Review: Marriage on Madison Avenue by Lauren Layne

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Release date: January 28, 2020

Publisher: Gallery

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Blurb:

Can guys and girls ever be just friends? According to Audrey Tate and Clarke West, absolutely. After all, they’ve been best friends since childhood without a single romantic entanglement. Clarke is the charming playboy Audrey can always count on, and he knows that the ever-loyal Audrey will never not play along with his strategy for dodging his matchmaking mother—announcing he’s already engaged…to Audrey.

But what starts out as a playful game between two best friends turns into something infinitely more complicated, as just-for-show kisses begin to stir up forbidden feelings. As the faux wedding date looms closer, Audrey and Clarke realize that they can never go back to the way things were, but deep down, do they really want to?

Review:

This is the third and final book in a series, I absolutely loved the first two, Passion on Park Avenue and Love on Lexington Avenue and can highly recommend this trilogy. If you’re a fan of romance these books are just way too much fun and are super easy, entertaining reads that always leave me in the best mood when I finish!

I’ve been dying to get to Audrey and Clarke’s story and a fake engagement trope never fails to engage me. I also love a friends to lovers story, maybe it’s because me and my husband were friends first for years before we started dating, but I love stories where the two leads have an extensive history. Besides a great friendship between Audrey and Clarke they also have amazing chemistry and LL’s signature witty banter always makes me laugh. I’ve said it before but if you like Christina Lauren books you have got to check out LL, her books are just as great! Such a great end to what was a super funny, charming and sexy series, I’m sad it’s over and only wish we had more to look forward to with this one.

Overall rating: 5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Excerpt: Sisters by Choice by Susan Mallery

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Release date: February 11, 2020

Publisher: MIRA

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Blurb:

Cousins by chance, sisters by choice…

After her cat toy empire goes up in flames, Sophie Lane returns to Blackberry Island, determined to rebuild. Until small-town life reveals a big problem: she can’t grow unless she learns to let go. If Sophie relaxes her grip even a little, she might lose everything. Or she might finally be free to reach for the happiness and love that have eluded her for so long.

Kristine has become defined by her relationship to others. She’s a wife, a mom. As much as she adores her husband and sons, she wants something for herself—a sweet little bakery just off the waterfront. She knew changing the rules wouldn’t be easy, but she never imagined she might have to choose between her marriage and her dreams.

Like the mainland on the horizon, Heather’s goals seem beyond her grasp. Every time she manages to save for college, her mother has another crisis. Can she break free, or will she be trapped in this tiny life forever?

Excerpt:

“Think of it as a rite of passage,” Kristine Fielding said cheerfully. “You’re twelve now. You deserve to take on more responsibilities.”

“You say that like it’s a good thing,” her twelve-year-old son, Tommy, grumbled. “I’m a really good kid, Mom. Maybe I deserve not to do laundry.”

“You’d rather I did it for you?”

“Well, yeah. Of course. Nobody wants to do chores.”

They were in Tommy’s bedroom, facing a massive pile of laundry. Kristine had been doing her best to convince her middle son it was time for him to learn a few life skills. As his older brother had before him, Tommy resisted. In the end, she’d had to threaten JJ with the loss of Xbox privileges before he was willing to take on the task. She was hoping she wouldn’t have to resort to anything that dire with Tommy.

So it’s okay for me to take care of this entire house, cook the meals and do your laundry, while you do nothing?”

Tommy grinned. “It’s your job, Mom. My job is school. Remember how I got an A on my last math test? Being a great student takes a lot of time.” His expression turned sly. “Whichwould you rather have? Me doing my own laundry or a super-intelligent kid who gets straight A’s?”

“It’s not an either-or proposition. You’re twelve now. It’s time to start doing your own laundry.”

“But I already help Dad out with the yard.”

“We all do that. Look at my face. Is there anything about my expression that makes you think I’m going to change my mind on this? Let us remember the sad summer from two years ago when JJ refused to do his laundry. Think about the layer of dust on his Xbox controller and how he cried and pouted and stomped his feet.”

“It was embarrassing for all of us.”

“Yes, it was. Now, you can either be an example to your little brother, or you can provide me with a very humorous story to tell everyone who’s ever met you, but at the end of the day, you will still be doing laundry. Which is it to be?”

“Maybe I should ask Dad what he thinks.”

Kristine knew that Jaxsen would take Tommy’s side—not out of malice, but because when it came to his kids, he was the softest touch around.

