. The truth is, I genuinely really enjoyed the book – the slow-building of the plot, the pace and all the action. The details of the rituals and lifestyle of the characters had depth in them. I enjoyed the story so much that I could ignore all the issues I had with it. It was only after I finished it and got to write this review that I let myself think about what exactly about this book did not leave me completely content. I’ll take that as a plus because this proves it was an engaging story above everything else.

My Rating: ★★★★☆