“You could and then you would still have to face me.” She kept her tone cheerful. “Am I wrong?”

“No.” Tommy sighed heavily. “I surrender to the inevitable.”

“That’s my boy. I’m proud of you. Now, collect your dirty clothes and meet me in the laundry room. You’re going to learn how to work the washer and dryer. I have a schedule posted. You’ll have certain days and times when you will have the privilege of using the washer and dryer. If you use them at other times, when they’re scheduled for JJ or when I want them, you will not enjoy the consequences.”

“No Xbox?”

“No skateboard.”

“Mom! Not my skateboard.”

Kristine smiled. Both her mother and mother-in-law hadtaught her that the key to getting kids to do what you wanted was to find out what they wanted and use that as leverage. For JJ it was his Xbox, for Tommy it was his skateboard and for Grant it was being outside. She tried to use her power for good, but she did absolutely use it.

“And on Saturday, you’ll change your sheets and wash those,” she said happily. “It’s going to be great.”

“It’s not fair.”

“I know. Isn’t it fabulous?”

“What if I don’t care about clean sheets?”

“I think you care about clean sheets about as much as I care about driving you into Marysville to that skate park you love.”

Tommy’s brown eyes widened in horror. “You wouldn’t not take me, would you?”

“Of course not. Any young man of twelve years old who has washed his own sheets deserves to be driven to a skate park.”

“Is that blackmail?” he asked.

“I think of it as persuasion.”

“I don’t want to grow up. It’s too much work.”

“Interesting. Someone should write a book about a boy who refuses to grow up. It sounds like a great story.”

“It’s Peter Pan.”

“Is it? Shocking!” She pointed to the pile of laundry on the floor. “I will be giving laundry lessons in ten minutes. If you’re not there, I will start without you. If I start without you, I will do so with your favorite skateboard in my possession.”

“When I have kids I’m letting them do whatever they want.”

Kristine pulled her son close and kissed the top of his head—something she wouldn’t be able to do much longer. He’d grown at least two inches in the past year. JJ already towered over her and he was only fourteen. In a couple of years he would be taller than his dad. Even little Grant wasn’t so little. When he fell asleep outside, studying the stars, she couldn’t carry him tobed anymore. She had to call Jaxsen to hoist him up and get him inside.

“I’m sure you will,” she said with a laugh.

“You don’t believe me.” Tommy shook his head. “You’re wrong. I’m going to be the best parent ever.”

“Uh-huh. I’m looking forward to that first panicked phone call.” She lowered her voice. “Mom, the baby’s crying and I don’t know what to do.”

“I would never make that call. I’ll be at work.”

“Oh, I think you’ll be a stay-at-home dad,” she teased.

He looked horrified at the idea.

Review: Mermaid Inn by Jenny Holiday

Mermaid InnMermaid Inn by Jenny Holiday

Release date: January 28, 2020

Publisher: Forever

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Blurb:

Eve Abbott has a problem-actually, make that a lot of problems. And they’re all going to get worse the moment her toes hit the sand in Matchmaker Bay. Once a blissful summer escape, now the tiny town just reminds Eve of loss. Inheriting her aunt’s beloved Mermaid Inn is the only reason Eve is coming back. She’s definitely not ready to handle nosy neighbors, extensive renovations, or the discovery that a certain heartbreaker still lives down the street…

Police Chief Sawyer Collins always does the right thing, even when it costs him everything. Like Evie. He’s spent the past ten years trying to forget her–to forget how right she felt in his arms, to forget the pain in her eyes the day she left. The last thing he expects is to see her back in town or to find that the spark between them is as strong as ever. Sawyer knows this is his only chance to prove that his feelings have always been real… before Eve turns tail and leaves for good.

Review:

Lately I’ve been super into small town romances and if they’re part of a series I’m allllll in. I love cute and quaint little fictional towns and a cast of quirky secondary characters that I can get to know over time, plus a new budding romance with each installment? Yes please! On the surface this book had everything I’ve been about lately but it in the end I found it to be lacking.

This started out really strong for me, I really liked both Evie and Sawyer and the opening chapter was both funny and charming and really set a great tone for the story. Second chance romances are one of my favorite tropes and Evie and Sawyer’s backstory was sweet. Really there was plenty to like here for me but my one gripe was that it just felt a bit too long. Parts from the middle to the last quarter dragged on a bit and for something that felt long for me, I wanted more depth. Look, I knew going into this that I would be reading a predictable book, I’m totally ok with that, in fact it was what I was in the mood for, but there was something missing for me in the end that made this one just ok for me instead of a good, solid game book. I did like it enough that I plan to continue on with the series though, the author is a good writer and I’m curious to see where things go. I know beginning a new series sometimes requires setting the stage a bit so I’m definitely willing to give this another chance, I’m hopeful that the next book will win me over and make me a firm fan.

Overall rating: 3/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

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Review: Making You Mine by Melissa Foster

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Release date: January 22, 2020

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Blurb:

Knox Bentley never liked the pomp and circumstance that came with being wealthy. He’d distanced himself from his pretentious family and their fortune as a young adult and found his own path to success. But even with the world at his fingertips, he realizes something is missing, and after a long stay overseas, he finally knows exactly what it is. His no-strings-attached hookups with Aubrey Stewart, an exquisite and stubbornly independent blonde, are no longer enough for him. They connect on every level, but Aubrey is a fierce businesswoman with a new movie channel on the horizon and no time for much else. She is the deal he can’t close, the precious jewel even his billions can’t buy. Now that he’s back in the States, he’s determined to show her that what they have goes beyond the bedroom and finally make her his. 

Review:

Whenever I read a new to me romance author I’m never quite sure what to expect, will their style be super sexy with lots of steam? Or are they more of a behind closed doors/fade to black kind of author? I prefer some steam myself and was excited that not only was this super sexy, it was also sweet and endearing with a great group of characters that won me over.

Aubrey is a badass, strong independent woman and Knox was also pretty badass, but he was also swoon worthy. I liked that they had already been hooking up and were just super casual, there was no build up, they already were a thing, this was more about them taking things to a more serious level. They had great back and forth, the banter was funny and there were even some serious and heartwarming moments.

This is part of series and apparently it’s also a part of the Love in Bloom big family romance collection. After I finished this I looked on the authors website and it looks like there’s a huge collection of books set in the same world, I love that and think it’s a really cool concept. Since this was my first book by the author, let alone the series, I was slightly hesitant wondering if I would have a hard time keeping the characters straight. While there were a lot of what I’m assuming were reoccurring characters this mainly focused on Aubrey and Knox and I really had no problem following along. So definitely easy to read as a standalone but I will be checking out some of the other books in the series because this one was just too much fun!

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the author for my review copy.

Review: Tweet Cute by Emma Lord

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Release date: January 21, 2020

Publisher: Wednesday

Genre: YA, Contemporary Romance

Blurb:

Meet Pepper, swim team captain, chronic overachiever, and all-around perfectionist. Her family may be falling apart, but their massive fast-food chain is booming ― mainly thanks to Pepper, who is barely managing to juggle real life while secretly running Big League Burger’s massive Twitter account.

Enter Jack, class clown and constant thorn in Pepper’s side. When he isn’t trying to duck out of his obscenely popular twin’s shadow, he’s busy working in his family’s deli. His relationship with the business that holds his future might be love/hate, but when Big League Burger steals his grandma’s iconic grilled cheese recipe, he’ll do whatever it takes to take them down, one tweet at a time.

All’s fair in love and cheese ― that is, until Pepper and Jack’s spat turns into a viral Twitter war. Little do they know, while they’re publicly duking it out with snarky memes and retweet battles, they’re also falling for each other in real life ― on an anonymous chat app Jack built.

As their relationship deepens and their online shenanigans escalate ― people on the internet are shipping them?? ― their battle gets more and more personal, until even these two rivals can’t ignore they were destined for the most unexpected, awkward, all-the-feels romance that neither of them expected.

Review:

This may be one of the cutest books I’ve ever read you guys! I grabbed this one when I was in the mood for something really light and fun and this was absolutely perfect, it made me smile and was just overall a super cute read. I tend to steer clear of YA in general, I maybe read ten YA books a year, (if that) but this book reminded that I need to read more, of you have any recs for fun YA romance please let me know!

You hear from Jack and Pepper in alternating chapters and I adored these two SO much! They were both charming in their own right and when you put them together you get PepperJack. No, really that’s their ship name, I mean come on!! 😍 Besides all the adorable feels this one was really funny, the Twitter war was full of snark and humor and I legit laughed out loud. SO much wit. Highly recommended by me, this was just a blast to read and I’m super impressed it was a debut.

Overall rating: 5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Almost Just Friends by Jill Shalvis

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Release date: January 21, 2020

Publisher: William Morrow

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Blurb:

Piper Manning’s about as tough as they come, she’s had to be. She raised her siblings and they’ve thankfully flown the coop. All she has to do is finish fixing up the lake house her grandparents left her, sell it, and then she’s free.

When a massive storm hits, she runs into a tall, dark and brooding stranger, Camden Reid. There’s a spark there, one that shocks her. Surprising her further, her sister and brother return, each of them holding their own secrets. The smart move would be for Piper to ignore them all but Cam unleashes emotions deep inside of her that she can’t deny, making her yearn for something she doesn’t understand. And her siblings…well, they need each other.

Only when the secrets come out, it changes everything Piper thinks she knows about her family, herself…and Cam. Can she find a way to outrun the demons? The answer is closer than she thinks—just as the new life she craves may have already begun. 

Review:

This is the fourth book in the Wildstone series and I jumped in here and was totally fine, but I did immediately order the first three books in the series because I absolutely loved this one! It was the perfect mixture of humor and heart, romance and family drama, it had a little bit of everything for me and I just adored it.

The characters in this were everything for me, they were authentic and relatable and really felt like real people, JS brought them to life. Piper was my favorite with office supply loving heart but her brother was a close second. Actually, I really liked all of the Mannings, they’re a messy, flawed family that wormed their way into my heart. Besides the super interesting family dynamics between the three Manning siblings there was a great romance brewing between Piper and Camden with so much heat, chemistry and a side of snarky humor, what more could a girl want?! Absolutely nothing if you’re me, I seriously freaking loved this book and am SO excited to go back and read the others in the series!

Are you a JS fan? Have you read this series?

Overall rating: 5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Bitter Falls by Rachel Caine

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Release date: January 21, 2020

Publisher: Thomas and Mercer

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

She’s investigating a cold case no one else could—by going places no else would dare.

In spite of a harrowing past still haunting her, Gwen Proctor is trying to move forward. Until a new assignment gives her purpose: the cold-case disappearance of a young man in Tennessee. Three years missing, no clues. Just Ruth Landry, a tortured mother in limbo. Gwen understands what it’s like to worry about your children.

Gwen’s investigation unearths new suspects…and victims. As she follows each sinister lead, the implications of the mystery grow more disturbing. Because the closer Gwen gets, the closer she is to a threat that looms back home.

In a town that’s closed its ranks against Gwen; her partner, Sam; and her kids, there’s no bolder enemy than the Belldene family—paramilitary, criminal, powerful, and vengeful. As personal vendettas collide with Gwen’s investigation, she’s prepared to fight both battles. But is she prepared for the toll it could take on everyone she loves?

Review:

I’ve been a fan of this series since day one, there is something about Caine’s writing that draws me in and keeps me engaged. This isn’t a series where you can just start wherever, you really need to start with the first book in order to appreciate everything that Gwen and her family have been through. The good news is that even though this is the fourth book they’re fairly quick reads and are easy to binge.

High points of this installment for me were Gwen as a private investigator and the fact that her case involves a cult. I have a morbid fascination and curiosity with cults and I never tire of reading about them. The chapters are pretty brief and you hear from Gwen, Sam, Lanny and Connor giving you a bird’s eye overview of all that’s going on, and with this crew, there’s always a ton going on.

Now onto the low points. You know how sometimes after the first few books a series can kind of feel meh? There was a little bit of that here for me if I’m being completely honest. You may be wondering why I spent the first part of this review trying to encourage you to read this series if this one was just ok for me, but stay with me for a minute. The momentum in the first few books was steady. I loved where these books seemed to be heading and was totally onboard. But something felt different with this one, almost like the exciting edge was missing? I’m not totally sure what it was but this definitely didn’t excite me as much as the other books. I have grown pretty attached to Gwen and her kids (and Sam) though so that’s why I’ll keep reading and recommending this one. I have faith in the author, especially since this one wasn’t bad by any means, it just felt lacking a little. I’ll definitely be picking up the next book in the hopes that the suspense and intrigue is heightened back up to the previous level and chalk this one up to a one off.

Overall rating: 3/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: The Prized Girl by Amy K. Green

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Release date: January 14, 2020

Publisher: Dutton

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

Days after a young teenager named Jenny is found murdered, her small town grieves the loss alongside her picture-perfect parents. At first glance, Jenny’s tragic death appears clear-cut for investigators. In the murder of a former pageant queen from a safe and loving family, the most obvious suspect is a fan who got too close for comfort. But Jenny’s sarcastic, older half-sister Virginia isn’t so sure of his guilt and takes matters into her own hands to find the killer.

But for Jenny’s case and and Virginia’s investigation, there’s more to the story. Virginia, still living in town and haunted by her own troubled teenage years, suspects that a similar darkness lay beneath the sparkling veneer of Jenny’s life. Alternating between Jenny’s final days and Virginia’s determined search for the truth, the sisters’ dual narratives follow a harrowing trail of suspects, with surprising turns that race toward a shocking finale.

Review:

The first month of the year and I’m already struggling with thrillers AGAIN. Sigh. I had high hopes for this one, the premise and structure sounded interesting enough and I’m always excited about a debut. Unfortunately for me this one just didn’t work at all, maybe I’ve just read too many similar books, but in the end, this was just a mess for me.

I’m just going to highlight what was problematic for me quickly because I think for the right reader this may work great, that reader just wasn’t me. If you haven’t read a bunch of thrillers recently then this may be better for you, but for me it was predictable and kind of draining. I had zero connection to Virginia, frankly I found her pretty intolerable and I while I did want to know who killed Jenny, the answer itself was horrible and disappointing. The whole last part of the book was convoluted and messy and it felt like certain things were added just for shock and didn’t feel as if said things were of any value to the book. The author is a good writer though and the pacing was good, this had potential for me but the execution just didn’t work.

Overall rating: 2.5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: The Rabbit Hunter by Lars Kepler

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Release date: January 14, 2020

Publisher: Knopf

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

Detective Joona Linna is finishing out a sentence at Kumla prison for assaulting an officer in the course of his last investigation when he is summoned to a meeting with the Swedish Prime Minister. The Foreign Minister has been brutally murdered. There’s a chance more political figures could be targeted. The police need Linna to find the killer and neutralize the threat, so he’s granted a temporary release from prison. But when another murder occurs, Linna realizes he’s dealing with something far more complex, and far more terrifying, than anyone imagined. As the body count grows, Linna begins to understand that he can’t do this alone and he reaches out to Saga Bauer, the young Security Police detective, for help. Now, together, the two race against time to unravel the killer’s intricate plan before he can take his ultimate revenge.

Review:

While this is the sixth book in a series you definitely don’t have to start with the first book in order to enjoy this, but I do think that you will better appreciate the characterization and how much these characters have grown if you’ve read at least a couple of them. I jumped in back at The Sandman and think this is a great starting point if you don’t have the time or inclination to start all the way back at book one. Whatever you do decide to do though, this is one gritty series that shouldn’t be missed, especially if you like your thrillers on the super dark side.

One of the main things that keeps me glued to a thriller is when the pacing is well done and Kepler has that nailed once again. These books are long and sometimes I get intimidated, until I actually start and remember that between a sharp, crisp writing style, short chapters and an always intriguing case, the pages truly fly by.

I do want to point out again that this book (as well as the others I’ve read in the series) is extremely violent, shocking and disturbing. It’s definitely not one for anyone that doesn’t like bold writing, things are creepy and tense from the start and this is definitely not for anyone squeamish. BUT if you can handle that, this is excellent, seriously top notch crime fiction that’s not to be missed.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: The Wife and the Widow by Christian White

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Release date: January 21, 2020

Publisher: Minotaur

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

Set against the backdrop of an eerie island town in the dead of winter, The Wife and The Widow is an unsettling thriller told from two perspectives: Kate, a widow whose grief is compounded by what she learns about her dead husband’s secret life; and Abby, an island local whose world is turned upside when she’s forced to confront the evidence of her husband’s guilt. But nothing on this island is quite as it seems, and only when these women come together can they discover the whole story about the men in their lives. Brilliant and beguiling, The Wife and The Widow takes you to a cliff edge and asks the question: how well do we really know the people we love?

Review:

I’ve made no secret of my struggle with thrillers as of late, but every once in awhile I read a book that reminds me why it’s always been my go to genre and The Wife and the Widow was that kind of book for me!

Friends, this one will be tricky to review because it was so incredibly clever that you should go in as blind as possible. How about this, if you like books that are super fast paced and the type you have to read in just a couple of sittings, grab this. Or if you like books that have two narrators that switch back and forth flawlessly read this. If you like smart twists that actually make perfect sense and don’t require you to suspend disbelief, read this! I basically devoured this one and loved every minute of it, highly recommended by me for something that feels original and exciting.

Overall rating: 5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.